There is a crack in my wall, one thing is certain: this is no ordinary crack.
|[Introduction] This is to be a story written by the group. When your turn comes you will be notified by e-mail. Please take your time and make this story a good one but try to limit your response time to the day you have received the e-mail notification. That way everyone will receive their turn in a timely fashion. For now I am not limiting the length of entries but try to keep them at around 500 words-ish. Any questions e-mail me! I'm also on Skype most days dllee.in.az is the skype name. Pop in and say hello!|
|There is a crack in my wall . . . one thing I am certain of, this is no ordinary crack. It is kind of jagged, and appears almost as if it is an evil sort of frown. There is a light emanating from the crack and I can hear something . . . coming from, it would seem, within. |
I am almost livid. I pay what I consider to be an over-generous amount of rent. The least the management could do is maintain the premesis.
Suddenly there is an exploding boom! The crack has widened, I bend down to peer within the crack . . . place my hand on it . . . and suddenly . . .
|A huge red Centipede comes scurrying out of the crack and over my hand. I cry out in horror, repulsed by its touch I pull my hand back as it scuttles diagonally up my apartment wall.|
I stand, slowly backing away from the crack. My anger has evaporated now, replaced by growing alarm.
I watch as a beetle the size of my fist appears at the lip of the crack. It pauses for a moment, then its iridescent carapace splits open, revealing frond like wings upon which it takes flight. I watch, incredulous as it heads straight for an open window and disappears into the night.
Gradually I become aware that the carpeted floor beneath my feet has begun to tremble, my attention draws inexorably back to the crack in the wall, the light emanating from within the crack has begun to pulse, emitting all the colours of the spectrum.
A violent tremor knocks me off my feet; I throw out my hands instinctively, tumbling to the floor as the crack in my wall yawns open. I look up in terror from my prone position. The crack is now large enough for a man to walk through.
What I see beyond its threshold fills me with dread.
|The wider the crack grew, the more clearly I could see a giant beast. He had to be 10 foot tall with armor like skin. He drew nearer and nearer to the crack. With each fall of his foot, the earth trembled yet again. I noticed a strange weapon in his hand. At first it looked like a club used by cavemen long dead, but then it came to life, emitting the pulsing glow I saw coming from the crack earlier.|
The crack widened again. Bits of plaster fell to the wayside and the internal studs cracked and buckled under the immense pressure. I fell to my knees and watched helplessly as he honed in on me, and started coming in my direction. As if escorting him, thousands of cockroaches and rats and centipedes and all other form of life that at one time had lived behind the wall ran in front desperate for safety, just as I now was.
I scrambled backwards for the door to my room, praying I could put it between the two of us, but from the looks of him the cheap plywood door was a joke. After a few short steps I reached the doorknob and turned. Then looking behind me I saw the hideous monster swing his mighty club at the opening of the crack making a giant entryway for himself.
He grinned, if you want to call it that, displaying a set of shark like teeth. One more step propelled him forward towards me. With his long stride he would be upon me in seconds.
Flinging open the door desperate to get away, I stepped into the hallway and froze when I saw…
|… a pregnant female version of the grotesque beast that was pursuing me. Her large compound eyes met mine and for an instant I was looking into the bottomless pit of hell. I forced myself to look away, but what I saw next sickened me even more than the creature’s evil eyes. |
This thing, what ever it was, had buried its shark-like teeth into my landlord’s headless torso, and was sucking, draining the body of all fluids. It tossed its meal to the floor, where the beast’s entourage of centipedes, cockroaches and rats were waiting. They descended upon what was left of the body.
I turned to my left, my only escape route, and ran down the stairs to the basement. As I stumbled down the dark passageway I heard my neighbor, Juan, yell, “Ejecutar, Marie, van a veniratraves de las grietas!”
Then … I heard a muffled scream. One of the creatures had found Juan’s wife.
There were other beasts and other cracks.
That’s when I panicked and it took every part of my will-power to keep from losing all my senses. My resolve to live was strong and I allowed my sense of survival to kick in. I hurried across the basement floor, tripping over storage boxes, lawn furniture and children’s toys, seeking a way out.
I found an abandoned coal chute that led to the outside. With some difficulty, I managed to worm my way up the ramp. Half-way up the feculent conduit I stopped to rest and catch my breath. Even from where I was, I could hear more screaming and the eeriest sounds I had ever heard. The creatures were communicating with earsplitting chirping, similar to a cricket’s chant.
Once again … I almost panicked when I thought about what I had just witnessed. Of course, that’s why the creatures looked like they were wearing armor. It wasn’t armor after all, but an insect’s exoskeleton. The creatures were giant insects. And not only big … they possessed intelligence.
Now, my mind was racing. How do you get out of this mess, Roger? What can I do to stay alive?
My only recourse was to find a way to get to my old friend’s place. Bruce Dennison, the bravest soldier I ever served with in Iraq and he was a skilled entomologist. His last words to me when we parted, “If you ever need me, look me up, Roger.”
I climbed my way out of the chute and fell to the ground, coughing and spitting up coal dust. I leaned against what was left of the collapsed apartment building, folding my legs toward my chest, forming a ball and choked back thoughts of despair.
At least a dozen or more of the creatures were prowling around the courtyard. The next thing I saw scared the hell out of me. Some of the creatures were going into a ‘crack in space’ and returning with huge seed pods, which they stacked into a pyramid shaped pile.
I stiffened with terror when the 10 foot tall one walked toward me, sniffing the air with its enlarged nostrils. It looked directly at me, but it couldn’t see or smell me. Then it dawned on me why. I was covered from head to toe with coal dust.
As quietly as I was able, I retreated into the darkness.
I allowed the blackness to swallow me up as I struggled to focus my thoughts.
"Where had these creatures come from? What did they want? Nothing good, that much was certain.
A low, clicking noise filled my ears and I watched in terror as another crack began to open above my hidingspot. An eerie, flourescent, purple glow spilled over me and I realized the creatures were searching for me!
Terrified, I scuttled backwards into the darkness. My breath stuttered in my lungs as I realized that I could almost understand whatthe creatures were saying.Could they hear my thoughts? What did this mean? The light swept across the chutes entrance and I realized my only chance at salvation was to get to Roger.
Muscles aching, I began to climb, praying I could reach the opening at the top, seconds before I tried to haul my body to freedom, a huge, spider-like beast blocked my path. Venom dripped from it's fangs as it chirped in triumph.
Where could I run to now?
|The spider-creature was about to spring his attack when he was joined by a 2nd and then a 3rd spider-creature. Were they pack-hunters? Amazing that my mind, terror filled as it was could even formulate the questoin. The beasts attacked. They were swift and terrible and worked with an uncanny unity. |
The first beast bit my arm I could feel fire from its venom racing up my arm as it made its way to my heart and the rest of my body. The second beast began to form a web-like cocoon around me. He was swift and quite efficient at it.
Colors began to swirl before my eyes with flashing lights. Sounds that I knew only I could hear and yet I began to get a sense that these beasts were indeed working in unison as my world began to go black.
I awoke, if you can call it that, more of a dim-twilight consciousness in some sort of what appeared to be an underground facility. There were other cocoons here. There were other spider-creatures as well scurrying back and forth. My consciousness dimmed again and went black.
I was jolted fully awake and to my amazement . . .
|There were people around me, eagerly peeling away the fibres of the cocoon that had encased me, among them, I recognised my old friend, Bruce Dennison. |
“Roger,” he said, smiling down at me. “Don’t struggle. We’ll have you out in a moment.”
He was right. In no time, the entire cocoon came free from my body.
“They don’t appear to mean us any harm Roger,” Bruce was saying as I sat up and began to take in my surroundings, “They move incredibly fast, it would seem the cocoons were the easiest option for them when moving us here.”
I realised that I was sitting on a rubble strewn concrete floor, in a group of about twenty-five other people. I tensed up when I saw that beyond our small human group, the spider creatures surrounded us.
“It sure is good to see you Bruce.” I said through gritted teeth, “If they don’t mean us any harm, then what the Axel F do they want?”
“Our help, from what I can figure out. “Bruce grinned. “They brought us here,” he indicated the building around us.
“The Peoria National guard armoury. The nearest I can figure it, they are involved in some kind of dimensional war that’s spilled over into our world.”
“Aren’t we the lucky ones.” I retorted, feeling a sudden need for coffee and a cigarette.
A vast rending implosion at the other end of the facility had us all instantly on our feet, trying to see what was happening. Looming through billowing, choking clouds of concrete dust came one of the shark-toothed beasts I had seen through the crack in my apartment wall. This one swung its club menacingly before it.
We watched as the spider creatures moved between the approaching beast and us. Then, as one, they surged forward.
Bruce was at my side, I felt his hand on my shoulder.
“C’mon Roger, let’s see if we can’t rustle up some hardware in this armoury and lend a hand.There was a murmur of approval from the group.
|We set off down the corridor signposted "Armory", leaving the sounds of alien combat behind us. As we ran, I could feel the scratching feeling of nicotine withdrawal in the back of my skull getting stronger. It was like I hadn't smoked in a week.|
We came to a checkpoint, the guard post was deserted and our way was blocked by a steel-barred gate. Bruce went over to the guard post and began looking for the gate control, while the rest of stood waiting, anxious of the sounds of battle that echoed down the corridor from the hall we'd come from.
"Hey buddy," I asked the man next to me, "have you got a smoke?"
The man turned to me and his eyes widened, aghast.
"Jesus," he said, his voice wobbling with shock, "what the hell happened to you?"
I had no idea what he meant and I didn't care. All I wanted was a damn cigarette.
"Have you got a damn cigarette!" I snapped.
"Uh, yeah, yeah sure, man," the man fumbled in his pocket and produced a pack of Lucky Strikes and a lighter. I snatched them off him and lit one.
Bliss. With the nicotine craving falling away, I began to feel an equally powerful need for caffeine.
The gates ahead swung open.
"Ok, let's move, people!" Bruce shouted. We carried on and came to lobby ahead of the armoury. A sheer steel door barred our way and again Bruce looked around for a door control.
I finished my smoke and was about to light another when I saw a coffee machine by the wall. I ran up to it and punched the Double Espresso button. A paper cup dropped into the dispenser and a dollop of espresso powder followed into it. I hit the button again. And again. As I pressed the Hot Water button I noticed the veins in the back of my hand had gone purple. I looked up and saw my face reflected in the plastic body of the machine. Similar purple tendrils snaked up from my neck into my face. The venom, I thought with a vague sense of panic.
The coffee machine pinged and I grabbed the steaming cup and drank it one gulp.
I felt something happen inside me. The nicotine and caffeine in my bloodstream mingled with the spider creature's venom and heat flashed through my body. The heat turned to energy and I groaned with the feeling of it. My reflection was glowing purple, and my face was changing, tightening, becoming stronger and sleeker. The energy roared around inside me, rising up into my head. It was unbearable. I screamed and the world flashed purple.
Then I felt a sense of serenity, of power. Everyone was looking at me with their mouths wide open.
"What the f-" Bruce mouthed. I could hear his whisper with absolute clarity. That was when I realised I was floating about three feet above the ground.
My hands, I noticed, glowed with crackling, purple energy.
I heard an eerie, clicking voice in my head.
"Earthman," it said, "I am the Nest Queen of this detachment. Your DNA is rare among your kind. It has merged with that of our kind, of the Astrachnid. You have become... superhuman."
|I open my eyes and stare at the dim, stained ceiling. There is silence, stillness, now, though I am afraid and do not move in this moment. The only light in the room is the toned down remains of daylight which permeate the dull curtains. For once, I am thankful for the room’s dankness and even its cobwebs and smell of damp. My heart takes its good time to slow down and I use this respite to reset my thoughts from 'Crazy Hellish nightmare' to 'Extremely Dull but Eminently Survivable Reality'.|
It was a dream, thank God. There are no insect people, there is no alien war and I have not become some kind of superhuman being. Of course not. How silly, I mutter to myself as I rise, once more back in the world that I know all too well and I am right now unbelievably grateful for.
That I continue to rise, to levitate and to grow, and that the wall opposite me cracks, ear-splittingly, its evil, light-emitting frown, is where my perceived nightmare bestows its own reality upon me once more. Nevertheless I do not fear, nor cry out. The whole room flashes purple, a colour which comes back to me and fills me as easily as the air I breathe. The colour, now however, emanates in fluorescent shades, and takes on a quickening stroboscopic effect. As I, or whatever has become of me, hangs centre-stage, there is surge of what I can only recognise as electricity and everything, the very fabric of this tiny world, explodes. All four walls, the ceiling and the floor, blast into fiery, purple fragments and then.. nothingness.
Nothingness, that is, except for myself. I float, hover. Somewhere, over-sized and in my purple, pulsing light, I am sentinel. At some point, I see there are people below, mouths agape and I realise that by using my human eyes I can still see their world.
"What happened?" mouths the male I believe the humans call Bruce, "You rose up and then turned a kind of grey colour, then vanished completely for a few seconds."
I turn, looking down upon him as an Emperor does an insignificant.
"Sorry. I think I just had a bit of a human moment. It’s not important," I say unhurriedly.
I tell this to him directly, speaking into the membrane within his skull, without using my mouth. At the same time I am listening to another, far more powerful voice. One which cannot be ignored.
"Remember, you are no longer an Earthman" the voice of the Nest Queen fills my own head. "You are now ‘Rak-Hom’ the first Astrachnid-Homid and you will join us in our quest for dominance of the Inter-Dimensional Singularity. Choose your soldiers well, for transformation, and you will lead them at the fore-front of our minions."
A purple glow about me, I pivot my head, looking upon a world, worlds, both familiar and unfamiliar to me. I see humans, as I was a human, caught up in a deadly predicament, a war, not of their own choosing. Beyond them I see Astrachnids, now part my brethren, battling other insect-like aliens, each side wholly merciless in their pursuit of ultimate victory. I think on the implications and on the responsibility I will have both for my own, hitherto perceived, race and for the races I choose to fight and lead warriors both for and perhaps against.
After an immeasurable moment, I speak..
|“Kill the Queen.” I command. The Astrachnids obey instantly. A scream of pure hatred slams directly into my mind. I brush it aside with ultimate ease. Somewhere below me, the nest queen dies, crushed, ripped apart under a tide of scrabbling eight legged bodies.|
I am aware that three of the shark toothed beasts, have taken advantage of the situation and are advancing upon the small group of humans.
I move to intercept them; hovering above, I am faintly amused to see them flailing their clubs in the air as if to ward me off.
I delve deep within their minds I see worlds beyond worlds. I see their home world. Countless millions of their warriors stride across the broken plains of a desolate landscape led by dark Alchemists. Wielding strange engines, these alchemists torture and rend the very fabric of space and time, leading their armies through the cracks into all the worlds of the multiverse.
Within a vast black palace, I see their kings. Restless Avant-garde prim arch’s perched ebullient upon the whiskering folds of crenulated phosphorus thrones. Dark thoughts coruscate from their cellular minds. From their twisted mouths they cantilate a sibilant hymn of war.
Enough! Returning to the here and now, I ball my right hand into a fist and punch the air in the direction of the Shark tooth’s. A vivid shockwave flashes outward ripping them off their feet, they hurtle backward into a concrete wall and slide to the ground in a broken heap.
I return my attention to the Astrachnids and humans gathered within the confines of the National Guard building. It is time to build a new army.
|With my newly enhanced vision I can see a faint glow around each human who has the correct genetic makeup necessary for the transformaiton. I reach out with my mind to each of them. They are easily hearded as sheep to one side. The others are informed that they will need to seek shelter for their own safety and for the safety of each of my soon to be soldiers, for it is they on whom the invaders wish anihilation. |
With a glance I direct the Astrachnids to begin the conversion. The pitiful humans begin to panic. With another thought I place visions of peace, calm, and tranquilty, and the idea that the Astrachnids are there for their well-being, and the well-being of their world as, indeed, they are. There are twelve humans set aside for conversion. This should be enough for the first skirmishes.
Other Astrachnids are directed to go out into all the world and seek out the remaining convertees for the war that is unavoidably escalating.
Suddenly my entire world turns purple, then black. Searing pain invades my consciousness. Searing pain invades every fiber of my being. I turn back to the nest. Two new queens stand, newly gorged with the body of their dead mother. "Fool, did you really think it that easy?" the Queen's thoughts stab through my brain as easily as a knife would slice cheese. "I live on through my children, and for each queen you slay, two more takes her place. Tonight, my children shall dine on your miserable carcus. . . ."
|The moment passes and I sense the mistake I have made. The Astrachnids, once allies are turned against us, and the conversion of the other humans with me would turn them against Earth too. I can do only one thing in the seconds I have.|
I focus my mind inside myself, I draw the purple hybrid power from within and concentrate it into the palms of my hands. I draw it all out and the glow becomes intense blinding me from the world, the glare forcing the humans to cower. Before I am entirely blinded I see the Astrachnids pause before they begin the conversion I'd commanded them to perform.
Then I direct the raw, concentrated energy back in on myself. I hear myself roar. The energy burns and compresses my internal dimensions, and I force it deeper down. Then, like a collapsing star going super-nova, it erupts from my body. The shockwave blasts out, with the last of my will I shield the humans from its force, and the Astrachnids are consumed, obliterated, utterly destroyed by it.
I collapse, spent. Once more I am human. No more Rak-Hom, Hybrid Champion of Two Worlds, but simple Roger Meadows, dispatch clerk of Federal Express.
The humans- my friends rush over to my smoking body. Bruce crouches beside me, worry creasing his brow.
"Cigarettes," I whimper, "I need cigarettes. And coffee..."
A perplexed expression settles on Bruce's face. He looks up to the woman next to him.
"He's delerious... or worse," he says.
"No..." I say, even passing words saps my withering energy, "they power the conversion process..."
I worry that the explanation may not be enough, my reality had been so far detached from the human experience that I can't judge the value of my words. They have to suffice though, I have no energy for more. Bruce blinks, he is thinking, trying to piece together my meaning with his simple ape-intellect. He looks up, suddenly comprehending.
"This man needs nicotine! Who has cigarettes?" he calls out. The man who gave me the smoke before comes forward. "Roger," Bruce says, "you destroyed the coffee machine. We have no caffeine!"
I light a cigarette. Then another. I smoke them both at once and I feel a dull crackle in my arteries. I can't tell if it's enough.
And then there's an almight rumble and the north side of the armoury chamber collapses. As the dust clears we see an assembled army or Astrachnids, with two Queens in their midst. They regard us with alien menace.
"OK, people," Bruce commands, "everyone get inside the armoury! Take what weapons you can and hold out there. These spideroid alien freaks ain't takin' us down without a fight!"
Bruce hooks his arms under my armpits and drags me into the armoury itself.
As we enter I see the Astrachnid army begin its advance....
|Within the armoury there are several thin apertures, perhaps air inlets, high up in a line along the buildings walls. Many of our number seem to be scrambling onto chairs, or whatever they can use, to reach over the metal shelving and gun cabinets. They have guns and soon their barrels point and blast out from the openings, albeit often apparently aimlessly. Still some clip or take a piece out of their unseen targets. I know this because I am outside again now. Around a dozen of us are outside, firing our defensive rounds. A mortar fizzes, from an opening, across the way and blasts against a building opposite, bringing bricks and rubble down on those creatures now crowding, perhaps re-assessing their attack, beneath.|
Not that's is something I get to do often, nor have ever really wanted to do, but from the moment I was passed a soldiers semi-automatic rifle I discovered, strangely, that firing a weapon quickly became like something I’ve always known how to, as though it were second nature. The proof of this lies in the fact that suddenly I’m not thinking about anything except bringing down the enemy. I pull the trigger and think ‘Die’.. pull the trigger, ‘Die!’.. pull the trigger.. It’s almost like a video game, one I must win.
Gunfire and smoke fills the area. Yet still they come, the Astrachnids, slower now, some falling just like those video game targets, yet ceaseless in their edging forward towards us.
It seems every one of we humans is fuelled, now, by the same needs, fears, and no little adrenalin. I can also still feel the crackling within my body, from the earlier nicotine which didn’t quite do the trick to change me and make me powerful again. Nevertheless, we have somehow become a unit, our group outside the armoury door kneeling in a semi-circle, soon firing off our defensive strikes like any well-drilled military unit. More mortars, more hits, more smoke and noise. All these things are just happening, surreal and so real all at the same time.
I am not a soldier, but still I am aware how strange a thing it is, to fire weapons apparently endlessly, clips and guns constantly being passed to us, yet still clearly not having the upper-hand. The Astrachnids are remorseless and I remain in my position only because I refuse to allow the word 'futility' in to my head. No word can enter my head except ‘Die’ and my finger squeezes and fires off its volleys to make the word a reality for my enemies who I know would finish me just as mercilessly.
At some point, though, they are amongst us and the real grotesquery begins. They bite as they crawl over and amongst us and they move on to the next victim, biting again, jaws swinging open to clamp shut on the flesh below. Now we do move, retreating as fast as we can back into the armoury. We pull, lead and drag those people we can, whilst still firing off our rounds into the bellies and heads of the spider beasts. Those of us who have survived the battle outside, smash the Astrachnid who pushes forward to make way for those behind. The thing is shot, stamped on, and battered with rifle-butts until there is nothing of it left but a mess. We close the heavy door, quadruple-lock, bar and bolt it, and breathe again, momentarily.
As we look around to decide on our next move, some joker comes through from a room at the back holding.. a huge flask.
“Coffee, anyone?” he asks, looking around at us, for all the world like this were a gathering at a friends house.
“It’s still warm,” he smiles hopefully, before adding, “Or a cigarette perhaps? I think the soldiers must have left these things when they were here.”
In his other hand, he is holding up three packs of cigarettes.
Battered, cut and bruised, I look across at Bruce and mouth the words, ‘Nicotine and caffeine’ and gesture, shoulders and palms up. We look amongst our group, suddenly alive to a gathering notion, a real ray of hope no less. I am trying to remember which of us had the tell-tale glow, evidence for a possible transformation. I know I must have, as I have already been such a being, crazy as I know it seems, even to myself. I’m really not sure who else, though.
As someone at the back of the main group approaches the cigarettes and coffee guy, with his hands out, Bruce and I both call out, “No, not just you!!”…
|Everyone looks at us and Bruce turns to me to explain.|
"While I was... different," I begin, "I could see that some of you had the same potential as me. It's the Astrachnid venom, some of us have DNA that it can merge with, but the process takes nicotine and caffeine to work."
The Astrachnids outside are pounding and scrabbling against the steel doors, the sound is frightening and unearthly. I try to ignore it.
"So who? Who does it effect?" a young woman asks, her voice one notch away from blind panic.
"I, er, I don't remember," I say.
The group begins muttering and shaking their heads. "Great, what an asshole," someone says. I feel the same way.
"OK, people," Bruce takes over, seeing a solution I am too battered to see, "form up in a line. Everyone smoke one cigarette and take a shot of coffee each. If you feel anything happening, step over there, away from everyone else. We might stand a chance if we can get this to work."
"Yeah," I agree, "there won't be much coffee to go round so we might not be as powerful as I was before, but it's gotta be worth a try."
Everyone is looking at each other, worry and trepidation on all their faces.
"But I don't smoke," a middle-aged man says, "I've got asthma."
"That's a chance you're gonna have to take. It's them or us now," Bruce nods to the doors and the Astrachnid army behind it, "and if we fail here, the whole planet could be next."
The people form an orderly line and begin smoking and drinking coffee. A small group forms apart from the others, and each one of them begins glowing with that same eerie purple glow. I take my turn and join them.
As our transformations begin, a deep rumbling sounds begins at the back of the armoury. Everyone turns to look as a crack opens up, spilling white light out into the room. As my transformation nears completion a large alien centipede crawls out soon followed by another. The crack widens and a ten-foot tall insect beast steps out. Behind it we see dozens more.
Insect beasts inside, Astrachnids outside, and us caught in the middle.
And just when we thought we stood a chance....
|Once more I feel the heat and energy surge through me,other members not part of the transformation move to form a ragged defensive circle around myself and those like me who will undergo the transformation. |
Through a purple haze I see Bruce shoulder an RPG, he is already carrying an assault rifle in his left hand. He steps forward to face the encroaching enemy.
Throughout my body rapid exponential cellular change occurs, however I am not alone this time.
I sense the others like me, hear their thoughts in my mind, as one we rise up, hovering above the human circle.
From one end of the armory an army of giant shark-toothed insectoids move forwards, they hit the ground with their energy clubs with every step of their advance,a monstrous drumbeat fills the air.
This only serves to send the writhing sea of Astrachnids into a frenzy,individuals break free of the main swarm and rush forward to gesticulate garishly, assuming threatening postures.
Between them the circle of humans stand resolute, weapons ready.
I form a resolution in my mind and communicate it to my fellow superhumans as we gaze down upon the impending battle........
|I suddenly realize that the ten of us that had transformed into super-humans had the ability to think collectively as one entity and Bruce was not a part of the unit. Our eyes met and Bruce seemed to understand instinctively, he only smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.|
It wasn’t until months after the Astrachnid -Insectoid war had begun that we discovered why Bruce hadn’t mutated. A combination of his rare blood type ‘O’ and the steel plate in his head had prevented the caffeine and nicotine from having any reactions with the Astrachnids’ venom.
As a unit and possessing inherent characteristics we knew we were Canephoroids. There was no turning back now, our destiny and the future of mankind depended upon what course of action we took in the next few minutes.
As one, the Canephroids willed the non-transformers to advance toward the Astrachnids, which they did, firing their weapons point blank into the frenzy. Some of the enemy fell, spilling purple gore across the armory’s floor, while others countered by attempting to out flank our small group. We once again; mentally pushed the inferiors toward the foe, willing to sacrifice them for the good of all.
Bruce turned, aimed the RPG at the horde of Insectoids and fired a grenade. The leading creatures fell in a writhing heap, while others clamored over their bodies, intent on one thing, our demise.
“Over here,” Bruce screamed. “I’ve found a way out.”
“What is it, Bruce,” I yelled back, as the entire unit gathered around him.
“A manhole … I figure it leads to a storm drain and with luck on our side it will go all the way to the Paw-Taw River, where we can regroup and maybe hook-up with others,” Bruce said with authority and an acute calmness.
“That cover looks awfully heavy to me, Bruce, it will take machinery to lift it,” I said.
“Let me try,” a young lady, Nina B, said as she stepped through the throng.
Nina stooped, grabbed the one ton hatch with both hands and lifted it above her head. She then hurled it at the Astrachnids. The heavy disc went spinning through the air and decapitated several of the insect creatures. Shocked at this amazing ability we stood over the gaping hole, looked over at the now reeling enemy and then back at Nina. The cheering was soon followed by Bruce’s orders.
“Grab what weapons you can carry and get in the damn hole, people.”
Eleven of us found ourselves below ground in a damp concrete circular tunnel, about ten feet in circumference, with ankle deep water and rats scurrying in every direction.
“Which way do we go, Bruce,” I asked.
“Let’s go the way the water flows,” Bruce ordered. “If my memory serves me right the river is about one mile from the armory.”
|Onwards into the darkness and the stench. There is no light what-so-ever down here and the stink is so powerful it’s a wonder the air is breathable. The sewer has one thing going for it, the creatures don’t seem to have found it yet.|
We splash on through the quagmire, turds and rats bumping against our ankles, sweeping the darkness with muzzle-mounted torches.
Every now and then we pass below a grate letting a little light into our world – silvery moonlight or sickly orange street light. We creep below these grates, lest anything waiting above should hear. As we pass below one such drain I glance at the water below and catch sight of a rainbow of oil on its surface. In the oil and water float the bodies of many, many mosquitoes, more still struggle for life in the oily soup. I stop, staring at the mosquitoes’ ruin, searching my mind for some hidden memory.
The others turn, worried at the time I am taking, fearful of any delay below the opening and I have no choice but to move on.
We continue through the reeking tunnel, turning off some of the torches to conserve battery power. As we round a bend we are met by a tide of rats. No longer are the hairy little devils scurrying in any and every direction, they now move as one, surging around our feet. This definitely cannot be good.
We duck into a smaller side tunnel. All of the torches are off now. We barely dare to breathe and I am almost glad of this as the stench of the place is not subsiding with time. We are in total darkness, the only sound is made by the rats until, gradually, we become aware of the sound of something far larger. We can hear the muffled squeals of the rats as whatever else is out there seizes and devours them one by one. The crunch of bone and the wet sound of chewing follow. For an awful moment I have a fearsome urge to yell out “For goodness sake! Can’t you eat quietly!” I resist the urge and as I do so, I have a moment of clarity. In my mind I see the dead mosquitoes on the oily water and I remember what it is I wanted to remember earlier. I remember a documentary about insects and a small section replays through my mind “Insects breathe through the surface of their bodies.” I remember this. I remember the oil. I remember the dead mosquitoes. If we can spray these things with oil, they’ll suffocate!
After all the remembering of wildlife documentaries and oily mosquito graveyards, I also remember we are trapped in the stinking dark with some rat-munching monster – how will we get out of here alive?
|"OK," I begin, but the other transformed humans are already moving to the front of our group, my command in their heads before it made it to my mouth. They stand, as I would've told them to, guarding our group from whatever ate ahead of us.|
"You think your guys can take that thing?" Bruce whispered to me. "Whatever that thing is."
"I don't know, but I've got another idea."
"These insect things, and the Astrachnids for that matter, they breath through their skin."
"And... er... So what?" Bruce's eyes narrow with incomprehension.
"There's oil down here, you can see it on the water. So, if we can find where it's coming from, we might find enough to suffocate these things."
"Good thinking, Roger. I guess the Armory motor pool must be around here somewhere."
I'm just about to say something else when I hear Nina B's voice in my head.
I can see it up ahead. It's big. Really big. Big and tentacley, she thinks to me, there's a big chamber ahead of us and whatever it is it fills it.
Her words are followed by an image in my head. I am seeing what she sees, and she is seeing through the dark. The sewer opens up into a wide concourse, other tunnels join it and they drain into a wide iron grate which is mostly covered by the monster. The monster is huge and amorphous, it's tentacles are too numerous to count and each has a mouth at the tip. Smaller ones hunt through the water, seeking stray rats and consuming them.
Stay there, I think back to her, don't anger it.
"Bruce, we can't go any further." I say. "Whatever is up ahead, it's not going to let us past."
"OK," Bruce says, "I saw a ladder back there. Maybe fifty yards back."
We tell the others to follow us back to the ladder while Nina and the others cover our backs.
Just as we reach the ladder we hear sounds along the sewer. Whichever group of aliens won the battle in the armory, they are now following us down the sewer. I concentrate and draw the purple energy into my fist, it is weaker this time, and I raise my arm toward the manhole cover above. I let the energy burst forth. There's a loud crack which echoes up and down the sewer and the manhole cover blasts open.
"OK," Bruce says, "everyone get up there! Quickly!"
One by one our group ascent, and the aliens approach in the darkness.
I don't want to worry you, Roger, Nina's thought-voice says, but I think Mr Tentacles is coming our way too...