Threads of Pearl, Writhing by Gwendolyn Clare

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 23, 2014 in Reviews

Buzzy Mag
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Elizabeth Felsen is one of just a few uninfected humans left aboard a station at the edge of human space.  She sneaks about in the air vents, trying to do any little thing she can to sabotage the tiny, tentacled aliens that have taken the station’s inhabitants as mindless hosts, pumped full of artificial bliss and happiness. Elizabeth is on the path to finding a cure, along with the aid of her husband–each time risking discovery and infection.

Like always, I go straight for the communications panel while Angelo watches the door. They turned the quarantine broadcast off again since the last time we checked. The parasitized humans aren’t particularly bright or motivated, but occasionally, one of the gossamers manages to steer its host human into the control room and undo all our security measures. The gossamers are content for now, but as they use up the humans aboard the station, they’ll grow more desperate for a starship to take their species to greener pastures. Like a planet.


Jellyfish image by yuxi3200, Creative Commons

As it is, I have to restart the quarantine broadcast and re-engage the lockdown on all docks. I send a quick status update to the xenoparasitologist who was assigned our case, along with a request to resend the last incoming message—which they erased.

Angelo wanders over from his post by the door to look over my shoulder. He plants a soft kiss on my neck.

“No news,” I whisper. “They deleted it.”

His lips move close to my ear. “You know, Liz, those meat puppets are starting to really get on my nerves.”

I throw an annoyed glance over my shoulder. He knows I don’t like it when he calls the hosts meat puppets. Our friends are still in there somewhere. But I get what he means; I never imagined an alien invasion would be so soft and tedious.

That last line was the one that made me smile, and maybe salivate a little. That’s the point, a mere few hundred words in,  when I settled into the story and prepared myself for how awesome this was going to be. Well played, Gwendolyn. The aliens in this are perfect. I thought we were heading towards a menacing Borg infestation, but in this story we have something even more sinister: aliens that make you happy. The hosts go about their daily routines (with scrawny alien jellyfish lodged in their throats) in a blissful fog, barely any motivation, thank goodness. A little gumption, and this infection would have spread so much more quickly. But the gossamers seem to be content with their slow and monotonous invasion…or are they?

This story is full of tension, and will have you on the edge of your seat. The twists and turns are amazing. Nothing goes according to plan, and there’s just the right balance of emotion and action. Though the ending is somewhat telegraphed, it’s still a good one, and deeply satisfying. If you’ve got a tentacle fetish, this one’s definitely for you. And if you don’t have a tentacle fetish, come closer, dear one, and open wide.

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