's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Xeno "

Submitted by Evan MacNeil

Darkness. Just darkness. That's all I can see. Pitch black. But I can feel plenty: something muscular and leathery wrapped around my neck, wet flesh pressed against my cheeks. And worst of all, the rubbery tube that probes down into my throat, forcing its way past my lips.

The last thing I could remember was the chamber where I found the eggs. I'm guessing that's what they are, or else maybe some kind of fucked up biological...bomb? I'd looked closely at one, tried to figure out what was inside. There was an indistinct shape squirming about within, visible faintly through the membranous exterior. And then, as I reached out to touch it, the top split open and the thing leapt out like a jack-in-the-box.

It latched onto my helmet, melting through the glass, some kind of hideous pale spider-thing, hissing and scrabbling. I screamed and tried to swat it away but the thin legs wrapped around behind my head and the tail whipped around my throat. Soon I was unconscious, or I must have seemed that way to the crew. I couldn't move, and I still can't. My muscles must have been locked, somehow, perhaps paralyzed by whatever the creature was doing to me. But I could feel my body, feel the thing on my face, feel the thing it had forced inside my mouth. I feel as if I'm being smothered, choked, drowned, all at once. Is this what dying is like? Is this all a hideous nightmare?

They brought me in and kept me in the medical bay. I can hear their voices, discussing methods to remove the thing, the chances of my survival. They tried already, but I don't know what they did, and apparently it didn't work something about acid. I hope they aren't trying to burn me.

Then, one day, it let go and dropped off. But my eyes were still shut, and my whole body was still frozen. It's a torture I can't fully describe, to yearn so much for freedom only to be trapped within your own body. I would be screaming for help if only I could. I hear them come in, and there's a scream as they find the thing that used to be on my face. Did it kill one? Are they just surprised? They speak in quiet voices, too quiet to hear.

My senses slowly return. I have been conscious for days, trapped within my mind, unable to move. When my eyes finally open, the image is dim. My muscles feel weak when I regain control of them. I feel like a tiny creature floating inside an enormous machine, too large and difficult to control. But I do my best. It's an uneasy feeling.

The crew question me. I don't know how to explain what I went through. I tell them it was a dream. I don't want them to think I'm crazy. If they get concerned, they might keep me in the medical bay. I'm done with being locked up, whether it's inside my body or inside a room. I need to be free. Over the hours my senses get worse. I can hardly see, and my movements are hard to control. It's as if I'm shrinking on the inside. I can feel myself slipping away.

The crew decides to have a celebratory dinner. The food is tasteless, but I can't tell if that's because it's low quality or because my tongue is almost completely numb. Nobody seems concerned. It's like my body is on autopilot. I crack a few jokes, but I'm not in control of my mouth. I'm tiny and helpless now. I'm a separate entity within the man who used to be me. I can feel where I am, within him. And I need to get out.

Then I lose control completely. The body is no longer part of me. It's empty, hollow. A mask for what's inside. I'm doing my best to escape it, to break the mask. The body starts to cough and convulse, and the crew looks concerned. They stare at it. I'm ignoring them, trying to break free. I can feel the meat and bone surrounding me, and I'm squirming about trying to punch through, trying to show them the beautiful being within the man they used to know. But now the body is practically having a seizure, and they're restraining it. The pin it flat on the table. It's much easier to get out this way. I strike once more and I'm out.

I emerge in a burst of blood and shredded fabric. I look around. The food has been scattered across the table in all the commotion, and the pool of blood is spreading. The crew is standing in horror, frozen in dead silence except for a few muttered curses. I look at the body, lying dead below me, his ribcage shattered. It had served its purpose well, but I am finally free. I wish they could see how beautiful I am. How perfect I am.

Someone grabs a knife, and they're about to stab when the captain holds him back. How dare he? Why can't he see that I've evolved, that I've grown?

I know they can't accept me yet. I know they'll try to do something about me. I scamper off, so much faster than I ever was before, and disappear from sight. Their screams of terror echo through the halls behind me.

I grow quickly. Soon I am even larger than a man. I crawl up into some dark corner of the ship and hide, watching myself grow with every hour. I am no longer a man. I am something greater.

I can feel myself. I can feel every inch of my perfect form. The pulsating length of my skull, the tubes that sprout from my spine, the tail that writhes behind my hulking body, the inner mouth frothing on the end of my tongue. I hide in the darkness, curled up, my claws clutching onto pipes and tubes. I can feel muscles within my body that I never had before. I can sense the people walking through the halls of the ship, perceiving them in ways I never knew of before. I can tell they are afraid, but they wouldn't be if only they understood how beautiful I am, how sleek and strong and perfect and powerful they all could be.

So here I am, waiting, deep within the bowels of the Nostromo. I need them to know what it's like. And the only way I can is to make them like me.