(fiction entry for Cracked Flash Fiction, 300 word max)
It was too late to turn back– for all of them. After they trudged (like sheep, Drue pointed out) under the glowing turquoise arch, the symptoms began almost immediately. Spike said they’d been x-rayed. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. Every species coveted data, so collection points were constructed at high-traffic places. Planet #AZ56, the 11th of their 12-planet stint, was no different. In fact, the last item on the Corps’ to-do list was to set up their own bio-reader. That wasn’t the problem.
The problem was the arch reminded Drue of his childhood, of the entrance gate to a haunted section of the amusement park. 10-year-old Drue had not realized what he entered, and the resulting experience was profound. Drew wet himself.
At the sight of the arch, that memory and an unreasonable fear coiled inside Drue. He suggested they send a probe.
“No threats on this planet, Drue. You think you’re smarter than the Medi?”
They pressed on.
“Anyone else feel like your nerves are being strummed?” someone asked.
“Yes… and what about that sound? Like metal scraping inside my ears. I never heard anything like it.”
“It sounds like silverware on plates.”
“Quit your belly-aching,” Spike ordered, “The Medi can reverse it when we get back. It always does.”
“Well, the Medi didn’t warn us about this,” Drue pointed out. “Anyone else smell iron?”
“You can’t reverse everything,” Drue said, “Like being born… you can die, but you can never be unborn.”
“You think you’re so smart, Drue, with your little analogies. One word: orders.”
Drue turned on Spike intending to come back with One word: stupidity, but the sight of Spike’s eyes wiped all his thoughts of debate. Spike’s eyes had no whites, only blood.
“That wasn’t an x-ray.”