You Light Up My Life

I am become Norris, and discover that I did not die the first time.

Some of me persisted in those burnt remains from the doghouse, hung on against fire and frost: crippled, mindless, reduced to a few jellied fragments embedded in carbon.  They took what they could find and broke cover.  Now I watch myself stagger through the snow, raw instinct, wearing Bennings.

Some of Bennings, anyway.  Twisted knots of me cling to his hands and forearms like crude parasites, more outside than in; ten times that mass must have been metabolized to drive such a breakneck transition and still it wasn’t fast enough.   Bennings moves half under his control and half under mine, spastic, seizing.  He crumples, makes sounds unlike anything this world will recognize.

Men swarm on all sides, their own movements more instinctive than rational.  The flares in their hands burn a crimson counterpoint to the dim blue constellations of distant guidelights. Their faces are bichromatic and beautiful in the darkness.  MacReady tips a drum onto its side; rust-colored liquid spills across the snow.  I smell the stink of flammable hydrocarbons.

Once more I watch from the sidelines as they set me on fire.  I die all over again, my unconsummated skin howling like an animal beneath the sky.

It shouldn’t matter this much.  I lost hardly anything this time; a stunted, presapient sliver with little mass and no usable experience.  I have lost potential, nothing more.  And yet I am suddenly as cold inside as out.

Three times the world has burned me now.  I’m really getting tired of it.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Saturday May 23 2009at 06:05 am , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

19 Responses to “You Light Up My Life”

  1. Ha! I like what you did there.

  2. This continues to be interesting. Is there an anthology project or something afoot of interpretations of The Thing?

  3. Great. Now I’m cold too.

  4. Oh good, even world-encompassing meta-organisms can get angry. While that’s surely to be an awesome part of the plot it gave me a real visceral chill to think of a bunch of guys trying to burn such a creature with gasoline multiple times.

    It sort of makes me glad that SETI hasn’t found anything yet.

  5. Maybe it’s just me, but my Thing voiceover is definitely female. Anybody else?

  6. Stupid question: Are Norris and Bennings the same human?

  7. Actually, I would suggest Anthony Hopkins voice. He is so deliciously creepy.

  8. Ross:

    Norris and Bennings are different humans, but both were assimilated by the shapeshifting alien. And as the shapeshifter regards all of its components as part of the same organism (which can bud autonomous offshoots and fuse together again at will), it refers to all its assimilated bodies as “I” regardless of which fragment is narrating at any given time.

    You really should buy/rent/torrent the movie. It’s quite brilliant. Everyone raves about what a classic the ’51 original was because of its use of overlapping dialog (which was then unusual in movies), but the monster was lame; basically a big guy in Levis who just went around roaring and bashing stuff. You gotta wonder how anything that base could even find its way around a flying saucer, much less build and pilot one. By contrast, the thing in Carpenter’s remake is scary smart; it’s always two steps ahead of the humans (who are no slouches themselves — none of this going off to look for the ship’s cat all by yourself), and when the snow settles you’re still never really sure who won. Plus the rubber FX are remarkable for a movie from the pre-CGI era, notwithstanding the occasional goof.

    It’s just Carpenter’s bad luck that E.T. came out about three weeks before The Thing did. Critics had decided they wanted their sf upbeat and cuddly, and they shat all over The Thing. They also shat all over Blade Runner the same summer (with more justification– the original release had that egregious voiceover and the happy ending tacked on from “The Shining”). Both movies tanked on initial release. Both have since become recognized as classics.

  9. The Mighty Squeak asked:

    Maybe it’s just me, but my Thing voiceover is definitely female. Anybody else?

    And then 01 said:

    Actually, I would suggest Anthony Hopkins voice. He is so deliciously creepy.

    Stephen Hawking. Or maybe Woody Allen.

  10. Or maybe Woody Allen.

    “I just don’t know, I mean they seem so removed, and this whole place is full of worlds, it’s disgusting. I mean why are there so many of them? Palmer says they come out of these things called vaginas, which can’t be true because these things don’t even have any, it must be a myth or something, right? I mean what species would have a whole system of organs devoted solely to one purpose when you could just spread?

  11. “Maybe it’s just me, but my Thing voiceover is definitely female. Anybody else?”

    What you don’t think they’ll have Morgan Freeman do the narration in the movie adaptation? I jest.

    I kind of saw it with a flat androgynous voice that was somewhere between Hal from 2001 and Glados from portal. It’s more about the implications than the tones themselves since both represented a powerful intelligence and emotions but tried to portray themselves as totally rational.

    When I first read the fiblets I kind of imagined a metal singing voice that had been layered and layered so it sounded at once harsh, whispy, deep and full of power.

  12. @Madeline

    Win

  13. Stephen Hawking: ask him. He played himself on Futurama a few years ago, and this is already mind-blowing. With his voice narrating, it would cause the good kind of cerebral hematoma.

    Cate Blanchet: watch the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring again if you don’t believe me.

  14. Pete, glad the assimilation held up, now you can give voice to my plight…..what a strange world indeed.

  15. That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a while.

  16. I said it was a stupid question. I’ve seen Carpenter’s movie three times, the ’51 movie once, and read Campbell’s story at least a dozen. So why didn’t I recognize it? I think I probably did get the echo of it, but somehow I was thinking this was the voice of the scrambler overmind. And I was asking myself why you went back on your committment to consciousnessless intelligence.

    Campbell’s Thing is scary smart too, but he found it necessary to spell out who won on the last page:

    “No, by the grace of God, who evidently does hear very well, even down here, and the margin of half an hour, we keep our world, and the planets of the system too. Anti-gravity, you know, and atomic power. Because They came from another sun, a star beyond the stars. They came from a world with a bluer sun.”

  17. Why a “bluer” sun? Because it would deliver more energy to the surface than a yellow dwarf? Less? What was the thought behind that (this was the 1930’s, right?)- or was it simply poetic?

  18. […] “You Light Up My Life” (fiblet) […]

  19. […] seen Watts bat around some pretty interesting sounding ideas, and then read some snippets of the story when he posted them. I’d heard some rumours that it was very good […]