This story is by Daniel Weaver and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As he sat, concealed behind a lone bush next to an abandoned bus stop, Jeremy, for a moment, thought he was doomed. It was there he spotted them: Two tall scaly creatures, at least seven feet, with icy blue skin looming warily down the vacant street. They were alone, speaking with hushed voices in a strange language. They were looking for someone, he realized. Looking for him.
He must have made a noise somehow, because their tones suddenly shifted, their eyes – and weapons – fixated on the shrub.
Shit snacks! He thought, his heart racing, mind screaming. His eyes swept the surrounding buildings for an escape route, finding a shattered window behind him. He broke into a quiet sprint, tripping clumsily on a rock, sending him careening through the window. The shard of glass in his leg sent a shriek of pain erupting from his lips, which immediately caught the attention of the alien creatures.
At first, they hesitated, shouting at each other in that unfamiliar language, pointing their guns to the window. Their utter confusion gave Jeremy ample opportunity to make his move, promptly finding a flight of stairs leading straight to the roof, leaving a trail of crimson in his wake. Upon realizing this, he immediately reached for his pack.
“Good thing I took those survival courses online,” he said, doing his best to dress the wound. He peered over the edge to find, with relief, the two had vanished. He looked out into the sleeping city regrettably, his beard dancing in the frigid wind.
“What have I done?”
Pain shot through Jeremy’s leg like knives as he struggled to traverse the empty streets and lifeless buildings. He found a lonely pickup truck where he could rest his furious wound. He wondered, with his luck, if that moment of respite would last long.
It didn’t. The two creatures he had encountered prior had returned, only this time they had company. Outnumbered and outgunned, Jeremy leaped out of the flatbed in a panic.
A voice called out to him from the shadows. “Hey, in here! It’s either here or a quick, painful death. You decide.” Having the sense not to argue, he slid hastily into the darkness like a serpent.
Jeremy’s flashlight shone all around, revealing an old abandoned pub. Behind the bar, wiping down a shot glass, stood an unusually tall figure wearing long red robes.
“It’s empty,” the man said.
“Your gun. It’s not loaded.”
Confused, Jeremy checked the magazine. Sure enough, it wasn’t.
“How did you–”
“Just a gift, I suppose,” he said, face concealed by a cowl. The man opened his hand, dropping a row of bullets onto the table. “Should be sufficient for someone like you. Someone who doesn’t do much shooting.”
He studied Jeremy’s leg. “You’re injured.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“Oh don’t be stubborn,” he said. “I can tell by your awkward stance, the way you carry yourself. Let me help you.”
Before Jeremy could protest, the man’s palm lit up with a warm glow as he wrapped his long fingers around the inflamed appendage. Jeremy winced, and before he knew it the robed man spread out his hand to reveal a shard of glass.
Perplexed by what he witnessed, Jeremy examined his leg. No shard. And best of all, no blood.
“Who… are you?” He asked.
The man’s eyes shifted nervously. “I, um, you can call me Greg. I’m a… healer of sorts.” He looked at Jeremy curiously. “Odd. Everyone else fled for their lives. Yet you stayed behind. Why?”
“I was in charge of supervising this crash site,” Jeremy explained. “It allegedly contained advanced alien tech the government wanted to cover up. My curiosity got the best of me. I awoke something from that ship. Something… scary. My negligence endangered the lives of everyone in this city, as well as my men. Now I have to make things right–”
“By eliminating the threat,” Greg finished. Jeremy nodded.
“Then you, my friend, are just the man I needed.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you wish to confront the Vuuth–”
“Your new friends,” Greg continued. “There aren’t many left, but they are too much for a man such as yourself. No, I have a better solution.”
“What do you propose?”
“We send them back,” Greg said. “Let me explain. Not too far from us, in the center of town, lies a crystalline battery: The missing piece of the Vuuth traveler. We bring it back to them, and we just might have a chance of survival. Any objections?”
“What’s the catch?”
Greg winced. “About that,” Greg said. “The entire site is under military control. Your former friends, I believe.” Jeremy’s eyes widened.
“How the hell are we supposed to infiltrate a heavily guarded test site?” He said.
“Simple,” Greg replied. “I just need you to help me pull it off. What do you say?”
Jeremy thought Greg’s plan was insane, suicidal. But he knew he couldn’t live with himself otherwise.
“Let’s do this,” he said. “If I die, at least maybe I’ll die a hero.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Greg. “I didn’t catch your name, friend.”
“It’s Jeremy,” he said. “That’s all you need to know.”
“Now, what we’ll need to do is glide gracefully down this wire placed conveniently on this roof we’re standing on. Are you okay, Jeremy?”
“I’m fine. I just haven’t eaten anything since my injury,” Jeremy replied.
Greg sighed. “You don’t need to impress me by starving yourself. Here,” he said, handing him a granola bar. “I don’t want you dying on an empty stomach.” He chuckled. “This wire should drop us down somewhere in the middle. From there, we should be able to sneak in and grab the battery. Easy, right? Can, uh… you go first?”
“Fine, I’ll go,” Jeremy said. “That was your plan, wasn’t it?”
He grabbed a hook, sliding stealthily across the thin wire. His hands slipped, and he barely managed to grab hold once he fell.
He looked up to see Greg still on the roof. He appeared to be speaking into something. I’ll be right with you, Greg signaled to him. Just go.
When Jeremy dropped down quietly onto the soil, he remembered something. Six, he thought, six bullets. That would have to do. He heard the sound of soldiers chattering amongst themselves. Peering out from the shadows, he saw it: A small luminescent crystal with no discernable shape or color. It seemed to be glowing in the brilliant light as two guards stood watch.
He didn’t know what he was thinking right then, but Jeremy emerged from the darkness, his hands outstretched.
“Listen to me! I just want to help you! Let me expla–” The soldiers didn’t hesitate, firing their weapons and calling for backup.
“Wait!” Jeremy screamed. One of them stopped, cocking his head.
“That voice sounds familiar. Who are you?”
“It’s Jeremy. The supervisor,” he said. “You know, the one who didn’t know how to shoot and lied about it.”
“Mister McCoy? It’s Ben,” he said. “What are you doing lurking around here?”
“Listen, I need that crystal. I started this mess, now I have to–”
“Wait, you’re the insubordinate?” Ben said, enraged. “They killed my father, you sonofabitch!”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, Ben,” he said, slowly reaching for his gun. “I’m sorry.”
Jeremy punched him, shooting the other in the shoulder before grabbing the crystal. It seemed to latch onto him, giving him an unfamiliar vigor. Before he knew it, he was surrounded, feeling doomed.
This is it? This is how it ends? He thought. Nice going, Daniel Hemingway.
Suddenly, a blinding ray of furious light covered the ground from above like a canvas, and before Jeremy could react, the men were all brutally decapitated. All except him. Long metal arms descended to retrieve the crystal, an ominous red eye watching him intently. It’s you, it seemed to say. I remember you.
“I told them to spare you,” a voice said. He whipped around to see Greg, no cowl, with scaly skin the color of lavender. His black eyes stared into Jeremy’s.
“Greg… you’re Vuuth? But how?”
“I was the first of my people to be awoken from our slumber, long before your ‘accident’,” he said. “Luckily, I integrated into human society easily.”
“Why did you need me, then?”
“There were so few of us left, Jeremy. We needed to know what we were up against,” Greg replied. “Plus, we need someone to tell our story.”
“What happens now?”
“Now, my friend, we must depart,” he said. “I guess you could say this was our redemption story, eh? My name’s Zed, by the way. You never told me your last name.”
“It’s McCoy,” he replied. “Jeremy McCoy.” Zed nodded.
“I like it,” he said before evaporating in the light and disappearing into that dark night and among the stars, forever.
The crystal’s power did not falter within Jeremy, however, giving him the strength to carry on…