Creeping Up On Titan
by Roger Lovelace

Itamar Reiner             

     Sometimes there are these inward desperate screams and I feel warped from jarring collisions in my skull. Being a prisoner of Titan means having your wits snapped...your mental marrow sucked dry.

     After the Titans stormed us, my shipmates and I were jerked from the disintegrating rocket and stripped of our pressure suits. They clamped a jelly-like organism or mechanism over our faces that fed us rich, sweet oxygen.  A benthic, colony life form grew rapidly over our bodies and kept us safe from the pressure and temperature of the methane ocean.

     Inside my head the Titans are buzzing like crickets, but not gentle crickets, and I can only scream inward.

     The mission was the second to this marvelous exotic moon. The first astronauts had been lost and declared "M.I.A."  I fear they died horribly and the same fate awaits us.

     My eyelids became pale and then translucent some time ago, and there is no shutting out the sights of this alien benthos.

     The Titans themselves look a bit like old fashioned woodcuts of sea monsters and half-gods, being both beautiful and deadly.

     The Titan men have fins with slivers and streams of moving light flowing over the rays of them glow. They watch us with large gold eyes, and swim about, occasionally prodding us with a metal rod that feels like a giant tuning fork. Sometimes the vibrations are faint and I hate myself for becoming erect under its touch. Other times my bones feel they are shattering. I'm certain I'm deaf now.

     Their women are beautiful, languid, living jewels.

     I wonder if our God is the same.

     My mates and friends on board The Cape of Good Hope are now nine other pale cocoons anchored around me. Behind them in the distance a maelstrom is turning and it is slowly drawing nearer. The fear in me threatens to explode.

     The cocoon that I think is Pilot Fairbanks quivers and the Titans swim to him. We had become lovers on the journey from L-7, and now I think the locals are devouring him. But it's hard to tell, the maelstrom is churning up the gray and glowing sediment, into a thick cloud that encases them.  

     The methane clears and the Titans are away. The pod that contained Fairbanks is a blank placenta and it shrivels like a balloon on a string while I watch. The remaining cluster swirls gently in a current pushed from the approaching storm.

     I feel like retching and the thick plasma over my face forces a stem down my throat and pumps my gut. My puke is a thin liquid released into the sea, where it freezes into a ball in front of me. The stem retreats back into the mask.

     I wonder if a mission from Earth will be sent soon, but I already know the answer. Flights to the planets are being launched every month in a rush to settle and harvest the wild moons and somber planets revolving around Sol.

     The Titans are coming again and the lead has a beard of braided crystals and is carrying something in his arms. It looks alive and I wonder if it is crying. It looks like something that might cry.  Inside my head the crickets are gnawing away at my humanity and I shake. He sticks the squirmy slug to my face and it starts to suck.

     The death of my body is pleasant. I actually feel death in my toes, traveling up my legs, and soon I'm fully absorbed by the young Titan sea slug.  And even as I wonder if any of my soul will be retained, I see my desiccated body through the eyes of the newborn.             

Roger Lovelace lives and writes in Alabama.