Smoke from the far East blocks the orange glow of the August sun. It has travelled for miles over the beaten earth. Forests have been displaced. Lakes bled dry. But most of all cities, once full and white, brilliant in their design, flawless in their construction, and rather neutral in their composition, all brought low into the manifolds of ash and tremor. The earth has been cracked, the nations of humanity thrown into chaos. Gone is the hour of electricity and steel, and in its place, ancient powers return.
In a place of exceedingly warm currents of air, in the shadow of weathered mountains, in the husk of a town, there exists an overpass. Beneath that highway rests the remains of a building whose purpose is now long forgotten. From out that ruin, in the haze, three minuscule figures traipse across boulders and debris toward the fractured sidewalk that runs along the length of the muddy river. Each seem hesitant to speak. Each for their own reasons. Then, one of them, without provocation spoke up.
“You sure this is the right way?” I thought we were supposed to be going upstream.”
Several long seconds pass before there is a reply, seemingly uncertain and splintered in its construction.
“No...I’m...I’m sure of it, we passed the hospital on the way in, right Wes?” the second man patters nervously to the third member of the troupe. He was at least ten feet ahead of all the others, and at least ten years younger than both of them. Unlike them, he appears somewhat put together. His clothes, though wrinkled, lack the huge tears and filth of his compatriots. He does not carry on with some crippling injury or scar tissue. In fact, you’d probably guess that he had just joined this hellish battle ground. You’d be right.
“Wes!” the first of them cried out once again. Finally the younger man slowly turns back to face them. His face riddled with anguished thought. “Man what’s wrong with you?”
“Sorry” he replied. “Just...got a lot on my mind is all. Its still really surreal for me.”
The other two men exchanged doubtful looks. They eventually shrugged off their younger companion’s ambivalence and pushed on ahead, muttering out of place pleasantries to one another. Wes does not listen. His head still reeling from recent events.
Finally, after another half-hour of travel the two stooped down by the ruins of an old gas station. The oldest, a grey-haired man known only as Wilson to his friends and ‘that skeletal bastard’ to everyone else, pulled out a pack of Malboros and lit up a cigarette.
“Must you smoke so often? Putting shit like that into your lungs is one of the reasons we have to keep taking these breaks” the darker haired man whined. Wilson shot him a mean look before exhaling an enormous cloud of smoke too voluminous for normal human lungs to contain.
“Why don’t you take a nice healthy of dose of ‘shut the hell up’” Willson eventually replied with practiced malice. Though the tensions seemed high, everyone seemed limp with casual apprehension. Only Wes remained standing. His eyes continued to wander up the length of the once picturesque skyline. Now, in the distance the remains of downtown were but hollow shells. A pack of stray dogs darted across the street after an unseen quarry, paying no attention to the weary trio.
“So, Wes…” the dark-haired man began again. “Now that you have your feet back on the ground, why don’t you tell us your take on all this…”
“Shut up Paez…” Wilson droned.
“Nah, I wanna know how it feels to be sweet on one of those things!”
“She has a name you know…” Wes meekly responded. He shuffled his feet for a second, eyeing the hunting rifle waiting in the crook of Paez’s arm.
“Ohhh, don’t worry there son. We all know. WE AAAALLL know her name…”
“Rico!” Wilson interjected harshly.
“No, Wilson it’s alright. I get it. You both have a right to be angry. But you also don’t understand. She’s not what you think she is...I’ve spent enough time with her to know. She’s different.”
The other two men could not shake the skepticism from their faces. Whilst Rico rolled his eyes and began digging through his knapsack for his rusted canteen, Wilson motioned for Wes to take a seat. At first the young man stood as still as a statue, but after another nod from his elder companion, he finally slumped down onto a piece of rubble.
“I’ve been curious you know...about all that. What her deal was and...well what she was doing with you all that time.”
“Yeah, why don’t you ‘enlighten’ us then.” Rico added sarcastically.
“Come on Paez…” Wilson again scolded. “Let the kid tell his story.”
“I don’t know…” Wes sheepishly droned.
“Come on, you might as well. We ain’t got much more daylight to travel with anyhow.”
“Alright, alright! But I’ll be honest up front. A lot of it you won’t like, and good bit won’t make much sense. Perhaps even more you won’t believe, but since all this shit got started, well...nothing’s normal you know?”
“Oh fer chrissake get on with it then!”
Part 1- Memory
Ok, well...geez where do I even begin? I guess you could say it all started with the earthquakes. It was what? January last year when it all started? I mean you remember the news; Greece, Turkey, Japan, England...all devastated. At first no one thought anything of it, natural disasters like those happen, but all at once like that? Anyway, at the time I had just dropped out of school. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad student, I was doing pretty well for myself, but a buddy of mine had a business idea and I had to jump on board. They needed a programmer and their income projection looked pretty good. I moved away from my hometown, much to the chagrin of my parents, and set up shop in Baltimore. It was about that time, early February that SHE first appeared.
Now, I don’t think I have to remind you of all the details, it was everywhere. I mean, nothing had ever happened like it before. It was almost as though the world was suddenly flung into a science-fiction movie. One minute it was just a regular day and then bam, this titanic fucking woman just comes out of the goddamn sky. Touched down like a lunar landing pod. I mean, what was the estimate on her initial size? Five hundred feet, maybe more? No one knew what the fuck to do she just sort of stood there for a while. Finally, by the time she was surrounded by the police, both on the ground and in the air, she spoke up. I was downtown at the time, and me and a buddy of mine ran out on the roof of our building to see. Hell, our office complex only reached up to her waist.
It was, incredible. Seeing her for the first time like that. She looked like a statue had come to life. Everything about her was perfect, as though she was carved from solid marble. This was before she started wearing the more colorful outfit with which you guys are probably familiar. She was dressed almost entirely in black and dark brown. It was mostly leather, and a cuirass that was supported by two thin straps over her shoulders which cut off at the hip. Long brown hair all neatly swept over one shoulder.
The crater she left when she landed was enough to send people running for the hills, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen in place, watching her scan the ground with those terrifying grey eyes. She eventually went on, her voice thundering through the city. I can’t remember exactly what she said at first, but eventually I started to catch on. You remember, she said something along the lines of:
“Do not be afraid little ones. I have not come to cause you harm. But I fear that your kind has forgotten my people.”
That’s when things got a little out of hand. The media was obviously swarming, and all of a sudden some random helicopter came tearin’ through, flying right past her face. It kind of freaked her out and she smacked it out of the way. The tail clipped off and the bird came down, and all hell broke loose. The police started shooting every which way, but their bullets did nothing. At first she didn’t really know what to do. She just looked kind of confused. After a while I guess the police realized they weren’t doing anything so they got the hell out of there. But man, you shoulda seen her; she had not idea what to do. Eventually she got kind of annoyed because no one was listening to her. I got the impression she wasn’t used to be ignored so easily. She raised her right foot and brought it down...hard. The whole city shook, and it was all chaos from there. The streets flooded with people desperate to get out. The building we stood on began to crack. A huge fissure started to creep across the concrete, bisecting the roof.
When I looked back up she wore a look of regret. It was clear she didn’t know her own strength. With a bit more reservation she continued to speak. Saying:
“I only come with a warning. My sisters, those much like me, they are coming, and when they do I fear that…” but she was cut off. Something careened through the air and struck her right in the jaw, exploding upon impact. She was so startled that she began to stumble backwards. The ground continued to shake with each titanic footfall until her calf caught on five story building.
Then, as if in slow motion, she fell backward. One minute her looming form cast a shadow over the city and the next her body began crashing down upon it. Several blocks were completely wiped out. I can’t imagine many people survived. Of course, it was just my luck that she should fall right on top of me. The afternoon sun was suddenly blocked as I saw the back of her head cascading toward us. My buddy, Lee, went sprinting for the fire escape, while I made for the main stairs. We got like ten feet before it was all over.
Out of the rubble and the choking dust I called for him. There was no response. I called again and again, but I dared not move. To this day I ask myself how I could have survived, but I never find a satisfying answer. I clung to an angled piece of concreted by a few pieces of bent rebar jutting out from its side. I called again for Lee between fits of wheezing but still nothing. My head was bleeding pretty badly and I remember feeling incredibly dizzy. Then I called for anybody who could help me. I didn’t know where I was or what was around me.
Then the earth moved again. This time it was slow but steady rumble. Through the grey smoke I saw something enormous rise up toward the sky. It shifted one way and then another before it finally began to take shape. I was completely speechless then. Even with my clouded, stupefied mind I knew what...sorry, WHO it was, but I was too scared to run. I thought that maybe if I remained quiet she wouldn’t notice me. Yet, as the dust began to dissipate, and her gigantic head became more clear I saw that her steely gaze was directed right at me.
“Was that you then, little mortal? She boomed. I didn’t move a muscle. For a second I considered playing dead but I knew she wouldn’t buy it. Then she drew closer. Her silver eyes narrowed as she scrutinized my trembling form. At last her face retreated and I could see every corner of her visage with more clarity. She seemed greatly concerned, but mostly plagued by disbelief.
“You seem...familiar” she whispered to herself. Even then the volume of her voice was so great that I had to clap my hands over my ears. Familiar though? I had never seen her before in my life! At first I thought she must have really hit her head pretty hard on the way down.
It was about that point she began to pick herself back up. She propped her torso against her left arm and swept stray locks of hair away from her face with her other hand. Now she truly loomed over me and I think it was about that time the reality of my situation really struck. I slid to my feet and started to run, ignoring the shooting pain in my limbs.
But once again I failed to make much progress. In a quick flash of force she brought her hand down in front of me, blocking my path and sending me sprawling back onto the ground. My shoulder blade collided with another pile of rubble as I began to sink between two fallen chunks of cinder blocks. I thought that maybe I could hide beneath all the debris and make my escape later. I know, it sounds pretty stupid now, but you have to understand how fucked my head was at the moment. I began dicking through the grime and waste beneath the shattered building. My limbs moved faster than they ever had prior. It still wasn’t enough though.
A moment later the concrete serving as my cover was effortlessly tossed aside. My head snapped back around and I saw two dark shape moving toward me. I shut my eyes and awaited my ultimate end, but it did not come. Instead I was hoisted upward. The journey was so sudden and so nauseating that I emptied the contents of my stomach mid-ascent. Then I fell. When I landed I expected stone to crumple my flesh but I was met with a softer surface. I opened my eyes and saw a field of beige. The shadow over me shifted, allowing a few stray sun beams to lay their light across me.
“Are you alright little one?” her voice echoed out. I wanted to respond by felt no strength to do so. When I finally peered up I saw her staring down at me, a curious look plastered across her impossibly large face. “It’s ok, I won’t hurt you, but I do need you for something.”
At that she began to stand back up, I was lurched this way and that before she eventually got back to her feet. As she dusted off the last bits of debris from her body I managed to muster up the courage to speak.
“L-l-let me go, please!” I managed to stutter. She didn’t seem to notice my response. When she finally returned her attention to me she seemed completely oblivious to my request.
“Come now,” she went on, “I could use your help…”
“I need you to help me...err figure a few things out. I’ve been asleep for a long time and the world is not at all like I left it. Do you understand.”
Truthfully no. I could hardly comprehend each of her words as they were delivered with such tremendous volume. She noticed my recoil and hushed her tone.
“Sorry, its been awhile since I’ve dealt with you...what do you call yourselves now...humans? Even so in years past I didn’t really make an effort to be so...accommodating. Look, I’m sure you’re probably terrified right now but you must help me so I can help you. All of you…” She looked away, turning her head in both directions as she observed the squadrons of aircraft moving toward her from all sides. I followed her gaze and began to panic once more.
“What are these things?” she asked. Her eyes flicked back to me but I made no effort to respond. She seemed a bit annoyed but blew it off, instead taking a few tentative steps toward the encroaching helicopters. Yet, as she drew closer, the convoy released a barrage of missile fire. As I saw the rockets stream toward her I felt that my death was once again at hand. I covered my head with my hands and waited for her to fall to the earth. I felt the shockwave of the explosion and the heat of their fire seared the back of my neck. But when I looked back up I saw she didn’t even flinch. The helicopters broke off from their advance and began circling around her. She looked back down to me at an utter loss for words.
“I definitely feel unwelcome here, perhaps I can explain myself at a more remote location.”
I remember feeling especially scared at that comment. I don’t know why, I didn’t expect what was about to happen next. I just remember staring up at her, eyes wide, whilst she looked down around her. With her free hand she swept over her body, as though looking for something. First her sides, the length of her long sandals, and finally her torso. At last she sighed and looked back to me.
“Sorry about this little guy, this is only a temporary arrangement.”
But before I could utter any more words she brought me closer. The sudden shift of position sent me onto my back. When I stabilized I look around and saw that she brought me up to chest level. I was about to call out in protest when when her two other fingers snake down and clamped onto my sides. The wind rushed out of my lungs and she nimbly lifted me upward. Like a the arm of a crane, she brought me over her exposed cleavage. I drifted in my suspension for a second before she lowered me down between her breasts. Yeah, it was weird. I didn’t know how to react. Nothing I had ever experienced gave me any bearing on how to respond to a situation like that. Her fingers eventually retreated, leaving me stranded down there. Darkness drifted in and a moment later, I felt gravity tug me down. Up above I saw her give me one last look before redirecting her gaze toward the sky.
“Hang on…” she boomed. “It may get a little rough”And then, just like that, we were gone...