Ovoids

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First published in Nature's Futures

I watched the soldier through the attic window.   

"Alice Petrag," he shouted through his megaphone.

I winced. I didn't like him using my old name.

"We want you to join us. You have the skills and knowledge we need."

Fat chance of that. I wasn't about to hide in an underground bunker with a bunch of know-nothing scientists and cowards. That soldier didn't know his real duty.  

"Many of your fellow vigilantes have joined us," he shouted.

 That was a lie; most of the armed forces had joined the vigilantes.

"We need you." His voice trailed off. It seemed to me as if he was embarrassed.   

After an hour of pointless shouting, he returned to his truck for a fag and a can of coke, before driving off to the next town, to the next futile recruitment drive.

The soldiers came round every few months. They didn't bother me much.

#

By half-past ten, I was home. That soldier had messed with my stuff, but he hadn't taken anything. Perhaps I should've talked to him. After all, we both wanted the same thing. Maybe I could've recruited him to the vigilantes.

I'd missed my morning exercise and my weapons' research. It was time for forum research.  I checked my laptop batteries and logged in. The internet still worked. The net's still a place of wild speculation and meaningless distraction– no changes there.  

I logged onto The Furies. It's good to keep contact with like-minded people. The Furies is a women only forum. Although, admittedly, there was no way of checking. I had lots of avatars. I used lots of different names.

I saw that StoneHeart was online, and I sent her a 'hello'. I liked StoneHeart. She had a dry sense of humour.  

She replied, "Have you seen the new government messages? They're embarrassing themselves."

I pulled up the gov site. "Citizens, for your own safety, we urge you to relocate to an official underground facility. We are developing a cohesive strategy. We need every able-bodied person. Isolated, we will fail. If you are one of the so-called vigilante fighters, we urge you to reconsider. Join us. Together, we will succeed."

The same old message, re-worded every few weeks, to tempt us "so-called vigilante fighters".

"You're right, StoneHeart. They're an embarrassment." 

We messaged back and forth. I sent her the details of the acid that I'd concocted. It seemed to have a mild effect on the ovoid shell.

Then she sent me a message that I didn't like, at all. "I really would like to meet up sometime. You said you're in Derbyshire. So am I."

I logged off immediately.

My schedule was all wrong that morning. Instead of spending my time doing something useful, I just paced up and down the garden

At eleven-thirty I forced myself into my chair for pattern observation. I felt better, surrounded by my weapons: knives, a chainsaw, various acids, a range of chemical mixes, commonplace and more esoteric. A barrel of water-- you never know. Then there was the flame-thrower. I had a really good feeling about the flame-thrower.

I charted the movements on the ovoid's surface, downloading the data for a group that  monitors the patterns. Some vigilantes worked in teams, had their own bunkers. I didn't mind sharing my data with them -- but I worked alone.

I was scanning the vigilante forums, when a message from StoneHeart flicked up. That girl couldn't take a hint. I deleted the message without reading it.

Then it was noon and time for lunch. I had a very tight schedule, exercises, research, weapons training, all within sight of the ovoid.  

I looked at my watch, again. It wasn't time, yet. I heated a can of chicken stew for lunch.

After lunch it was time: the half hour I allow myself to think about the past.

I touched the ovoid skin, felt its warmth. How strange it was. It consumed my life, now. When I was a kid, it was a different story. The ovoid in our garden was nothing more than an unremarkable place for me to hide during hide and seek.

"Why do you always choose that place," Mary would ask. "You know it's the first place that I look."

I was younger than Mary by three years.

Familiarity had bred indifference. The ovoids were only odd shapes that had grown over the world a generation ago. They didn't do anything.

Until their daddies came.

Ten years ago, we stared at the sky-filling, thrashing shapes, at the massive mountains of twisting flesh, spawning to a different timescale. It took them two years to complete what must have been, for them, a spasm of reproductive ectasy.  They were indifferent to our desperate weapons, perhaps twisted into an offset reality. 

When they came, their gametes hung for days, darkening the sky. Until, urged by some unseen stimulus they smashed through our tissue-paper world, our fragile lives. I sat in front of my ruined house, somewhere, underneath the rubble, were the bodies of my mother, my father and Mary.

A small percentage of the gametes even reached their intended destination and fertilized the waiting ovoids.

I was one of the lucky ones. Now, I wait. My weapons are at my side.  

I deleted another message from StoneHeart. She was a nuisance, a distraction. I would  change my avatar and my name. Then she won't be able to find me.

I'm waiting. I will allow nothing to distract me. I'm waiting for the ovoid to crack, for the offspring to be born.

And, when they emerge; there will be nowhere for them to hide. 


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