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The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Transformations of Terror" (revised)

I finally got around to revising "The Transformations of Terror" according to some audience feedback.  Below is the poem entirely in present tense.  The original page is here.

The Transformations of Terror

There is one transformation they all fear.
Nobody wants to transform into a starship.
Oh, they aren’t afraid of heights –
They all love to fly.
They aren’t afraid of space –
They would orbit happily in station form.
They aren’t afraid of travel –
They could drive quite gladly around the whole planet.

But they aren’t alone.
And they know that.

And they know IT  is out there,
High up in the thin aethyr of hyperspace
Where they have to go if they want to get out of the system.
They know IT  is there,
Waiting for them.

The transformation itself is quite ordinary:
The shifting of wings and rocket pipes,
Legs tucking up to broaden the base of the body,
Head slipping forward to become the bridge.
Even the delicate internal assembly of the stardrive itself
Comes together as naturally as crystals forming.

But they don’t want to jump in.
It’s worse than the first dive
After learning to become a submarine,
When the water seems to gleam with an evil threat.
This time they know  what is waiting for them.

The ones who steel themselves for the journey
Find themselves facing IT  at once:
The slick sinuous mass of IT  makes them queasy
Right down to their reactor cores.
At first IT  just hangs there, folding into and out of itself
Like a tesseract made of meat.
Then IT  senses them and surges forward,
Faster than they can imagine,
And they cannot flee although they always try.
They can scan IT  undulating as it approaches,
Tentacles uncoiling to reach for them,
Suckers moist and pulsating.

They try not to scream as IT  clamps on,
But that’s hard,
Especially when IT  covers their sensors
Leaving them deaf and blind
To the whole journey through hyperspace
So that they have to trust the coordinates
Uploaded ever-so-carefully into the pilot-drive.

All they can do is pray
And try not to think of what’s happening
And remind themselves that this will be over eventually.

Finally, finally,
The suckers slop away from the hull
And the scanners are clear of everything except slime
And the awful trip is finished
So that they can dive into the atmosphere
And let the cleansing fire of reentry burn away all traces

Except for the memories they cannot forget
No matter how many times they try to delete the files.

They go about their business, then,
As submarines and shipping vehicles and jet planes,
Reveling in safer forms of motion.
Some of them return to space
And hang content as stations curled up in a comfy LaGrange couch.

But sooner or later,
They have to take downtime,
Have to let their busy minds rest and recover
From the challenges of life.
Then it hits them – then the nightmares come.
There is no escaping them.
Over and over they suffer the same terrifying transformation
Into a starship and the quivering leap into hyperspace.
Over and over they relive the horrible stroking of their sensors,
Their vents, and their tightly latched apertures as IT  probes them.
Over and over they suffer blindness, deafness,
And the creeping certainty of something striving to reach them,
Right into the central braindrive where the soul resides.

Telling who’s been a starship is always easy:
They’re the ones
Who wake up screaming.

As far as the records show, IT  has never hurt anyone.
But nobody believes that.
Ships do  get lost sometimes,
Gone without a trace,
Swallowed by hyperspace.

Everyone who has ever seen IT 
Knows who to blame.

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10 comments or Leave a comment
From: ext_219944 Date: December 29th, 2009 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Good stuff

This is a great poem, and story. I love science fiction stuff. I found myself hanging on every word right to the end.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 29th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Good stuff

Thank you!

I have another poem related to this, "What the Starships Do Not Know," that hasn't been published yet.

If you want to see more of my published poetry, check out the "poem" or "science fiction" tags in the right sidebar -- or you can search "Elizabeth Barrette" in your favorite search engine.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: December 29th, 2009 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 29th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Feedback is candy.
valdary From: valdary Date: December 29th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
That really works well now, the present tense makes it more personal, which is good with terror!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 29th, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I really appreciate the audience feedback on poems. Sometimes they benefit from a little editing.
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: December 29th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Very well done!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 29th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you find this poem so effective. I had agreed with the suggestion to revise it, and then forgot to do that -- until I came across it while working on the year-end stuff.
eseme From: eseme Date: March 6th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, this is creepy.

If this is the final, revised version, I would link to this from your Series Page. I found it by being someone who reads everything, so I read the bits at the top of the poem instead of skipping straight to the poem as many might.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 6th, 2011 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Wow, this is creepy. <<

Yes, it was intended as psychological horror. I'm glad it works!

>>If this is the final, revised version, I would link to this from your Series Page.<<

Done! Thanks for mentioning this; I had forgotten about the revision. Both versions are now linked from the Serial Poetry page.
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