Hey kids. Its red coconut curry here with fanfiction for a story by an author that you've probably never heard of. This fiction is based on a short story, "Shambleau", by the noteworthy sci fi authoress, C.L. Moore. It's basically a sci fi retelling of the Medusa legend. It's set on Mars, and follows Moore's reoccuring character, Northwest Smith.
Basically, Smith is running around on Mars when he comes across a beautiful young alien girl being chased by an angry mob. The mob calls her "Shambleau" and seems intent on killing her. Smith does the hero thing, saves her, and takes her home. Unknowingly, he's just saved a man-eating monster that feeds on her victim's lifeforce all while giving her victim mind-blowing, highly addictive pleasure. (So the victim doesn't want to get away.) The Shambleau sets to work eating the tasty Smith-morsel, and is just about ready to go home and have a cigarette, when Smith's Venusian buddy gets worried about him and busts in. He manages to kill the Shambleau Perseus-style, and the two them survive to go off and have further adventures.
Anyhow, one thing that always intrigued me about this story was the mystery surround the Shambleau itself. No one know where Shambleau come from, or exactly what they are, or what their true agenda is. So I decided to rewrite the short story from the "monster's" point of view. If you've actually taken the time to read this, it might be best to go and read the story for yourself. This will make a lot more sense.
Disclaimer: I do not own the short story "Shambleau". I merely write this to soothe my soul. No money is being made.
Red Eyes to the east, Blue Eyes to the south, Grey Eyes overhead. The four of us hunted together as we had done a thousand times before, but they were faring far better than I was. Ignominy was not something that Shambleau sought, we drew prey to us with bright colors and sweet smells, like the insectivorous plants of the Venusian swamps. But here it had been a bad idea, a miscalculation. The impression I had received of this particular outpost had been wrong, there were far too few creatures here. And some of them were wiser than others.
It was always best to hunt in more populated areas, even the youngest knew that. These things tended not to miss their own kind, especially when there was a great deal of them. If they didn't know one another, they didn't care what happened to one another. But in small settlements, they kept an eye out. They drew upon the strength of the herd to survive under harsh conditions. The elder passed on experience to the younger thus ensuring the existence of the species. If I had known that this place was so very small and barren I would never have come. There is a fine line between hunter and hunted and the harsher the living conditions, the wilier the prey became.
And they knew. Damn them all, they knew. I could feel each and every one of their dull little eyes on me. Even Shambleau couldn't make a stand against such numbers. I ran. If I could make it out into the desert, away from all the noise, I could call Grey Eyes to come and get me. It would be a pain, but with Grey Eyes' help I'd have enough energy to make it to another hunting ground. But all of them were screaming. I could understand them perfectly, but that didn't make it easier to listen to their ugly guttural language. In a way, it was frightening. They grew in numbers and followed me.
Shambleau, Shambleau, I get it, everyone gets it, I'm a freaking Shambleau, so shut up!!!
Digging my claws into the dust I launched myself into an alley doorway, perhaps if I changed direction I might confuse them—but there was another one, crap… I collapsed against the sandstone, breathing heavy. So this was how in would end, splayed out in a filthy alleyway, torn apart by an angry mob of dirty apes. Great. Just great. But then the creature I had bumped into spoke, it fired its weapon. It was defending me? Was there something wrong with its mind? I curled into myself and listened.
It told them to leave me be. It told them I belonged to it… I could work with that. The mob dispersed, flinging slurs back as if they were actual weapons. I looked up at the creature that had saved me and smiled. I spoke to it in its own way and it spoke back to me. An interesting creature. A quick sniff proved that it was male, a strong one. I had chosen the right form then. He wanted to speak so much, the words came hard. He wanted to know what I was, where I was from. The words he wanted were not words that I had within me. He seemed so confident, a sweet stupid little thing. I followed him.
He took me to the place where he slept. Fortuitous, I think. He left me there. I think he expected me to leave. Silly thing, he had given me everything that I needed; food and privacy. I would have him yet. I made sure the door was bolted and pulled off my head wrap. My hair tumbled down and I shifted, my real body reaching out and feeling every corner of the room. What a relief it was to stretch out! I pulled together the edges of my mind and reached out to the others.
"Green Eyes! There you are, I was worried about you!" Grey Eyes' voice tumbled through my mind and I curled up in pleasure. Grey Eyes was that one that I could never live without, no matter what form. Whatever disguise or gender that was chosen, Grey Eyes was mine. And Green Eyes belonged to Grey eyes. "I could feel your fear, but those things were too loud, I couldn't hear you."
"I know." I replied. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to worry you. Everything's alright now. When this one comes back I'll be able to feed. Once I'm done with him I'll come join you."
Red Eyes joined in. "Hello all! Is everyone ready to go yet?"
"So soon?" Grey Eyes spoke. "You're already done?"
"Well, pretty much. I've got a bunch of Venusian sailors eating out of my hands and now I'm just bored. What about you, Blue Eyes? You done yet?" Blue Eyes' dreamy voice drifted into the conversation as if it had always been there.
"Yummy, yummy, tasty, tasty, foodstuffs."
"What? What's wrong with you?"
"Nuuuthin… Just doing that thing…that I do. Can I get a puppy?"
"What the heck is a puppy?"
"It's this small fuzzy thing… From Earth—it's got this long tongue and it licks you a lot. And it eats these little biscuits that look like bones and grows up into a slavering vicious beast that eats things you don't like."
"Sounds useful." I observed. Red Eyes didn't see the value.
"What are you going to do with it once we get home? How the hell are we supposed to get it home, anyways? I assume it needs air to breathe and needs to eat bugs, or something… And are you really going to be responsible for a pet? How long does it live?" The argument between the two of them faded off as they concentrated more on one another and I shifted my attention to Grey Eyes.
"Will you be careful? Don't let your prize figure out what you are."
"I'll be careful." I assured. "This one isn't any challenge for me. He's not very smart." As if in response, I heard my prey's step on the stair. "I must go. He's coming." Grey Eyes left a last caress across my mind as I shifted back to my humanoid female form. I folded the wrap back around my head and waited.
I let him into the room, he was surprised. But that didn't last long. That hunger showed up in his eyes that was really a mirror of my own. So stupid, an insect to the lamp flame. But not a bad thing. He had saved my life, after all. I would do my best to make it sweet for him. He drew me forward and embraced me and for a moment I understood Blue Eyes' fondness, that desire for a pet. But then instinct drew up, on some level he realized what I was and flung me away from him. I hit the floor and grimaced inside. No, not a pet. Just food, a thing. He threw me nesting material into the corner and went to sleep in the bed. No, really. Just a thing, like the rest. Stupider than most. Merely food.
I uncurled my head wrap that night and had a taste of him. Not much, just enough to make sure that he didn't run away. I'm nothing if not thorough. He had no knowledge of me other than that deep natal instinct that lay deep within his mind. He would come back, even if he was afraid, even if he was dying. He'd be mine.
He left and came back again, tried to get me to eat some of his nasty food. Frog broth? Really. That's just nasty. Even if I actually ate the same kind of food as him, that's just nasty. He wondered aloud if I was a vampire. Close, buddy, but not close enough. Those folktale warnings told around campfires at night… They're dangerous things. They hold a bit of wisdom in them, a bit of truth. That same wisdom passed from elder to younger, secrets of survival. It's the sort of thing that might have saved my prey. But lucky for me and other Shambleau, it's also the sort of thing that none of these creatures value anymore.
He slept. I curled up in my nest and waited. I think it will be tonight. He slept fitfully before long he woke. He watched me as if I wasn't watching him. I gave him a show, unwrapped my hair with deliberate slowness. He froze in horror. Not a kitten anymore, huh fella? I lengthened and grew, shifted a little bit. I didn't move straight into my real form, I decided to stay familiar to him awhile longer. He had saved me after all. This was his reward.
I came closer and closer. It was hilarious; his face, his mind, couldn't seem to choose between disgust and anticipation. He changed from one to the other and back again like a light flickering on and off. He stumbled to his feet and I embraced him. I pulled his unresisting warm body to me and swallowed him whole.
I held him for three solar days. So strong! Most didn't last quite this long. And he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself… In my real form I could read his mind. His struggles ceased early into the second day. Now he languished and curled into me. I drew the strength off of him and turned it into my own. What a wonderful feeling! I could take on the world! Maybe after this we could go back home and I could curl up in the silt at the swamp-bottom and pass out for a week. Big meals always made me sleepy.
Daydreaming, I almost didn't notice the footsteps on the stair. Almost. The door opened and in stepped a young Venusian. Pretty thing. But dangerous. I knew as soon as I saw it; it knew me, what I was and what I was doing. Damn. It called to my meal, with tones of fear and desperation in its voice. My prey answered… In kind… But the Venusian didn't leave. Did they know each other? It came forward in gesturing of rescue. This might cause problems.
I shifted again, peered out at it from the protection of my hair. It wouldn't look at me. Wise, dangerous… I shifted further and reached out for him. If I could get him to look at me, be in my power, I might have another meal at hand. I could call one of the others to join me. I curled myself around its legs, tried to pull it forward. It balked. This was a strong one too, but different from my other prey. This one was strong in its mind, it had the knowledge that the other lacked. This was dangerous, so dangerous. It ripped the other out of my grip, flung him away, but he wasn't going anywhere… Better to take no chances.
I wrapped about it in earnest. I would have this thing, it would not harm me, it would not get away. It struggled; it weakened, and then into looked up and saw the mirror and my blood ran cold.
It was all too fast. I couldn't stop it. It aimed the weapon over its shoulder and a pain blossomed at the body's core. Things. Beasts. I never made my prey feel pain like this. Who was the monster when they were capable of making pain like this? They deserved to be food.
I screamed, and the others sprang into my mind in an instant.
"Are you alright?"
"Where are you?"