Xorsis : Invasion\Lost
“Granny! Are you okay?”
Nia screamed. She couldn’t think, her hands were shaking, and she was frozen in her place, unable to move. The voices outside were growing louder. There was another scream, and gasping, Nia regained her senses and ran down the stairs quickly. What is going on? Shivers ran down her spine. There was an emergency, all right. And not just at one place. The sounds were coming from everywhere. There was another scream downstairs. What is it? What is it? She reached the living room. She could hear her grandmother’s voice there. And then, what she saw made her blood run cold.
There was something in the house. Something that wasn’t human.
Her grandmother was holding a sharp knife against that thing. That creature.
Through the moonlight that came from the windows, she saw it, her eyes widened. No, it wasn’t a creature. It looked like a human. But it wasn’t a human, she was sure. A person. But was it really a person? Clothes ragged, skin wrinkled. Through the separation of the clothes, the white bones inside were clear. But were they just bones? Or was it something else?
Her grandmother noticed her. “RUN!”
Leo was growling at the creature, but Nia couldn’t hear that. The only thing that caught her eyes was her grandmother, pointing the kitchen knife towards the creature, and her shrill screaming voice was the only thing that could enter her head. She wanted to shout, to scream, and say what it was, why was it here, what was it doing here? But no words came out of her mouth. And then, she could hear the other sounds clearly from here. The voices, crying for help, screaming in terror.
I-I’ve to do something! Nia gulped, realising, no, no, no, I can’t do anything if I just stand back here! Sprinting towards the kitchen, she took whatever that striked her vision first - and it was a spare knife. There was no time to think of what else she could find here - and at that very moment, a dropping sound came from the living room. Gasping, she clutched the knife and ran back there. Hang in there, don’t - don’t give up yet! She thought, clenching her teeths.
She ran to the drawing room again, and plunged forward, trying to strike that thing, that whatever with the knife. Leo was lying on the floor, she saw from the corner of her eye, he was bleeding at parts. But she gasped in shock, realising the knife didn’t penetrate the hardened skin. Maybe the swing of the knife was just a scratch to it, or just a bite like an annoying fly. And it turned its head toward Nia, its red eyes fixed upon her.
Her grandmother was constantly screaming. “RUN, RUN Nia, LEAVE ME ALONE, JUST RUN AWAY!”
The thing was now moving towards her. It was inches away. No. No. This can’t be happening. Nia stumbled against a chair and fell down on the floor.
This has to be one of those nightmares. This - we -
And then suddenly, the door banged open, and there was a loud sound. And the next thing she saw that the thing fell down on the floor, blackish blood staining the clean white floor. But it was not moving anymore. Panting, Nia let out a cry in fear.
“It’s okay, I’m here now,” Aaron’s strong voice came from the door, and Nia looked at him. Aaron’s rifle was pointed to the thing, which now lay dead. Aez peeked from outside.
“Nia, Granny! Are you okay?” He screamed.
She had no words. Aaron stepped inside and took hold of Nia’s grandmother. Aez held Nia’s hand and started pulling her.
“We don’t know what this is,” Aez was saying very quickly, “But- there’s no time- hurry- we’ve got to get away-”
“No, just leave me alone,” Nia heard her grandmother yelling at Aaron, interrupting him as he tried to convince her to get up and leave with them. “You don’t understand!”
“It’s dangerous here, you will die if you stay here.”
“And I know that,” she said, “but you don’t understand, my legs don’t work like they used to do years ago, and I’m heavy. You can’t run with me like this, we all are going to die if you try to take care of me now.”
“Granny!” Nia yelled.
“Nia, run with Aaron and Aez! Wherever you go, don’t come back!”
“You too! Go away!” Their grandmother was ushering towards Leo. The dog barked at her, probably saying how absurd that was.
“Don’t,” Nia said, now teary eyed. If the dog was gone too, then, there would be no one who could help her.
“Brother,” Aez looked at Aaron now, “What’s the military doing now? Why aren’t they coming?”
“Everything is disorderly right now,” Aaron said with a heavy voice, “Everyone is trying to save themselves,” his voice cracked, “I… I don’t think anyone from the military will be coming any time soon.”
“It’s all right, Nia,” her grandmother spoke, her voice at first shaky, but then grew determined as she talked, “I may not run anymore, but my hands are as hard as ever. No, I’ll not give up myself, I’ll try to survive till the end. STOP giving me that look, and do as I say. GO. All of you. Go away. Right now.”
Reluctantly, Aaron withdrew. He took Aez’s hand, “Let’s go.”
Nia was crying. The three of them ran out, Leo following them; With one last look at her grandmother, Nia closed the door, hoping it could keep her safe, but knowing the truth that it wouldn’t be able to. Nia tried to guess how the creature got inside; did her grandmother think someone needed help and opened it? But she couldn’t think anymore, her head was aching. Aaron tugged her hand. They started to run.
There were screams everywhere.
“Undead, that’s how everyone is referring to them,” Aaron said, replying. “Never thought they would be real. It first attacked the office. I was on night duty. Tore off heads of two of the Tokreians,” his grasp on her hand was tighter, “I couldn’t… protect anyone. I could just run away and come to Aez. And then to your place. And even now, I’m running away.” His voice was raspy. “But.. to save at least two of you, I’ll do that.”
Nia broke into tears. “Granny…”
“I’m sorry, Nia,” Aaron said, gritting his teeth and looking forward now, “But I can promise you. Once I get you two to somewhere safe, I’ll come back for her. For now, I think we should head to the forest. Looks like they are attacking the cities where there are many people. Maybe they sense our existence only if the density of people living in a place is high, and Dottonex City - it’s the most populated one after all. Let’s go to the forest. Maybe when things calm down a bit, we can head back here. If they don’t go away, we should just go to Cridelford. I’m sure in these disastrous times, they won’t turn away from us.”
As they ran, a few of those creatures appeared from the sides. Can they think? Nia thought, fear crawling up in her skin. Will they try to ambush us? Can we really escape this?
Aaron freed both Aez and Nia’s hands and brought down his rifle from his back. He shot at the three undead which had tried to attack them, but they didn’t fall down. They could be slowed down only. But that was enough for now.
“Quick! We have to outrun them!”
The three ran through the streets, the dog following them. The streets that seemed that morning, so peaceful, filled with crowds, everyone going to their jobs, or heading to their schools, and some people like them were going to the demonstrations of Tokreians - it all felt so unreal next to the present horrific image of the undead, feeding upon the people. Everything from the morning felt like a dream now.
She begged for the normal silence to return. Please. Not this hell. Please. But her prayers would go unanswered - who would listen to them on this day?
Why did I leave her alone? Nia thought, tears rolling down her eyes. Everything was growing unclear now, she could see nothing but be dragged. There’ll be no one coming to save her. No soldiers, no government, no Tokreians with their science. When brother Aaron will be back - it’ll be late… too late...
Everyone.... Everyone is going to die.
Thinking it made her skin crawl. She wanted to cry loudly.
“Don’t,” Aaron said, “If they hear us, they’ll follow us.”
Nia looked back; there was fire. Who started it? Maybe the soldiers, if they had come, or maybe the common people. Would burning them kill them? Would it?
But even that hope was nothing. Because beside her, one of those things had just walked through fire. It had slowed down very much, but it hadn’t stopped.
Nia felt helpless. Her mind was in disarray. Looking forward, she noticed the gates of the Dottonex City. The capital of Dottonex, Dottonex City, was located to the rightmost part of the country, as it was close to the plains and the rivers, and the forest was an hours walk from the outskirts of Dottonex City.
Aaron glanced at her, “We just passed through the gates. Just hold on a little more. Then, we can stop for a bit before continuing.”
Nia could only nod.
“Don’t think about going back,” Aaron said in a quiet voice, “We… We can't do anything right now. The quicker I can take you to somewhere safer, the quicker I can go back for granny. Remember that.”
Nia nodded again. “I understand.”
Aaron finally released her hand.
They sprinted for around fifteen minutes more, until finally coming to a stop. There was no road ahead, only dense forest.
“If we hide in the forest, I doubt any of them will come after us,” Aez said, “They can’t sense the presence of life here. This forest hardly has any animals, so we’ll be fine.”
Aez was right. And so they went further and sat down under a tree, Nia collecting her thoughts. She was thinking about her grandmother - but slowly, that thought faded and something else arose in its place.
There was something about this forest. There were no major animals as long as she could remember. Why was it so? She had never thought this much before, but maybe because they were physically present here, the thought was circling in her head, and she felt something really awful.
Why can a place be empty of lives?
Either there was nothing at first.
Or either because it was emptied.
A realisation dawned upon her.
“Aez, Aaron,” she whispered, “We can’t stay here. I- I don’t think this is safe. We have to get away.”
Her heart was beating too fast. If what she thought was true -
Aaron looked at her, concern written all over his face. “I thought you were the one who needed to catch your breath first.”
“Nia,” Aez came over to her, and checked her pulse, “you- you don’t look so good. What’s-”
“No, look, there’s not enough time to explain. Where will we go from here?”
“I thought it over, and I decided that I’ll take you two to Cridelford,” Aaron replied, “That’s the safest place now. I have friends who had to go there, so I got some of their codes. They’ll let us in if we just hand them the codes. However, you two have to stay there till the situation calms down here. I have duties, I can’t turn back from Dottonex at these times. I’ll go fetch you when things are better here.”
“Then let’s go,” Aez said, “Nia, don’t worry so much. I’m here. Aaron too. We’ll protect you.”
The three stood up. Nia walked first. For some reason, Aez kept looking towards the deeper part of the forest, which was on the opposite side of their destination.
“Aez?” she asked.
“Nia.” Aez spoke, his voice calm, “I’m not sure if you remember. We have been here before, haven’t we? In our childhood.”
“Yes, we were playing around and we somehow got in here. But why are you-”
“Nia. Do you remember what we saw that day?”
Her headaches were still there, but she still tried to remember it. If it was Aez who wanted to think of something from the past - it had to be something significant. What happened on that day? We were here - the forest - we entered the dense part - and then -
And suddenly, she remembered it, and she looked at him, whose eyes had widened by now too.
It was one sunny day. Two children - maybe they were around seven or eight years old - one boy and one girl, were playing together. The boy had an older brother who wasn’t around that day. And so, the two of them sneaked out of their houses, and decided to explore. Somehow, they had sneaked past the guards at the gates of the city.
Past the gate, there was a village. Walking through the village, they discovered the forest path on the east side. It was such a surprise to their eyes; growing up in a grey city - that such a huge forest beyond their place could exist, surprised them. They were curious about this place. And so they took steps inside it. Chasing each other, and they didn’t notice when they went off the straight path. They walked through the bushes and shrubs, and trees, and suddenly, there was something that took their breath away.
Near them, there was a giant looking tree. Its wood was thick, and it was very tall. It looked very, very old. Decades? Of course. Centuries? Probably.
And on that tree, they saw in surprise, there was a person, up there, on the very top of the tree. The person was bound by the branches and the leaves. As if the tree had decided to keep that person caged there forever. Could they help? Should they? They wondered.
But before they could take any action, there were people who had come inside the forest. They heard their voices and looked around. The soldiers. They scolded them for running way deep into the forest; thankfully someone had noticed them going in there. Sure, there weren’t any beasts seen in the forest for many years now, but still, precautions were necessary, at least in these times where such a war had only ended a few years ago.
They were led away from the place without letting them speak. And when they arrived in their hometown, Dottonex City again, they couldn’t say anything to anyone. In fact, they both thought maybe all they thought were nothing real - they were just stories made up in their head. And no one would listen to them.
But why? Nia wondered. Why had they thought so, all of a sudden? How did they refuse such a detail they just observed? What was on that tree? Was it a real person? Or was it something else? After all, the childhood memories were so blurry - she couldn’t be sure whether she was thinking it right.
“Nia!” Aaron’s scream and Leo’s grumble lifted her from her thoughts.
Just before she could comprehend what happened, Aez had thrown her off her feet. They both stumbled and fell down on the grass. And that very moment, Nia heard the sounds of two shots.
“Goddamn it,” Aaron was saying, “We really shouldn’t have been here, have we?”
His expression was unreadable, as he loaded his rifle and continued blasting at the more undead that were coming towards them. Nia couldn’t see where they were coming from - it was as if they were surrounding them up from all sides. There was one of them which dodged his shot and rapidly walked towards the two of them. Then suddenly, Leo jumped at that, and bit at its head. Surprisingly enough, it’s head was soft - or Nia thought so - as the undead lay down near them, blackish red liquid splattering around the place. Nia felt sick.
Nia looked around, horrified. There were so many of them now, encircling the four of them, walking towards them with a hungry look on their face. Leo was just a dog. How many bulletts were left in Aaron’s rifle? Would they survive this?
And suddenly, there was a sharp noise. Through the gaps of the leaves, Nia looked up at the night sky. There was a firework up there. Nia knew what that meant - the soldiers were being summoned in Dottonex City. Unless Aez went back, he’d be thought as dead, or he’d be called disloyal to his country - and Dottonex didn’t tolerate disloyalty even a little bit.
“Brother,” Aez was saying, “Give us the cards. We can go on our own. You head back to Dottonex.”
“Aez?” Aaron said, surprised, “What are you even thinking? You two are-”
“We are adults,” Aez said, “I can assure you, we two can reach Cridelford safely. Granny. You have to go after her. If they are here in the forest now, who knows what the hell is going on in Dottonex City?”
At this, Aaron shifted a bit from his position.
“Aez,” Nia whispered, “We could go back too - Dottonex’s soldiers are now arriving right? We’ll be okay-”
“Don’t even think about it,” Aaron said with a dark voice. It took him a moment, but he decided. He put a hand inside the pocket of his trouser and brought out two cards. “Take these,” he handed them to Aez, “Take Nia and go. You are right. I have to go back there.”
“But we could go back to Dottonex with you…” Nia tried to say.
But Aaron didn’t say anything. He pointed his rifle at the approaching undead, hitting them at their heads, now that he finally realised their weak spot.
They aren’t listening to me! Nia gritted her teeth.
“Right.” Aez said, gritting his teeth, “Just- don’t you die, damn it-”
“I won’t!” He said, now turning back to them finally. “On the count of three, you two will run. I’ll let those undead run after me.”
“Okay.” Aez said, his face determined.
“But,” Nia said loudly, “We could go back to Dottonex too, right? There’ll be soldiers. We’ll be fine,” the tears were coming back, “My grandmother. We-”
“Nia!” Aez said to her, finally, his face was dark, and he seemed to be tearing up too, but hes still kept talking, “We have to survive first! And my brother is going back, right? There’s nothing you can do even if you go back, and neither can I, we haven’t ever used a gun, we aren’t soldiers!”
“Three!” Aaron started counting. “Two!”
“Let’s go!” Aez took Nia’s hand and tugged at it.
His brother started rapidly firing at all the undeads, while Aez took Nira’s hand and ran towards the exit of the forest. But when they reached near it, they realised, there were at least dozens of the undead, waiting there.
“We can’t go this way!” Aez said, panicking, “Goddamn it, looks like we have to find another way!”
The two now ran inside the forest again, trying to avoid the undead. Sometimes they hid in bushes, sometimes behind thick tree trunks. They were going deeper into the forest, Nia realised, forget about Dottonex or Cridelford - in this way, we won’t be able to leave this forest at all!
Backing away from the gazes of the undead, suddenly Nia bumped into something. She looked behind, and noticed it was a thick trunk of a tree, thicker than the ones they had ever seen. No, it was as thick as the one they had seen in that childhood. That tree.
Nia and Aez, both glanced up at the huge monstrosity of that tree. And they both gasped. Back then in their childhood, they weren’t wrong. On the top branches, just like that day - a person was still there. But was that the same person? Nia couldn’t guess. But it looked just the same. The branches had grown around the person in such a way, forming a network around it. As if the tree itself wanted to keep the person caged there, till the end of time.