Carpet Crawlers

Characters: Dr. Hellecat Brannon, Tomás Darquin

She made her way over across the galley to her bench and pouted despite herself, pushing her food around on her plate. Her mind was back in Medlab when she’d decided to take a late dinner break, just as the Day of the Dead rumors started flying. Some of them were outlandish, ghost stories that had been dusted off and given the run of the ship. Other rumors, of crewmembers last seen alone in their quarters talking or crying, were alternately disturbing and inspiring. A few had even gone down to the Abbai homeworld to participate.

Helle sent the plate skidding across the surface of the table. There was no one else in the galley, which made it easier for her to let the frustration out in all its glory.

“It’s not fair!” she said, seemingly to her fork. “Everybody else has had an experience!”

Turning around and leaning back on her table, crossing her arms and frowning, she completed the picture of a sulky child.

“Hell, I’ll bet I know more dead people than anyone else on this ship! I’m a bloody doctor!”

She glared at an empty chair left beside her table, then shook her head in disgust. Staring at the chair for another hour wasn’t likely to fill it with some unearthly visitor with a mouthful of wisdom to impart for her benefit.

“OK, fine. Maybe it just means that at this point in time I know everything I’m supposed to.”

She flattened her palms on the table with the finality of a judge declaring sentence. The stillness enclosing the galley wasn’t buying it for a minute, though.

With an irritated groan she stood up straight and slapped her hands on her thighs. “Bollocks! I want a visitor!”

In an oddly shimmering haze, like a heatwave caught between panes of glass, a blurred figure appeared before her.

A strangled choking noise escaped her and at the sound, slight though it was, the figure turned. His face reflected her surprise.

In a split second, shock, horror and disbelief replaced all that. She couldn’t believe it at first. Professional rogues like Darquin weren’t supposed to be afraid. But it was him looking around, disoriented and shaken. When their eyes met, she had no choice but to recognize him.

His hand fell away from where he held it against his back. He was like a ghost that was terrified of its own presence. “I’m … this is the Phoenix?”

She looked down at the disturbing hint of crimson in the corner of her vision. She gasped and her fingers latched onto the edge of the table. Fresh blood coated the back of his hand.

“I woke up in the dark … and I heard her voice.” The words came faster as if he was getting them out before he could lose them. “I started crawling–I felt so tired, I couldn’t stand–and she met me part of the way before I could get up. I, I kissed her and tasted tears. She held my hands and said if I … didn’t leave now–I … I think I’m in trouble.”

Wincing, reaching for the unseen wound in his back, he dropped with a shudder below the horizon of Helle’s table. She bolted around the table and found only an incriminating stipple of blood. She kneeled beside it, half numb, waiting for the EMD call from the shuttlebays. She couldn’t have written it off if she tried.

So how quickly can you take back a wish?

Phoenix–“Carpet Crawlers” © 2001 Denise Cox & Joe Medina

Babylon 5 ™ and © 1998 Warner Bros.


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