Forty-two inches of layered titanium all blown to hell, and we knew we were dealing with something pretty fucking serious! Our information first came from a tethered feed, by way of a temporary remote satellite, and then through a minor worm portal used primarily for data-conveyance–Proximus 6598 lies in the Bethal Quadrant of the galaxy, which is way the fuck out there. We were safe for the mean time, but half of us crapped our pants when we watched on our monitors the horror which had taken place for Master Chief Kenny Wallis, and the rest of his men of Zulu Seven; not to mention the command ship in which those poor bastards had been attached to. Kenny, along with all of those under his command were outfitted with a carbon-based, hyper-sensitive digital transmitter grafted into their corneal nerve cells. Not only did we see and hear what those guys went through, but the intensity of those recordings were such that…well, you couldn’t help but feel it.
Their unit belonged to a deep space reconnaissance regiment, Rover 2180, which was more like a gigantic, floating resort that bounced around the outer rim of the galaxy, checking in on various colonies within those star systems out there. Nothing about that ship lent itself to the grim finale it would soon encounter. Just a reconnaissance vessel.
With twenty soldiers in all, Kenny was charged with surveying the current conditions on the small planet of Proximus 6598, a celestial body similar to our original home-planet of Earth, only much smaller. Since the planet’s sole interstellar export was a conglomeration of agriculture products, it was common for months at a time to slip by before ships would pass in or out of its solar system. But to lose all forms of communication from that place entirely?
Naturally, our first assumption was that the planet had suffered from some type of catastrophic event; a freak asteroid, or even SAR (Sudden Axis Rotation) as brought on by the passing of a swarm of miniature black holes–it’s happened before. Either of those two events could conceivably render a planet extinct of all life within hours. The only other thing within our galaxy which could do that was a supernova, but the closest candidate to Proximus 6598 was the white dwarf, Tarlon, and we knew that it hadn’t erupted yet. But when Rover 2180 entered into the solar system and found those satellites surrounding Proximus 6598 each electronically disabled–found them all just hanging there, dead in space–even a lunatic would’ve told you something was amiss.
The Planetary Advisement Facility for Proximus 6598 was an old command bunker located within the planet’s tallest mountain range locally referred to as the Silver Peaks. The assortment of buildings within that facility were remnants of a thousand years; left-over structures used during our galactic war with the Peresians. And because of this, the walls of those buildings were constructed out of forty-two inches of titanium, the alloy itself being layered and folded under extreme heat for added durability. Those walls were tough enough to take on even the nastiest of our former enemy’s conventional products; which brings us right back to the command of Master Chief Kenny Wallis.
“What the fuck happened here?” Kenny said, as he stared over the shoulders of Lieutenant Avrie, the pilot of their armored space transport. There was a hole the size of their ship gaping from the outer walls of the building in which they had been approaching.
“Get your shit ready, losers!” he hollered back to his men. “And keep it hot!” Kenny looked down, eyes on the Lieutenant’s shaking hands as their ship came to a rumbled landing upon the packed dirt before the blown-out building. “With any luck, we might get some action down here.”
A mixture of twenty raised weapons came pouring off the ramp of that ship once it opened up. “Meeks! Salvatore!” Kenny hollered. “Take four and cover six!” A cloud of angry dust swarmed over them, kicked up by the effusion of their transport’s seven turbine engines. Kenny took a knee, eyes squinting into the direction of the giant hole in the side of the building while his men each scattered into prone positions around him. When the transport’s engines finally shut down, and its turbines slowly came to a whistling end, the ensuing silence which then lingered upon the pine-laden hills, and granite boulders surrounding the men of Zulu Seven was eerie to say the least.
“Davis! Deploy Screamers at rear-perimeter.” Specialist Henry Davis and three other men took off running in response to Kenny’s command. One of them had a large black duffel bag strapped to his shoulders.
“Six secured, over” buzzed Meeks, into Kenny’s transmission helmet.
“Copy that.” There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so when the dust finally settled, Kenny was able to see that the hole within that titanium wall had somehow been “fluxed” into ruin; like a colossal plasma cutter had gone crazy over it.
Seven minutes of frozen silence passed before Specialist Davis then announced over the intercom, “Rear hot!” and then he and those other three men came running back after deploying their bag full of HEMPS (High-frequency Electromagnetic Pulse Screamers–or “Screamers” for short). Since no one was sure if any civilians were still about–despite the results from an initial bio-reading aboard Rover 2180–a deployed Screamer made the best sense for securing their egression site. If a Screamer went off, it would destroy any electronic component within its blast radius, yet merely stun that of a biological entity–all the while alerting everyone within five miles with its high-pitched shrill sound. Little did anyone know, those Screamers would soon be rendered useless to what those men were about to encounter, save for acting as a meager, early warning device. And perhaps as a cruel foreshadow of those horrific creatures lying in wait.
“My lead!” shouted Kenny, as he stood up, weapon raised, and slowly began to walk toward the ruined building. His men fell in formation behind him, all eyes scanning the horizon. They approached the seared-out hole, and we were then able to see that those massive titanium walls had definitely been melted right through, like a hot knife driven through a stick of butter.
Not but ten feet into that building, and it became quite clear that a fierce battle had taken place in there. Ammo casings of different sizes littered the floor, furniture had been upturned and cast to the side, and in some places even stacked upon each other in what looked like an effort to create protective barriers. Books, papers, computers and monitors, pens, pictures…everything scattered about in every direction. The place was a total mess, and that was just the first room.
Three doors led from that room to other areas of the complex, and after completing a brief inspection, examining some of the weapons found on the ground, as well as the dried blood stains in various corners, Kenny broke his men into four teams of five, where they each then passed through those doors and spread out to search the remaining rooms of the facility.
Shadow-lit hallways greeted the men of Zulu Seven as they walked through a maze of department offices, cafeteria halls, storage rooms, and sleeping quarters, all bearing the same results of what they had discovered in that first room. Except for one particular detail.
“Not a damn thing, sir,” said Meeks through the intercom twenty minutes later, after he and his team had reached the end of the north wing of the Facility.
“Are you fucking kidding me.” Kenny observed, him and his own men finding little clues as to what had actually happened down there, other than the obvious.
“Well where the hell did everybody go?” Despite the battle-torn condition of the Planetary Advisement Facility, and the numerous blood stains found on the walls and floors of that place, not a single body had been discovered. There was nobody there, dead or alive.
“Copy that, Meeks. Fall-in on our six…we’re coming up to the backside of this shit-hole.” Kenny then switched transmission channels, connecting him to the command bridge of Rover 2180.
“Rover Command, this is Zulu Command, over.”
“Copy that Zulu Command, this is Rover.”
“Can you guys run another bio-screen down here..? We got nothing.”
A few seconds passed before Kenny’s helmet crackled again with a response from Rover Command. “Ah…we’ve been running a continuous read-out on Proximus 6598, sir…it’s still coming up negative–except of course for you guys.”
Kenny stared out the window of the room he had been in, and then to the exit sign above the door that led to the outside-rear of the Facility. It was obvious by the few seconds of silence which had passed, that the Master Chief was perplexed as to what had happened to everyone down there. Hell, we were all perplexed for that matter. After a few minutes, we then heard the slight shuffle of the other men from Zulu Seven as they came creeping down the halls that led into the room Kenny was in.
“Rover Command…” continued Kenny, “…we’re gonna make a final sweep of this facility, then board up and head to the nearest town…” He made a few hand signals to his guys, before one of them kicked open the exit door of that room. “…over.”
“Copy that, Zulu Command…”
And then suddenly, just like that, everything went to shit.
“Ah….Zulu Command, this is Rover Command, over.”
“Copy Rover Command” replied Kenny.
“Not sure what the deal is, but we’re now getting a massive read-out down there… Hundreds…no, maybe thousands of bio-readings…”
Kenny followed his men outside and stared up into the hills that surrounded the facility. A dark green line marked the edge of a pine forest which began a few hundred yards from their position, but there was nothing else to see other than a stir amongst the trees from a cool breeze.
“Rover Command, what’s the position of these readings?”
“Locking that in right now, sir.”
And then the Screamers went off.
“Fall-in!” shouted Kenny. He didn’t have to give any more commands after that. Half of his men took off running on one side of the building, while him and the others ran along the opposite side, all heading back toward their ship.
Lieutenant Avrie hadn’t been outfitted with a corneal transmitter, so we weren’t able to see the realities of his fate. But once those Screamers went off, and shortly after that, while his body was getting devoured, right about then was when that horrific space fog materialized all around Rover 2180. The reconnaissance command ship suddenly became mechanically paralyzed upon being engulfed by a thick green cloud, which we know now is the result of a massive, collective formation of those horrendous beings we call, The Eaters. Seals were quickly broken, and the vacuum of space, along with a swarm of Eaters filed into the command ship, sucking up the already dying personnel within. And just like that, it was the end for Rover 2180.
Our first visual of a creature who has successfully managed to practically eliminate the entirety of our species, came from the eyes of Specialist Myron Meeks. Rounding the corner of the Planetary Advisement Facility and casting a glance toward the armored space transport, Specialist Meeks looked on as several Eaters each danced about gaily on their twelve tentacle-shaped legs, while they reached up and greedily tore apart and consumed pieces from Lieutenant Avrie’s body, which was being paraded about above them.
The culminating description of these creatures, these Eaters, is baffling if you think about it, yet horrific at the same time. Spawned from nothing short of a nightmare, fully erect they stand almost ten feet high. The lower half of their body is a splay of a dozen blue, tentacle-like limbs–from which they travel by–each ending in a “hand” with six fingers. However, the upper half of these monstrosities is the torso, arms, and wailing head of a previous victim. While their tentacles hop about, or dance, sway and skitter as they chase down their prey, it’s often likely that the upper half of this creature will be seen pulling at its hair, screaming in agony and protest.
Meeks fired his weapon upon the crowd of Eaters and witnessed just this type of response. They all jumped and turned around. We could see the canister of his grenade soar through the sky, almost in slow motion as the faces of those Eaters, a mixture of men, women, and children, all stared back at Meeks. And then they howled in fear, or perhaps pain, with primal screams that sent shivers up and down our spines.
When the grenade struck home, right in the center of those wailing creatures, it blew several of them into an array of chunky, green mist. But as the pieces of their bodies hit the dirt, the men of Zulu Seven, including Master Chief Kenny Wallis and the others with him who had now rounded the opposite corner of the building, all watched in revolting shock as the remaining Eaters frantically ran about, picking up the remnants of their disintegrated kind, and shoveling them into their screaming mouths.
“What the hell…?” muttered Kenny.
There was a small hill roughly fifty-yards behind their space transport, and from the rise of that mound, a small army of Eaters, perhaps a few thousand in number, then came pouring over it. We heard the sound of more Screamers going off, but those devices were nothing compared to the agonizing shrieks of the Eaters themselves.
“Get inside!” shouted Kenny.
Everyone ran around to the front of that building and right back through that hole they had first entered. Some of the guys let loose more grenades, and a few rounds of bullets before Kenny yelled for them to hold fire. “You’re gonna hit our ship, assholes!”
The team split up and filed through the first three doors, making a stand in the halls behind that initial room. Seconds later, we heard the screams of terror from hundreds of Eaters as they swarmed around the entire Planetary Advisement Facility, surrounding it completely. But they had yet to come into the place.
“This is fucking nuts!” shouted Salvatore to no one in particular.
“Keep your cool guys…” replied Kenny. “Davis? Try and get Rover Command on your telecom…mine’s bugging out.”
Davis’ desperate attempts to reach Rover 2180 fell short under the ensuing concert of a dreadfully loud, squalling madness, as those Eaters had finished surrounding the facility and began their signature chorus; a distinct, melodic screech we now refer to as, The Wailing of Ten-Thousand Dying Humans.
That’s how one soldier had dubbed it anyways, months later on the battlefield of an already forgotten planet. The Eaters had an uncanny way of sending paralyzing fear into the hearts and minds of their enemies (or victims more likely), by delivering the sounds of their own terror in the form of an organized, undulating wail, just prior to making their all out assault.
“Nothing sir!” we barely heard Davis over the incessant howling outside.
“Well what the fuck?” Kenny looked at the men around him, positions held in the hallway, ready to unleash a firestorm of bullets and grenades into that first room.
Over years of trial and error from our war with the Peresians, the corneal transmitter had been tweaked enough to filter out (or at least tame down) the heavy breathing and panting, even jitters as associated from high-levels of adrenaline, and other endorphins our bodies will emit under the belief of impending death. But we could still see the terrified faces of those men of Zulu Seven, as Kenny surveyed them, and as they themselves looked at each other while those Eaters bawled endlessly outside.
“First one of them bitches through that hole is mine!” laughed Meeks. And that’s the effect we would eventually come to see from our soldiers all too often as well; panic. The Eaters were a collective intelligence. They preyed upon all living creatures with a brain larger than a peanut. Every animal capable of thought was on their menu–humans being their prime delicacy of course. And whatever creature they would consume, they would then seemingly acquire the knowledge, the feelings and emotions, the life-time experiences of that creature as well. The Eaters were impossible to keep secrets from because of this. Furthermore, they had learned that if they could send us humans into fits of panic prior to engaging us in combat, we would then be much easier to conquer. Who knows, maybe we even taste better after being scared shitless.
But the Eaters had other games they liked to play as well.
All of a sudden the howling stopped. Nothing but absolute silence.
“Oh shit, here it comes,” cried Salvatore.
“Hold tight men,” replied Kenny. “We can whip these fuckers. And once we blow them a new asshole, we’re getting back on that ship, and the fuck out of here!”
“Ohhh…….” came a soft, crying sound from outside. All eyes of Zulu Seven stared into that room, and at the sun-lit hole beyond. From around the edge of the melted wall popped the head of Lieutenant Avrie. His face was grief-stricken, tears careening down his eyes. “Not possss…ible…Kenny-boy…I’m afraid, not,” he stuttered. “He” was actually an “It.” An Eater.
That said, “Lieutenant Avrie” then waddled into the room, crouching low so as not to hit his head on the ceiling above. “I just…just…I just rendered my MK-T29 inoperable, Master Chief!” His voice squealed with sorrow.
“Get the fu…” Kenny responded, gaped eyes matching those of his men.
“It will never…fly again,” cried Avrie. The creature then placed his hands over his eyes and began to stretch his face downward, pulling on his cheeks. “Ohhh…weee shall never fly again…Kenny-boy…the all of us…”
“Blast the mother-fucker!” hollered Meeks, as he let loose his machine gun and blew Lieutenant Avrie’s Eater form into a corner of that room.
Avrie’s alien body fell into a crumpled heap behind a desk, but the men of Zulu Seven watched as his hand, now coated with a green ooze, stretched out upon the floor, his last gesture before he then said, “Yours will be mine…Meeks. Yours will be mine….”
And then more silence.
“You can go home now,” whimpered another voice through the unstirred, lingering calmness of the room. Again, from outside the melted walls of the facility, another Eater peeked inside. “We just…sniff, sniff…we just want you to go away, and leave us be.” She had the body of a homely woman, with long grey hair streaming past her sagged breasts, leathery eyes, and wrinkled hands that held a piece of cloth to her noise while she wept quietly. “We promise not to hurt anymore of you. We promise, we do… If you want…we can love you,” she began to cry hysterically. “Oh please, let us love you… We need to love you, and hold you like the babies we once held…please kind men…do this for us…”
Kenny looked at the faces of his men, then back into the room, “I don’t think so, bitch!”
“Whaahaaahaaa…” she screeched, as she then skittered in and over to Avrie’s corpse, where she at once began stuffing her face with body parts.
This time Master Chief Kenny Wallis fired his weapon and blew that Eater dead into another corner. Of course, the concept of those creatures ever “dying” is nothing but a lost notion to us now. It seems Eaters can never really die. We’ve torched them hundreds of times in the past, with blazing fire, but for whatever reason, they don’t seem to burn very well. And once the others of their kind get their hands on those charred remains, thus gobbling them up, it would only be a matter of a few minutes before those previously cooked monsters can then be seen climbing out of those huge, gelatinous sacks, which are never too far from a horde of Eaters.
Those huge, gelatinous sacks. We heard a “sizzling” sound coming from outside a wall behind some of the men from Zulu Seven. They had been huddled in a hallway, overlooking that first room when suddenly, from their rear came a rippling wave of heat, and then the soft glow of yellow fire. The hallway behind them began to fall away, like candle wax dripping to the ground, exposing the yellowish belly of an Infernal Spawn Sack. And that’s how we’ve come to name those terrible, gigantic blobs of putrid stink which carom around in the midst of the Eaters.
The men from Zulu Seven unleashed a hail of bullets into the sack with nary effect. One of them even shot a grenade into it, causing a sickening crunch similar to that of a hammer crashing through a watermelon. Still, nothing.
The Infernal Spawn Sack just sat there for a minute, even as the men stopped firing their weapons, staring at it as they did with baffled looks, while they backpedaled their way up the hallway. But then suddenly, without warning, the sack then burst open, and a cloud of yellowish-green slime, along with a crowd of Eaters came pouring out, arms raised in screaming terror as they skittered their way toward those panicked men of Zulu Seven.
“We’re eating you…” shouted another Eater from outside. Gunfire and cries from the men in the adjacent hall quickly subsided as one by one, they were overcome by the reaching tentacles of those ghastly fiends. We watched in horror, listened with primordial fear, and gagged on our own tongues as those men fought with guns, knives, and hands, only to be jerked apart under their terrifying cries of pain.
“We’re eating you…we’re eating you…we’re eating you…” It became a chant now. And for those remaining men of Zulu Seven, I’m sure a point of near insanity as well. The Eaters sang these words, and from beyond the hole, as Master Chief Kenny Wallis stole a peek outside, we could see that they were also dancing and swaying to the rhythm of their own voices.
“This is fucking crazy,” shouted Meeks.
“I say we run out there and let ’em have it!” replied another man.
“Just cool it, everyone!” shouted Kenny.
“But they’re getting in here Chief!”
“I said cool it!” Kenny took another look outside. “If we can regroup, maybe head to the rear of this place and then …well, there’s some rocky hills out there. Maybe a cave. Davis, any luck with the com?”
“No sir, not ye…” He was then interrupted by another abrupt silence from the Eaters. They had stopped their chilling song, and the men of Zulu Seven now stared quietly at each other. Stared listening. Waiting.
“My fellow humans…” came a raspy voice from outside. “It pains me to have to tell you this…but there’s a certain feature…” The Eater broke off into a dull wail, followed by short sniffs, and a brief sob before continuing. “A feature of yours that…that tastes wonderful when eaten whole…ohhh…and while traveling down the gullet…the tingling sensation…it is like…well, for your kind, I suppose…sniff, sniff…warm apple pie…a dollop of vanilla ice cream…perhaps a dash of cinnamon…”
“I can’t take this shit anymore!” shouted Meeks.
Kenny looked around frantically. We could tell he was perhaps near his breaking point as well. He stole another peek outside, and we then saw the Eater that had been talking. It had the torso of a short, stocky man with a bald head and a big, hard belly. It’s hands were hanging limp at its side, and it seemed to be hunched over with grief.
“This feature I’m talking about,” continued the Eater, “is located just below your esophagus, and to the side of your stomach. When nobody looks…well, there have been times, I am ashamed to admit…where I have squeezed a gall bladder or two over that wiggly liver I’m talking about… Ohhh…the aroma of such delicacy is just…”
“Fuck you!!” Meeks burst into the room in a storm of fury, bullets, and screaming anger. The bald Eater fell to the ground, and so did the next three which came racing into the room, but only seconds later, despite the mountain of lead that poured through there, now by all of the men from Zulu Seven, Meeks still got wrapped up by a few tentacles, and dragged outside. His eyes must’ve gotten ripped out, or covered with blood, because we were no longer able to see what had happened to him. But we heard his screams nonetheless.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here!” shouted Kenny. “Men, fall-in and head to the rear. We’ll meet up in that last room, then blow us a hole through these fuckers on our way into those hills.” He threw the switch on a smoke grenade, tossed it into the room of carnage, then turned and ran down the hall, three men at his side. “Run for the hills, men!”
Master Chief Kenny Wallis, Specialist Henry Davis, Specialist Ramone Salvatore, and Ensign Jerry Fletcher were the only men who made it to the rear side of the facility. The other men of Zulu Seven got cut off by more Infernal Spawn Sacks, then taken over by the Eaters. I’d like to say that they fought well, blasting away hundreds of those things before dying themselves, but I can’t. Those men were quickly swarmed over by an army of tentacles, and they each suffered a most horrible death of being pulled apart, and eaten alive.
“Look Chief, there’s a fucking million of them out there!” cried Salvatore.
“Davis, try the com again!” shouted Kenny.
“Been trying, sir. Those things must be jamming us.”
From outside a window we saw hundreds of Eaters, swaying and wailing, hands tearing at their hair or covering the faces. A sea of sorrow.
“What are we gonna do, Chief?!”
And then we heard a searing sound from behind, as the hallway in which those men had just ran down was slowly but surely becoming liquefied by a massive Spawn Sack, as it rolled it way toward them. Ensign Fletcher looked around the corner and into the hall to confirm this.
“Shit Chief! There’s a yellow blob coming at us, burning the walls,” Fletcher yelled.
More Infernal Spawn Sacks were seen outside, jiggling a path through Eaters as they approached the room those men huddled in.
“We’re fucking trapped, Chief!”
Kenny’s head darted back and forth, to the hallway, outside, at his men, to his weapon.
“We’re gonna die in here!” shouted Fletcher. And then the Eaters all began their infamous dirge once again–The Wailing of Ten-Thousand Dying Humans.
“I can’t take this shit anymore!” screamed Salvatore. “We’re gonna end up like them! We’re gonna turn into those damn things, eating ourselves…fucking insane!”
“Just shut-up!” hollered Kenny.
“Shut-up?! What the fuck are we gonna do then, Chief?”
The bawling from outside, the spitting and crackling of the melting hallway, the chaos now ensuing amongst the men–all atrociously loud, that we barely even heard those last few words as spoken by the Master Chief.
Just as the Infernal Spawn Sacks came within ten feet of that room, and those last men of Zulu Seven broke windows and fired their weapons into the crowd of Eaters outside, Master Chief Kenny Wallis flipped the switches on two grenades, then muttered to himself, “Come and eat this, you sons-of-bitches.” And then our transmission feeds went dead.
Forty years on the run now, through this galaxy we call a home, and with the Eaters never too far behind. From the culmination of every intelligent life form in this galaxy, as well as unknown galaxies beyond, these Eaters have figured out how to group together in space, disappear at will, find and traverse through our many worm holes, and render those ships of ours that they sneak up on as lifeless hunks of floating space debris. They’ve figured out how to tap into our worst nightmares, as they engage in their systematic extinction of our race, one planet at a time. And from the acquisition of all that we know, through the eating of our bodies, they are never more than a few hundred light years behind us, as we frantically race between star systems in pursuit of our increasingly limited existence.
Ironically enough, our next destination is the planet of Proximus 6598. There’s bound to be an ample supply of dried food down there, which we can definitely use. But as we travel there through this compressed extortion of space, through this infinite tunnel of blackened time–this worm hole–my thoughts persistently show for me the face of Master Chief Kenny Wallis. Something about him made an impression with those Eaters. Perhaps it was his last call of judgment, where he decided to blow him and his men away, thus sparing them from the grueling horror of being eaten alive. Or maybe they just like his personality. Anyways, he’s been their main voice on the battlefields of almost every colonized planet within our galaxy now. On numerous occasions, our soldiers and civilians–our people–have witnessed Kenny’s Eater form skitter up to them, sobbing in seemingly agonizing pain, before then crying out, “We’re coming to eat you, you sons-of-bitches!”
Beginning at 5:00 a.m., Chris spends the only available lot of solitary time he gets in a day feeding his addiction to writing. If he’s lucky, he’ll get two hours in before “they” wake up, after which he lives a wonderful life as a family man. His stories have been accepted at a number of publishers including The Horror Zine, Short Story.Me, Bete Noire, The Absent Willow Review, and Underground Voices. He can be reached at [email protected]