Sunday, November 07, 2010

Marooned by Sharon Marie Bidwell


by Sharon Maria Bidwell

Cover art: Karen Fox

ISBN: 978-1-60521-528-0

Genre(s): Sci-Fi

Theme(s): Gay and Lesbian
Length: Novella
When he's marooned on a strange planet, cosmonaut Vernon Attwater thinks his only problem is one of possibly ending up as reptile poo -- especially when the reptile chasing him looks like something out of an old science fiction movie. Little does he know that the alien who saves his life is about to complicate matters in ways he never imagined… ways that make him sigh, pant, groan and gasp with pleasure. Even so, surely he can control his own yearnings, especially when he's never previously felt such desires, being that the alien may look androgynous but is decidedly male in every way that matters.

Cresszna seems to have other ideas and is rather persistent. It doesn't help that Vern knows he's sending out mixed messages. He keeps saying no even as his body is saying yes, and feels rather shocked by the overwhelming sense of loss when it seems Cresszna is prepared to accept his rejection.

There's no way home and Cresszna is the only intelligent humanoid life-form he's run into. Would life, and sex, with the alien truly be so bad, especially when Vern's experiencing sensations he didn't know he was capable of feeling. Trouble is, there appears to be a price to pay if he wants to be Cresszna's mate -- one that's even more amazing than the strange things he's so far encountered on the planet.

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Vern would have recoiled from the tongue that swept up the side of his face had he not been too busy goggling into the huge reptilian eye of a giant lizard that lumbered into his way. He even saw himself in that slit of a pupil, although it took him a moment to realise that the dishevelled man he saw was his own reflection. The only thing he recognised was his standard short back and sides -- the authorities at Goonhilly had ruthlessly shorn away his usually unruly curls of brown hair the moment he entered the space programme. He missed those curls more than he'd ever missed having sex with "rough ride" Nancy.

Despite, or maybe owing to, the weirdness of the situation, Vern was able to analyse his predicament as if he were on the outside looking in at events happening to another person. His survival instinct kicked in; his thoughts balanced one threat against the other. The analytical part of his mind decided the far larger creature with sharp teeth in a mouth large enough to swallow him whole was the greater menace. Therefore, when the humanoid being who had licked him grabbed his arm, dragging him in a direction away from the lizard, he offered no resistance. He ran.

As he ran, his thoughts sped as rapidly as his feet.

Ugh. Why the fuck lick my face?

What is that thing chasing us?

Us? What is this thing running beside me?

Who the fuck cares? It's big, but not as big as the creature tearing up the forest behind me.

I daren't look back.

That tongue...

Vern shuddered even as he ran. That tongue had felt like a cat's, having a similar rasping quality. The sensation wasn't entirely pleasant, but not entirely disagreeable either. It even felt... sensuous in an alarming way.


If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one around to hear, does it make a sound? Hell, yes! Especially if it's felled by a two thousand ton lizard!

Vern gasped, his breath hitching, warm, moist air doing little to soothe his raw throat or his burning lungs. He couldn't believe he was tired. He'd always believed himself fit. Maybe his lack of vigour had something to do with the oxygen ratio on this planet, but as most of his equipment had burnt out in the crash, he couldn't tell. Most of his equipment, most of his food supplies, and most of everything he needed to survive... gone. That was the reason he was out here doing reconnaissance.

The air was breathable and that had to suffice, although for all he knew, maybe it was killing him slowly. Then again, maybe not. Maybe he felt tired from fear, the adrenaline rush burning out too quickly. It wasn't as if any of the scenarios they put an astronaut through during training included how one would react when faced with a gigantic reptile with an apparent desire to eat you as a fucking incentive to PICK UP ONE'S GODDAMN FEET!


Another tree went down. Its fall disturbed the air and kicked up a cloud of dirt as it struck the forest floor. Vern closed his eyes against the dust for a moment only, lest he trip over an obstacle and fall. He resisted the urge to cough. He had no oxygen to spare for coughing. He stumbled, and the humanoid beside him displayed amazing dexterity and strength as it grabbed Vern's arm, pulling him back on his feet, tugging him along. He felt certain that the creature could have outdistanced him in a few strides, so why didn't it? Why didn't it just leave him behind and let the lizard munch?


How did one articulate an earthquake caused by a monster stampeding through a tropical forest on some alien planet? How did one describe the riot of colours that pleased the eye even as they blurred past, and the sight terrified the heart into paralysis?

Run, Vern, run. Run, rabbit, run. Run or you're going to die, not in your dotage, not years from now, not even in a month or even later today, but in the next... few... fucking... minutes IF. YOU. DON'T. KEEP. RUNNING!

As much as Vern suddenly wanted to live, he was fast approaching the point when it would feel wonderful to admit defeat. It came as a relief when the strange being at his side stopped running and yanked him behind a tree.

A tree? What use is a fucking tree? That thing has taken down every tree in its path!

Vern was so busy with his thoughts and with trying to fill his starving lungs with much needed oxygen he almost missed what happened next. He'd closed his eyes, preoccupied with offering up a silent "Thank you" for his impending death because it would at least mean the pain would end, and he'd no longer have to spend yet another night and subsequent day on this nightmare world, when his conscience panged.

That was defeatist talk. There was one thing that would cut through even the most terrorised heart, and that was the sound of his grandmother's voice. None of that, Vernon Attwater. We Attwaters aren't quitters!

True, but hey, let's not forget the small matter of a GIANT lizard!

The mental and rather comical image of his grandmother standing in the reptile's path, hands on determined hips, her gaze set to stare down said giant made Vern open his eyes, as if he hoped to see such an occurrence in reality. Only then did he notice the gold box with the black screen with green blinking symbols that the humanoid held in front of its face. There was no time to study the being's features in detail. Vern felt too distracted by the sight of that tongue as it flicked out, this time to lick the screen. The tongue and lining of the humanoid mouth appeared to be black. He or she had black lips too.

That thing licked me with a black tongue.

He could feel it still, where it had rasped up the side of his face in one long sweep in just the same way as it had just licked the screen. Vern rubbed his elbow remembering how one hand had gripped him there, holding him in place even as he tried to pull away from that lick. Yes, he'd tried to pull free even as he stared at the green scaly skin of the impossibly huge lizard, even as he'd seen that second inner eyelid flick over that slanted pupil as if the reptile blinked. He'd felt the lick from the humanoid's tongue, but had been unable to tear his gaze from the giant reptile that looked like a refugee from an old Doug McClure movie.

The lizard's forked tongue had flicked out, too, and for a moment, he'd believed that had been the tongue that had licked him, and tasted him, maybe sized him up for a tasty morsel. For all Vern knew that was what this other creature had done. Maybe it just wanted to check whether he was edible. Vernon edged away.

A hiss escaped the humanoid mouth. A large arm encircled Vernon's chest, forcing him back. When he struggled, the arm pressed across his neck, holding him tight. The humanoid flicked a button on the box, and the air shimmered. The reptile arrived a second later just as the humanoid transferred the box to its left hand, and then used the right to silence Vernon's impending shout.

I'm going to die. I am truly going to die.

Even though he'd considered death to be a real possibility during the last few days, now Vernon believed it. He stared into one of the lizard's gleaming eyes and just knew in that in a few hours he'd be reptile poo.

At least I'll suffocate before I'm eaten.

The humanoid had pressed a hand over Vernon's mouth and pinched his nostrils with its fingers. Vernon couldn't breathe. He tried to push the arm away, but he might as well have been wrestling with an iron bar. He tried to kick out, but a leg wrapped around his, pressing him between the humanoid and the tree. Why was this being trying to suffocate him?

It wasn't. Even as Vernon's vision dimmed, clarity rushed in. He stopped struggling while trying to nod, hoping something in his body language told the other being that he understood. Slowly, the dreadful pressure of that hand went away. Vernon fought the urge to gulp in air, tried to keep his breathing steady and most of all quiet. It was difficult, starved of oxygen from all that running, but he managed; he had to. His very life depended on his silence.

The reptile moved, tongue flicking out as if to taste the air. If Vernon remembered correctly, that was how many reptiles gained information: from taste. The closest eye, the only one he could see, did that quick second eyelid blink again. The head moved one way and then the other. The tongue flicked and swept the air. For a precious moment, everything was still, motionless. Even the chaotic sound of this planet's wildlife fell silent.

The lizard began to move off, and as if that was a cue, sounds of life recommenced in the woods. Vern and the humanoid were the only ones who stood there soundless for several minutes, even after the lizard had gone. Finally, the humanoid relaxed its grip. Vernon braced himself for a new threat and stepped away.

The term superior being took up residence in Vernon's brain the moment he took a good look. The humanoid stood there examining the box and making adjustments, almost as if Vernon had ceased to exist. He couldn't decide whether to feel grateful for being ignored, or unhappy about it. Something in the... alien's disregard displayed contempt.

Although I suppose here, I'm the alien.

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