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There's Something Crawling on Me

Jordan Hirsch reads, writes, and dreams of space in Saint Paul, MN, with her husband and their two perfect cats. Find her on Twitter: @jordanrhirsch.

There's something crawling on me: cold, prickly, but slow. Its legs--if that's what you can call them--tickle the back of my neck. At uneven intervals, it steps, crawls, limps along my skin, light pinpricks that brush past my baby hairs. Baby hairs that are now standing on end.
There's something crawling on me, and I don't know if I should be afraid. There are only so many scans we could take from orbit, only so much we could do in our enviro-suits. It's been so many Earth-months of tests and experiments and observations. Can we colonize here? Do we send for more ships? Is it safe?
There's something crawling on me; it's moved onto my shoulder now, and I slowly--ever so slowly--turn my head to see if I can catch a glimpse of it. I'm not an exo-entomologist, but I've learned the deadly bugs (that we know about) since my botanist duties often disturb their habitats.
There's something crawling on me, and out of the corner of my eye, I see a small, segmented brown body. Bland, but blurry at my periphery. My thumb is frozen on my communicator, still, and if this thing--this creature, this new discovery--was any other color on the visible light spectrum than mud, maybe I'd depress it and call for help. But what could base do anyway? Send someone down here to tell me it's nothing? That they've catalogued it already, and it's fine? That I'm just a giant baby clipping grass samples while they do the real work? Nevermind that no one in this hope-for colony will be able to eat someday without my research.
There's something crawling on me, and now there's another one on my pant leg. I can't feel it, and I can barely see it as I stand here under this alien sun, sweat dripping down between my shoulder blades. Teasing be damned, I tap my communicator. One crawling thing is a new discovery. Two is a full-blown invasion.
"Butler base, this is Arroyo."
My throat's dry, and my voice cracks. "This is Sani. I'm in Sector 305, and there's a situation here. Maybe."
A long pause. Why the hell did I say maybe?
My new prickly-legged friend takes another step on my shoulder, and my palms itch to swat it away.
"Go ahead, Sani."
I explain the situation as calmly as I can. It's just a bug, and I'm afraid it's uncategorized. If I swat it away, what will we be losing?
"Harris and Shaval are on their way," Arroyo's voice says.
I let out the partial breath I've been holding for what seems like hours.
Help is coming. Help that's probably not even needed.
Something's crawling on me, and then it's buzzing, high-pitched and tinny. And it's vibrating. And then it takes one more slow step.
I fight the bile that's pouring into my mouth. Maybe all this was a bad idea.
There's something crawling on me.
There's something biting
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 15th, 2021


Author Comments

As a Star Trek fan and lover of first contact stories, I'm drawn to what the exploration of new worlds will be like. With danger in every inch of the mundane, I don't imagine that I'd last very long.

- Jordan Hirsch
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