Down in the Deep

blue blur color dark

These were dark days in the watery kingdoms of the Merfolk. Turbulent, all-consuming waves crashed overhead, wreaking vengeance on those unfortunate souls who sought to weather the maelstrom on any remaining land. Foolish bipedal monstrosities, calling themselves human, withdrew from the coastlines, abandoning their tall towers in an attempt to survive the ever-increasing storms. Those who were once proud rulers were brought to their knees, submitting to what their arrogance had wrought.

In the calmer depths below, a single, brave mermaid tailed a cruise-ship, filled with would-be survivors, struggling to stay afloat. Half-capsized from the mountainous waves rocking its battered frame, it was only hours, or minutes, from being a new treasure in Davey Jones’s locker. Fortana knew he liked fearful souls the best; they made prized slaves amongst the ranks of his undead fleet.

Grasping her scepter in hand, she pressed the indent on the side, releasing a booming sonic pulse that stirred the waters around her. The waves overhead ceased, and the echoes from the initial pulse filtered through the now calm seas, resounding kilometers away. Sea-life, big and small, heard the call and hastened to answer its desperate plea. Fortana could only hold Davey Jones’s wrath at bay for a few moments longer. If backup did not arrive soon, all of the Merfolk’s efforts, plans, and unfortunate deaths would have been for nothing.

Already, most of the remaining Merfolk wanted to leave the humans to their inevitable fates. It was, after all, their fault that the collector of souls had been awoken in the first place. Their increasing assault on Mother Earth’s form had resulted in the unbalancing of the fragile ecosystem, ushering in a warming of the planet. This event alone was enough to result in his tomb being laid bare, having been hidden for eons under the massive ice sheet that once covered what was known to the humans as Antarctica.

The other more forgiving Merfolk, like Fortana, wished to protect the last remnants of those that walked freely upon the soil above. Hoping that their combined intelligence would be enough to put the insatiable Captain back into his watery locker for good, she planned to succeed in her promise to the Elders. They had entrusted her with the Calming scepter she now held. If she could not rescue these humans from a watery grave, she would have let down all those that believed she was the best choice.

Flicking the golden-rod towards the sinking liner overhead, a thin stream of silver mist was ejected from the tip. It swirled upwards, effortlessly gliding through the water to attach itself to the damaged bottom, helping it to stay afloat. Three more times Fortana shook the rod, each jerking motion sending another thin string of silver flying to knit itself to the crumpled exterior of the hull. She could see the cracks increasing, allowing more water to flow into the interior. Soon, even her meager spells would not be enough to keep the ship from being pulled to the murky depths below.

A high-pitched squeal echoed through the currents, reaching her ears, and her heart began to race. The Dolphins had heard her call! Shielding her eyes from the flashes of light that pierced their way into the water, she saw dozens of pods swimming quickly towards her. Swishing her fin, she hurried to meet up with the agile creatures, knowing they too had a strange affinity for the two-legged land walkers.

The largest of the Dolphins detached himself from his pod, issuing a series of clicks to those who followed. Their heads bobbed up and down, showing they heard him and would follow his orders. He turned his attention back to Fortana, swimming close enough to press his long, gray rostrum into her outstretched palm. The other Dolphins closed ranks, swirling in a close-knit formation around the two conversing, forming a moving ball of protection.

Fortana’s eyes closed, and her hand slid up the smooth gray snout of the lead Dolphin, coming to rest near the blow-hole on top. She moved in, pressing her forehead to the spot between his own closed orbs. This was a deeper form of communication for these two species that had co-inhabited the Earth’s oceans.

For thousands of years now, Fortana’s people and those of the dolphins had worked together peacefully, protecting one another when needed. The Merfolk helped the dolphins ages ago when the sharks and other marine life under Davey Jones’s control threatened their breeding grounds, nearly decimating their entire population. Working in unison, they formed special coves that none of the creatures he held sway over had been able to gain entry too, allowing the dolphins to breed and birth in relative safety. In return, the grateful creatures promised to keep any curious humans from finding the Merfolks underwater Kingdoms when Davey’s forces had scattered after his imprisonment.

Now, here they were, being asked to break that promise by Fortana. Her plea was; they help now rescuing the humans, bring up the underwater rebreathers her people had created from the ocean floor, and transport those who were willing to the air-tight sanctuaries that were waiting, kilometers below the surface in her kingdom Sylvain. What she was asking for was far more than any other Merfolk had requested from their valuable friends, and she knew it. So far, Davey Jones had no reason to unleash his fury upon the Dolphins. They had been giving him the impression that they were no more than underwater dogs, and that suited them just fine.

A piercing whistle and a booming reply, bellowed across the ocean, reaching Fortana and the male Dolphin, who had just agreed to her plans. The frenzied mass of Dolphins encircling them parted, scattering to reform their ranks as the larger, slower Whales finally appeared. They were majestic in their size, being able to transport huge weights with the flip of a fin alone. They would be able to carry multiple survivors at once, ensuring that all aboard the floundering ship survived.

The female whale in lead rumbled her message again, resonating Fortana’s bone with the urgency held within. This would be the last of the human survivors to be saved. The shelters below were now filled to almost max capacity by the other Merfolk who had been on their own rescue missions. Humanity would survive as long as the Merfolk were able to shelter them from Davey Jones’s prying eyes.

The other successful forays, however, were easier than the task that still lay ahead for Fortana. They had the necessary backup from the start, with dozens of other Merfolk at hand, ready to help if needed. Fortana, being the fastest swimmer out of all those below, had been tasked with rescuing the humans aboard this ship. No other Merfolk could have reached them in time, and for whatever reason, the Lord of the ocean wanted this ship more than all the others. It was in their best interest, that whatever, or whoever was on board, not be allowed to find its way into his chilling grasp.

Fortana and the species of the sea, now ready and able to aide her, approached the faltering vessel from below. They were ready to snag any living being that was fortunate enough to find their way into the ocean and carry them off to the pre-built fortresses. Fortana raised the scepter in hand high, a small yellow light appearing when she did and issued a series of clicks to those around her. It was time to pull down her spell and rescue all those unfortunate souls aboard. With one swiping motion of her arm, the light increased, pulling away the support spells underneath the ship.

Swimming to the surface, dark curls breached the calm surface of the water, and she felt a Whale slip under her, lifting her out of the water to the amazement of the human’s now crowding the deck. None said a word while the large animal brought her closer, and Fortana raised her free hand, palm-outward, and formed a small circle in the air. She regarded their reactions to her greeting, wary and guarded. She did not blame them, they had believed that Merfolk never truly existed. They may have hoped, wished, and dreamed for it to be true till the end of their days, but until now, there had been no reason to reveal the existence of her people.

“What do you want?”

Eyes that matched the color of the tumultuous waters around her narrowed, taking in the appearance of the man who spoke. Another reason she had been sent on this particular mission was, she had taken the time to learn dozens of their languages and would be able to converse with anyone she met. Now being an expert in which humans were ones of being note-worthy, she regarded the two behind the man, flanking him. The way they hovered over his every movement or word gave him the air of someone of importance, and she knew she had to tread carefully.

“Greetings, our land-cousins,” she bowed her head slowly before continuing her speech, “For eons, our two people have lived separately from one another. Long ago we used to frolick on the coastlines, co-mingling quite easily, but your prejudices and your arrogance eventually sent us back to the depths below. Over time, your ancestors forgot us and became to think of my people as myths. I am here today, to put aside all disillusions and offer a helping hand, or fin, to those of you who wish to survive Davey Jones’s destruction. I have no time to discuss anything further, as you can see,” she peered over her shoulder, over the still calm waters at a black dot on the horizon before turning back to look up at the enthralled humans above, “He is almost here.”

Her initial words had held those aboard under her spell, calm and quiet, they listened to what she had said, but her last few words sent a ripple of panic through those aboard. Screaming erupted, louder than the waves that had crashed on top, and many started to jump over the ledge. Anything was better than being caught by the sailor Devil himself and enslaved for the rest of eternity to one of his demonic ships.

Fortana was ready for such a thing and started clicking a series of commands to her underwater friends. Pre-laid bags on the bottom were already picked up by the pods of dolphins, who swam alongside her, and when she would reach a human, she would pull out a rebreather and pop it into their mouth. A dolphin would swim up and either the human, having come to their senses, would grab hold and be whisked away. Those too panicked were quickly grabbed hold of by whatever article of clothing they wore being dragged off in the same direction. Approaching a human from behind she was surprised to have come across the man who had spoken before. She went to shove a rebreather in his mouth and was pushed away as he swam up to yell at those still aboard.

“JUMP, YOU IDIOTS! I’D RATHER RISK IT WITH MERMAIDS THAN THAT ASSHOLE THAT’S COMING AND SO SHOULD YOU!”

Whatever sway he held worked, those aboard started jumping off in growing numbers, and Fortana quickly realized she would not be able to reach everyone fast enough.

“Just tell your Dolphin buddies to carry me around with one of those bags. I’ll help,” the man said quietly to her.

Catching his blue gaze, she nodded once and dived below the surface that was now beginning to show signs of resuming their treacherous waves. Quickly relaying the message to the Dolphins, the two worked in unison, her swimming, him being carted around. Within minutes they had every human survivor outfitted with a rebreather and paired with either a dolphin or dozens to a whale that was now headed to the nearest sanctuary. Only the Lead Dolphin remained with his mate to help carry the strange human male to safety.

Suddenly, a deafening boom wrenched through air and water, breaking the calm Fortana had been holding. A torrential downpour started overhead, and increasing waves swelled over the empty ship, dragging it down. Issuing a series of clicks to the finned-pair waiting, she pointed the scepter towards the dark shapes on the surface and pressed the indent below the first. A thick silver beam shot out, just as the vessels above crashed into a towering wave, their bows piercing the large swell drew down sharply, to continue their journey below the surface.

Fortana closed her eyes, her dark hair shimmering like a halo around her head in the silvery glare of the stream pouring out of the rod in hand. Releasing the mechanism. she slid it into the belt encircling her thin waist and raised her hands towards the misty substance. Palms facing the thick string, she splayed her fingers and it reacted pulling apart. Her fingers twitched, moving and continued to increase in speed until they were almost a blur, till finally, she brought them together quickly, a small pop was heard and the silverish silk spread out creating a gossamer barricade. It would not hold forever, but it would delay the inevitable assault on the fortifications below, allowing the Merfolk to finish shuttling the humans to their final shelter.

An angry roar sounded from Davey’s ship, and Fortana could just make out the angry Captain shouting orders to his crew of damned souls through the silver-web. Turning her back on the shield she had successfully created, she flipped her fin quickly, urging her tired muscles to catch up with the Dolphins waiting just ahead. She needed to report to the Elders and tell them their plan had worked, and about the man, she believed Davey Jones was after.

Not What They Appear

action child children cityPhoto by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

I’m not sure what it was that woke me, to be honest. I was nappin’, peacefully, under a tree at the park. Ya know the kind. The one with teeter-totters, and merry-go-rounds, and a basketball court. It also had the swing-set that has the rusted one at the end. The one all the kids avoid, because it’s the one that squeals anytime ya use it. Oh, and you can’t forget the jungle-gyms with the plastic-tubed slides. The ones when ya go down your hair gets all staticky and sticks straight up. Then ya get off at the end, go to give your best friend a high-five, and ya shock each other. Ya know the kind that reeks of your childhood memories?

Yeah, I was there the day I noticed the change. I don’t know if it was the person passin’ by, or the shriekin’ of that damned swing. Some kid had decided he didn’t mind the noise. Nothin’ seemed any different at first. The kids were all playin’, parents were chattin’ under the covered gazebo. Birds were singin’. Even the breeze was great.

That’s when I smelled it. That intoxicatin’ sweet scent. At first, it was as if a rose came up my nose. All flowery and shit. Then it got too sweet. It wasn’t s’pose to smell so sweet. Not with the damn land-fill two miles away. Should’ve smelled at least a little bit like a shit-hole. But no. It was too sweet. Made my stomach tighten up like that 4th of July when I won that hotdog eatin’ contest. I ate forty-five of ‘em, ya know.

I must’ve been the only one at that park to smell it. No one else seemed to notice it. I ‘member looking around at everyone. Everythin’ seemed so serene. Ya know? Then I saw the wind catch some piece of paper layin’ nearby. Now, I ‘member, that wasn’t there when I went to sleep. So, I picked it up. I like pickin’ up things. Never know if ya will find somethin’ useful. Anyway, back to that paper, I opened it up, and these were the words scrawled on it:

Do not trust your eyes. They’re not what they appear to be.

                 And when I looked up, every damn child was staring at me. Their eyes were cold and dark in that split second, but I know what I saw. Then I blinked, and everything was normal. I can’t tell you what they were, but I can tell you I high-tailed it out of that there park and never looked back.

I spent years travelin’ from state to state. Every park I stopped at, that sweet smell would show up. Seemed to be followin’ me, or them. I ain’t really too sure on how it happens. I just know one-day everythin’ seems fine, and then I see ‘em. It ain’t just one at a time, it’s all of ’em.

You think I’m liein’? The next time you smell somethin’ sickeningly sweet, just look into the eyes of your child and answer me this: Are they really what they appear to be?

Thanksgiving

It’s time to gather,

It’s time to share,

It’s time to have

Our family affair.

It’s time to feast,

It’s time to dine,

It’s time to bring out,

Those cheap boxes of wine.

It’s time to joke,

It’s time to laugh,

It’s time to break the

Wishbone in half.

Wish for things,

Wish for toys,

But most of all,

Wish for joy.

– Jessica Mayo 11-22-2018

Words

I cannot sleep,

Suppose I’ll write,

Words that will,

Carry thru’ the night,

There’ll be no peep,

Nor a sound,

Words are still,

Being written down,

Deep and dire,

Bravery or dread,

Words that fill,

My throbbing head,

Soon I’ll retire,

For the night,

Words will mill,

‘Til mornings light.

-Jessica Mayo 11/21/2018

Hytairan Centennial – Sci-Fi/Funny

The Hytairan shook his wide head and peered closer at the monitor before him, reading slowly over every word. He lifted one long turquoise finger to tap at the lit screen. Gray eyes the size of softballs closed halfway as he leaned in closer, trying to make sense of the words that had started to blur together. He sighed and lifted thin hands with seven equally sized digits to his face to scratch his hairless cheeks. He had been staring at the same page on the screen now for two hours and he was no closer to deciphering the cryptic meaning.

“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…” he spoke, a thin nasally sound escaped through the small trunk attached to his face.

What kind of history was this?

Nearly a century ago his people, the Hytairans, had been traveling the furthest they had ever gone through their known space and were exploring new galaxies. They had been searching the stars for 543 years when their best interstellar ship the Zyfora had sent back a series of communique:

Date: Fortar-02-10,234

To: Senior Advisors, Feloyn Space Inst.

-Warning-

-Minor damage to systems-

-Stopped-

-Moon orbiting-

-Habitable planet-

-3rd from star-

-Quadrant 452-

-Scanners down-

-Unsure possible life-

Date: Fortar-03-10,234

To: Senior Advisors, Feloyn Space Inst.

-Update-

-Repairs underway-

-Scanners up-

-There is life-

Date: Fortar-05-10,234

To: Snr Advsrs, Feloyn Spc Inst.

-Possibly noticed-

Date: Fortar-06-10,234

To: Anyone

-They approaching-

All of Hytair had held its collective breath for another message. It took nearly ten days, but the news that was received sent a wave of excitement across every city. There was intelligent life and though no-where near as advanced as they were, these aliens were on the cusp of interstellar travel themselves. The initial meeting showed both sides showing caution and for nearly an hour they had regarded each other warily. After neither side showed signs of hostility the Hytairans approached the aliens. The Hytairans were starting to run low on their air supply and were becoming desperate, they skipped past all formalities and pulled out their translators to quickly discuss with the alien scientists the molecules of their planet’s atmosphere.

They amazingly breathed the same unique make-up of air.

Grateful, the Hytairans accepted the offered trip down to the surface of the planet that the weird smaller creatures called humans had said was ‘Earth’. For a month these humans helped to shuttle the stranded Hytairans back and forth from their damaged ship, helping with repairs and anything else that was needed. They allowed the crew members to acquire any material they required if they had it. After the Zyfora was deemed space-worthy again, the Hytairans readied themselves to return to their home planet to deliver a full report, promising to return within five years.

True to their word, five years passed and the Hytairans returned with a galactic fleet of spaceships the exact day of their departure. They brought with them other-worldly gifts and delegates from their home-planet to discuss opportunities for both sides. Each race soon found themselves enjoying their growing friendship and both sides continued to flourish. Trade routes were established between the two planets and the Hytairans helped the humans to start their own explorations of nearby star systems. They were cautious however and still kept most of their technology a secret.

Ninety-nine years had passed, and the centennial was quickly approaching. The Hytairans had decided it was time to take a closer look at the human’s history and put together an appropriate ceremony to celebrate 100 years of comradery. They knew humans loved the anniversaries of special occasions and what other occasion was there more important than the meeting of the Hytairans. However, being the thoughtful species, they were, they wanted the celebration to be meaningful to the humans, so they had sent a small team to go over the history books.

This was the first team to ever delve extensively into Earth’s written past, and Gorthak, having graduated top of his class at the Interplanetary University in the Trelar system was excited to accept the position at the newly made outpost on Earth. His task was to pour through the vast amounts of documents the humans had stored their histories on. He had soon learned to enjoy the quiet that surrounded him when he went to the library. Every paper he had read thus far had been tedious and boring, with the occasional oddity thrown in.

Who would have been able to guess that humans were once able to turn invisible, fly, cast lightning bolts from their hands, or at one point come back to life after being dead? He had been looking through a rather interesting book withdrawn pictures one day and found that during that era, those who reanimated after death wanted to eat those who survived. He wondered how they had managed to overcome that terrible point in their past.

Gorthak had been growing increasingly frustrated with the confusing texts and scriptures he was currently looking over. He frowned and closed the document on the screen in front of him, “Dr. Seuss, hah! A doctor of what? Different colored fish and food? Though, I do wonder whatever happened to that talking cat.” He clicked on another link on the screen and a smile appeared on his thick dark blue lips, “Ah, good, this one is much longer. Ok, … King? A king?! Oh, for sure good history!” He opened the device laid next to the human computer and flipped it open. His thin digits flashed over the translucent screen as he typed the notes in.

“King, History book,” he looked again at the title of the document, “What kind name this?” he shrugged his narrow shoulders. For a Hytairan he was one of the tallest and thinnest. He prided himself on keeping his figure well-maintained as did most others of his kind.

Gorthak settled into the overstuffed computer chair to read quickly through the King’s writing and found himself coming up with more questions than the writing provided answers. Who were these people? What exactly was this being tormenting them for so long? From the description in the document, he started to grow fearful of the implications of this history. He knew there had been wars and dark periods in their history. But this? This was surely the ravings of a madman! What King would be okay with unleashing some evil being on his people?

He shrieked and flushed a deeper hue when a hand slapped down on his shoulder and a cheery feminine voice said, “Heya Gorthak! Watcha reading today?”

Natalie Hopper had quickly become his first human friend when he had come to Earth. She had made herself available to him whenever he needed any help and he always enjoyed talking to her when she was around. She reminded him of one of those tiny furry creatures she called a mouse, with her short curly brown hair and the top of her head barely reaching his chest.

“Nat!” Gorthak took a deep breath, the racing in his two hearts started to slow. “You frightened me like a young Tabjaw who wasn’t expecting the Dinkur to be behind it,” he laughed heartily and returned to his normal coloring.

Nat looked at him, confusion clearly written across her face at his analogy, “Uh, right, heh. I just came to see if you needed any help today?”

Gorthak wiped his trunk, still amused at his joke and glanced at the lit monitor, “What is your opinion, of… this?” he asked pointing to the document he had pulled up.

“Oh! Yeah! That one is very good! Very descriptive. Would you like me to get you a copy of this and a few of the other ones so you can read them tonight? I know how quickly you read,” Natalie smirked at him. She was honestly jealous of his ability.

Gorthak was troubled at her cheerful reaction. How could anyone be cheerful over something so disturbing? He was going to ask but decided to hold off and read more of this King’s history. Maybe there was something he was missing.

“I suppose that would help. Yes, thank you,” he smiled at her.

Nat returned the smile, “Great, I’ll be right back. He is one of my favorites!” she called over her shoulder as she skipped down a long aisle lined with many books.

“How she know where she going?” Gorthak mumbled and returned to his reading.

Natalie reappeared thirty minutes later, precariously carrying a large stack of books in front of her and dropped them onto the desk beside Gorthak with a loud thwump. The lady sitting at the desk near the entrance looked up over her thin frames and holding a finger to her lips she shushed Natalie. Natalie ducked her head and mouthed the word ’Sorry’ at the librarian.

If Gorthak had eyebrows they would have been raised high up on his forehead as he looked at the thick books Nat had delivered. “Thank you, I will be sure to return these tomorrow,” he said solemnly.

Nat nodded her head, not doubting his ability for a second, “Alrighty Gorthak! I will see you then! Call me if you have any questions.” She patted his shoulder once more and turned walking away to continue her duties.

Gorthak quickly closed the computer down after she had left. He wanted to return to his rooms and continue to read in privacy. The growing pit of concern had continued to enlarge after seeing the sheer size of the volumes Nat had said were some of her favorites. Had he misjudged his friend? Surely not. Natalie had always been kind and helpful to him. She had taught him how to acquire sustenance that he found pleasing. She had shown him the weird mechanics of their showers. Sweet Natalie who had introduced him to her other friends. Or had it all been a huge charade?

What was this creature the King had been so careful to record every detail about? He had even gone so far as to show the true character of each heroic person named. How did he get those interviews? Or was it just a good King portraying the heroes in a great light? He had to know more.

Gorthak stood and grabbed the blue ‘bookbag’ Nat had given him, carefully placing all the books inside. These were precious documents. No student from Hytair would ever be as careless as to damage written recordings. History was everything to them. Every babe, child, and elder knew that the written word held a lot of meaning. It was why he was so excited to be one of the first to be able to look through any human document he wanted. The humans had been careful before on which texts to show them. He was beginning to understand why.

He strapped on the book bag like Nat had shown him and walked up to the librarian. Her dispassionate brown eyes gazed at him as he approached. “Can I help you?”

Gorthak nodded, “Sorry to bother wise one. This book here by the King is curious. Do you carry any more like it?”

She slowly raised an eyebrow at him, “Yeah, okay, one second.” She turned towards her computer and typed in a few words. She clicked a few buttons and a small card was ejected from the side of her monitor. She grabbed it and handed it to him, “Here you go.”

“Thank you, Madame,” he bent forward at his waist as he accepted it, remembering one of the more pleasant entries he had read earlier mentioned a similar action happening between the people.

A smile broke across the librarian’s face, “Come again any time Gorthak, it is always a pleasure to see someone so highly interested in so many different topics. Yesterday you were reading about World War 3.”

“Well, human race interesting. Very much so. You are different from us, by a high degree,” he smiled warmly his trunk lifting slightly as he raised a hand to wave at her, “I see you later!” She returned his wave and Gorthak hurried his step and exited the library.

He paused, allowing his large eyes to adjust to the brightness. One thing that was different was the humans living schedule. He much preferred wandering around at nights, but it seemed life was busiest here during the day. He wanted to live as they did as much as he could, so he did his best to acclimate himself to their lifestyle. Gorthak reached his long arm behind him to open the side pouch on his pack and grabbed out a hat one of Nat’s friend Charles had given him. He stuck it on his round head and grinned. He enjoyed how the wide brim shaded his eyes from the sun for a moment and then hurried down the sidewalk, towards the Hytairan Embassy, as the humans called it. He much preferred calling it an outpost.

As he wandered through the city towards his destination, he allowed his large eyes to take in the tall glass buildings lining the road. Each building was owned by a different company and it seemed to him they were always competing. Why did the humans feel such need to be better than their others? Why did they not see themselves as one whole race as the Hytairans saw them? They all looked the same despite some of them being different shades of color. On Hytair the more colorful the better! He was not sure he would ever understand that aspect of humanity as he crossed the threshold into the enormous domed outpost.

It had taken 50 years to fully complete the dome and the buildings inside, but it was worth the time it had taken. Every inch of the domed interior reminded Gorthak of home and he visibly relaxed. He bent down near a light green, strange looking flower and inhaled deeply. The scent made his eyes close in bliss as he remembered the blue fields he used to run through where these flowers grew abundant. He sighed and stood, hurrying towards his quarters. Now was not the time to be distracted, he wanted to talk to his teacher Curnio.

Curnio had taught Gorthak everything he knew about the human history. He had been on earth for over 20 years before Gorthak arrived. If anyone could give him the answers he sought, without offending the humans, it would be Curnio. He reached the tall building that housed his rooms and entered, quickly climbing the stairwell up. Knowing his teacher would never concede to being awake during the human day-cycle, he was positive Curnio would not be up at this hour.

“Curnio!!! Curnio I need you now lazy lump, get up!” Gorthak rushed to the closed door and pounded on it repeatedly till it cracked open and two equally large blue eyes peered blearily out at him.

“Whuchu want?” the gruff voice asked.

“Curnio. I stumbled across writings of King. I brought with me more of his writings. Something not right. There much here that tells more treachery then anyone on Hytair could imagine,” Gorthak blurted out. He knew there was no time to waste. Their High Leader Kiratom was due within the week.

“Gie me minute. Gotta dress,” replied the voice still half-asleep.

The door closed abruptly.

Gorthak hurried into the kitchen area and poured water into the thing called a tea kettle. He opened the cabinet nearby, pulling guran leaves out. Guran was quite similar to tea, except it was much spicier. Hytairan food and drinks tended to be on the spicier side. Quickly he brought the leaves to steep and skimmed them out, pouring two small cups full of the reddish-brown liquid. He walked over to the table and placed them down gently. After he had situated the drinks to his liking, he opened his backpack and pulled out all the books Natalie had given him. He wanted his teacher to read the one that had troubled him the most first and placed it on Curnio’s side of the table. He then pulled out another book from the bag for himself. He set it on his side of the table and scratched his chin as he read the title.

Curnio exited his room in a flurry of flashing robes, still pulling the garments over his own thin limbs. He finished and walked over to the table, settling himself on the chair beside it. “Alright, Student of mine, show,” he held out his hands and Gorthak placed the book into them.

“You start here, on this one, I believe, and I continue on further with this one. If we both read, we shall be soon done.” Curnio nodded his assent and they both leaned close to the books, large eyes quickly absorbing each word on the page. Every few seconds the sound of a page turning from one or the other would pierce the silence. They sipped their guran and Gorthak would occasionally get up to refill their cups. When one would finish a book, it would be set aside with the notes they were both diligently keeping.

Three hours passed before they had finished each document and Curnio finally leaned back a worried expression on his face. “Things that roam this world and the depth of their abilities are things we must find out. Delegates must have not known these writings. How could they? We must stop Kiratoms entourage from Earth. If we find this stuff now, someone grew careless and they are planning.”

Gorthak nodded, his hearts increasing in speed as he spoke, “Must I do? What?”

“Act as if no wrong was found. They not understand our whys or whens. I make sure our people leave planet quickly. We rendezvous with Leader. See what he wish to do.”

It was not an easy wait for Gorthak. Five days had passed since he had told Curnio about the wretched histories of the humans. Curnio had asked him to continue to read as much as he could and the more he read, the more discouraged he became. He had hoped it had just been one delirious King. Unfortunately, he saw that the depravity was everywhere. Thousands of voices had joined together in their writings and it could be no coincidence that their accounts were all eerily similar.

Curnio burst into their apartment, “Come, we leave now! Kiratom is close, we get there in 12 hours at shuttles fastest speed. Told humans we go to meet our Leader to prepare.”

Gorthak nodded and swallowed hard. He was afraid of the implications of what he had found, and what his leader would choose to do. He liked the humans of the Earth now and was not certain they should be held accountable for the past atrocities and weird lifestyles of their ancestors.

“Are doing right thing?”

Cunio, who had been gathering his bags, stopped and looked at Gorthak, “Son, listen, you did fine job uncovering, you did. You may saved thousands us. Now come, we go.”

Gorthak nodded his large turquoise head sadly. His shading rippled darker with his internal struggle. He had not said goodbye to Nat, or the nice librarian, nor any of his other human friends he had made. They couldn’t all be bad people. Though who knew if in a few days they would still be alive. Kiratom was not known for being as understanding as other Hytairans.

Gorthak followed Curnio outside into the empty courtyard and onto the awaiting shuttle. The outpost was eerily quiet, everyone else had quietly departed over the past few days. They had managed to slip away unnoticed. He glanced around a frown appearing on his face as he imagined his kind working hand in hand with the humans he had been so intrigued by his whole life. Why did he open that document?

He sat down in his seat on board, buckling himself in and closed his eyes reliving the past week and how things had changed so quickly. He didn’t realize how tired he had been. He had been working hard to compile as much information as he could to show Kiratom that it was no surprise to the other five Hytairans on board when he drifted off to sleep.

His dreams were troubled. Visions of war with the humans kept assaulting him. One minute he would be running in a green Earthen field with Natalie and the next a large Hytairan military force was invading, cutting the humans down one by one. Was this what the future held?

Gorthak shot straight up in his seat, breathing hard and looked at the teal hand on his arm.

“We have met up with them,” Curnio spoke quietly.

Gorthak nodded and unbuckled himself from his seat. He stood, stretching his long thin limbs out. Now was the time to tell what he had found. A ripple of dread ran through him and encircled his three stomachs. He fought down nausea that threatened to expunge anything in his stomachs onto the metal flooring and took a few deep breaths. He grabbed his bag and hurried to catch up with Curnio. Frowning, Gorthak slowed his pace when he reached his mentor. They walked beside one another in companionable silence.

This would be the first time Gorthak had ever had to deal with the Imperial Kiratom. He glanced down at his dark gray robes and, in an attempt to smooth some of the wrinkles, ran his hands down the long folds. He hoped that Kiratom would be too interested in what he had to say to notice the disgraceful state of his attire. Hytairans prided themselves on always being well-kept.

Gorthak blinked a few times entering the circular command center of the headship Zytar. This was the grandest ship they had ever built. It was a larger clone of the fabled Zyfora. Their engineers had spent nearly 80 years perfecting its design. This was its maiden voyage and it had been accompanied by a fleet of twenty of their other strongest ships.

Gorthak trembled as he looked at the fifteen other Hytairans. All were various shades of blues, yellows, and greens and were standing around the central table. They were distracted, peering down at a hologram of the Earth. Along the circular walls, there were huge translucent command screens attached. Each one was zoomed in on different cities.

“Gorthak! Report!” rumbled a deep commanding voice from the tallest Hytairan at the head of the table. To Gorthak, Kiratom resembled everything a good and fierce leader should be. He was intelligent and loyal to his people. Nothing would stop him from protecting every last citizen of Hytair.

“Sir, I afraid this past century the.. the humans.. deceived us,” the words poured from his mouth and the Hytairans listening all shimmered darker colors in their anger and fear. He had just finished describing the history of the document he held when Kiratom cut him off.

“Silence! I have heard enough. A.. what did you call it, Kloon? I must know what this thing is,” he breathed deeply through the maroon trunk on his face. His face was a cloud of anger as his skin rippled through different shades of red.

“I not understand. None of other scholars come across these histories before. How?”

Gorthak splayed his long thin hands wide in front of him, “Assumptions, have few, Sir. I think prior scholars only ask for certain histories, so humans not show these. I peruse their documents myself. Noticed the odd writings. Did not appear best interest for us.”

Kiratom nodded, “The era of .. what did you call it? The wooking.. bah forget! That truly show depravity depth of humanity. Eating own kind?” A shudder rippled through the leader’s thin shoulders. “Lorat,” Kiratom turned towards a yellow Hytairan, “Call their ambassador near outpost. I demand meeting with human leader. We ask humans what these histories mean! If have to blockade humans, wretched souls, this quadrant, we will.”

Lorat hurried to his station in front of one of the huge screens and extended a hand to push a button on the wall beside it. A keyboard swung out with dozens of other buttons on it and he quickly pushed a combination of different colors. The monitor flashed black briefly before pulling up a telecom to a human secretary sitting behind a desk.

“Greetings!” the cheerful voice floated out of the speakers overhead, “You must be Kiratom’s delegation. We are excited you have arrived so quickly! If,”

“ENOUGH,” Kiratom angrily interrupted the secretary, her mouth falling open in surprise. “We arriving three hours, prepare landing zone. I wish talk your leader. It is utmost importance. I suggest he there when landing happens. Your ambassador could not bother pick up call herself, you deliver message. Lorat!” He waved an arm and the yellow Hytairan shut the communication system down. “Let see if honor request humans do.”

Gorthak paced the floors of the Zytar as it hurtled through the outer reaches of the Milky Way. He kept questioning his decision and all the things he had read. How could the humans have lied to them for so long? Where were these creatures they had described so easily? How long ago did these things happen? Why?

The Hytair’s ship slowed as it approached Earth and settled into a close orbit. All but five of the Hytairans on the Zytar gathered onto the shuttle to depart. The rest of the fleet surrounded the lead ship in preparation for what may lay ahead. Their crews stood ready to protect and destroy when and if the time came. These individuals had not had to fight any space battles in their lifetimes but at Kiratom’s insistence, they had kept their skills sharp with routine practice drills.

The shuttle door closed after everyone had been seated and detached from the Zytar. It pulled away, clearing the large spaceship, and headed towards Earth. Gorthak watched out the window as they neared their outpost. He watched the trees grow larger as they continued their approach and sighed as the shuttle touched down, landing at their outpost a few minutes later.

A small group of humans was gathered when the door opened and Kiratom strode off to stand in front of Earth’s Ruler. He peered down with his large stormy eyes into the bright blue ones that returned his stare calmly.

A small man compared to the mighty Kiratom, Todd Whern barely reached the alien’s shoulder. He had never seen one of their kind so angry before and he wondered who or what had insulted them. He was a 3rd generation Ruler of the Coalitions of Earth, having been born into this life he was ready to tackle any problem and figure out what had happened. He would try to find any means to appease the Hytairans. They had become a vital part of humanity’s life and he did not want to think what would happen if friend quickly turned enemy.

“Kiratom! What seems to be the matter, dear friend?” Todd’s voice was warm with his greeting.

“Whren! Explain yourselves!”

Todd furrowed his eyebrows, “I am not sure what you mean?”

“This!” Kiratom threw a book at the surprised man.

It landed at his feet and he bent over to pick it up. He flipped it over and looked at the cover. His confusion increased, “I am not sure I under…”

“WELCOME TO EARTH!” interrupted a shouting, very cheerful, very feminine voice.

Those assembled turned and Gorthak screamed as he took in the creature in front of them. He had not been expecting it to have a female voice, nor sound so happy, but here it was. In the flesh, so to speak. That thing that was described in the document so well.

A clown.

The monster was holding a bouquet of brightly colored balloons that it quickly let go when it noticed eight Hytairan laser-pistols pointed at it.

“Uh….. help?” it squeaked.

Todd who had been staring dumbfounded at the display in front of him shook his head and came to his senses hearing the small plea. “What is the meaning of all this!? Why are you wanting to shoot Natalie? She is friends with your Gorthak there. Granted, I was not expecting her to appear dressed like she is,” he turned to look at the shaking distraught woman. “Why in the world are you dressed like that?!”

Natalie was barely able to whisper out, “I thought he liked the story…”

Gorthak spoke quickly, eyeing the costumed Natalie warily, “That not Natalie!!! That something truly evil. All described here in your histories!” His voice rose, desperate to get out the words before anyone else could intervene. “I go through many documents and first I thought everything was as predecessors said. Humans truly a race like our own. I go further than they, though. I found histories you not wish seen!” He looked at the clown, “And if that truly Nat and she that demonic thing called clown, then she no friend mine!”

Kiratom glared down at Todd, “Explain, well.”

Todd looked from Natalie to Gorthak, down to the book in his hands. He repeated the process a few times replaying the events in his head. His face was a study in emotions as he tried to work through what was going on. Suddenly his eyes went wide and he stared down hard at the book in hand then at Gorthak. When he spoke, his voice was barely able to contain the laughter that wanted to burst out, “Gorthak,” he cleared his throat and approached the turquoise Hytairan, “I must ask you, you call this our history,” he motioned to the book in hand. “Why do you call this novel history?”

Gorthak’s hearts fluttered in his chest at the question. Why was the human Ruler looking so amused? Insulted, he snapped at the humans in his irritation, “What you mean why?! It there with all other documented histories!!”

Todd’s lips twitched, “I think there has been a misunderstanding here, gentlemen. Please, lower your weapons. There is no danger,” he walked over to Natalie who was frozen in fear and he reached up to grab a handkerchief from his pocket. He started to wipe down her face and after a few minutes of vigorous scrubbing, he stepped away to reveal Natalie’s pink-tinged face.

“See, it IS Nat, it was just face-paint. I am guessing, in all our excitement of finding another sentient species, we have made an error in judgment and for that, I must ask your forgiveness,” as he spoke the Hytairans lowered their weapons at a hand signal from Kiratom. Gorthak looked back and forth from Nat to their Ruler, feeling as if he had gotten something all wrong.

Todd held up the book turning it over to show it was a copy of Stephen King’s IT and said, “I am guessing our ancestors never took the time to explain the differences between fiction and non-fiction?”

Halloween 2018

It was Halloween night! The year 2018 and I was ready! I had all the kids dressed, had a plan, and was ready to go! Our first stop of the night was to be at a nearby local college. They had games, candy, and glow sticks for the little masked demons running around. The costumes were decent and there was much laughter to be had. Everyone in my group of 10 (2 families) was having a good time.

The time came for us to go into the Haunted House. Cool! I love Haunted Houses I thought to myself.

Now, before I go further, I must say this. I am proud to admit that Haunted Houses never really scare me that much. I always manage to come out unscathed, no tears, and generally laughing at those poor souls who are frightened. Also, this being a small-town college hosted event, I knew that it would not be an all-out fright fest like so many others. In other words… I was prepared.

We excitedly got in line to await our turn to go in. At this point my group is now down to 8 because the man of the house decided he was going to not go in and sit with the baby. I was okay with that! I wanted to go in and the baby, being only a year old, would have probably came out traumatized from the flashing lights.

We approached the door and I took my 5-year-old daughter’s hand in mine, looking down at her tiny upturned face.

“Are you ready to go in?” I asked her.

“Yeah!” she replied happily, jumping up and down in her growing sugar induced frenzy that takes over all children on Halloween night.

The girl standing at the door had on no costume I could tell and her face had two black streaks on her cheeks. It gave me high-hopes for the rest of what lay within. But, I set aside my prejudice of this one individual and taking a deep breath entered into the seizure-inducing foggy room that was revealed when she opened the door.

I learned quickly the lay of the land through the minimal looks I got through those flashing lights. What I could ascertain was what I had expected, half-decent costumes and college-students not really trying. My daughter would get surprised occasionally, but she’s just like her momma, she wasn’t really that scared. I was proud of her little piping voice telling these ‘creepy things’ “I see you! You don’t scare me! You’re not scary! I see you!”

It swelled my heart, reminding me of my younger self. I would do the same through the Haunted attractions my parents would take me on. I was one proud Mama.

Then I saw him.

That loathsome vile creature that has haunted me from my childhood.

Pennywise the clown.

Now, I was not ready for this. I was half-expecting a clown at some point, so, I had prepared to just ignore them easily. NOT someone who looked like they had spent a fair amount of money, a lot of time, and a great deal of effort on their costume. My heart began to beat fast, a small ripple of fear ran through my stomach, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I looked across that span of distance between us.

Light on.

His eyes.

Light off.

Brief panic.

Light on.

That smile.

Light off.

Then I made the biggest mistake ever. Three little words that I thought I had just uttered in my head reached my ears as a whisper instead.

“Oh god no….”

He heard those words and locked on like he had just been given his prime directive from Stephen King himself. He bee-lined straight to me, an evil smile on his face and I nearly screamed in my fright.

“You get away from me!” I said and holding firm to my daughter’s hand, turned away to focus on the next part. My heart that had felt like it was about to burst from my chest was just starting to calm before I made my next mistake.

I shrieked.

I had turned and saw his face nearly an inch from mine. He had followed me across the room and had waited for me to turn around. This was my hellish torture for the next couple minutes that I was in that room, allowing my daughter to enjoy everything else.

Finally!

We were done in this room. We left to go look in the next. I was relieved! I knew that they had their designated rooms and wouldn’t want to wander around a lot because of the cramped interior.

We entered into that second room and I fully relaxed. I was happy. No more Pennywise to haunt me. We were halfway through that room and I was showing my daughter a girl who was lying on the floor covered in blood. This one actually spooked my daughter and I was teasing her trying to get her to walk closer. She refused, so I took her hand again and went to turn around to find the rest of my group. I realized I had not seen them since that first room.

I felt my heart quicken again and broke out in a cool sweat as I uttered the words..

“No! No, no, no, no, go away! I don’t like you!”

Pennywise had found me again and was again right in my face not saying a word. This time he upped the ante and every time I moved, he slid his foot along the floor slowly following as close as he could not touching but putting his face in mine. I kept telling him to get away, bad idea, it only increased his torment.

I had had enough! It was time to leave and time to leave NOW!

I looked through the glass separating the rooms and like a beacon on a dark night there in four bright red letters was the word I so longed to see.

EXIT

I headed for that word like my life depended on it, keeping my daughter close by.

Here I made my 3rd and most costly mistake of the night.

I turned to look for Pennywise and yelped when, again, he startled me by being where I wasn’t expecting it. In doing so, I backed away from him and put the glass in between me and my beloved EXIT sign. I went to hurry towards the opening I had been going before, only to be turned back by another group heading in.

I am not sure how but during the next few seconds of me clearing the doorway for the group entering Pennywise had seen his moment and advanced towards me. I backed away, only to realize he had effectively pinned me in a corner. I was now trapped by this horrifying demonic clown!

Oh, the torture. I can not begin to explain to you how well this person playing Pennywise made me feel that he was actually the real thing. The swaying back and forth, perfectly timed to the flashing lights. He again increased his performance moving in closer, pausing each time the light would flick on.

I could take no more and pushing past him, trying my best not to touch him, I said “Nope, goodbye! I will not be your friend!”

I got those four red letters in my sights once more and making sure I had my daughter’s hand in mine, hurried towards it. I exited the room and then the college itself, out into the growing darkness.

Relief.

I saw my group up ahead on the sidewalk, waiting for us. I took a few steps towards them, before having to look one last time back.

I nearly died.

He had followed me outside and was right behind me!!!!

I did my best to compose myself and scurried away towards my group. I reached the safety of their circle, jabbering about Pennywise and him following me. I looked back at him and he was staring at me. He started towards me again and for that brief moment I thought I was not yet free. Then he turned around, going back inside and I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

I was happy when we finally continued on our way from the college. We had many more laughs and the kids reaped in their prized candy that night. I will always look back on that night and laugh at myself. I mean, who wouldn’t? It was a thrilling and wonderful experience. All in good fun! I guess I can honestly now say I was fully and 100% terrified at a haunted attraction. Well unless you count that time I did get scared when I was a kid and I stepped on a squeaky mouse in a haunted forest, but that, is another story.

Winners That Kill

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Photograph Credit: Pixabay.com

The grinding, crunching, and squealing of a machine hard at work nearly burst her eardrums. Pain. Excruciating pain surged through her body in growing waves and a thick inky darkness overwhelmed her vision. How could she be experiencing such agonizing torture and still live? In fact, was she even still alive? These treacherous thoughts briefly flitted through what shaky consciousness remained as all other senses were being torn to thin shreds.
Relief coursed through her body when the crushing sounds echoing around her abruptly cutoff. That single good feeling was short-lived, wrenched away, replaced by the chilling realization of being unable to open her eyes. Her lips parted to scream her horror and she was surprised when no sound came forth. A cold, hard lump grew in the pit of her stomach, adding nausea to her already overwhelmed system.
‘What the hell is going on?!’ pierced through her foggy mind. ‘Where am I? What happened? Why can’t I remember anything?’ quickly chased the first thought. Unspoken words continued to reverberate through her mind, one tumbling after the other, creating a chaotic squall that threatened to consume her. The furious interrogation came crashing to a halt as another more haunting question rang loudly in her head.
‘Who am I?’
Sounds of approaching footsteps interrupted her jumbled thoughts, not allowing her to dwell further on those last sickening words. She forced herself to remain still, feeling her stomach tighten, contorting with nausea. Her heart racing faster threatened to explode in its frenzied pace while she listened to the impending step draw near. If she could disappear that instant, she knew she would do so. She would do anything to avoid feeling like her body was being ripped apart once more.
A quiet stillness enveloped the vicinity surrounding her as the unknown entity reached their destination. She nearly released her bladder when whoever it was started mumbling to themselves and attempted to calm herself. She strained to make out what the low harsh voice was saying. A soft click punctuated the eerie grumbles and a few seconds later the whir of the machine started to echo startling her. The grinding noises increased in tempo and fear gripped her heart again, forcing her to realize her torture was not yet over. She wondered one last time, why it was she could not scream, thinking through the unbearable haze that, if she could it might give her some release.
Humming under their breath, her captor continued their heinous assault on her form, each new pain tormenting her. The clicking and grinding continued for what felt like eons to her and, every so often, when she felt like she could let herself drift off into the dark seducing abyss, the sound of her torturer chuckling would snap her back to reality. She wished that she would cease to exist from the agony pounding between her head and feet, every inch resounding with the all-consuming pain. She was sure she and the machine were becoming one and was extremely surprised and slightly dismayed when it finally stopped. She considered what was to come next while the ear-shattering noises dissipated, and the quiet whir of the contraption ceased, powering down.
She wasn’t sure how long she floated in that dark welcoming silence while flashes of half-made memories jumped up to beckon her. She was comforted by what she saw. A warm smile, strong arms that lifted a laughing child, a mother softly whispering a lullaby caressed her mind in a warm, soothing embrace. ‘Who are these people?’ slipped in uninvited, wrapping itself around her mind, choking off the peaceful contemplation. She let the warm feelings evaporate as she swam back up the line of questions already demanding answers.
A clanking bang echoed around her and she felt herself falling into a heap on the damp and cold floor. She felt a presence close at hand and the loud breathy grunt close by fluttered the hair near her ear. She shivered, a chill running up her spine as the overwhelming scent of death and decay reached her nose. She started to gag and was about to empty everything in her stomach when a quick hard prod to her ribs made her choke on her own bile. Another heated grunt issued forth from whatever creature was nearby and she was roughly shoved back to sit against a wall. Her stomach threatened to regurgitate again when something spongy and dripping wet slid over her face, coating her eyes with its slime. The appendage stroked down her cheek tracing her lips first before prying her mouth open, forcing a thick liquid down her throat. It was rotting her tongue out of her mouth she was sure of it. Whatever it was, the taste caused her to almost vomit it back up.
Pushing herself to her knees, she heaved, wanting to rid herself of the contents causing her so much discomfort. Just as she was about to succeed in her attempt, the same damp and malleable thing slapped over her mouth trying to push her back down to the ground. A startled grumble reached her ears and, fighting wildly to free herself, her hands flew up to scratch at her attacker. She felt her stomach squeeze in fear, realizing she had no clothes on and breaking out in a cold sweat, she twisted her body, writhing to escape the warm slick appendage that held her in place. She didn’t want to know what other tortures were being conceived by her captor.
Out of nowhere, a hard thump to her temple caused flashes to dot her eyes. Falling back limp, she fought to remain from slipping into the alluring embrace of nothingness once again. She could barely make out the sounds of something being dropped near at hand, accompanied by an angry grunt and a heavy gait retreating past the ringing in her ears. She dared not move, wondering if her unknown assailant would return as she slowly recovered. The aching in her head held her in place for what felt like hours to her and, during this time she let her mind begin to wander again. Question after question rolled past one another. Who was she? Where was she? What was that thing? Why was she being held here? She had to know.
Sluggishly, she lifted one eyelid open and was surprised to see she could make out the shape of the room she was in. Looking to the ground nearby, she searched for the lump of the thing the unknown entity had dropped. Reaching forward, her fingers brushed rough fabric and pulled it closer to her. She was curious when she saw it was a brown stained bag and grew even more perplexed upon opening it, peering in with bleary eyes at the contents within.
‘Why would they give me a flashlight, a gun, and what is that? A knife?’
Using the nearby wall for leverage, she managed to get herself into a standing position, bag in hand. She slipped the long rope that made up the handle around her neck and over her shoulder. Reaching inside she pulled the flashlight out, silently hoping that it would turn on. A relieved sigh escaped her lips as the thin beam of light flashed on, illuminating her surroundings. She squinted barely able to see, her eyes watering with her effort to focus. Pushing off from the wall she slid her feet across the smooth uneven surface of the floor beneath and stumbled forward slowly.
She paused before the only hallway leading out and glancing back, shined the light around taking in the small room. She blinked her eyes, trying to clear the blurriness that persisted and noticed what appeared to be a table with raised sides, forming a trough, in the middle of the chamber. A chute extending from the ceiling above it dripped something unknown and she was not curious enough to shuffle back to inspect it closer. She heard a machine kick on and a red chunky liquid spewed out of the gaping hole, filling the boxed in area below it. Revulsion churned her already queasy stomach and turning quickly she entered the darkness ahead of her leaving the room behind.
She was unsure of how long she had wandered down the dark hallway when she noticed her eyesight had cleared, allowing her to inspect her surroundings better. The halls were coarse and the ground slightly uneven, appearing to have been carved straight from the surrounding bedrock. She let her fingers trail over the soft, cool stone, seeking to draw strength from the hard walls themselves. Unwanted questions popped into her head while she traversed the murky passage.
‘What did I do to deserve this? Was I really that horrible? If I wasn’t, then why I am here? Does this fucking hallway have an end? Wait, what was that?’
Her feet came to a halt as a faint noise floated out of the darkness, her heart flipping under her breast. Casting her light around, she saw the stone hallway open to the right up ahead and could hear a soft slurping noise. She quickly backed up against the wall and shakily turned her flashlight towards the ground. She took her free hand and pushed hard against the cold lump still sitting in her stomach while she bit her bottom lip debating on what to do.
‘I guess I should check out that gun and why does my shoulder itch?’ A small spot had started to irritate her and reaching up, she scratched her nails across the area, temporarily relieving it. Pinning the flashlight between her chin and shoulder, she slipped her hand into the bag hanging around her and grew excited when her fingers brushed the gun. She raised the gun up into the light, inspecting it. Noticing no obvious safety, she pressed the release to eject the magazine and brought it close to her face to quickly count the bullets.
‘Okay 16,’ resounded through her head. She flipped the magazine over peering close in the dim light trying to see the size of the ammo. ‘And it’s a 40 millimeter.’ Sliding it back in, she pulled back on the upper receiver and released it, around entering the chamber. Grabbing the flashlight, she overlaid her gun hand onto the wrist of the one holding it, so that anywhere she aimed, she had light. ‘Good to go.’ Feeling more confident she approached the intersection and leaned around the corner to peer down it.
Her eyes grew wide and all previous assurances she had fled upon seeing the grotesque shape of what appeared to be a quivering flesh colored mound. She quickly glanced down the hallway she had been heading before allowing her attention to focus fully on the horror she was seeing. Her eyes narrowed, barely making out sets of skewed broken limbs and hands poking out from the creature and she raised her flashlight in her own trembling one to shine into the corner the distracted fleshy mass was shoved into.
‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ she thought as the jumbled mass swung around to face her. She opened her mouth to scream and was surprised when, this time, her voice echoed off the surrounding walls, shocking her into silence.
Eyes.
Five sets of hollow eyes stared out at her from bulging heads that were attached to parts of separate arms and legs, reaching out to allow it a closer look at her. Every head was vastly different from the next in their appearance and she shivered, noticing that each blinking black orb was locked onto her inspecting her warily. She let her gaze quickly take in the clumps of hair still lingering on their skulls, greased down in its filth. The skin covering each one was stretched thin, making them appear starved. She almost felt pity for the poor creature before one of the mouths split open into an evil grin and she heard it speak in a gravelly voice that made the hairs on her arms and back of her neck stand on end.
“It’s time.”
Terror gripped her, freezing her in place when she saw the quaking blobs speed in her dim light, various appendages bursting forth to help it half walk, half shamble towards her. She curled her finger, tightening it around the trigger once and a loud bang echoed down the hallway. The bullet hit one of the weaving heads, punching a gaping hole into one of the eye sockets spewing clots of thick red-black gooey liquid down the remaining fragments of bone and flesh.
Briefly regretting her actions from the ringing in her ears, she kept her gaze locked onto the being and saw the thin slits in the four remaining thin faces peel open howling their fury. The creature quickened its pace, crooked limbs flashing and its body rippling with each movement in its hurry to reach her. Swallowing hard, attempting to ease her still nauseous stomach, she took aim and pulled the trigger again, missing her target. She squeezed three more times, each bullet hitting the jiggling being, blood oozing from each new wound, and she was dismayed to see its headlong momentum increase instead. She turned to flee, her feet slapping against the floor mingled with the enraged screams behind her and glancing back shining her light, she shivered to see it keeping up.
She forced her attention forward, focusing on the rhythm of her breathing, trying in vain to block out her distorted emotions. Glancing behind her, her heart leaped to her throat and she urged herself to quicken her pace pulling further ahead. Noticing she had managed to put some distance between her and the horrifying pursuer she spun around facing the advancing monstrous mass again. She centered her dimming beam of light on it took aim, squeezing her finger around the trigger once.
She was rewarded with the shrieking of only three heads this time and a surge of excitement raced through her as she thought to herself, “I can do this!’ She fired twice more, her flashlight showing she had blown the jaw of one of the heads off, but the eyes still blinked at her light. She fired again and whatever life that had been there was gone. The two-remaining roared in their anger and she was surprised to see the one that had spoken had remained unscathed. Their eyes were mere slits as they crept closer, anger contorting their faces into grotesque masks.
“We will not go through again!” it shouted at her and a small voice joined it in agreement, “Yes, we cannot be disgraced again.” The patchwork of body parts lurched towards her closing the gap quickly, desperate to reach her. She panicked and let loose five more bullets in quick succession, each barely missing the heads as she turned to run down the dark hallway again.
‘You can’t miss now, you only have two shots left you dumb bitch!’ rang through her mind. She had been counting and was positive she had not missed one. Taking a deep breath, she swung around and planted her feet firmly, raising the gun and flashlight again, to face the gelatinous quivering mound of flesh one last time.
Rivers of bloody sludge ran down its appalling form, coating the floor beneath it as it advanced towards her. Chunks of bone and brain dropped from the skulls that were partially blown open each time it moved and sickly arms reached out to smear the walls, pulling itself closer. The head that had first spoken extended from a twisting limb attached to its body. Its voice was eager. “You won’t, it’s my turn,” it whispered, before lunging again at her. She fired once at the other head, just as it opened its mouth to join in taunting her and was relieved to see the bullet find its mark. Taking quick aim at the other one, she fired.
“Oh no,” quietly slipped from her lips as she saw she had missed. The creatures last mouth split into an expectant grin. She went to back up, her foot hitting an uneven portion in the floor and fell back, the gun and flashlight flying from her hands. Her scream echoed down the tunnel when she felt a cold hand grasp her ankle pulling her closer.
‘I can’t die, not after this! Damn it, why did I panic!’ She fought against the limbs trying to reach her neck. She could hear the last head panting and whispering excitedly, saliva and blood dripping from its face, landing on hers. She felt fingers grasp her neck, slowly tightening, as the voice spoke once more, “Yes, yes, it is my turn now. I will not go back through again, I won’t! I get to join them now.” She felt its grip start to cut off her air supply, a few tears slipping down her cheeks.
Suddenly recalling the bag that she had slung over her shoulder, she remembered that there was one item left inside its roughened cloth. She quickly reached in, slicing her finger as she grabbed the forgotten knife. The pain was welcomed as it gave her the jolt of adrenaline needed, and she gripped the knife more firmly in one hand, positive she could finish off the hideous gore-spattered blob. She reached up to place her other hand on the side of the remaining head that hovered over hers in the dark breathing its stench down onto her. She thrust as hard as she could, the knife sinking into the skull with a sickening pop, killing it instantly. Fighting to remain calm, hot tears poured down her face and she threw the knife away into the darkness, barely hearing it clatter as it hit the ground.
The crushing dead weight of the malformed creature was an unwelcome reminder that she was not yet safe. Pulling herself together, she squirmed her way out from under the suffocating mass and when she had all her limbs free, she sat up. She reached out for the flashlight slowly and her fingers paused mere inches from it when she noticed a dim light in the direction she had been headed. Gasping, her heart skipped a beat and she quietly hoped that this would be the exit out of this nightmare.
Trembling gently, she managed to get herself standing up and her knees threatened to buckle under her exhaustion. Feeling all the bruises covering her body she groaned rubbing at the spot on her shoulder that had begun to itch again and stumbled towards the light, flashlight forgotten. The single bright ray illuminated the end of the tunnel and her eyes watered with each agonizing step she took, drawing closer to the source. She was briefly blinded when she stumbled out onto a raised platform and raising her arms up, she shielded her eyes.
A thunderous cheer erupted from beyond the bright lights and blinking furiously, wiping teary eyes, she tried to see past the blinding beams. Horror filled her, and she felt her bladder finally release, the warm liquid sliding down her legs to form a puddle between her feet when she was finally able to see those who cheered so vigorously. Thousands of fleshy creatures like the one she had encountered before were writhing and flailing their limbs in excitement and had mouths split open howling in pleasure. Thousands of eyes were locked onto her, glazed in their ecstasy as bodies pressed against one another in the crowd. Her horror switched to dread as she felt something touch her shoulder. Tearing her gaze away from the hideous forms shrieking their delight in the distance, she glanced at what it was.
She saw a hand laying there, yet, it was not like hers. The fingers were much longer and slimmer with sharp hooked nails, and casting her gaze up the arm connected, she noticed pink healing scars connecting the pieces. Following the patchworked limb to its origin, she saw it poking up over the shoulder that had been bugging her. She felt a cold pit grow in her stomach as the itching started up again. A head appeared, extending from a second limb attached to the lower back part of her shoulder, and a grin split its face. Black eyes peered into hers and she faintly noticed that its teeth were sharp points as it said, “We are the winner.”