This is loosely based on a dream I had and then it morphed into something different. My original dream was being stuck in underground tunnels with zombies and having to fight my way through them to survive. It went from luring them into rooms and locking them inside to this short story. I completely made this up as I went along. I had no clue where it would start or how it would end although is any story ever done. Not really and especially not this one as you will see when you get to the end. This is where I stopped it because I’m tired and need to go to bed.
When I woke up that morning, I was not expecting my family to be at the windows. They were looking outside our large glass windows. We have been living here longer than I care to remember. We had lived through many invasions. You could say the invaders looked like aliens, but they were more a cross between zombies and aliens. They were stiff and wooden, but unlike traditional zombies, these had sparkles in their eyeballs. They weren’t deadened inside. They had ragged clothes, similar to a person you’d see on the street that was clearly homeless but still had a functioning zipper and no holes in their jeans. The alien part came into play with their antenna sticking out on their bodies. Their flesh would change colors when you were in close proximity, the antenna would lock together, and a solid wall would form around them. I’m not talking about pretty colors but ugly ones. They spoke a few words in a different language and gave you nothing else to deduce what their purpose was, where they came from, and what kind of harm they wanted to impose.
Here I was, trying to rub the sleep out of the corners of my eyes when my knocked me over as I sat up. I shoved her hard off the bed. She was the one to almost injure me, but I was the one who got into trouble for touching her. This was how my mom put it. Hurtful way? There was nothing hurtful about it except her silliness. My sister has been a pain since her birth.
“Come see what’s outside!” she said, scrambling onto her feet. “They’re getting closer and closer.”
I got out of bed, my straight hair still straight and plastered to the side of my head. Damn the static machine that stopped working. Again, my sister had to mess with the dials and break it. It was the last one my dad said he’d buy. At least my parents blamed her for it. It was all her. My stupid little sister. Her punishment wasn’t as severe as it should been. My brother agreed.
I was behind him the first time I saw these invaders, my chin resting on his shoulder as I was taller than him. He hated that, but he had the strength I didn’t have. The story goes my parents knew I was would be the tallest about five months into my mom’s pregnancy. As she put it, I had those “long arms” to punch her better. I let out a groan of what I would have to do and what my whole family was going to have to do, neglecting what was outside weren’t the average invader. We had become a part of this larger family, ours one out of thousands of families, to protect this and we called home. It was our duty, but I was tired. I was only seventeen.
While my parents had made the right decision to become a part of this bigger family when it became too dangerous to live outside, I desperately wanted more sleep. I wanted peaceful sleep. I hadn’t had that for a while. We were no longer “minted G’s,” the name for new immigrants, and I’m convinced by the time I reach my parents age, I will be living off of less than four hours of sleep a night.
Like my parents, the other minted G’s were sick of seeing people they knew getting killed and strangers dying in front of them in public areas. They were willing to leave their home unpaid for and take their essentials, which amounted to water and food in a small backpack. Many of them traveled for miles and soon they would call this home too if they proved themselves to our leaders and gave them additional reasons to stay. If you couldn’t strengthen our family, you had little options left but to fend for yourself in the society we wanted no part of. There weren’t any other colonies around, and the closest ones were too far away to get to with little water and food. I made the mistake of wandering close to the entrance to see my dad. I heard wails from people I never wanted to hear again. I saw frightened expressions on people that heard they weren’t allowed into any of the three main long structures called “collection dumps.” It was here where some of them got sick and died, masking their pain and weakness. Most of them were strong and able-bodied people or had skills our family could use.
The few times I went outside with my siblings, we would find dead bodies of those that were rejected. It was sad to see, but my dad called it survival of the fittest. Those not fit had to die. He was strict in his principles.
He would stand there with his hand stretched out to me and say, “If you don’t take my hand, bad things will happen to you. I don’t tell you these stories to make sure my mouth still works.”
By then I would have reached for his hand and his would be tightly wrapped around mine, able only to see the tips of my fingers if I dared look at the right angle. He had monster hands and an appetite for unsolicited advice.
“When you see Zombiens and Allbies, the only thing you have to do is run as fast as you can to me. No matter where I am, you come to me.”
Don’t ask me the difference between Zombiens and Allbies. My dad used the names interchangeably and sometimes on the same day. After dinner, he was more inclined to use Zombiens. I stopped running to him when I turned old enough to carry swords and knives. He never wanted me to carry a gun because they were unreliable. He told me more often than not people he saw had decent aim when he first arrived, but if you don’t want others getting killed you needed perfect aim. He wasn’t one of them. The only people who could use guns were those with perfect shots.
“Leave the bullets to the ones who like to be surrounded by trees and grass.”
I saw their drills once. They train all hours of the day and night. We have snipers strategically placed along the edges of our land, but I’ve never seen one nor has any of my friends seen one. I suppose they remain hidden for a reason. My dad is far from their caliber of marksmanship, but he carries a sword as if it was another appendage and excels in speed and accuracy when using knives in close combat.
By the time my dad put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed I was already mentally gearing up for what would be another battle with a new kind of invader. What was outside getting closer to our bulletproof glass window was something I had never heard before. They were the most frightening creatures any of us had seen from far away. We were told they had neither sparkle nor hunger. They were smaller than the average person but bigger than a vertically challenged person. We wouldn’t be able to see their faces because they had none. They were boring in color but made up for in structure. They could contract in size to fit through small spaces. I wondered where their brain was or if killing them the conventional way would work. How many of them were there? We hadn’t gotten an accurate count yet. The only thing I knew was this: they would fall and die by the hands of whatever weapons my dad handed me. He had that fighting instinct but more important he knew what would work the best against something we’ve never fought against.
While struggling to get my hair back into a ponytail, I heard him bark orders into the tiny microphone embedded into his shoulder. This was something I had to look forward to when I was old enough to command my own team. If I was one of the chosen for this role, it wouldn’t be only coincidence I was given this honor. I had been my dad’s left hand to his right hand for two years now. I had spent years training and protecting this land as much as my dad and brother. My younger sister was sent elsewhere, which usually meant she went kicking and screaming on the way to the main establishment we called X because it was built in the shape of an X. The main underground tunnels were only used as a last resort and the people too young to fight sought refuge there if by some off chance the outer layer was broken. Not a moment was wasted even in battle. During this time, certain trainers went with the young children and taught them the skills necessary to be brave, successful, and honorable fighters.
After I was fully dressed, I gathered my personal weapon of choice, the knife my dad gave me on the 16th birthday and placed it on my belt. My dad had changed out of his comfortable clothes too, but he wore black from top to bottom with three thin red stripes on his right pant leg and two thin green stripes on his left sleeve, and one purple thin stripe on his right sleeve. If anyone every forgot the orders she or he was given, you remembered the stripes and colors. Three red meant clear kill any invader on the right first because they seemed to favor the right when there was danger. Two green meant these invaders seemed to stay close to the ground and were probably not capable of leaping high into the air. One purple strip meant the likelihood of needing further reinforcements was not likely but a possibility. If there was a change in tactics, it was broadcast into the ears of everyone fighting. If you heard the word “BLACK,” it meant retreat. It didn’t mean we were giving up and even if we felt that way, we couldn’t say anything about it or challenge who said it.
The invaders had gotten close enough to our house. I could see them clearer now. My dad stopped looking at his screen. He studied them through the window and thirty seconds later, he spit out what he had concluded.
“This is a gang of females. The males are here, but they’re waiting to see what happens.”
“How do you know this?”
“I just do. Listen up.”
“I’m all ears” my brother said behind me.
“It doesn’t matter if you go to the right. I should’ve known better. These invaders aren’t related to the last ones like I thought. Before we leave, I’ll notify the leaders to change from red to orange. I have a feeling they are going to try to drive us toward the males. I heard from enough snipers they are twice the size and the scariest thing they’ve seen in a while. They don’t want to shoot yet because they are using echo location from the looks of it. The females seem to not have this ability, which is good for us, but bad for the snipers. This tells me they aren’t faking not having heads. I say we leave through the secret exit and surprise them enough so we can get to where we need to go.”
“I was born ready,” my brother said.
I rolled my eyes. He was still compensating for his shortness.
My dad laid on the floor and poked his head inside the secret door. He did his usual of looking in all directions with his flashlight before anyone entered. I jumped down, then my brother, and my dad was last. He waited, looking up, as it closed. We never heard our mom bolt it shut, but we knew she was making sure to make it hidden from everyone in the house. When my dad tapped on a section of the wall, a cover came down and disguised the door.
We followed our dad to the end of the tunnel. We only had one mission and that was to kill as many of these invaders as we made our way to the rendezvous. Different families had certain locations to meet and ours was about twenty feet away. I pressed my eye to a tiny hole. I saw a few invaders in my view and signaled there were five. When my brother looked out his tiny hole on the other side, he drew his hands behind his back and signaled about fifty. My dad, who had been looking straight out the door’s tiny hole, he backed up and went to the ground. He pressed his head against the packed dirt and listened. When he got up, he went to wall and pressed on it.
I heard something move on its gears. A side door opened to a hallway. My brother shined his flashlight into it. My dad had been holding out. He wasn’t telling the truth. We had considered ourselves the most self-sufficient family out of them all. He had been given orders. I remember it clearly. This monstrosity sitting in front of me intrigued and confused me. I touched the cold metal and its long snout.
“I thought you were supposed to get rid of these?” I asked.
My dad shined his flashlight to the entrance behind the anti-tanker. “We need to get going if this is going to work.”
“If what’s going to work?”
“You’re asking too many questions. Get going.”
I made my way to the entrance and in the long hallway as I listened to my dad, I realized for the first time I was scared for all of us, my family.