Authors: Jerry Hart
after, Jason returned to the field, not knowing where else to go. It had been
days since he’d visited that place, but he had to know for sure. Why else would
Michael be talking about the orb and ship now?
got there, he immediately saw the blue-silver ship where he’d first seen it. It
was like it had never moved.
he thought. That was a crazy thought, and considering he
had been nineteen at the time, he felt himself too old for fantastical ideas.
But he saw
the ship then, upon his return to the field. There could be no denying
something strange was going on. Could the ship possibly have belonged to
aliens? Jason thought so, but where was the pilot now?
approached the ship and searched inside. It was night and hard to see, but he
eventually found a small, dark-red object under the seats, behind some kind of
tool cart. It looked like a bowling ball without finger holes, but he knew
He took it
back to the house and said to Michael, “I found the orb.”
from his coma that very instant.
there he was, telling Les everything; Jason could hear through the glass. But
it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they find the one who could power
the orb. Michael had followed his senses to San Sebastian, like a magnet to
metal. After getting to the city, though, he complained of interference from
all the buildings surrounding them. He said it was like sound bouncing off
walls. Michael couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of the one with the other
half of the mysterious mist that inhabited him.
hadn’t been in the jar, though, so there was no telling how the other person
had gotten hold of it. Michael had known from the dreams there was another half
to this powerful mist. Maybe the other person, the one they were looking for,
was the pilot of the ship.
Les everything helped them find their quarry faster, so be it. Jason decided he
would speak to his brother the following morning. By then, Michael would have
been punished enough.
punishment was instrumental in the learning process, and if Jason didn’t teach
Michael, no one would.
Alyssa knew she shouldn’t be
out here with Anna and Naomi, but she couldn’t help it; they hadn’t spent
enough time on the beach earlier, and their parents were asleep now.
family lived in Houston, but rarely did they have the time to visit the beach.
The twins Anna and Naomi, both thirteen, always had more fun than anyone
running along the shore, splashing in the water and poking at jellyfish. Today
had been a rather ugly day, with a dark, storm-ridden sky, and Mom and Dad had
wanted the girls out of the water, in case of lightning.
clouds were gone now. They had cleared after Mom and Dad had gone to sleep, and
Alyssa had taken it upon herself to treat her sisters to some more time on the
the girls run along the shore, chasing each other. The moon shone down on them
as they giggled merrily. Alyssa grabbed her digital camera and took pictures of
them, and then of herself. Why not? She was extremely photogenic and didn’t
apologize for what was given to her.
scream startled her. The second scream was even worse.
looked to the water and saw the girls being dragged in, screaming and clawing
at the wet sand. She ran up to them and grabbed both of their hands, but they
were being pulled in by something very strong.
And then she
saw what looked like snakes, wrapped around the girls’ ankles. Alyssa fell on
her stomach, saltwater filling her nostrils. She screamed, but no one was
around. The girls were pulled under the waves.
up and started to run further in to the water when something broke the surface.
It was a shadowy figure, absolutely featureless. Alyssa had seen it many times,
but never in this dream, the dream she had so often she was surprised she
hadn’t gone insane.
figure approached her, reaching out. She backed away, same as always, but this
time another figure appeared behind it. It walked over to the side and just stood
there, watching. This new figure was similar to the one reaching out for her,
but it merely watched, shadowy arms crossed.
stared at the dormant one and could almost see hair on top of its head—blond
hair. She looked to the one approaching her and saw hair on its head as
well—red. She screamed, like always, as it grabbed her by the shoulders and
pulled her apart.
It was four
in the morning when Alyssa awoke. Her TV was still on. She lay there for a
moment, watching the light from the TV flicker off of the wall behind her. She
knew there was no way she was going to get any more sleep now. Not after that
For a while,
Alyssa had been having nightmares in which some unseen force killed her—not
just killed her, but destroyed her. She was always being torn limb from limb by
the nightmare-creature. She had no idea what the monster actually looked like;
every time she looked at it in the nightmare, it was always nothing but a blur.
time, she saw more details: the hair. And this time, there were two of them.
since the nightmares began, she’d been filled with a horrible sense of dread,
scared death would pop up from around a corner and take her. That was the real
reason she stopped going on missions with the others: Alyssa had, at one point,
seized a golden opportunity to make her reasons about something else entirely,
and she’d felt guilty about it ever since.
asked her to buy them another car—for Owen—so they wouldn’t have to share rides
all the time. Alyssa, who had actually thought the idea to be a good one,
decided to turn it to her advantage.
had said. “Am I the money machine or something? I pay for everything around
here. Can’t you buy it?”
“You know I
can’t,” Chris responded. “What’s up with you?”
felt her throat closing with fear and frustration … and guilt. She hadn’t
really wanted to make a big deal out of nothing at all, but she couldn’t bring
herself to admit she was too scared to hunt monsters with them anymore, not
after all she had invested. She bought the condo in which they all lived and
which served as headquarters; she paid for Daniel’s equipment so he could make
their weapons. She did all of these things because she wanted to, and now she
was trying to say otherwise, trying to make her friends feel guilty about
asking her to do things she actually did willingly.
think you guys should get real jobs and contribute around here,” she had added.
serious?” Daniel asked, joining in. This was weeks ago, before he’d broken his
arm helping take down the vampires they’d tracked to the Trails, thanks to
David Hernandez’s tip-off. Alyssa had come back home last night while the boys
had gone ahead. She’d already set the precedent that she shouldn’t have to go
on missions if she was paying for everything. Suffice to say, Owen had gotten
his Honda, though it was pre-owned. She didn’t want to spoil the boy with a
noticed her cell phone on her night table flashing. She picked it up and saw it
was a text message from David.
Hey babe. You awake?
saying she was now.
Did you get Eric?
Too bad. Having a party tonight. Want you
A party did sound good. She responded saying she’d be there.
Can’t wait. 8 o’clock. LOL
She put her
cell down and got out of bed. Alyssa could always count on David to cheer her
up. As she headed downstairs to get a glass of water, she heard music playing
from the living room and recognized it immediately: It was the theme song to a
videogame Daniel loved to play.
She stood at
the top of the stairs for a moment. The song was Japanese pop, and it was one
of the most beautiful songs she’d ever heard. Every time she heard it—which
wasn’t very often—she was reminded of the time when she, Daniel, Owen and Chris
first moved into the condo. That was two years ago (Daniel had played it the
first night), and that day was the beginning of her new life. Hearing the song
made her think of rejuvenation.
continued down the stairs and saw Daniel playing a game called
on the plasma TV in the living room.
love, love that song,” she said.
know, know you do,” Daniel said without looking at her, his tiny cartoonish
sprite leaping around on the screen. “It reminds you of when we first moved in
here. I think of it the same way.”
down on the couch next to him and watched him play.
you doing up so early?” he asked her.
“My arm was
itching like a monster.”
looked at Daniel’s cast. She remembered with unease how he had broken his arm
falling out of the tree house at the Trails just hours earlier. That place was
nothing more than a popular hangout where kids went to get drunk and show off
their big trucks.
“Do you ever
fear you might die doing what you do?” she asked.
didn’t take his eyes off the game, but said, “Sometimes.”
Can you keep a secret?”
the game and looked Alyssa straight in the eyes. “No, but if you really want me
to keep this to myself, tell me that, and I’ll try very hard to do so.”
want you to keep this to yourself—you can’t tell Owen and Chris.”
nodded. Alyssa took a deep breath.
having these nightmares. I can’t shake the feeling something bad is going to
happen to me.”
going to die.”
crazy,” Daniel said. “Well, I mean, we’re all going to die someday, but you’re
not going to die because of what we do. Maybe you’ll get hurt, like me, but
you’re not going to die.”
smiled. That made her feel a little better.
“Is that why
you’ve been staying here while we go out?” asked Daniel. “Because you’re scared
of getting killed? It hasn’t been about the money?”
nodded. Daniel put a hand on hers, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“This is all
because of the nightmares?” he asked.
know. I just have this horrible feeling all the time, now.”
nothing bad is going to happen to you while I’m around. I mean, obviously,
since you’re here with me.”
laughed and squeezed his hand back.
realize by saying that, I’m pretty much a dead woman, right?”
grinned and said, “Whoops.”
“Do you have
any plans tonight?” she asked, wanting to change the subject.
besides playing videogames and scratching my cast-arm? No.”
“David is having
a party; I think you should go with me.”
“But I’m not
old enough to drink.”
think David will care. Besides, if you’re old enough to hunt monsters, you’re
pretty much okay to drink alcohol. Or you could just not drink at all.”
grinned and nodded. “Don’t let Chris hear you say that. It sounds really
“But I added
the last part about not drinking.” She laughed. “Where are Owen and Chris,
Owen and Chris walked through the front door, and they were carrying something.
of the dev—” Daniel was cut short by what he saw.
they were carrying was wrapped in a jacket (Alyssa assumed it was Owen’s jacket
since Chris was still wearing his) and it was moving.
that?” she asked.
didn’t know what she was looking at. The furry fish was thrashing about in the
small aquarium (they had taken the few fish they had and put them into a small
bowl filled with water). The whole armory reeked of the creature’s fishy odor.
Owen and Chris were on either side of the tank, watching the mutant with
interest. Alyssa loved animals, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to go near
this thing. She watched as Daniel poked it with a metal rod. It spun around in
the water, snapping at the stick. What was Daniel expecting to happen?
“This is no
ordinary fish,” Daniel said.
it away?” Chris asked with fierce sarcasm. “Was it the four legs, the fur or
the fact it can breathe outside of water?”
“None of the
above, surprisingly,” Daniel said, pointing at the fish-creature with the
stick. “I did a DNA scan of this thing. Its genetic make-up barely resembles
that of a black goldfish’s. Its cells have been completely corrupted.”
“We have a
DNA scanner?” Chris asked.
DNA,” Daniel answered Owen, ignoring Chris.
There was a
long pause. No one knew what to say to that.
possible?” Alyssa finally asked.
“It’s not. I
mean, this thing could be a result of genetic tampering—a hybrid that escaped
from a lab—but those things never usually live that long.”
fish continued to swim around the tank as if it were at home, not a care in the
world. Daniel stepped away from it and grabbed a clipboard, writing something
down. Alyssa stared at him and smiled.
this in the river?” Daniel asked.
tried to eat us,” Owen replied.
don’t know what to tell you guys. I don’t know what this is. The only way I
could tell you is if I dissected it.”
really necessary?” Alyssa asked, losing her smile.
“Yes, but in
all honesty, I don’t want to touch the damn thing.”
be more of them?” Chris asked.
that’s where I’ve got bad news and worse news: The bad news is, if this thing
reproduces like a canine, then there’s a chance there are more, but not many
more; the worst news is, if this thing reproduces like a fish, there could be a
Owen let out a groan of frustration.
not be the case, though, since we can clearly see it mostly resembles a canine,
so I’m going with the bad news,” said Daniel. “I don’t think it’s dangerous,
should look for a nest or something,” said Owen.
right, but not now; I’m tired as hell,” said Chris as he sat down in a corner
of the armory. It was now five in the morning and the sun was slowly rising,
but it was still plenty dark outside.
up to it,” Daniel said to Chris, “I want to run some blood tests on you.”
I’m not a doctor—I’m a future videogame designer. If I find something bad, you
should go to a real doctor.”
Daniel,” Chris said, shrugging, “when are you going to show us what’s in that
indicating the secret closet no one was allowed into. Daniel suddenly became
nervous. “Don’t change the subject; we were talking about you, Chris.”
Chris said. “We all know it’s way past time.”
relaxed a little. “You’re right; it’s time.”
into his pocket and pulled out a key. He unlocked the door, slowly opened it
and then walked inside, disappearing into the darkness. He reappeared a few
seconds later pushing something tall on a dolly. It was covered with a white
sheet. Alyssa and the others gathered around it.
it?” Owen asked Daniel.
future of our monster-hunting operation,” he replied.
removed the sheet. Standing before them, with its milky white finish and dead
blue eyes, was a machine—a robot, by the look of it. Owen and Chris gasped in
unison. Alyssa wasn’t the least bit surprised. She had already known what Daniel
was working on—she’d convinced him to tell her long ago.