Chains - Horror / Sci-Fi Short Story
Nukes did nothing. Prayer did nothing. Our fate was sealed long ago.
Another day, another new Original World to explore…
Welcome again, my dear reader, to Original Worlds, where today we’re examining the story of a child knowing it’s far too late to do anything to save the mother they adore.
What would you do, if your fate was sealed before you took your first breath?
I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to bringing you much more.
It’s too late for my mother.
I know that, even as I watch her being taken from the cage across the darkened hallway. Her eyes are already glazed from the deprivations she’s endured, and I am not sure if she can see me, but I stand straighter as she is dragged away from the cell one step at a time.
I cannot let her see me cry; it’s the last thing she would want. If I have learned anything in my thirteen years on this miserable world I was born into, it’s to be strong, and I want my mother to know she’s taught that lesson to me well.
My sister weeps beside me as we watch mother being forced down the hall, the two men at each of her sides tall and bulky, their metal armor gleaming in the few lights there are here. They step slowly, knowing mother doesn’t have much energy left to her, but the long rifles in their hands, pulsating with the deadly power contained within, show they will brook no dissent and would kill her here and now if that’s what they had to do.
I would spit curses their way if I was not biting my tongue to keep from crying out. I would, if I could, reach my hand into my chest and fling my still-beating heart across the filthy floor if it would have made any difference to the fate the hands of the gods had written for my mother. They, too, remain silent as she is taken, content with yet another sacrifice, apparently.
My sister is weeping beside me, too young, really, to understand the need for silence in this moment, the show of strength we should be giving to mother as she is taken to the fire. I reach my arm around her and try to comfort her, to be the thing she needs to help her get through, as is my duty as the eldest, but I, too, want to join her in her depths of despair.
I taste a little blood, my sharpened teeth cutting into the flesh of my tongue just enough to distract my shredding guts as one step after another is taken down the long hall, past the many other cages lining it in the depth of this place of hell. I swallow it down, allowing the blood to mix with the bile seeping up from my stomach into my throat.
It’s too late for my mother. I know that, but I would still crash myself upon the barrels of the guns these alien beings carried if I had the chance, as I would have for my father and brother. They, too, were taken to the fire only days ago.
Or had it been months? In this place, time really means nothing, one moment to the next filled with the moans and cries of those who are surrounding us, occupying the cages I can just barely see. Even here, this close to the edge of the bars, I can make out hands reaching through, trying to touch the captors in a bid for mercy, some compassion, perhaps, from things that have no capacity for humanity.
What a word. What a foolish, stupid word. Humanity had given us nothing, only death and despair as the fires rained down from the skies on that day the invasion began. Desperate tears gave us nothing as people died in the streets, people stepping over each other in a bid to get away from the chaos and savagery that took over everyone.
Acts of “humanity” happened even then, I suppose, but led only to being captured as the troops began to land. Those who dropped their compassions and ran for the hills were the only survivors, and even those fell one by one as the beings moved out from those cities they landed in, seeking out the refuges quickly made.
Mankind was decimated in hours and even those like my family, those who had lived on the fringes, those on the edges of civilization, were soon enough rounded up and taken to places much like this, if not destroyed then and there.
Oh, those days were horror, one depravity after another taking away everything that once made us humans being and turned us into animals, fodder ready to feed the continuous need for energy, the need for resources… the need for food.
Yes, that, too, was the fate of those taken in those days. The beings that had removed our burdens of daily life and replaced them with twisted purposes used us for many things and who knows what else? Rumors abounded, of course, words pressed into ears huddled together in the darkness of caves and self-made strongholds, desperate and furtive glances tracking each movement from outside with fear embracing every nerve.
“They’re here to kill all of us,” some of the rumors said, and that has been proved quite well now, though some might say otherwise. After all, they need some of us alive as cattle, don’t they? Newly birthing those under their complete control is, I suppose, another of their goals, though for those of us on this row of cages, I think it’s a different purpose.
“They’re here to save us,” said some of the rumors, back in those earliest moments. They were silenced as rapidly as the jolt of laser fire coming from the ends of the rifles the beings carried, as they went out to meet the ones who would ‘liberate them’ from their lives.
Those, and more rumors, spread like wildfire, but none were as insidious, as horrifying, as the revelation we humans were food.
All of the history, all of the desperate clinging to civilization our ancestors did, clawing our way to the top of the food chain on earth brought to nothing in an instant as the apex predators of the universe decided to test out the meat of our bodies and found it good. Thousands of years of our people being the dominator left to dry as the dust of our bones rots in great cavernous maws of the ground, left to decay away as the flies feast on the traces of flesh.
I hold my sister closer to my side as she trembles. I cannot see my mother anymore, her form faded away as the beings took her down the long stretch of hall to another part of their base. No one returns from there, and I shudder as bile once more enters my throat.
My stomach heaves and I know I would throw up if I had anything in my guts to spew across the dirty floor.
Once, while my family still held out hope of salvation from the torment this earth has had to endure, there was a man among the group huddling together, an older one who was weakened and wasted, sickened from lack of food and exposure. He passed on in the night, his spirit no longer able to cling to the flesh he’d occupied for so long. Had he been “someone” in his life? Perhaps a business man with wealth unimaginable, or a doctor, even, who was skilled in the ways of healing?
All brought to naught, dust in the wind, as the old phrase says, on a cold winter night surrounded by people tenuously holding on to life, themselves.
Desperation causes agony, and agony causes one to do things unthinkable.
My father held us back as the others tore into the flesh of the man who died, slicing away bits of his body and slurping them down while there was still a shred of warmth left in it, for fear a fire would attract attention of the invaders.
He did not want us to fall into that trap, into the depraved act of consumption we were witnessing before us, but as one bite after another slid down the throats of those I saw before me, the glints of blood still remaining on the teeth of the consumers, my stomach growled, grumbling at the lack I, too, had endured.
The remains of the man were taken outside, left near the entrance of the cave we struggled to stay alive within, its embrace a comfort to those who had nowhere else to go and the knowledge that to step away from it into the forest surrounding would mean death. They left him there, most of him gone.
I lay awake, as the snores of those around me entered my ears, and my stomach groaned, the pangs worse than I had ever felt before. My body was thinning, consuming itself to stay alive for yet another day.
I was able to sneak, creeping softly across the rough, cold stone to the entrance and braved the breeze wailing across the hole. It did not take me long to find what was left and, as I tore away a bit of the flesh and popped it in my mouth, the iciness of it numbed my tongue.
I swallowed, though, the gobbet of it sliding down my throat and hitting my stomach like a bullet. It galled me, the ease with which I was able to force myself to do it, and it chills me, still, to know I did it, but, as I said, desperation causes agony, and I could not take it any more.
I ate until I was full, then, the cold night air sucking away the little warmth I was able to cobble together with the three coats I wore. There was plenty of clothing laying about, after all, and we had gladly taken as much as we thought we would need when we started the trek up the mountain.
Am I evil for doing it? The thought does haunt me still, as it did in those moments it took me to slide back into place next to my sister. She hugged into me, then, as she does now, seeking warmth and comfort in a desperate time, and I wrapped my arms around her, sharing with her my heat rekindled by the consumption of flesh I had partaken in. Am I evil? Perhaps, but I think it’s a relative term these days.
Are the aliens evil for doing it? Or are they now, like I was then, desperate to survive? Can I condemn them for doing something I, myself, am guilty of?
Or is their guilt greater for forcing me into the sin to begin with?
That, too, is, I suppose, up to the gods to judge, if they so deem it necessary, though I do not even know if they exist at this point. If so, they have abandoned us to an unkind fate and are just as damned for doing it.
How many wasted breaths have I let slip from my lungs in prayer to them, holding out hope that faith would see me, see us, through this hell unleashed upon us? Thousands, millions, of others, I am sure, released the same prayers, sure from the scriptures and the dusty books that they would be released from captivity, saved from deprivations and dread, yet the only answer to come back was more invaders landing, their great ships descending from the skies with a rumble and a quake as they lit upon the ground beneath.
For all the wonders of the armies on the earth, all the power humanity’s science had created, there was nothing that worked against them. No, not even the incredible heat of the fire that rained down from the heavens as missiles carrying atom splitting death did anything to them, the shields around their ships unbreakable by the conventions of man.
Nukes did nothing, prayer did nothing, all dust against the technology of these beings who had come.
Only dreams, only useless hope.
My sister is crying again, and I wish I could join her. I really do. I fear what was left of my tears, though, has been burned away from me, and I cannot even give her the comfort I once was able to.
Comfort is something in short supply in these cages as we await whatever fate the beings have in mind for us, be it the fire for their fuel or the fuel for their bodies. Or other things, but if there are more, I am not aware.
We were captured because of stupidity, but isn’t that always the way? That cave, that place of safety, had become too comforting, I suppose, assuaging our fears and lulling us into a sense of security where none had the right to exist.
Someone had gone out to forage, and with the coming of springtime, there was a little more available to help soothe the empty bellies, at least for the children who were left. There were not many of those left, my sister and I among them, though I was old enough to no longer be considered a child in these times.
Everyone knew the rule. It was the cardinal rule, the one thing that had to be obeyed above all others. If you are spotted, go the other way. Let yourself be captured if you have to, but never come back.
My own brother was the one to break that rule, as he walked along the edges of the mountain trail seeking out something he could bring back to fill our stomachs.
One of them saw him. Whether it was by a patrol walking along that same trail or one of the smaller ships the greater ones carried within, he was spotted, and when he came back to the cave, the terrified look on his face told us all we needed to know.
We frantically tried to get things together so we could flee, but it was already far too late. Our place had been marked, databased and collated in the computers of the creatures, and great numbers of them came for us.
We did not even have time to step out of the cave’s mouth before we heard the screams of the engines.
We were dragged from that place, the stink of the many humans huddling within, dirty, feces covered and desperate, was left behind as we were put, one by one, into the bellies of the ships and carted off to these cages.
Our fates were sealed in that moment.
It’s too late for my mother. I’m not sure who will be next, but, I know, it’s already far too late for me, too.
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Keep striving to “be the best you that you can be” at this moment. Remember, no matter who you are or what you’re going through, you are worthy of being loved. Don’t let anyone teach you anything different.