The Traveler’s name was Renapath, it was Wastool… once Schloopy. He had answered to all these names. Quick jumps among a legion of hosts clouded the memory, and few Travelers could recall clearly their origins, hampered as they were by the lack of a home planet or legitimate parents. He could be classified a parasite, or a flying Dutchman of near immortal strand, surviving dissolutions of worlds one by one, waiting and watching until certain patterns inexorably brought the same disastrous result.
The new face staring back at him in the wall mirror was little Donnie, a tiny toddler aged thirty months, sole survivor of the Newson family’s clash with upheaval. He was Traveler’s last refuge when his adult host exsanguinated in front of the family’s seventy-six-inch flat screen television. An absurd bowtie festooned the collar of his shirt, and after attempting its removal with chubby, clumsy fingers Traveler realized it was sewn on.
Out the front door he waddled, legs pudgy and unsteady. A motley of feral adults fought in the streets, in their yards and homes. The crack of sporadic gunfire prompted pained screams, and in all this havoc a chirping bird sang cheerfully in a tree. Traveler glanced at it, amazed how oblivious it could remain.
An enraged man with a metal pipe charged him, his mouth foaming. He swung the pipe in a merciless arc and Traveler leapt from the luckless little shell, invading the lunatic’s sweaty form to set up housekeeping in a more formidable body.
For a second he regarded Donnie’s little corpse, but a sense warned him of danger, and he spun to see a pair of muscled men in warm-up suits hurtling toward him. The pipe split the head of the leader, but the second maniac pistoned a knife into his new body with staccato fury. Traveler jumped and the attacker discarded the knife next to the not-so-formidable body. He turned and ran away.
This new body surged with athletic vitality, and when predators ran at him he evaded them easily. One got too close and he thrust a stiff palm into his nose and killed him. He did not blame the man, nor any of them. They convulsed helplessly in the waves of a tsunami caused by the flapping of a butterfly’s wings half a planet away in a past century.
After a mile of tireless loping he spotted a Cadillac in a driveway that looked unharmed. A silver-haired woman attacked it with a leafy branch, mewling like a demented cat. He hurled her away and opened the door. Crazies raced toward him, brandishing weapons. Traveler dug under the dashboard with desperate haste, found the right wires and seconds later roared down the street, leaving behind a sea of waving fists.
He drove to Cape Canaveral where security guards shot him dead. He eliminated them all, then jumped into a scientist he found barricaded in the complex. After three months of toil, sweat, and osmosis his new host finally got NASA’s latest treasure ready for launch. The spacecraft traveled very, very far. By the time the ship was pulled in for recovery by an advanced people, the scientist’s body had rotted to sterile dust and Traveler had forgotten what it was like to be corporeal.
He leapt into the first being to enter the ship, a hapless tech named Gyrixxl. Claiming diarrhea, Traveler excused himself and went home, his female counterpart meeting him at the door with a kiss and a thyzzl. He sat in the living area resting and observing his new surroundings.
How long? He wondered. How long before I have to flee this planet too?
His counterpart came in from the galley and freshened his thyzzl. She picked up a small black box and thumbed the stud that powered a screen on the wall. Gyrixxl’s eyes widened as he watched two uniformed beings with guns chase a runner. One of them barked, “Frizzl, punnkter — Pollizzeir!”
Gyrixxl sighed heavily and drained the thyzzyl, even swallowing the vormdyll. More pap, he mused, the well-known lowest form of mind desecration; the flapping butterfly wings that would ignite holocaust.
Here we go again, he thought gloomily, closing his vision ports as the punnkter got blown out of his footcovers. And not much longer at that.
Gerald William Parks is married with four children, and an avid reader.