A teaspoon. Just a teaspoon of Their “spice.” Something from Their home world that might cure him. They said it was safe. They said it would stop the visions. They said it would stop the pain.
First his hands curled and twisted into a shadow of their former selves. The man who had painted heavenly scenes, futuristic cities and serene space-scapes was reduced to a Jackson Pollock, throwing paint at a canvas. His feet and legs followed. He needed a wheelchair within a week.
His tongue twisted too until he could only get by on pointing and a few cruder gestures.
His mind, however, remained sharp even as his body crumbled. I could not watch the terror in his eyes.
He hadn’t wanted the treatment, didn’t want something alien inside himself, but had relented under my prodding. I’d trusted in Their medicine. It had healed so many. I thought They could give me back my husband.
As the man I love grew worse, we got coded neural implants. Finally we could communicate. I now had a first-hand taste of his terror.
The visions and pain had started shortly after They came. Nearly one in five people on Earth were affected. For most of those people the “spice” worked, a teaspoon and they were better. They went back to their lives, their bodies and dreams once again intact.
But my husband and four other patients could not be freed from the prison of their own bodies.
They suggested a trip back to Their home. They called these patients the “Chosen Ones,” and said they were highly revered in Their society.
Even as fast as They traveled it would take five decades of Earth time to get to Their home. The patients would be in stasis and age only a tenth of that time. They said it was part of the “curing” process. To heal him, I’d have to send him away, never to see him again, well or otherwise.
With reluctance, the patients and their families agreed. Two men and three women were loaded up and sent to Their home. We waved them goodbye and wept.
…And life went on. I found a new job and busied myself selling his paintings and investing for his return, a hundred years hence. I know it’s silly, but I never remarried. I just kept hoping he’d show up whole.
Fifty years to the day since he left, the neural implant fired up unexpectedly. I saw through my husband’s eyes a confusing vision of light and dark, and then it solidified into a terror unlike any other. Imminent doom mixed with an inability to move or speak or do anything. And then I saw with horror, two of Them standing before my husband, relishing his terror.
“Hmmmm, this one’s well seasoned, My Lord” the skinny one said. “I can smell the fear.”
The fat one smiled, opened its mouth, and swallowed my husband whole.