This story is by Robert Evans and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The small child held out her hand, hoping for food from an elder. The dull look on her face didn’t portray hope. A tiny tear rolled down the child’s cheek. Nothing to offer, the man crept away with head bowed. Everyone would starve if the seekers failed.
The man jogged, well, moved as fast as an old man could, towards the village. The freshly established portal meant they would survive. Beyond it, the incredible aroma beckoned with promise. The food alone appeared worth the effort and yes, even the risk, of the raid.
Gasping through the gates, he stumbled and fell. As soon as he regained his feet, several young men arrived and assisted him to the village circle. Immediately, the wise woman asked, “What news do you bring, are we blessed or cursed?”
He smiled, “We’re blessed beyond our hopes and needs.”
With joy in her eyes, she called out, “Summon the appointed ones!”
The crowd jostled as a woman and three men pushed their way through. Once they stepped into the circle, the man covered with white fur took the lead. “We are ready.”
She looked unhappy. “Isn’t this team assigned the next watch?”
“Two on the other team are sick.”
“Are you sure …”, she began, when a large black furred man stepped forward.
He spoke forcefully, “In any event, this is your team. The decision stands.”
The woman frowned, “As you wish, the seeker will guide their preparations.”
The small group gathered beside elderly man, drawing close as he described what would be required.
The screen glowed with a cheap movie that kept Tim captivated. David thought it was a stupid movie. However, the fact remained that it was Tim’s garage. He scanned across the table, relishing an edible distraction. “Tim, we’re out of pretzels. What else do you have to snack on?”
Tim reluctantly paused the carnage. “David, doesn’t your mom ever feed you?” He sighed and ambled over to the fridge. After all, as the host, he was burdened to find something worth the trouble of heating. “There’s leftover pizza in here.” Tim grabbed the leftovers, placed them on paper plates and gave them a ride inside the microwave. He handed David a plate while asking, “What if we were attacked? How would you defend this place from an onslaught?”
David laughed, looking up from where he sat on the couch. “Isn’t my garage, I would just go home. What would you do?”
Tim considered the pizza he held. “I would sling pizza at them. This stuff is so gross it would probably take out a whole gang.”
David stopped mid-bite. “That’s the best you can do? You’re inside a converted garage full of tools, and you would use greasy old pizza to fight off an attack?”
Tim grimaced as he replied, “At least I had an idea. You didn’t even try. I bet you would freeze up if something went down.”
Oolar faced the team, his eyes gleaming. “This portal is ours and we will return with food for the survival of our people. Moose, do you have the ropes and grappling hooks?”
The woman with deep black fur raised her eyebrows, rattled the two grappling hooks plainly in view, saying nothing. She saw no reason to reply. It’s great being a berserker, she thought. No one wanted to anger her if it could be avoided.
Oolar relaxed as turned his attention toward the other two, “Moon Thistle, Murtock, are you prepared?” The brothers, wiry and covered with beautiful apricot fur, rattled their swords sheathed in scabbards. Nodding, he said, “It is time. I will go first, wait for my signal.” The portal keeper turned around, made an elaborate movement with his hands, then with a mighty pull, opened a large portal from nothing. He crept forward, disappearing into darkness.
Two steps later, Oolar walked into a dimly lit world. His eyes dilated quickly, adapting to the weak light. He was overcome by an exquisite fragrance, which demanded his full attention. Lost to the possibility of finally eating, his mouth drooled at the incredible promise. Scanning nearby, he searched for the culinary delight. Until his face contorted and paled, while a heart pounding fear locked his knees and left him breathless. His survival instincts kicked in upon seeing the horrifying creature, easily six times larger than Oolar, sprawled upon a chair. Then, Oolar heard movement and shifted his eyes right. He saw another giant, who stood close to the first. The sound of chewing caught his attention and he noticed the sitting giant shoving food into its mouth. Whatever it was, the giants had it, and his people needed it. Entranced, he took a small step toward the food, without realizing he had moved.
Unfortunately, the beast noticed.
“Tim, when did you get a dog and why’s it on the table, begging?”
Tim wore a puzzled look. “I don’t have a dog. What are you …”, Tim bent down, and squinted at the fuzzy white animal. “That isn’t a dog. Dogs don’t walk on their hind legs like that.”
David shrugged. “Looks like a toy poodle. Here boy, good puppy!”
Oolar stepped back. The large beast pointed a mighty finger towards him, made some loud noises and raised its huge hand up. At the same time, Oolar was attacked from behind! He tumbled forward while whipping around. Only to see Moose gracefully hurdling over him. The berserker glaze was already in her eyes as Moon Thistle and Murtock stumbled through the portal. Panicking, Oolar twisted like a contortionist to follow Moose into certain doom. He began to break into a run to catch up with her. Immediately, the two brothers bowled him over. They darted past and with swords raised, erupted into a mighty battle cry.
David’s hand came down to pat the table top. As his hand struck the table, three more puppies ran toward him from nowhere, also on their hind legs. His mouth dropped open, seeing the closest spinning a small rope with a hook at the end. The other two brandished little knives while squeaking. The apparent runt of the litter couldn’t seem to keep his balance. That’s the cute one, David thought. Not wanting to hurt the odd little animals, David quickly slid his slice of pizza towards them. Tim stood there, frozen with surprise. The small invasion upon the table continued.
Moose’s vision was tinged red, she barely noticed the rather flat object sliding at her team. She glared at the futile attempt to halt her attack. Somewhere deep in the back of her mind, she sensed a marvelous aroma. Still in a berserker rage, she attempted to leap over the approaching mass. However, she fell quite short of the mark. She landed on her feet and tried to keep running. Yet the gooey substance relentlessly clung to her, forcing her face first into the stuff even as she loosed a blood curdling challenge. Shock ran through her body as part of the goop filled her mouth. Simultaneously, the berserker mode was snuffed out by the taste. It was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten. She struggled back up and swung her rope around, driving the grappling hook deep into the soft wood like base of the food. She threw the rope at Moon Thistle and repeated the maneuver with the second grappling hook, tossing that rope to Murtock. The brothers impending attack came to a sudden halt. Each holding a sword in one hand and a rope in the other. Briefly, with both their hands full, they attempted to reason through which was the correct item to use. They were fighters, not thinkers. She shattered their thoughts with a screech, “pull you idiots! This is the reason we’re here. Get it through the portal.” Two swords were sheathed and the ropes were pulled as Moose snarled, scrambled off and placed herself between the giants and the food. Oolar stepped around and placed himself beside Moose, to protect the spoils of the raid. They backed away from danger as the food was dragged across the table. The brave group scrambled towards their escape with victory in their eyes. There was a moment of panic as the plate wedged up against the edges of the portal, but as some pulled and others pushed, they forced it through. Moose shook her fist at the giants in a parting gesture, then stepped through the portal while Oolar began to close it shut.
Tim’s eyes bulged. “David! Those weren’t puppies, they were alien invaders.”
David grinned. “Well, they were just too cute and fluffy to hurt. So, I did exactly what you said would work. I threw a slice of pizza at them.” David picked up the slice left on Tim’s plate. Biting off a piece, he said, “The little guys were hungry, and everybody likes pizza.”