This is chapter 7 of my novel, Foreign. I post a new chapter each Friday. If you need to catch up on previous chapters, click here. Enjoy!
Heidi’s once gorgeous face contorted with fear as she struggled to get up off the ground. Behind her by the river was the group of bugs still feasting on the remains of the red headed man.
Oh God, please don’t let those things see her. Get up, Heidi! Get out of there before they see you!
Mark pulled against his chair restraints as hard as he could, but it was no use. Clenched fists, eyes closed, his whole body trembling, he writhed around until he couldn’t take the pain on his wrists and ankles any more. The restraints wouldn’t buckle. There was nothing he could do.
He tried yelling, “Heidi! Ugh! Hei.. di!! Aah! Cannnn aaagh you ooow hearrrr?”
The jolts of pain sparking through his nerves were too much to bear. His muscles contracted and jerked as his neurons sent pain signals throughout his body.
Heidi didn’t even look toward him. She hadn’t heard a thing from Mark’s room. Mainly because she heard the swarm of creatures from behind her. Without hesitation she started to run away from the group of bugs towards the open area.
Her rapid movements alerted the group of creatures to her presence. A few were still too interested in cleaning off the bones of their current meal to care about a new visitor. But there were enough that started to give chase Heidi’s outlook wasn’t good.
Mark watched all of this unfold with such a deep sense of rage that he could barely notice the pain from his arm anymore.
Before the insects got moving too quickly, the door slid open again and four black guards threw two more people into the fray. They both looked like they could have been teenage boys, one looked Asian while the other looked Caucasian.
Though they both had some hair, indicating that they potentially had more experience against these creatures, the timing of their entry was horribly perfect. The guards had cast them on the ground when the charging mantises were only a few feet away. Both boys never made it to their feet.
The Caucasian boy was instantly overpowered by two of the creatures. They made quick work of him, with well placed strikes from their pincers.
While he was thrashing about, the Asian guy appeared to have a fighting chance. Only two of the bugs engaged him. One had latched on to his shin while the other was wrestling with his arms. He managed to kick that one with his free leg while he maintained control of its arms with his own. But right as he was about to throw it off of him, the other bug bit extra hard on his shin, shattering the bone. The boy lost his grip on the other creature because of the intense pain. That moment of weakness was also his last moment of consciousness as the bug by his upper body capitalized on it, extending its pincers, and cracking his skull.
Heidi saw none of this occur because she was busy running for her own life. But she heard it all, and it only made her run faster. Nothing was going to stop her from running away from this nightmare.
She also didn’t see that one of the bugs never stopped to attack either boy, but kept going after her.
So far, Heidi had maybe been in the room for a total for thirty seconds, and Mark had already seen two more people get killed. That was four in total. He hoped he wouldn’t see a fifth, but he couldn’t think of any other alternatives. He just continued to watch as Heidi made her way toward the same group of mangrove trees he had run to not long ago.
Heidi made it through the clearing and was by the group of trees. However, she didn’t stop like Mark did. She just kept running even further down the trail.
Why didn’t I think of that?
The creature continued to follow Heidi down the trail, past the mangrove trees.
As predator and prey kept running, Mark realized that if they ran much further, he’d no longer be able to see them from his vantage point in the room. He had no idea what waited for Heidi around the bend in the trail.
Before long, she vanished from his sight. About a second later the sprinting creature did too. It was closing the gap. Heidi’s only hope was to find a tree to climb, or some kind of weapon. Then again, Heidi had never been the smartest of Justin’s girlfriends. She might just keep running and running.
Come on, Heidi! Get out of there. Find some cover. Somewhere. Anywhere!
Not very long after the two disappeared, Mark heard it.
It was exactly what he had prayed he wouldn’t hear. It was more distant than he had imagined, but it was definitely her voice. A protracted scream was cut short by a rhythmic clicking.
Damn it, Heidi! Why didn’t you climb the tree? Damn it, God! Why didn’t you protect her? What is going on?
Immediately after the scream Mark heard the doors in his own room open. Eight guards filed in, two for each person, presumably. Nobody said a word. The other people in the chairs sat patiently, waiting for their jailers.
Don’t they care about what happened? They look like they didn’t even notice!
Mark’s guards approached him and the one to his left pulled the steel cable from his arm with a yank.
“You sick bastards! You killed her! They were all torn to pieces! Why? What the hell do you want with us?” he raged.
A hard, black fist to his face was the only reply he received. The room went black.
Mark was getting sick of this routine. He wasn’t sure how many more times he could wake up in a dark room, totally disoriented after a traumatic event.
I can’t believe she was there! And they killed her. Like it was nothing. They killed all five of those people.
He sat up on the bed, still feeling stiff, with a splitting headache.Words couldn’t describe how he felt. It was beyond rage, a feeling completely foreign to him. Never in his life had he felt such a singular driving passion to kill somebody or a group of people. The intense feeling frightened him.
The lights came on when his feet touched the ground. Maybe some food and another shower would help him to feel better, or at least take his mind off of the terrors he had just experienced.
It didn’t. All he could think about was finding those men in black suits or robots or whatever they were, and beating his anger into them.
The condition of his arm didn’t help. During his shower he got a good look at the wound again. Varicose veins forked out in multiple directions from the lesion. None of his hair was growing back in around it, either. Whatever that steel cable pumped into him was seriously messing with his circulatory system. It must have been potent stuff.
While reaffixing his bandage and getting dressed he tried to sort out of his thoughts. He knew there had to be some way that he could get back at these people or do something to complicate their heinous plans. But before he could figure any of that out he would need to figure out how to survive in the jungle arena.
Every scenario he had seen so far was different. Some people just faced one small bug while others found themselves against larger ones or big groups. The odds didn’t always seem even. It almost appeared that they were trying to kill off certain people. Like the two teenage guys. They didn’t stand a chance. The guards had to have known precisely when and where they were throwing in the guys. Or the redheaded guy, for example. That whole situation seemed too unfortunate to be real. It was as if they had tricked him. He killed off the first wave and then when he least suspected, they stuck a whole pack on him. And the more he thought about it, the more he kept thinking that the red headed guy seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
So what worked well for people? Weapons certainly helped. The bamboo bat was a great idea. I’ll have to see if it’s still by the stream where that guy left it. Altitude was also a big help, at least for the little ones. But even for the taller ones, I bet I could have climbed higher into those trees. But what would I do then? Just wait until it dies of boredom?
Mark never got to answer his own questions because the door opened, and two guards entered to collect him. His throbbing head reminded him not to resist them, at least not yet.
They led him down the dark red corridor again. At the junction they continued straight ahead.
I’m going back in to fight, it seems.
Although, this time around they walked down the hallway for quite a while. He was certain they had passed the door he entered last time, but they kept leading him onward.
Finally they stopped him and turned to their left. The wall slid open and a jungle scene gradually appeared before his eyes. Instantly he heard yells, clicks, and shrieks.
Am I the last one entering this fight?
The guards tossed him in and the door shut behind.
Luckily, his landing was more graceful than last time. He landed on all fours, in a feral crouching stance. He was in a wide open area with little dark green shrubs all around him. A quick surveying glance revealed no immanent threats, but his ears told a different story.
“Barry, on your left! Get outta there!”
Real voices! And in English! They sound in trouble.
Mark looked for the source of the words but couldn’t see anybody. He was in one of the places around. He crept up the mound to his right, keeping his body low to the ground. As he crested the ridge, his jaw dropped. He counted six people engaged with two elephant sized mantis creatures.
These guys don’t stand a chance!
Two men were unarmed and essentially bald. They looked pretty clueless. A blonde woman had a rough piece of bamboo reassembling a short sword. Two larger men wielded a bamboo shoot in each hand. A man stuck in between both bugs had a long bamboo stick he was swinging like a staff.
“Barry, watch out again! The first one’s coming back to you.”
“Barry, now! Barry!”
The man with the staff spun around to parry an incoming attach with his staff.
Barry? No way! It can’t be.
The man between the two oversized bugs looked like he could be large enough. But Mark had no memory of what the Barry of Buck Mountain actually looked like. He had never gotten a good look.
Barry’s staff connected with both of the front limbs of the bug. Amazingly, he held his ground against the giant bug as they both wrestled for control of the bow staff. The others had the remaining creature occupied while Barry attempted to break his opponent’s defenses. With a loud grunt, he rammed the bow toward the bug’s body, hoping to knock it back.
As Mark heard Barry’s voice though, he knew. It was the same guy who had attacked them on the mountain. He had been here for over a month, fighting who knew how many of these things. As some of the questions that had haunted Mark for the last month were answered, many more flooded into his mind.
Mark’s musings were interrupted as he watched Barry struggle against the monster. Barry brought the bow staff down to bear upon the face of the bug. However, the giant bug held its ground, leaned into the attack, and thrust its pincer straight out, right into the middle of the staff, between Barry’s hands. The bow staff snapped in two.
Still pushing forward, Barry fell toward his enemy because the broken bow no longer held them apart. The creature’s wide-open mouth enveloped Barry’s whole upper body as it closed.
Barry was gone.
“Oh shit! Barry’s dead! We’re screwed!”
“Chris! No, don’t say that!”
Meanwhile, the woman shrieked and ran away. Pandemonium ensued. The five survivors gave up any sense of organization they had. There was yelling, running, swinging weapons, and roaring bugs.
One of the unarmed bald guys started running in Mark’s general direction, away from the bloodbath. He was approaching the top the hill and stopped dead in his tracks.
Lying on his perch, Mark saw that the bald guy stopped in front of him was Justin.
For chapter 8, click here.