As mentioned, we’re starting a new challenge — the Genre Writing Challenge. Each round, the three writers — Perry, Gary, and me — will write a story on a given genre. The Twins decided the Second genre is Thriller.
For the record, thrillers can be almost any genre, so this was likely a poor choice on our part, especially since it’s difficult to define thriller as a completely different and standalone genre.
We’re again staggering the publication of the stories, which began with Gary’s story. It went live on Saturday. Perry’s went live on Tuesday, and today is my turn.
Our usual disclaimer:
The writing challenge has no restrictions, and the stories span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG range, with a few perhaps pushing into the R range. Those ratings are guidelines, but they are subjective. If you find a story disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, stop reading and move on to the next one. The same goes if you are not interested in finishing a story. It may seem like obvious advice, but these days many people go out of their way to experience outrage (and then complain about it).
So, without further ado, here’s my contribution to the Thriller genre . . . although, it may not be a thriller. Suspenseful, maybe. Also, I decided to write it in second person (the reason will become apparent as you read it). And — and this is something many will appreciate — just a shade under 1,100 words. Literally, less than a five-minute read.
Here’s the blurb:
What can you do when your world is being destroyed?
Copyright 2023 — E. J. D’Alise
(1,180 words – approx. reading time: about 5 minutes based on 265 WPM)
You were vaguely aware they were out there. But today, today they attacked.
You don’t know why. All you know is that your world is under attack. You’ve had other instances when you were called upon to defend your territory, usually from neighboring tribes, sometimes from other intruders.
But this . . . this is different. Incomprehensible.
Strategies, defenses, and tactics developed over untold generations . . . all ineffectual. The attackers are immune to everything you can throw at them.
It’s not just their size but also their armor. It’s impenetrable to brute force and even chemical attacks.
You can’t fully understand what you’re seeing. Tens, and then hundreds, of your fellow fighters are swept aside, seemingly without effort. Many are crushed. The lucky ones die instantly, and the others writhe in agony, not comprehending what has happened to them.
Panic grips you, and you run. No plan other than to escape. Some distance from the melee, you refocus, the panic subsiding.
Along with other survivors, you retreat to the underground tunnels. Twice, you’re nearly crushed, your evasive maneuvers taking you farther from the safety of the tunnels, lengthening the time it takes to get to safety, increasing the chance of death.
A respite. There’s no reason for it, but the attack has stopped. They are still out there. You can see them, feel the vibration of their movements in the ground, and hear their loud noises. You don’t ponder your good luck. You can’t. All you know is you must get back to the safety of the tunnels.
Once there, activity is everywhere. The tunnels have been deemed unsafe. The order goes out, and there’s a frenzy to evacuate using alternative exits away from the main attack area.
Dusk falls, and, inexplicable to you, the attackers retreat.
Everyone is called into action.
The night is still dangerous to move around in, but you have no choice. Preparations have been made, and a new site is ready. You’ll have to push through neighboring territories and potentially face other desperate individuals, There may be skirmishes, but the soldiers will handle all that. Your focus is on moving the food. Moving the food is a tedious process, but the food is imperative for survival.
Others are tasked with moving the nursery. The next generation is seemingly more precious, but no one would survive for long without food.
Your burden is not huge, but neither is it small. You travel a long way, directed by regularly spaced soldiers who maintain order along a path you’re not yet familiar with. You take short rests along the way, but you don’t quit. You don’t need the soldier’s direction by the third round trip. You could find your way in near-total darkness if you had to.
The new tunnels are still being constructed, and, as the food supplies yet to be moved diminish, more workers shift to helping construct the tunnels.
Daylight finds you and the others nearly finished, carrying the last of the food away from the original — and now mostly empty — tunnels. Daybreak brings renewed attacks, but you and the others quickly distance yourselves from the old site, and none are lost.
You don’t notice powerful forces uprooting the old tunnels, momentarily exposing the now-empty chambers just before they’re crushed. If you could notice and comprehend, you would realize the new tunnels are no safer than the old ones.
As you stash the last of the food in the chambers of the new tunnels, orders come down to help with the tunneling. Deeper is deemed safer.
There’s material to move, more chambers to construct, and emergency exits readied in case the unthinkable comes to be.
You’re surviving on short naps, but they’re sufficient for now. Later; later there will be time for sleeping and perhaps dreaming.
But later never comes.
It begins as tremors — powerful tremors threatening the integrity of the new tunnels.
Everyone panics, awaiting orders. Orders that never come.
Something slices just in front of you — something made of a material harder than rock. Everything in front of you is removed, and you find yourself standing at the edge of a huge hole.
You can see — but cannot comprehend — that something has removed a large portion of the ground. Looking up, you can see what a moment ago was solid ground being casually thrown aside. You watch without comprehension as hundreds are crushed by tumbling dirt and rocks. You can see food stores being crushed.
. . . you see portions of the nursery before it, too, is crushed . . .
A shadow falls above you, and you feel the earth move beneath you. Incredibly, still alive, you’re lifted high in the air before the section of tunnels, dirt, and rocks you’re standing on gets thrown atop the previously removed section.
You don’t comprehend. So many are killed. The tunnels, gone. The food stores, gone. The nursery, gone.
You see a few survivors scrambling away from the attackers, and you try to join them as another large section of the ground is dropped atop you.
It’s quiet. You’re hurt but still alive. Dirt is pressing all around you, and you can barely move. If you had a bit more room, you could perhaps dig your way out, but not like this.
You don’t know how long you’re there because there’s no concept of time passing, but then another powerful tremor. Immense noise like something scratching, and then the dirt moves, carrying you with it, smashing your legs, crushing your thorax. For a brief moment, you see daylight, then back at being buried.
Everything goes quiet again, and then you hear it. It sounds like rain. Sure enough, a few rivulets of water seep through the dirt, bathing your lower body. Then, more and more. Water is being absorbed by the loosened soil, turning it into heavy mud. You are encased; the little space between you and the dirt is now filled with thick, heavy mud.
There is no air . . . To the last, you cannot comprehend what has happened. How could so much have changed in such a short time? Why has it happened?
Those are questions you cannot answer as your life ends . . . because you have no concept of the human desire to plant a garden. You’re just an ant in the wrong place at the wrong time, and your nest happened to be where some human thought a shrub would look good.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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