Much of the lush trees and natural plant life was destroyed during the original landing; the ground was burned black in a fifty foot circle, charred plants and rocks crunching under the boots of many men. The encampment had a built in perimeter of thick red trees thanks to the first expedition. The trees, they would later find, were one of many natural resources this planet had to offer. Little was known about earth’s newest conquest, most of the men didn’t even know the native name, so they just called it Paradise.
Alan Marks noticed this on the ship over; the other recruits did nothing to boost his sprits. There was a short briefing before they were loaded like rounds into the rocket. The man in charge was General Gold, a massive hulk of a man. He detailed the enemy and the landscape.
“This is thick jungle terrain, don’t get cornered and for your own sake don’t get separated from the team. That’s the most important thing; don’t lose your teammates. If you get cornered alone your laser is useless and they’ll tear you apart. These aren’t just gooks we’re fighting men.”
The new recruits all thought this was a joke, the way he said it, with special emphasis on the word tear seemed like a joke. But then he showed them the only picture they had of the enemy. It was blurred but you could plainly see what it was. A bright blue blur with massive claws and a huge tail was devouring another red smear. The blue monster was obviously female; she was stunning if you could get around the blood, her face seeming to contort to fit her Jurassic mouth. The worst part, the very worst part was the look on the red smears face. You couldn’t see any other part of him, just the look of terror as America’s newest enemy tore him apart.
Alan was still modified. None of the other men even seemed to care that they were heading towards a war zone. They showed the American classic porno Deep throat on the rocket and everyone was completely absorbed. Apparently the lead actress was born with out a clitoris and the only way she could reach sexual arousal was when she did the Deep throat. It seemed ludicrous to Alan but everyone else enjoy it.
The porno lasted the entire trip, and soon the rocket was landing in a burned out section of land. You could see the main encampment far off in the distant as well as other landing sites. The lush forest was littered with charred black circles from rocket ships.
There were seventeen new recruits total. General Gold took the ship over with his men, he was the only senior officer and he ordered them to stand single file and face him. He was slowly unbuttoning his shirt and smile bitterly. No one spoke and soon the man was standing topless in front of them.
“You see this?” there was a scar rippling his otherwise toned flesh from shoulder to stomach. Everyone one nodded dumbly in fear. “Good, I’m glad all you faggots can see my purple heart. I won’t bore you with an old man’s war story, but I want you too look very closely and decide if you want something like this one your pretty boy skin. It’s a choice to fail god damn it and I will not accept failure from my men. What’s your name Faggot?”
“Alan Marks, sir.”
“What they fuck are you doing here boy?”
“I don’t know, everyone said it was paradise.”
“It is son, I hope you live long enough to enjoy it. I hope all of you get to enjoy it and your goddamn babies too. This is your first mission. Ten miles south from here is our base, your new home, you boys are gonna go for a little jog through the jungle. Your performance here will determine your Rank and place in the army.”
No one had mentioned this to Alan however and he looked visible shocked. General Gold turned on him.
“Is that a problem for you Marks?”
“No, sir, I love to run.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Does everyone here love to run?”
“I never liked runner much, it’s my purple heart I think, but you boys run and I’ll see you in a few hours. If you want to survive then I suggest you stay together, the enemy is out there.”
With a self assured smile General Gold throw down a few tins of food and some bottled water and disappeared into the bush riding a beat up all terrain vehicle. All of a sudden the silence was deafening. The wind moved softy through the trees, animals moved noiselessly in the heavy woods.
“Fuck that guy.” This from a man at the end of the line, he was the first to break formation and start heading south. “Isn’t that what book camp is for?” Alan pulled his weapon from its holster and started after him, grabbing a few tins of food and water on the way.
“Atta boy.” The man said and slapped him on the back. He must have been the same age as Alan but he looked like a soldier. Boots laced up and shinning, sweat running down his back. Alan figured if he wanted to live in paradise this guy was his best bet.
“What’s your name?” he glanced behind him and noticed more men coming in ones and twos.
“I’m Henry, your Marks right?” As he spoke he looked straight ahead, scanning the leaves as they moved in the wind.
“Yeah that’s me.”
“I need someone at my back Marks, these guys have no idea what their in for, you either.”
“Gold made it pretty simple.”
“This is my second tour here, I’ve fought these things. They’re not just animals, they think and plan and work together.”
He stopped suddenly, slapping his hand against Alan chest. With lightening quickness he had his weapon ready. They emerged from the plant life like marines rising up from water. There were three of them, all female. Only one walked on her two legs, the others scooted around on all fours. Henry shot the first one through the hip; she darted back into the brush with a burst of blood across the foliage and the other two surged forward. Alan waited, waited until her claws were almost around his neck and then fired. He got her just below her breast, exposing her rib cage to the world.
The other one was on Henry, its tail wrapped around his neck claws digging into his chest. Almost inaudible Alan heard her hiss heart… heart. He showed no mercy and blew her eyes out the back of her head. He was trying to untangle the things tail from Henry’s neck when the last monster stepped from the brush. She had her hands up in a peaceful stance.
Her voice was like water to a starving man. It lulled Alan into a warm safe place, he dropped his weapon. She was saying come to me…come to me…come to me. In his mind he knew this was wrong, he knew she was no friend, no lover, but he could not stop himself from moving forward.
Henry came running from behind him, a piece of dead wood in his hand. With out missing a step he swung sending her reeling to the ground. He raised the stick high above his head and shattered her skull with one fatal blow, the stick breaking with a satisfied crack. He collapsed to the ground and started laughing.
“I told you, didn’t I Marks? Now help me find my gun.”
“Its right here Henry, Alan’s too.” The other fifteen men were gathered around wide eyed watching the two men struggle but survive.
“Maybe we should all stay together from now on.” After that no one said anything, the silence was deafening.
* * *
There was no trail or path what so ever in the jungle, they stomped through the underbrush southward half lost. Only twelve of the original seventeen made it this far. They could feel them in the flora, limitless eyes watching their every move. All the soldiers now walked with their lasers in hand. It took some time to realize there was no safety in the jungle, there was no chance of rest for the exhausted men, and now every one was on edge.
One man by the name of Peters was close to losing his and giving up. During the last attack he was badly injured. One of the women shoved its tail through his thigh, there was no way to stop the bleeding, they tried to ignore this imamate death so close to them and just get to camp but he wouldn’t stop crying.
He wailed like an eight year old with a skinned knee. Henry and Alan were at the front of the line. Since this morning Alan had five more of the monsters under his belt. He felt the weight of these deaths on his soul, and Peters crying was sending him around the bend.
“Doesn’t someone have any whisky or anything we can give him? Peters shut the fuck up; those monsters are still out there.”
“Fuck you man, I’m dying, I can feel myself dying. You don’t know what this is like.” And on and on and on. He started to talk about high school, and the fat football star that would beat him.
Alan stopped the team, and walked to the dying man.
“Peters do you want us to all die with you?” the man would not meet his gaze; he just closed his eyes and cried out for anyone to hear. Then he spat a mouthful of blood and spit into Alan’s face and just like that he lost his edge. He jumped on the injured man, two other solders had him on a makeshift stretcher and they all went down in a heap.
None of the men lifted a finger to stop him; even the two boys that carried him for hours just hopped up and watched the fight. Peters did anything he could to try and get him off, biting and scratching and wailing like a child. Alan’s laser was lost but he didn’t need it. He reached for a bright green rock to his left. It could barely fit his fist; he smacked him across the face. He smashed the rock against his teeth and nose until blood pooled around Peters like a halo.
The wet smacking nose was like nails on a chalk bored. Some one, no one Alan recognized in his enraged state, stepped forward.
“Come on, he’s had a bad enough time. Just put him out of his misery and let’s go.”
The man dropped Alan’s laser next to him. Alan grabbed Peters and twisted eyes onto him, and then with a twitch of the finger he felt Peter’s life flutter out of him. There was a moment of silence, near by a waterfall could be heard crashing down from the heavens.
“Let’s keep moving men. We should be there soon now that our load is lightened”
This came from Henry, he and Alan took it upon themselves to lead the team. He gave Alan a strange look, but said nothing. After a time Alan looked back at the man he just murdered. One of the blue women swung down from a tree and drug his body off into the forest. He didn’t look back, after this he would never look back.
* * *
Sweating and exhausted the last eleven men made it back to camp. General Gold was waiting for them, sitting on the hood of his all terrain vehicle and chain smoking.
“They only managed to get six of you? I’m proud of you boys. Get some rest all of you, there still might be some food in the mess hall. Henry you stay a while.”
“Yes Sir.” Henry turned to the other ten men, his mouth slack and open like he might just say something, but then he turned back to the General with a bitter taste in his mouth.
“What are you faggots doing, the mess hall in that way.” He indicted with his middle finger. They were all starving; no one mentioned Peters or the other five men. Alan couldn’t even remember their names. He noticed his gun was still in hand, still ready. He had to calm down he was safe here.
The mess hall was warm and modern, a stark contrast to the jungle they spent the day in. The room was mostly empty, save for the single black cook waiting behind the serving counter. His presence was striking; he was extremely tall and well muscled. It seemed like a waste to Alan, such a massive man cooking gruel.
“Are you the new recruits?” he seemed up beat.
“We’re not that new anymore.” Alan said eyes downcast.
“Whatever, General G told me to make something special, something native for you boys.”
He pulled off the top of his steam plate to reveal a thick stew. The smell of warm food wafted over the hunger men and they lined up plastic bowls ready. The stew didn’t taste like anything Alan had before. The broth, vegetables and even the chunks of meat tasted completely new and delicious.
The cook took a seat next to the other men, he eat his stew with effectiveness, scooping up every last drop of broth.
“What’s in this stuff cook?” Alan inquired.
He just smiled a white toothy smile and muttered something about a well-kept secret. Alan finished his stew and served himself another bowl; it tasted like nothing he’d ever had before, but somehow it tasted completely familiar.
* * *
Henry and General Gold were sitting in the truck with the radio on, speaking in hushed tones and passing around a bottle of moonshine. Henry was telling him everything about peters and Alan’s performance in the field
“The other men are just fodder, they never would have made it with out us, but Alan’s a straight killer. You should have seen him when that first bitch jumped me; I thought I was done for.” He raised his head and showed him the purple bruises around his neck.
“What’s your point?”
“My point is he’s the one, I won’t have anyone else for this job.”
“It’s your choice Henry, but you remember the last one, that women you liked.”
“That was different, the bitch fucking seduced me. This guy can do it, I know he can, he’s saved my life already once today. I had him at my back from the beginning.”
“You don’t have to convince me, just make sure you’re one hundred present on this guy.”
Henry chocked down the last of the shine and slipped out of the truck. Leaning against the door for support he said:
“One hundred and ten, is Pierce still in the mess hall?”
“Should be, he loves his work.” The General seemed almost bitter when he said that.
* * *
After dinner the men retreated to what they thought was the sleeping corridors, the cook whose name was Pierce pointed them in the right direction. It was disturbing how little information the men in charge gave their foot soldiers. Pierce said it was just to the left of the mess hall, he was trying hard not to laugh when he said this.
To the left of the mess hall were hundred of bright orange tents, each labeled with a six digit number and a blood type. The problem was no one knew who was who. One of the men didn’t even know his own blood type.
The tents seemed to be pitched randomly, with no order or design in there placement. Alan was getting more and more tired, his eyes burning with exhaustion. He went to the closest tent and unzipped it. The man inside was wrapped up in an equally orange sleeping bag.
Alan cleared his throat several times, then jabbed the man in the shoulder. He started to wake and stared blankly at him for a moment. Then as if realizing he didn’t know who Alan was his eyes widened and he reached for a gun tucked under his pillow.
“Wait, hang one man, we’re soldiers too.”
“What the fuck are you doing kid? That’s a good way to get yourself killed.” He laughed for a moment then tucked the laser back under his pillow and settled down back into the sleeping bag.
“Hang on, we need your help?”
“What is it?” he didn’t open his eyes and his voice was barely audible.
“How do you know what tent is yours?”
“Just look on your dog tags.”
Then rolling over he zipped his tent back up and shut Alan and the tired men out.
“I’m starting to think paradise was a bad idea.”
“That’s exactly what I’d expect a fagot like you to say Marks.”
General Gold and Henry were rolling up in the all terrain vehicle. Henry was driving and the General was leaning out the window and laughing. They stopped the truck and stepped out onto the black charred earth.
“You having some trouble boys?” Henry wondered laughing.
The sun was just peaking over the horizon spilling over the lush and beautiful earth.
“Where are we supposed to sleep sir?” This from the man that didn’t know his blood type.
“Your tents and tags are in the truck, we got a little caught up.” Henry seemed apologetic enough. General Gold was pissing off to the side. “You men get the tents and the dog tags, there in the glove compartment. Alan you wait we need to talk.”
Although Henry arrived with the rest of the recruits they all hopped right up, he was a natural leader and they followed him blindly. Alan started to wonder about who this man really was, he seemed to well polished to be a new recruit. He slung his arm around Alan’s shoulders and led him off away from the others.
Alan noticed the smell of alcohol on Henry’s breath; General gold was slapping one solider then laughing, slapping him then laughing. The other men gathered around with tents in hand and eyed him nervously unsure of what to do. This settlement seemed to lack authority and this was very shocking to Alan.
“Does anyone know what goes on here?” Alan stopped walking and turned to look at the other man head on. He just smiled weakly as if there was some joke that Alan was missing.
“Do you Alan? I think you’re a little to fresh to be saying anything.”
“Your not who you say you are?”
“I never said I was anyone besides Henry.”
“So what’s the deal then?”
“I’m just a cook, like Pierce.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, why did you pretend to be one of us?” until now Alan felt no other connection with the other men, now he was offended for the lot of them.
“This job isn’t what you think; we’re desperate for another cook. It’s just too much work for us and I think we could use you. It’s the best job in the military.”
“But I’m an enlisted man; I don’t even know how to cook.”
“You don’t have too; Pierce is in charge of the actual cooking. We just help with the hunt. But it’s unimportant right now; get some sleep you start tomorrow. Here’s your dog tag.”
He slipped the chain into his hand and pointed him toward his tent.
“If you think you won’t see any action the cooks get more than anyone.”
Alan thought back to that first encounter, the way her stomach just opened to him spilling her life all over the jungle floor. No further death would be enough to lessen that first fatal shot.
“It’s not that, it’s just… we’re the good guys right?”
“We’re American’s aren’t we? Back on earth I read about this thing, a somewhat archaic belief but still relevant.”
“White man’s burden. Look at all we as a race have accomplished, not just the whites, everyone. So maybe I should say earthman’s burden then? The point is, if we don’t teach these monsters how to men then who will?”
He couldn’t get her eyes out of his head. He felt the loss of her life like ice in his chest.
“I guess your right. I just need to sleep.”
* * *
The nine surviving men were assimilated into the machine right away. Despite themselves they had grown used to each other and expected things to stay the same. But harsh military law was proving too much for them. They were separated and neither group would see the other again.
Four of the nine would just be foot soldiers, ammunition, and they were immediately sent into the jungle. One of the many research teams had discovered a massive oil deposit and it needed to be defended. No one was sure if the women knew what oil was but they were sent to defend it.
The other five were trained in demolition. The jungle was the women’s upper hand, and much of the foliage need to be cleared. This process required much research because the jungle was a massive economic resource. Teams would be sent out to study the earth and decide what section could be cleared, depending on strategic value and any potential profit that could be made. If the land proved to be especially valuable but needed for a pending attack then as quickly as possible the resource would be removed. Trees would be cut down, diamonds would be mined, exotic fruits would be altered genetically to grow on earth, and the list goes on.
If the land was just more useless jungle a demolition team would be sent in right away. Early on in the war they realized that burning the jungle down was just not effective. The fire was hard to control and the smoke would often alert the enemy and send the women crashing down on them. Instead they started to freeze the plants then come crashing through in massive tucks.
First they would dump hundreds of gallons of the freezing agent on the forest with fighter jets. It was beautiful to watch, the whole jungle turned to ice. The process was invented on site but it was being applied on many of earth’s conquests. Once the jungle was frozen the trucks would be sent in. They resembled tanks but really were more like plows. This method of clearing the jungle was proving so effect that the women were retreating further and further into the bush, attacks getting less and less frequent.
Soon the last of the nine men were no different from the myriad of other soldiers, and those first few hours in the jungle lost their significance. For Alan Marks however, things where different.
* * *
In the cool grey light of the afternoon Alan felt much better about himself. He thought he would dream of the blue women, but instead his dreams were incompressible and pleasant to the conscious mind. Peirce woke him up for breakfast and tried to welcome him into the business. They were off a little ways in the woods and the dense trees let little light shine through. The other recruits were no where in sight, his tent stood alone in the black field.
They had some lawn chair set up and were just sitting around drinking coffee. The coffee was cooked over an open fire and tasted better then anything he got at home. Pierce was telling him how he used to be on a research team, before the rest of the team was all killed. His job was to find out what they could eat, what was toxic and what was hallucinogenic and all.
The plants around them seemed almost artificial in their vividness. There were many kinds of berries and fruit bearing trees. Peirce throw them all together in a pot and started it on a low boil over the fire. The mixture was only some fruit and a little bit of water but it smelled great.
“I hope you don’t mind this for breakfast. Henry told me to let you sleep, so you missed the real deal.”
“It looks great.”
Alan noticed a brightly colored snake slithering from a low hanging branch. It was the first animal Alan saw since they arrived. He admired it briefly not knowing if it was poison or not. On earth he was afraid of snakes but this one seemed none threatening.
“Looks like you get some meat for breakfast.”
Alan was slightly confused by this but didn’t say anything. The snake fell heavy from the tress and started to slither quickly toward camp. Pierce calmly approached the snake on all fours; it seemed unaffected by his presence. He took the metal spatula he was cooking with and brought it down hard right below the snake’s triangle head.
The snake’s body convulsed and started to shiver, its nerve endings slowly realizing what was happening. Alan was shocked by this, it donned on him that this was the meat he was talking about for breakfast. Alan couldn’t watch him prepare the snake, even though he couldn’t wait to eat it, instead he decided to explore the forest more.
Last night he noticed there was no perimeter around the base other than the trees. He asked Pierce about this and he said that they didn’t need it, the women were always all around them but they never attacked the base head on. There was no way they could and survive. This seemed far fetched but he did spend the night in a nylon tent so he just accepted it.
The forest seemed stomped over, different trails and paths craved into the foliage. The plant life looked like it was constantly growing over. Different weeds and bushes popping up in the middle of the path, some would break off abruptly and give way to the jungle. Alan was just about to turn back when something spotted his eye. It was six foot bush of what looked like budding marijuana, he hadn’t touched any drugs what so ever since he joined the service. The plant was a bright purple with little flecks of green and fuzzy orange hairs.
He thought about it, things seemed pretty lax around here judging by last night. He decided to go for it and filled his pockets with the sticky purple plant. With a little effort he found the path back through the woods. Pierce was obviously an authority on the native plant and animal life, so he figured he’s ask him if the plant was safe.
When Alan finally found his way back to the fire he was sweating, the jungle got very hot of a sudden. He began to get hungry and was looking forward to eating, so far every thing pierce made was great. Peirce and Henry were sitting around the fire and laughing. The snake had been chopped up and skewered on sticks then placed around the fire. It looked just like stake now; the berries had melted into a bubbling paste. All and all it looked delicious to the hungry man.
Alan was so hungry he completely forgot about the bud in his pocket. They drizzled the berries over the snake and it tasted amazing. If this was the life of a cook he was hooked. Henry was telling him about what their actual job was. Peirce of course was the chief; this whole venture apparently was his brainchild.
When his entire team was killed by the women he was stuck in the jungle with no way out. All he had was a binder full of research and a few pots and pans. At this same time earth was having as extremely hard time shipping more supplies to the planet they called paradise. When Pierce stumbled into camp a few weeks later he had the perfect solution. He gave general Gold list of recipes, animals, and plants with a wide range of uses. The planet was rich in many way and they knew this.
“..and now it’s the three of us.” Smiling Henry lit a cigarette and handed one to Pierce. “You want one?” Alan shook his head but was reminded of his discover. He pulled a bit out of his pocket and showed it to the two men.
“Is this what I think it is?”
“Yeah but that shit hits you a lot harder then you’d think.”
Pierce laughed as he said this. Henry seemed amused but said nothing. Pierce took the cig from his mouth and rolled it between two fingers emptying the tobacco onto the forest floor. Then he told Alan to shred the leaves as best he could, with a toothpick he started to stuff the purple fuzz in the end of the cig. Henry disappeared muttering something about the tuck.
“You got a light?”
“Yeah, right here.” Alan fumbled a Zippo from his pocket.
“Light this up.”
He lit the Joint and they puffed away passively waiting for Henry to return. When he came back he had a double barrel shotgun. Alan had never seen a gun that actually took regular bullets. He knew they existed and that some people even preferred them but he didn’t see the point.
“I’m only gonna show you this once, my great granddad was in Nam and taught me all kinds of things.”
He took the joint from Alan and placed it in the end of the barrel where you would normally load the bullets, then put the gun in his mouth like he’d take his own life. Instead however he sucked the smoke through the chamber like a pipe and smiled.
“Give it a try white boy.” Peirce urged. Alan was already reeling, but he hit the shot gun bong surprised at how well it really worked he took a seat on a dead tree. All he could say was whew smoke curling from his mouth and nose.
“The best thing is this shit grows everywhere, I put it the soup sometimes.”
Alan felt like he had his head on backwards, clouds of color obscured his vision and altered his perceptions; all of a sudden the jungle was a symphony. He heard birds in trees; lizards crawl across rocks, and water running under ground.
“You feeling okay?” Pierce seemed unaffected by the drug; he waved his hand across Alan’s face. “I didn’t think he’d fry balls.”
“When’s lunch?” was all Alan could think to ask.
* * *
It was much more peaceful driving the huge truck through the jungle then stomping through the underbrush with nothing but a pair of combat boots. The truck had a tape deck and Henry was blasting country. The jungle seemed like little threat through the tinted windows, every now and then Alan would see a blue face pop up behind a tree and the dart back down out of sight. This was disturbing to him; the creatures seemed to be studying them.
He wondered if anyone had taken the time to study them in return, much could be learned from simply observing the monsters. Just from looking out the window he realized that he had never seen a male of their race, or one by her lonesome. They seemed to come in threes and fours, walking on hind legs or seeming to slither across the ground on all fours.
The truck stopped and Alan panicked, paranoia rising up in him. He was having a little trouble with reality, suddenly and for no reason waves of color would shoot before his eyes.
“We can’t stop here, those things are out there.”
“Calm down Alan, well keep you safe.” Peirce was making sure he didn’t say too much and make a fool of himself.
“But why can’t we drive the rest of the way?”
The small trail was littered with holes and roots, occasionally a large bolder or two.
“No matter how many times we clear this road they fuck it up again.”
“You mean they did this?”
“Yeah.” Henry seemed bitter.
Alan went to investigate further, some of the holes where covered with derby and leaves. He kicked then aside to reveal sharp spikes planted into the ground, one looked like a sharpened human leg bone.
He felt tired still, like his mind was working at half capacity. If he had been in the right frame of mind he would have felt scared. More scared then he already was. This obstacle meant moving through the forest with little protection. The trees all around them were shaking, not from the wind, but from something else. A low rasping sound was drifting through the trees and gaining intensity
Henry pulled out his laser, Pierce loaded two rounds into his shot gun, and Alan watched the color drain from Henry’s face as seven of the bright blue women stepped out from the underbrush. His laser was in the truck, he could see it sitting on his seat from the door he left ajar. He reached for a throned bramble growing above his head and pulled it out cutting his hand in the process. He took a step forward and two of the women growled at him, and trashed their tails.
“Hold you position solider.”
Even with the three of them things could go wrong very fast. Only three of the women were standing and a smile spilt there faces as Alan retreated back. One of the women took a step forward and started to purr at Alan her arms out stretched. He was determined not to lose his grip on reality. He shook his head no to the woman and she surged forward claws ready for Alan’s throat; he whipped her across the face with his bramble and kicked her knee out with his steal toes. Her scream echoed in the jungle, sending birds and other animals running though the underbrush, away from danger.
The others were moving forward slowly aware of the power the men held in there hands. Alan’s heart was pounding in his chest. The downed women stood between him and the open door. He tried to jump over the injured monster but her claws caught his pant leg. Because of this he fell short and smacked his head on the side of the truck. Henry was screaming something as the rest of the women surged around them.
Alan couldn’t understand anything; his brain felt like it was on fire. He put a hand to his head and came away with blood. The woman was only a few feet away from him but she couldn’t stand, instead she pulled her self across the earth her tail thrashing angrily. Alan was lying on his stomach; he quickly rolled over and smashed the bottom on his boot heel into her nose. Blood spurted out and she scream again.
Using the truck as leverage Alan got to his feet and started to stomp the women into the forest floor. He watched her ribs splatter and poke through her bloody skin. Shaking he fell into the car, the bright colors invading his mind. He couldn’t see and because of this he thought he was drowning.
Henry was fending one of them off with a machete he brought for cutting through the foliage and Pierce had one pinned to the ground while he re loaded his shot gun. He emptied both rounds into the things face and reloaded again. The other three waited close to the ground unaware of any danger. They blended in with the bright foliage, and seemed to be unnoticed.
Alan, vision hazy managed to find his laser and pocket it. He saw the three women low to the ground slowly start to advance. He climbed over the seat and started the car. He punched the gas and shot forward, two of the three splattered under the steal tires like bugs on a windshield. He was honestly shocked that his planned worked so well, the side window was drenched in blood. Alan hit the break and took a deep breath, he saw swirling shape in the blood. Eyes that he thought could be forgotten but that stared him in the face. He heard Peters crying far off.
Pierce was laughing and lighting a cigarette, two of the monsters lay before his feet. Henry was still having some trouble with his, she was trying to run. He raised his weapon over his head and chopped into her leg. She collapsed, the machete stuck into her calf. Alan got a look at her face right before Henry pulled out the blade and finished the job. She looked like a child, like something warm and clean. Henry dislodged her head from her shoulders splattering blood all over the windshield.
Pierce went to Alan, laughing and opening the driver’s side door. Alan was blind to the world; he watched the season change before his eyes. Watched the leaves fall from the trees and grow again and again. He searched blindly for the door handle and fell from the car.
“Alan, that was amazing. We thought you were leaving us you fag.” He pulled from the ground with a bear hug.
“Hey I would never do that.” Pierce only stayed solid for a moment, and then his skin started to ripple in Alan’s mind. Flaking and falling off to expose the tender flesh underneath. It was red, everything was red.
“Are you okay Alan.” He was white as a sheet, his eyes flicking back and forth randomly unable to focus on anything.
“I don’t know what real.” His voice trailed off and he got his shaking feet. “Is any of this real?”
“All of this is real.” Henry spoke softly.
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
They took sometime to gather the dead women and throw them in one of their own traps. After they were all loaded in they set them on fire, the shifting sounds in the trees faded into the wind.
* * *
It was fairly easy making their way through the underbrush, the traps were obvious and easy to avoid. Alan walked close to Peirce to keep himself in line, the foliage was so bright he was prone to wonder off and explore some of the more vivid leaves. The women so far made no further appearances; because of this the mood was quite and expectant. Peirce was the only one that still seemed laid back, but Alan was starting to expect he had fun were ever he went.
The road stretched for about half a mile and then the beaten path stopped abruptly. They were back in the wilderness; the last bit of civilization had been overgrown. Near by water could be heard, and the soft crackle of some animal.
Henry motioned to Peirce to keep Alan quiet and they all moved forward following the sound of the flowing water. Peirce leaned over to Alan and whispered this is where the hunt begins. Just beyond the next set of trees was a massive lake, expanding as far as the sun. Alan still wasn’t to sure what it was they were hunting, maybe some sort of viscous water buffalo.
Instead of heading straight for the beach they found a ridge that provided a clear view of the lake. Surrounding the lake were natural pools of water, from above it looked like a bombsite filled with rain water. Alan pictured the lake as an atomic bomb crater and the image stuck with him.
After a while of staring at the lake and not talking Alan noticed dark blue shapes moving in the pools. He reached for the binoculars Henry had been using and got a closer look. In each pool there were three or four children swimming and one other more developed monster, standing as if on guard. It occurred to Alan that these were the males; they stayed at home watching the children.
They looked like people in the same way the women did. They had long thin bodies and sharp angular features. Their skin however was a darker blue tone, giving the illusion of an African completion. It was shocking how similar they were to human men, Alan put the binoculars down.
“The trouble is we never know when the women will get back, or even if they’re all gone, we have to pick the perfect moment to strike.”
Henry’s eyes seemed intense and passionate. Alan picked up the binoculars again and looked at the shallow pools of water again.
“You can’t mean ambushing them, what would be the point?”
“We tried to eat the women, but they must have a different diet, they’re rank.”
“You mean we’re hunting them?” Alan didn’t know what to think, he said it so causally he thought he was joking. Then he remembered General Gold and the first glimpse they got of the women.
“What do you think was in the stew white boy?” Peirce was laughing and slapping his knee.
“Shut up both of you, we have a job to do.”
“You fed me those things; you fed them to all of us. Look at them, their people, this is wrong. I feel sick.”
“You didn’t seem to have any trouble killing them before.”
“They were attacking us.”
“Of course they were, we invaded their planet, burnt down their forest and eat their young.”
“Their young?” The bright swirling colors in front of his eyes turned to red, shades of dark dripping red.
“Of course, haven’t you ever heard of veal?” Pierce apparently was having a laugh.
“I won’t let you do this, it’s not right.”
“Try and stop me.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a soup can. There was a dangling tab on the top of the can, he pulled it off with a sneer. Issuing a purple gas he tossed it down to the pools. Alan pulled out his laser, Henry didn’t say anything he just looked sad and tired.
“Put it away kid, I wouldn’t want to hurt you.”
“What was that?”
“What’s it fucking look like, its tear gas and it doesn’t last long if we don’t go down there now the women will come.”
“How can you do this, it isn’t warfare?” Before Pierce could say anything Henry socked him and sent him to the ground.
“What do you know about Warfare?” he kicked him in the ribs and put the machete to his throat. “I asked you a question faggot.”
“You’ve been a lair sense the very beginning; this whole operation is a sham.”
The smoke from Pierce’s bomb was slowly fading with the wind. At the edge of the ridge he could see three of the men coming their way teeth bared.
“I don’t have time for you; I don’t have time for any of this.”