By Samuel Edney
Galactic Co-ordinates: 89-13-05-01
Suggested Soundtrack: See Spotify Playlist at end.
Beep. Beep. Beep…
URGENT MESSAGE SENT FROM COLONY SIERRA TWO-NINE, REGENCY CLUSTER BELT SEVEN; The zealot families have overthrown the government and authorities. The colony, no… the planet… everything is in disarray. Fire engulfs us, everywhere. Send immediate help. Please, for the love of God, have mercy. Send as much help as you can muster… They are coming. The darkness is coming. It is hungry. It wants to eat us all… they are coming.
Through the lenses of dusty and rusting old binoculars, Mica looked down to the base of the hill. A compound; a metal fence surrounded it, floodlights shone down on the tarmac. Atop the tarmac, a dropship, fuelled by two crew members in orange overalls, and guarded by a squad of five soldiers, clad in dark blue. Two of the soldiers stood at the gate, letting in the last of a convoy of civilians, draped in rags and stumbling through.
‘Is it still there?’, Cassy asked from below.
‘Yeah. But not for long’, Mica replied. She lowered the binoculars, hooked them back onto her belt, then climbed back down to the room below . ‘Reckon we still have about a half hour.’
The cottage was old, ruined, the bricks covered in moss. The roof was merely a frame, and several holes punctured the walls. Mica jumped down onto the grass and leaf covered warped wooden floor, and sat down. Cassy packed several items into a backpack; two bottles of water, several small food ration packs, and an old star map. Mica pulled her own backpack to her, unzipped it and began to check the contents inside, placing the binoculars in.
‘You ready?’, Cassy asked. Fiery green eyes looked up at Mica through dark brown hair. Her chiselled cheeks and jawline punctuated the default look of stern judgement she harboured wherever her gaze fell.
‘Of course I am… why?’, Mica asked.
‘Your hands are shaking.’
Mica looked down. The bottle of water she had in her hand shook. She put the bottle back in the bag, clenched her fist, tried to make the shaking stop. ‘Well, you don’t look entirely calm either.’
‘Of course I’m not’, Cassy said, ‘You think this is easy for me?’
‘It isn’t easy for either of us.’ Mica zipped up her bag, put it beside her. ‘You never actually told me why you’re doing this with me.’
‘I’m not doing it with you, I’m doing it for me. You just happen to be here too’, Cassy spat.
‘You asked me to be here,’ Mica said, ‘Those are half of the supplies I manage to scrape up in your bag.’
‘Don’t lecture me.’
‘I’m not, I just…’, Mica stopped. She didn’t want to insult or offend the only sane person she knew was left on the planet besides her.
Cassy zipped up her bag, put it to one side, ‘I know. And… I know we don’t know eachother that well. I’ve never really known anybody that well. Just my family, who… who helped orchestrate this whole mess.’ Mica looked at her, scared but curious. ‘Which is why trust isn’t one of my strong suits,’ Cassy continued, ‘Never trusted anyone, and no-one ever trusted me. That’s why I need to get away; because maybe someone, somewhere else, might trust me… and I can learn to trust them too.’ Cassy looked at the floor, refusing to meet Mica’s gaze.
Silence filled the room. Filled the cottage. Filled the whole world around them. Mica searched for a reply to break it up. ‘My family are all dead.’ Cassy started to look back up. ’At least, I think they are. I haven’t seen them since Resdun Square. Lost them in the crowd. Then…’, Mica paused, lost in the memory, ‘There was an explosion. Fire. Fire like I’ve never seen. As if, a dragon had swooped down and let loose all it’s might and… and fury.’ She stopped again, Cassy looked out at the forest, and the night sky. ‘I searched for three days, went further and further; ten blocks, twenty, thirty, even to the edge of the colony. Never found a trace.’
After a moment, Cassy looked back at her. ‘I didn’t know.’
‘Well, now you do,’ Mica paused, ‘Listen. Maybe, when we get out of here… just for a bit, until we both… you know… find our feet… we can stick together? I’m not saying forever, but…’
Desperate for the stammering to cease, Cassy grabbed her bag, and stood. ‘To be honest, I wouldn’t count on it.’ Mica looked at her, then away, feeling slightly insulted.
The rumble of an engine came from outside, drawing both girls attention. Cassy, hunched down, stuck to the walls, moved into the living room. She stopped at the window, scanned the road leading up to the cottage outside. Overshadowed by trees and bushes, it was pure darkness. Cassy stared into the abyss, occasionally glancing in each direction. Nothing, but the sound of the engine grew louder every second.
Then, the darkness began to illuminate. The engine growl accompanied a pair of headlights curving around a bend ahead of the cottage. Cassy stuck to the wall, peeking over the flaking paint of the windowsill. Within a moment, the headlights straightened out and shone directly onto the cottage. Cassy jumped back so as not to be seen. The beam of white light burned onto the face of the cottage for a moment, then disappeared. She peaked round again.
A pickup truck had come to a stop outside. The bulbs of it’s headlights cooled as they died down. The rusting door on the driver’s side creaked as it opened, a pair of fur clad boots kicked up leaves as they struck the ground.
A bony hand wrapped itself around the frame of the door, slammed it shut. Another held a metal pipe. They were attached to the long arms of a tall, thin figure, clothed in cloth rags. For a head, it donned a mask; made from a real bull’s head. The figure began to walk; towards the cottage.
Fear filling her mind, her heart, her very soul, Cassy retreated to the back room, swept her bag up from the ground. ‘Time to go’, she said, careful not to show her fear to Mica.
‘Now?’, Mica asked.
‘Yes, now!’, Cassy snapped.
Mica grabbed her bag too. The two girls swung them over their shoulders, then began to climb through a hole in the wall next to them, Cassy first to go. Just as Mica exited, the sound of the front door being kicked to pieces rang out. Mica looked back to see the figure in the doorway. Before she could even register what was happening, Cassy grabbed her, then pulled her through the gap.
The two girls ran, kicking their way through the forest, occasionally tripping over tree trunks protruding from the sap coated ground, the momentum of sprinting down the hill forced the loss of control of their pace. Cassy glanced back to the cottage; stood in the spot they occupied mere moments ago, the bull headed figure stared at them. Then, it disappeared quickly into the darkness behind it.
‘Was that a zealot?!’, Mica shouted her best through her wheezing.
‘Not now, focus on getting to the dropship!’, Cassy called back.
‘I want to know why—!’
The two came to a stop, forcefully slamming into a tree. Cassy turned to Mica, bragged her by the straps of her backpack, ’Listen to me right now, because I’m not going to stop and come back for you if decide to get bogged down in wanting to know why that thing is chasing us. I am getting to that dropship, and if you want to be there too; forget about the zealot’
Mica stared into Cassy’s green eyes, nodded, shaking again, more visibly next time, unsure whether through fear or still regaining herself from the momentum of sprinting down the hill. Cassy let her go, turned around and began to search for the compound guarding the dropship. Just between the trees she could see the illumination from the floodlights. ‘Looks like we’re pretty close,’ she said, ‘But we can’t stay on rough ground, it’ll take too long. We need to find our way to the main road.’ She looked back to Mica, who had turned and was staring back up at the cottage, now some distance away. ‘Mica’, Cassy said.
Mica turned to her, a lost look in her eyes. ‘Sorry, I just… this is it isn’t it?’
‘This is what?’
‘We’re really leaving.’
‘Well, yes that’s the point of all this’, Cassy said, confused.
‘I know… it’s just hit me now’, Mica started to tear up, but she didn’t entirely understand why.
Cassy rolled her eyes, ‘I’m going to leave you, here and now, if you’re starting to falter already.’
Mica shook her head, ’Don’t worry about it’, she said, a stern snappiness to her tone, ‘I’m here. Lets go.’ She made to move, but Cassy pulled her back. ‘What are you doing? I’m ready, now you’re not?’
‘Shut up,’ Cassy whispered. She listened to the sound of the woods around them. Birds chirping, the leaves rustling in the slight breeze; and the sound of engines. More than one. Cassy’s eyes widened. ‘Run. Right now. Run!’
The two broke into a sprint yet again, this time steadying themselves slightly as they progressed down the hillside. Cassy kept her attention focused on the light projecting from the dropship compound. Mica kept her attention on Cassy; the further they went, the darker it seemed to get, the shrubbery and foliage around them becoming more dense,clawing at them, as if to pull them into the trees.
Up ahead, Cassy spotted a clearing, ‘Open road!’, she shouted back.
As they approached, Mica spotted something in the corner of her eye; headlights. Not just one pair, but several. ‘Left! To the left!’, she screamed.
Cassy turned her gaze, just able to make out the outlines of the truck from earlier, being followed by other cars and trucks. She looked back ahead, gritted her teeth, and ran harder.
They reached the road; a wide dirt path that dropped further down into a ravine on the other side. Cassy stopped, scanned her surroundings. To her left, the road looked to curve left and back up the hill. To her right, a straight line, leading directly to the compound’s gate. Mica screeched to a halt beside her, kicking up dust. The chorus of growling engines grew. Cassy grabbed Mica, pushing her ahead as they ran.
Focusing her attention, Mica looked up and ahead, laying her gaze on the dropship and the crew and civilians starting to board it. She locked on, the sight of escape and near freedom from the lunatics chasing her, and the fire that she remembered engulfing everything she had known, spurred her pace. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Calm and determined. She could feel the blood pumping through her veins, the wind rushing past her ears drowning out the oncoming engines and the rising panic nature of Cassy’s shouting. All Mica could see was the dropship, and the future it could bring.
Just a little further.
The sound of a deep, guttural scream snapped her out of her trance. She skidded to a halt, whipped back around. Mica laid eyes on Cassy, several yards behind her, being surrounded by four vehicles; three pickup trucks and a small car. Cassy stopped too, hidden behind a veil of dust kicked up by the vehicles now encircled around her.
Cassy searches for Mica, disorientated by the sudden blockade now facing her. She found her, a fair way aways down the road, staring straight back. She tried to muster a call for help, but as the doors to the trucks and car opened, seemingly, and eerily, unanimously, she found no use of rhetoric. Instead, her green eyes lost their fire, replaced with terror, stared longingly at Mica, begging for help.
Mica didn’t move. She just looked on. Then to the dropship, then back to Cassy. She thought about what Cassy had said to her, back on the hill, and how she was met with a stunning indifference back up in the cottage after trying her best to provide some amount of comfort. It didn’t take long for her to make a decision. Avoiding meeting Cassy’s gaze, she turned towards the compound, and ran once more.
Cassy watched the outline of Mica’s body disappear into the lights, and felt something all too familiar to her; crushing betrayal. She paused, stared at where Mica was.
A body blocked her line of sight; towering over her, the bull headed figure that chased them from the cottage. Cassy looked up into the hollowed out eye sockets of the mask. Fiery green eyes stared back, ‘Brother.’ The figure grunted through the mask.
The slamming of a door from behind her drew her attention. She turned slowly, now surrounded by rag-clad figures, all wearing animal heads as mask. Closing off the circle, holding an axe, a man wearing a wolf head. Cassy took a deep breath, focusing herself on the situation at hand. She stared directly at the wolf, ‘Father.’ The wolf headed figure said nothing. Cassy looked around at each individual figure. ’Well? Come on.’ She raised her fists. From the circle, wielding hammers and pitchfork, two assailants approached. They were hesitant, put swung for her. Cassy dodge, then swung back, knocking the hammer wielding ‘Pig’ away. The pitchforking wielding ‘Sheep’ stabbed at her torso, but Cassy darted left, took hold of the pitchfork, and wrenched it from the Sheep’s hands, using it to knock the figure away.
Cassy was light on her feet, pitchfork in hand, skirting around the group, trying to keep a watchful eye on all of them, but failing to do so. ‘Come on!’, she screamed, ‘Get it over with you sick fu—‘
A deep thud, followed by a grunt and the spitting of blood, Cassy was knocked to the ground. The Bull had driven the metal pipe into the back of her head. Pig and Sheep returned with rope and a bag in their hands, respectively. Cassy tried her hardest to pull herself up, spitting more blood into the dirt.
The rope was wrapped around her wrists, the bag pulled over head, and she lifted up. Cassy felt herself being thrown into the back of the pickup truck. The sound of two pairs of feet joined the clanging of her body onto the metal, followed by the percussion of opening and closing doors. In the darkness, she tried to get a sense of balance, desperately searching for detail through the dark fabric as to where she might be. The growling of the engines started up once more, and Cassy felt the vehicle lurch and start to move.
A bright beam of light pierced through the bag, blinding her. She could hear several howls of surprise and protest, followed by a deep boom of twin engines, and the gusts of air that they kicked up. The bag flew off of Cassy’s head, and she stared up at the underbelly of the dropship. Next to her, the Pig and the Bull were writhing; taser rounds lay in their chests. They fell from the pickup and onto the dirt road.
Cassy blinked repeatedly, struggling to stay conscious, but everything began to turn blurry. From the dropship, five indiscernible outlines of dark blue slid down ropes to surround the pickup she struggled to find her feet in. She could hear the muffled shouting of orders.
Suddenly, she felt herself being lifted into the arms of a solider; one of the guards from the compound. He was young, with dark hair and glasses, a name tag sown onto his vest that read; ‘JOSH’. She and him began to rise, darkness beginning to fill her peripheral vision. Cassy’s attention turned to the dropship she rose to meet.
A pale hand stuck out as she was carried onto the rear ramp, and the face of Mica met her.
The distant sound of generators humming. The dark began to illuminate. Someone was next to her, touching the back of head with something soft and wet. In the distance, a distant voice spoke, crackling slightly; a radio broadcast ‘… with a flash of purple…appeared in the Senate… Tabitha Might…’
Cassy awoke to the sight of a green suited medic tending to the wound on the back of her head with a cotton bud. He drew back, inspected the blood, brought out a bandage from a pack wrapped around his waist. Around him, a grey coloured room. She was laying on a bed. To her left; a window. Outside of that, the blackness of space, punctuated by stars. To Cassy’s right, Mica sat in a chair, looking at her.
When she came around fully, Mica smiled, sat beside her. ‘Hey. You’re alright. Just relax and don’t move too much’, she said, ‘Took a helluva hit. But you’ll be fine, apparently.’
The medic packed his things away, nodded, then left the room, turning off the radio as he did so. Cassy blinked again, focusing on the same outside of the window. ‘Where are we?’, she asked.
Mica stood, moved over to the window. ‘We’re in orbit’, she smiled again, ‘We made it’.
Cassy managed to pull herself up enough to look out of the window. The planet’s
surface came into view; there were large patches covered in fire, with others covered in
lights that, one by one, started to go out. Cassy looked away, stared straight ahead.
Mica moved away, ‘I’ll let you get some rest’, she said. She started to walk towards
‘Mica’, Cassy said. Mica stopped, looked back to her. ‘About you sticking around.’
‘Yeah?’, Mica asked.
Cassy paused, searched for the right words. ‘Maybe, for the near future anyway. And… thank you’, she said.
Mica nodded, meekly smiled, then exited. Cassy looked back outside the window, and pondered over what may happen next.