Strangercide

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Mediah Coeli had seen the planet from Medium Earth Orbit before. The beautiful sight was part of a select few people’s daily commute, but she felt much different about it. She’d been away from home for an extended period of time, about three days, and was lacking sleep. Her childhood friend, Tyra, had been occupying most of her time for the past six months in an attempt to get her out more. Mediah hadn’t seen her in years beforehand. Tyra constantly reminded her of that. So when she asked her to do something she’d normally never, she couldn’t find a way to say no. Even if it involved traveling over 20,000 kilometers from home with a gun under her arm to meet up with a drug dealer. The sight of the Earth was less beautiful when it just seemed dreadfully far.

A small indicator shined a yellow light in the cockpit of Mediah’s Stellarkite ship. She sighed when she realized her radiation shield could use a tune up. It should probably be replaced, considering it was homemade. It was common for people of her generation to mess around with things they might not fully understand. Teenagers toyed around with vanadium dioxide all the time. It was part of upgrading their devices’ memory capacity. Despite how dangerous it was, it was normal. Just about anyone could do anything, so long as they knew how to look it up. The quality of the product, however, would always seem amateur, much like a mal fitted radiation shield on a poorly restored Stellarkite meant for towing debris. It was okay for traveling through the outer Van Allen belt once in a while, but not for prolonged use.  

Mediah soon realized that she was about to fly past her destination. She began to orbit the pillome, a man-made asteroid with facilities under the surface, to realize she’d be entering from the wrong side. It didn’t matter to her in the end, so long as she could find a place to dock her ship. This specific pillome holds one of only three mall centers orbiting the Earth. Considering the fact that not too many people could make the trip to such a place, Mediah was very interested in seeing what it was like. She sighed when she remembered how fatigued she was. Her only interest was making the deal and finally getting home. Her eyes began to feel heavier, but she straightened up when she spotted a dock on the underside of the pillome. The ship floated toward the opening and Mediah waited for the airlock to let her in.

 

#

 

A long flight of metal stairs lead from the dock to a large room with thousands of servers lining the walls. They were lined in orderly rows. It must be a library. The walls beside them almost appeared to be wooden with chipped sky blue paint. Large celling lamps illuminated floating dust the whirring servers kicked up. There wasn’t enough light in the building to see completely down past each row of servers, so they appeared to fade into darkness every few meters.

“Can I help you there?” A voice came from behind a row of servers. An older masculine person dressed in an odd teal polo shirt seemed to materialize from the darkness.

“This a library?” Mediah asked, hoping her voice wasn’t too quiet. It’d be embarrassing to have to repeat herself.

“Yes,” the librarian chirped in a way that almost made Mediah jump, “we scan physical copies and upload them to our site where you can read them on your logicard. We also pay to scan your rare books if you have them.”

Mediah wanted to respond, but she wasn’t sure what to say. She liked to read books. Maybe? Oddly enough, she can’t remember how she felt about books. Mediah figured she should say something if she wanted to avoid seeming rude.

“How do I, like… find the site?” Mediah tried not to look shy as she pulled out her logicard. It could use a charge. The librarian helped her access the site and tried making small talk about the kinds of books she reads. Though Mediah could think of clear answers, like romance, comics, or humorous novels, she didn’t feel confident in these answers. She figured the fatigue was getting to her. She asked if she could find a charging dock for her logicard, which was near death.

The librarian directed her to a dim corner at the far end of the library where just about any device could be charged. A small window looked out into the vacuum of space. It lacked any notable features. Mediah sat beside the window and listened to the droning of the servers all in unison. Each machine was drastically outdated, but the cost involved with shutting down the library to upload billions of work into more stable machines would apparently be too much to handle. That’s what the librarian, who happened to be a guy named Mou, explained to her. The walk to that corner was surprisingly long.

 

#

 

Orange sunlight poured in through the window, which woke Mediah from an odd sleeping position on the floor. Warm carpet? Mediah groaned as she sat up, running her fingers over the carpet marks on her face. Footsteps came from around the corner of the hall. It was Gliese, Mediah’s best-friend/cousin. She pushed her glasses closer to her face before speaking.

“You’ve been sleeping too often lately.”

Mediah yawned. “Crawl back to your pit, long bitch.” Gliese whipped off her glasses and tossed them into Mediah’s head. She then quickly produced a new pair from her pocket and pushed them closer to her face. Mediah enjoyed this interaction and welcomed the comforting feeling, but she knew she must be dreaming. She could almost feel herself up there in space doing something she shouldn’t. Gliese told Mediah she’ll be making breakfast, but before Mediah could eat, she’d have to finish organizing her great grandma’s anime figurine collection.

“You said you would,” Gliese tilted her head with an audible crack, which she knew would make Mediah wince, “you don’t even have to pose ‘em.”

“I hate havin’ to see their damn chonies all the time,” Mediah groaned.

“Then stop looking up their skirts?” Gliese vanished into the kitchen like a ghost. Her great grandmother owned too many figurines and Mediah was expected to arrange them by the hue of their hair color. The work was monotonous, and she couldn’t read a lick of Japanese. When she was curious about what a box said on it, she’d fumble around for her logicard to make a quick translation, but could not find it where it should be. If she cared more, she’d get up and search for it, but her seating position on the floor was too comfortable to abandon. After repeating the phrase ‘ROYGBIV’ to herself a few times as she stacked the dolls on the floor of the closet, she peered out the window and into the sky. She could make out a glint in the middle of the sky. Venus? It couldn’t be, not in that location. She yawned at the thought.

The sweet smell of a familiar cheap waffle mix had slowly begun to fill the room as Mediah tried to tell the difference between two different anime characters. Did she ever like things like anime? Maybe she’d only pretended to like it around family. Or did she pretend to hate it around friends? Whether the thought was tiring or she hadn’t been sleeping in years, Mediah felt herself unable to stay awake.

 

#

 

“Excuse me? Mediah, right?” Mou began clapping his hands to get her attention. A sudden hypnic jerk caused her to awaken fully startled. “Ah, sorry! You dozed off there for a second.” Mediah turned over to the charging station to see another librarian, a taller person who seemed tired, scanning a physical copy of a manga on a scanning machine. A pit quickly formed in Mediah’s stomach. The drug deal was definitely not the first time she’d been goaded into doing something stupid. Though she’d never touch drugs herself, she was talked into making something unsettling called a Stranger.

A Stranger is a very complex thing for people to understand, functionally and morally. At face value, a Stranger is an organic fabrication of an already living person’s body with an extra artificial component in the brain to allow that person to transfer their consciousness into that body. They were made for search and rescue teams originally, and the applications for these second bodies were strictly reserved for non-civilian use due to how recently they became easy to produce. Regardless, due to how relatively simple it was, developing a Stranger became a pastime for those who’re bored.

Civilians illegally made Strangers with the tools they had at hand, usually things repurposed into other things, and some supplies that were inexpensive. Tyra was no chemist, but she’d performed the process enough times that she looked professional while doing so. Mediah trusted what she was doing only because she did it so naturally. She extracted Mediah’s blood and caused cell lysis with some unknown alkaline liquids to produce a strand of Mediah’s DNA. She recalled it looking like snot. The DNA was shoved into a repurposed coffee machine to make ‘ATGC soup.’ Soon Tyra had what she called ‘flesh batter’ which Mediah hated the name of. Mediah was only required for part of the process, so she didn’t stick around for the rest. All she knew, according to articles she’d read at the time, is that it would take at least seven months for a Stranger to be fully completed. Despite this, Mediah was called over about a month or two afterward to see the completed project.

It was like a horror scene. Tyra had wires and tubes coming out of an overturned refrigerator where she said the body was sitting in. It was hard not to retch after opening the doors. The inside of the fridge was lined with vicera, some fleshy chunks of mesenchyme and a weird mucous floated around a coagulated embryotic fluid that submerged an oddly lifeless, yet breathing copy of Mediah. Tyra explained that people pay a lot of money for the ‘Wharton’s jelly’ floating around the body’s crusty hair since it was a part of how Strangers were made. The sight caused Mediah to faint, which to her horror, caused her to wake up inside the fridge. Her first impression with the whole concept of Strangers literally left a bad taste in her mouth.

With a Stranger, Mediah was told she could enjoy the benefits of being in two places at once, within a certain distance, and could do whatever she wanted so long as her real body was unharmed. Her conscience was transferred every time she slept, and she’d often be asked by Tyra to go out whenever she did. It was mentally and physically exhausting to always be awake somewhere. Mediah became unsure if she was constantly blocking the initial experience out of her memory as a coping method or if her brain was being affected by the distance from her other body. Her real body? Her eyes widened with dread. It would make sense for her to take her Stranger body up to space to a drug deal. It was safer. Her real body must be at home, sleeping next to all the figurines. However, if her real body was truly on Earth, she figured the distance would be affecting her current body. She can’t remember being awake at home for a long time. Was she just a lethargic person, or was her body at home losing that conscious reception? She noticed that she’d been asking a lot of questions about herself that she should know. Not only has she lost track of which body was her real body, but she’s starting to forget who she was as a person.

“Hey! Are you having a panic attack?” A startled voice finally pulled Mediah out of her mental trip through space. It was Mou again.

“Do I normally have those?” she asked under her breath. She shot up from her seating position before she could be asked to repeat herself. “Thank you.”

“You take it easy okay? Maybe go home and get some sleep?”

“I can’t, I have somewhere to be. How do I get to the mall section from here?”

“Oh uh,” Mou began to point in a random direction before he could answer completely, “you wanna take those stairs on the right, then take the elevator that does not say 'service' up to k-186 and then take the ‘mall section’ stairs.”

“Thanks, I should be going.” Mediah tried not to hurry out too fast; she figured it’d make her look like a jerk. Mou told her to have a good night, but corrected himself by saying day. It’s hard to keep track of time on an asteroid.

 

#

 

Disappointingly enough, the malls in space weren’t much different from malls on Earth. The noticeable differences would be the occasional repair shops for generally non-commercial tools such as ship material and tool rentals. The atmosphere in the mall was very much like the mall she’d visit on Earth, only made more ominous by the stark lack of people. There were empty food vendors and empty hair salons, almost as if the place were anticipating a day when space travel becomes trivial. There were some places open, like the gambling areas, a dentist’s office, radiation clinic, and the photo rooms where people pay to hang out and take pictures surrounded by interesting scenery. Tyra enjoyed those kinds of shops, and she recently took a photo of herself with Mediah standing in front of a bright pink wall lined with old milk jugs. She didn’t pay extra to run the bubble machine, but she paid a dollar to download a custom filter from the shop that made them look like cartoons. Tyra complained that a scarf would have completed her look, but malls don’t usually sell clothes.

Mediah began to ascend the escalator not wanting to be disgustingly late to the drug deal. Mediah ran into the occasional pilot either enjoying some food or playing some type of video game with an air of exhaustion around them. Though they seemed out of place in the mall, their bulky professional astro gear made much more sense than Mediah’s for the MEO zone. A large cotton hoodie and a tank top saying ‘suspicious and delicious’ would not protect her from gamma rays, let alone a midi skirt. They’d wave to her, and she’d wave back only as a primal response. Though deep space pilots have interesting stories to tell about the cosmos, Mediah had a place to be and no spare energy to expend on small talk. Despite the fact she could count on her hands how many people she saw in the mall, Mediah assumed everyone who looked at her knew she was hiding an illegally homemade submachine gun  on a sling under her hoodie and planed on buying hard drugs. The gun, which was based on the very old MPX K design and was quite lightweight, felt much heavier whenever she met eyes with someone.

Finally at the other end of the mall, Mediah found an elevator that lead to ‘Mall Dock A.’ Through there, she would be able to meet with the guy, who wants to only be called ‘Pluto.’ She’ll just have to hand him the stack of 100 five dollar bills and he hands her the drugs. Altogether, she shouldn’t have to see his face for more than a minute. She quickly descended the elevator shaft and looked for a guy who seemed like a drug dealer. It’d be better if she knew what he’d be wearing, but it turned out Mediah didn’t have to. Near the center of the blue-lit dock surrounded by ships of all sizes and colors was a decently large and incredibly ragged satellite maintenance ship. The chipped, crusty tan paint on the rusted hull looks as if it was meant to be white. The person leaning on its side almost appeared to be the human version of the heap. He was disheveled in the least endearing sense of the word. His short, spikey hair appeared sweaty. His eyes openly expressed a chronic lack of sleep, and the face they sunk into was cartoonishly nasty. He noticed her enter the dock and waved.

Just a minute she thought. She walked forward and adjusted her hair in a manner that made her appear casual. She figured a sign of fear would cause him to leap up and devour her. She finally, even if only for a second, felt safe with the gun in her sweater, which was still there.

“You Medeya?” he croaked, almost as if the landing gear on his ship has shifted from the rust.

“Yeah, I’m Mediah.” she said in an effort to covertly correct the pronunciation of her name. “You uh… know what I need?”

Pluto coughed out a thick, phlegmy laugh before saying: “I’ve got all you need, girl.”

Mediah’s gag reflex kicked in almost immediately in response, possibly in reaction to the smell of morning breath.

“This 700?” He asked as Mediah quickly passed him the money.

“It’s five?” she said a bit stumbled. “Tyra only gave me 500.”

“Her stuff is deffo not 500.” The bass in his voice became more apparent.

“Uh, like, I dunno dude. Fuckin’ just gimmie 500’s worth?” Mediah kept shoving the cash in Pluto’s space, mostly to rid herself of it and leave.

“It don’t play like that. It just don’t. I gotta waste my time making the stuff, you know? It costs me to make 700’s worth. Nobody else buys this shit. It’s no good to me if I can’t sell it.”

“Why don’t you just… just give me 500’s worth, keep the other two hundred for next time Tyra buys, maybe charge her a bit extra?”

Pluto seemed to fall apart at the seams as he hunched forward and grasped his head. The sight was more unsettling than it was pitiful. He managed to stand up straight and face Mediah again, eyes puffier than before.

“This is a bit of an inconvenience” he said. Without any hesitation, Pluto had his hands around Mediah’s neck. Despite the initial shock, Mediah’s first thought was that he might be high on something in order to move so quickly and to lift her off the ground with ease. She began to thrash around helplessly as she clawed at his wrists. She managed to break flesh and sever his radial artery, but he didn’t seem to notice. Pluto did not look strong enough to hoist Mediah so far above his head, but he had her by the neck as high as his arms could hold her. Kicking his face didn’t seem to do anything, nor did spitting. She even tried to force herself out of the hold by planting her feet on his shoulders and back flipping out. He had her too tight.

As her vision began to go black, Mediah unzipped her hoodie, exposing her tee shirt. Though she was afraid of what she’d have to do to escape, she was more afraid of death. If the body she currently occupied was her Stranger counterpart, the situation would scar her mentally, for sure, but at least she wouldn’t have to die. From under her arm, in a swift, but clumsy motion, she switched the safety off her MPX and fired a thunderous burst of desperation. The recoil of the gun carried the shots from his torso to his throat and skull. Mediah crashed to the floor and coughed violently. Before the gravity of the situation could cause her crash down to Earth from the adrenaline high, a loud metallic sound, like a door busting open, caused Mediah to look toward Pluto’s ship. Mediah assumed that being strangled caused her vision to blur. Emerging from Pluto’s ship seemed to be Pluto, but also four more Plutos. Each copy seemed to be more or less disgusting than the other, but they were all joined together at the head with a long sort of crude tubing. When her vision cleared up, she could make out tattoos on the sides of their arms, which were numbers poorly carved in, four through nine. Pluto not only had multiple armed Strangers, but he was living within each of them simultaneously. One of the only things each Stranger had in common, aside from a general grossness, was a somewhat deranged look. Mediah’s fight or flight response kicked in, and the latter option was the only one she had the energy for. She took off like a bullet, though she could only run at a fraction of the speed of the real bullets whizzing past her. The dock’s acoustics were perfect for anyone trying to make an agonizingly deafening ruckus with automatic weapons. Mediah barely managed to shut the elevator door in time as a bullet managed to sneak in and bounce around the metal room once or twice. The sound of gunshots had ceased, and all she could make out past the faint ringing in her ear was her own hyperventilating. A sharp pain in her throat almost made some space janitor’s day more difficult.

As soon as the doors open, Mediah charges as quickly as she can through the mall. When she noticed personnel dressed in bright clothing reading ‘security’ however, she tried her best to appear calm. Whether it was paranoia or a coincidence, the mall felt much more crowded. Mediah quickly hopped into her ship and tried to start a voice call with Tyra to let her know what happened. She didn’t feel safe waiting around the pillome to be arrested or shot, so she set a course to Tyra’s place and took off. Mediah’s breathing hadn’t calmed down, and she was afraid she’d have a heart attack or something. After a few minutes, either due to her incredibly lack of sleep or her nerves, she passed out.

 

#

 

Mediah’s dashboard was quickly replaced with carpet and anime figurines. Though she welcomed the change of pace, she didn’t trust her skills as a sleeping pilot. Though she hated the idea of being asleep at the wheel of a spaceship traveling at super-high speed through possible debris, she trusted in the infinite size of space that she wouldn’t crash or get stuck in traffic. Mediah tried to find a way to get herself back to sleep, but a conversation in the next room caught her attention. She could hear Gliese, who sounded mildly annoyed. She could also hear Tyra’s voice.

“Mediah!” Gliese shouted, “the friends I constantly tell you to stop hanging out with are here! Wake the fuck up!”

Mediah wasn’t properly dressed for company, and seriously did not want to be awake at the moment. The fact that she could let Tyra know what happened, however, would be fantastic.

“Just a seco-” Mediah was cut off by Tyra and two more people she wasn’t familiar with suddenly entering the room. Mediah shrunk behind her bed and yelped almost like a puppy. “Uhh! What are you doing in here and who are these two peeps?!”

“Scorp and Arter?” Tyra said as she opened a drawer full of hair products and wires that lacked an apparent purpose. “They were at my Mars party. I forgot how much of a bitch your sister was, by the way?”

“That’s my cousin. Please get out of that drawer, that’s my aunt’s stuff. Also, can you give me a minute to at least put on some pants?”

“You wanna come back to the hangout and smoke a bowl before you-” Tyra paused, “Aren’t you supposed to be delivering something?”

“Yeah, about that. Pluto tried to kill me, so I left and my ship’s on its way back-”

“I knew Pluto was a creepo. You’ve got the Stranger body up there, right?”

Mediah couldn’t find an answer. “I dunno?”

Tyra sighed. “This is why you should have tattooed something on the Stranger. Come hang out, we’ll be able to figure it out; we know the real you.”

“I really need to get back to my ship.”

Tyra rolled her eyes and produced a small brown vial from her pocket. “Take a super quick sniff of this and bring the stuff back here.”

Mediah did as instructed and was out faster than she could blink.

#

 

“Whoa!” Mediah shouted as she suddenly jolted awake. She quickly put her hands to the controls, only to find that, in space, there’s not many obstacles to worry about. Regardless, Mediah changed course for home and increased her speed. Though fuel was expensive, She knew she’d have enough to speed home in around half an hour.

She eventually landed her ship as awkwardly as possible in the lake up the street from her house. She had to jump out of the cock pit and over water to get to land. She waltzed toward the back door and entered through her window, as she normally did in order to avoid suspicion from her family. She knew they’d hate to see her engaged in such illegal activities like making a second body. When she approached her room, she noticed that everybody, including herself, was missing.

“Oh, you’re back?” Gliese appeared behind Mediah. “Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t just go outside without pants.” Mediah’s heart sank. “I mean it when I say don’t hang out with those chucklefucks. They don’t even seem like your type of people? Unless I don’t know you as well as I uhh…” she paused and looked at Mediah more intently.

“Yeah, sorry” Mediah said quickly, “I’m just gonna go. I’ll try to be right back soon.”

“I mean, sure.” Gliese kept looking directly into Mediah’s eyes, almost as if she were trying to see into her soul. Mediah was a bit taken aback, but she left without thinking about it too much.

 

 

#

 

Mediah charged into the front doors of the ‘hangout’ which was an old factory building where CNC machines were kept. Daylight shined through the holes in the building, with one gleam of light shining directly at her other body. There was a needle in its arm.

“Guys, what the fuck?” Mediah shouted as she sprinted over to her empty reflection. “I thought we were going to find out if that was my body!”

Tyra laughed, and already looked completely out of it. “I know for a fact this is your Stranger, dude. She looks like a total baby.”

Mediah clenched her fists till her knuckles hurt. When she reminded Tyra that she hated drugs, as she routinely did whenever Tyra would offer them, she would get back the same response. ‘It’s not even addictive. It’s totally safe. This is why you have a second body.’ That was just the thing; Mediah wasn’t sure Tyra was right about the body. She was starting to believe that Tyra didn’t really know her that well. With the amount of time they’ve been apart, Mediah wasn’t sure she knew who Tyra was either. Just as the air in the room was getting tense, Mediah’s other body began to squirm.

“Oh, it’s kicking in!” Tyra pulled out her brown vial again. “Quick, you gotta feel it for yourself, it’s so plesant! Please, just one time!”

Mediah watched as her other body began to seize, and almost began to cry. Tyra became really annoyed.

“I can prove it’s not your real body.” Just then, Tyra reached into her jacket and pulled out a small pistol. Scorp and Arter backed away. Mediah began to scream, though she couldn’t properly form words. “Stop! You’re acting like an idiot! This body is obviously the one I spent my own time making for your ungrateful ass! It’s shorter than you, it’s ears aren’t pierced, it has brown eyes for fuck’s sake! I’m just gonna get rid of it because fuck me for trying to get you to live a little, right?” Tyra straightened her arm to shoot, and Mediah stopped. She couldn’t be sure if anything Tyra was doing or saying was from someone of a sane mind, but Mediah acted on a whim. She dove into her other body and pushed it out of the way. She could hear a huge sound go off, but that was about it.

Black.

It was only black for a while.

Then blue. Blue eyes? Mediah’s vision wasn’t clear enough to make out any details, but someone’s face was inches away from hers. Maybe she was looking into a mirror, but she didn’t have blue eyes. Something red trickled down their face. She tried to stand up and felt like a feather over a fan. She was afraid she’d float away if she stood up too fast. She looked down to see the blue eyed person lying on the floor. Maybe she was sleepy? Mediah could see… Tyra? She was holding something, maybe a drug thing. She loves doing those drug things. Tyra looked very surprised, and she was stuck in an odd pose.

Mediah laughed and began to jump around gleefully, “Everyone looks so funny! You’re all super-duper druggies.” Mediah returned to her blue eyed friend on the floor and hugged her. “Who is this? Who’s this sleepyhead?” Mediah could hear Tyra’s voice, but she wasn’t forming words. She was probably laughing. She’s always laughing. “Wake up sleepy head! Don’t be a stranger, c’mon, Introduce yourself!” Everything felt wonderfully warm and open. It was all so freeing. Mediah saw two other people in the room, and she couldn’t remember their names. Maybe she wasn’t sure who they were. She stuck out her hand, and it appeared to go miles in front of her. “I’m Mediah Coeli! Hey… do you two like anime?”


Submitted: March 01, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Valentine RPK. All rights reserved.

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