Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Space, however, can still be created from nothing and exist with or without matter. Since the origin of the universe, entropy and rebirth have been the force behind galaxies, new ones being created and others disappearing into black holes in complete silence or supernovas in an utter cacophony of chaos. In one spiral galaxy, a series of planets orbited a star, and one of these planets gave rise to life. The space around them had yet to be explored, but with each new satellite and telescope these life forms sent out, the possibility of finding life elsewhere became more probable.
From the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, scientists on a planet called Exomun believed there could be similar life forms in the nearest galaxy, The Milky Way. They formed a most ambitious plan to further explore this idea. A series of life pods was launched into space with the mission to verify that intelligent life did exist on the third planet. Designed to withstand extreme temperatures and speed, each life pod contained a single entity: a humanoid designed to mimic and adapt to whatever life forms might be out there. The primary life pod contained Phaedra; the other life pods contained back-up material should the first pod fail or not reach its destination.
The life pods touched down in a wooded area on Earth, far from populated towns. This gave Phaedra a chance to power up and get accustomed to the lesser amount of sunlight and heavier atmosphere. She did not notice where the other pods landed because her initial purpose was to gather information from the new world, fold it into her prior knowledge, and then stream it back home. She spent nearly a year wandering about, observing various life forms, understanding hierarchies, and the most difficult task: analyzing humanity.
From the time she first encountered her first human, she felt a deep longing for her home planet. She was designed specifically for this expedition; however, she was also a hybrid based off the framework of an Exomunian. She retained those thoughts and feelings and felt that she was perceived as an outsider on this planet.
The US Government was keenly aware of her presence. Desperate to capture her before any other country had a chance, they kept their best surveillance measures on her. This would take an enormous amount of time and money, but they were relentless and increasingly frustrated.
Phaedra sensed they were after her again. She turned around and spotted a black Chevy S-10. She wondered how many would be involved in today’s chase, how many people would be hurt in the fruitless hunt for her. Through the main street of town, she started running down the sidewalk, gliding through the throngs of people with the ease of a ghost. She felt her pulse ease off and her breathing become more regular, good signs that her defense system was back up. This was part of her engineering; she was designed to excel physically but with little or no energy expended. The ultimate in fuel efficiency.
She paused, looked up, and ducked into a large, nondescript corporate building. This would do, Phaedra thought. Why does he want to catch me so badly? She walked through the lobby, unnoticed, and found an emergency door in the back, leading to a covered walkway connected to an additional building. The weather was changing, and she felt it in her skin.
Phaedra escaped into the second building, entering through the huge glass doors. She looked left and decided to run right. She ran up flight after flight of stairs, twisted in sharp angles as an aesthetic afterthought. Along the edge of the wall, she felt the damp cold coming through. Once she reached the top, she jumped into the narrow head space above the end of the stairwell, and lay perfectly still, listening as only she could listen.
She heard Ethan opening the same door she had entered but taking only a few steps. He stopped, nearly breathless, his face betraying his disappointment. Smiling, she thought about how easily she could disappear. Phaedra enjoyed this cat-and- mouse game and lost most of her fear of him. He seemed to know when it was impossible to find her.
She had eluded him once again. She searched her brain for the impetus that pulled her to this point in her life, but only hazy memories stirred like leaves in a dust devil. She couldn’t clearly remember anything from her distant past; her future now revolved around uncovering the missing parts of her life. She rested for a moment, making sure she heard no more noise, and then nimbly jumped down from her perch and opened a maintenance access door. She climbed up onto the roof, and looked down. She could see Ethan’s truck pulling out of the parking lot. Waiting until she was sure he was out of sight, she leapt off the roof onto the ground, five stories below. Landing cat-like on the pavement, she headed off down the street to find a place to rest.
As she meandered down the boulevard, she looked at the sights so eerily familiar to her. The tall buildings, the ornate streetlights, the noisy people going about their daily business, the smell of shops selling their fresh meats and pastries. Every sense ablaze with passion, she jumped through a shimmer of water from a man hosing down his vegetables. He waved at her; she smiled back.
At last, she found someone else’s home to rest in for a while. Phaedra sensed no recent warmth, and without hesitation, she decided this domicile would do. Checking out the carport, she closed her eyes and let the day’s events flow from her. She didn’t know that Ethan had become wiser and waited, knowing her distinct patterns, and had followed her. Now parked across the street, he observed her.
Next door, two hired handymen were putting away the last of their cleaning tools. Seeing that someone was next door, they decided to have some fun at the end of their workday. “I hear an angel singing,” Jerry said to his partner. “Look over there. Behind the carport,” he added. The second guy looked over, and his eyes grew wide.
“Looks like a challenge. Let’s go over and meet them,” Ken smiled wickedly.
She was leaning against the wall, watching her enemy. As she became lost in a thought, her other emerged and began singing an ancient song of unrequited love and longing. She was no longer aware or part of the present; locked in her thoughts, she became vulnerable for the first time in this world.
The men walked over and silently crept up behind them.
From across the street, Ethan sat back in his seat. How could I miss? I am so close, he thought. He’d been after this girl for years, and just when he was about to close in, she disappeared, an ethereal wisp. He glanced up, and what he saw brought him to a standstill. There, across the way, stood Phaedra, leaning against a wall. He squinted and discerned a second woman standing next to her. That’s so unlike her, he thought. To be out in the open like that. What he saw next stirred him to action, one he never thought he’d be capable of. Two men, strangers to him, were standing behind her and the other woman. One of them reached around Phaedra, and held her tightly.
Phaedra was frozen, still lost in thought. None of her senses worked right when she was in this state, and she was thrown off balance, thinking about Ethan. She didn’t know why, but she felt helpless, and finally knew how they felt. “Whadya say we go and have some fun now?” Ken whispered hoarsely into her ear as he pressed himself against her, his rancid breath near her face. She was revolted by this neanderthal, but at the same moment unable to move. She started to struggle, but moved very weakly. “Oooh, don’t try to fight it now. I saw you standing there, and you were waiting for me, weren’t you?” he laughed. Jerry was searching the carport in vain for the other woman they had seen, but she was nowhere to be found.
Ken didn’t see the punch coming. In one move, Ethan had knocked the brute out, releasing Phaedra across the carport. Dazed at first, she locked pleading eyes with Ethan for just an instant and then vanished across the yard. Did he see something in those eyes? Ethan’s imposing figure was moving quickly toward Jerry. “I swear, man, I didn’t do nothing. We were just, ya know, looking for a little piece. No harm.” Jerry was backing up, and he added, “I figured two of them, two of us...”
“You saw two?” said Ethan, confirming what he saw earlier. “Describe the other one,” he demanded.
Terrified, Jerry mumbled, “I don’t know, from a distance they looked alike, I dunno, sorta like twins.” Ken came to, and when he saw Ethan, fear and pain crept into him, and he started running back across the lawn. Jerry took his chance. “Gotta run. Bye!” Jerry shouted as he joined Ken in a flash. They started their work truck up and peeled out of the neighbor’s driveway.
That’s highly unusual, Ethan mused. She becomes two at will.
How wrong he was.
The touch of that strange man’s arms around her body burned her. Phaedra shuddered at the thought; trembling, she vowed she wouldn’t make that mistake again. Whenever she lost her focus and allowed her mind to wander, the other appeared. Unbidden, her alter was given form and voice. She was determined never to let that happen, to be vulnerable to anyone on this planet, not even to Ethan, the only person she cared about.