Michael (short story)
The eight year old’s light shoed taps echoed through the abandoned street that ran wild with daily activity just yesterday. Michael’s knees trembled each time his feet struck the concrete. His lungs were filled with static, his muscles numb. Sections of light brown dirt-filled hair stood up awkwardly from the sprint made wind. Tattered brown shoes were accompanied by dark gray socks that rippled around his ankles. Blue shorts, a thin white shirt, and an open brown vest that was just a tad too short were the only other things with him.
His staccato inhales that matched the echoing taps bouncing off the shattered building walls, became harmonic with the vocalized breaths from a continuing panic attack. His chest heaved, his hips resented, his eyes swelled; both from the tears and from the images branded within his pitch black pupils. His eyes, still blood shot, still dilated despite the afternoon light.
He kicked up a cloud of ashes as he turned the next corner so sharply that his balance was left only on the out-step of his left foot, and his chipped fingers anchoring into the rocky mixture of the building edge. He didn’t know where he was going to, but he knew what he was running from. Those things.
As he ran he kept conjuring images of the holy Lord of his religion, the God Emperor. Anything to keep his mind from going back to those open jaws ragged with teeth bigger than his arms, the big boned teeth on a dense jungle face below red marble eyes. Those crooked, wrinkled lips and gums covered in mold. The yells, the roars…the sheer brutality and gore. Pentatonic machine gun fire, clouds of smoke and flame.
They laughed…They roared... and laughed. Their voices a blend of demon, human, and vine.
Michael didn’t have a name for them. He had never seen them, or heard of them. He lived in small city on an established world loyal to the mighty Imperium. Here they were not abused or over-used. There was no resource needed in mass quantity, no need to establish a military site; not here, on Hirato.
How did he escape, he wondered. Was it because he was small, lucky? Where had everyone gone? The streets were empty, aside from debris from the bombed out building, and the ash littering the streets. That’s how it all started.
He had turned eight years old today, in fact. There was still caked dessert beneath the layer of dirt in his fingernails. They sat outside on the walkway by the restaurant, his excited friends, his mother whose hand held his shoulder with an affection he was still too young to understand. He raised the chunk of cake to his mouth, but all he could taste was ash. A tidal wave of debris shot through the walkway with a split second boom turned to an ear ringing hell. He landed on his back in some decorative plants. The screams came in one by one to his eardrums, in all directions, along with the gargling yells of blood lust. The roof of the restaurant was replaced by flame. Searching without moving anything but his arms to sit up, he found his mother against the wall, just standing back up.
From the smoke the shadows came, taller than any man he had ever met. The morning sun struck the skin and revealed it green. The muscle was ridiculous, the leather unfashionable, and the various metal objects nothing but dangerous, especially the long barreled one with dozens of holes. The bright lights flashed from the monster’s gun, huge flaming triangles cracking through his soul. It was louder than any gun he had heard before, and the muzzle flares blinded him more than the smoke, but even still, nothing was brighter than his mother’s blood splashing the concrete wall.
He felt his heart rip, and moved only by instinct. An alleyway behind him, he took it. More of them, horned helmets, huge teeth, in the streets, hacking limbs, stomping heads. He darted between fluttering papers, thinking anything that touched him would kill him. A man bumped into him screaming, tripped but caught himself with his peddling feet and kept going.
The bump is what did it, what turned Michael around just enough to meet them, those red marble eyes beneath the shadow of its large horned helm.
It looked right into his own delicate little human eyes that shined with burning tears, and it saw a challenge in this small human boy. Nothing here was hard to kill, but a little chase…that might do it.
The brute’s metal spiked shoulders angled wide as it rammed forward axe held high, with as little grace as Michael had ever seen. The monster practically stumbled over its own feet. At the last moment Michael’s thoughts came back to his frozen state, and he darted away on his toothpick legs before the enormous blade wrecked the spot of ground. The beast had its chase.
Some abandoned grav-cars remained, but most had been used to escape the area. He didn’t know how to drive one but he tried some of the handles anyway. Those that remained were all locked and he didn’t have time to waste. The echoes that were taps just moments ago when he ran down the empty street behind him, suddenly became the echoes of murder. It was still there, still after him.
Michael had no idea how long he had been running, but it was longer than he had ever run before…much longer.
So far he was still alive because of his size. He had dipped through small spaces, scrambled over fences, and also he knew his way for the most part. Still, the beast was seconds behind him. He came to a sun filled opening that was anything but a sanctuary. The weight of bad luck was so heavy upon Michael’s heart he could feel it seeping off of the gleaming white stone walls…and from the over joyous homicidal grins of the beasts before him.
A security car, black with thin plates of armor sat flat on the ground, its engines on fire. The form of one militiaman was clumped against the grav-car with gaping bloody holes. The other militiaman had just been torn in two, the halves still held by their respective monsters. For some reason, Michael’s eyes were drawn more to the tiny bright orange light, and furls of smoke unraveling from the end of a cigar held loosely in one of the creature’s mouths.
They dropped the meat halves, the one with the cigar pointing its large grubby finger toward him. Several little green heads appeared from the shadows inside the burning security vehicle, all with beady black eyes and large boxy noses. They clambered out of the windows and holes of the vehicle as Michael turned to run again on his aching paper shins. They had thin, tiny little bodies, these things, with a skin color more like mint than jungle. They wore little brown loin clothes... some of them at least.
His footsteps no longer echoed with the ravenous sounds the little creatures made as they bounced after him. He felt a tear on his calf and almost fell, but kept his balance from his back shooting up, straightening at the site of the large one that had been chasing him. One of the small ones suddenly pounced onto his right shoulder, causing the first yelp to escape Michael’s lungs since this had all started. He tore at the creature with everything he could as he fell into the side of another small vehicle. That gigantic axe blade sheered through the metal of the car inches above his head, slicing right through the little monster that had gripped his shoulder and arm. He saw the bite marks on his bicep start to run with blood.
His legs pushed forward, launching him under the green skinned beast, through the filthy dark red pants it wore. He heard it smashing the little creatures in frustration….thank the Emperor.
He ran, and ran, and ran with roars chasing him like a cloud full of nightmares, until he finally turned yet another corner and slammed into a green body. His face smashed into the tough fabric causing him to fall back on his behind. He looked up breathless thinking this was it. But instead of that giant hunk of a blade crashing down, a human hand shot towards him, pulling him back to his feet and into the inner crutch of an elbow.
Clicks of metal struck his ears as the man's las-gun was thrown over his shoulder, Michael’s eyes buried deep into the man’s sweaty armpit; a stench he couldn’t get enough of. He heard the guardsmen shouting, but it was just another echo as he began to pass out, exhausted beyond belief,
“we’ve got one, I’ve got a kid here! Make room! Make room!”
The whispers of las-gun fire silenced his chaser, and over time, evolved into clear voices that put him into the uniform he now wore. The blaze of his las-gun was all too familiar, each shot reminding him of his mother’s blood. Michael fought for the Guard, he fought for his home, he fought of his people, and he fought in the name of the God Emperor.
You can never be prepared for the unexpected
Last edited by unxpekted22; 10-26-10 at 08:22 AM.