Almost complete vessel, recovered
after light-years covered adrift
now in tow, station bound;
Your assignment, meanwhile:
Check lab and horticultural compartment.
Doors hissing apart under your hands, gloved
– mist hitting your face, stale nutrient aerosol,
tasting bitter even through filters;
waving it aside you see a bizarre, misshapen sea of green,
a greenhouse imploded into itself and re-grown into nightmare horrors;
movement, you think, you’ve seen movement
snaking coils of tendrils, their adhesive feet tasting, sampling dented walls,
stirring against the lazy flow of recycled air,
bulbous monstrosities swaying, SNIFFING –
you check the radiation level records: too high, been too high for too long,
how many decades has the ship been orbiting that spinning neutron star?
– and OH GOD HAVE THEY ALWAYS HAD HANDS?
foliage claws reach for you, straining
against the resistance of twisted umbilical cords,
perversions no longer worthy the label of vines;
thrashing like hellhounds against chains holding them
within an inch of your life
you tumble backwards, gravity generators as unsteady as your pulse
and they follow you into the hallway, will always follow you, that much you know,
they will follow you until their poisonous seeds will eat you from within
and strangle you in agonized sleep.