I'm a day late and I threw this one together in a hurry.
Where was I when it happened? Well, that’s a story.
I was at home with my husband. Aaron was mowing the lawn and I was making quiche for a big dinner event we were going to that evening. It smelled nicely enough. Ham and spinach and cheese blended together to make a nice aroma. I had some hard rock station on. A man with a gravelly voice screamed over a guitar that was out of tune. I fought through it.
The radio cut out. I heard a broadcast. Aaron came in and wiped the sweat from his brow and we listened. A man was saying that something was breaking through the sky above Denver, Colorado. Reports were coming in that similar objects were appearing over other cities across the world. Initial descriptions claimed it resembled a meteor at first, but when it stopped in mid-air the true bizarreness of it became clear.
We thought it had to be a hoax. Aaron had the smart idea of running to the T.V. and turning it on. A news station showed a camera focusing on a massive shape floating between two buildings. It was round and huge, covered in ridges like a cauliflower. Long feelers from its sides were brushing against the windows, as if it groped through the streets blindly. The camera panned back as shapes fell out of its bottom and started running through the streets.
I recognized the downtown core it hovered over. I felt fear.
That’s when they arrived. We heard the windows break and the doors splinter and they had us surrounded. We would know them as the hkahnm, mere drones, but back then we didn’t know that. To us, they were just scores of bulbous, horrible non-things built not unlike ants and frogs and apes, their bodies held together in ways we could not believe to be possible.
They grabbed our arms. I remember the rubbery skin seizing my wrists and being pulled outside. They brought us to a hole in the earth, a pulsating mouth covered in bristles. Aaron and his captors went in first. He screamed my name. As the hkahnm dragged me inside, all I thought was that my quiche going to burn.
I remember Aaron and me being led into that big room where King Horror sat. We were stripped naked and pushed into a crowd of our neighbours. I saw the old man who ran the corner store, his skin hanging weakly from his spindly body. A local football star was wedged between two terrified teens, covering his balls with his hands. The hkanhm had us surrounded on three sides.
On our fourth was what we called Death Mountain. It was a pile of bones stacked a mile high; human skeletons charred to a crisp. Two large things supported on legs too thin for the rest of their fat bodies guarded it, long arms reaching into the crowd to throw people towards it. Another set of limbs would force them towards a set of hkanhm who dragged screaming people towards its top. We saw the odd burst of fire. Each time, we howled and wept.
Our time came soon. Aaron and I were seized and flung to the bone hill. The hkanhm on the hill grabbed our arms, brought us to our feet and kicked us all the way up. There was a preacher ahead of us, one of those televangelists who scared people for money. He was jabbering and blubbering incoherently.
We were dragged to Him in almost no time. They brought the preacher in front of King Horror’s seat. One of His hundred mouths opened and emitted something long and loud and high-pitched. The man fell to his knees and screamed back. I couldn’t tell what he was saying. I think it was a prayer, or a curse, or maybe one last primal yell of defiance.
It made no difference. Another one of King Horror’s mouths opened. A wave of flame hit the man and reduced him to ash.
King Horror’s hundred mouths chattered as we were pushed forward, forced to stand on the smouldering remains of the preacher. One mouth moved its way to the front and shrieked at us for half a minute.
Words fell into my mind. Live or Die, they said.
My heart raced. “I want to live,” I whimpered immediately, “Please let me live.”
One of His great mouths opened wide and let out a long cry. It sounded agonized. It wanted me to die. Two hkanhm came to my side and took my arms, but I struggled and looked to Aaron. My thrashes slowed them down. My eyes locked with his and begged him to do the smart thing. The mouth that spoke to me screamed at him next.
He was quiet. His body shook. He looked at his feet. He always did that when he panicked. I started crying. I thought of the preacher. He took too long, I thought, he took too long and they killed him. I saw Aaron’s face rise. The burning mouth grumbled impatiently. Aaron looked miserable.
But then he said he would live.
The angry mouth screamed again. Two more guards came and dragged him to me. He looked at me and he said, “David, I love you so much and if you’re going to live in Hell then so am I.”
I slipped out of my captors’ arms and kissed him. Gingerly, the hkanhm ushered us to the side. I didn’t take my lips off him, even as they pulled at us, and even when they put the collars on us.
That’s when they put us in the Districts. The webwalls were grown overnight. Aaron was one of the first to do hard labour on a globeship. He was lucky to come back. He was always one of the few who did. I was usually set to work separating nutrients in the food-vats.
We never found out what happened to our old home. It didn’t matter. We were put up in a new home, a hive we shared with the Nguyens and the Jamesons. They weren’t comfortable with Aaron and me being, well, us, but they got used to it. Worse things to worry about when half the world’s been conquered, I guess.
And you know what?
After a while, it wasn’t so bad.
Expect another rant by next week. I seem to have a lot to say now.
See you next time,