by Eric J. Krause
Matt's eyes flickered open as the seal of his hibernation pod cracked. He wiped the sleep crust out of his eyes and stretched. Damn. His turn for upkeep. Why they couldn't trust the computer to run the ship the entire way was beyond him.
He pushed the pod open and stepped out. It was amazing how limber he felt after 300 years of sleep. He yawned. Even though it did a perfect job of stimulating his muscles, it did little to get his mind ready for the awakening. Ah well. The faster he ran all of the diagnostics and made any necessary repairs and maintenance, the sooner he could return to another 300 year nap.
As he walked out, he didn't spare a glance to Amanda or Carlos. He stumbled out of the hibernation center and headed for the galley. A stim-drink would get him to full power quick enough.
Halfway down the curved hallway, a shadow danced in front of him. He blinked hard, but saw nothing to have caused it. Footsteps sounded from the other end of the hall, near the galley.
"Hello? Carlos? Amanda? Why are you awake?" Maybe he should have checked their pods. Maybe the computer had some problems and it needed all of them to fix it. The scientists said it was an unlikely situation, but certainly possible.
No one answered. He shook his head and continued on. If he was imagining things, he needed that stim-drink more than he thought.
Taps and bangs sounded throughout the ship, but he couldn't pinpoint them. The lights died in the galley, and the emergency lights flashed on. He slugged down the rest of his drink and rushed to check the main computer. As he ran, footsteps followed him. He turned his head, but saw no one.
The problem was easy enough to catch from the main terminal. Somehow the reset button had been pushed. The lights would be on again in less than an hour. But how had it happened? The system needed the safety key to be turned at the exact moment the button was pressed. It couldn't be done by accident. If Carlos and Amanda were both asleep, that was impossible. Unless there was an intruder or a stowaway.
The footfalls again sounded behind him, and a shadow passed the doorway when he turned. He leaped up and pursued whoever was there. He found no one, but a lingering scent of Amanda's perfume filled the hall. It was unmistakable; he'd smelled it enough that first year before hibernations. They'd slept together almost every night.
Matt sprinted down the hall to see if she was still asleep. He peered through the tiny porthole in her pod and saw her face. Something was wrong. It looked as if she'd been jammed in there. He cracked the seal, and she tumbled out. He caught her before she smacked into the ground, and checked her pulse. It should be slow but strong, but he felt nothing. He hugged her before laying her corpse on the ground.
He stood, looked in Carlos's pod, and found him in a similar state. Before he could open it up to examine his body, a presence filled the doorway. He turned and found Amanda standing there. He let out a yelp when he realized he could see right through her.
Matt's blood ran cold. A horrified look was etched on her face. She mouthed something, and it took a few seconds for him to catch on. Over and over she said a single word: "Run."
A burst of energy behind her dulled her ghost. He should take her advice, but couldn't. He had to see what this was.
"Carlos!" Matt yelled. It wasn't him, not exactly. His crewmate and good friend was now an energized alien being. His body was nothing but a blob of unformed mass, though his head remained. He stumbled into the room with no grace until he spotted Matt. Then he moved smoother than lightning.
Matt screamed as this Carlos-monster gripped him with its oversized hands. The energy bled off and encircled his chest. Precious oxygen seeped from his lungs, and he realized he wouldn't survive this. Before he drifted off to death, visions of what happened permeated his mind.
Wires worked loose under the ship's main terminal. As Carlos welded them together, the ship glided through an unknown energy deposit. Some sort of being launched itself through the wires and snuffed Carlos out before he knew what was going on. It took his essence and jammed his physical body back into the hibernation pod. Then it waited. 100 years later, Amanda emerged. It killed her and did the same with her body. 100 more years passed, and Matt woke. Now it had eradicated the entire crew and had the ship to itself.
He had no clue what it planned. As soon as his soul released from his dead body, Amanda grabbed him and they fled. Interestingly enough, one does not need to be on Earth to travel into that bright light that leads to the afterlife.