Do you shoot to kill? Or do not shoot at all? This is a flash fiction called:
The twelve stood in a circle, and in the center was a person who was not human. Not alien either. Not anything understood by anyone, but there all the same.
The twelve looked nervous and wanted to find an exit. No exit existed. The walls remained white and without a door. They did not remember how they arrived in that spot, nor who the others around them might be.
Attention caught on the stains though. The walls with long scrubbed out—tinged brown—stains. In wide arcs and patterns of a painter, or an explosion. Flecks.
The smell of something long bleached also hung in the room. It hung like a noose around the nose, and squeezed and drew tears—but not from acridness, but from repressed memories that each of the twelve held.
The thing spoke in the voice of a man choking, in the gurgle of a shriek underwater. But seemed feminine, with hairs that hung down to its hips, and eyes wide and almond-like. It was without curves, without anatomy. No bulge on its chest, no substance in its lower regions. It moved in insect spasms as it walked around the circle.
The twelve did not respond, some swallowed hard, some debated swinging a fist into the face and seeing what might happen.
But fear held them in check. Because when it was close it smelled of flowers and rotting meat and pure heady pheromones, and its teeth had the curves of fish hooks.
“Hi?” responded one of the twelve, and this man in a suit and tie at once regretted his decision. Because the thing walked over with shifting hips and bouncing shoulders.
“Hello, welcome. Welcome to what is.”
The man’s eyebrows raised, and he said nothing more. Feeling the gaze hold on his soul.
It leaned in close, and he tilted his head back, trying not to gag on the smell of molding pork drifting from her mouth. Or his mouth. The genderless mouth of something that never even approached being human.
“Please,” he whispered, and looked away.
He expected death, and what he got was a tug on his hand, and a cold sweat breaking out from the skin.
He looked back and found the creature in the center and a pain blossoming on his flesh. His hand, on fire, then cold, then burning yet again.
And when he raised it, he did not scream, but the others did. The ones to the sides of him, a woman in a nurse outfit, and a nun both shrieked and stepped away.
The skin twisted on this man. The skin hard and metal. A gun. Like a cyborg. Like a mutant. The hand morphed into a pistol. Flesh and steel, and in his head he heard the clicking back of a hammer.
He flinched as the shot rang out, a tugging in his sternum, and a bullet hole in the ceiling casting a light, and something glowing red outside this room. It looked to him like the stretched retina of a human eye.
Panic spread and fights to find escape sprang up around the shocked man. The creature took each person’s hand one at a time, and they held still during the embrace and came away with the same twisted results.
The creature in the center found revelry when everyone else found a gun. It raised its hands above its head and skipped with flailing out legs. Spinning and dropped into a curtsy.
The creature’s voice was loud enough to silence the screaming and heard by the ears numb from a gunshot in the small room.
“Good. Grand. I am, you are. We test? Okay?”
It nodded and smiled at no agreements.
“I hear so much. I know so much. I want to know something more. You here, you are sane. But one. I am one of two un-sane.”
The twelve looked at each other, and the clicking of ready to fire came in their heads loud and echoing.
“And I want to see how it plays out. And more importantly, I want to see how many are sane by the end of it.”
It reached overhead like one might do during a yawn, and around rose from the ground trays of food. The area of floor for a moment just a liquid to allow the tables to come. It stood in the center of the circular furniture and plucked a mango and took a bite.
The mush did not go down the throat, it hung there inside, packed away in its cheeks.
“I will come, return, rejoice, in one day. Eat and drink what you want. I’ll fix the hands—I’ll fix all hands.”
The ground made a burbling sound and the creature sank into the floor. Slow and steady. Someone, a man wearing a firefighter uniform, fired, and the area of food exploded from the shot, and the creature disappeared into nothing.
Across the room, though, a woman clutched her arm as a thin trickle of red leaked down her wedding dress. Just a glancing shot. A box of medical supplies came up at her feet, and she stared down at it.
She would be fine. At least for the moment.
The other eleven looked at each other, and the firefighter received the most attention.