by Sean L. Mclane
copyright 1992

WARNING: This story may not be suitable for the faint of heart...

Silently it moved through the void, looking for something to relieve its boredom. It sent out tendrils of its awareness, sensing its surroundings. It detected something, and quickly moved in that direction.

What the entity found was a small planet, and it could practically >taste< the life teeming on it. If there was a mouth on the creature, it would have been smiling, as it sensed that there was intelligent life as well. "This meal will be fun," it thought, as its amorphous form plunged through the atmosphere.

Gabriel was a happy bear. He splashed his girlfriend Marta, then swam over to hug her. Marta, grabbed hold of him, then dove backwards, dunking him. They surfaced laughing, then stopped as they engaged in a warm kiss.

"Hey you two!" Marta jumped at the sudden voice. "When are we going to eat?" It was Ariel, Gabriel's little sister. Five years younger than his twenty, Ariel had the look of a young woman who was going to develop into a knockout. Her fur was soft and brown, a bit lighter than her brother's, but thicker, and she was always cheerful.

"We'd better not keep her waiting," Gabriel muttered. "It >is< her birthday, after all."

Marta nodded. "Besides," she added loudly, grinning, "you know how she gets when she's hungry."

Ariel smirked as her brother and his lover emerged from the pond. Gabriel glanced at Marta and whistled appreciatively. "Gods, I'm lucky," he thought. Marta was a bear as well, but one of the white giants from the northern wastes. He didn't mind that she was nearly half a meter taller than him, and almost twice his weight. Marta was beautiful. Her white fur contrasted against the bright blue of her swimsuit, which clung to her curvaceous form. He gave a very happy sigh as he waded ashore.

*Did you ask her yet, Gabe?* Ariel's voice rang in Gabriel's head. The siblings' telepathic bond was a secret they kept from everyone, even their own parents, when they had been alive. It made them closer than most brothers and sisters.

*Not yet, sis. I haven't had the chance to be alone with her,* he responded, with a slight taunt in his thoughts. "Let's eat," he said aloud.

Dinner was quiet, as the three concentrated on their eating. By the time they were done, it was getting dark. Gabriel moved a little closer to Marta, and ran a finger up one of her arms. *Could we be alone, Ariel,* he privately asked his sister.

*Say no more.* This thought was accompanied with an image of Ariel winking. "Well, I gave homework to do. I'd better get going. I'll bring the basket back. See you two later." Ariel stood as she said this, and picked up the picnic basket.

"Bye," Marta and Gabriel said in unison as she walked off.

Marta watched her leave, then turned to Gabriel. "It's amazing how she always knows just when to leave. She's a good kid."

Gabe nodded, then looked Marta in the eyes. "Will you marry me?" he asked.

Marta blinked. She knocked him over with a big hug. "Oh, yes!" she said and kissed him.

Gabriel wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. They snuggled together, and made love to each other under the stars.

Ariel walked down the street, taking her time to get home because it was such a beautiful night, and because she really wasn't in a hurry to start her homework. She took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet night air, then turned down the alley that was her shortcut home. Ariel did not normally fear dark alleys, due to the lack of crime in her society, but she had an odd sense of foreboding as she entered this one.

She shrugged it off, and kept walking. She didn't have a chance to react as the dark grey cloud descended on her from above....

A week later, the media was buzzing about the seventeen murders. The whole city was in shock over the brutality of the killings, because murder hand been unheard of for more than sixty years. Ariel had been missing since they started, but wasn't considered a victim yet because her body had not been found. Gabriel hoped that she was alive somewhere, although his hopes weren't all that high.

He and Marta had spent all their time searching for Ariel, but had had no luck. They found the picnic basket on the second day of looking, and were somewhat relieved that there wasn't any blood anywhere in the alley.

The pair was going to search search again, trying to retrace the path they figured Ariel had taken. They met in the park where they had had their picnic.

"I knew I should have walked her home," Gabriel said.

"Now cut that out!" snapped Marta. The polar bear took a breath to calm herself. "You know it isn't your fault. She's walked home from this park dozens of times without you. How could you, or anyone else, have known that all this was going to start?" She stepped over to Gabriel and held him close to her. "Let's start looking."

He gave her a hug and nodded. Together, they started scouring the park again. Both were wary because all the bodies had been found in the vicinity of the park, and it was assumed that the killings had been done there as well.

After a short while, Gabriel looked up at Marta. She had her back turned to him, and didn't notice his glance. She was wearing what she always did, loose jeans, and a printed t-shirt. He smiled as he realized that he had been dressing the same way lately. He took a step toward her...

The smile disappeared when they heard the scream. As the pair stood up and looked, there was a whimpering whinny, which stopped abruptly. They ran toward the nose, Marta getting there just before Gabe. She stopped, and stared at the ground in front of her. Gabriel stopped next to her, and looked down at the body.

It was a unicorn, obviously dead. He had likely screamed when his horn was ripped from his forehead, and it was also apparent what had stopped his whimpering: his horn had been thrust up through his jaw into his brain.

Gabriel looked for a few seconds at the blood leaking from the top of the corpse's head, then turned to throw up. As he reviewed his lunch, Marta let out a roar, and leaped into one of the bushes surrounding the clearing. There was a scuffle, then a solid thud, followed by a low curse from Marta. She stepped back into the clearing, looking a little bit dazed.

Gabe coughed once, and wiped his face on the front of his shirt. He stepped toward his girlfriend, asking, "What--?"

"I saw the killer, and was able to grab this," Marta interrupted, holding up a piece of cloth, the same color as the skirt Ariel had been wearing. "Then I got knocked on my ass and the killer ran away."

Gabe blinked once, staring at the cloth. "Did you see what he looked like? Is that from Ariel's...?"

"Yes, my love, I saw what >she< looked like, and yes, this came from Ariel's skirt. The killer was wearing it."

"Oh Gods, what did she do to my sister?"

"She didn't do anything to your sister, Gabriel." She gently put a hand on his shoulder. "The killer >is< your sister."

His jaw dropped open. "No way! Not Ariel! She couldn't harm anyone! She's just a kid. How could she knock you down? No way."

"I didn't think so either, until I heard her voice."

"Her voice? What'd she say?"

"She looked directly into my eyes, Gabe, and said, 'You're next.'"

They stopped searching and left the park. Before going to Gabriel's house, they went to the Council Building to report the unicorn's death. After a half hour of questioning, they were allowed to leave.

Gabriel reached over to rub Marta's back as they walked back to his place. "Do you want to stay over tonight? To be safe?"

She leaned closer to him, and nodded. "To be safe, and to be warm." She smiled as she gave him a squeeze. "You know how I like to be warm at night," she said with a wink.

Gabe grinned, then kissed her as they turned up the walk to his house.

Across the street, lurking in the shadows, it watched. A smile played across the mouth. It had been a long time since it had enjoyed itself this much. Already sated on the souls it had taken, it was now killing for sheer pleasure. Not only did it enjoy using Ariel's body to commit these brutalities, but is also drank in with sick pleasure the horrified shock her mind was subjected to by witnessing them. She was trapped, able to see everything the entity was making her body do, but unable to do anything about it.

Over the week, Ariel had learned how to tell what the alien was thinking, and how to read through its memories. Because she could not do anything else, she spent almost all her time doing this. She had learned that if someone managed to kill her while the being was still in her body, it would die. It could leave, however, just before she expired, and find another body to possess. She had to find a way to hold it inside her...

Ariel's pondering was broken by the creature's contemplation of making another kill. She looked out at what it was looking at, and saw her brother's house. She cringed to herself mentally when she realized that Gabriel was the entity's next prey.

Gabriel woke suddenly to a scream. He peered through the darkness to discover that the spot next to him on the bed was empty. There was another scream, and he recognized the voice as Marta's. Gabe leaped out of the bed, and ran out to the living room. Just inside the door, he stopped, as he saw Marta, on her knees, held there by Ariel's hand on her throat. Furniture was tossed about, from the struggle that had obviously ensued, and Marta was currently clutching at Ariel's arm to remove the pressure on her throat, but to no avail.

Gabriel's gasp caught the attention of Ariel, and she looked up, her eyes glowing a soft blue in the darkness. "Good evening," she said.

He shivered at the icy tone in her voice, and watched Marta's struggling wane. "Let her go, please."

At this, Ariel simply grinned.

"Please release her," he pleaded. *Let her go, Ariel, please.* He looked in dismay as his plea and telepathic sending had no obvious effect. She still grinned as she held Marta's throat tightly.

Then he heard her response in his head, though it seemed distant. *Gabriel?*

*Ariel, is that you?*

*Gabe, I can't control my body. There's... something else in control. It's going to--*

He jumped at the cold voice. "I will release her." Ariel suddenly grabbed Marta's head, and gave a sharp, jerking twist which was accompanied with a loud >SNAP!< Marta went rigid for a moment, then fell to the side and stopped moving. Ariel closed her eyes and took in a slow breath, smiling as if in ecstasy.

*Oh Gods, Gabe... I'm... sorry. Marta's dead. It's... feeding on her soul!*

He stumbled backward, and leaned against the door frame, staring dumbly. Nothing moved in the room for a couple of minutes.

*Gabe? Gabe? Can you hear me?*

He blinked. *Huh?*

*Gabriel, you have to kill it. It's going to go after you next.*

*H-- How?*

There was an ominous pause. *You have to kill my body, Gabe, and you have to do it hard and fast. You have to kill me suddenly. It's our only chance.*

"What?!" he exclaimed. Ariel's eyes snapped open, and stared evenly at him. *No way. I can't kill you, Ariel. You're my sister!*

*I can't stand watching it do these things with my body. I can't do anything to stop it. If you love me, Gabe, kill me. Please?*

He closed his eyes and shuddered, then opened them as he heard the menacing chuckle come from his sister's mouth. She suddenly crouched and leaped toward him. Gave dodged out of the way, but not before Ariel's claws raked across his thigh, cutting him deeply. He screamed, and stumbled over to the fireplace. She stood up again, and turned, the blue glow in her eyes, shining just a little bit brighter.

*Gabriel. >Please< end this. It will kill you, then kill many more, and you are the only one who can hear me. Stop this horror now. Please? Because you love me?*

Gabe closed his eyes for a brief moment, then opened them again. *I will, Ariel, but I will hate myself forever because I have to do it.* He reached behind him and took hold of a poker sitting next to the fireplace, and held it hidden behind his leg. He stared evenly at Ariel, and said in a low voice, "Bring it on."

Several things happened in the next few moments. Ariel's eyes flashed brightly as she charged at Gabriel. Inside her mind, Ariel grabbed hold of the being's spirit, and held on desperately. There was a brief pause, as it tried to figure out what was going on, then Gabriel swung.

Caught off guard, Ariel was hit solidly on the side of the head with a sickening >THUNK<. The hook of the poker sank into her temple, and the side of her skull yielded to the force of the blow.

The being tried to leave Ariel's body, but found itself held firmly by Ariel's mind. It shrieked like a banshee, and the wail was heard throughout the city. Ariel dropped to her knees, then fell backward. As she convulsed one last time, Gabe heard a faint *Thank you* in his mind. The body shuddered, then moved no more.

He knelt down and held her broken body to his chest. "I'm sorry," he sobbed. "I'm sorry." He rocked back and forth, hugging her and crying until the sun rose.