Linda meandered down the corridor to the ship’s greenhouse to get her little brother a sunflower. He believed that if he had one of the “mini-suns” in his fists as he went to sleep the monsters wouldn’t be able to get him. Weird kid, but she didn’t mind going. Everyone else was eating dinner and given that as usual they had started one of their super-boring talks about what sort of planet they would find next, Linda had volunteered to go and get Karl’s security flower. Better to be alone than listen to her parents and crew natter on.
She considered getting Karl a dry flower all full of seeds. Let him sleep on the sharp shells all night. But that would be–
The lights went out and she froze.
The lights never went out. Something had to be very wrong. Her years of emergency drills took over and while her conscious mind was building up to a good panic, her body had already made its way to the wall feeling for one of the emergency patches where she got herself a flashlight but left the breather pack and pressure suit. She flat out refused to consider the possibility of a hull breach as she flicked on the light and started moving at a near run back towards the center of the ship. Whatever had happened with the lights, it hadn’t killed the power to the ship altogether because she could still feel the rumble of the engine.
At the first intersection of corridors she turned left and slammed into a body. A very very large body. Her flashlight beam slid over a wall of slimy flesh in front of her. Wherever the light touched the skin, it recoiled and an ever louder growl came from the creature. With a heave the thing turned to face her. No, face was the wrong word. It didn’t really have a face, just a gaping tooth-filled mouth that dripped more slime. It growled and hissed as if the light was hurting it and snapped its teeth in Linda’s direction.
She bit back a scream took off at a run, heading back the way she had come. The creature plunged after her its growls changing to contented snuffles. It was a hunter and she was the prey. But being eaten wasn’t high on her list of desires. Maybe she would be able to shut herself into the greenhouse and the thing could go find something else to munch on.
Except everyone else was someone she cared about. Maybe she could trap it in the greenhouse, lead it in then sneak back out and bar the door. And if they were all lucky it would be the only beast on the ship, but she doubted it. Few invaders come alone.
For being nothing more than a giant slug with teeth, it moved at a good clip and Linda had to push hard to stay ahead of it. She considered turning off her flashlight to maybe confuse it but since it didn’t seem to have eyes, she left the light on to keep herself from getting dioriented and falling.
She made it to the greenhouse with only enough time to haul the hatch open and dive inside before the thing followed her in. She had planned to get behind the door and sneak out as it came in, but it had entered too close on her heels and she didn’t have time to do anything but plunge onwards.
Perhaps bringing a giant slug into a garden was not the best idea, but it was too late now. She needed to focus on staying alive and on getting out.
She stuck to the paths but the wide paths gave the creature enough room to move quickly and was gaining ground. Slime from its mouth dripped onto the back of her leg and she knew she had to do something. Plants be damned, her life had priority. She dove off the path into who-knew-what mini-field of plants. If she could lose the beast in amongst the crops, she would be able to get back to the door and sneak out. The greenhouse was the largest space on the ship so it gave her plenty of room to hide herself.
Instead of continuing on though, the thing turned with her, diving into the plants after her. Was it following her by sound or by smell? Or maybe it sensed her body heat. Not that it mattered, of course. It could track her wherever she went until it caught her and it seemed intent on doing so.
She stumbled on, her flashlight giving her just enough light to jump over the smaller plants and to squeeze between the rest. Then something big and yellow slipped through the beam of light. Sunflowers! If only Karl’s weird sun-idea was right. If the slug thing didn’t like the beam of a palty flashlight, how would it respond to the full power of a field of sun-copying sunflowers?
A prickle at the back of her neck sent her dropping to the ground as the giant slug flew over her and snapped the heads off a few of the sunflowers. Linda turning off the flashlight, curled into a ball and tried to make herself as small as possible. She knew it was over but didn’t want to make it too easy for the thing. It would have to work to find her still.
But nothing happened. She could still hear the beast, but it wasn’t making the same noises as before. It sounded a lot more distressed. She uncurled a bit and flicking on the flashlight she ran the beam over the spot where the noises were coming from. The slug was writhing and seemed to be gasping for air. It then heaved and thrust itself in her direction, but made it only halfway where it collapsed, and stopped moving completely. Linda waited five minutes to see if it would move, then started snapping off sunflowers.
She had a ship to go save.
The idea for this story came from a Basque tale about the sun, the moon and sunflowers.