Shadows in the Wall

Chapter 2 - Papa Don't Cry

*It goes without saying that Alien(s), the story and all related characters as well as the xenomorphic beast belongs to the writers, cast and crew of the show. I claim no ownership or association to the film or franchise of the Alien movies.*

"We're on an express elevator to hell, going down!"

Pvt. Hudson

Aliens; 1986

She saw it for the first time in her dreams.

Newt had expected the nightmares. She was, after all, an intelligent child and remarkably self-aware for someone so young. But she did not dream of the green fluid that had leaked from the creature. She did not dream that her father's face was cut when they tried to remove the creature, though she had been very afraid that they would at the time. She did not even see the desolate alien wasteland outside the safety of the colony walls, with a sky choked in thick bruise-colored clouds or the sleek but menacing sweep of the unfamiliar spacecraft's wings rising up from the rock.

None of that.

In her dreams – her nightmares – she saw the shapeless form of a beast with no face. A creature of indescribable horror that slinked through the familiar corridors of Hadley's Hope turning her home into a labyrinth of darkness and creeping shadows. The school rooms, where she had her classes with the other children and the communal meal hall. The apartments where whole families lived . . . all of it became a series of chambers and sharp corners from where the monsters lurked.

Newt woke early in the morning, gasping and sweating in cold panic. From her window came the pale gray shine of early light filtered through the smoky clouds of the world. She coughed once, feeling as if something had lodged in her throat and then threw back the bedcovers. They had soaked in her sweat, leaving the sheets feeling stiff and uncomfortable against her skin. She listened for the familiar sounds of her family's morning routines but the apartment was silent. Her brother would still be in his own bed, asleep. But there was no noise of her mother moving around. Or of her father.

Newt slipped out of bed and padded on bare feet to her small clothes locker. Pulled out the first pieces of fabric her hands touched and very quickly dressed herself. Slipped boots on her feet and laced them up. Her pair of thin shoes was better for travel through the colony's air circulation ducts but she had no intention of sneaking about today. She would walk through the halls like a normal person.

After the horror of her dreams, she needed to surround herself with people and the normality of the colony's day-to-day business. She felt no need to isolate herself in the air ducts. For a little while, at least, Newt didn't want to be alone.

Slipping out of her room, Newt saw that she was right. Everything was exactly as it had been left the night before. Her mother had not returned to check on her children, having instead opted to remain with her husband in case . . .

Newt shivered.

Would her father be dead, now? How was he breathing, with the creature covering his nose and mouth? Or had the surgeon succeeded in removing the monster? She hoped, desperately, that all this had been solved while she slept. That she would visit her father in the recovery room and find him sitting up; pale but healthy and smiling at her from one of the beds.

There were times that Newt absolutely hated her brain. It wouldn't let her lie to herself. She very much wanted to believe everything was going to be okay. She could hope that her father would be alright but she knew that he wouldn't be. She understood that something truly awful was happening to him and there was nothing she could do but wait. Wait and see what comes next.

Newt walked quickly through winding corridors, her boots thumping stiffly on the metal floors despite her light step. She didn't weigh very much but it was hard sometimes to sneak soundlessly around. She had to remind herself that it didn't matter if she was seen. This time, she was breaking no rules. She wasn't spying. She could walk openly from the residential block to the Infirmary, because she was allowed to be in these places.

For a girl who spent so much of her time daring the adults to catch her in places she shouldn't have been, it felt strange to let herself be seen by them. No more games. At least, not for now. Newt had more important things to do than taunt authority and every step she took nearer to the Infirmary; the harder it became to keep walking. It was almost as if some invisible force were tugging on her jacket, attempting to hold her back. And some part of her really wanted to do as that force suggested. She wanted to run away and go hide in her room or in the ventilation. She would have liked to go find her friends and play and pretend that nothing was wrong.

Instead, Newt straightened her spine and strode purposefully through the sliding glass doors into the Infirmary lobby. Paused to look around the unoccupied space, with the chairs set against one wall and computer panels on the other. Her mother wasn't there. She wasn't waiting anxiously while her father was still in surgery and Newt felt a small swell of relief at her absence.

She moved on, stepping carefully across the room and through the next set of doors. In Recovery, with its row of steel beds and clean white sheets, she found her mother. She also found her father and immediately burst into tears at the sight of him.

He was wide awake and sitting up in the bed furthest from the entrance. He looked pale, with the slight waxy sheen of illness and exhaustion but he was awake! Newt launched herself across the room, her boots thudding loudly on the smooth floor and flung her whole body into her father's arms. She clung to him, sobbing in a way that showed how deeply afraid she had been. A fear so potent she hadn't even been aware of how bad it truly was.

For his part, her father seemed to understand. He held his daughter's trembling body as firmly as he could. Held her to him as her tears dampened the front of his hospital gown. From behind, Newt's mother ran her fingers through her daughter's blonde hair.

"It's okay," her father soothed. Newt snuggled closer, feeling the vibration of his voice humming from his chest into her cheeks. "Shhhh, it's okay. I'm alright."

Newt's tears slowed. With a great effort, she even managed to swallow the last of her sobs and then, with a small hiccup, she sighed and lay quietly in her father's arms. Content just to be with him.

"It came off on its own," Newt's mother said, speaking to her father. It sounded as if she was continuing something they'd been discussing before Newt arrived. Newt turned her head, keeping herself plastered against her dad but wanting to look at her mother.

Something with that statement seemed wrong, but neither of the adults appeared aware of it.

Even Newt didn't know what was said that had pricked her nerves, but she trusted herself. And something with the creature willingly detaching itself from a man it had fought so hard to keep was very wrong. Her nightmare flickered briefly in her mind, images flashing across her vision and she turned her face away. Closed her eyes and breathed deeply of the light, antiseptic-scented air of the Recovery room.

"What'd the doctor say about . . . it? Do we know what it is?" her father asked quietly. Just mentioning the creature seemed to bother him. Newt wondered what her father had gone through, in the hours where it was attached. Had her dad been awake? No. No, she didn't think so.

She hoped not.

Her mother responded, "Dr. Mitchell says it may have been symbiotic. He doesn't know why it detached, but he thinks maybe he wounded the creature and it came off out of shock. They think it might have been using you to keep itself alive, in what it must have perceived as an alien environment."

Newt's mother waved a hand, encompassing the clear-aired and human-friendly atmosphere around them.

"It was hurt?" Newt asked.

"Yes, baby," her mother said. "We disturbed its nest."

She looked at her husband, then. "The creature died almost immediately after it detached. Dr. Mitchell really believes it attacked only so that it could survive."

Newt's father breathed a sigh. He didn't sound convinced and honestly, neither was Newt. Her soul still shrank in terror whenever she envisioned the spider-hand-creature covering her father's face. That long tail wrapped around his throat, while the eight bony "fingers" clamped securely around the skull. The menace emanating from the creature had not been quiet or subtle. Whatever that creature had been doing to her dad, she would never believe it hadn't meant any harm.

Newt listened as her father coughed. Her ear pressed right up against his chest, the air moving through his lungs sounded dry. He coughed again. A hard, sharp bark and for just a second, Newt thought that she heard something slithering inside.

She quickly drew back, sitting sideways on the bed and half on her father's lap but no longer leaning into him. She glanced at her mother.

"Shame, then," her father remarked, once he could breathe again. "If the creature only wanted to live . . . we disturbed it."

Slowly, a numbing dread shooting coolly throughout her body, Newt slid off the side of her father's bed. He didn't appear to notice the sudden change in his daughter as he continued speaking with his wife. Newt's mother leaned in and took both his hands in her own. Held on tightly. Her eyes sparkled with relieved tears, too happy to have her husband returned to her; apparently unharmed from his ordeal.

Neither parent noticed the flush staining Newt's naturally fair cheeks. The redness crawling up the length of her neck or the way her eyes showed too much dark in them, as her pupils widened to nearly blot out the irises. Tears started gathering in the corners of her eyes again, though this time it wasn't relief.

Eleven year old Newt had no understanding of what was happening – she could not have said exactly what had so frightened her – but she felt it so acutely it could not be denied. Evil. Something monstrously evil had arrived.

"Momma!" Newt cried. Instinctively trying to warn her mother of something she had no words for.

Hearing the terror in her daughter's voice, the woman immediately turned to the girl. Instinct of a different kind prodding her to quick action. A mother's primal sense to protect her young. But seeing no immediate threat, she hesitated with confusion. What was wrong?

Newt's father coughed again. Hard. The sudden expulsion of air from his lungs so forceful that the man ached forward, his fist over his mouth. Newt saw, where her mother did not, the specks of purple dotting his hand. Purple. No. Red! Deep, deep red.

"Momma!" Newt screamed again, scrambling away from her dad. From her mom. From the bed and the strange sounds she'd heard coming from inside her daddy's chest.

Alerted by the commotion happening in the Recovery room, Dr. Mitchell burst in from his office which was located right off Recovery. His white coat fluttered around his hips and ballooned out from the speed with which he was moving. His face, no longer obscured by a protective visor was wrinkled but still relatively young. Sharp eyes flicked to Newt who was now nearly hysterical as she screamed incoherently towards her mother but not actually at the woman. The little girl was in tears and refused to be reassured.

Newt's mother, distracted and nearly frantic herself as she tried to comfort her daughter without understanding the cause of her distress took absolutely no notice of anything else. She didn't see her husband convulsing on the bed behind her.

Dr. Mitchell, however, saw everything and he started shouting for a nurse to assist while simultaneously rushing towards the man. His patient. Pink froth foamed from his mouth. Strangled gurgling noises erupted from his throat. The convulsions grew wilder as the doctor attempted to clear the man's airway. A nurse bustled in, answering the doctor's calls.

Newt's father appeared to be seizing. A full, violent seizure but rather than the vacant look associated with seizures the man's eyes were clouded in unspeakable pain. They were so wide that the eyeballs themselves looked about ready to pop out of their sockets.

Newt's father screeched, and a sound burst in the room. The crunch and crackle of bones breaking. Of some extraordinary force slamming against what sounded like a ceramic plate. Newt screamed. She screamed as if she was being forced to peer into the depths of Hell; the sound so chilling that her mother froze stiff. Horror rising up in the grown woman to mirror what her daughter was feeling.

Blood sprayed, flying out with such momentum that it splattered the walls at the far end of the room. There came a sudden silence so profound that it was as if everyone had been immediately struck deaf. Newt wasn't breathing. She just crouched on the floor with her hands covering her face and did not move. Her mother, finally aware that something else was happening, slowly turned around to look at her husband.

Her heart stopped at the sight that greeted her.

He lay on his back, mouth gaping wide with blood and foam and some other fluid staining his lips and trickling over his chin and cheeks. Eyes stared straight up at the ceiling with a look of terror and agony frozen in their sightless depths. By the eyes alone, there was no doubt the man was dead.

Protruding from the chest of Newt's father was a horror unlike anything anyone could have imagined. A slim, tough-looking demon arched from the bloody, broken mess of the human man's ribcage. It hissed once and slowly turned its body to look around at the people staring in abject terror. Then, satisfied with whatever it saw it opened its mouth in a scream pulled straight from the seventh circle of hell.

A second fanged jaw extended from the creature's mouth. Teeth like tempered steel glistened. The monster slowly, slowly uncoiled from the gore and rolled out of Newt's father's body.

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