My attention span waning, my eyes shifted gears and glanced towards my parents. My dad trying his best to focus all his strengths into guiding this vehicle down a bubbling asphalt road and my mom staring straight ahead into the nothingness of the horizon. There was not really anything of immense interest in this direction, so said my eyes. I knew, however, that there was something missing from this placid desert, something hidden in the shadows of plain sight. A feeling of dread started sweeping its way over my mind for I knew some unseen creature lurked in the depths of this waste land.
Then, as slow as before, it occurred. The horrible whining of the wheels as the rubber tried its best to stop the car. A look of terror ripping through my dad's calm face. My mom's body locking up as she gripped her seat and amazement seeped into her eyes. I, having seen this many times before, simply leaned forward and looked out the front windshield. There, no longer hidden in the arid desert, was the sharpened claw of Behemoth. I sat there for a second, admiring the glossy shine the sun brought out in the horrid appendage.
I knew what was to happen next, so it was time to interfere with fate's plans. My right arm quickly latched onto the seat belt that had faithfully secured me for so long and twisted the buckle out to allow myself movement. Almost simultaneously, my left arm clambered onto the door lock and released the mechanism to hold the door shut. Soon, the door was freely swinging around as my body flung itself out onto the surprisingly cold desert sand. I rolled past the gigantic foot of Behemoth and came to a stop a good distance from the vehicle.
I covered my brow with one trembling hand and looked up into the harsh sky. I knew what I would see, though hoping my actions had changed the events this time. No such luck. The mighty creature before me bent down and glared into the front windshield of the station wagon. I could almost see a humane, peaceful glint in its eye as it watched my shocked parents rambling around in the front seat. Suddenly, its head snapped around and its glistening teeth latched onto the car, almost shredding it in half. The beast swung the vehicle into the air like a toy and prepared to swallow it into the vast depths of its stomach.
My eyes quickly darted around looking for anything to stop the impending deaths of my parents. A loss of hope registered in my mind as I saw there was nothing around to aid in their protection. Without thinking, my body went into overdrive. My legs rushed my body over to the thickest toe on this thing's foot and (without thinking) my teeth sank into the soft flesh of the creature. Green froth oozed out of the new wound Behemoth had sustained and (finding it tasted of peaches) my teeth sank further into the great toe.
Then a blood-chilling snarl ripped its way out of the beast's throat. This cry of agony echoed throughout the desert. I covered my ears for they began to pound with this horrific sound. The persistent sound flooded my ears and causing my head to shake in pain. The cries issuing from Behemoth became more and more intense and forced my eyes to roll back and send me into the restless black of unconsciousness.
The swirls of black slowly gave way to the light of awareness and I found myself lying on my mother's soft couch. My eyes slowly surveyed the surroundings to find that I was basking in the artificial lights of my home. Any pain left from the ringing in my ears from Behemoths unearthly yells were soon drowned out by the wind roaring right outside the window. Warily, my legs stumbled around and I found myself tripping into the night as I wondered out the back door.
The wind was now fierce, tearing at my clothes and whipping me around like a rag doll. My eyes tried to make sense of the pitch black that was the night enveloping me. As they tried to find something to focus on, a faint light appeared off in the distance. This light shot through the heavens at an incredible pace, unveiling the shrouds of night as it landed on right in front of me. My sleepy eyes gazed at this radiant being and were able to make out two lanky arms and a hood.
I just stood there, dazed, as solid as rock and watched it lift one arm on the air. Yellow gases flowed from this appendage and formed long, razor-like fingers. These fingers twitched on the make-shift hand and began to descend. Their decension upon me was incredibly fast though time passed as though they were feathers wafting on a summer breeze. These nasty extensions flew through my chest, trying to sink into my stomach to let my insides flow freely. My eyes followed to fingers as they ran a path along my chest.
However, these ghastly extensions of this creature did not leave the raw marks of pulpy flesh as they once did. This time around, the fingers were shattered into a million minute pieces. My gaze landed on my chest to see a purple light ripple across for a brief moment and vanish. The violent thing before me howled with the wind and cocked its head to one side as it winced in pain.
A cute idea came to me and I replied to its immense suffrage with the perfect word, "Boo!"
A perplexed look crossed this monstrosity's face and as its nimble figure flew off into the distance, I could hear it say, "What the hell?"
* * *
Jason slowly slipped out of the haze of sleep. His eyelids hesitantly parted to let the cool light of the afternoon intrude on his eyes. His gaze focused in and out trying to make sense of the casual mood that pervaded the back seat of his parent's cobalt blue station wagon. Jason rolled his head around in eccentric loops attempting to clear the strains that had taken over the muscles in his neck. His arms lengthened themselves to unravel the knots in their muscles. The last bits of sleepiness still wafting through him were pushed out his mouth with a lazy yawn.
After collecting his consciousness, Jason realized he was on his back staring at the low ceiling above. Jason shifted his weight and forced his back upright against the small posterior seat and swung his feet to inhabit the floor space beneath the anterior seats ahead of him. A warm flood of blood rushed to his feet and caused Jason to rub the feeling of needles pricking his skin out of his sock enveloped feet.
Jason's head reluctantly bowed to his chest so his fearful eyes could scan his stomach for traces of the vicious claws that had raked his chest. Fortunately, there was no visible sign of those terrible fingers' slashing. The only thing that adorned his chest was a white cotton tee shirt with a small, forbidding yin yang painted in the center. Jason lifted his gaze over his brown, cargo shorts which dressed his legs to find his shoes. His white pair of sneakers lay in the wavering shadows under the front seats where he always placed them before lying down to seek rest in this cramped car. His feet currently in a warm, relaxed mood, Jason decided to leave his shoes off for the time being.
Then Jason collected the soft pillows occupying the car seat with him and he neatly piled them in the corner. Jason's attention turned to his lap where a sloppily strewn seat belt lie. It was zigging and zagging across his tan shorts for he had to loosen it in order to lie horizontally on the seat to rest. Jason brought his right arm over, grabbed onto the gray waist strap, and proceeded to tighten the belt to insure his safety in case of an accident.
"What could possibly happen out here anyway?" thought Jason as he stared out into the vast wilderness filling the view of the car windows. His eyes took in as much of the luscious green masking the land as they could. The small car that persistently climbed its way up the mountain road gave an excellent outlook of the land below. Incredible blues and vibrant greens and even fantastic reds littered the valleys below. Twisting and turning the colors in and out of each other were gigantic red wood trees. Together, with the beautiful backdrop of a pure turquoise sky, Jason continued thinking, "This place is too perfect for something horrible like a car accident to occur."
Jason's concentration veered toward the front of the vehicle where the other two members of his family were sitting comfortably admiring the view of a seemingly endless red wood forest. His father sat sternly in the driver's seat, eyes vigilantly watching the road. His mother sat opposite his father in the passenger chair. Both of them snugly seated patiently looking out the somewhat foggy windows.
Switching gears entirely, Jason asked rather impatiently, "How long until we reach the summit?"
"Oh maybe an hour or so. Its hard to tell with these winding mountain roads," answered his mom who was becoming slightly agitated having been asked several times before now, "Why don't you go back to sleep, you were much nicer then!"
A little perturbed, Jason leaned forward and poked his joker of a mom in the shoulder.
"Ow! Why did you do that?" said his mom cocking one eyebrow.
"Oh come on! That wasn't painful," laughed Jason knowing that there must have been some minuscule amount of pain.
"Awe, go back to sleep, son. You looked just like you did when you were five years old!" teased his father.
"Ow! Why did you poke me this time?" questioned Jason's mother as she rubbed her partially bruised shoulder.
"Because I can't poke dad or we might spin clear off the road and become impaled as we slide into the trees down below. Besides; A) it my little finger can't elicit much pain and B) I hardly look like I did ten years ago." her son explained as explicitly as ever.
After a brief moment of silence, Jason continued, " So . . . what exactly is up here, I mean, besides all these big trees?"
"Well," his father dramatically paused, "there is a rather large caldera and some rather dull indian ruins. That's about it. The ruins aren't much, just an old temple in shambles which is okay since we're not going to them. The caldera, though, is a sight to
"Are there hiking trails?" inquired Jason fondly remembering the many walks he has had with his dad. He remembered days long since past when his father had to wait for him to catch up. Now, Jason could clamber up and down any path and would end up having to wait for his dad.
"Only a three as I recall. One trail around the rim of the volcano and one trail from the caldera down to some still-active lava tubes that branches off and heads to the indian ruins. Unfortunately, you need a permit to visit the 'tubes and temple and a park ranger-ish person." returned his dad.
Satisfied, Jason sat back in his seat and let the felt his way along the rather uncomfortable armrest on the door. His fingers crawled up the warm rubber and finally found the automatic window button. His index finger proceeded to curl around this stallion-black switch and pulled it downwards to let a calm breeze rush through the vehicle.
Jason's eyes lazily followed the view outside around the corner as the car turned tightly. As the rays of the sun flowed through the window and into Jason's squinting eyes, he saw a great flash come from the corner of his eye. Jason's head whipped around to see the distinct view of red woods out the rear windshield. Scanning the endless horizon, Jason saw a small, vibrant ball of light flash in the sky. The flash seemed to burn his eyes which instinctively closed. Opening once more, his eyes scrutinized the skies behind the station wagon to lock onto the ball once again, but they could not find the ball of white. His pulse quickening, Jason's head darted around trying to peer through all windows at once. There was no glowing orb outside any of the windows.
"Did you see that?" stammered Jason.
"What?" asked his relaxed mother.
"Ooh, maybe you saw an alien!" chuckled his dad.
"Did I imagine that?" thought Jason trying to make sense of the past few minutes. He sat there and analyzed what little data he could to determine what happened. Not able to think of a plausible solution, Jason decided to have one more look out the window. Without any high hopes, Jason pivoted his body and glanced through the rear windshield and into the bright, flashing lights of a suburban.
Jason smirked as his dad carefully moved onto the shrub-filled shoulder of the road to let the impatient truck pass. He realized that the lights he saw over the alluvial path were no more than pulsating headlights indicating a vehicle intent on driving faster than us. Jason's pulse started returning to normal as he sat back in his warm seat and let his stare wonder ahead of the road.
Jason began to slip into the fantastic worlds of his dreams when an unusual feeling began to form in his chest. This strange intuition seemed to vibrate in his sternum and cause echoes of uneasiness throughout his body. One such echo swarmed into his mind and threw Jason's thoughts into chaos. The warm feelings of the sun penetrating his skin were replaced by a mellow, lukewarm tingle.
Jason was about to scream at the confusion he felt when his mind suddenly cleared and his skin registered the sun again. He sat there for a minute of silence that acted as an eternity. Jason suspended his left hand in the air and began to shake it vigorously. He repeated the motion with his right hand and studied the interesting sensations they elicited. A weird tingle fluctuated throughout his arms almost as if they were asleep.
Slightly amused, Jason asked, "Hey, what does it feel like to have a seizure?"
His mom burst out laughing and tried to answer through a irrepressible giggle, "Why, do you believe that you just had one?"
"Well," Jason cut off in mid-sentence as a red-hot flash cut through the car. This scorching light tore across the front portion of the car in a blaze smoke. Almost immediately, searing flames engulfed the vehicle and twisted it around into a chaotic spin.
Jason's senses became heightened as he viewed the horrifying events surrounding him as if time had slowed down for every physical thing except his mind. Jason's eyes warily watched the malevolent fire eat through the chassis of the vehicle while smoke crested over the top like the white froth of an ocean wave. His mind was completely aware of the station wagon's uncontrollable rotation across the mountain road which no longer seemed tranquil. His mind was even aware of the rapidly decreasing altitude as the vehicle smashed through the side rail and over the cliff. The last thing Jason's mind soaked in was a curious sinking feeling forming within his stomach.
* * *
Zach enthusiastically watched the cobalt blue vehicle tear its way through the guard rail along the side of the beautiful mountain overpass. Zach's translucent TeleCo Eyelids slid across his pupils to allow him to zoom in on a scene of the destruction. Zach's plump, green tongue streaked across his mouth to moisten his lips. A sinister smile climbed up his face as the TeleCo Eyelids finally focused in on the wreckage that lay below. A small, red number in the corner of his vision showed a length of almost three Earth miles down to the twisted mass of metal that lay below.
"Ha ha! That guard rail didn't help you very much, did it! Ooh, and I bet that log doesn't feel too good either!" laughed Zach savoring the sight of his first kill, "But it is a pity the fire only lasts so long."
Zach shifted his weight from the Cali290 and back onto his resplendent loafers to stand up out of a crouch. Zach picked his signature rifle up off the ground which was cluttered with an assortment of dead leaves and gritty mud. Zach took a silk handkerchief out of his ocean blue polo shirt and proceeded to gently wipe the tail end of the sniper's concussion rifle. He slid the rag over the sleek, brown butt to rid it of the filth that encrusted its hilt. Then he turned the soiled piece of silk over and began to run it along the cold, crimson barrel to improve the glossy shine already there. Zach then twisted the material around the edge of the eye of the barrel to wipe away the scorch marks left by the newly spent ammunition.
After he was satisfied, Zach pulled a cord along the smooth side of the handkerchief and watched his silk wipe disappear in a violent flash of light. Zach straightened himself and rubbed the various wrinkles embedded in his dark pants from his previous crouching position until his pants were once again respectable. Lying his Cali290 on top of a nearby log aged with moss, Zach strolled confidently over to a SpinCom conveniently hovering waist-high. He carefully opened the metallic lid to expose the illegal communication devices inside. Before tinkering with the control panel, Zach turned his attention to the small, reflective sheet encasing the roof of the SpinCom in order to view his appearance.
"Tsk tsk, I better raise my hair. I can't present myself looking like this!"
With that in mind, Zach thrust his pale hand into the pulsating field below the SpinCom. The differentiating currents of electricity that formed this anti-gravitational hover coursed through his hand and caused a slight tingling sensation to run throughout his arm. Zach took his arm out of the field and briskly ran pulled his hand across his shiny brown hair. He then took a second glance into the image-rebounding metal and saw that his hair stood straight upward an inch off his scalp, adding to Zach's cool, confident demeanor.
Without anymore hesitation, Zach toggled a green switch along the side of the machine. A barely audible whir whistled out of the SpinCom's many slitted openings. Soon, this whir gave way to a dense, gray fog that creeped up the spherical sides and condensed above the SpinCom. Then a stream of brilliant lights ranging from sea greens to sunny yellows broke through the stagnant fog. The light began to weave around the particles of water and formed a solid square. A pitch black began filling the square until any essence of another color was gone. A white, glaring line of numbers and letters ran across the recently created screen. "On-line: please input sender, subject, destination."
Smiling, Zach followed the directions, "Sender: Zach. Subject: nova sneaker's proud game. Receiver: Harold"
A stream of various codes flew around the dark screen and then disappeared to leave a single sentence flashing in the center: "Processing . . . please wait."
After a short time, the large monitor glowed green with swirls of unpleasant shades floating about randomly. These unearthly pigments began mixing together to form a dark, bloody circle that floated in the middle of the SpinCom. The forbidding ball began to vibrate, eliciting a series of shrieks and whines. The horrid noises promptly subsided and gave way to a calm, collective voice: "Have you succeeded?"
Unwaveringly, Zach replied, "Yes sir! You should've seen it! The incendiary concussion wave smashed through the target as if it were hot butter! Pity the fire only lasts long enough to sear through the chassis of the vehicle, but I bet the pulse wave cut the inhabitants of that vehicle to shreds!"
"Are you sure the target was eliminated?" continued the other-worldly communication.
"Wait a tick," said Zach realizing he hadn't confirmed his kill.
Zach walked across the moist ground covered in mulch to the vantage point where he could survey the valley of green below. Zach switched on his TeleCo Eyelids and began scanning the twisted wreck that lie beneath him. The TeleCo Eyelids slowly focused in on the burned vehicle heaped upon the ground. Zach warily watched the vehicle for any sign of life. A gross feeling of uneasiness began boiling in his stomach. The disturbing feeling began rising irrepressibly up and down his chest. The only words Zach could manage were "Oh damn," for there inside the disgusting wreck that once was a car, was movement.
Zach rushed back to the SpinCom, ruining his perfect hair. Reluctantly, Zach answered the question the creature on the other end of the communication had posed, "Um . . . No sir. I can not confirm target elimination. But do not worry, sir, I will
complete this mission."
After a long pause, the voice returned with a sinister tone, "Do not disappoint us. If you can not finish this simple mission, we will be forced to remedy the situation. Next time you report back to us, make sure you have results."
With that, the dark screen shattered into a thick mist. The SpinCom ceased the dispersal of light and fog and shut down. Zach methodically closed the intricate SpinCom and turned away from it. The words of disapproval hung ominously in his head. The uncomfortable feeling that pervaded his stomach earlier returned to haunt him. Thoughts of ghastly deaths took over his fearful mind. The worst part was that none of the methods of demise he could imagine could match the grim punishments Harold and the others might employ. A familiar quote suddenly formed inside Zach's head: "There are worse fates than death . . ."
With weak legs, Zach gathered his gear and began to plod down the now dismal mountain. Zach picked his way through the dense vegetation invading the winding path he followed down the steep mountainside. Zach trudge heavily through the thick mud concealing the ground and pushed through a long, flexible tree branch into a small clearing. Zach was scanning the clearing for an excellent location to set a nearly undetectable trap, when he saw a sign. Most of this large, wooden sign had weathered away and what was left was hidden by an abundance of moss.
Zach sauntered up to the old sign and peeled off the wet layers of moss obscuring the words carved into the wood. Zach carefully read the engraved words in order to fully comprehend their significance: "WARNING: Do not continue down this trail without a qualified guide. This trail leads to active lava tubes. Any person or persons caught without a qualified guide will be fined."
A malignant smiled breached Zach's lips as he began to sprint down the forbidden trail.
* * *
Darkness. A vast, deep darkness. Darkness so incredibly deep, no magnitude of light could penetrate its black veils. Rather, light would become inescapably lost within the dismal forever of this pitch black eternity. An eternity of darkness swirling frightfully around inside Jason's head, clouding over any rational thought or reasoning remaining from the initial impact.
Gradually, however sable and infinite the darkness seemed, a colorful patch began to form at the very center of this madness. Swirls of dingy purples collided with masses of night blues within this glimmer of hope. This hardly substantial quantity of color tediously enlarged, forcing its bluish brim to overcome the horrible ebony. As the circle increased in size, many more colors began organizing within the core, giving ways to lighter hues of blue and purple. Soon, the dimming purples gave way to dirty reds and sickly oranges. As the pitch black became paved over by these expanding pigments, an unimaginably bright line of solid yellow spanned the ongoing horizon.
Jason's eyelids unveiled his questioning eyes. Jason's eyelids lazily fell several times back over his tender eyes. As the sleepiness tugging at these blinds subsided, Jason's eyes started to focus. The queer, vomit-inducing feeling he fought before now returned. The harsh reality of what had only occurred some minutes ago smacked him upside the head.
"Ow." whispered Jason mechanically as he gently massaged his scalp where it had met the flattened roof of the station wagon.
Aware that the roof was now only a short two feet above the seat, Jason decided to move about much slower now. The sensation of panic reduced slightly as he realized his previous jerky motions led to the incident with the roof.
"Well, this is quite odd," thought Jason tilting his head upwards.
Apparently, the end result of cascading over the majestic cliff left the brutally reconfigured vehicle found its final resting place upside-down. Jason was still loosely connected to the seat by the scorched lap belt. For the most part, Jason lay sprawled upon the burned ceiling. There was a large dent in the roof that caused Jason's back to arch vertically, allowing the small drop where he previously hit his head. This also left Jason with the uncomfortable stimulations caused by the massive amount of blood rushing to his brain.
Jason swiveled sideways and looked along the right angle of the cushion to find the faithful buckle that held him safely inside the car. He saw it haphazardly twisted away from him. Jason reached for it and wrestled with the lock. Partly caved-in due to some unknown force, an audible "click" resulted from his efforts but nothing else. Determined to breach this belt and escape the contorted wreck, Jason started to jerk about while harshly tugging at the strap. A sharp crack registered in his ears followed by a deliberate ring as the buckle broke and slapped the metallic ceiling. What little portion of his body remain suspended by the safety belt lightly landed upon the singed covering of the car.
The next important issue to be addressed within his mind was escape. Jason warily glanced towards the window above him. There was no window to freedom, however, only thin chunks of clear, jagged glass collecting in a pool of ash on the ceiling. What once was a window, was now the bulky curve of the roof of the car. Only a few shards of light shined underneath this depression, mockingly hinting at the window beyond.
"That's funny. Where is the light coming from then if the roof is cutting off the front seats and this window?" mused Jason.
His hope deteriorating, Jason peered down at his feet. Down there, silvery traces of light criss-crossed his feet. Exhilarated, Jason pushed his body in the direction of the cool light. Sliding across the slanted dent on the he was lying on, Jason could now see the source of this guiding light. The roof was a great deal less suffocating down there, giving way the hole that remained from this fractured window. Jason half slithered, half crawled down the ceiling until both feet could stand on the car shut door to support him. Wavering pieces of glass clung menacingly to the edges of this alternative to a door. Carefully, Jason tapped this debris off the edges and sunk through the hole.
A loud thud hailed the coming of the cluttered ground as Jason fell hard. Jason grimaced at the resonating pain in his pelvis and legs and surveyed them for any problematic injuries. Jason cautiously hoisted himself onto his feet. As he did this, he could feel small pricks of pain in his feet and stared down at his crying feet. The pain was being caused by the fine pieces of bark mixed with shattered glass piercing his slim socks.
Jason turned around and searched the broken back seat of the car for his sneakers. Seeing them huddled in the corner, he reached inside and plucked them out. Jason sat down on the wet ground and brushed his now dirty socks with his hand and proceeded to conceal them with his shoes.