And now, the unveiling: This is where my brain took me. And I ran with it.
You held my hand, gripping with such strength I feared my fingers might break. But I returned the grip as the howls rose around us. The Drop Site was in front of us, but between it and the bare scraggly brush we crouched in for meager cover, nothing. Just barren land. And the Drop Site? Concealed by the rusting remains of a small ship, listing to starboard on a sandbank. Nothing the monsters around us could understand.
The howls were getting closer. You lunged for the derelict, breaking cover. I had no choice but to follow you, and we ran out onto the packed sand that crumbled beneath our feet as if conspiring with the monsters to slow us down.
You stumbled before me, and I tucked my arm under your elbow to haul you upright. Your hooves pattered out a staccato beat, emphasized by the fear I could smell wafting from you. The fear the monsters could smell too, I bet.
And here they came.
They roared out from the brush and you gave a strangled squeal. It seemed to call them on, to drive them ever faster. They howled again, beasts with huge splayed feet that grabbed the sand we struggled on, that threw them ever forward, ever closer to us.
“Run!” you shouted, and I ran. I stopped looking behind me, tried to cut out the sight of the flapping hides, swinging limbs, and eyes gleaming in the dark. They could see better than we could, we’d discovered.
We galloped across the sands and through the tide reaching up to lap at our hooves, as if the water too conspired to drag us down. Did the monsters compel all of nature to do their bidding, to help them at their task? The idea sent a shiver down my spine. It couldn’t be. Such a thing would be magic, and everyone knew magic was for children. Just silly superstitions, is all.
You flung yourself into the derelict, and I leaped in behind you. No door to slam in the monsters’ faces, so I scrambled about, looking for anything to barricade the doorway. You head to the front of the cabin, searching for the supplies the Wolves had sent us. It seemed a cruelty now, the way the Wolves had set up the Matter Teleportation Device. We called it the Matt-Porter, or just Matt for short. Now, it felt like a mat in the fur, tangling and irritating, growing too something that could injure.
This was supposed to be an easy mission. Drop down, catalogue the natives, and Matt up. No one was supposed to get hurt. I grabbed a piece of plywood and slammed it into the doorway. It was barely big enough—any bend, and it would give way. I propped it up with my body, praying that it’ll be enough.
That’s how desperate I was, you see. I knew there was nothing in the starry expanse to pray to, but somehow I prayed anyway. I don’t even know who I prayed too—the stars? The universe? Science and reason themselves? I didn’t care that it made no sense.
You had found the matches, fumbling with them. Too long, it was all taking too long! Curse the Wolves and their set up! Couldn’t they have used a button, or any other type of sensor? But Wolves will be Wolves.
And yes, you see, I cursed. I’m sorry about that but you see, I wasn’t in my right mind.
Finally you dropped the match to the kindling, just as a weight slammed against my back and I screamed. I scrambled with my hooves on the slick metal flooring, but there was no good footing. Maybe if I had massive flat feet like the monsters did.
The kindling lit, fortunately for us, but I couldn’t leave the barricade. I couldn’t let go, or the monsters would get in at us. They’d get in at you.
You hesitated, looking at me, while the fire flared brighter. Another weight bounced against my back, and the howls rose up all around the derelict. Hairy arms with nimble fingers reached in at use from the portholes. Fortunately the metal wasn’t rusted all the way through.
“Drop the meat on! Waft the smoke toward the sensors!” Hopefully the Wolves set the sensors to maximum sensitivity! They probably had a laugh as they set up the Matt, the meat-lovers they were. Make the vegetarians cook slabs of meat if they want the Matt to pick them up. Drop them down with sensors that will detect the smell of cooking meat and tie the Matt into them automatically. And of course, the most devious of all, don’t let the Dropped team know until they’re already down—send them with written instructions so they can’t object.
Well, when we got back up, I’d give them an earful.
Another weight slammed against my back and arms scrabbled around as I desperately pushed the plywood closed again. Fingers pinched my hide and I squealed again.
Maybe you’d give them an earful.
The smell of cooking meat filled the cabin, turning my stomach. The monsters smelled it too, apparently. They stopped trying to beat their way in, giving me a moment of wonderful, blissful relief, though we could hear their noses working.
I leaped from the plywood, too afraid that it would bend too much and send me crashing outside with the monsters. I leaped to you, and you put your arms around me, and the monsters came roaring in.
I shut my eyes.
I opened my eyes. One of the Wolves was standing before us, his muzzle wrinkled in a broad smile.
“That wasn’t funny! We were almost eaten alive by monsters!”
“What? They’re not monsters! They’re just primitives,” the Wolf said. “It would have taken them some time to do any damage to you anyway.”
Shaking, I check my arm, where the monster had grabbed me. If the monster had been a Wolf, I would have had a great slice in my arm. Instead, I had only shallow scratches.
“What did you learn about these… what did the Whales call them?” the Wolf said.
“Ah yes. Primitive?”
“Quite primitive. But good with their eyes, and fast,” I said.
“Well, not so much fast as they just don’t stop. Do they never need rest?” you said, quivering like a leaf.
“Well, look at this! They may be primitive, but they’re intelligent. We left a sensor down below—have a look.”
We turned to the screen, leaning past the Wolf for a good look. And that’s when we discovered that we had accidentally taught the Homo Sapiens to cook their meat.
The Wolf laughed. “Not too bad, Cows. Not too bad. We’ll set a course for our home planet now, no worries. You deserve your rest.”
I already have plans for this. I experimented with almost 2nd person, and morphed into 1st. I think I want to see if I can stick the landing on 2nd, just for fun. But that only works if the narrator is telling the story to someone who’s gone or lost their memory or something. And the ending sucks. And I want more tension. And all of that can be fixed by committing to 2nd person and letting something tragic occur. Embrace it.
In the editing phase.
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