Kuro Ex Machina – Chapter 6 by ODKST

CHAPTER SIX

EXIGENCY

Dawn

There were eight of them. They were coming down the staircase, carrying plasma rifles. Their eyes were burning like tiny suns as they extended the stalks protruding from their grey, triangular heads. I tightened my grip on Rosalyn. “Here goes nothing”, I told my brother.

He said nothing, reaching for his axe. He had his stern face on, the one that meant blood was inbound. I smiled and licked my lips in anticipation. The killing was about to begin.

One of the aliens had reached the step closest to me. It hissed, extending a tongue like that of a cow, flat and wriggling. I hissed back at it through gritted teeth. The creature aimed its weapon at my solar plexus. “You die, human”, it said in its guttural voice. I thought of the mountains that rose out of the sea of purple discharge. I saw the birds, white as lightbulbs, in massive rings, circling above the grimy waves of the sea. I could hear their shrieks as they floated over us, judging us with jagged pinprick eyes. I spun, dove, and crouched under the alien’s swollen abdomen. David dropped his axe, the alien’s rifle exploding into halves. Sparks rained down on my belly as I drew a large X across the pale white sack that hung over me, laughing as the alien screamed in agony, its insides spilling all over my chest. I saw flashes of blue light. They were firing. Hiding under my imploding victim, I rolled over and started crawling up the steps. Adrenaline was surging through me. I had drawn first blood! Rosalyn seemed to vibrate in my left hand, as if ecstatic.

I made my way out from under the alien just as it toppled over, crashing into the wall and collapsing into itself. David was right behind me. Seven aliens in front of me, but they were too many and too clumsy, filling up the entire staircase. The one closest to me seemed taken aback. It was staring at its dead buddy, raising its weapon as if in a haze. Too late! I shot out without looking, without thinking. Fwap! His head went flying. Acting on instinct, I pressed up against the wall as the six remaining aliens lost their minds, firing wildly, burning through each other and their headless frontrunner. Blinded by blue light, I felt the heat from their weapons, singing my chest and my hair. The stairs were alive with energy. I shut my eyes tight, waiting for the explosion to subside. In the darkness, I felt a distant pang of anxiety. David!

No time to worry. I focused on my fingertips, crawling like a spider up the wall, my back against it.

“Ow!” My head hit the ceiling. I bent forward, climbing with fingers and toes until I was hanging from it like some freakish chandelier. As I adjusted to this new plane, my eyesight started to come back. I was drenched in sweat. My grip on Rosalyn was loosening.

I saw David at the stairs below, hiding behind the scorched body of the headless alien. The remaining six seemed oblivious to me. They were moving closer to my brother in a group, rifles at the ready. David was searching for me, I could see it in the corner of his eyes.

Even now in the heat, the stench of burnt flesh and warm blood surrounding me, adrenaline pumping, I couldn’t help but feel a burst of love for him.

Not the time. Focus. Six of them, two of us. This was a matter of seconds.

I dropped. My stomach turned as I let go of the ceiling, crashing onto the back of the alien below me. There was shrieking and shuffling as I slid off it, disappearing in between warm, rubbery bodies. Everything went dark.

I was being crushed!

I heard my brother shout something. Distracting them!

Was it enough?

I tried to move my arm. Stuck. My other arm was free, but useless. I needed Rosalyn. Great, I thought. Trapped between egos.

            What? Where did that come from?

I was losing air, fast. Small stars were exploding in front of my eyes. I could see only darkness. Warm, pulsating bodies pressed up against me. I could feel myself sinking… sinking…

 

In the dark, Joe Bob Fenestre says: You are an anomaly, Dawn. You have powers greater than even your brother can perceive.

            I feel so weak.

            I know you do. I’m not saying this will be easy. I’m saying it will be worth it.

The darkness gets deeper as his voice fades away. The silence is complete. Where are you? I ask. I need you to tell me what to do.

            There is no answer.

 

Explosions of light. My hearing returns as I snap my eyes open again. There are howls of pain all around me, above me. I must be lying on the floor. I blink. My eyes hurt from the light. I can barely feel my body. As I clamp my eyes shut, blue light flashes all around me.

I just want to go back to sleep.

Someone pulls at my arm. I moan.

“Five more minutes”, I mumble.

The pulling at my arm gets harder. I wince. As I carefully open my right eye, the blurry image of my brother slides into view.

“Get up”, he says. “Get up!”

I actually manage to sit up. Blinking again, I try to take a look around. My head feels several sizes too big.

The staircase is covered by the charred corpses of aliens. There are black patches all over the walls. Blood and guts everywhere. The air is still vibrant with heat.

David is holding one of the plasma rifles. He is covered in the dark red remains of the dead. “Come on”, he urges. “Time to go.”

He helps me get to my feet. I stumble at first, I can barely feel my legs. We manage up the stairs. David almost slips in the puddle of blood.

We make it to the top of the stairs before I start gagging. The air is so hot. The stench of burnt flesh is everywhere. Unbearable. I slide out of David’s grip, leaning against the wall with one hand. I puke.

“Fuck.”

His hand on my shoulder. He waits until I’m finished.

“You ok?”

I can’t answer. I remain leaned against the wall, spitting and coughing.

His hand leaves my shoulder. I can hear him stumble back down the stairs.

Don’t leave, I try to say, but I can’t make the words come out. Cold streams flow through my body. I can’t lift my head. The smell of death and flesh is overwhelming. My head is pounding. How long was I gone?

David is back. I can sense him on my left.

“What were you thinking?” He’s furious. The kind of furious that means he’s scared.

I try to answer. “I … I just …”

He won’t wait for my reply. “Come on”, he says, grabbing my arm again. We continue down a new corridor. I can make out strange, multicolored patterns all over the walls, but keep my eyes to the ground.

Our feet make disgusting sounds as we walk, leaving a trail of our attackers’ insides. I spit and gag, the taste of vomit filling my mouth.

Finally we stop. I try to raise my head. There appears to be a door in front of us.

David smacks something into my palm. Rosalyn’s handle. She is greasy with alien fluids.

We stand in front of the door for a while, catching our breath. David is tense. I can tell that he wants to yell at me, but is holding it in. This only makes me angry. I keep my eyes firmly locked to the ground.

“You have to be more careful, Do’.” He’s using his deliberate, controlled tone, the one I hate the most. “You can’t just rush in like that.”

“I … “

Why are you scolding me? My mind is reeling. Stop scolding me.

“I – I just wanted to do a good job!” I stammer. My face is getting warm. I still can’t meet his eyes. I don’t want him to see me like this.

It feels like he’s going to say something else, but then he sighs. “Yeah. Never mind. You got us through. Just cut the bullshit, okay? This is dangerous stuff.”

I finally manage to look up. His eyes are scanning me, pupils huge and dark. His face has a streak of red across its left.

“What do we do now?” I say.

He shrugs. “I suppose we should walk through this door.”

I look away, then back at him, unsure if I should ask. I don’t want him to scold me again.

“Should we reload?” I manage to say.

He’s not looking at me anymore but at the door, sizing it up. “Yeah.” He throws the stolen rifle to his side, reaching in his pocket for the paper bag. I try to contain a smile.

*

David

 

“Brother.”

The voice is barely more than a whisper. I realize that I’ve been staring at the TV for a while without registering the content. Something about a rhinoceros running amuck at some lakeside hotel. If the story is fiction or documentary, I cannot tell.

“What is it?”

“Are you awake?”

I look to my left. She’s lying curled up on her side, she, too, watching the screen. Her bare feet are the only thing sticking out from under the blanket.

“Yes, I’m here.”

She doesn’t say anything else. I watch her lay there motionless, feet clenched, toes curled. If she’s breathing, she hides it well.

I turn my eyes back to the TV. The images are rapid, disoriented. The rhino is now nowhere to be seen. I blink, then blink again. I can’t make sense of the show.

I yawn. It’s a long night, and the room is warm. I feel ready to nod off. The espresso cups are empty on the table. I follow my sister’s lead, curling up on my side of the couch. For a long while we are just lying there, not speaking. In the silence of the room, you’d think my sister’s breathing would be more noticeable. But her breaths are so discreet as to be almost dismissible as a trick of the mind. Even so, I find it calming to listen for them in the darkness. The light of the TV flickers, it’s white and artificial.

Just as I am about to drift off again, there is a warm weight on me. I glance at my sister. She’s slid unnoticed over to my side of the couch, spreading across my chest. She meets my eyes, saying nothing.

For a second, none of us is breathing. I look back into her eyes, seemingly watching me with perfect clarity. Her body is warm against my chest and stomach. Neither she nor I seem to know what to do next.

She looks down, burying her face in my chest. I pat her hair awkwardly, still not completely registering what’s happening.

“Brother”, she says, her voice muffled in the folds of my shirt, “I can’t decide which one of us is dreaming tonight.”

 

To be continued

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