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by lee ann mcclure

Standing in the last circle of sunlight, surrounded by these creatures, I didn't have a clue what I was going to do.  In the darkness of these caves, they waited.  Silently.  It was only a matter of time for them.  The only way out was about twenty feet above me, the only exit.  Unfortunately, I could not fly, there was no rope dangling down to aid my escape and I was now alone here, losing blood fast.

Eight of us came here.  The others were killed by these things.  My name is Rita Deakin and I am immortal.

Part of an elite unit, all of us immortals, we worked for a Special Agency.  We were used under the most extreme circumstances, a government secret.  Very few knew details about us.  Our identities or even our existence!  Over the years we had all worked well together.  We did our jobs and everyone was happy.  Until recently.  Our assignments were fewer and the Agency had seemed different towards us.  Nevertheless we kept on working, after all the years it was what we knew.  Seemed to be our purpose in life. 

Except now, here I am.  The last survivor.  Not for much longer though.  I reckoned I had less than five minutes before the sun was gone and my fate would be sealed.  They could not come into the sunlight you see.  Like vampires their bodies could not cope with the light.  It burned them badly, and Killed them.  I must have been surrounded by about forty of them, all waiting to consume my flesh. 

Let me try to describe them for you.  Like overgrown insects, about two foot long.  Similar to a beetle in colour and shape.  With long pointed snouts, with two rows of teeth, top and bottom.  Not huge fangs but certainly sharp enough to rip your flesh off with very little effort.  They had tails, like a scorpion, which tapered at the end to a fine point.  All I know about them now is what they look like, the fact that they can't survive in sunlight and that they wanted to tear me apart!

The information we were sent that led us to these caves was just about the complete opposite of what I now know.  Our brief stated that they could not see well in the dark.  They sensed others through movement, they were considered docile creatures!  Our best chances of eradicating their kind was to come into their lair and kill them off.  We were told that they were starting to venture onto land and posed a threat to others.  

We were told about one creature captured in a nearby forest, mid afternoon, after attacking a cyclist.  Being fast little animals, it had started to chase, spurred by the motion of the bike.  The cyclist was torn apart in seconds.  Scientists had been studying the creature in their labs for a while.  To avoid mayhem, it was decided that we should annihilate them.  These caves stretched underground over a wide area. 

We never questioned our superiors, and simply followed orders,  we trusted them,  followed our brief and did the job we were asked to do.  We had never faced anything that could wipe us out!  We had never confronted animals before, because we mainly dealt with humans!

We came down to the caves this morning.  Armed as normal, explosives were considered too dangerous for the surrounding area.  If we were to simply blow them into oblivion, we would not of had to journey into the caves and it took us hours to find even one of the creatures!  Of course the caves were lit up by light illuminating every nook and cranny.  

Travelling down into the heart of the caves, it started getting darker.  We had some torches and some solar lights with us. We did not realise exactly how useful they were going to become!  In one dark corner we noticed movement.  Something scuttled along by the wall.  We immediately turned shone our lights in its direction and its skin just bubbled and fried in front of us!  We didn't have a clue what had just happened.  It literally burned to ashes.  We couldn't even get a proper look at it.  It was gone within seconds. 

We sensed more movement behind us.  All turning in different directions, we shone our torchlights but we were not quick enough to catch anything. 

"Stay alert guys," Moog, our captain, said, "we know how to take these things out, aim for the tail."

That was what we were told.  The word was that their were sensory glands in the creature's tail, when hurt, it almost paralysed them.  Or at least disabled them long enough to put a bullet or knife through their brain. 

Serena came face to face with one of the creatures and she was the first to go.  Her torch facing forward, it came up behind her.  It moved so quickly, by the time she heard it, it had bitten into her leg so hard, pulling back with it's mouth and making her fall forward.  Maybe shock muffled her initial scream, but by the time we heard her screaming louldy, and we had turned around, she was shining her torch back at towards them.  More creatures had joined and they were stripping her of all her flesh within moments.  Her torch had no effect on them whatsoever. 

We shone our lights and a few turned to dust whilst others scurried back into the darkness.  Serena was more or less a skeleton, small patches of flesh remained anidst the broken bones. 

We maybe immortal but we bleed, feel pain and are still capable of being hurt and wounded, shot. We are not biologically immortal though.  We age as normal, and are prone to illness. Although our bodies are the same as that of a normal human being, it is just a form we have taken.  We feel fear, pain and all other emotions as you dp. 

Once the body has become no use to our soul, it leaves that entity and takes on a new one.  None of us are sure how or what we become after such an event.  Rumour is that we are reborn as mortals.  There has always been speculation about immortal death, and nobody in our unit has ever been taken before.  There were other immortals working for the Agency before us but we never heard what had happened to them.  I think possibly Moog and Vince knew what would happen to Serena now, because I did not know.  There was no lightning striking, no smoke, nothing rising from the carcass before us. 

"We should head back," I said, "this is all wrong.  We don't know what we are dealing with here."

"We have orders Rita," Moog stated, "we have a job to do.  Let's stay focused and keep moving.  They can't survive the solar light.  We have that on our side."

Serena was my best friend.  I couldn't believe she was gone, just like that.  All the training and assignments previously undertaken, we had never had to face something like this.  And I was scared.  We all could be taken out at any moment.  I didn't want to become a lost soul or a newborn baby!  I have a life outside the unit and I had found love this year, I was not ready to lose what I have just found.

There was no reasoning with Moog.  A few of us tried but he moved us forward.  We kept together, two by two, to share the solar lights.  Every now and then we would manage to see some of these creatures.  Any  movement we sensed, redirected our lights and we wiped them out, but they just kept coming, they were all around us, dodging our lights whenever they could.

We were not aware that the creatures could climb walls!  That is until two more of us were taken down.  They came from above, and knocked the light out of Ray's hand and it fell to the floor.  It smashed against the rocks and went out.  You have to bear in mind these things moved very quickly.  Others were waiting behind them and in the moments of darkness, they had killed both of them. 

Of course we turned as quickly as reaction time allowed, and using our lights, we caught a few more with them, and they perished.  Turning on our heels, Moog, who was in front, had one come at him from above too.  It landed on his head and began chewing into his face.  He did have a light in his hand and managed to point it upwards and the creature turned to ashes. 

"I can see daylight over there, by those rocks," I screamed at the others, "Let's move!"

Running towards the area of light, grabbing Moog, we dragged him to safety.  With half his head missing and all the blood covering him, he told me to take him out!  All immortals have a weak spot where they can be killed. A pressure point at the back of the lower ear lobe, a sharp object pushed into the correct place is the only way!

He needed to be put out of his misery.  Without hesitation, Vince got his knife and did the job quickly.  I couldn't.  This was all happening so fast.  Four of us gone.  I needed to pull myself together and get a grip of the situation. 

The light was coming in from a large gap in the rocks above, but it was not big enough for any of us to get through.  Vince climbed up but it was not going to be our way out.  He seemed to be in control.  Strong and intelligent, we were happy for him to to take the lead.

"We need to keep moving and find a way out of here," He began, "time is against us.  The sun is not going to stay out forever!  We have three of these solar lights.  We must stay tight, together and alert.  Try to keep our lights shining at every angle around ourselves."

Our options, at that point, were to listen to Vince or to let hysteria set in.  Obviously we had to move.  The light was already starting to dwindle.  We could sense their presence of the creatures in the darkness behind us.  Armed and alert we had to go.

We walked on for about another ten minutes then came to what looked like a dead end.  There was nothing following us up until then.  They obviously could not get past that point of sunlight behind us.   Vince found a direction for us to take.  We were going to have to crawl through a small tunnel on our hands and knees, it was going to leave us vulnerable from attack from behind if we did not move quickly. 

"I think we should get moving but leave a little surprise for these suckers!" Vince winked, pulling out explosives. 

Sure, we were not meant to use them down here.  Considering the circumstances now though, we didn't care too much about the consequences.  If these things were to venture out at night, the carnage would be immense.  The beams of light were dying around us.  The sun was obviously moving and darkness began to prevail.  We had to be quick.  There was still some light at the other end of the tunnel, we prayed that it should be safe for us to get through. Our choices limited, we had no option.

Vince set up the explosives and we started through the narrow tunnel, making sure the lights were facing ahead of us.  The timer was set, giving us time for safe passage, we started to descend.  Vince had to climb through feet first so he could keep the light shining behind to stop the creatures following.  Not far inside, one came from behind the entrance to the tunnel and tried to slam into the light to break it.  The creature moved so quickly, but not quick enough to dodge the light.  These things were so aggresive and  Intelligent, they knew exactly what they were doing.  Another tried to reach us, but was swiftly reduced to ashes. 

The light aiming straight ahead of him, one creature started coming along the roof of the tunnel.  Tess shot at it while I got the light turned in it's direction.  Raj was at the front with the other light.  Edging forward to the end.  More of them kept trying to enter the tunnel with us.  We had forced them back with our lights, and then their pursuit stopped!  Something else had their attention.

We were not waiting to find out what i was.  We had only minutes left until the explosives would obliterate our surroundings, so we had to get moving fast.  It was clear at the end of the tunnel, and there was ample daylight coming through the cracks in the rocks.  Land was just above us at this point but, again, there was no exit big enough for us to get through.  We had to keep going, we knew that these rocks would come down on top of us from the impact of the explosion. 

Running as fast as our feet could take us, we tried to follow a route that still offered some light. The creatures had to bide their time until the light faded before they were able to pursue us any further.  But then the explosion ripped right through the tunnel entrance, and molten rocks reduced to blazing frgments came thundering down upon the creatures, completely sealing off the whole area.  There was no way back for us.  We had hoped it would expose a way out, but it did not.

Facing us now was endless darkness, we were not sure if all the hostilities were behind us.  Trying to light up everywhere was not easy.  We faced attack from every angle.  We could only use our intuition and senses to get us through.  Staying alert and focused, we continued onwards.  Time was of the utmost essence.  Glimmers of natural light were almost completely gone.  We were going deeper underground here.  At this depth there appeared to be no creatures, perhaps we had killed them all? 

Tensions slightly decreasing, we still had to keep on top of the situation.  We came across a large open area and the stench was bad.  How we did not notice it before, I'll never know.  There were bones everywhere, carcasses half eaten, and little mounds of earth everywhere.  There was also natural daylight!  Shining down through a huge gap above.  Unfortunately it was over twenty feet above us. 

Raj noticed movement near a half eaten animal.  Shining the light towards it as he walked closer, there was a scurry of movement.  It appeared to be small insects feeding.  Nothing to worry about? As the light kept them at bay, but they moved about his feet and quickly swept up his legs.  He tried to brush them off with his hands but there were too many of them.  Biting into his hands as he flicked them away and still climbing.  We turned our lamps onto him and some perished, others moved around to his back and kept climbing.  Finding flesh on his neck and head, they bit into him and burrowed under his skin and into his body.  

We surrounded him, shining our lights to kill off what we could, but his screams were terrifying.  One of them must have hit his pressure point.  His body just collapsed in front of us.  He was gone.  Those things were still inside him.  No doubt enjoying a fresh meal!

The floor looked like it was moving.  The insects were everywhere.  Tess and I moved to the circle of light.  It was the only safe spot.  Vince was stamping on them, shining light everywhere to kill them, he was going crazy.  Preoccupied with that, he did not notice that behind him were several of the fully grown beasts.  We screamed at him to move but as he turned and started shooting, he was quickly overwhelmed.  The beasts dragged him down upon the ground and he fought them off as they bit into his body. The little insects were the hardest to fight off.  Too small and fast to stop.  As with Raj, they found a flesh spot and burrowed inside him. 

We kept firing at them, trying to take out as many as we could.  More came.  The little ones all seemed to make for the two half eaten bodies.  The larger ones were heading towards us!  The two lights Vince had were getting smashed apart.  They were smart little devils.  They climbed to the top and fell onto the lights to try and break them.  Several insects died, getting caught in the beams but they kept attacking until the lights were out!  This left the one light we had and the natural sunlight we were standing in but the circle was decreasing!

We fired shots, mainly out of desperation, but we were wasting what ammunition we had left.  When that light vanished, one lamp was not going to save us.  We stood back to back ready to face the onslaught. 

"Rita I'm not going to let these things eat me" Tess began. "I would rather go quickly and painlessly!"

The same thoughts were running through my head but I could not stop thinking about Jonathan, my partner.  In fact I was thinking about everything.  My life.  All the things that had happened to me.  Now I had truly found some happiness, finally, it was going to be lost.  I always thought my my life was jinxed. 

I did not discover my immortality until age eleven.  My father was an insane man.  A violent rage seemed to consume him.  Fuelled with alcohol, he murdered my mother in cold blood and turned the bloody knife on me.  He stabbed me in the stomach and chest and left me to bleed to death while he killed himself.  I managed to stagger out of the house and collapsed in the road.  The Doctors said I should have died.  Over the years I wished I had.  I was the start of a downward spiral.  Here I was reminiscing over the worst years of my life whilst facing death.

"We have to stop these things from ever getting out of here"  My fighting spirit returned "They are going to get us.   Why don't we take them out before they get their chance?  Vince has explosives"

"Yes and he is also over there Rita.  With those isects all over him.  Look! They're coming out of his eyes!"

"If you shine the light over towards him" I began "I can stay in it's path, go get them."

It was a crazy idea but I went for it anyway.  Slowly I made my way over to what used to be Vince.  It was awkward but it seemed to work.  Just as I was reaching down into his jacket one of the insects jumped down on me from above.  As soon as it hit the light it was gone.  Another came running towards me across the ground, but its body cracked and flaked into ash.  I recoiled slightly and almost lost my balance.  That seemed to be their plan.  As more of the revolting insects scuttled towards me and forced me to retreat.   

My arm went out of the path of light and immediately it ended up in one of the beasts snouts.  It bit down so hard and it tried to pull me into the darkness.  Feeling it's teeth tear through my flesh, Tess went to shine the light its way nearly exposing the rest of me to the darkness,  then something really strange happened.

One of the other creatures bit into the tail of the one that had me.  It released its grip and I managed to get back beside Tess.  Blood was pouring down my arm. The light was lessening and our solar lamp was also fading.  They were everywhere all around us,  biding their time until the light faded.

For every one we killed, more appeared.  Tess refused to be taken by them.  She wanted me to kill her.  There was more speculation that if you took your own life,  you would be condemned to a life of hell.  Who knows!  I knew that without Tess I would be left to face the mosnters alone.  She begged me to kill her.  I still believed there had to be a way, not having any clue what, but believing that we could escape.  The situation now was coming to an end.  I got my knife and did what she wanted.  She fell at my feet.

Fear, grief and dread controlled me now.  Tears ran down my face as the lamp went out completely.  I was standing in this circle of light, surrounded by the insects,  I stopped watching and looked away.  In a few minutes time I knew that I would be consumed.

What I was not aware of was what was going on in the darkness!  They were attacking each other.  Some of them were using their tails and putting them through the heads of others.  What was going on?  It was only as they started unsettling around me that I got any inclination of the turmoil.  Whatever was happening, rekindled small glimmers of hope for me.

The insects started fighting among each other.  The light was fading rapidly now and I could feel myself weakening from blood loss.  More of them were getting killed by the others.  I could hear voices from above.  A rope was thrown down to me.  I tied it around my waist and I was pulled to my freedom.  Two men stood before me, neither man was known to me.

"Rita" one of them began "It's me... Serena"

Once again in my life I found myself staggering along a road.  Bloody and bewildered.  Once again, with more knowledge gained at the end of it.  We immortals are not reborn as mortals after death.  Our capabilities only grow more.  We have the choice to inhabit any life form we want.  We can leave it any time we choose also.  As a tight unit, we stuck together in life and now also in death...  Or death of one life!

© lee ann mcclure 2011


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