The warm, wet beads drifted down the front side of her naked body as an array of relief lifted from her being.
She sighed, eyes closed.
Her slender hands, now clasped at the top above her head, created shelter from the intense flow of water falling onto her silky brown hair.
The palms of her hands now covering her forehead, pulled their way down her face and against her neck, leaving a hint of red in the places where her fingers had pressed too hard.
Coming to her breasts she looked down at them, continuing her stroke on either side as the tips of her nails tickled her nipples, and she smiled, knowing that she might never feel human again.
A sound was heard.
She grabbed at the nozzle and twisted it tightly between her fingers…listening.
“Riko? Is everything okay?” she called out.
Still she listened, as the bits of droplets fell and slammed against the warm tile beneath her.
Still no response.
She leapt out of the shower, tossing a white towel around her, carefully tying it at the front as she walked about the house in search of the sound.
“Riko…” now said a little softer, as she continued down the hall, and came to an opening.
“Meya? What are you doing here?” she asked as she witnessed her friend standing above Riko, who was lying on the floor trying desperately to get up.
“Terra, I. I think they were trying to call me?” Riko managed to get past his lips, as he struggled some more.
Terra rushed to his side, on her knees, lifting him as best she could.
“Is that blood? You’re bleeding,” Terra said as heavy clots fell onto her white towel, and the crashing sound echoed in her head, louder than she expected.
“Yes. I’m changing,” Riko said as he sat up beside her.
“No. Not yet. They promised, after the auction, remember? They said if we found enough they would leave us alone. At least for a while, right?” Terra asked looking back into Riko’s jet black eyes which was mirroring her image completely.
“Oh no, your eyes,” Terra whispered, remembering that Meya was still standing beside them, “What are you doing here? They promised. Not until after the auction,” she continued in a rage as her fist flew and hit Meya’s leg.
Meya didn’t move.
Terra looked to her hand, which was throbbing with an intensity that she had never felt before.
“I’m too strong for you! Don’t even try. Besides, I could care less about your stupid boyfriend. Just give in, and maybe they‘ll make you a Transmorphian like me. Its better this way,” Meya said with a smirk, “Here’s the list. They all better be there,” she said as the paper fell to the floor and she walked off, out the door, leaving a trail of water in her wake.
“What happened?” Terra asked staring back at Riko.
“I answered the door. Meya walked in with the list and…ugh,” Riko muttered as a surge of pain crept back into his head.
“Riko, Riko, stay with me, they can’t change you. Not yet. Fight it,” Terra said as she shook him back and forth in her grip.
“I’m fine. I’m okay. It just hurts. I overheard the others talking about how your brain expands, and you suddenly feel…” he said looking back at her.
“Smarter?” Terra asked as tears filled her eyes.
“Yes. I do,” he nodded.
Terra watched as the blood that had been trickling down his face suddenly stopped and his open wound began to heal itself, as a shine grew in his eyes, revealing deeper black.
“Don’t worry. I’m still here. Give me the list,” he gestured as she handed it to him.
Riko read the note aloud:
2 Doctors (preferably white males)
3 Teachers (Astro-Physicists)
4 Mothers (Age 65 and above)
1 Diver (Young)
The rest between the ages of 20 and 40 preferably males
“What are we supposed to do about the children?” Terra asked.
“Do you think they’ll come with their children?“
“Last time, there were two. I asked them to call their grandparents to pick them up, and they did. This time I specifically said NO CHILDREN, but still.”
“Keep them busy, and as far away from the room as you can. We should be glad that they’re not asking for children. I don’t think they’ve acquired that taste yet,” Riko said as the two came to their feet.
“Get ready. They’ll be here soon,” Riko said as he hugged Terra.
Terra couldn’t feel his warmth, in the way she had before. He was cold and distant, though his actions said otherwise. Still she held on, as long as he would allow until he rushed off down the hallway.
The piece of paper flapped in the wind as he left. The sound echoing in her brain, as if she could hear each fiber clashing amongst the others in a symphony of crackle.
“What about the diver?” She yelled after him, “Should I…”
“Yes, you should. I wouldn‘t be able to come up with anyone else in such a sort amount of time.”
“Alright,” Terra said as she walked off to the kitchen to rummage through a drawer.
“Here it is.”
The tile was cold against Terra’s warm feet, when she realized there were puddles everywhere. Terra picked up the phone, walked over to the living room, and stood in front of it.
The heavy double doors were closed. The big brass handles were bound together by chains, with a lock at the bottom.
Terra dialed the number, bringing the phone to her ear.
“Yes, yes it’s me, Terra.”
“I haven’t heard from you in a while,” Diana said.
“I know and I’m sorry, but uh I was calling to invite you to the Auction that we’re having this evening.”
“Really! You want me there?”
“Yes! Yes of course I want you to come. I mean, we were full before, but luckily a spot just opened up, a cancellation. So make sure you come dressed up, but uh…leave Marcus at home okay? No kids aloud. You understand.”
“That’s too bad. You haven’t seen you’re…I mean. Marcus would love to see you. But, I understand. It’s a formal event. I can’t believe I’ll actually get to see one of your famous auctions. I’ll be there. What time?”
“Yeah…you will be one of our featured guests. 7:00pm sharp. I’ll see you tonight then?”
“See you then. Bye.”
The line clicked as the phone fell to the floor, muffled against the wet carpet.
The clock struck on the seventh hour, and the guests had already lined themselves up at the door.
“I can’t do this. I can’t do it. I just can’t. I can’t. Where will Marcus go? To another parent? I can‘t do that to him again. I can‘t,” Terra repeated to herself as she stood at the front door.
“Yes you can. You know we have to, or else they’ll change us,” Riko said as he walked up from behind her, sliding his arms around her waist, pulling her close.
“How did you know what I was thi…oh,” she said breaking away to turn and face him.
“Yeah. I got that to, about an hour ago. I can hear muffled thought from beyond the door. I’m guessing it isn’t clear because there is a wall in the way. But I feel as though I could sense them, even if my eyes were closed.”
“What about your eyes? They’re still too black to appear normal,” Terra warned as a knock was heard at the door.
“Come on, its seven o’clock, and its cold out here. Let us in,” a voice kindly demanded from the other side.
“Here. Can you put these in for me?” Riko asked as he handed Terra a small box which held a pair of contact lenses.
“How do I look?”
“Normal,” she replied.
“Good. Don’t look so worried. We’ll get through this. I promise. You know how this goes,” Riko continued while Terra kept herself from making complete eye contact.
“They give us the list, we set up the auction, they take in their knowledge, and we are left alone for another year. As long as we bring them what they want they can’t change us.”
“But you’re already changing,” Terra cried trying desperately to hold herself back.
“Shh, shh, I know. It’s probably just a threat, to make sure we don’t try to take off or something. It will be okay.”
“Okay,” she uttered wiping away her tears.
“Go ahead and open the door. I’ll be waiting for the guests in the living room, ready to seat them.”
Riko walked off to the living room doors, which were still chained shut. He took out a key from his pocket and undid the lock, tossing it and the chain in an upstanding trash can that lie against the wall.
The doors swung inward, locking themselves into place against the walls so that others might enter.
Riko stepped inside the dark damp space which was round in shape, and as big as a theatre. There were several seats made of heavy plastic facing inward, along the walls, leaving the center open and slightly lower than the rest of the floor. In the middle stood a podium, also made of plastic. Riko walked over to it and looked up at the ceiling.
“Riko,” he said.
“Voice recognized. Riko, what is your command?” a computer voice responded.
“Down,” he said, as a large oval shaped container appeared just above his head.
“Set up room, for, The Auction.”
“Setting room. The Auction,” the voice replied.
Suddenly the inner walls were brought down, in sync, to reveal a vast Aquarium with small fish that fluttered this way and that, attempting to come up to the thick glass which kept them at bay.
The room grew with a heavy glow. Light blues and faded greens shown all around while several tiny spotlights, made the ceiling appear as if its occupants were staring up at the stars in a midnight sky.
“The Auction. Now ready on your command,” the voice echoed as the first guest stepped inside the room.
“Ah, good evening. Right this way,” Riko said as he escorted the couple, and the many others that entered afterwards, to their seats.
Terra came in last, signaling Riko to join her.
The two spoke, under the low roar of the crowd.
“Everything is ready. The Lords came in first. They’re the ones with the green handkerchiefs in their front jacket pockets. All of them are wearing contacts. You can tell by the similarity in your eyes. See?” Terra pointed out as the two looked over at a couple of them, and they nodded back with a smile.
“Just the ten, that’s all they want. I confirmed the order at the door. The rest can be let out early. Here are the fake tickets. Give them to the ten, and announce that they will be staying for a private presentation of the next auction. I’ll be waiting above, in the rafters. Give me the signal when you’re ready,” Terra said hopeful.
“You seem happy,” Riko said.
“I am. No one came with children. Diana didn’t bring Marcus. As long as he’s safe, I’ll be happy,” Terra said with a smile.
“You will get him back. After today. They promised that we would be free after today. As long as we make no mistakes. We’ve gotten this far without a problem,” Riko paused.
Terra stared back intently.
“I know you’re worried he won’t remember that you’re his mother. But with time, he…he will remember,” Riko said wiping a tear from her face.
“I’m just glad he’s not here,” Terra said as she walked off to a side wall which hid a secret revolving door, and disappeared behind it.
Riko brought the double doors together, as the rubber lining sealed itself around the edges, and the room was completely enclosed.
“Let The Auction begin!” Riko said as he raised his arms above his head, making his way back to the podium.
The hours past like days as Terra waited in anticipation of the inevitable.
“And that concludes The Auction. Now I will read the list of lucky winners whom we will ask to stay behind to get a sneak peek into next year’s Auction.”
The doors were opened and shut, once again, when the list was read.
“Now that we are left with our winners, I would like you to all look up at the sphere in the center of the room, and enjoy the show,” Riko said as the room fell dark, except for the laminated sphere that was projecting the continuing show of antiques from far across the globe.
Riko snuck off to the hidden door, pulling the latch against it, while after dialing in a code, sealed the wall completely behind him. He then made his way up the stairs, and over to where Terra was sitting.
“How much longer?” Riko asked.
“Did you lower the walls?”
“I’m doing that now.”
A gasp in the crowd was heard as the heavy glass walls began to lower into the ground and water quickly spilled over onto its occupants.
“Help, let us out. Get us out of here!” a couple of them cried as they attempted to push and pull at the double doors, without any luck.
The video had stopped while the glow of the water returned and the occupants waded at the water’s edge, angered and afraid.
Terra and Riko watched. Hidden behind a tinted wall they were invisible to the others, who were below still searching for a way out.
“Look. There’s Mastious. Watch him,” Terra said as Riko looked over at a very tall thin man that began to jerk and transform.
His very pale skin changed to a heavy layer of denticles. He grew massively in size, stretching out from a large vertical back fin to a wide mouth face, with 3000 sharp teeth beckoning for a meal.
The others watched in fear as six other sharks appeared around them. Sharks which, for the moment, they had presumed to be men.
Mastious, and the other Lords, raced and ravaged back and forth between bodies, ripping away at lifeless limbs, swallowing heads whole, as a heavy red took the place of the clear blue water.
“I can’t watch anymore,” Terra said suddenly as she turned away, attempting to drown out the screams and cries of the helpless victims.
“You don’t have to,” Riko said holding her close when an unfamiliar voice was heard.
“Help! Mom, where are you!”
“What was that?” Terra said turning back in search of the sound.
“What was what?” Riko asked as the surging pain returned to his head and he quickly fell to the floor.
“That sound. I know that sound…that’s,” Terra said as she appeared from behind the wall and came out to the small deck which lead out above the tank.
“Marcus!” Terra yelled, when she noticed her son, doing his best to stay above water as he noticed her.
“Aunt Terra. Help me!” he cried when Mastious took note of the child as he gulped down the leg he had ripped off from one of the teachers.
“Riko! Riko, Marcus is down there!” Terra said starring back at him.
Riko eyes were closed while his body seemed to be convulsing through a fit, of some sort, as he began to change. Riko slid his way to the dock until he reached the edge.
“You have to kill them Terra. I won’t know you once I’ve become one of them. You’ll have to kill us all…ah,” Riko said as his body took on the form of the shark and he rolled off the deck, until he splashed into the water, breaking the connection Mastious had already made with Marcus.
With little hesitation, Terra reacted, jumping straight into the water.
“Ladder!” Terra commanded.
“Voice recognized. Ladder lowering,” the voice said as a small metal ladder emerged from beneath the deck, low enough for the two to climb out.
Marcus came up first while Terra watched closely behind, staring back at the bodily remains that floated about the tank, while the sharks continued to feast.
Once out of reach they watched breathless as the sharks came and went amongst the murky water.
“Where’s my mom? You have to save her. Aunt Terra, you have to,” Marcus said leaning over the edge, “Mom! Mom, where are you?”
“Don’t stand so close to the edge Marcus,” Terra said as she searched for something to use.
The room was mostly dark with a few heavy wires hanging from above.
Meanwhile Riko attacked Mastious from the side, in his full shark form. Sounds bounced around him, back and forth, telling him which direction to go. Mastious had little concern with Riko though, fixated on Marcus’s voice echoing beneath the water.
Terra reached above them, tugging on a cord that ran all the way across the ceiling.
“Help me pull this?” Terra urged, but Marcus was too concerned with finding his mother.
The cord came loose, while sparks flew out around them.
Mastious continued on, building up speed as he leapt himself out of the water jaw hung open. He was ready to clasp, as Terra pulled Marcus to the ground. She quickly shoved the power cord down Mastious’s throat, causing him to collapse his jaw. This brought him steadily back to the water jolting himself, as well as the others, in the same instance.
“Mom!” Marcus cried, knowing his mother had died.
“Riko,” Terra said lightly glancing over at all the sharks that were now motionless, frozen in time.
The two came to their feet as sparks flew around them.
“What were they? I saw them. They were humans…at first. Then they changed. And what where they doing here? What is this place?” Marcus asked as he rushed to Terra’s side, hugging her as tight as possible.
“How did you get here Marcus? Your mother told me you weren’t coming.”
“I was hiding in the back seat, on the way over. I saw you letting everyone in and I snuck in right past you. It was while you were talking to that tall thin man. I think he said his name was Mastious. I had heard about your famous Auctions from my mother. When she told me I couldn‘t come, I decided to come anyway. Did you know this was going to happen?”
“I see…you…have a lot of questions,” Terra said feeling afraid of what Marcus might think of her.
“Who were those men? Where did they come from? How do we know there aren’t more of them, out there? Are you…like them?” Marcus uttered, still unsure.
“No. I’m not one of them. But I do know who they are. They are known as the Opimify, from the planet Pluto. Yes, there are others. But the ones you saw were Lords, leaders of a sector that was in charge of changing, or Transmorphing humans into sharks.”
“But all they did was eat everyone. I only saw…Riko change.”
“They still have to eat,” Terra said looking down at him.
“Yes. There were seven of them, who myself and Riko knew of. They’ve kept us prisoner over the past nine years threatening to change us if we didn’t continue to feed them in knowledge.”
“So you gave them my mother?” Marcus said taking a step back.
“I had no choice! I tried to let her out with the others. But the Lords, they could see my thoughts. They kept her inside with the rest. I could feel Mastious reading my mind.”
“How could you let her die!?”
“You see, once they have consumed a being they retain the knowledge of that person. They only ask for the best…and your mother was one of the best. You don‘t have to worry anymore. We are safe now.”
“Are we safe? How can I trust you?”
“Yes…you can…trust me. More than you know.”
“Where will I go now? Will someone take me away, to a new home, again?” Marcus asked.
“No one can find out about this. They’ll never believe us anyway. We’ll have to run away together, and hope that the Opimify are truly dead…at least the ones that have already come to earth.
“I will stay with you aunt Terra, as long as you can keep me safe,” Marcus said burying his head into Terra’s stomach once again.
“You’re safe with me. And don’t worry, only those who have been bitten will begin to change…over time. Come on, let’s get out of here,” Terra said staring down at him with deep, dark black eyes as the two walked off to a side door, above the tank, out into the darkness.
Marcus limped along beside her, clutching his leg which was badly bruised from the attack and steadily bleeding…from the bite.