Одна моя знакомая организовала в Джакарте так называемый "писательский клуб" - на самом деле, просто благородный повод для жутко общительных и жутко стеснительных индонезийцев встретиться и пообщаться, хотя авторы, и впрямь неплохо владеющие виртуальной клавиатурой, тоже иногда заглядывают. Суть еженедельных встреч такова: оглашается тема, и в течение получаса все участвующие пишут на неё короткий рассказ, очерк или стих. Впрочем, стихов, кажется, ни разу не было, разве что "стихи в прозе". Так или иначе, я с удовольствием подключаюсь к игре, когда оказываюсь в столице, и пару таких быстро приготовленнык экспромтов рискну опубликовать здесь.
Рассказ первый. Тема:
From the air the scene looked like a crazy god's kaleidoscope - strikingly aquamarine blob of the alien spaceship, beelines of scientists in orange bio-hazard suits, a pulsing amoeba of whites and grays - a mob of government officials - then concentric rings of the military, their forest camouflage making them stick out like a sore thumb against the black of wet tarmac. The well-behaved alien actually landed on a runway, as if it could know what airports were for.
-11.6. It's time. Watch for it now.
Dr. Hansen slid open the helicopter's door, leaning dangerously outside.
- Bet on rats! - he yelled, barely making himself audible in the din of the whirling rotors.
- Last time you bet on cats. Me - on sparrows. Who won? - Jason projected tiredness with every word he muttered. He didn't ever care whether Dr. Hansen could hear him.
- Both, i guess. - the alien craft spat a cloud of dust, no doubt a mad hybrid of mushroom spores, earthworms and goats, or something like that, and went silent. 11.6 minutes to go. Hansen shut the door and pulled himself into a less suicidal position. - They did have wings. And fur. And retractable claws.
- Yes. And human faces. And guts on the outside - or what do you call those organs?
- Unimaginable horror. There's no way to label those - no life form has anything like it. As far as i can tell, those were siphons for collecting CO2. Taken out of plants, apparently, transformed to fit a mammalian body.
- Can we conclude...
- Haven't you had enough? We can't conclude a bloody thing. This spaceship, or whatever it is, just came out of nowhere, landed here ignoring Newton's laws like a trite joke, lured hundreds of animals and at least 4 men inside by unknown means, and started sending waves of abominations once every 11.6 minutes, most of them aggressive but half-dead the moment they hatch out of its pores. We know that's not the crew, the DNA is all ours, from our own biosphere, just mixed up in some genetic blender. If the aliens are trying to send a message, fine, i'll take that, but ask someone else to read it. I'll just watch the show. In fact...
Cracks of machine gun fire from below interrupted his monologue, and the cabin tilted as the pilot veered left.
- What's that? - shouted Hansen, whose window now faced away from the commotion.
- A guy just got caught. A researcher. Just went in through the wall, or the carapace, if that thing is what we assume it is.
So far, the leading theory was that the alien spacecraft wasn't a spacecraft at all, but a living organism. A single cell, or, more likely, a single gargantuan organic molecule functioning like a cell. An extraterrestrial coacervate, evolved quantitatively rather than qualitatively. Propulsion - unknown. Metabolism - undecipherable. The outer shell was impenetrable to anything, from high-caliber bullets to X-ray scanners, but would let animals pass in an out at random. Planetary life in; monsters out.
- Here's our casualty toll rising. You know, for just a show, as you said, the tickets are too costly. - grunted Jason.
- I agree. This has been my advice since we got the first data: nuke the damn thing to hell, i'm sure its not invulnerable enough to survive 100 MT.
- But the potential discoveries, technologies...
- What technologies? Watch!
Just as Hansen said it, alarm beeped on his watch: 11.6 minutes. Circus time. And the alien didn't disappoint this time: stepping through the shell, suddenly soft and flowing like sour cream, a new wave of monsters burst into daylight. They had the general outline of the recently consumed man, but with spider legs, tens of eyes on flexible stalks and what could be either a rough parody on the oxygen tanks of the protective suit or folded wings - or, more likely, something even worse - on the back. The front side lacked skin, showing muscles and internal organs. Most of the creatures collapsed immediately, twitching in agony; the few that managed to stumble painfully in the direction of human encampment were mowed down by the troopers. Scientists rushed out to gather samples.
Jason pointed at the still-moving bodies.
- What technologies?! Think of it! Synthesizing an impossible cocktail of DNA, then molding it into grown, functional flesh in a matter of minutes! What could we learn from a creature like this - if could only read his language!
- You think it's a language, then? Letters written in amino-acids?
- Yes, of course!
- Letters to whom?
- To us!
- You know, Jason, you have always been square. Bright, i grant you this, but incapable of thinking outside the box. Consider: this creature speaks in organic molecules - which is nothing unusual, even our ants are presumed to do that. By the way, this is how it collects its specimens, in all likelihood - some pheromones taking over the victim's will. What is life to it, a swirling pattern of sophisticated bio-chemistry? Not a conversation partner, but a text, a piece of art maybe. Like a poem or a song. It doesn't talk to us; it reads us, listens to our melodies.
- But then, why the monsters? Why reply to a song?
Dr. Hansen looked at his watch - there was still enough time till the next wave - and sighed:
- You can't expect me to comprehend the proceedings of an alien mind. But if you want my opinion, it simply enjoys singing karaoke. And it's always out of tune.