From the author: Dr. Biklian is forced to deal with horrific aliens who have come to Earth for "donations" of body parts. Fortunately, the doctor knows a little something about transplants that the aliens have overlooked!
“Human, are you there?” The voice rasped out from the darkness under the stairs. The aliens preferred the dark, and they were given what they preferred. Most of the lights in the room had been turned off, and the few that remained threw ominous shadows onto the tiled floor. Originally a light, mint green, the floor was now scuffed in some places, cracked in others.
Dr. Biklian swallowed. “Yes, I’m here.” His voice sounded too loud in the empty morgue. Well, empty of life, at least, except for himself and the thing under the stairs. He tried to swallow. When still a child he had seen a documentary from the ‘50s about the “Blob” – that thing that had swallowed up every living thing in its path. Thank God a way had been found to freeze it. Unfortunately, the aliens that were here now, another threat from the stars, had no such weakness.
“It is coming in two hours. What we desire.” While Dr. Biklian’s voice had echoed off the steel walls, the creature’s voice seemed to steal furtively out from its hidden source and then drop quietly into the floor.
“Yes, yes. Everything will be ready.”
“Do not thwart our desires.” An eye glinted out of the darkness, and Dr. Biklian could see a thin tentacle wrapped around a step. Holding onto another step was a meaty hand with three clawed fingers and two blunt thumbs. Two of the fingers were a light green and scaled like a bird’s foot, while the other digits were a muddy red, bristling with stiff hairs.
“We will be ready,” Dr. Biklian said. “Here, in two hours. As you asked.”
“We do not ask! We instruct you as to our desires! Thwarting us would bring dismal repercussions upon you, your people, your planet!”
“I understand! We understand!”
“We will return in two hours.”
The elevator doors dinged open, spilling light into the room. The tentacle and the hand jerked backward into the darkness of the stairwell, and the alien hissed and gurgled. It slid out of its hiding place and whipped itself along the floor, past the rows of steel drawers, and through the back door that led to the ramp.
Theresa Repola stood in the elevator, her mouth half open. She must have caught a glimpse of the thing. “What the hell was that?” she asked.
Dr. Biklian wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. “Theresa -- Dr. Repola!” he said shakily. “That – that was one of them.”
Theresa stepped out of the elevator. “One of the – the aliens? Was here?”
Dr. Biklian nodded. His eyes darted to her and away, again and again. Theresa knew he’d had a crush on her, back before her marriage.
“That smell!” Theresa said. Under the odor of disinfectant was something sweet but acrid. “The aliens. I knew that we had some kind of deal with them. The staff meeting. But I didn’t know they would actually show up in person.”
“They’d rather not publicize their comings and goings. But yeah. Our hospital was chosen, for whatever reason. One of them was sent down to oversee things. I drew the short stick, so I’m the one who has to deal with it.” Dr. Biklian – what had his first name, been, anyway? – drew a deep breath. “Pretty horrible stuff.”
“Wow, I bet,” Theresa said.
Dr. Biklian walked over to the wall and turned all of the lights back on. “I put a sign up, saying the morgue was closed for the night. We sent email reminders, too.”
Theresa made a vague sign over her shoulder. “Oh, yeah. I think I might have seen that. Sorry, my brain is fuzzy. I’ve been working on a difficult case, and everything else just got shunted to one side. Once my divorce went through, I thought I would have more free time than before – but it doesn’t seem to work that way! But I came down here because I wanted to check on a former patient – I think the M.E. misunderstood one thing. I didn’t realize it was closed because of, well, because of the aliens.”
Dr. Biklian nodded. “Yeah. Well, no real harm done, I guess.”
Theresa started for the shelf containing the remains she wished to examine, and then stopped herself and turned back. “If you don’t mind my asking, why the morgue?”
Dr. Biklian snorted. “Seems appropriate, after what they did to us in South Carolina and Mumbai. God, I’ll be glad when they’re gone. They say that once they’ve passed through a system, they don’t come back for a thousand years. Maybe by that time we’ll be ready for them. To deal with them on our own terms.”
Dr. Biklian had been gazing into her eyes. Now he shook himself free and gestured around him. “But you asked why the morgue. Because of the refrigeration we have down here. We need a lot of it.”
Theresa took a step closer to Dr. Biklian. “Why?”
“The deal we made – the deal that was forced on us. It’s all about what they want. And they want body parts. Organs. Tissue.”
“What?” Theresa grimaced. “For what? Not for – for food?”
Dr. Biklian chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it past them! But no. They want – they need – body parts and organs for transplants. I don’t see how, but apparently they have ways to overcome all kinds of rejection and compatibility issues. They can adapt our parts to themselves, to a whole ‘nother kind of bodily chemistry.”
“I had no idea.”
“It’s not something they really want us to publicize.”
“But you’re telling me. Has it been decided by the hospital admin that I’m not some kind of security risk, or something?”
Dr. Biklian shrugged. “The aliens’ time here is almost done.”
“But I doubt you’re supposed to tell anyone at all, yet.”
“No, you’re right. But I think – I mean, I trust you.”
This time it was Theresa’s turn to look away. “Thanks.” Was his name Raymond, Roger? Something like that?
Dr. Biklian said, “Anyway. They’ll be on their way. And once they’re gone, why not tell everyone? After all, it might do the human race some good. To know what kind of deal we struck, how we fulfilled the contract.”
Theresa looked doubtful. “I don’t know,” she said. “I doubt many people would enjoy thinking about the fact that some aliens – and really detestable aliens, to boot – are out there, wearing human legs and using human lungs and spleens. Uncle Richard and Cousin Cindy’s parts, used by who-knows-what kind of monster.”
Dr. Biklian grinned smugly. “But you see, that’s not the complete story.”
Theresa raised an eyebrow.
Dr. Biklian crossed to the closest refrigerated rack and opened the door. “Take a look,” he said.
Theresa walked over to stand beside him and craned her neck. “Some arms and hands,” she said. “So many!”
“Right. And over here we have hearts. There it’s legs and feet, then we have kidneys--”
“And all of these are going to the aliens.” Theresa bit her lip. “When I think of all the humans who are waiting for heart transplants, for kidneys, for eyes – and they’re going to these extortionists instead! It’s horrible.”
Dr. Biklian closed the door. “Nah,” he said. “We couldn’t use these on human recipients, anyway.”
“Consider the history of transplants. What used to be a recurring problem? One we don’t have anymore?”
“Well, the rejection of tissue, of course.”
“We still have issues with that, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be,” Dr. Biklian said. “But what other problem did we used to have? Think back. On the strange events that happened. In the 1950s, for example. Strange biological problems.”
Theresa looked thoughtful. “The Albuquerque Arachnid? That house-sized spider? But that wasn’t an alien – it was caused by radiation.”
Dr. Biklian went on. “No, No. I meant human biology. Think back to what you learned in med school.”
“Oh! You mean the creature with the atom brain? But the AMA never signed off on--”
Dr. Biklian sighed through his nose. “No, no. Think of the Boise Strangler case.”
Theresa’s mouth dropped open. “When that donated hand kept strangling people! But that doesn’t happen these days. Medical science has advanced since those dark times. Now, no reputable hospital would ever accept donated organs or body parts from executed murderers or terrorists or people like that. And we run tests. An evil hand, or -- God forbid, a heart – the damage they can do to the unsuspecting patient, and their families and coworkers!”
Dr. Biklian was nodding, a strange little smile playing on his face.
Theresa said, “You’re not saying--”
Dr. Biklian smiled more broadly. “Exactly. The aliens somehow don’t seem to know to take this basic precaution when doing a transplant. I don’t know -- maybe humans are the only species that has this trait. Now, most countries don’t execute people like they used to, but we managed to get quite a few donations from the countries that still do – China, our own country, places like that. Thank God there are still countries that use capital punishment. We’re just now awaiting the final shipment from Saudi Arabia.”
Theresa put a hand to her mouth. “But that’s horrible! It’s against every medical ethic!”
“Why should we care?” Dr. Biklian asked. “It’s been decided that if the aliens are as unethical as they have proven themselves to be, in demanding these – these sacrifices! – in exchange for not committing horrors on our cities and our people, well, then – caveat emptor, right? Let the buyer beware! Payback for what they did to South Carolina!”
Theresa drew a deep breath. “I guess I can see that,” she finally said. “The idea takes a little getting used to, after medical school drummed into us the importance of taking donations only from kind people. The sort of person who checks the ‘donor’ box on a driver license.” Suddenly she chuckled.
Dr. Biklian furrowed his brow. “What?” he asked.
“I just thought of a piece of evil tissue you should include in your shipment,” she said. “My ex-husband has a little body part that got into all kinds of trouble. Shame he’s not already dead, so you could take it.”
Dr. Biklian cocked his head, waiting for further explanation, then reddened. “Even if he were dead,” he said, “I don’t think the aliens have those.”
Richard. That was his name.
This story originally appeared in Nine Tales.