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KILL THEM ALL OR FEEL WITHDRAWAL.

Neat, bold red letters on the ceiling above her bed sent an icy-hot trail of fear blazing down her spine. The woman sat up in her single bed, crisp white linens bunched into a wrinkled ball across her lap. The sterile smell of a freshly mopped hospital floor burned her nostrils. Generic paintings hanging on the plain walls did nothing to alleviate the harsh glare of fluorescent lights that faintly hummed. She tossed the covers aside, and dropped her bare feet onto plain white tiles. As she inspected the sparsely furnished room, her reflection in a long mirror hanging from its only door caught her eye.She screamed.Where her mouth should have been was a gaping, jagged maw.She jumped at loud footsteps running outside her room, coming closer. A bio-luminescent woman flung open the door, but paused at the threshold.  Aside from glowing, blue skin and lacking her own hideous grin, the woman looked just like her. They had the same long, silky black hair and turquoise, almond shaped eyes.

The woman’s eyes widened at the sight of Sharp Teeth. She gulped down the scream that fought for release, straightened, and clasped her hands together before her. Aside from a slight tremble, she was the picture of calm.

I am uncertain what is happening here, but please be assured I mean you no harm.” The luminescent woman hesitated only briefly. “I trust you’ve seen the words above your bed?”

Sharp Teeth glanced up at the words glaring back at her. “Yeah, I saw. What I want to know is, if I don’t kill them -whoever “they” are- will they kill me?”

Lustrous sighed, “I honestly don’t know. I can only assume “they” feel the same as we do. Have you spoken with Khnum?”

Sharp Teeth shook her head. “Who’s Khnum?”

Lustrous closed the door and gestured to the mirror that Sharp Teeth was trying her best to ignore. “He is an entity who communicates with us via this mirror. He has elaborated briefly on the nature of this place, the people like us who inhabit it, and what we are to do.”

Oh.” Sharp Teeth kept her gaze away from her own terrifying reflection, preferring instead to focus on the beautiful woman. She wore the same black body suit on her slender frame, but it looked softer in the blue glow of her skin. Sharp Teeth’s own disfigured face was pale. As she mentally ticked off the list of differences and similarities between the two of them, she came to a new realization.

Her razor-sharp, elongated teeth would come in handy in a battle, but what could this seemingly harmless woman do? She stood and approached Lustrous cautiously, extending her hand in friendship.

Call me Sharp Teeth. Is it okay if I call you Lustrous? It just seems to fit.”

The two women shook hands, and Lustrous smiled. “That’s exactly what I call myself.” Her smile faded as a thrum of rising voices from outside called her attention to the window facing the street. She met Sharp Teeth’s gaze, and returned to the matter that had her visibly shaken.

There are others. Khnum says this place is called Echo, and that we are also called echos. Our purpose is to kill one another until only one is left.” Lustrous paused at Sharp Teeth’s darkening expression.

Are they coming for us already?”

Lustrous’ eyes widened in alarm at the rapid pace with which Sharp Teeth’s apprehension grew. She hurried to calm her companion. “No, I don’t believe they are. They seem to be wandering, looking for answers. Same as us.” She placed a hand on her frantic companion’s shoulder, still uneasy but unwilling to lose ground. “We should go speak with them. Make peace now.”

Sharp Teeth looked incredulous, but Lustrous’ smile reassured her. “Okay, I’ll follow you out. If we’re attacked, fall back, behind me.”

*     *     *

Lustrous led the way out of the house and into a suburban street with Sharp Teeth following close by her side. The gathered echos quieted at their approach. These echos likely felt the same fear and confusion they did. Sharp Teeth’s admiration for her companion grew as she watched her friend keep a friendly countenance in place.

Greetings, all!”

Sharp Teeth cautiously watched the growing crowd of echos, all drawn to Lustrous’ sapphire glow. She listened as her friend spoke with the crowd, shaking hands and exchanging names. They shared an uneasy camaraderie as she addressed them amicably.

Sharp Teeth’s nerves refused to settle, though. Apprehension still weighed heavily on her mind. She raked her fingers through her long, ebony hair, and met the bright, turquoise eyes of various echos who stood in awe of Lustrous, but kept a wary distance from her. She didn’t blame them.

All of the echos looked basically the same, except each one had a single attribute that made them different. Most of them were obvious. There was an echo with an elongated neck, and one with spiny skin. Another had long, serrated blades instead of hands. None of these struck Sharp Teeth as any more unusual than herself, until a trio approached with a normal looking echo. An armed echo.

She was flanked on either side by a four armed echo and one whose arms ended in what looked to be cannons. Sharp Teeth didn’t care much for the echo with the hand cannons, but was even more wary of the one with the fireplace poker. She gripped it in front of herself as though it were a shield instead of a weapon.

Lustrous attempted to reason with the trio, assuring them of the group’s good intentions. The Four Armed echo would hear none of it. She took an aggressive stance in front of Normal, and Lustrous moved closer to gain control of the situation. The newcomer swung all four arms madly, as though trying to ward off all the echos, though none were attacking.

One of Four Arms’ flailing elbows connected with Lustrous’ jaw. Enraged, Lustrous lunged for Four Arms and the two grappled. With Lustrous at a serious disadvantage, Sharp Teeth jumped on the back of her friend’s attacker and bit a chunk of flesh out of her neck.

A whooshing sound behind Sharp Teeth announced the arrival of two explosive gouts of flame. The other echo had set Sharp Teeth alight with twin blasts of fire. She rolled on the ground to put out the flames, hoping Lustrous could hold her own against Four Arms.

With the fire extinguished, Sharp Teeth stood and turned to check the fight, but was too late to help her friend. Lustrous lay on the ground, the cluster of echos surrounding them looked on in horror and mild curiosity at the first death among them.

A charge in the air raised the hairs on Sharp Teeth’s arms just as a loud, crackling sound emanated from her dead friend. Blue light twisted around the echo’s arms, wrapping around her torso and coalescing in her chest. The energy thumped, pulsing visibly until it exploded into a large static bubble, tossing Four Arms into the crowd. The blue bubble, with Lustrous inside, levitated above the echos.

They watched the silhouette of Lustrous morph. Her two arms extended out to each side, and from her torso beneath them, two appendages grew at a rapid pace.

The transformation complete, Lustrous turned upright in the fading bubble, then dropped to the ground as the energy dissipated. The bio-luminescent echo flexed the fists of her two new arms, then all four together. Her curious exploration abruptly ended when she recalled the reason for her transformation. Her expression of wonder turned to one of fury. Her gaze swept the crowd until she found Four Arms staring at her in open shock.

Shock turned to determination as Lustrous attacked Four Arms, barreling into her and knocking the seriously wounded echo to the ground. Normal came to her friend’s aid, bashing Lustrous’ face with her poker, buying Four Arms a chance to flee. When Normal was tackled by a spiny-skinned echo and pulled into the fray, Flame turned her burners on the crowd.

Too weak to flee, Four Arms collapsed in a pool of her own blood. Sharp Teeth, singed and smoking, watched as Four Arms lay on the ground and bled to death.

She watched and waited.

The same blue energy that had transformed Lustrous also changed Four Arms, giving her skin the same sapphire glow that Lustrous had.

When Four Arms, now with two traits, dropped to the ground, Sharp Teeth rushed to attack. She gripped the dual-traited echo’s tight black suit at the collar, pulling her close and gnashing her protruding teeth in Four Arms’ face.

With her upper hands, Four Arms was able to hold the jagged mouth at bay while she used her lower pair to strangle Sharp Teeth. As the hideous echo lost strength, the lustrous, four-armed echo followed her to the ground, holding her grip until Sharp Teeth was dead.

*     *     *

Sharp Teeth awakened just as the blue energy bubble surrounding her dissipated, and dropped to her feet, spreading all four of her arms out to the sides to keep her balance. She scanned the massive, battling throng of echos, seeking her next target. There was a trait she wanted more than revenge, and she spotted the echo who would give it to her; Flame.

 

If you enjoyed this story, then you’ll love Peter Samet’s Zero Echo Shadow Prime. Echo offers a taste of the Sci-Fi world Peter created in ZESP, for the full impact, get your copy of his book at Amazon. For more information, including a *FREE* excerpt, visit the website for Zero Echo Shadow Prime. Follow Peter Samet on Twitter for news on sales and a jolly good time, he’s a real cool guy.

Published in Random Rambling

Jess

Jessica West (West1Jess) is pursuing a state of self-induced psychosis (reading, writing, editing). She lives in Acadiana with three daughters still young enough to think she's cool and a husband who knows better but likes her anyway.

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