Monday, April 2, 2012

Flash Fiction, The Excavation Part Three

Good day,

 I'm here to FINISH THE JOB.

***


Calum Grady’s chest heaved as the glass covering rose. Unseen gears grated together. White clouds billowed out of the chamber, spreading across the machine and dancing along the ground. A figure sat in the tube. It stirred.
            Calum lost his footing. He fell onto his backside and swung his arms in an attempt to seize the wall for balance. Joan was calling out to him on his com-wire; he couldn’t listen. He was too busy looking at the alien form emerging before him.
            The thing was large and covered in coarse brown fur. Its body was broad and muscular, its hands were clawed and its head was wide. Compound eyes stared unblinking at the world. A quartet of long tubes hung from its face. Leathery straps held together a set of thick fabrics clothing its body.
            Blindly, the creature stumbled out. It held its face and gripped the side of the glass-and-metal chamber. It gurgled drowsily with a low, guttural growl as it rubbed its eyes. It looked around itself. Calum heard it huffing.
It faced his way.
Intensity filled its bulbous eyes. Its breathing grew heavier. Calum heard a grunt. He didn’t respond; he didn’t know how to.
            “Uuurgh!” it barked, storming over to him, “Nuurruuruu huuuurr!”
Instinctively, the archaeologist raised his arms. He hoped that it would not see him as a threat. “No! Wait!”
            “Nuwhooooough,” howled the creature, stamping the ground at him, “Nuwhooooough huhrrooooooo! URRRRH!”
            Before Calum could respond, it gripped his shoulders and lifted him up. Violently, the creature shook him and roared again. The archaeologist’s heart pounded. His broken leg hit the wall, sending shots of pain across his body. As the beast bellowed, bringing its inhuman face close to his, Calum winced and braced for death.
Suddenly, the creature slumped. Calum watched his attacker drop to its knees, keeping hold of his suit. Its body shook. Head lowered, the thing’s rumbling growls fell to a low timbre.
The explorer felt himself being dragged down. He watched the creature pull him close. Resting on his good leg, Calum laid the damaged one out beside him and kept it level.
The thing raised its face. Water streamed out of its eyes.
“Nuhmrrrr,” it sobbed, pawing weakly at Calum’s chest, “Hrmohhh.”
Things were getting very confusing very quickly. The archaeologist shook his head at the weeping alien. Slowly, Calum brought his hands up and patted the hairy arms of the creature. It looked away, facing the floor.
It lost everything, Calum told himself, suddenly understanding, Its family, its friends... maybe even a lover. If it has such things, I mean.
At that moment, Calum thought of his wife. He thought of her auburn hair and toothy smile. He thought of her long hands and her slim ankles and the way she laughed. He thought of Kara. He imagined waking up thousands of years later to find her long dead. He imagined cradling her body and screaming at the sky. It froze his blood.
“Hrm,” he grunted, thinking of Kara.
“Mrm,” it grunted, eying Calum’s broken leg.
“Huh,” he huffed, looking up at the ceiling and the pin-point of light in the distance.
“Muh,” it huffed, following Calum’s gaze.
The thing rose again. It put its arms around Calum’s waist and lifted him. Turning on a heel, the thing took Calum’s arm put it over its shoulders.

The rescue team found Calum an hour later. Joan Holliday saw her superior sitting comfortably on a wooden box at the end of a long hallway filled with empty glass tubes. She ran to his side and hugged him. He weakly patted her shoulders. “This’ll be a fine story for the missus,” he told her.
Joan just then noticed the seven-foot hairy beast. It typed away at a long keyboard that slid into a wall just as she faced it. The team watched it take a step back, turning to Calum with compound eyes and a set of tubes where its mouth should have been.
“My god, what is that?” Joan asked, taking Calum by the arm.
“Friendly,” he joked.
She shot him a look. “I didn’t ask that.”
He rubbed his good leg, “Near as I can figure, it sealed itself here millennia ago. Now it’s awake and all alone. I think this place was some kind of command tower.”
“So what’s it doing?”
“No idea. It tried to rip my head off one second, then the next second it’s crying its eyes out, and now it’s brought me here. It was typing on that keyboard you just saw for the better part of a half-hour.”
“So what –?”
A whirring noise sounded behind the wall and interrupted them. A large panel slid open, revealing a great display monitor that blinked to life. The creature turned to it, bringing its claws to its chest. It seemed to be gripping itself with anticipation.
A simple if all-too-familiar outline of a tall stone ziggurat appeared on screen. A pair of lines slid down its sides and formed another set of outlines. Rows and rows of rooms and floors opened under the tower. Yellow lights blinked on and off on different levels.
Giddily, the creature jumped, throwing its claws in the air. It roared with triumph. Facing the rescue team, it made a sweeping gesture, pointing to the lights that appeared on screen.
More panels opened. More monitors filled the room. The rescue team tensed. Joan cursed and Calum’s eyes widened. On each one, they saw rooms and rooms of glass tubes fixed to metal machines. And each tube they saw was opening up.
Joan’s jaw dropped, “We didn’t just find a tower, did we?”
“No,” said Calum Grady, “We found life.”

***

 Let us never speak of this again. Or let's, just, like, in private.

See you next time,

-RWI

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