The Gravy Train Stops Here, by Diane Arrelle

Publsihed in Deep Space Terror in 2010.

~~~

Paz walked down the ramp leading to the purple planet.  Inhaling, she took a deep breath of air and gagged.

“Use the damned breathing tube, stupid!” The group leader barked. “Are you crazy, trying to breathe fresh air?” He looked at the crewman still at the top of the gangway and snarled,  “Civilians!”

Chagrinned, Paz quickly used the tube and hoped the other 200 colonists thought she was red from choking.

After they all settled into the quarters left behind by the scouting crew. Paz gazed around at the planet someone had named Lavender. It was breathtaking, both literally as she had just discovered, and figuratively. Everything was a shade of purple.

She couldn’t wait to spy the inhabitants of this world. She’d read about them in the reports: friendly, pet-like, primitive creatures resembling large dogs, but more intelligent. They had a language of sorts and lived wild without shelter, or weapons, or even tools even though they were physically capable of making them. The original hundred men and women who had lived here for four months had fondly named them Lavis.

She studied the purple landscape and remembered the horror when  she learned how the entire scouting crew died as their ship veered off course into an asteroid field. Those brave people stayed here, established the rights to colonize and harvest the planet, and died on the way home. She didn’t approve what they did for a living, choosing planets to rape and pollute, but she felt sad that they perished.

Paz was on a mission herself, a mission to end the gravy train of human domination throughout the cosmos. She, and many others like her, felt mankind had destroyed civilization after civilization in the name of colonization as they sweep through the cosmos polluting and depleting every planet they found. She was proud to be a spy for an underground organization. She was going to make sure the inhabitants of Lavender kept their culture.

The second day after the colonists landed, the Lavis came out of the deep purple forest. Paz couldn’t believe how beautiful they were; long pale lilac fur, huge soulful eyes, a doglike snout, and big bushy tails that wagged when they saw the people. The lead Lavi walked up to Paz on six legs and spoke an unintelligible language. She smiled and fumbled for her translator, then realized she didn’t need it because the creature smiled back and licked her cheek.

“Are you crazy!” the human group leader snarled and pushed Paz away. “Hello,” he said solemnly to the Lavi leader. “I am Morgan, Group Commander of Colonization Party Lav001.” Then he held out his hand.

The alien smiled and licked the commander’s hand.

That night the group leader called Paz into his office. “Look, Scientist 2876, we are here to settle and harvest any valuable minerals for the Republic. I don’t need you constantly taking foolish chances. Just do your job and stay close to the camp. I saw you trying to breathe pure air and now you interfered with our contact with the locals. Woman, if you don’t watch out, you are going to end up a casualty.”

Paz wanted to scream, I am doing my job, my real job, to stop you.  But she kept her mouth shut and left.

Everyone quickly settled into routine.  The Lavis seemed overjoyed to have people back on their planet and said so repeatedly, “Love humans, miss humans, happy humans are back.”

They even moved into the camp. It seemed like each person had been adopted by a Lavi. The group leader hadn’t been happy at first, but even he was won over by an adoring creature that lay by his side at night, and licked his hands.

Paz sought out what seemed to be the leader and through her communicator tried to talk to him, but he just wanted to be with her and lick her hands until the rough tongue rubbed her skin raw.

Finally, one night Paz whispered, “Take me to your home.”

The Lavi studied her with his big, liquid eyes and nodded. He led her deep into the woods and down into a network of underground caverns until they came to a huge room with a conveyer belt and a huge machine.

Paz gasped. “So you aren’t so primitive after all. I came to warn you. People are bad. They will destroy your way of life. They will make you slaves to their ways.”

The leader smiled, and chanted, “Love humans, love humans, love humans.” Other Lavis appeared from the shadows and joined in.

Paz thought she’d explode with frustration. “Don’t you understand!”

The leader smiled and nipped Paz’s hand with his tiny, sharp teeth. “Love humans.”

“Ouch,” Paz yelped as she grasped at the tiny pinpricks of blood. Before she could say another word, her legs gave out and she sank to the floor. “Why…” she started to say, but her tongue didn’t work right and her throat felt like it was closing.

The creatures lifted her onto the conveyer belt. She struggled to take in air. Face down on the conveyer she rolled along. Fighting to keep her vision in focus she stared at the marks on the belt and recognized the insignia of the marine space corps right next to her face. Cold flooded through her as she realized she was staring at a tattoo.

She was riding on the skins of people! The first party, she wondered with fading consciousness. But they had taken off, hadn’t they?  She forced words out…”p-p-p-people skin?”

The chanting continued, “Love Humans, love humans, love humans.”

And she understood.  These simple creatures weren’t going to be enslaved by humans. No, they were farming humans.  No wonder that ship went off course, she thought with her fading strength, it had been empty!

She couldn’t breath anymore. Blackness closed in on her world and just before it all went dark, she heard the chant change. “Love humans, love humans, love humans with gravy.”

~~~

Diane Arrelle, the pen name of South Jersey writer Dina Leacock, has been writing for more than 20 years and has sold almost 200 short stories and has two published books, Just A Drop In The Cup, a collection of short-short stories and Elements Of The Short Story, How to Write a Selling Story. She is proud to be one of the founding members as well as the second president of the Garden State Horror Writers and is also a past president of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. When not writing, she is a director of a municipal senior citizen center. She lives with her husband, sometimes her sons and of course her cat on the edge of the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey (home of the Jersey Devil). You can visit her at dinaleacock.com

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Posted on October 9, 2014, in Issue 15: Elves & Spacerockets and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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