"What just happened?" Devin asks.
No one responds.
"Hello?" Devin slams his hand down on the button for his radio. "Base, are you there? Base?"
He gets nothing back. Not even static.
"Guys," Star's voice shakes as she speaks. She points in the direction of the alien starship. The beam of her headlight barely reaches the monstrous abandoned hunk of metal. "Do you see that?"
I squint, turning my own headlamp where she's pointing. As my light dances over the webbed mucus covering the starship, something within it pulses.
I jump, my heart slamming against my chest along with the thump of whatever inside there moved.
The web throbs again, and then the gurgling sound of something wet tearing echoes through the valley.
"What the—" America begins to say.
"Oh my God!" Lou screams.
In the light of our headlamps, the membrane around the starship splits open like a swollen belly ripping apart at its skin. Strands of goo drip from the tear like thick, sticky globs of drool from a dog's jowls.
My breath catches in my throat—the wind knocked out of me. A hand grabs me by the wrist, tugging, but I'm frozen in place.
The air is suddenly alive with a hissing drone like the moan of cicadas. The sound swells around us, growing until it feels like my eardrums are about to burst. I bring my hands up to cover them, forgetting my helmet is covering my head.
Ahead of us, something slithers out of the gaping mouth in the membrane. A tentacle-like arm smacks against the side of the starship, and then another one darts out next to it like the tongue of a snake. The tentacles leverage themselves against the hard surface. The muscles pulse and undulate beneath gooey pink skin. The creature pulls itself out—a mutated moth birthing from an enormous cocoon. Moist webbing clings to the slimy appendages like afterbirth goo. It's body shakes, slinging some of the slime onto the starship and ground beneath it.
"Shawn, run!" America shouts. His hand closes around my arm, jerking me from my trance as he tugs me away from the starship.
I stumble backwards a step, unable to take my gaze away from the horror coming to life within the darkness in front of me. The monster pulls its fat, worm-like body out. Thin membranes of skin stretch between the bony wings that unfold behind it. They vibrate and shiver like the monster is getting ready to take flight.
"Fuck! Fuck!" someone screams.
Another jerk on my arm snaps me out of my trance.
"Shit!" I scream as I turn and run.
"Go, go, go!" America's grip on my arm tightens as he pulls me along.
Ahead of us, Star, Devin, Lou, and Elias skid to a stop, all of their heads turn it up to the sky.
"They're everywhere!" Star yells.
Above us, at the top of the ledge, dozens of the vultures emerge in the air. They bear down on us like a swarm of hornets. Enormous bat-like wings hoist fat, swollen bodies into the air. Their faces are like prehistoric sea worms—rings of teeth and no jaws. No eyes.
A horrible sucking and smacking comes from the swarm as their abdomens constrict and relax like an esophagus trying to swallow a pill that's too large. The sound echoes through the valley, along with the buzz of their wings in what I can only imagine is a crude form of echolocation.
Some of them are the size of humans—some of them larger. Their wingspans are enormous, and their tentacles swirl around them like whips.
"What do we do?" Lou shouts. "Where do we run? Shit! Shit!"
YOU ARE READING
Down UnderScience Fiction
Shawn, a convicted criminal, never thought she'd see the sun again, let alone call another star system her home. When she's offered an out from her prison sentence, she embarks on a dangerous interstellar expedition along with 18 of Earth's most int...