's 2016 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Luna

--- Memory Log #022, Lunae, 16. Gemini 3 ---

"It's amazing how close we are to death right now." Raza examined her arm and the fabric of the suit around it.

"Can you not say stuff like that?" Nadira only took small steps and her arms remained tight by her torso.

I stayed behind them, to keep them both in view. My eyes recorded their expedition. I would send the footage back to Earth in the evening. The first humans on Mars. I myself would be the first android, but not the first machine. In the same way Raza and Nadira weren't the first biological lifeforms here, counting the microorganisms. Still, it is a great achievement.

Nadira kept waddling on the red sand while Raza insisted on leaping into the air. Well, there was no air yet.

"Can we just please collect some samples and get back inside? You'll crack your helmet!"

"Do you think the terraforming will keep the gravity like this?" Raza tried to do a backflip but her body wouldn't spin fast enough.

"Violet is recording this, everyone on Earth will see you fool around!"

"And everyone will you see you standing around on Mars like a penguin covered in glue."

Raza let herself sink to the ground. "We're the first people on Mars, let's have some fun."

Nadira looked to me. "I can see why NASA would rather have an android do the record-keeping." She moved her hand to try and push up her glasses but was stopped by her helmet.

--- Memory Log #023, Lunae, 16. Gemini 3 ---

Raza put the box of sand and stone samples on the table in the community room. "Here are your fresh space rocks, Tim."

Tim didn't stop to thank her and just carried the box into his room with a grin like a kid carrying their first gaming console out of the store. That's how Raza would describe it. Tim never got the chance to work with Mars rocks back on Earth. Too many regulations to avoid a contamination with a space virus. If he mishandled it, everyone but me could die, but while he was excited, everyone knew he wouldn't be careless. I accessed the camera in his room. He sat on his bed, staring at the box on the table.

--- Memory Log #025, Lunae, 16. Gemini 3 ---

I send my report to Earth. It would take around a month to reach it and just as long for a response. The team at this station was effectively left to their own devices. NASA could just hope we stuck to the rules.

I did not require sleep, and so I remained in the community room. I had access to all cameras. There were even ones in the bathrooms, though toilet and shower were out of view, just the sink and mirror were visible. I checked in on everybody periodically. NASA requested me to also record the team doing silly things. They wanted to compile these for a motivational movie about humanity. To emphasize that these aren't just cold robotic scientists up here but people that live and laugh and love. Raza spend a long time brushing her teeth. That wasn't the cute video NASA had asked me for but I recorded it anyway. It'll probably end up unused.

--- Memory Log #033, Jovis, 19. Gemini 3 ---

I've only seen the doctor's office from the cameras before. As an android I never expected I'd need to go here.

"So, what is it that Tim can't help you with?"

I removed my facial skin to reveal the robotic skull behind it. I pointed to the object under my right eye.

"I noticed this yesterday." Organic matter had formed within my circuitry. Red flesh that stuck to the wires and boards inside my skull. "I have tried to remove but it caused me... I hesitate to call it pain."

Fumiko took a closer look. "That is... very strange." she whispered.

She picked up some instruments from her table. "Pain, you say? Bad pain?"

"It's the only pain I ever felt."

"Could you bear it again?"

For the first time in my existence I did not know how to answer. If I simply didn't know an answer I could just say that, but here... I knew it would not be harmful to me to endure pain again but there was something else... a strong desire... not to.

"This is probably very freaky to you, huh? To be honest... It's possible that this growth could register pain, however even if it send those signals to your system, your... brain, for lack of a better word, shouldn't be able to interpret it... I'll try to be careful, okay?"

Fumiko used a poker to prod the growth. It hurt but I sat still, even if I had to fight myself for it.

"It is fascinating. If we could figure out what this is and how it works..."

"Should it be removed?"

"Well... if you want it removed, I'll do it. I just... It'll be easier to find out how it functions while it... still functions."

"It does not interfere with me as long as I don't touch it. I suppose I could live with it."

"I should take a look at Raza and Nadira as well. Better just check everyone. Who knows where that thing came from?"

--- Memory Log #039, Veneris, 20. Gemini 3 ---

Nothing unusual was found about the rest of the team. I seem to be the only one affected by the growth. Was it attracted to machinery? Why would such a thing exist on Mars? Maybe that would explain the sudden disappearances of Mars rovers. Tim found nothing strange with the rocks. Scientists on Earth had already found the same, but he wanted to check for himself.

The past days Raza had been brushing her teeth excessively and had eaten more than usual. It was as if she had an itch inside her mouth she couldn't otherwise scratch. 

This evening she didn't brush as long. It seemed the itch had disappeared.

--- Memory Log #54, Solis, 1. Mithuna 3 ---

The growth behind my face has filled my entire skull. I start to worry it couldn't be removed anymore without damaging anything. I wish it wouldn't press against my face so much. It was irritating.

The team was determined to find out what sort of organism managed to latch onto me and why it sought out machinery. They sampled anything I could've come in contact with out there but found nothing. I was to remain inside the station for now. The expeditions would only be surveilled by helmet cameras, which I could view as well.

Nadira confessed her love to Raza outside on Mars. I didn't think she'd be the one to do it first.

--- Memory Log #059, Lunae, 2. Mithuna 3 ---

Raza grew very shy around Nadira. It's like she tried to be a whole different person. Her getting used to being in love would probably look very cute in the NASA movie. For some reason I am concerned that NASA won't ask permission for using this material before publishing it. Why would I worry about that?

--- Memory Log #072, Mercurii, 11. Mithuna 3 ---

We found the Mars rover Curiosity. It died. Asphyxiation. It had grown lungs. I hadn't sent NASA anything about the growths. Maybe it was time.

--- Memory Log #081, Saturni, 14. Mithuna 3 ---

I saw Raza in the bathroom. She discovered that she could extend her tongue for at least ten feet. She didn't brush that evening. Nadira was quite surprised when she showed her.

--- Memory Log #084, Solis, 15. Mithuna 3 ---

Fumiko found nothing wrong with Raza's tongue, apart from the fact that it's far longer than humanly possible. It was still perfectly operational, bordering on prehensile and since it could be fully retracted into her abdomen, it caused no issues with eating or speaking. Raza wanted to keep it.

--- Memory Log #090, Lunae, 16. Mithuna 3 ---

No mutations had been found on Nadira or any others who had been outside. Organic life was affected as well. Fumiko had been embarrassed she assumed otherwise. Of course a growth of flesh would be hard to detect in a body already made of flesh. Especially a growth that isn't tumorous and forms fully functional appendages.

--- Memory Log #104, Martis, 3. Cancer 3 ---

I no longer wore my face. The one underneath left no room for it anymore. I liked it more anyway. It was a strange sensation to have preferences but it was easy to get used to. I was designed to imitate emotion in my speech. It just came naturally now.

--- Memory Log #112, Mercurii, 18. Cancer 3 ---

Nadira found out she hadn't been left unaffected either while in the shower. From her hip to her wrist her skin could fold out to form bat-like wings. They had no solid bones but rather something else that could turn solid at will and essentially liquefy to allow her to fold the wings back in.

Again, these growths don't seem to be harmful, even beneficial. Tim likened all affected to the Fantastic Four.

--- Memory Log #166, Saturni, 28. Cancer 3 ---

There was this phrase. No one can hear you scream in space. The same was still true on Mars. No atmosphere, no air for sound to travel through. So what the hell was going on outside?

--- Memory Log #175, Solis, 1. Karka 3 ---

Being able to penetrate the thick hull of the station, the screams must be unbearably loud. We all stayed inside for as long as it would last. Unfortunately all outside cameras had stopped working at the same time it started. We had noticed that most of them have grown organs but some cameras had managed to survive with them. Now they seem to all be dead.

--- Memory Log #214, Mercurii, 4. Virgo 3 ---

It took months. No one else had developed any mutations. Whatever caused them, it only happened during the first expedition. Raza and Nadira had already adapted to using their new body parts in everyday life and everyone else got used to it. We got a message from NASA. They told us we were quarantined on Mars until it could be confirmed this growth was not contagious or deadly. It probably wasn't. But could we prove it? Tim had gone outside at some point. It wasn't like him to let his curiosity get the better of him. He never returned.

--- Memory Log #217, Jovis, 5. Virgo 3 ---

Now that the screams have stopped, we cautiously let a robot with a camera outside to check. Everything was as we remembered it. The robot grew no flesh in the time it was outside.

--- Memory Log #284, Solis, 1. Kanya 3 ---

By the beginning of the 20th month, we had the guts to move out ourselves again. I was allowed to go out myself as well, along with my friends from the first expedition and Fumiko, her first time outside. The growth seems to have stopped once my face had fully formed. If I start to grow flesh on other body parts, I'd be kept inside again for observation. I wonder if I could form a complete human body like that. I think it would be nice to have skin all around. Especially on my hands. I rarely touched anything with my face. I wish I could smell. I wish I'd grow a tongue like Raza. Maybe today would be my lucky day.

--- Memory Log #288, Solis, 1. Kanya 3 ---

Due to the lack of atmosphere on the moon, there was no wind or anything to wipe away any imprints left on its surface. They say the first astronauts footsteps were still visible in the moon dust. We found the imprints of bare feet. They were far apart. The low gravity would elongate the space between steps. It was an unsettling sight but it could have been just a machine growing functional legs. We were unsure if we had left any devices outside.

--- Memory Log #299, Martis, 3. Kanya 3 ---

For some reason the screaming did not enter the cave. It was entirely soundless in here. Raza's helmet had cracked when it began and while all the air was sucked out of her suit, she was fine. Her body remained intact even without any pressure holding it together and she breathed in and out, even if it made no sound. Was this a side effect of the growth? How would that work? We were unable to leave the cave and it might take another couple month until the screaming stopped. I had not yet developed ears and I could turn off my hearing entirely, however the soundwaves did a number on my fine circuitry. My right arm was completely unresponsive.

--- Memory Log #312, Mercurii, 4. Libra 3 ---

As we feared to die of starvation, I decided to take my chances and go outside to try and get some food from the station. Raza could use her tongue to pull me back in before my body was entirely destroyed. I can't move anymore. My eyes have been destroyed but I could still see through Nadira's and Fumiko's helmet cameras. They propped me up against the cave wall but I preferred to lie face down. I could feel the Mars sand on my cheek. It was foolish anyway. Even if I got food, there was no way for Fumiko to eat with her suit on. I decided based on impulse instead of logic. Should I regret that?

--- Memory Log #315, Jovis, 5. Libra 3 ---

Raza prayed for us. Could androids be religious? Was there a god for the soulless?

--- Memory Log #316, Veneris, 6. Libra 3 ---

Nadira took off her oxygen tank. It was the safest way of seeing whether the growth would let her breathe without air. If so, developing the growth was Fumiko's only hope for survival.

--- Memory Log #317, Veneris, 6. Libra 3 ---

Nadira did not asphyxiate. I wondered what went wrong with the Mars rover. The threat of dying of thirst was the greatest concern left. Nadira left her helmet on at my request.

--- Memory Log #318, Veneris, 6. Libra 3 ---

When we woke up, we found a bucket of water near us. The bucket had no handle, it was a simple a container, basically just an artless, bent piece of metal. Raza drank from it with no sense of caution. Nadira removed her helmet to drink next. They noted it was strange to drink with weaker gravity. It did not taste like the water from Earth, if it even was water. Fumiko would die of thirst otherwise, so she decided to take her helmet off and see whether she had developed the growth. She was okay. She drank and while they were still hungry, they could make it a little longer. We found barefoot footsteps coming from deeper into the cave. We decided to find out who brought us water. 

--- Memory Log #319, Saturni, 7. Libra 3 ---

We could not speak with the being we found. They looked human, though lacking any sort of sexual characteristics. We assumed it was a machine that grew an entire body. They were eager to show us where they found the water. They looked so proud to be able to show someone. The cave ended in a dead end but out of the wall poked a faucet. They turned it on and water poured out of it in a steady stream. 

--- Memory Log #322, Solis, 8. Libra 3 ---

Tim came into the cave. We only knew it was him after he was killed. Or rather, the thing walking around with him. His space suit was covered in skin. A face stretched over his bulbous helmet. It almost looked like it was smiling. His face inside certainly wasn't. He must've died a while ago, while his suit had grown the means to move without him. It's internal organs were sealed between the suit and its skin and littered it's torso with bumps. The grown human took the initiative to crush its heart with their hands.

--- Memory Log #324, Lunae, 9. Libra 3 ---

We were hungry. I keep saying we. I wasn't. The grown human started tearing off the skin of the suit and ate it.

"It wouldn't be human meat, would it?" Fumiko reasoned.

--- Memory Log #356, Veneris, 27. Libra 3 ---

The screaming stopped and we returned to the station. We burned Tim's remains. No one had eaten from him. Just the skin of the suit. The meat that grew on our own suits as well. Fumiko took a sample just to prove to herself that it wasn't in any way human skin. It wasn't. Possibly not even mammalian. With Tim gone no one could repair my body. At least my face was still intact. The grown human had remains of MER-A inside their body, which Earth had lost contact to in 2010.

--- Memory Log # 404, Jovis, 12. Capricornus 4 ---

The being we had heard screaming woke up. We felt it inside us. Even I did.

--- Diary Log #011, Jovis, 12. Capricornus 4, Final Entry ---

I experienced my first kiss.

--- Memory Log #405, Jovis, 12. Capricornus 4 ---

Hello, Raza, Nadira, Fumiko. If you read this, then I assume you managed to flee the planet. Some of my logs have been corrupted from the scream and some I restored from memory. Bring them back to Earth. If you can catch a glimpse of whatever is outside, you should record that too. I am morbidly curious what it would look like myself. I hope it doesn't destroy all the cameras in the station before I can get a good look. I also added the last entry of my diary which I started writing a while ago. Just the one though, the rest is private. I think you know what that one is about.

I hope NASA will be alright with you breaking quarantine. You lived with all those unaffected people at the station without them contracting the growth from you. Even if that led to their demise. I'll have to hurry up if I want you to take the drive with my logs with you.

Point is, I'm a happy robot, because you are my friends and I'm glad to have spent my time on Mars with you. I'm sorry I can't come with you but there would be no point. My systems are breaking up. I don't know why. Why now? I think it's that creature. It's already inside me. I think it's something that happened when I was exposed to its scream. Now that it's awake... Anyway, I love you. I think I know what that means now. I love you. I'm disconnecting from this drive now before this corruption manages to slip onto it.

Stay safe.

--- Diary Log #012, Saturday, 7. June 2024 ---

I'm a fool, aren't I?