's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Blue Bloods

Submitted by Jacob Roberts

Every year more of us were lifted into the sky in their metal ships. An abduction could happen at any moment without warning, whether we were walking alone at night or eating dinner with our loved ones. The creatures who took us didn't care that they were tearing apart families and decimating our population, and we could do nothing to stop them. Their technology was as incomprehensible as it was barbaric.

From what little we knew of them, the creatures had arrived on our world relatively recently. Although they only appeared in a tiny fraction of our histories, it felt like they had been here forever. Some lost everyone they knew and loved before being taken themselves. I was one of the lucky ones, because they only took my parents.

A few weeks after disappearing, my father came back alone. Just like all the other abductees who returned, he didn't say much. He couldn't articulate what had happened to him or where my mother was, nor could he readjust to daily life. He died a month later, lethargic and depressed.

It would have been better if everyone came back, of course, but sometimes I wondered if it would have been even easier if no one returned at all. It was the uncertainty that really got to me. Should I keep waiting for my mother, or accept that she was dead? Even if she did reappear, would I be able to recognize her? Some of the abductees only found their way home years later, having been dropped off on the other side of the world where no one knew who they were. Like my father, they were listless and seemed incapable of forming new relationships.

I was sleeping alone in my bed when they came for me.

As soon as the bright beam of light woke me up and I felt vertical acceleration, I knew what was happening. I tried to run, but of course it was pointless. I was already inside one of their cages with dozens of others screaming and rattling the metal bars. We rose higher and higher into the sky until the atmosphere was too thin to breathe. Eventually I passed out.

When I awoke, I found myself in a brightly lit sterile room strapped down to a metal table. There were countless others on either side of me as far as I could see. Some of them were struggling in their bonds, although most were limp, either already dead or resigned to their fate. Many were severely injured and missing limbs. I almost passed out again when I recognized a pile of severed legs on the floor, but I forced myself to stay alert. The room's suffocating atmosphere didn't help.

One of the creatures that captured me seemed to notice that I was awake. It ambled toward me in long, uneven strides. I had never see one of them up close before, and I was morbidly pleased to confirm that its visage was as hideous as its reputation. Faded white skin hung loosely from its freakishly tall frame. Its squishy, blob-like head seemed to undulate back and forth as it walked. When it bent down to stare at me with two bulging eyeballs, I noticed that it had a flap of discolored skin covering half of its face and no sign of a mouth.

At least it wasn't going to eat me.

The first creature made a grunting noise, and a second creature appeared alongside it holding a long needle in one of its bony appendages. In one swift motion, it bent me over and stabbed the needle into my lower back. Indescribable pain blurred my vision, but I was not spared the view of my bright blue blood oozing out of the other end of the syringe and into a glass bottle. The creature jammed another needle into my neighbor and placed a bottle under him as well.

Soon the room was permeated by the stench of blood and death. Hundreds of bottles slowly filled up with blue liquid from our bodies. I squirmed and pushed all ten of my legs against the straps holding down my shell, but with every drop of blood that left my body I felt myself getting weaker.

Just as I was about to lose consciousness, it dawned on me that they were harvesting our blood. But what did they need it for? And why release the survivors? The resolve to learn the truth caused new energy to surge through my body. I fought with all the strength I had left and felt the restraints begin to move. I was not going to die today.


Claire pulled another needle out of the pocket of her white lab coat and stuck it into the last horseshoe crab.

"What now, Dr. Kowalski?" she asked.

Kowalski removed his surgical mask and hairnet before wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Let them bleed for about ten more minutes," he said, "then put this batch in the container that's going to be shipped back to the ocean tomorrow. We can sort out the dead ones later."

Claire nodded and started sweeping up the various claws and bits of broken shell that had fallen onto the floor. Then she paused.

"Dr. K, I was reading about this synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood developed in Singapore a few years back. Have you heard of it?"

"Ah, yes," said Kowalski. "I believe it is called Recombinant Factor C. The chemical is nearly identical to the Limulus amebocyte lysate we extract from the crabs, and is just as good at exposing contaminants in vaccines and medical equipment."

Claire frowned.

"But if we have a perfectly good substitute for crab blood, why are we still doing... this?" She gestured to the nearest table, stained blue from dozens of bleeding crabs.

Kowalski let out a hearty chuckle.

"If you're worried about job security, Claire, don't be," he said. "The process of manufacturing Recombinant Factor C is still quite expensive. Real horseshoe crab blood is renewable and harvesting it is comparatively cheap. We won't be closing down shop anytime soon, I can promise you that."

Kowalski stepped outside for a smoke break and Claire resumed cleaning. Then she heard a crash from the other side of the lab. When she went over to investigate, she saw that one of the crabs had somehow slipped out of its binding and was lying on the floor upside down. Its legs kicked the air helplessly as it tried to flip itself over.

Claire delicately picked up the crab and looked into the black, beady eyes that dotted the surface of its shell. One of its tiny claws lightly pinched her finger, but she pushed it away.

The crab started swinging its tail wildly, so she put it back on the table and tightened the strap over its shell. After reinserting the needle and making sure the blood was flowing properly into the container, she bent down and addressed the crab directly:

"Hey, at least you're not being mushed up for fertilizer anymore."