Aphelion Issue 222, Volume 21
October 2017
 
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Revs

by Chris Bailey




"Mom, there’s one in the kitchen!"

"What’s that, honey?"

An impatient stamping and Belle, gangling and pouting, appeared round the door.

"I said, there’s one in the kitchen. A rev!"

"Oh Christ… Well, there’s nothing I can do about it."

Linda went anyway.

The rev, grey and indistinct, was drifting aimlessly. As they did. It was human in size and proportion but it had only a suggestion of legs, of arms, a head and a face. Its movements, from counter to oven to freezer, appeared entirely random. Linda stared in appalled fascination as it flowed through the table in the centre of the room. Sometimes its - feet? - vanished into the floor and at others it floated a few inches above. Its relationship with its surroundings was - uncertain.

Suddenly it was beside Linda and it brushed against her bare arm. Her skin tingled as if with the tickle of some cold glassy jelly, and she stepped back, shuddering. Revs had never been seen to pass through a living organism, but you could never be too sure.

The rev flicked away again and this time slipped through the wall. Linda watched through the window as it floated across the yard and through the fence, and she let out her breath. They weren't harmful, so far as anyone knew - but she just didn't like having them around. Belle strolled unconcerned into the kitchen.

"You got rid of it, mom?"

Belle spoke as if the rev had been some sort of minor household pest.

"You know they can't be got rid of!” Linda’s voice was anxious. “They come from elsewhere and they go to wherever, all in their own sweet time."

Belle smiled brightly. She did not share her mother’s unease.

"They mean no harm, mom. Mebbe you scared it off! I'm going out now."

"Hey, where? Who you seeing?"

"Just hanging out!"

And she was gone.

That night, driving back from her shift at the store, Linda kept an eye out for Belle, perhaps walking back on her own along the dark country roads. The girl wanted to be out all the time. Fifteen years old, and a worry for a single parent. She was friendly enough to her mother, yet could be evasive too. Linda suspected that her current affections lay elsewhere; Belle had made it clear that her private life was no business of her mother’s.

The headlights picked out an indistinct shape ahead – not Belle, but a rev, slap in the middle of the road! This had happened before and Linda had swerved dangerously to avoid them. She felt strengthened by her earlier uneventful encounter and did not see why she should risk her own safety any longer – and so she carried on regardless.

She clenched her hands round the wheel - it went against instinct to drive straight at something. One moment the rev was shining pearly in her headlights - the next it was receding in the rear mirror. She had sensed nothing.

The revs had begun appearing about a year ago, first singly, then in hundreds and, within weeks, by the million. There were now billions of them, perhaps as many as there were humans on Earth. They offered no competition, though, for space or resources. Sometimes they went singly; sometimes they clustered in groups of several dozen. They generally gathered near human habitations, but Linda had also seen them on the TV news drifting through deserts, hovering over oceans or pointlessly ascending mountains.

A TV scientist had wondered if they were 'revenants' - hence the name they were commonly given. Linda had understood this was some smart word for 'ghosts' but most people now thought there was nothing supernatural about the revs. She had lost track when the scientists began talking about neighbouring universes, weakly interacting particles and phase-quantum leakage.

She was still thinking about the rev and so not concentrating when she passed the bus shelter. Was that Belle -? Two shadowy figures, embracing.

And one night the following week she was sure. That was definitely Belle walking along the side of the dark road, with a tall young man, their arms round each other.


* * *

Four revs came through the walls of the living room. Belle laughed as one passed in front of the TV.

"Hey, you can still see the picture! Just a bit foggy."

While Linda remained frozen on the sofa, Belle stood and deliberately moved at the revs, reaching out to touch them and passing her arm through one.

"Belle, stop that!"

"The feeling is okay," Belle reported. "Sort of like cold unsticky candy floss."

Linda gazed in alarm at her daughter who stood tall and laughing. She saw a new assurance and decisiveness about her girl.

Linda woke the next morning to find a rev in her room and she lay rigid until it slipped through the wall. She got up and waited for Belle to appear. Belle didn’t come down. Feeling ashamed of herself, Linda listened at her daughter's door. Silence, and so she knocked and went in. No one there.

Belle did come down to breakfast the following day. She announced that she was just off to college and Linda needn't cook anything that evening as she'd be going out with Brett. Linda felt it was time to confront her.

"Are you sure this is the right thing for you, honey? You’re still very young, you know."

"It’s love, mom. You wouldn’t understand."

The arrogance! Why, in her day... The time she had first met Belle’s father… She tried to recall the overwhelming, the transformative effect of young love. And could not. Her life had dried up. She locked herself tight, she fled from involvement.

"People change," Belle continued expansively. "It's like it's a new world for me, a whole new existence!"

She span on the spot, arms outstretched. Linda was nonplussed. Belle had never spoken like this before. She understood that her daughter was becoming a woman, but just how - womanly?

Belle beamed at her mother.

"Gonna see Brett at college!"

The door banged behind her.


* * *

Linda stiffened. There were at least a dozen revs in the kitchen, slipping in and out through the walls, flitting and milling, rotating on the spot. Almost as if they were agitated. And there was Belle, smiling, moving casually among them.

"Belle, it's horrible, get out of here!"

The girl glanced at her mother over her shoulder. "You mustn't be scared," she said. "They're not harmful." She crooked a finger, and a rev shimmered towards her. "You don't have to run away. I can tell - they want contact. They like it." Belle stood within inches of the rev, facing it boldly. As Linda watched, the smudges of its eyes, nose and mouth became more distinct.

"They need us. I think they’re like – refugees, from elsewhere. Don't be afraid." And she thrust her pouting lips firmly onto the line of the rev’s mouth.

"Belle!"

The girl's outline began to waver and her profile to lose definition. The colour in her clothes and skin was leeching away. Her voice was already crackling and fading as she spoke.

"They want love."

Flushes of colour ran like rivulets across the rev. It took on texture and its contours sharpened. Arms emerged from its body and wrapped around Belle. She returned the embrace.


THE END


2017 Chris Bailey

Bio: Mr. Chris Bailey is a new British writer with stories published in Andromeda Spaceways and Jupiter. He’s a fan of all types of fiction with a long-standing affection for SF.

E-mail: Chris Bailey

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