Nearly a mile above the city, the leviathan hung like a giant spider. Using the long tentacles that grew from the top of its froglike body, it had climbed up the support-cables of the long bridge and now it rested. It stretched its one eye upwards and silently prayed to the three moons floating high above. Nearly a mile below it, the swollen river and the broken pavement of the great abandoned city called to it, “Come join us in death.” The empty buildings, like giant tombstones, rose far above the beast and faded from view in the poisoned yellow sky.
The monster had been alone for as long as it could remember. It could not remember having any companions or any family. It could not remember who gave it the name Chi-Ukwu.
It exhaled fully, causing the air to vibrate with a helicopter sound. It let go of the bridge and tumbled soundlessly through the rotting sky.
Its saclike body bounced off glassy rails and metal rivets that cut into its watery flesh and the thing split into pieces, each one having its own thoughts, each bit reaching out to make herself whole again.
The black water rushed towards it as it spun downwards. Its face (if you could call it that) was blasted with ice crystals and its stomach floated sickeningly, without gravity, for a few brief seconds that felt like eternity. Its heavy tail snapped like a whip. Its soft but parrot-like beak opened and closed rhythmically.
When it broke through the thin crust of ice that had formed around the moorings of the bridge, a blinding white light exploded around and through her. Then came the terrible suffocation, the convulsive choking, the cold, the icy, icy cold, and then, after one final, stabbing twist in its heart, the peaceful serenity of sleep closed in.
Even as its physical body was dying, a spirit-body was pushing out, experiencing life fully for the first time in hundreds of years. It rejoiced at its newfound freedom and watched, emotionless, as the giant corpse sank to the muddy depths. When the red sun slid above the horizon, Chi-Ukwa’s spirit body rose into the upper atmosphere of Gliese 581d, and then moved on into the constellation Libra. It absorbed eternity, floating without awareness into the void of space.
After countless ages, the life-force of the creature named Chi-Ukwu wandered into the Milky Way and became tangled in the web of Earth’s gravitational spirit. It fell for days, reaching greater and greater speeds, until at last it was exhaled like mist over a great swamp in what would one day be called Nigeria.
No radar or meteorological equipment had been built to record the event. There were no human eyes to see it.
The alien slept as it congealed, its myriad chunks drawing together like mercury, but slowly, so slowly that a human lifetime might come and go without there being any discernable movement. One day in the year 1894, early in the month of August, it regained consciousness. It was in the middle of the Niger Delta on the west coast of Africa, lying atop a muddy clump of wild grass. It was near the edge of a wide river that had over-run its banks. A dozen of its tentacles pressed against the weeds it had been lying in and the creature rolled upwards. Its single eye swung three feet above its shapeless head on a rubbery stalk and the creature considered its unexpected situation.
The air smelt heavy with decay. Mosquitoes and gnats, hoping to gain a taste of blood, landed on its viscous surface, only to be absorbed, dissolved, and digested. Chi-Ukwa rose on its three heavily-veined, webbed feet and took a few tentative steps into the muck. The five-inch long claws on the end of each of its twenty-one toes dangled in the tepid slime. Its syrupy legs pulled it along, sinking deep in the foul water before landing upon anything solid enough to support it. As it walked, the beast scooped water out of the river with one of its sucker-covered tentacles. It curled that flexible arm above its hideous mouth and drank. It had been ages since the monster had taken nourishment. Its tentacles flew like propellers, sending waves of filthy water down its throat.
Far off in the distance, drums were beating. A hundred voices howled in cadence with the pounding. The giant squid-like apparition calculated the direction on the sounds; and, slobbering in its hunger, it stumbled relentlessly towards the noise. It trumpeted its greeting like an elephant. It roared like a lion. The drumbeats grew louder and faster.
The Urhobo tribesmen were stamping their feet frantically and singing in strange tongues when the reeds parted at the edge of the clearing they used for their ceremonies and the monster reeled into view. Primitive eyes strained to focus, to see what their music had attracted. The black-skinned shaman, with his feathered hat and rings of beads around his neck, sprinted towards the monster and prostrated himself on the ground in front of it. He was picked up and devoured in a single, slippery motion.
The witch doctor’s silhouette could be seen plainly, sliding down inside the opaque body of the beast. As the alien’s digestive juices pumped into the still-living man, the bluish-green monster took on a reddish tinge. In seconds, there was no sign, not even a shadow from within the creature, that it had consumed a man. The rest of the savages ran into the sheltering tall grass and left the beast alone. The profile of the creature disintegrated and it melted to the ground. The monster slept.
As it slept, it dreamed, and it dreamed that men were coming from far away to study it, to meet it, and to feed it. If the thing could have smiled, it would have.