Friday, August 3, 2012

The Scent of Water

by: Krystalyn

I pump my legs, darting between the shattered houses and burnt human remains. The stench brings bile into my throat, but I can't stop to get sick when I know he's only a block away, scenting me. Even with his broad eyeless forehead and the large slits that serve as his nose, he looks more like a child than a Martian. But damn, he's fast.

I'm smarter though. It's what's kept me alive for the past six weeks.

The day they came, I was taking a history test, answering a question about Henry XIII. First, came the shrieking sound which made us all drop our pencils and run to the window. Just like in the movies, the clouds parted and hundreds of metallic disks appeared in the sky. Then came the explosions, followed by car alarms and emergency sirens and ringing in my ears that made me think I was going deaf.

Some of the kids started screaming. Some ducked under their desks as if a layer of particle board would keep them safe. I held my breath and wondered if I was going to die with my fingers in my ears and the names of Henry XIII's wives written on my hand.

The strikes, a cross between a lightning bolt and a laser beam, came in rapid succession from the center of the disks. I watched silently, wondering where the strikes were hitting, thinking surely, my home and my family was safe. But when the row of houses across the street was vaporized, I bolted from the room. No one stopped me.

I was one of six kids that found refuge in the girls' locker room. The earth shook for two days, but the walls stayed upright, and once the explosions stopped, we took a few tentative steps outside the locker room. Half the school was rubble, but at least the six of us were still alive. A week later, it was just me.

I weave my way through mountains of concrete and pipes and wires, and run straight into a fallen oak. There is no way around it, so I push myself over it. The alien is only a block behind me when my shirt catches on a branch. I curse loudly while I tug on the fabric. The branch snaps free, and as I tumble down into the grass, it impales itself in my gut, sharp as a dagger. Blood gushes and I howl in pain.

Injuries drove us out of the school, but it was my fault for suggesting it. Michael needed his insulin and Sammy had a broken arm. With both the cafeteria and nurse's office obliterated, I suggested we search for a hospital, not knowing if any still existed. No one argued.

The town greeted us with eerie silence. No people and no hospital. The metallic disks weren't visible, but my skin itched, telling me they were there, lurking behind the clouds.

We split up to scavenge what we could from the few remaining buildings, then meet back up at the school. Michael, Sammy, and I headed towards the grocery store, while Brooke and the others went to the Walmart. I never found out what happened to Brooke's group, but I do know what happened in the Winn Dixie parking lot.

The attack came from the left, a dozen little creatures appearing from beneath the abandoned cars, their faces held high in the air, nose slits opening and closing. Sniffing.

“Run!” Michael shouted.

The nose slits on one of the creatures opened into wide circles. It started shrieking, and the others joined in.

As we ran, lightening strikes dropped around us in rapid fire. Michael was ahead of me, and when he tripped, I veered toward him to help him back to his feet. As I reached out my head, the blast knocked me onto my back. My head flopped to the side just in time to watch his body explode into a thousand pieces.

Sammy had fallen behind us. The shrill alien's voice sounded right above me. The hair on my arms stood on end, and I knew the next strike was coming for me.

“Not today,” I promised myself. I flipped onto my hands and knees and took off at a dead run.

I lost Sammy somewhere in the maze of debris, but the aliens were still trailing me when I reached the river. With resignation in my bones, I dove in, clothes and all. They'd taken everyone else, my friends, my family. I'd be damned before I let them get me too. I wrapped my arms around my legs, blew out my breath, and sunk to the bottom.

And they didn't get me. They sniffed and searched, and when they were unable to find my scent, they gave up.

I set up camp near the river, not understanding how the whole water thing worked, and not caring. Maybe I should have cared more. Maybe I should have stayed closer to the river when searching for food.

I yank the branch out of my stomach and roll over onto my hands and knees. Yellow splotches pop in front of my eyes. In between them, I can see the community pool. It's less than ten feet away. I start to crawl.

Eight feet... Six feet... Three...

I hear him scrabble over the tree just as I drop into the pool. My stomach flares with pain. I let out too much air, but I stay submerged, looking up through the water. He's there, sniffing. Always sniffing.

A thick trail of blood floats to the surface.

He moves his nose to the pool's edge where my blood is smeared. His finger reaches out, groping until he touches the slick red stain.

I clutch my hand to my stomach, but it's stopped hurting, and I know that's very bad.

He sniffs his finger, then the cloudy red water.

My body shakes. My vision narrows.

He tilts his head to the sky. His nostrils flare open. The shrieking starts.

I want to pulverize the little bugger and silence him permanently, but what does it matter? More will come. It's too late anyway. I can sense the clouds parting above me, the ships preparing to fire. I am never getting out of this pool alive.

But neither is he.

Summoning my last bit of strength, I thrust my arm out of the water and yank his tiny body in with me.

And wait for the strike to come.

Photo by: Bradley Mason


  1. Wow, I like this! Reminds me of Falling Skies, the show. Nice job, Krystalyn!

  2. I concur. Complete danger zone! I could see this as a full-fledged book!