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I sigh at the sight of the open lake, a field of black liquid, with waves that cling a sticky gel to the tips of my boots. The shores of the small beach are covered with a series of gray patterns, outlines of the waves that wash about. The sun’s out, which is a surprise both pleasant and disappointing. The warmth is a welcomed perk, though I’m always praying for precipitation.
It rains, on occasion. Some plant life’s still around, by the looks of it. This lake area has been the first place in weeks in which I’ve seen a living tree. Perhaps they’ve only just come here, in the last few days. I look upon the tree line at the opposite shore, and I can see the larger portions of a city. It appears to be in ruins. I can see decayed towers and small clouds of smoke. From what I heard, the visitors hit the larger cities first. The survivalists I ran into on the road told me to head for woodlands. I can’t see why. The water lies just as black and dead here as it did in New York. The sun exposes the calm, tar-colored surface of the liquid body, reflecting the work of the ravenous visitors.
A drone flies overhead. I catch its orange trail of burned fuel as it flashes by. The mist of energy floats down on the surface of sand next to me, singeing the branches of the trees as it passes. I turn away from the dead lake. I feel a tense dryness in my throat.
I walk a trail, different from the one I took to the shore. The path is lined with more trees, most being stripped of their color and contents. Skeletal branches extend from torn and scratched trunks. Fallen leaves still paint the ground in a brown and tan slew. I spot scraps of metal and black dust about the woods. It’s what the visitors leave behind with their drones and pods. I haven’t spotted any large technology, so far. Yet, I’ve been unable to encounter another living creature in the past few days.
A slight pain begins to arise in my lower spine, which grows as my pack swings behind my shoulders. My watch died a few days ago. Due to near-constant lack of sun, I’m left questioning how long I’ve been traveling. I’m about to sit for a rest, but a ringing nearby keeps me on my feet. I turn in circles, twice.
There’s a scratchy, radio-like sound, one that spikes a tension in my ears. After making another three-sixty, I spot a small, tube-like device implanted in the woods, a bit off the path. A series of antennas extend from its upper end, with the lower portion pitched into the soil. It’s their technology, no doubt, but this device is unfamiliar. I’m curious to step closer, but moving a even a few feet towards it makes the ringing twice as bad. It loud ring continues, sending an acute sting through my earlobes. I move forward on the path, with quicker feet.
A burning surges through the desert that is my throat. I glance back to see a final view of the tar lake, with a gray forest lining each side of me. A sharp pain is now pulsing in my tailbone, and I sense a familiar soreness in my feet. After a few more minutes of travel, I come across a red house. It’s a surprising size, with two floors, a porch on each end, and numerous windows lining the side I can view. The structure is what I’d consider a lake house, an attractive home for the temporary resident. The path before me leads to the front porch, which holds a a single, white-colored door. I approach, and I see that much of the brick-red paint appears to be scraped, and half of the windows are stained with a colored substance. Some are cracked.
I stop when the door opens. I’m no more than fifty feet away from the deck, when a older, white bearded man stands in the doorway. He remains in the doorframe, holding a pistol in his right hand and keeping his left arm behind the wall. He appears to squint at the sight of me.
“Hold up!”, he shouts in a breathy, hoarse voice. “Stay still! There are explosives about the ground where you stand, and my fingers are right on the switch!.” “Easy!”, I shout back, holding up my arms and keeping calm to avoid tension. “I’m not staying, I’m just pass-“
“What are you doing around here? Where do you come from?”
“I’ve walked from the city, from the south. I left for safety, but I came here in search of water.” “Ain’t no water here! They came and shit over it weeks ago! You should’ve known.”
“You’re the first human I’ve encountered in over a week. I don’t have any sources to go by. Now, I don’t want anything from you. I’m just going to walk back, just in the direction behin-“
“The city, that’s where you’re coming from? Lot of news about there. They say the people are being possessed there, or something. What’s to say you’re not one of them?!”
“What do you mean?” “One of them alien imposters! You come here to trick me out, boy?!” “No! I don’t know what you speak of. I haven’t heard any news about ‘observers’.”
“Step around, slowly, into the yard to the left. My hand’s still on the switch, so don’t try any tricky shit.” I move, stepping towards an open, clear yard. I keep my hands up, though my eyes remain locked on the man. He glares at me, now aiming his pistol in my direction. I can’t make out the specifics of his face, but his eyes are what intrigue me. They appear dark, abyssal. I want to sprint away, yet I’m not one to gamble on caution.
“Right here?”, I say, stopping near the center of the field. “Yes”, the man says, moving his pistol down. Another drone flies by, in which I look to it. When I look back to the man, I see his head has remained still.
“So what now? I think it’s safe to say I’m not here to steal from you.”
“No. No, I suppose you’re right.”
The man steps out of the doorframe, and heads to the edge of the deck. He shows a smile to me. I smile back, yet my hands move close to my revolver in my pocket.
“Your hand’s of the switch”, I say, relaxing my hand. “There weren’t any explosives to begin with, were there?”
“You’re right, boy.”, he says, nodding with a smile. His eyes are black, indeed. They make me tremble. “You have nothing to worry about.”
A sting pierces the right side of my neck, with the cold entrance of a metallic surface. The object is removed before I can turn my head to look. I swing around, in which my vision is half as effective. The gray world around me becomes unclear, as I see a blurred figure standing before me. After appearing to step back, it approaches with slow steps. I see a series of white flashes before my vision disappears.
The world lies black, like tar.
A pressure is placed on my wrists, as well as my ankles. I hear sounds of faint clinks before opening my eyes, which ache as light floods over my lenses. The light comes from a window in front of me. I can see a view of the sunset, on a tree line at the end of a field. A few more clouds have appeared, since I was last outside.
The room becomes clear, which appears to be rather simple. The walls are covered in a scratched green paint, sporting a flowery wallpaper that brings an ironic prettiness. To the left of me lies an aged, torn sofa, stained with a possible mold. To the right lies a splintered coffee table. A cracked plate rests at its center.
I’m in a wooden chair, with my legs restrained in front, arms behind. My limbs are clasped together with some form of metal cuffs. The sun reflects off the restraints. I make the initial tugs for freedom, which is meant with an unsurprising defeat. I sense the restraints grip tighter, as a larger strain is placed on my wrists and ankles as I finish struggling.
“You don’t know what you’re even trying to escape.”, a voice says from behind, calm in its approach.
Before I turn my head back, a man steps in front of me. He appears middle-aged, dressed in a white coat, black slacks, and dark brown, formal shoes. He has medical gloves on, and is holding a small, cylinder-shaped container. I look to his eyes, in which I’m struck with a coldness in my blood. Replacing his eyes are two, pitch-colored pools of black. They pulse with an ooze, like they’re about to bleed dark tears down onto my forehead.
“Don’t be frightened. You’re only late, to what should’ve been done already. You don’t have to suffer in this land, anymore.”
He moves around me, and begins running his fingers about my neck and head. He feels at my throat, temples, jaw, pulse, and at the tip of my spine. A chill pressure follows his fingers.
“Sorry I had to lure you in like that, boy.”, another voice says, approaching from behind again. It belongs to the older man from before. He steps in front of the window. His eyes are indeed the same, casting the same nightmarish gaze that I imagined when I first saw him. “I didn’t mean to frighten or trick you. I just didn’t expect to see someone like ya. I thought our job was just about done.”
“Your throat must be immensely dry.”, the middle-aged ‘man’ says. “How long have you gone without water? Hours? Days, perhaps? I haven’t yet been able to study how long you can go without sustenance. Given the rapid loss of human life, I wouldn’t suspect long. It’s pitiful, really.”
“That’s what he was looking for, when I saw him.”, the older one says. “That’s when I was sure he was human. The scanner picked him up even before then.”
“You won’t last out here, not for much longer. We’ve drained most of this place. Then again, so have your people.”
I look about the room again, and then out the window. The sunset’s just beginning to fade.
“Who are you?”, I ask in a shaky voice. “Please, tell me, what is happening?”
“Acceleration.”, the middle-aged one says. “We’ve sped up the little time that’s left, on nature’s clock. Now that this place is dying, we’re taking and saving what we can. A few others are like you, running, in panic. Almost everyone’s out, now, and you will be as well.”
The middle-aged one steps in front of me again, and opens the container. Inside the case is a small, metal clasp object, combined with a form of syringe. A micro-point lines at the end of the narrow piece, one that feeds into a gray, dust-like substance. I only have a second to examine it before the man moves behind me, with the object in hand. “Wait! Wait!”, I shout, tugging at my restraints as they continue to grow tighter. My ankles and arms grow numb from the pressure. “What’s that?!”
“Relax”, the man says, his voice no louder than a whisper. “If I explained to you, it would only unnerve you more. Don’t struggle. There’s no need to escape from rescue.” “No, stop! What are you doing?!” “For years, you have lived on nothing but an imminent grave. You all have. We have foreseen this, and we have come. Now, close your eyes. The pain will be unusual, but short.”
I don’t listen. I start to breath relentless air, shaking like mad. The older one starts to speak, but his words fly over me. A pinch goes through the back of my neck, in which the rest of my body is shot with a strange, chilling energy. I lose all sense of my limbs. “You’ll sleep, for a while. But you’ll wake up, soon.” I look up to the window, as color begins to fade from my vision. I see the open field as a sheer gray. I begin to spot large, sphere-shaped structures beginning to descend upon the field and beyond. They cast beams of light, on the field and surrounding woods. My vision then goes black.
The dryness in my throat subsides. I sense a thick, slow-moving liquid begin to bleed away from my eyes.
Written by Emeryy