“The Pocketwatch” by Anika and Liam McPherson

Far away, in a future more distant than the beginning of humanity, a man was dealing with a terrible loss. He had just been abandoned; his captain and shipmates left him on an uncharted planet. The man didn’t know how or why this happened, and was eager to find out. Was it on purpose? Did he wander off without noticing? He was scared and alone, the only thing keeping him alive was a sleek space suit, meant to keep out the elements and keep him breathing – but only for a short time. It was meant for short excursions outside, not survival. The man figured the suit had only a day or so left in battery power. He had no way to recharge it, and no way to check if the air was safe. He checked his pockets, and found only five dollars, a binder clip, and the old pocketwatch his grandfather gave to him when he was a boy. He remembered the story his grandfather told him about it…

“Grandson, come here.”

“Yes Grandpa?”

“I have something for you.”

The young boy put down the toy spaceships he was playing with and walked over to where his grandfather sat; A large overstuffed armchair that had stood in the same spot since time began. “What is it?” He asked.

“I want you to look at this pocketwatch my great-grandfather gave to me when I was your age. Look at it, and tell me what you see.”

The boy’s grandfather handed him the relic. It wasn’t anything special, just a tarnished watch that was maybe as old as the stained chair his grandfather was sitting in. It was dirty, didn’t tick half the time, and hung from an old, fraying strip of leather.

“It looks old… Maybe from the Early Modern Period?”

His grandfather nodded. “What else?”

“I see… a dent. Here, on the left side.”

“Yes. That dent was created by an enemy blaster during the War of the Moons. This watch saved my life, and maybe someday it will save yours.”

The man scoffed at the memory. Fat chance a pocketwatch will help me now, he thought. He rubbed the metal case of the watch. It had been polished a bright, shiny silver from this habit.

The man started walking around, trying to get his bearings on this unfamiliar terrain. Thousands of lightyears away, Earth, his home, seemed like a thing of the past. Humankind had exhausted its resources, and was now frantically searching for a new place to colonize. This planet was strange: there were no signs of intelligent life, yet it was so similar to Earth. What’s more, the planet seemed to appear out of nowhere; not registering on any ship’s radar, like a ghost planet. Did those exist? The man shook these thoughts from his head, and took in his surroundings.

There was a large forest to his left, and a seemingly endless beach to his right. Ahead, there was a large, dark mountain range. The man decided to head towards the mountains. Hopefully he could find a spring for water, or at least get a better sense of where he was.

As he began walking forward, he noticed something move in the corner of his eye, behind a tree in the forest. Instinctively, he reached for his blaster, but his fingers only found the gun’s holster.

“Damn!” the man whispered.

He frantically looked around for something to defend himself with. In a blind panic, his hands flew around the ground until his fingers closed around a club-shaped object. The man lifted it above his head and ran toward the movement.

When he approached the area where he saw the thing move, he checked behind a few trees, and lowered the object in his hands, which he now knew was a large bone. There was nothing there.

Until he turned around.

Behind him was the single most adorable thing he had ever seen. It was about the size of a pumpkin, with purple fur and large blue eyes. An antenna hung above its head with a small light at the end, like a cute little anglerfish. Two small feet the same color as its fur peeked out from the bottom of the creature’s body.

A very unmanly noise, not unlike a squeak, escaped from the man’s mouth.

“Hi little friend!”

The creature made a similar noise in reply.

The man recognized the language, though he couldn’t understand it. It brought him back to one of the classes he took when he was training to go into space. It was a simple class, meant to educate the astronauts on what to do in case they encountered known intelligent life:

“You will only need to know the simple, dangerous species, and their tricks.”  the teacher boomed through his white beard, looking around with his large stomach jiggling, “This class could save your life one day.”

The man knew that this was a very rare creature with not much information, glossed over in the course.

”There’s a very small chance you will ever see one of these things, so you only need to know the basics.”

The creature started hopping around, making noises. It ran in a direction, then back to the man, like it was trying to tell him something. The alien repeated this about six times, until the man finally got the message.

“Oh, you want me to follow you?”

The small creature collapsed in feigned exhaustion, glad to be finally understood. It waddled into a nearby cave hidden by vines and foliage. The man obliged the creature’s instructions, and followed it into the small opening.

“I think you need a name. What about Bibbles? I’m calling you Bibbles.” The small alien made a noise, which the man took as agreement.

Once he was a few feet into the cave, the man felt crunching under his feet. It was pitch-black, his only guide was the small glow of Bibbles’ antenna in the distance. The only sounds in the cavern were the little slaps of the alien’s feet, and the crunch of something mysterious under his own.

The man noticed that Bibbles’ light had vanished, so he ran to where it had disappeared, but was no use; the light was gone. He couldn’t see a thing. Not knowing which way was right or left, or small the cave was, the man felt a panic attack coming on and tried to breathe. He turned around so many times he had forgotten which way he had come. Then, miraculously, the cute little alien’s soft light appeared in a small opening. Relieved, the man crawled through to a surprisingly well-lit room.

Something was wrong. There were bones scattered across the floor. Why are these here? Bibbles couldn’t have- oh.

The man’s memories of his class flooded back.

“Now, these things the seductresses of the extraterrestrial world. They will lure you into their lair, and then-”

“Go in for the kill.” He whispered to himself. His heart was beating a thousand lightyears a minute. He had to leave. Now.

He turned too quickly and slipped into a pile of bones. Above him, on a ledge, stood Bibbles. Only, something was happening to it. It snarled, and started to transform.

It was a gruesome metamorphosis. The once adorable extraterrestrial was growing, changing. Its fur turning black as its eyes split into two, like a cell multiplying. A fifth grotesque eye appeared on its forehead, and its antenna’s once comforting light transformed into a stinger similar to a scorpion’s. A second and third row of shark-like teeth emerged from its mouth. Finally, two large, bat-like wings curled out from its back, wet with slime and mucus with a razor-sharp claw at each tip.

It began to circle the man, letting him see it in its true form.

YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR CREW.” Its voice came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The noise was menacing, something the man thought one should only hear in one’s nightmares.

BUT, I GUESS I COULD SHOW YOU BEFORE YOU DIE.

With surprising strength, the monster hoisted him up and flew him through one long corridor that was hidden by a pile of bones, finally stopping at a makeshift door. The alien dropped the man onto the one spot not covered in remains and pushed him through the hole. Inside, there were various pieces of familiar metal. In the middle of the cavernous room, there was a pile of mutilated bodies. He stumbled towards it, and fell to his knees. He could still see the dog tags around their bloody necks.

“Robin Davis: Navigator”

“Solomon Frederickson: Technician”

“Genevieve Smiths: Captain”

“Mack ‘Cloud’ Fawkes: Pilot”

“Wendy Potts: Chief Scientist”

He looked at each tag, then looked down at his own. The words glinted back at him; Levi Campbell: Co-Pilot.

Looking back down at the corpses with tears pricking his eyes, Levi noticed something. A small bulge in one of the bodies’ pockets, shaped like- a battery. He grabbed it and pocketed it, making sure the creature wasn’t looking.

NOW YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.” Levi turned towards the thing.

“You’re a monster!” He shouted at it.

STICKS AND STONES, HUMAN. NOW, WHY DON’T YOU JOIN YOUR FRIENDS IN HELL?”  It lunged at Levi, attaching to his chest. There was a scramble of claws, fur, and hands as Levi tried to shake the small demon off. Finally, Levi’s hands found its furry body and flung it to the ground. Screeching, the creature aimed its teeth at Levi’s heart, and leaped.

There was a soft tink of metal, and a sharp light. Then, a dark black, and a falling sensation.

Levi was sure he was dead.

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