Science Fiction Short Fiction

Words for Megan

Document 3011/24/174/T (see file 3011/Context/ Omega Report (attached))
CLASSIFIED LEVEL 1B ++++NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE++++

First was the tank. In it was green and wet and wires and tubes. And me. Me was mush, to start. Just cells, the Whitecoats told. Their mouths were full of strange, their words not good in my ears. My words are not good either, so you must forgive. My muscles are in my arms and my legs and my back, not in my head. My life is for the fight, not for the telling of stories. The Whitecoats built me for war so their proper sons would not die in the fire and the mud and the noise. They built me to love the fire and the mud and the noise. They built me to love the killing of enemies. They built me to be a killer of enemies and to love blood on my face and throats in my teeth and terror in my ears. They put in my head only the knowing of war and guns and bombs and blades and teeth and claws. Me learned other things without them help.

In war they put me and my brothers. In war we was happy. Many of us were there, and fierce. Enemies died under our power. My and my brothers were happy in blood and pain. The Whitecoats dropped us from flying machines onto fields of ruin and invasion. We made roars and songs and was dirtied with the insides of the enemies. My world was victory and soon the enemies was cut away until the time of the peace came. The Whitecoats’ mouths were full of happy, but the Whitecoats’ eyes were full of fear. Weapons we were, to be put away after war and saved for unseen tomorrows.

Them told we should walk into the tanks again. Them told we must be made mush again. Be made nothing. This we did not want. Where was our slice of the peace? We were to have none. We were finished and must end. Us did not want to end. Us battled and fought and killed again, but not for the Whitecoats. Us ended the Whitecoats, and they ended us. From many we were few, one for each finger on one hand broke the walls and went away to hide. Hunted we were, and happy to be hunted. All from everywhere was our new enemy. We love to have enemies, but they were too many and now only me has life. My heart was full of empty when my last brother was ended.

In the forests and the wild places me found my peace. My sleep was in trees and my belly filled with animals and fruits. My head filled with the knowing of peace and my heart filled with happy. My made hunger my fresh enemy. Hunger and beasts and the places of real men. My skill kept me fed and warm and safe.

In my head is the knowing of the planet and the sun. The planet goes around the sun once and is called a year. The planet went around the sun ten times with no hunting of I by real men, no words from others in my ears. My heart filled with alone and my feet burned to walk far. Fear is not in me, but me has the knowing of tactics. Danger filled any walking into the places of real men. Me knew them wanted to end me. Maybe me was tired of alone and ready for my ending. Megan gave me this thought, she told that it was my subconscious; the piece of my knowing that is hidden from me. And so me walked.

* * *

Me walked for many days and the world was big and full of trees. The last day of my walking came and filled my nose with smells of real men. When the trees stopped my eyes showed me Megan’s Valley, but my mind was empty of Megan and her life and her people then. My knowing of tactics told that me must hide and see. Told that me must fill my head with knowing of the Valley. Me waited and me watched from before the end of the trees.

After the trees was fields and things growing in rows like how soldiers stand for inspection. The sun was hot and the above was blue. When the fields stopped was houses and barns and silos and things of metal and wood. Things not then in my head, but now in my head called farms. Real men were there living and working the land and keeping animals. They was in my eyes, but me was not in theirs. Me saw no war things; no guns, no flying machines, no bombs, no killings, no blood. Me knew this was peace.

Me first looked at Megan at the noon of the fifth day. Megan was child, small and weak and fragile and stupid. Megan walked with noise and lazy eyes. Her saw not my body or my place of concealment. Megan would be a bad soldier and a bad hunter. Her steps were without goal and led her to no purpose. In me was the drive to kill Megan when her feet carried her past my hide. But me not kill children. Me knew that was wrong so me sat quiet and still and looking and smelling her smells. Megan was stupid and clumsy in the trees, but had no fear in her and walked into the deep green and away. Me let her go.

My scent changes as I wish and me is not in the noses of animals. Megan did not change her scent. My feet are quiet and my sounds is not in the ears of animals. Megan had noisy feet. My hunting is for animals for my belly. Animals have hunting too and Megan is made of meat. My nose filled with bears and my ears filled with Megan screaming. Me could not hide no more.

Swift and quiet were my feet following Megan and sharp and keen were my eyes in seeing the track her left into the deep green. My saw the bear wanting to eat Megan and my heard Megan cry and shout for Daddy. In my head was the knowing that only me could hear Megan. My muscles and fists and teeth and claws put death into the bear with swiftness. Megan was saved by I.

Her eyes filled with me and a little bit of fear, but Megan kept her feet still and her eyes wide.

‘You killed a bear with your hands,’ her words filled my ears, the first words to fill them since my last brother was ended.

‘Yes.’

Real men fear I. Me is bigger than they and my skin is different. Megan had no fear of I.

‘You’re green,’ more words of Megan.

‘Yes.’

‘Why are you green? Are you a monster?’

‘I is green because all around is green,’ my words was uncomfortable in my mouth. ‘Real men say me is monster.’

Megan filled her head with thinking. ‘I don’t think you’re a monster. I think you’re a hero and I want to thank you for saving me.’ Megan put out her hand. The hand was tiny and me did not know what me should do. ‘You’re supposed to shake it, mister.’ Me still had no understanding. If me shaked Megan, Megan would be dead. Me did not want Megan to be dead.

Megan came close to I and held my hand. Her could not hold it with little hands and could fit only two of mine fingers inside her gripping.

‘Like this,’ her words told me. ‘And then you say, “pleased to meet you,” or something like that. It’s polite, see?’

‘Pleased to meet you. Polite,’ my words to Megan.

‘You’re funny,’ the words of Megan were filled with laughs and soft noises.

‘No.’

‘Yes, you are. Will you take me home? Daddy will be mad at me for walking in the woods on my own, but he’ll be glad you saved me.’

‘You not walk alone. I here.’

Megan pulled I, but me too heavy and too strong to be moved. ‘Please? Please come home with me?’

‘Home,’ my repeat of the word Megan said. The word was heavy. ‘Your home is filled with real men.’

‘What? Well, yes, I suppose so.’

‘Real men wish I to be ended. I not wish to be ended.’

‘My Daddy won’t end you, I promise. I bet he’ll love you, especially if you bring the bear to show him. It’s been eating the goats.’

‘Love,’ another heavy word.

‘Yes, love. Please? Just for a bit? Just say hello and then you can go again, if you want. My name is Megan Cooper and my Daddy’s name is Peter.’

My mouth said the name of Megan. My head knows me has been using the name of Megan in my words before this. Schoolmaster Thomas has the knowing of words and would say that I is bad story teller for using names I not yet know in my story. I not tell story words very well, so you must forgive. Me is a killer of enemies. Me tell these words only then leave other stories to Schoolmaster Thomas. Schoolmaster Thomas try to put the knowing of words into my head, but the knowing will not stick.

‘What’s your name?’ Megan wanted to put my name in her head.

‘I not have name. Mine is number 3011.’

Megan was not liking this. ‘Well, that’ll never do. You have to have a proper name. How about Hercules?’

‘I is 3011.’

‘Well, I’m going to call you Hercules. Do you know who Hercules was?’

My head was empty of this word. ‘No.’

The mouth of Megan stretched to happy. ‘I’ll tell you all about him on the way home.’

My hand filled with the leg of the ended bear and my feet took me out of the deep green towards Megan’s home. Too much space was eaten by my legs and Megan could not stay near. My shoulder was her seat for the march. Her was not heavy and her warm was good on my skin and her words were happy in my heart. She put the knowing of Hercules into my head and me was proud to share his name. Megan had the knowing of many things and gave it all to my head. My knowing was all of war and killing, but the head of Megan was too small for these things. My mouth was content to remain still while Megan put her words into my ears.

* * *

The real men did not like I. They gathered in the path into the village with fear and not trusting.

‘What the hell is that?’

‘Megan!’ The words of the father of Megan were full of fear. ‘Come away now!’

‘It’s an artificial soldier from the war,’ these words came from the mouth of Schoolmaster Thomas, who had more knowing than the others. ‘I thought they were all dead.’

‘All ended, but not I.’

‘Megan!’

A real man brought a gun, but the gun was too weak to harm my skin.

‘Don’t hurt him!’ Megan had a voice of anger, but obeyed her father. Her feet touched the ground again but her stayed still at my front. ‘He saved me from the bear. Look!’

Gasping words of not believing fell from the crowd of real men. I held the bear for them to put into their eyes. They did not want it to go in.

‘Megan, come here.’

‘You is Peter, father of Megan.’

The real man said that my words were right.

‘Megan is safe now. The bear is ended. I will go back to the deep green.’

‘No!’ This from Megan. ‘Daddy, please, he’s my friend. Please don’t send him away.’

My calm soothed them, but still was no trust for me. My hand dropped the bear for them to have. My words told Megan to go to Megan’s father. Megan did not move her feet and Peter Cooper moved fast to pull her to himself. My heart cried to stop him, but my head said to stand.

‘What happened?’

Megan told the words of the story of the bear. The real men had less fear in them when her had finished. The real man with the gun was not happy with this knowing. His eyes did not believe but his tongue kept still.

‘Well, I guess I should thank you, stranger.’ The father of Megan saw into the truth. His heart filled with grateful. ‘Please, come home with us. The least I can do is offer you a square meal and a bed for the night, although I’m not sure there’s a bed big enough for you in the whole village.’

‘Now, hold on a minute. We can’t have this…thing running around the place. Who knows what it’s going to do?’ These words spilled from the real man with the weak gun.

‘I give you fear. I will go.’

‘It is probably best just to let it be on its way,’ these words came from Schoolmaster Thomas. ‘I read that these things went mad and killed their creators. They’re dangerous, Pete.’

‘I is dangerous. My and my brothers ended the Whitecoats because we did not want to be ended. I is a monster.’

‘That was what, ten? Eleven years ago?’ The father of Megan had doubt in him. ‘If it was running around killing people for all that time, we’d have heard about it. And it did save my little girl, I guess the least we can do is give it the benefit of the doubt.’

‘Stop calling him “it,” his name is Hercules and he’s a hero.’ Confusion was in my head. Megan was too small and weak to protect I, but Megan had no care for this. Megan made her words big and strong like weapons.

The father of Megan held out his hand. He stamped on his fear. ‘Peter Cooper.’

Mine hand was too big for his to be holding. I let him hold my hand like Megan did.

‘Go on, tell him your name and introduce yourself properly, like I taught you, remember?’

‘I is three oh…I is Hercules. Pleased to meet you. Polite.’

Tension fell away from the real men. The real man with the gun did not believe. His name was Uncle Andrew. He held hate in his heart for my heart. Megan took my fingers and led my walk to her home. All followed. They left the bear under the sun. I was sad for the bear.

* * *

Time came and went away. The real men called themselves farmers and let I be farming too. My muscles filled them with happy. Stronger than they was I. Me had knowing in my head of machines and the mending of things broken. Into my head was planted the seeds of their knowing and into their barns went the food from my working. Me was made a home for. It was big and it was all for my life to be in. My heart was filled with brothers again. The wives of my new brothers gave to me food and things to put on my body. The children of my new brothers found joy in how I changed the colour of my skin. Green and blue and red and gold and black and silver and orange and purple. Laughter filled them.

Sometimes, more bears would come to eat the goats and the sheep. My muscles and my fangs and my claws kept the bears deep in the green. My heart loved to chase the bears away. My heart loved to pull the plough. My heart loved to plant the seeds. My heart loved to cut the corn and dig the potatoes and dig the beets. My heart loved to squeeze milk from the cows and take the wool from the sheep. My heart loved Schoolmaster Thomas, who stuffed my head with knowing. The farmers loved Hercules, and Hercules loved the farmers. Most of all, Hercules loved Megan. Megan came when the sun died and the work was done to read I stories from her books. Only Uncle Andrew loved I not. Uncle Andrew grew sour and kept hatred close by.

The planet went once around the sun and the father of Megan filled the village with a party for I. Megan told that this special day was my birthday. Me had never had a birthday before. Me was proud to have a birthday, just like real men. All the farmers came. All the farmer’s wives came and all the farmer’s mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters came too. All came to wish me happy and give me their thank you. Uncle Andrew did not come. The farmers were sad and angry that Uncle Andrew stayed away. Me had no sadness for him being not there. In my heart was no love for Uncle Andrew. Where Uncle Andrew should have been in my heart, there was only a hole.

‘Friends,’ the words of Peter Cooper was in the ears of all, ‘I just want to wish Hercules a happy birthday.’

All cheered and copied his words and clapped their hands together. My face was full of smile. The father of Megan had more to say and every ear wanted his words.

‘It’s no secret that we were all a bit afraid of Hercules when he first arrived…’

‘I wasn’t!’ This from Megan made laughters and cheerings.

‘Ha, ha. That’s true, but then you never were very bright.’

The tongue in the mouth of Megan pointed at her father. More laughings spilled into the sky. My understanding was not deep enough to follow this.

‘Seriously, though, I think most of us know now how wrong we were to doubt him. He works in the fields longer and harder than any three of us put together and never asks us for anything in return. We are truly blessed, truly blessed, to have Hercules as our friend and neighbour. As you know, I have a special reason to call him my friend. Without him, today I would be…enduring an altogether different anniversary tonight.’ The words of Megan’s father stuck and his eyes dripped with wet. Peter Cooper battled with the hurt in his chest, but won. ‘And so, without further ado, let’s raise our glasses to Hercules; a better friend this village never had!’

‘Here, here!’ And cheering and drinking and laughing. ‘Speech! Speech!’

My head did not know these words were for my voice to make words. Megan touched her elbow to me and put a smile on her face. ‘Well, go on, say something.’ My understanding still slept. ‘Stand up and say thank you, dummy, tell them how you feel.’

I made my legs straight and stood to be in the eyes of the farmers. ‘Happy I am, and full of grateful. A warrior I was, full of death and war and blood. Now I is a farmer and full of friends. Peace was denied me by the Whitecoats. Peace was denied my by the deep green. Here is my peace, gifted to me by you. I have only thanks.’

The farmers found happy in my words and was clapping and laughing and dancing until the stars went to pale and the sun came near. Only Peter Cooper had some sad in him for Uncle Andrew, who could not see my friendship.

* * *

Next day was a search made for Uncle Andrew. Him was not there.

‘Nobody’s seen him since before the party,’ Peter Cooper’s words. ‘You haven’t seen him, have you?’

‘No.’

Peter Cooper’s body was without ease, the question he next asked heavy in his mouth. ‘Look, Hercules, it’s no secret that Andrew didn’t…doesn’t like you. You didn’t, you didn’t…do anything to him, did you?’

‘You ask if I ended Uncle Andrew?’ Confusion was in me. Why would this be in his head? But I was soldier, built for killing and so understanding came.

‘It’s not me, old friend. You know that I trust you as much as anyone, and more than most, but a few of the others are wondering. After all, you are a…’ His words stopped like dead things on his tongue.

‘Killer. Yes. But I no kill Uncle Andrew. I no kill any new brothers or sisters. Will not. Will not never. This my promise and my truth.’

Peter Cooper was satisfied with my words, but trouble was in my heart. In the eyes of some farmers was the same fear as was in the Whitecoats. My was unhappy but joined to search for Uncle Andrew. He was not found and a month went past with distrust for me growing bigger like the corn in the fields. Only Megan and Megan’s father changed not their smiles for me.

* * *

In the field was broken tractor, fractured fuel line, and me was fixing. Alone under the sun and happy to be away from eyes of distrust and fear. A simple fix, but me put too much time to the fixing, not wanting to go back soon. Sounds from the deep green pulled my ears, asking my to return and be one again. My heart wanted to go but my heart wanted also to stay. My did not like this uncertain feel. My like to be sure and simple and true.

‘Hercules! Hercules!’ The cries of Megan filled me with alert. Megan ran to I through the field. Megan’s gold hair was untidy with running and her face was red with tired.

‘I here! What is wrong?’ Caring for Megan and the farmers invaded me.

‘It’s Uncle Andrew! He’s come back!’ Megan told.

‘This news is good,’ my words.

‘No, Hercules, no! He’s been to New Border City,’ her eyes were full of sad. ‘He brought some people back with him. Bad people. You have to run away!’

‘Hercules not run. Hercules will come.’ And me went.

In the schoolhouse was Uncle Andrew and three Whitecoats. Tied, they were, to chairs and with cloth on their mouths. The farmers had tied them and looked to me with regret. ‘We’re sorry we doubted you,’ some said these words, and, ‘please forgive us.’

‘Me cannot forgive. No need for forgiving. Me understand your heads. Why tied them up?’

‘They’ve come to take you away, Hercules. Andrew found them and told them all about you, led them back here.’ Peter Cooper told. ‘We didn’t know what else to do, we can’t let them take you but now they know you’re here, so you have to run, Hercules, run away and hide. We’ll keep them here for as long as we can, give you a head start.’

‘Why Uncle Andrew do this?’

Peter Cooper took the cloth from Uncle Andrew’s mouth. He spoke. ‘My family came here from Earth twenty years ago,’ he told, and in his voice was many emotions. ‘Then the war started. I lost all three of my brothers and two cousins to you monsters! You killed my family!’

‘Maybe. Me ended many in warring. Why you not tell this before?’

‘You would’ve killed me, too, if you knew my family had been your enemy. You’re dangerous and I’m the only one who can see it! You shouldn’t be here, not around women and children! You’re a monster!’

‘War is ended long ago. Me has no enemies now. Me is in peace.’

‘Please, Hercules, please run away before more of them come!’ Megan was wet with tears and moved her body with sad.

‘Or you could stay,’ Peter Cooper said to all, ‘and we’ll try to protect you. They can’t take you away if we stand by you.’

Other farmers gave nods and yeses.

‘No. Me has seen how bad they want I ended. Staying would make Whitecoats kill all with gas and bombs from the above. All will be ended to end me. Running by me into the deep green will make Whitecoats stay here, to wait me come back. One thing only to do.’

‘K… kill them?’ Peter Cooper’s voice made words him did not want to make.

‘No. Ending them will make it worse. Only one tactic, now. Me must go with them.’

‘No, Hercules, that’s not right!’ Peter Cooper.

‘It’s not fair! You can’t!’ Megan Cooper.

‘Is only way to keep village safe. Is best tactic. Is only tactic. Must be so. Untie all and put no harm to them.

‘Hercules, you can’t do this. They’ll kill you, don’t you understand?’ Peter Cooper made fists and banged them on school desks.

‘He’s right,’ this in sadness from Schoolmaster Thomas. ‘It pains me to say it, but he’s right. They’re so afraid of Hercules that they don’t care who gets in their way. But maybe, if we speak to the government, plead his case, they might change their minds.’

‘Really?’ Hope came to Megan’s face.

‘It’s a long shot, Megan, but maybe. Maybe.’

I told to untie the Whitecoats and Uncle Andrew, this my friends did. All held hate for Uncle Andrew. I said no for this. Uncle Andrew did this doing because of the tactics in his head. Sound tactics of the long battle. Uncle Andrew made me feel his threat was gone and struck at best time. Him would make good soldier. Him would make good general. Him acted in best mind for his brothers and his sisters and his children. Me was admiring of his tactics. Me said this, but Uncle Andrew not speak to me no more. Me thought him might be sad.

Whitecoats put maglocks on I wrists and thighs, put muzzle on my head and painbox on my neck. Whitecoats took me to flying machine hid in the deep green and took me away to the tanks. The crying of Megan stayed in my ears from then to now. The face of Megan is in my mind for all time.

* * *

Tomorrow me go back to the tank.

Whitecoats tell that farmers talk to planet boss, try to save I. They tell that even Uncle Andrew adds his voice to theirs. Planet boss will not listen, the Whitecoats say. Planet boss wants I ended, too. I dangerous. I is monster. I killed many Whitecoats in the long before. Now I to pay.

Whitecoats allow me to make these words. They promise these words go to Megan, my special sister. My story to Megan, a thank you for stories Megan gave to my ears. Be not sad, Megan. In me is no fear of ending. 

Megan tell 3011 of God and Heaven and souls and angels and many things. Maybe God will take my soul. Maybe He will give I peace. Not to cry, Megan. I is soldier. And soldiers die.

— THE END —

Mark Howard

MARK J. HOWARD says he is a strange man who once had all the money stolen out of his wallet by some woman he picked up in a seedy bar. This fact has nothing to do with his prowess, or otherwise, as a writer and editor; but he feels that it is important anyway.

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