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What's the new religion? DNA...

Genesis Cave




Tom Olbert



            Two planets collided, a brilliant white explosion bathing a young planetary system in light.

            Zol, whose consciousness had evolved across the ages Its planet had drifted through the interstellar void, was shaken to Its core as It was hurled into space, Its planet shattering beneath It.  Zol watched, wounded and helpless as two worlds shattered, their hard outer shells vaporizing, pulverized matter congealing to form a new moon.

Partially recovering, Zol struggled with magnetic fields and nuclear forces, desperately hoping to preserve some vestige of Itself. Zol spread Itself thin, a glowing radioactive mist between the newly formed world and its moon, anchoring Itself with a column of energy. Zol held the new sphere together as best It could and shaped it using the new moon as a source of gravitational and kinetic energy.  Zol shattered into many conscious fragments, laying the electro-chemical foundations of life across the primal world forming below. A billion invisible hands of magnetic force stoked chemical fires of molecular creation.

Zol strove to create a planetary womb in which Its seed could one day germinate. But, it was a losing battle. The complex organic molecules Zol had created shriveled like threads in fire.  The nascent planet burned and raged, molten rock slipping through Zol’s invisible fingers like grains of sand.  Zol could scarcely maintain magnetic fields strong enough to shield Its bastard creation from the huge rocks hurtling down from space.  Zol screamed in frustration as Its strength waned, Its energy dissipating.  Zol managed, in one last excruciating effort, to assemble life. Using as raw material the organic sludge that lay nearby in abundance, Zol constructed a strain of bacteria designed to utilize the energy of the small, weak sun and create precious oxygen.

            Zol sighed in satisfaction.  The odds were slight that this hearty new life strain could take root in such barren soil.  But, if it could multiply in sufficient quantity over the next 2 billion years or so, perhaps it could build sufficient layers of atmosphere to shield this naked, defenseless rock against the radiations and stony fragments raining down from space.  Exhausted, Zol had to sleep.  Zol wrote Its genetic code into the bacteria’s core bio-chemistry, staking Its existence on one slim hope.

Zol saved as much of Its knowledge as It could in the energy stream linking the new world and its moon.  And, a more organic part of Zol’s essence entered the new planet, deep below the surface, safe from the bombardment.  And there, Zol slept, like a seed buried beneath winter snows, waiting...


4.5 billion years later…

The rainforests of Southern Mexico, Tobasco province…

            Tori cut the knife deeply into her arm.  Wincing in pain, she swore under her breath in the pitch dark of the sultry jungle night.  Wiping aside a tear, she bit down hard on her sweat-soaked bandana, extracting the surgically-implanted micro-lens in her forearm.  She exhaled, remembering the day her friend Luke had implanted the lens with the help of his pre-med buddies.  It had been just before Tori’s parents had taken her home from the University in Connecticut.  She panted nervously, pricking her ears at every crack of a twig.  She put away the knife she’d stolen from Doug’s back-pack and set about cleaning the wound as best she could, using the water from her canteen sparingly.

            She fashioned a crude bandage and tourniquet.  Then, set about cleaning the micro-lens and inserting it in her eye.  She swore under her breath in frustration, the damned blood and water mixing in her eye.  She tried drying the lens on her shirt, on her bandage.  God, how can you dry anything here?!  Everything is damp, soaked through with rain and sweat!!  Finally, she got the lens in.  The circuit activated upon contact with her iris, and the computer-generated radar map appeared, a glowing amber wraith-world.

            She sighed, relaxing a bit.  Luke’s computer tinkering had finally come in handy.  Shifting her eye, she got the compass arrows to flash, and headed north through the brush.  She was 2 kilometers south of the Pueblo of Tapijalapa.  Though, she had no clear idea what she would do once she reached the town.  She didn’t care.  Anything was better than staying back there with Doug.  She cringed at the thought of him.  She felt a twinge of guilt at abandoning the others to him.  But, there was nothing she could do alone, she told herself.  She had to get help.  Someone would listen.  They had to.

            She ran.  The muck sloshed into her boots as she clawed through the underbrush.  Torrents of sweat streamed down her face.  She whimpered in frustration.  There had to be a trail somewhere.  Her heart beat faster.  As a child she’d always loved the woods, always longed for those late nights on the camping trips Mom and Dad had taken her on in Vermont.  This was damned different.  No crackling fire and scary stories in the cabin with owls hooting outside.  Here, the night slithered and rustled with the sounds of things alien.  And, few stars were visible through the leafy canopy that formed the sky.  She stopped to rest and took a swallow of water.

The sounds were beginning to crawl through her flesh along with the moisture drenching her clothes.  She needed something on which to focus her mind, or she feared she’d lose it.  She concentrated, activating the micro-comp Luke’s buds had implanted in her cerebral cortex at her request.  The illegal implant was wet-ware interfaced with her thought-centers.  So, just by willing it, she could tap into the satellite network and download whatever information she wanted, by-passing the usual government-mandated parental content blockers. A flat, tinny voice droned in her head, reciting text-book facts on the history, flora and fauna of this rainforest.

Detach.  Analyze.  Understand.  She said this over and over with her eyes shut, reciting her father’s analytic approach to everything.  Including her.  As she’d gotten older, that detachment had become a way of holding it all together when things got crazy.  Look at life like a bacterial swarm under a microscope.  Analyze, catalogue and understand.  Understanding conquered fear.  Her mom had said she was just hiding from life.  That it was time to come out from behind the books and Bunsen burners and actually live life.  Tori sobbed hysterically.  I took your advice, Mom.  ‘Happy now? 

            Her heart stopped.  Something was crashing through the brush behind her.  An animal?  There was light stabbing through the leaves.  “Tori,” an angry, gruff male voice called out.  Doug.  Damn.  Damn, Damn, Damn!!!  She ran, blood pounding through her ears.  “Tori!”  That anger, that hate in his voice.  She felt the sweat sting the welts on her back left by his last beating.  Oh, God, not again!

            Something dark opened before her.  A cave!  Someplace.  Any place she could hide.  She entered the cave mouth, oddly shaped rock formations shimmering in her computer-generated vision.  She smelled something rancid, like rotten eggs, coming from deeper inside.  It got harder to breath, the deeper she went into the cavern, until she nearly gagged, growing light-headed.  Where the hell was she?  The computer voice in her head kicked in.  ‘The Cueva de Villa Luz…Cave of the Lighted House…is a famous archeological and biological wonder.  Also, extremely dangerous.’  Her heart raced.  ‘Thermal sulfur springs feed enormous amounts of sulfur-loving cave life.  The hydrogen sulfide gas is extremely toxic to humans, however.’  Her heart pounded.  ‘Entering the cave without breathing apparatus and oxygen tanks, as well as adequate protective clothing can be deadly.’

            She choked in terror, her head swimming.  Get out.  Must get back.  Her radar vision pitched wildly.  She fought to stay awake.  She began to see strange things.  Stalactites seemingly melted before her eyes into streams of liquid silver, dripping from the roof of the cave.  She was reminded of her one and only disastrously frightening college experiment with hashish.  What was she seeing?  The computer voice chimed in again.  ‘Colonies of bacteria are found in the Cueva de Villa Luz.  Called snottites for their look and feel, these bacterial colonies are of particular interest to biologists, as they may hold clues to the origin of life, both on Earth and possibly on other planets.’

            She tripped and fell.  As she reached out to grab something, those vile snot-like things touched her skin.  She groaned in pain, the rocks bruising her side as she hit the ground hard.  Light pulsed through the misty interior of the cave and a male voice called her name from a distance.  God?  No, she reminded herself with disappointment; It was only Doug.  Even his abuse now seemed preferable to dying alone in this stinking hole.  Damn, was it to end like this?  As she felt the light waning, she cried, thinking of her mother and father.  She saw one of those ‘snottite’ things drip a large, shimmering silver drop.  It fell on her arm, soaking through the crude bandage and into her wound.  It stung, like acid.  Then…a strange electrical tingling raced through her blood.


            Zol stirred to life after eons of hibernation, Its essence merging with some strange new configuration of life.  The genetic properties of this new life-form were unfamiliar, but they shared a common biological lineage with Zol.  And, in the race memory of each cell, Zol perceived intelligence.  Zol was overjoyed.  Its desperate experiment had succeeded.  Zol extended Itself through this new living matrix… 


            The morning sun was high and hot.  Tori lurched in pain, her wrists chafing against the leather straps binding her as another electric shock blasted through her body.  Her head swam in pain, sweat streaming down her naked torso as she hung suspended between two trees.  She saw Doug smile cruelly as he brought the electric stun gun under her left breast and curled his grubby index finger around the trigger.

            “Please, leave her alone,” Shandra begged, her voice cracking in fear.

            Caitlin put her arms around her, restraining her.  “Don’t,” she whispered fearfully.  “He’ll hurt you.”

            “God, shut up,” Jordan whispered in obvious fright.  Tori screamed in pain as the next shock went through her chest like a bullet.  For a moment, she thought her heart would explode.  Her head dropped forward, blood pounding through her temples.  Rough, calloused fingers grabbed her by the hair and pulled her head upright.  Doug’s meaty, goateed face glared into hers.

            “That’s what you get for making me drag you out of that stinking cave, bitch,” Doug whispered through clenched teeth, beer thick on his breath.  She felt him press the stun gun against her stomach.  He smiled, sliding it lower.  Tori clenched her teeth.

            “Stop it!” Shandra yelled, pulling free of Caitlin and running toward Doug.

            “Shandra, don’t,” Caitlin called out, chasing her.

            Jordan grabbed Caitlin by the shirt, holding her back.  “Stop it, you idiot!  Are you trying to get us killed?!”

            “Take your hands off me, bitch!”

Shandra’s lean, frail hand grabbed the larger, courser hand holding the stun gun.  “Doug, don’t, for God’s sake!  She’s hurt…”  Doug brought the back of his hand hard against Shandra’s mouth, knocking her down into the dirt.  Tori winced.

“Shandra!” Caitlin screamed, pushing Jordan aside and running to Shandra’s side.

“Don’t you ever touch me,” Doug shouted.  “Don’t you ever interfere with me!  Don’t you ever defy me, you filthy little whore!”

“Leave her alone!” Caitlin screamed, her arms around Shandra, Shandra’s blood smearing all over Caitlin’s ‘Jesus Loves’ uniform T-shirt.  Caitlin kissed her lightly on the forehead, trying to staunch the flow of blood.

Doug cuffed Caitlin hard upside the head.  “You fat, ugly little dyke!  Here,” he said, offering her the stun gun.  “Shock your little girlfriend, and maybe I won’t beat the crap outta’ you!”

Caitlin tried to sit up, sobbing and rubbing the side of her head.  “Go to hell.”  Doug shocked her.  She screamed, her body convulsing.

Tori whimpered in guilt.  Oh, great work, Miss Brilliant!  All this is your fault!  She couldn’t stand it anymore.  “Stop it, you bastard,” she screamed.  “Or, they will send you back to prison!”  Doug turned on her, rage in his eyes.  Oh, God, he’s going to kill me.

He slapped her, hard.  She saw stars for a second.  “Shut up!  Your parents sighed you over to the state program, so now you’re mine!”

She cried.  Memories flashed through her mind of the looks of anguish on her parents’ faces as she was escorted out of the house, and into the van by those men.  Mom and Dad hadn’t wanted to sign the papers.  But, what choice had they?  Her dad’s boss at the research institute would have fired him otherwise.  The institute would have been blacklisted by the Family Values Coalition and lost their government grants unless the situation was ‘rectified.’  Hatred welled up in her.  She didn’t even care about the pain anymore.  “How can you do this to another human being,” she forced out, sputtering through the tears.  “You’re evil.”

“Oh…” he winced in disgust.  “I’m evil, huh?  What the hell do you know, you spoiled little white-bred suburban cunt?!  I’ve made my mistakes, sure.  But, I found Jesus inside that penitentiary.  I saw the light.  All you have to do is admit you’ve sinned…”

She saw the lie in the glint of amusement in his cruel eyes.  He didn’t believe any more than she did.  She used to, but not anymore.  What kind of God would set such rules?  “I loved someone.  That’s a sin?”

“Don’t bullshit me, or yourself!  You spread your legs for some college punk!  That ’aint love, girl.”

“And, this is?”  She looked down at herself, feeling ashamed and violated.  She looked up and spat in his ugly face.

He wiped it off and glared, baring his yellowed teeth.  He brought the stun gun against her throat and pressed the trigger.  The pain was like a lightning bolt through her brain, her mind exploding, spinning through darkness and star fire.

Then, she was in hell.  The ground beneath her was a raging volcanic furnace, the sky a flaming red, the sea a noxious olive green.  Flaming missiles rained from the sky.  Burning sulfur choked the air.  Oh, God, no!  She was dead!  They’d been right!  All those televangelist mega-church ministers and their fire and brimstone sermons…they’d been right!  God hated her and condemned her to this!


Zol had reached the intelligence centers of this new life-form.  A surge of electricity passing through the neural pathways of this entity had stimulated its synaptic processes sufficiently for Zol to gain access.

This being was primitive.  Less than infantile.  Its primal intelligence didn’t seem to comprehend the memories Zol shared.  The creature’s life was so brief…its entire existence scarcely a micro-second to Zol.  How could sentience come to exist in so brief a time?  Intrigued, Zol continued to reach out into this new realm…


Tori started, something wet on her face.  A hand slapped her cheek.  Hot sunlight beat down on her skin.  “Wake up!” a rough male voice shouted.  A strong, rough hand clutched her face, shaking her.  “Rise and shine, princess.”  Doug.

His face blurred into view.  The first clear thing she discerned was the prison tattoo on his neck.  “I’m alive?”  Caitlin, Shandra and Jordan all looked scared.  “I…I was in hell.”

“What?  What did you say,” Doug demanded.

“I saw hell.”  She cried, tears running down her face.  Doug smiled, untying her wrists and letting her fall to her knees.

“Get down on your knees, all of you,” he ordered.  Tori saw the other three girls get down on their knees as Doug laid a hand on her head.  “This girl has seen what awaits you all unless you accept the word of Jesus Christ!  Let us pray.”  Their heads bowed.  Tori shut her eyes in fear, and prayed.  She could think only of what she’d seen.  The computer implant in her head chimed in.

‘For 600 million years, asteroids and comets bombarded the primal Earth, rains of chemical toxins blanketing its lifeless surface.’  She recognized that.  Theories still taught in European universities.  Banned now in the states, since the Party had come to power.  The computer link was interpreting her memory of her vision, but…what did a stupid machine know of hell?  ‘Similar conditions can be found on Earth today.  Hidden in the depths of the tropical rainforests of Southern Mexico is a cave called Cueva de Villa Luz.’

She started, opening her eyes.  ‘A subterranean world filled with hydrogen-sulfide, a gas present on Earth some 4 billion years ago.  This is believed to be a relic environment which could give microbiologists a clue as to how life on Earth began.  Some have theorized that the earliest germs of life on Earth originated beyond our planet, in outer space.  (See earlier reference:  snottites.)’  Her arm wound stung.  Her head spun, voices of preachers and scientists swirling inside.  What had she seen?!!  She shut her eyes tightly.  Calm down.  Think.  Detach.  Analyze.


Zol came to realize there were many of these short-lived primitive entities here. Zol began to reach out to them, through the electro magnetic fields that still housed Its intellect, and through the strains of bacteria Zol had spawned long ago.  Strains that now permeated every living cell of this new world, binding every living organism together…


The rains showered down.  It was an endless, maddening slog through the jungle, hunting for food, living off the land.  The rain spattered down on their plastic ponchos, insects torturing them.

At sunset, Tori, Shandra and Caitlin huddled under a crudely hung plastic tarp, sick and miserable as they tried to cram down the leaves and dead salamanders that passed as food.  Tori glanced over, across the sodden ferns at the light from Doug’s comfortable tent.  Two silhouettes moved inside the tent, entangling.  His, and Jordan’s.  Caitlin spat in disgust.  “‘Looks like the country club brat’s found her own fucking salvation!”  Tori felt dizzy, the jungle swirling around her.  It was as if something in her mind was taking in every bit of life, every leaf, twig and insect, faster than her brain could process.

“Tori, are you OK?” Shandra asked with concern, raindrops sliding down the lenses of her glasses.

“I…I don’t know.  I think I’m sick.”

Caitlin rubbed her short, pudgy hands together, wiping aside wet strands of her long red hair as she looked hesitantly at Tori.  Faintly illuminated in the dim light of the electric lantern, her large, green eyes showed fear.  “Did you really see hell?” she asked in a whisper.  Shandra took Caitlin’s hand.

Tori looked at them both.  They both seemed to be looking to her for the answer.  For so many answers.  She wished to God she had them, for her own sake as well as theirs.  But, her head was swimming through indistinct images and shadows.  She couldn’t even be sure of her own memories anymore.  “I don’t know what I saw,” she muttered.  “This implant said things that didn’t make any sense,” she said, tapping the side of her head.  “But, there was this cave…”

“’Implant?’”  Caitlin brushed aside a bit of Tori’s short, sandy hair, her fingers touching the stitches on the side of Tori’s head.  “You got an illegal?” she whispered, glancing nervously back at Doug’s tent.  “You realize what they could do to you if they find out?”

Tori silently cursed herself, realizing she’d implicated them now, by telling them.  “You’ve got guts, Tori,” Shandra said with a smile, her split lip bleeding slightly, the blood diluted in rain and sweat.

“Forget that science crap,” Caitlin urged.  “Can you remember anything at all about…you know…the place you were?  Is it real?”  She began trembling, as though needing the answer and fearing it at the same time.  Shandra stroked her hair.

“Cat, it’s okay, hon. It’s okay.”  Shandra put her lean arms around Caitlin’s meaty body until her trembling stopped.  Tori felt waves of comfort emanating from Shandra, like a summer wind off the sea.  Light and images flowed into Tori’s mind.  Gulls cawing in the distance, the sun bright on the waves.  In Shandra’s kind smile and soft gray eyes, she saw rainbows and sea foam and stars.  In Shandra’s mind, she saw tattoos on the soft white flesh of her arms and shoulders.  Artfully crafted pictures that spoke of love.  Beauty destroyed as they were burned off by the cold men who’d taken her from her parents.  Tori felt the pain of the burning as if it were her own.

“How can you not hate them for what they did to you?” Tori asked, in awe of Shandra.

“What?” Shandra looked up at her, a quizzical expression on her face.

“Your tats.  It hurt so much.”

Shandra’s mouth dropped.  “Who told you about that?”

“No one.  I…I just knew.”  She winced, pinching her forehead.  Images were flitting faster and faster through her mind.  She started.  Something was rustling through the jungle, moving toward them.  Something came out of the ferns behind them.  Something large and slick and black.  Tori gasped.

Shandra started, then relaxed.  “Jordan,” she sighed, as Jordan slipped back the hood of her plastic poncho, her long, dark brown hair falling loosely about her shoulders.  Tori sighed in relief.  “God, you scarred the crap outta me.”

“What happened, party girl,” Caitlin sniped at Jordan.  “Your john get tired of you?”

“Up yours, bitch,” Jordan shot back.  “What I had to do with that slug, I did for all of us.  Check this out.”  She pulled a small back-pack from under her poncho and unzipped it, revealing tins of sardines, anchovies and frankfurters.

“Mmmm…” Caitlin murmured hungrily, licking her lips.

“And…ta-daaa…”  Jordan pulled out a six-pack of beer.  “Still don’t like me, fatso?”  She sneered at Caitlin, dangling the beer in her face.  As Caitlin scowled at Jordan, Caitlin’s mind opened like a book.  Dark poems of pain and loneliness.  Her fingers strumming across the strings of a guitar.  Soft, sad melodies.  Love-making in the woods, sticks and twigs stabbing her back at dawn’s cool, misty fire.  God, what was happening?!  The pregnancy.  The abortion he’d begged her to have.  That skinny blonde slut she’d found him with, after killing their baby.  A knife sliding across her wrist, the vein splitting, blood spurting across porcelain.  Oh God, the pain!  Straight jacket.  Drugs.  Needles.  Locked away in dark rooms, screaming.  Defecating onto padded floors, the drugs loosening her to the point she couldn’t stop it.  No one came.  Would God send her to hell for what she’d done?  Had He, already?

Then, meeting Shandra in the ‘re-education’ camp.  Shandra’s kind, healing ways.  Her love.  So gentle and unselfish.  Not like his.  The rainbows and starlight and sea-foam flowed into the poetry, making it less pained, less dark.  The gulls and ocean waves and summer warmth flowed into the music, making it less sad.  Tori clutched her head, rubbing her aching temples.  The speed at which they came, the intensity of these thoughts…she feared if she didn’t let them out, her mind would burst like a dam in a flood.  “My sweet love, her laughter like sunlight on the white feathers of a gull’s outstretched wing, the ocean spray on my face…Her love transports me, and I’m dancing with her on the edge of the sea.”

Caitlin gasped, staring at her in horror.  “I never told anyone.  What are you?”  Caitlin huddled closer to Shandra, pulling away from Tori.  Tori felt as though she’d violated them.  Her mind was spinning faster and faster.  God, make it stop!

“Tori…what’s happening?”  Shandra asked, fearfully.

“Shandra, don’t talk to her,” Caitlin whispered urgently, leaning into her ear.  “There’s something…” her voice sounded on the verge of hysteria.  “Unholy about her.”  Shandra held her.  Tori felt like crying.  She felt like tearing off into the jungle and not looking back.  Maybe, Caitlin was right, she thought with horror.  Maybe, she should just end this before she did hurt them.  She buried her face in her hands, shaking uncontrollably.

“What the hell’s going on,” Jordan asked, sounding scared.

“Tori,” Shandra said softly, touching her hand.  “Honey, it’s okay.  Caitlin’s just scared.  We’re all scared.  We’ll get through this.  Can you look at me, Tori?”  Tori looked up into Shandra’s face.  There was fear there, though she was clearly fighting it.  Tori envied Shandra her courage.  “It’ll be okay.”

Tori’s lip quivered.  “I’m so sorry,” she stammered, taking Shandra’s hand.  “For everything.  I did something incredibly stupid, and I got you two hurt.  And…about what I said…”  She rubbed her head again.  “I don’t know what’s happening.  I just know I don’t want to hurt anybody.”  She looked straight at Caitlin.  “I’m scared, okay?  I’m as scared as you.”  Her blood was racing, her head pounding.

“We know,” Shandra said softly, putting her arm around Tori’s shoulders and letting her rest her head on her shoulder.  Somehow, it calmed Tori.  She began to breath easier, like when she was little and her mom would hold her after a nightmare.  She noticed a hint of jealousy crossing Caitlin’s features.  And, Jordan’s.  Shandra beckoned for Caitlin to come sit beside her, on Tori’s other side.  Caitlin looked fearful, hesitating.  “It’s okay, Cat.  Whatever this is, we’ll figure it out.  I don’t think this is bad.”  She looked at Tori, stroking her shoulder.  “She’s sensitive to us, that’s all.  Somehow.   That’s not bad.  And, neither is this,” she said, touching the back-pack, and obviously trying to lighten the mood.  “Thanks, Jordan.  Let’s dig in!”  Jordan smiled in apparent satisfaction.  Tori actually giggled a bit, involuntarily. She caught the hint of a smile on Caitlin’s face as Caitlin took a sardine tin out of the pack and sat down cross-legged next to Tori.

They opened the tins and ate greedily.  “I take back…most of the things I’ve said about you, Jordan,” Caitlin quipped, wiping a bit of oily dribble off her chin and licking her finger-tip.  Tori was glad to see her smile.  Jordan made a mock sneer as she popped a beer tab.

“Hey, you want some, Tori,” Shandra asked, offering her an open tin.  “You haven’t eaten anything.”

“No, thanks,” Tori said, clutching her stomach.  God, this was worse than…that day she’d lost…She winced in pain, not wanting to remember.  Her blood was boiling, racing through her brain, her head burning with fever.

“You’re burning up,” Shandra said, her hand on Tori’s forehead.  “We’ve gotta cool you down somehow.”

“Can I please have one of those,” Tori asked, pointing at a beer can.

“Sure,” Jordan answered nervously, popping another tab and handing Tori the can.  “Knock yourself out.”

“Thanks.”  She drank, long and hard, hoping the rush would kill her pain.  She breathed deeply, her head spinning all the faster, the jungle and the faces of the others swirling around her, their thoughts like three competing symphonies blasting at her from all directions, all flowing together in her mind.  Jordan…her father and those other women.  Mom and the gardener.  Mom and the pool guy.  Cold secrets and cold, empty stares.  Lies.  Lies and hate.  Liquor to kill the pain of the loneliness.  That, and that young, hot-looking chauffer.  And, that pretty Spanish maid she’d gotten stoned with and had love with in the pool house.  All while Dad was off making bombs for money and Mom was off with lover number six.  Something, however brief…anything to make her feel like she mattered to someone.

The thoughts came faster now.  And, from farther and farther away.  The thing inside Tori’s head was reaching out, capturing more thoughts from more distant minds, and in greater numbers. The suffering of thousands came screaming into her mind. Hunger.  War.  Slavery.  Rape.  Disease.  Torture. Anguished, she clutched her head and collapsed into the mud, screaming, rain streaming over her face.  “Make it stop!!!”  Her brain was overheating, like a computer on overload, every neuron, every synapse burning at many times its capacity.  The other three women around her were all clutching their heads and wincing in pain as well.

Doug came crashing into the clearing, kicking the back-pack aside in rage, the tins clattering all over the place.  “Steal my shit…Ahhhhhhhh…”  He clutched his head in both hands, wincing in anguish.  “What the hell are you doing?!!!  Get the hell out of my fucking head!!!”

Tori writhed in the mud, feeling his pain.  His father’s strap cutting into his back when he was ten.  “Pussy!  Stinking little girl!!”  The voice roaring out of her throat was not her own.  She could see his cruel, hateful face in her mind.  Doug’s old man.  “No wonder your stinking bitch of a mother left me…It was you she wanted no part of!  I doubt you’re even mine!!!”

Doug gaped down at her in horror, crossing himself.  “Sweet Jesus, no.”

“Stinkin’ faggot!” Now, the voice screaming through her was Doug’s, though younger than his present self.  She felt the joyous release of years of pain and anger as he smashed in that man’s head with an aluminum baseball bat.  “Come here to me, bitch,” his voice growled through her, years older now, his memory of raping a sixteen-year-old girl flooding Tori’s mind.  “Lemme show you what a real man can do!”

“Shut up,” the real Doug roared.  ‘Shut up!  Shut up!!!”    He reached behind his belt and swung something towards her.  A gun.  She almost welcomed it.  The pain was too much to bear.  “Damn you to hell!!!”  He pulled the trigger, and there was a blinding flash and a deafening crack of thunder.


Zol was disoriented and confused, recalling how It felt the day Its planet was destroyed.  Its present host, the nexus of the vast web of connections it was forming…was apparently collapsing around It.  The crude network of electro-chemical relays which bound this organism together was breaking down.  Disrupted by, of all things, a small piece of lead which had crashed through the primitive fluid pumping and purification organs which kept this fragile construct operational.  Zol had to transfer the bulk of Its consciousness to a new center in the web It was building.

But, Zol would not waste what It had already obtained.  Zol harvested the thoughts of the host, even as its primitive thought relays collapsed one by one.  Each cell in the host’s body became raw material in the reconfiguration which was coming…


“You killed her,” Caitlin whispered numbly, her hands covered in Tori’s blood. Her mind was reeling in a wash of nightmare images.  Tori’s face, so still and peaceful, the rain washing over it like tears.  Was it a dream?  She couldn’t wake up.  Rage rose through the shock.  “You killed her, you murdering bastard!”  She glared at Doug, tears blurring her vision.

“Shut up!!  Just shut up!”  Doug paced frantically, clutching his head, strangled screams and curses under his breath.  “I lost it…you heard her…I didn’t mean to…Oh, God, what the hell am I supposed to do now?!!”

Jordan was crying, shaking hysterically.  “Oh, my God…Oh, my God…”

Shandra lay beside Tori’s body, her lean fingers gently caressing Tori’s face and temples, her tongue touching the blood streaming from her chest.  “She’s coming.  Listen,”

“What?”  Caitlin tried to pull herself together enough to think.  Was Shandra losing it?  Shandra was her strength!  If she lost it… Shandra grabbed her, suddenly, and pressed her lips to hers.  Scared though she was, Caitlin felt herself growing aroused, and in a way she never did before.  She felt Shandra’s tongue in her mouth, the iron taste of Tori’s blood on her taste buds.  Her brain began to tingle.

Shandra held her close, her arms tightly around her.  Shandra’s heart was racing, pounding against Caitlin’s chest.  Shandra’s breathing was hot and labored against Caitlin’s neck.  “Can you feel her,” she asked breathlessly, her sweat intermingling with Caitlin’s.  “She’s coming to us.”

Unfamiliar images flowed into Caitlin’s mind.  A mangy old angora cat lounging in her lap, its comical, wrinkled face looking lazily up at her as she stroked her oddly thin, long fingers through its fur.  That wasn’t her hand.  It was Tori’s!  Fire crackled low in a fireplace, a log falling, startling the cat.  Wind howled outside the darkened cabin.  As the cat meowed softly and jumped off the sofa, Tori’s hand dropped a book of poems to the wooden floor.  The book dropped open to a page that spoke of love and rapture under flaming sunsets.  The wind, so lonely, seemed to be beckoning.  She felt so alone.  And, she longed for him.

A later memory.  His lips warm against hers.  His arms around her.  Fire racing through her, at first.  Then…so cold.  So heavy.  She felt like a bloated beast slithering on its belly in thick, heavy mud, blood thick and cloying.  It wasn’t supposed to hurt that much.  The loneliness after was a thousand times worse than the loneliness before.  Her hand reached out, finding only emptiness.

Another memory, later still.  Horrible cramps.  The toilet bowl red with blood.  The placenta.  And that tiny dark spec against its pinkish surface.  Was that…had that been…  The tears flowed into a dead, empty void.

Caitlin breathed deeply, shaking herself free of the ghost memory and back to rain-soaked, terrifying reality.  “Tori… Are you here,” she whispered, touching her head and wondering if she were going mad.

“We have to get rid of the body,” Shandra said calmly, looking up at Doug.  Caitlin gasped in disbelief.

Doug stepped hesitantly toward Shandra, clutching his gun.  “What?”  He wrinkled his face, looking half-confused, half-suspicious.  “What the hell are you trying to pull?  If you’re looking for a way to roll on me…” he pointed the gun at Shandra, and Caitlin trembled.  She instinctively put herself between the gun muzzle and Shandra, crossing herself in fear.

“Relax,” Shandra said, calmly and reassuringly, patting Caitlin’s shoulder as she stood.  “Look…if we testify against each other and blame each other for this, then we all go down.  If we hide the body and back each other up, we can say she ran away and disappeared into the jungle.  And, even if her body is ever found, no one will be able to prove any of us had anything to do with it.”  Caitlin stared at her, mouth agape, with a mixture of horror and disgust.

“You bitch,” she whispered.  “Who are you?  I loved you!”  Shandra turned and gently laid a hand against Caitlin’s cheek.  A part of Caitlin wanted to pull away, but something held her.  She couldn’t move.  Shandra looked deeply into her eyes.  There was something stirring behind the grey irises of Shandra’s eyes.  Dim pulses of bluish energy that were almost hypnotic.

“Trust me,” a voice in Caitlin’s mind said.  A voice that was not entirely Shandra’s.  Caitlin’s blood was racing, boiling in her veins.  The voices in her head were growing louder, a burgeoning chorus approaching a terrible harmony…


Zol was learning, growing… In awe of this strange life-form, this humanity, Zol’s new vehicle.  Primitive as it was, it was marvelously adaptable.  And, its multitudes swarmed over this planet, spawning at a terrifying rate.  Collectively, these simple creatures manifested astounding power, both destructive and creative.  And, their minds, limited as they were individually, together carried Zol’s consciousness into complex avenues of invention It had never conceived of before.  To split the atom.  To reach other worlds!

Zol brought the nexus of the web to the place of Its resurrection, to begin the next phase of the experiment…


Caitlin wheezed and puffed, straining with Tori’s dead arm around her neck as she and Shandra dragged her corpse into the cave.  The same cave where Doug had found her that night, she realized.  Caitlin grew light-headed, their flashlight beams dancing through thickening mist.  “How much further?”

“Just down here.”  As they went deeper into the cavern, the choking stench of sulfur made it almost impossible to breath.

“I can’t go down there!”

“Yes, you can.  Cat, there’s something beautiful down there; you have to see it.  You’ve already taken her blood inside you.  You’ve shared her memories.  It’s time for us to take her back.”

Caitlin’s mind was reeling.  She wanted to trust Shandra, but her reason and survival instincts both told her this was insane.  Yet, she couldn’t explain the thoughts she was having, or what Tori had known, but…Did the gas in this damn’ cave just drive people crazy?  “You keep saying that.  What does it mean?  She’s dead!”

“She lives in all of us.  And, in every living cell of her former body, something of her remains.  It’s time we took the next step.  Here.  Lay her down here.”  Caitlin gratefully exhaled as they laid Tori’s body face-up under a cluster of silvery-white streams of goo dripping from the cave roof.

“Gross!  What is that shit?”

“It’s what we were all born from.  Time to close the circle.”  She pulled a knife from her boot and vertically sliced open her wrist.

Caitlin’s heart froze in horror.  “Shandra!  Love, no!!”

“Don’t be afraid,” she said with a reassuring smile as she touched the spurting wound to the snot-like slime hanging above and cut the stream with the knife, letting the alien substance into her blood-stream.  She knelt beside Tori and touched her hand to her bloodied chest.  Caitlin gasped.  Shandra’s hand glowed over Tori’s dead heart, coursing patterns of blue and golden energy streams swirling, lighting the sulfur in the air.  Caitlin prayed as she saw Tori’s body literally coming apart, unraveling thread by cellular thread, as though it were breaking down into its constituent organic elements.  It all seemed to flow into Shandra.   “Come with me,” Shandra asked lovingly, offering Caitlin the knife.

Caitlin cried and sank down into the dirt, her reason slipping away.  Shandra stroked her hair, soothingly.  Caitlin looked up into Shandra’s eyes and saw only love.  She’d never reach the cave mouth now, anyway.  If she was going to die…she’d rather it be with Shandra.  Her hand shook as she accepted the knife from Shandra.  She placed the blade’s edge with an almost nostalgic familiarity against the healed-over vertical scar on her wrist.


Zol reveled in Its own re-creation.  Every living organism in this cave…throughout this planet…was now genetic material with which to shape a new extension of Its consciousness.  Like the primitive microbes that had joined at the bottom of a primordial ocean to create the beginning of this new life-strain, Humanity was about to take the next step in its evolution.  The circle would close…


“Dad…Dad, no!  Please, don’t!!”  Doug woke, gasping from his nightmare.  He looked about frantically in the dark, finding the electric lantern and switching it on, his hands trembling.  He breathed deeply, wiping cold sweat from his face.  “God in Heaven,” he whispered.  He rummaged around in the dark tent for some beer, then remembered in anger and disgust that those little bitches had probably drank it all.

 Swearing loudly, he grabbed his flashlight, unzipped the tent flap and stepped out into the sultry night.  Thank God, the damn’ rain had finally stopped!  He almost didn’t need the flashlight.  Moonlight washed over the forest floor, the moisture in the ferns gleaming silver.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he found the girls’ camp empty.  Still not back?  He pulled his gun from his belt and wiped the sweat from his upper lip with the back of his hand.  Damn!  He never should have trusted them with the body.  His heart began to pound.  They’d turn the stiff over to the nearest federales and finger him!  He paced, swearing, frantic, trying to think.  They couldn’t make it to Tapijalapa in the dark, dragging a stiff.  Or, could they?

His breathing rapid, he wiped the gun clean with a bandana and threw it into the brush, as far as he could.  He paced some more, rubbing his head and swearing, fantasizing what he’d do if he caught them.  Think, dammit!  Could he track them now, in the dark?  What if it was already too late?  Maybe…maybe it was better if they were found with the body.  It was their word against his, right?  If Jordan backed him up… Wait.  His heart froze, his flesh tingling with frost.  Where the hell was Jordan?!  Had she run off with them, too?  What was he supposed to do if… “Hey, Doug.”

He nearly jumped out of his skin at the girl’s voice behind him.  He reflexively reached for the gun he no longer had.  He turned, and there Jordan stood.  The moonlight bathed her naked flesh in alabaster whiteness.  Her brown eyes sparkled, her full pink lips curled in a smile.  He heaved a sigh of relief.  The relief turned quickly to arousal as she strode slowly towards him, her legs lithe and graceful, her small feet crunching over the leaves.  His breathing was rapid, his heart pounding his chest like a sledge hammer.  He couldn’t pull his clothes off fast enough, the pressure in his loins becoming painful.  There was a power, like an electrical force flowing through the moonlight, focusing in her and emerging through her eyes.  They stabbed into his soul, compelling him to submit.

He lay back on the ground, looking up at her with awe.  She was like some fabled goddess of the moon as she came down upon him, a halo of silvery beams radiating down around her, her smile bewitching, her eyes twin dark stars.  As she drew close, faintly visible blue pulsations of energy appeared behind her irises.


            The accumulated memories of tens of millions of years, stored in light and energy, awakened in racing, fevered blood.

For countless millennia, these humans, like other primitive animal organisms before them, had mated in the light of this moon Zol had created, their instincts stirred by the ancient knowledge coursing through its energy.  Legend, madness and mythology had formed around a power beyond their feeble comprehension.

  It was an excruciatingly slow and clumsy means of transmitting genetic data, this dimorphic interaction.  But, it was a part of the emerging matrix Zol had to accept.  Zol was suddenly intrigued, Its consciousness becoming one with the driving force of this young but potent life-form’s evolution.  Conflicting opposites.  Genetic selection, combination…the potential was virtually limitless.

Zol saw the future unfold in the intertwining strands of DNA, eons of evolution stretching beyond the limits of the remotest galaxies.  Zol’s power would be nigh infinite, the suns and planets, like humanity, but raw material shaped at Its pleasure.  In Its way, Zol laughed.

The universe was now Its plaything.


Doug awakened, the morning sun hot on his face.  He was panting, exhausted, and alone.  “Jordan?” he whispered in a parched throat.  He looked about the deserted campsite.  She was nowhere to be seen.  His head was throbbing as he slowly got up, and pulled on his clothes.  Finding a discarded canteen, he snatched it up and sucked down the last few warm, fetid drops.  “Douuuug,” a playful, girlish voice enticed him.

He turned toward it, and caught Jordan’s impish smile in a flash as she peeked out from behind a tree, blowing him a kiss and then seemingly melting like a wisp of vapor into the morning air.  He ran after her, smiling, his heart racing.  “Jordan…”

“Heeeeere…” she laughed at him, her naked form appearing and disappearing in the distance like a ghost, her voice leading him on a wild chase through the jungle.  He ran through the brush, his blood racing hot through his veins, lust and anger intermingling as her laughter echoed all around him, mocking him.

He found himself nearing that damned cave again.  Breathing hard, sweat streaming down his face in rivers, he realized he was no longer alone.  All around him, there were people.  Local Indians, he realized; Zoque.  Half naked, many of them moaned, chanted and swayed around the cave entrance, as though in some kind of drug-induced trance.  Others just stood there, staring at him, as though waiting for him to enter.  Fear set in at the cold, blank expression in their eyes.  He started to back away, but soon found himself prodded back toward the cave entrance by numerous spear-tips.  Hesitantly, he backed slowly into the cave.

He looked up, golden sunlight streaming down through multiple openings in the cave roof, like some psychedelic light show.  “Douuuug…”  He followed her voice deeper into the cave.  Sweet perfumed scents of jasmine and lilac filled the air.  There she was, draped out invitingly, like Aphrodite come to life, beckoning him, smiling.  He gratefully returned the smile and began to disrobe.  He eagerly approached her.  She kissed him, sliding her lips across his cheek to his neck.  The smile slipped from his face as he felt something biting into his throat, like the sting of an adder.  He couldn’t move.  He heard strange sounds, like rustling leather and the sound of meat being chewed.

He felt himself being turned face-up.  He gaped in horror.  A fog of illusory pleasure and beauty seemed to lift, hideous reality revealing itself.  He choked on the stench of sulfur.  Jordan…or, whatever she was becoming…pulled away, some kind of stinger protruding from her mouth withdrawing from his throat.  A claw-like, tri-pronged tube dripping silvery venom withdrew into her throat.  She smiled, licking her lips.  Her grotesquely elongated upper body was now part of some huge, pulsing greenish mass behind her.  He glimpsed huge gills pumping, belching dark gas.

He tried desperately to look away, but found the downward view worse.  A human body, seemingly mummified…a dried, hollowed grey husk that had apparently burst from within, like the discarded cocoon of a molting insect.  Another lay beside it.  Greenish tendrils sprouted like roots from inside the drained shells, leading into the huge alien organism, as though it had grown out of them.  “I matter now,” Jordan said with joy as she delicately stroked her fingers over the numerous melon-sized, pulsing egg pods ripening in her hideously bloated mid-section.  “Mother to the re-birth of the creator.”  Her eyes sparkled with wild intoxication.  He felt sick.  “No more waste.  No more war.  No more disease or hunger or death.  No more limits.  Life everlasting, and freedom unbounded!”

Immense, segmented greenish tentacles reached up from behind her, a gigantic tri-clawed maw opening at the end of each.  Rows of curved fangs ground and gnashed in each of them, human blood dribbling from the half-digested mass of pulped flesh and crushed bone he could see them chewing.  Whose, he wondered.  Then, he looked down, and realized it was his own body that was being devoured.  Though he could feel nothing, he could see his legs were already gone, and the flesh being stripped from his ribs.  She…It…was like a black widow spider.  It copulated, spawned, then devoured the mate once he’d served his purpose.  He so wanted to pass out, but couldn’t.  “Can you see it, Doug,” Jordan asked, her arms outstretched.  “Can you see the rainbows and starlight and the white birds over the sea, and the flaming sunsets?  Can you hear the songs and poems of love?   Can you hear the birth-cry of God?”

He could see or hear none of those things.  When he closed his eyes, all he could see was hell.  The ground was a burning sea of lava, and fiery missiles rained down from a blood-red sky.