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The Spur
by Charlee Jacob

The ship, PHYLUM l, was on a mission. It was seeking one gas-bright beach reputed to exist somewhere in Black Magellan. It had been reported that a new organism was generating there, a microbe of brilliant colors which sang in numbers. It had been so long since anyone had witnessed a genesis, the excited crew had pushed hard to find the place. They were exhausted.

Suddenly there was a deer in the PHYLUM'S path--startled blind by the bridge lights. The equally surprised crew was mesmerized, watching it then leap to a star's safe border.

"Put it down to space jitters," said the tired captain, laughing self-consciously. He waved a dismissive hand.

"Visions in quantum ellipses," furthered the first mate, an expert in biology and zoology.

The medical officer gave everyone a shot. There were doses of reality in the tube.

Supposedly made safe and rational again, they stared out into space. But their confidence sagged as they wondered where the bears came from, staggering between asteroids. The beasts gazed back for a moment-in-loop with close-set, quasar optics. Then they journeyed on to their secret magnet in the dark.

"No such animal," swore the captain.

"Not for centuries," agreed the first mate.

But the computers detected a flurry of tiny pulses, like hearts alive in a black hole. Wolves padded across the silent trajectory, howling at every moon invisible for light years. Their voices were a distinct shade of cosmic lonely.

No one on board could speak as they witnessed a fauna forgotten, sleepwalking across the frosted cold. Fireflies misted around them, winking like neutron stars. A raven pecked at the great porthole they looked out of.

"Sir, I'm recording herds in the sensors," reported a crewman.

The doctor took readings of human neurons in patterns of flocks in each shaken brain: mustangs, eagles, lions, creatures as mythic as the constellations.

"The ship records this?" the captain--red-eyed from lack of sleep--demanded to know. "Doctor? Even your instruments...? Then turn them off! Shut down! We're being suggestible. It's the machines."

Yet they heard them in the silence, galloping through galactic canyon, the roar and warble resonance stampeding the void. The menagerie seemed to be headed for some distant Phosphor stream, dreams driven hard or lost.

"What can they be?" asked the communications officer, clearly spooked.

"A species of a shunned zen," the first mate murmured, smile twitching nervously as he contemplated this as opposed to the tap-dancing germ they had been launched to discover.

The animals continued to run in their red shift panic, seeking out a cornucopia in the comet's tail, sprung from ground zeros as if fleeing wildfire. Pushed to a ghostly frontier out of nowhere.


Charlee Jacob's recent publications include Taunting the Minotaur, a poetry chapbook available through Miniature Sun Press, and This Symbiotic Fascination, a novel from Leisure Books. Another volume of her fiction, Guises, is due out this spring from Delirium and includes a chapbook of poetry, Night Unmasked, under the same cover. Some of her work can be seen in Son Of Brainbox, Whispers and Shadows, Extremes 3: Terror On The High Seas, and The Mammoth Book Of Best New Horror (#12). She is a native Texan.


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"The Spur" © Charlee Jacob. Used by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®. Star photo courtesy Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA.