FANS

Fiction Contest

Sleeper

He was on the ground looking up, his senses seemed muted, everything moved in slow motion. What he saw was the towering form of a man, stood brandishing a rifle in one hand, waving his men onwards with the other, clearly yelling but no sound came to his ears. He lay no more then five metres from the man's feet. The man was hazy through the dust storm, but he could still make out the features of his friend, Frank. Cpl Dobbs, to his men, he was a strong character and his presence inspired morale from those lucky enough to be chosen for his squad. He looked across at his friend, both with respect, as Frank was attempting to rally his men while many others took flight in the face of the nameless enemy, but more so with entreaty. He had been shot in the arm, at first he just felt a warm touch on his flesh, but this had intensified into a sudden, sharp burning which had left a perfect half-inch circle in his bicep. For all he knew the beam had cut straight through his body, the impact was seamless and the pain was yet to register. He lay on the ground in shock, reaching still with his good hand to prove he was not yet numbered amongst the dead.
For a second the field fell silent, he had closed his eyes briefly and now he felt warm and cradled. When he opened his eyes he could only see shades of red surrounding his fatigued body, even his own body appeared soaked in blood, he panicked, believing himself beyond help. He felt like he was trapped under a sea of carcasses; smothered in the bodies of his comrades. He closed his eyes tightly and screamed.
As he opened his eyes again the noise of battle had increased to its full destructive volume and had flooded into his ears with a savage roar, he regained his senses just in time to hear the whistle of an incoming weapon, multiple shots pumping concussive blast after blast into the nearby land shaking the earth and raining stone and sand over his prostrate body. He looked up again at where his friend once stood. All he saw was dust and scorched earth, then his vision slowly blurred away to nothing.
Ba-whump, ba-whump
When he came to the scene had changed, he felt motion and realised he was being half carried, half dragged. Looking up he saw that Frank held onto him, determinedly stalking onward. They were withdrawing. He looked back at the scene of the conflict; charred bodies on both sides were strewn across the land. He took time to note the hideous extremities of the creatures they were fighting, their completely alien nature. He'd never considered the term until now, but he found that the word fitted perfectly. These creatures were alien in every respect, as repulsive as they were fearsome. Their bulbous many eyed heads unnerved him, reminding him of the oversized body of a spider stuck awkwardly onto the shoulders of a humanoid body. He shuddered and looked beyond the broken bodies and saw in the distance a dark storm forming beyond where the skirmish had taken place. The storm made him uneasy. He looked up again at his friend for reassurance and Frank smiled calmly back at him, before turning his face ahead to sternly survey the terrain.
Ba-whump, ba-whump
The next thing he remembered was running.
From what he was not entirely sure, but he knew that to stop would be fatal. Clutching at his wounded arm he threw himself forward, he wasn't aware of any of his companions around him. He felt the malevolence of the storm behind him, its sheer power whipped against his back, just on the edge of its grip. He could feel it clawing at his shirt, making it hard to run. Further back cars, trees and rooftops were being helplessly plucked from their moorings and flung like a child's unwanted toys, he ran between the eddies as debris was sucked from all around throwing litter into his face, blurring his vision.
Ba-whump, ba-whump
His demise was certain.
He couldn't outrun a storm, but his adrenaline urged him onwards, spitting hot panic through his veins, urging him forward, urging him to live. For a second he felt like he was floating, he believed fleetingly that he had achieved such a speed that he could fly from this place, but the harsh current that yanked him back down and backward told him otherwise, he was caught. With nowhere to vent itself the burning panic he felt lodged itself in his chest, he felt like he was going to be ripped apart from the inside out. Through the whirling maelstrom, he saw a calm snowscape beyond, and became captivated by it, how could such a calm expanse exist beyond such a raging storm?
He would never find out, the sheer forces at work inside the vortex coupled with his increased panic forced his senses to fail him one last time.
Ba-whump, ba-whump
But it wasn't the last time. He felt rather than saw his new surroundings. all he knew was that he suddenly felt comfortable and relaxed, sensations that he hadn't experienced since the conflict began. He couldn't see exactly, everything was flooded in a red film, like closing your eyes on a bright sunny day, although he was aware of dim shapes beyond that appeared to pulse larger and smaller. He was aware of a rhythmic beat in the background that coincided with the relaxing rocking motions that he was experiencing, ba-whump, ba-whump. He felt that he should be panicking, but he found himself unable to feel any emotion at all. He was merely contemplative. At first he thought that he must've died, a notion that given his present situation and the events of the day didn't seem wholly improbable, and that this was the afterlife. But was this heaven or hell? The thought of having no emotions did jar something when he first realised the enormity of such an occurrence, but the feeling left him as quickly as it came. Maybe it was a release, and this could be heaven, free from the torment that human emotion brings. After all, he couldn't seem to shake a feeling that this 'place' felt like home to him. Just as he was regarding his new fate, his resting place began to rumble, he felt the vibrations pass through his body, simultaneously he felt a great rush of wind, like the breaking of a seal, which seemed to form a vacuum around him urging him to move forward, to where he could still not venture to guess, the suction grew and a sound began to emanate from up ahead. It was like being inside a giant conch shell, a sound like a roaring ocean consumed him and he was suddenly aware that he was drenched in some kind of viscous fluid. The noise was steadily growing while the rhythm that he had felt (heard?) was growing faster; ba-whump,ba-whump,ba-whump,ba-whump...
Then he suddenly lurched forwards; flung spasmodically along with the current and contraction of some mighty muscle that clenched around the lower half of his body, this motion pumped and squirted him toward a tiny iris of light that he could now see just above his head, he felt the urgency of terror, but strangely not the emotion that he was accustomed to. This terror seemed far more instinctive, more like an indicator of apparent danger rather than the burning fear he was expecting, like a hazard light in a cockpit. He felt that if he was not dead already, then whatever was through that iris would surely mean his end. After all, people who experience near-death experiences allegedly travel towards a faraway shaft of light, maybe they just omitted more of the gory details of that transit. With a final effort his host spat him upward and through the iris, his head just pushed through the narrow hole, and he experienced a dazzling, blinding light, along with an unpleasant realisation that he was still held within a large gelatinous sac, the thought didn’t last long before being fully extricated from his prison, plopping unceremoniously onto the floor where his birth sac promptly split open sending waves of translucent ichor smashing into the ground with an unwholesome smack. He raised himself falteringly up onto his hands and gasped for breath, the unfamiliarity of the air caused him to cough and splutter after only breathing whatever vile fluids his host was feeding into him.
Still gasping from the exertion of his ‘birth’ he peered into the area he now found himself in. It reminded him somehow of a church, the space was high and stretched off into the distance, the roof and walls seemed punctuated with giant ‘ribs’ that supported the structure. The only lights were around the spot where he was deposited, these lights were as unusual as everything else he had encountered recently. They were on stalks waving from the ground like reeds blowing in a gentle breeze, at the tip they glowed with an intense bluish white light. He stood up, intrigued by the way they moved. Moving closer he ventured to reach up and touch the tip of one, as he did so the light blinked and retracted swiftly into the ground. Still only wanting to find some clue as to his whereabouts he turned around to see the place where he was recently held captive. The floor about his feet was drenched in a reddish purple concoction that smelled disgusting, small pieces of flesh and gristle floated in the puddle of goo, he reluctantly allowed his gaze to follow the trickle of liquid until he looked up at a huge organic mass, similar to nothing he had ever seen. It was quite simply just a single giant organ, now he had registered it fully he could hear the ‘heartbeat’ of thing still, it pulsed slowly, relaxed again ba-whump, ba-whump. The noise made him feel uncomfortable, not long ago he felt relieved and at ease in the belly of…this thing. On the face of the organ was the still yawning sphincter, evidence of his egress was still visible from the trail oozing from its swollen lips. He felt sick. His only thoughts now were to get away, he was confused, he wasn’t sure how he was feeling. He felt physically unwell, and his mind couldn’t focus on the details of his experience for long. All he had was his memories, they flashed back to him even now as he ran blindly to the far end of the structure, memories of his friends back in the shelter, his comrades and the patchy memories of his fateful last day. He was suddenly uncertain, was that all a dream? After all, he had just been born had he not? How could he have these memories? Where could they be from? But his rational mind took over; ‘These events must’ve happened somewhere, I’m still lucid, confused maybe, but I can still reason. This isn’t the first time I’ve walked this Earth. I just need to get my head together. That place I found myself could be a prison of some kind, they’ve messed with my head somehow. I just need to focus…’
His reverie was brusquely interrupted by the familiar crack of a rifle firing nearby. He looked up and found that he had sprinted into a more familiar built up area, tall cement habitation blocks lined one side of the old dust road he now found himself on. The periodic crack of the rifle was emanating from one of the nearer buildings. A rifle! The reticulans he had fought always used laser and plasma weapons, there must be fellow humans inside! He ran with renewed purpose toward the source of the gunfire, he felt a well of joy trying to burst to the surface at so luckily surviving his ordeal.
The joy was short-lived.
He fell before he heard the sound, sliding onto his front he began to crawl towards the building. ‘The must be hostiles around here somewhere’ he thought to himself, he still had a chance of being rescued. He managed to drag himself within the outer wall of the compound, he had noticed that the periodic rifle cracks had stopped. Relieved he thought, ‘They must’ve killed the bastards, right on! I’m safe now…’
He looked up again, breathless, but for the first time since his release joyful. He saw the face of Cpl Dobbs, and breathed a sigh of relief.
But something was wrong.
Frank looked down upon him with a scowl on his face, clutching his shotgun tightly. He looked further back and saw the sniper that was firing before watching intently from the broken window above. Frank placed his boot on his chest, forcing him down into the dirt. He tried to protest, but only gurgles and gibberish came to his lips. Frank smiled, placed the muzzle next to his head and pulled the trigger.
‘Fucking freaks’ Frank said dryly, and grimly walked back into the building.
The End
Paul Walters