My burning heart lurched me forward, despite my gnawing exhaustion. I had to find him or die trying. As I came to the clearing, I saw Glenda standing alone, staring aimlessly at the bobbing heads of wheat in a distant field. I called to her as I approached and she turned her head dreamily to catch my voice.
“Please tell me you’ve seen my baby wandering by here!”
Her eyes fluttered as her mind pushed through the clouds.
“Oh…your son…Dan was it?”
“Don! Have you seen him?”
She thought, for ages. I shuffled nervously as time ticked away and I considered yelling to express my urgency, but figured it would only break her train of thought. At last, her mouth moved.
My chest was so filled with anxiety I thought it might explode. Glenda was attentive enough to notice my concern.
“Well…where did you last…leave him?”
“I put him in a small cave by the brook.”
Glenda shook her head in dreamy disapproval. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving him alone. I couldn’t blame him for wandering off, but I was quick to defend my choice, as much to Glenda as myself.
“I was trying to hide him, from them.”
Her eyes widened for an instant as terrible memories squirmed within her subconsciousness.
We call them the “Skeletons” due to their pale and hairless skin, which stretched thinly over their tall bodies and spindly limbs. When I was young, my mother used to tell me stories of a time long ago, before they arrived in massive ships that blotted the sun with their approach. She would tell me of the war, and how pitiful our resistance was against such advanced technology, of the like had ever seen before. Upon defeat, we feared they would wipe the rest of us out entirely, but they had something far worse in mind.
I was determined not to lose another child to them.
“Please, Glenda! You must remember.”
She pursed her lips as her mind waded through fog.
“I...think I remember…they took Dan…or maybe it was someone else…they took someone to the building this morning.”
My heart dropped straight into my gut.
“Not the building,” I whispered in disbelief.
Seemingly as a tribute to their victory, they built a monolithic wonder. It was a dark grey cube so large it seemed to straddle the world itself. Day by day, they emerge from the cube, as if spawned from within the walls, and wander about seeking victims to drag back inside, never to be seen again.
What occurs inside that cube is a mystery, but some who have escaped its confines have tried, through fits of terror and madness, to detail the fate of the pour souls trapped there. Some victims are killed but others are attached to a nauseating network of tubes and machinery that slowly drain body fluids. No one knows for sure what the Skeletons do with it, but some claim to have seen them drink it.
I ran up to the building and leaned against it. If my son was inside, he was as good as dead, but I had to know. My ears pricked up to the sounds of saws and screaming echoing from somewhere within. Even if he was dying right now, I had to be there, even to but gaze into his hazel-brown eyes one last time.
I peeked my head around the corner to the main entrance, but immediately ducked away. A Skeleton was lurking by the large opening and peering into the tree line. I peeked my head out just enough to see what it would do. It didn’t see me, but I watched as it caught sight of something in the distance and slunk sluggishly in the direction of the nearby waterfall. Tom and Brady hide by the waterfall, I thought. They probably have no idea what’s coming for them.
When the Skeleton was out of sight, I walked to the main entrance and gazed inside. Empty grey halls greeted me, each lined with a network of exposed wires and plumbing. I entered the stone structure. Each step I took reverberated and bounced off the walls for every Skeleton to hear, but fear for my son outweighed all else.
I approached a hallway, and a hot smell hit me like a sickening wave. It was the stench of blood, vomit, and the darkness of death itself. I descended deeper. With each step I took, instincts commanded me to flee, my senses heightened, and the smell became stronger. As I inhaled, something within me somehow recognized, within the sickening mixture in the air, the scent of my son. His blood. His death.
The sounds of carnage greeted me as I turned the corner and there, standing before me, was a Skeleton. It flashed its glossy white teeth at me. I expected it to kill me, and perhaps I was hoping that it would. But, extended towards me, it held food in its hand. Hesitantly, I accepted it and ate. As I chewed, I felt familiar chemicals enter my mouth. Like a spell, a warm haze dimmed my senses and blanketed my mind until calmness enveloped my concentration like a tight embrace.
“Why…have I come here? I can’t…remember.”
I could smell something funny in the air, but it was probably nothing. I looked up at the Skeleton, who smiled down at me.
“Okay girl,” it said patronizingly, “back to the pasture with you.”
I couldn’t understand what he said, but followed his gesturing out of the building. As I left the building and felt the grass under me again, I hummed comfortably. Before returning to my field, I looked back one last time so see a Skeleton carrying a strange box down one of the halls. Written on its side was the word, “veal.” I wonder what it meant.
Written by WanderingRiverdog