This site belongs to Cage Dunn (otherwise known as CS Dunn, and possibly a couple of other . . . words). The purpose: to tell stories, to put links to the published stories, and to ponder . . . everything.
Cage is a Storyteller, a dreamer, an imaginer. Some would say Fibber, Fabricator, Liar. No. Just a storyteller. Here is your first story (All content is copyright to me, Cage Dunn):
Long Way Home
The white lines flish-flashed, blurring her vision. Her eyes drooped. She would have to stop. Even though she was relatively close to home base, she knew she wouldn’t make it without a short nap. The dog was asleep in the passenger foot-well, and looking at him made her feel more weary. She closed her eyes. Her head dropped onto her chest, snapped upright with a crack, eyes wide.
She checked the road for other traffic as she pulled the van over to the shoulder. There were trees just off the road, nothing else, so she drove as close to them as she could. She didn’t want to catch the attention of anyone who came down this lonely stretch of road. Her cargo could get her into a lot of trouble. She looked over her shoulder to the cargo bay, but the package was well wrapped and not obvious, no fingers or toes sticking out. She pulled the dog’s pillow out from under him and rested it against the glass. The dog growled at her as she swung her feet up onto the seat. Her eyes closed immediately.
She dreamed of loud voices, raised in anger, a touch of caution. She tried to silence them. A loud bang, bang, bang and a bright light intruded on her dream. The dog growled, deep and serious. She dragged her eyes open. There were strobes of blue and red, bright white flashes. Were they here? Had they found her?
Someone was banging a torch against her window. Uniform. A cop. Crap! She opened her eyes wider and swung her legs off the seat. Her hand moved to the window winder, but stopped. She looked at his badge. It was the thing to do, wasn’t it? Ask him for his identification. She pointed at his badge and he pulled out a leather flip-wallet with his photo and some words and numbers. She pretended to look carefully before winding down the window.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Just tired,” she said, trying to give her voice a note of caution. “I’ve worked three shifts in the last 24 hours, and I just needed a kip.” Don’t give him too much information. She dragged her hands over her hair and face, rubbing her eyes. The skin was still complete. No jags or tears. It was so dark he would be likely to miss any minor damage. She turned her face and looked up at him. He was looking at the dog.
“You’re a smoker?”
He was looking at the cigarettes. She picked up the packet and handed it to him. “Thanks. I’ve given up really, but there are times . . .” He pulled one out and stuck it in his top pocket. Good. If she left before he lit it up, she wouldn’t have to be there for him to discover the hidden ingredient.
“There’s been some trouble in the area.” He shone the beam of his torch into the trees. “People gone missing; reports of sexual assaults.” He looked back at her. “Do you want me to follow you home?” Did he know where she lived?
“That’s alright. I’m going to a friend’s house. Just 30 minutes down the road. I’ll be okay. And I’ve got the dog.” The dog had watched the intruder the whole time, and his growling, though not as loud now, was serious. The cop nodded at her.
“Okay, but take it easy, and leave now,” he took his hand off the window. “And don’t pick up any strays!” He walked towards his car.
Another cop sat in the cruiser. Was he checking her registration? A cold tendril spread icy fingers down her spine. Her hands stiffened on the steering wheel. She watched the door open, heard words exchanged. No signs of tension, but the second cop seemed excited. The rego check would only reveal the original owner as the female whose body she now wore. She watched them as the car pulled out and turned back towards the beach road. She drew a breath and let the excess tightness ease from her mind. She started the van and pulled back onto the road. It was time to move on. Soon.
The sun shone on her borrowed skin. She was bloated and would need to rest for several more hours. It would have to be her last meal until she found a safer base. It had been good here. She wasn’t far from her ship; she had to stay within a certain range or a signal from rescuers would not reach her mobile unit. She would look around tomorrow.
The dog was chewing on a rib bone. He must’ve dug it up. She dragged her body upright and went to check the dumpsite. There. The dog had dug down a long way. She would have to re-bury it. At least he could’ve dug up the new one. The soil would have been softer, easier to dig. This one was old, probably her first meal after the ship crashed into the ocean.
She had humped her broken body out of the water and onto the sand. It was as far as she could manage. The dog came. She was going to eat him, but he brought her a rabbit. She kept him. His hearing was better than hers, although not by much. He led her here, and she was able to take on a new skin from the soft-bodied female who lived in this house.
The salt water had severely burned her skin and it was still healing. The human skin protected hers from the violent sun and burning wind. The residents here tasted good, if a bit metallic, and she needed to eat in order to heal. If her rescuers arrived to find her unfit for flight, they would kill her. Leave no trace.
She took the bone from the dog and dropped it back into his hole. She filled it in, tamping it down as hard as she could. The simple task had exhausted her.
She wondered how long it would be before they arrived. The space-fold she used to get here was logged and they would know where she was from the activated beacon. The ship’s electronics would survive the conditions if the seals held, but she had already been here for five months, local planetary time. Was this time-scale similar to the scale she used? Would her rescuers even bother? The conditions here were not suitable for colonisation.
Would they come for her? Or would they let her end here because she had accurately logged her findings. Should she have left the log active? Her mind churned.
She had been the most aggressive scout, seeking out star systems even if there was only one viable planet. The other scouts searched where there were at least two potential sites. Would it cost her? Would she ever see her people again? Or was this going to be her end?
A vehicle on the road; coming this way; unusual. This location had only three houses; the roadway was dirt, some sort of crushed rock pounded to a hard surface. She looked towards the road. Damn. It was those cops from last night! She rearranged the skin on her body, manipulating the result of her gorge into the legs. They hadn’t seen her legs last night, so they wouldn’t know they weren’t this large. She finished just as one started walking down the driveway.
The one who had been in the car. She got up to meet him. The dog was at her side, growling, hackles raised.
“Good morning,” he called to her. The one who took the cigarette stayed put. She hoped the methane cigarette hadn’t made him too sick . . . otherwise, he wouldn’t be here, would he? Ex-smokers would expect to feel sick with their first smoke after a long break.
“Good morning,” she called back, walking closer.
She needed to keep them away from the house. The smell was still in the air. The coppery tang of fresh blood was obvious, but her sense of smell was better than humans. She would soon find out if he came any closer. She walked faster.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
He stopped as she came within a few steps of her.
“We saw a Missing Person notice. Looked like you. Said you were out of contact. Not seen for five months.” His eyes were suspicious. She plundered through the memories of the skin.
“I had a disagreement with my family. I told them not to call. And I won’t be calling them!” She put some effort into the voice sounding strained, potentially angry raising the tone on the last word. So many emotions she could use, but those two seemed most appropriate for this situation. She needed them to go. If they didn’t, she would turn them into another meal. She would have to get rid of the vehicle. And if someone knew they had come here . . . No. She’d let them go, if they left now.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just really tired, and I was about to go back to bed to catch up on some sleep.” She paused, hoping the effect would be of mild annoyance. “I have two shifts to work tonight.” The skin she wore had memories of working many night shifts, cleaning banks and offices. It should be enough for them.
“Miss Evans …. You are Miss Julie Evans, aren’t you?” There was a level of unease in his voice.
“Yes,” but the memory jagged on something. “And no,” she said. “I’m divorced, and I changed my name so my ex couldn’t find me.” That sounded almost right. Not quite. What was missing?
“And I’ll have to move again, now.” The picture completed. “He was one of you!” Yes, that was it. Now it wouldn’t look so strange if she just disappeared.
He reached down to his waist, pulled out a weapon. The skin-memory provided a picture. Of this man. With fists raised. She tensed. Crap.
Why did they all have to look so alike?
The dog growled and leapt, teeth scissoring on his right arm. He swung and threw the dog off. This one was strong. The other one was coming from the car. Now she would have to deal with them. Crap!
She shivered her skin cloak. The bristles of her real skin came to the surface. Drops of venom oozed from the tips of the bristles. She shook her head and the fin emerged from the top of the scalp. More venom moved to the edge. She dropped the jaw and shot out her tongue, jagged and lined with backward pointing tines.
It had only taken seconds, but his eyes were bulging. The tongue slashed him at the neck, and he dropped, unable to move. The gun was still in his hand. The other one was running towards her, weapon out. The noise exploded around her and she threw a barb from her hand to his neck. It stuck, and he froze in place near the beginning of the driveway.
She tried to walk towards him, but her body was somehow wrong. A deep hole in her chest was leaking fluid. The projectile shouldn’t have done her any harm. The beacon. It had hit her mobile beacon. The leaking fluid was highly toxic, and her body froze from the neck down.
She let her real teeth drop into her mouth and screeched. The pitch she needed was at the highest sonic frequency or the end-cycle device would not initiate. It wasn’t there yet. There wasn’t enough methane on this planet. She opened the mouth wider, dropped more of the human skin to give herself space in her secondary air-sacs and tried again. This time the scream reached the right pitch.
She felt the shock as the device activated. Just a few more seconds and it would be over. Click . . . click . . . click.