by Odran Young, he/him

Its huge, compound eyes focus on me. There are forty people in the room, two of which are standing in front of me talking, but its black emotionless eyes never leave me. What do I look like to it? What must I be in its eyes? I shuffle to a corner of the room but its gaze follows me―movements like that of a reptile, twitchy and sudden. It doesn’t have the ability to move its eyes in their sockets so it moves its disgusting head. I collide with the body in front of me as I try to avoid looking at it. 

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say.

I look up to the wrinkled face of the General.

“Arnie! Just the boy I’m looking for.” The General claps me on the back with his four-fingered meat hook of a hand and pulls me towards a small group.

“I would like all of you to meet Arnold Shives, possibly the smartest man on the planet.” The group collectively giggle at the joke and I would too if I wasn’t being watched.

A man with blonde hair in his mid-thirties gestures at me. “So you’re the one we have to thank for our new weapon then.” 

We all look at the grey-skinned creature eating from a trough in its cage. Its long and muscular arms scoop bluish protein slop into its large mouth, giving everyone a look at its needle-like teeth. All the while it never stops looking at us.

“It is quite a feat I do have to admit.” The General smiles, but the pain of complimenting me is evident in his eyes.

 “How is anything like this possible?”

The group turns their attention to a woman in a red dress and then back to me, each with a look of curiosity. 

“Wuh-well, it was never a matter of science but a matter of money an-and legality, but M-Mars acts as a grey area of sorts.”

 “An international water of space,” the blonde-haired man says.

“In a sense, yes. And when we had the legal matters dealt with, all that was left was the funding.”

“Which the Martian defence force was all too happy to supply,” the General says with a toothy smile.

“But you never answered my question,” says the woman, her accent hard to define. “How is this possible?”

Everyone’s eyes are back on me. In fact, more people have joined the group to hear my answer. I lick my lips, scratch the back of my head, and turn to look at the general. I catch a glimpse of my creation, hunched over in a cage too small for it. The sides are electrically charged so it cannot even lean against the walls for respite. Even with all the people around it trying to get its attention, it never lets me leave its sight.

“Well,” I say, straightening up, “we started with a basic humanoid physique and then began to remove all unnecessary organs.”

“And what do you deem unnecessary?” she asks.

“The appendix, most of its intestinal tracks, parts of the stomach, and the reproductive system.” The group flinches at that and their expressions become slightly grim. “We then introduced a microorganism called―”

“―I think we’ll have to stop you there, Dr. Shives.” The general puts a hand on my shoulder. “They still need to sleep tonight.”

Everyone in the group laughs, all except the woman in red. “Wasn’t this creature originally meant for mining?” 

“Oh, don’t call it a creature,” one of the other women says. “You’ll hurt its feelings.”

The woman in red rolls her eyes.“It cannot hear me. It’s deaf. They took its hearing away.”

How did she know that? “Um, why yes, it was meant to guard asteroid mines, but the military saw it being of more practical use in the army.”

The general pipes up. “That’s correct. Just imagine it gentlemen, soldier fatality and equipment costs slashed in half.” He motions towards the cage. “Perfectly adapted to survive in space. Deploy two squadrons of these things and every asteroid in the solar system is ours, making us the planetary super power.”

That gets a thunderous round of applause, people cheering “Here, here,” and “Hail Mars!”

I remain silent. Using the uproar as an opportunity to scuttle towards the exit. My hand is on the door, ready to leave, when I feel an arm wrap around my waist. I try to turn to see who it is but then something presses against my back.

“Leaving so soon?” It’s the woman in the red dress. I recognise her accent. She tightens her grip around my waist and turns me around. My eyes dart around, looking for help, but how could anyone know I’m in danger? All they would see is two people embracing. She pushes what I assume is a gun further into my back and tells me to walk. With each step, I look at everyone that passes, screaming internally for help.

We come to a stop five paces from the creature’s cage. Its bulbous head tilts from side to side. It presses against the cage walls and jumps back as sparks fly from the electric shock.

“Look at it Mr. Shives.” She jabs me with the barrel. “You think Earth doesn’t know about your―”

Before she can finish, the creature begins to throw itself against the cage door. People begin to look around nervously and move towards the exit. Its huge gorilla-like body slams against the door until the hinges buckle. The beast doesn’t stop, but charges straight for me. The woman releases me and aims her gun right at it, but the creature is too quick. A long grey arm shoots forward and grabs her wrist, and with a sickening crack, it’s crushed. Then its other arm reaches out and grabs her face, lifting her straight up into the air before slamming her in the ground.

The room falls silent as all eyes land on the beast. It has turned to face me, towering over me at Its incredible height of 13ft. It places a three fingered hand on my shoulder. The low light glints off Its compound eyes, it’s like looking into two giant orbs made out of space itself.