When Cor hears cows mooing, he knows something’s not quite right.
He opens his eyes. Blinks once. Twice.
No, not right at all.
Instead of seeing a smooth shield above him, jagged metal teeth close in on him. Like something big punched its way through the hull.
The more his eyes focus, the more his panic threatens to rise and boil over. Is that…a tree? And a farm on that hillside? On grass?
Cor swivels his head around to see more, and immediately regrets the sudden movement. He rests his head back again, and breathes through the nausea.
Where are we? This can’t be Manhattan. Surely not. The elders spoke of tall buildings, like the spire from the Capitol City, so tall that the sky reached down to touch them. Of gray stone and harsh grounds. They said nothing of cows!
He reaches around the seat in front of him, pushing his pilot to wake. “Arik.” Arik doesn’t move.
Cor pushes up against the floor of the pod, gasping at a flash of bright pain from his side. Quickly clamping his hand onto his side, he uses the other hand to shake Arik even more. Still nothing. “By the elder’s eternal mercy, Arik, wake up! We’re not where we’re supposed to be!”
Gritting his teeth against the pain, he pushes himself away from the crush of metal. He gripped Arik’s headrest to pull himself up. Leaning over his seat, he saw a metal shaft from the engine speared into Arik’s body.
Cor scrambles out of the pod and promptly vomits up what little he had in his stomach. His vision blurs as he wipes the blood off his hand, the puke from his mouth. Limbs trembling, he slumps down onto the ground, against the pod. He replays the last few hours he remembers, going through each moment’s briefing like a checklist.
The elders were just told by our allies that the Overlords were moving toward new feeding grounds. The Overlords sent out signals to potential planets that had the life force to sustain them. One of those signals found this planet.
The elders feared this world would share the fate of our previous home. They already started evacuation of the first families chosen to integrate. The elders sent teams down to find the Overlord’s beacon and perhaps intercept the signal. The elders narrowed down the signal to Manhattan, and sent teams to find it.
I hope they’re having better luck than me.
Fighting his exhaustion, breathing in shallow gasps, he wrestles in his pocket for his comm. Maybe he can still do something. He can’t get very far, but he just needs to be close enough to the signal to alter its message. He pulls his comm out and punches in his code and identification. He closes his eyes and waits while it tracks down his coordinates.
The comm beeps his location to him. “Maxatawny? What? Where’s that?” He tries to synch up with any of the other teams, but can’t find them. He’s too far away to be of any use. He’s failed.
Frustrated, he tosses the comm away from him. His whole left side was now soaked in blood. He chuckles at the pool of red muddying the ground next to him. It’s only a matter of time now and The Overlords will come and drain this planet dry, just like they did mine. At least the elders and the allies will escape. By tonight, they will go and find a new home. Again.
A light flickers in the distance and cuts through the haze of Cor’s mind. He struggles to get up. Maybe another team found the signal. Maybe it’s going back to the allies above. Maybe they’ll be able to see me.
A rumbling from deep beneath him buckles and shifts the ground. He hits the ground hard, seeing stars, nearly passing out. The vibrant blue sky above him blooms with tinges of a familiar red and black; wisps at first, but creeping outward and darkening the horizon.
What? Here? Now? The others, he looks around for that cursed comm, they need to know. They need to leave. Now.
He sees the comm glinting at the base of the tree. He crawls his way toward it while the ground breaks and splits. Stupid, Stupid, for throwing it away.
Dizzying flashes of a long dead planet play in his vision as he drags himself across the field. Screams from elders intertwine with the lowing cows in the distance. The sky phases between blue and flowing lava. Buildings drowning in tidal flames, shimmer over his pod bobbing by the tree. Fire, seeking, claiming, consuming dances in and around the roiling grassy fields. He shakes his head , fighting to focus on here, now.
The earth tilts his way, and he grabs for his comm in a rush of energy. He pulls it close to him. His eyes fight to see the screen. He blinks away the fading light, and focuses on each breath. Each number. He types out his message to the elders above. Each button he pushes screams his silent Go. Go. Go. Go!
A final push. A final exhale. His arms drop to his sides. His field of vision narrows to pinpoints. The sky shines gold, flames streak and swirl in the horizon. Like flocks of birds on fire.
A shadow passes overhead. A high-pitched whine. Here.
Inspiration for my first try at flash fiction came from a conversation with twitter user @nataliegallops, and it went something like this:
And thus, a story was born. Oh, and the picture of the farm also kinda sealed the deal 😉