By Kalin Ringkvist
(Read all of Thass Rit on Kindle)
(Read all of Thass Rit on Kindle)
Abuc knew it was an idiotic idea from the beginning. But the boredom and sleeplessness forced him outside. It was early, too early for anybody to be awake yet. There wouldn’t be anyone who would want to go with him. He thought about the unspoken rule that people never went outside the barrier shield alone, but Abuc was a large man and figured he could handle anything that might come up. There had never, in the six months of the colony’s existence, been any serious incident with anyone going outside the barrier. He figured he could take care of himself.
He wanted to tell somebody about his venture. He didn’t want to worry anyone, but the only guard posted at night was nowhere to be found. No problem, he thought. I should be back before the sun rises.
Abuc quietly followed the path out of town, not wishing to wake anybody still sleeping in their little huts. The tingling sensation as he passed through the perimeter force field felt stronger than he was used to. They turned the power up at night. The gate that would let him back in stood on the other side of the colony, probably a ten minute walk.
Absently picking and eating berries, he walked along, admiring the strange species of plants that grew along the way. The three moons, glowing brightly in the night sky, lit his path.
Setting his wrist compass to home in on the colony so he could find his way back, Abuc started to wander from the trail. He pushed carelessly through the forest of densely packed, but very skinny trees, that resembled enormous blades of grass. He trudged on for nearly an hour, admiring the plant and occasional animal life. It seemed peaceful, being completely alone, in this slowly brightening nighttime. He felt perfectly safe on his solitary venture, on this alien world.
He stopped suddenly, hearing something that sounded like voices, but distorted, combatively hissing. Cautiously, he followed the sound and after half a minute, his eyes widened in shock. Through the trees he could see a large bonfire and several short but upright figures silhouetted against it. At first they looked human, but at second glance he realized that the arms were too long and extended from the torso at a point far too low, almost at the waist.
Abuc’s fear seemed to be overpowered by his awe. The colonists had believed that this planet had no forms of intelligent life. When first examining the world they had made scans from orbit. Obviously they had fouled up, because here, barely thirty meters away, were strange beings with the ability to harness fire and who seemed to be communicating using loud hissing noises.
He didn’t dare venture any closer to the strange beings. He had to get back to the colony and tell somebody. Staring at his wrist compass, he acquired his bearings and started a quiet walk back toward the colony.
His heart stopped for a moment. One of the beings stood several strides to his right, watching him. It was maybe one and a half meters tall, covered with thick brown fur, and had huge round eyes. It’s arms, jutting from midway up it’s torso, folded around itself. It was ugly, but even at this distance Abuc could sense an intelligence from the way it held itself, from the way it stared, as curious about him, apparently, as he was about it. Without thinking he took a step toward it and it moved suddenly, unfolded it’s arms in a defensive posture and curled back it’s lips to reveal a set of long fangs.
Abuc stopped abruptly, backed slowly away. He began making his way in the direction indicated by his wrist compass, toward home. The creature covered it’s teeth again. He watched it over his shoulder as it very cautiously began to follow him.
Oh, God no, no, he thought. Stay where you are. Don’t follow.
He looked away, hoping to increase his pace and escape, and noticed a second creature standing to his left, a little closer than the first. It took two quick steps toward him, stopped, cocked it’s head, stared, took another step. This one appeared to be less cautious than the first.
Abuc began to veer to his right, trying to avoid the thing. It followed, seemingly unafraid, but keeping a relatively safe distance. He walked for a minute and both followed. Testing them, he increased his pace, and the two aliens increased theirs. He stopped. They took several steps and also stopped. They seemed to be slowly closing the distance. Both were an equal distance from Abuc but they flanked him on both sides.
Running through his options, he wondered how fast they could run. This planet had less gravity than Earth, but more than Abuc had been used to on his eight year journey aboard the spaceship that had brought him and the other two hundred colonists to this world. His muscles must have weakened in eight years. Surely the alien’s legs were more powerful than his and could carry them swifter. They were smaller than he was, but the teeth looked pretty deadly. He wondered if he could fight them off if need be.
He didn’t want to hurt them anyway, so the only real option he had was to run.
He took off as suddenly as he could, changing direction a little but trying to keep himself headed toward the colony. The speed he attained surprised him. It wasn’t as easy as running across open ground but he could push himself through the skinny trees, using his arms as well as his legs to attain his velocity. He didn’t look back to see if they were keeping up. He couldn’t. It took too much concentration darting between the thickly packed trees.
After a couple minutes running at full speed he risked a look at his wrist compass and accordingly altered his course. Another few seconds passed, and he glanced over his left shoulder, but couldn’t see anything. He glanced to the right. Again, nothing. He felt a little more secure now. Still, he did not stop running, for fear that the creatures were directly behind him and he had not been able to see them with either of his sideward glances.
After another minute he convinced himself that he had lost them. He slowed down enough to turn around and make sure, and yes, they were gone. Panting, he slowed a little more but still kept a brisk pace.
A sudden crash to his left startled him. A creature leaped through the trees. Trying to alter his course, Abuc stumbled, hit his shoulder on a tree and fell to his knees.
The creature pounced before Abuc had time to regain his balance. It drove him to the ground and rolled him onto his back. The alien grasped him in a tight hold, wrapping it’s great arms around him and held steady.
Panic stricken, Abuc tried frantically to pull himself free, kicking and squirming with all his strength. The stench overpowered his senses. It had a sweet, sickening odor, like an unwashed animal.
It looked into his eyes. Their faces were now mere centimeters apart. He stopped squirming and stared back at the creature and noticed that it hadn’t exposed it’s teeth yet.
It sat up, loosening it’s hold upon him. It looked over it’s shoulder and began calling, in it’s sharp, hissing dialect. A second one appeared, walking slowly through the trees, and as it approached, Abuc could see more of them further away. The realization that he was dealing with a pack of these things and not just one or two set off another wave of panic. Abuc twisted wildly side to side and managed to get his arms free. Kicking at the ground, he started pushing away. The creature turned it’s attention back to Abuc. With it’s right hand (maybe more like a paw) it grasped Abuc’s left wrist and held it steady, but left his right arm free. The alien did not attempt to seize it. It hissed loudly, still communicating with it’s comrades. It seemed to be laughing. Abuc assumed they were happy about capturing dinner.
He frantically searched the ground with his right hand, looking for something, anything, that could be used for a weapon.
A large stone, about the size of his head, caught his attention. It took a second to wrench it free of the ground.
With all his might, Abuc brought the stone up in a wide arc, praying the shot wouldn’t be blocked. It connected with the creatures skull, making a dull thud. The alien rolled off of Abuc, it’s arms wrapped around it’s head, hissing in pain. The other creatures ran forward. Whether they were coming to attack him or to help their friend, Abuc didn’t know, but he wasn’t planning on waiting to find out.
He ran hard, with all the power he could muster. He didn’t even consider looking back or at his compass. The sheer panic drove him, and he didn’t think about the direction he headed. He didn’t feel tired after a minute of running and felt almost as though he could go on forever. But he wasn’t fast enough. After several moments, he felt a furry hand on his shoulder, and noticed the claws digging into his flesh.
The strength of the creature surprised him. It stopped him easily, spun him around and released his shoulder. It snarled, baring it’s teeth. Before Abuc could take off again it raised an arm and batted him across the face, ripping out bits of flesh with the swipe. Abuc hadn’t noticed claws on the creatures before this. Perhaps they were retractable.
It grabbed Abuc’s hair in a tight grip and pulled his head back. He punched wildly, connecting often with the creature but apparently not doing much damage. It clearly had control over the situation.
His head was suddenly thrown forward and he saw for an instant a close up of the trunk of one of the skinny trees. Then everything went black.
______ ______ ______
The tremendous pain in his head awoke him. He sat up, his eyes tightly shut, his hands pressed against his forehead, trying to bear the agony. Instinctively he went for his pocket and found his hypo-syringe. He opened his eyes just wide enough to see what he was doing. His fingers were shaky but he still managed to click the safety off and set it to administer a pain killer. Putting the thumb-sized instrument to his neck, he pulled the trigger, and let the relief come flooding through him. His headache quickly subsided to a dull throb.
Now Abuc looked around to see dozens of silent alien faces staring down at him. He started to get up from his thick bed of dead leaves and they all surged backward, frightened. Standing above them he could look around at his surroundings. He was in a village. Little huts with roofs made from large, broad leaves, dotted the landscape as far as he could see. He couldn’t see far, but he estimated that there were probably at least as many of these creatures living here as were humans living in the colony.
Looking around at the aliens, he noticed there were other kinds that he hadn’t seen the night before (he assumed it had only been a few hours since he had fought the two creatures in the forest). There were a couple small children, barely as tall as Abuc’s knee, holding the hands of their mothers. He could see the difference between the males and females. The females had four large pink nipples situated around their bellies. The night before he had seen only the males.
He heard a loud hissing from behind the crowd, and Abuc saw another of the creatures walking quickly towards him, a male. His head was bandaged with leaves and his left hand was pressed against the left side of his head. His mouth opened, showing teeth. Abuc noticed that none of the other aliens showed their teeth.
They all started talking at once. He began to make out individual words, but, of course, could make no sense of any of it.
Three males blocked the creature with the bandaged head and wouldn’t let him approach Abuc. Abuc was grateful for that. As they persuaded creature to turn around, he glared at Abuc, raised a hand and slowly extended his claws. He snapped his jaw shut. Almost certainly a threat. It must have been the alien Abuc had hit with the rock the night before and was now out for revenge.
The sun hung high in the sky now. It was pretty stupid to be out at this time without sunglasses or sunblock, but he hadn’t imagined he would be out this long. He checked his face to see if he had burned but all he found were the scars from where he’d been clawed the night before.
A few of the males came forward and spoke to the crowd, which soon began to break up. After a moment they turned to Abuc. One held out his hand, claws withdrawn, and indicated Abuc’s hypo-syringe.
“No,” Abuc said, shaking his head. The syringe was necessary for his survival on this world. Switching the safety on, he closed his palm around it and put it back in his pocket. He hoped they would forget about it.
Thinking about the hypo-syringe, he again thought himself incredibly stupid. It was a perfect weapon. Just set it on SEDATE, and turn the power up to full. Judging from the size of these creatures they would probably faint within five seconds. He could have taken out a dozen of them before the juice ran out and not actually injure a single one. If only he had thought of it last night.
The creature hissed a command to Abuc and wiggled his fingers, indicating he wanted the syringe.
He opened his mouth, displaying wicked teeth, snarled, and took a step forward.
Reluctantly, Abuc handed over the instrument.
One of them positioned himself behind Abuc and lightly shoved him forward. Five more flanked him on the right and left. They walked. In fifteen minutes they were out of the village and following a forest trail. Abuc checked his compass. He was now eight kilometers from the colony. Thankfully they hadn’t tried to take his wrist compass. He could survive for five or six days without the hypo, but without his compass, if he ever escaped he would be lost, probably forever. He tried to memorize the direction of the colony, just in case.
It took them almost an hour to reach their destination. During that time, Abuc searched for methods of escape, but found none. There were six of these creatures guarding him, and he had already figured out that they could run faster than he could. At one point, he tried simply walking away, slowly turning toward the colony and walking at the same rate, hoping they would simply follow him or ignore him. But no. They grabbed his shoulders–not violently, but hard enough to irritate the cuts he had received last night–and steered him back on course.
Eventually they reached a cliff and began following a switchback trail. The path ended about halfway up the cliff. Another male creature sat on a rock, holding a long spear carved from some kind of colorful wood. He stood up slowly. The creatures spoke for several moments. The new one peered at Abuc curiously.
Abuc looked over the edge and saw that it wasn’t incredibly steep. He could probably climb down in relative safety without aid of rope.
He turned, and saw a cave. At the mouth of the cave stood a door of iron bars. A cage, or prison cell of some sort. It surprised him a little to find out that these creatures were that advanced. He could see what was obviously a keyhole on the left side.
Presently the guard with the spear turned to the door, unlocked, and opened it. Gently the aliens pushed Abuc inside. The door closed and locked behind him.
Looking around his new home, he saw another creature, a male, sitting on a bed of leaves in the corner of the cave. They stared at each other for a long moment, but then the creature seemed to lose interest, lied down and turned away. Abuc continued to look around.
The cave wasn’t very large. It extended back about ten meters, and reached about seven meters at it’s widest point. The ceiling was just barely high enough that he could stand at full height. A shallow stream flowed from left to right in the back of the cave. He explored it, hoping that there would be some sort of opening that might allow for an escape, but found nothing. The stream was too shallow for him to squeeze through at either opening. There was enough water, however, to wash himself. Abuc hated the idea of being penned up in here with no way of bathing.
He explored the rest of the cave, but could find no openings that might be a means of escape. He tried to pick the lock with a small stick he found. After several minutes the guard outside noticed him, and hissed aggressively, and would not stop until Abuc moved away. It was apparent that he was in here for good.
______ ______ ______
The aliens brought food later that day. Several of them came and unlocked the door and dropped in a package wrapped in leaves. They said nothing and left as quickly as possible.
Abuc’s roommate came forward immediately and claimed the package, carried it further into the cave and unwrapped it. Inside lay a large chunk of raw meat. He took it to a corner and began eating greedily.
Picking up a leaf left on the ground, Abuc examined it. Blood still stained it, but he took it to the stream and washed it. Cautiously, he tasted it. Not bad. He took another bite. I could live on this if I had to, he thought.
The creature had stopped eating and stared curiously at Abuc. Abuc took another bite and the creature slowly ripped off a chunk of meat and began chewing, eyes still fixed on Abuc. They stared at each other.
After a long moment, Abuc turned and took a drink of water. When he looked back the creature had ripped another bit of meat from his slab. He stood and walked cautiously toward Abuc, holding the small chunk in his outstretched palm, offering it to him.
Abuc wondered if the creature would be offended if he declined. If he still had access to his hypo-syringe he might have accepted, but without his daily dose of antibiotics he had to be extra careful about what he ate. If he could acquire another hypo within the next seven or eight days, he figured he could still survive, but it was safer to avoid anything that might house an abundance of bacteria.
“No, thank you,” Abuc said, shaking his head. When the creature persisted, Abuc backed away a step and held up his hand to show that he wasn’t interested.
The alien didn’t seem too upset. He eagerly ate the morsel himself, sat down, and finished the rest of his meat.
______ ______ ______
After several hours of waiting, Abuc stopped worrying about the creature locked up with him. This one didn’t seem violent–and, in fact, the only one of the aliens that did seem violent was the one he had first encountered in the woods. Abuc decided that they probably weren’t as dangerous as he had previously perceived. He stopped watching the creature so closely and started searching for a way out. He went to the door and began examining the lock mechanism.
When his roommate attacked him from behind, he thought that maybe he had been wrong. A long, furry arm wrapped around his neck, another around his waist and threw him to the ground. The creature came toward him, but Abuc placed a foot on his belly, and pushed him back against the cave wall. Abuc quickly rolled to his feet and stood with his arms out, ready for the creature’s next attack.
Standing in a similar ready position as Abuc, the creature took a few steps to the side. He took a sudden step forward but then stopped, perhaps just trying to confuse his enemy. Abuc noticed he had neither his claws nor his teeth exposed.
The creature balked again, a little off balance. Abuc saw his chance. He rushed forward, tackling him, driving him downward. He pinned the creature to the ground, who began swinging his arms wildly, trying to pull himself free. Once, the creature hit Abuc across the face, but the swipe did not hurt him as much as expected. The alien still did not have his claws exposed.
Grabbing the creature’s arms, Abuc was able to get him settled down. He struggled a few more times, but Abuc had the alien held down tight.
Abuc was certain now that the creature had only been playing a game by attacking him. Abuc had now won the game. After about thirty seconds he released the alien’s arms and got up. Neither made any move to continue the fight. The creature walked away slowly, defeated.
Read all of Thass Rit on Kindle
Read all of Thass Rit on Kindle