This is chapter 8 of my novel, Foreign. I post a new chapter each Friday. If you’re behind and would like to catch up on previous chapters, click here.
“Holy crap, Justin! How did you get here?”
“I dunno. But we gotta move if we wanna get out of this. Let’s go.”
Justin hoisted Mark up from the ground and they ran down the hill in the opposite direction from all the fighting.
“I still can’t believe it’s you! I hardly recognized you, your bald head is so ugly,” Mark said while following Justin’s sprint.
“Shut up. Not now. We don’t have much time.”
“Time til what?”
“Shhh! Follow me. Stay low and stay quiet.”
They ended their sprint behind a cluster of hydrangeas, about fifty away from the opening space where Barry died. One of the large creatures was still there, battling with the other bald guy and one of the men with two bamboo shoots. The other creature had the woman and Chris cornered, steadily advancing with confidence.
“We’ve got to help them! What are we doing back here?”
Justin’s answer was short and flat, “ All four of them will be dead within a few minutes.”
“But you don’t know that!”
“Mark, you’ve got to trust me. I can get us out of here, but we have a short window, so short in fact, that we can’t escape and save them. I dunno about you, but I wanna get the hell out of this rathole. So do you trust me?”
“Ya. Of course, but-“
“Then we’ve got to wait here just another minute or so, and then you’ll need to sprint as fast as possible, exactly where I go. Got it?”
“Ok. On my mark.”
While Mark crouched in waiting for Justin’s signal, he continued to watch the others as they strove to survive. The same sense of anger and frustration began to overtake him just like the day before.
I can’t just sit here and watch these people get slaughtered! Today I can actually do something about it.
He looked over at Justin. Still no signal.
What is he waiting for? And where are we going?
The further of the two creatures grabbed ahold of Chris’ waist with its arms. Yelling profanities and wildly swinging his two bamboo swords as a last ditch effort, he kept fighting until the end when the bug had pulled him close enough to puncture his chest with its pincers.
Screw this. I can’t watch any longer.
Mark sprung out from behind his cover.
“Mark! You idiot!”
As he accelerated, Mark discovered that he wasn’t the only one running toward the melee. Like an approaching storm, he heard a multitude of smaller bugs approaching at his right flank. There really was no chance of survival.
Still, I have to try.
Strong arms gripped him from behind and brought his sprint to a crawl.
“Over here! This is our only chance,” Justin hissed.
Justin darted straight toward where the bugs were appearing and Mark followed right behind. Mark had never seen so many of the smaller creatures. A steady stream kept pouring out from behind a dense collection of orchid plants. They all kept charging for the large group of people,where there was the most commotion.
Finally when the guys were just about ten feet away from the cluster of plants, the stream of bugs quit. Justin didn’t quit running, though. He disappeared into the orchids. So Mark followed.
“Dive in!” Justin commanded when Mark was close. Without any knowledge of his target, Mark closed his eyes and leapt into the bushes, expecting to hit the dirt and get stuck in the plants. He slammed the front of his body onto what felt like cold metal and opened his eyes to a dim metallic cage, lit only by several air holes, letting crimson light bleed inside.
One of the last bugs had heard Justin’s yell and turned around to find its source. It returned to the orchids just in time to grab one of Mark’s legs as he dove away. Mark could feel his left leg caught on something so he began to kick and thrash about, but the bug was latched on like a bear trap.
A deep groan reverberated from under the cage and shook it violently.
“Shit! The door’s closing! Mark, get in.”
Mark forced his body closer into the cage and crept in a few more inches. The door kept sliding closed. Both of them heard the gruesome crunch as it relentlessly compressed the body of the bug that was still gripping Mark’s leg.
The door slowed but still continued to close like a vice, ever increasing the pressure on Mark’s ankle. Justin gripped Mark from under the arms and pulled with all his might trying to get him free of the bug’s grip and out from under the door, but it was still to no avail.
“Push, damn it!”
Finally, with a painful crack in his ankle, his foot twisted unnaturally and it slipped out of the dead bug’s grip. Mark made it into the cage right as the door closed completely, leaving the front halves of the creature’s arms and claws in the cage with them. They both laid there for a moment in the dark metal cage, totally exhausted.
“Nice move, ass! I told you to wait for my signal,” Justin blurted out.
“I’m sorry for having actually having a heart. How could you just watch those people get jacked like that?” Mark defended.
“You’re welcome for saving your life, by the way. Whatever, it doesn’t matter right now. You’re not going to like what I’m about to say. Roll up your left sleeve.”
“Just do it. We don’t have much time before they’ll get suspicious.”
“Ok. Now what?”
“Give me your arm. This is going to hurt like a bitch. But we have to do it.”
Justin pulled out a sharp sliver of bamboo and brought it close to Mark’s wound on his arm.
“Ow! Crap! Dude, what gives?”
“Don’t look down at your arm. Look straight at me. There’s a tracker, almost like a little GPS device they’ve planted in your arm. Any hope of escape we have will be thwarted until we get this thing out. On three.”
“What about you?”
“Aaaagh! Effff! You didn’t wait until after one, you jerk!”
“I know, but I knew the sooner the better,” Justin responded. He grabbed the bandage and retied it on Mark’s arm, pulling it painfully tight to slow the bleeding. “I already cut mine out. It hurt like crazy, but my arm didn’t look as messed up as yours. Now watch this.” He held up a bloody metallic ball, the size of a BB. “That sucker’s been in your arm, giving these bastards all your vitals, your current location, the last time you took a dump, and just about anything else they want to know.” Then he placed the tracker on the floor of the cage, took his makeshift wooden dagger, and slammed the blunt side of it down, smashing the tracker. “Let’s see those creeps try to find us and jack with us now.”
Mark just had to ask, “Dude, how did you find all this stuff out? I haven’t learned a damn thing here. I’ve been through a ton of crap, but I haven’t heard a complete word from a single person.”
“I don’t know a lot, but I was in a large battle like this one once before with other people who had been here a while. One of them was convinced that they had something in our arms but he just didn’t have the guts to cut himself open and find out. Another guy who had been in a ton of fights with these bugs they call antlions told me that he noticed the little ones always came from the place, no matter which room he was in.”
“These places are rooms?” Mark interrupted.
“Yeah, how else do you think you could enter and exit them through doors? Well, at any rate, this guy told me that he kept watching the antlions when they’d enter the rooms and there was always a finite amount of them, even if sometimes it was a ton. He had a theory that if you could get to the place where they came out quickly enough, maybe you could get in it during the short time between when the bugs leave and the door closes,” Justin continued.
“I dunno. Barry didn’t have time to tell me much more. We were talking about it a bit, but then stuff got crazy with those two giant antlions. None of us had seen any that big before. Barry looked like he was whoopin ass like normal, but then something happened, and one of those things friggin bit him in two. So we’re on our own now.”
“Dude, you know who that Barry guy is, right?,” Mark asked.
“What do you mean?”
Mark explained, “You might not remember, but the night we got sent here, I was telling you the cops found out the name of the guy we fought back up on Buck Mountain. His name was Barry.”
“No,” Justin was incredulous. “There’s no way. He was like half dead when he disappeared. And why would he help me?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t recognize you because you’ve got no hair? But think about it. He disappeared the same way we did. He would have to be in the same place. And what are the odds that we’d meet some other guy named Barry?” Mark pointed out.
“Man, that’s heavy. He saved my life. Like multiple times. And I had tried to kill him, back home.” Justin reflected.
Trying to be optimistic, Mark pointed out, “Yeah, but, dude, what are the odds that we’d see each other right when all this crap went down?”
“I know, right?” Justin agreed. “The whole time I was learning all this I was so torn because I knew you had to be somewhere in this place and I didn’t want to leave you behind. But I also didn’t want to sit around and die, waiting for you when you could already be dead too. But we should probably try to get moving. I don’t know how long it will be until they fill this thing up with more antlions or do how knows what else with it. How’s your foot feeling?”
Mark tried to rotate his left foot, the one that had been caught in door, but the pain was unbearable. It still felt like it was being crushed.
“I think it’s swelling a ton,” Mark diagnosed, “Probably broken somewhere too. I heard and felt a crunch or a pop when that crazy bug got smashed.”
Justin frowned, “That’s not good. Well, do you think for now you can at least crawl? We’ve gotta keep moving if we want to get out of here in piece.”
Mark slid over to the remains of the antlion and began manipulating one of the severed arms.
Perplexed, Justin asked, “Dude, what are you doing?”
“Almost got it. Aha! Here. Catch.” Mark lightly tossed one of the claws from the antlion’s arm to Justin and he kept the other. “At least now we’re a little better armed.”
“Good idea. Who knows when these will come in handy?”
For chapter 9, click here.