Like a murder of crows that darkened the sky and moved in perfect synchronicity, death, for that’s what it surely was, circled and twisted, climbed and dived on currents and waves of heat, searching. Its mass and volume was so great that it darkened the barren landscape. Its shadow scraped the land in the amber sunlight of Nuus, the fifth planet of twelve in the unnamed red giant system.
The teleths, a humanoid race who communicated through radio waves they produced by tapping into their autonomic nervous system, froze in place — all fear and dread — along a small outcropping of rock less than two kilometers away from the sky borne horror. None dared communicate with the others, knowing the dragon-plague would hear them, root them out and attack without mercy. For the moment they observed, searched for discernible patterns, watched for signs of recognition, and begged for something few had ever known since the arrival of the aliens, luck.
The thin teleth on the end, the last of the four, turned to the south - his large ears pricked and expanded like flower petals in the morning sun - and extended the range of sound he could pick up, believing he had detected something coming from that region. But he was wrong, the only thing in the sky was the predatory dragon-plague, moving like an orchestrated locust cloud from this distance. [They play with us], he thought. His hearts pounded in his chest, beating at him in anger and fright. Unconsciously, he reached and placed a hand on the shoulder of the one next to him. [They play with us], he thought again, and rolled his ears back.
Safety in the caves was to the north, over a ridge and down the cliff side, a good kilometer from the outcropping of rock. They could hide in the caves, if they could reach them. They knew those caves, had made them home for months as the skies had rained death when the dragon-plague had come.
This was their planet, the teleths. But the savannah runners had come up short when the aliens invaded. They lost their numbers and had been slaughtered by the thousands, their way of life destroyed, their villages abandoned. They fled then to the rock deserts of the far east. They hadn’t expected to be followed, not here, to this wasteland of forgotten lore and youthful nightmares. Now the few remaining teleth scavenged for food and water and hid from the dragon-plague in the barren landscape that offered little comfort or coverage.
I can’t do this anymore, said the old one in the group. His words radioed through to the others like telepathy. The dragon-plague quickly changed directions and swooped down to the ground, each part synchronized. The swarm veered to the left, raised up hundreds of meters and spun around toward the group. Intent. The old one had gotten its attention.
The old one stood and walked around the rock outcropping and moved several steps forward. Slowly, as if all he had was time, he pulled an arrow from his quill, raised his bow, leveled and steadied his aim.
Are you crazy! You’ll get us all killed! Yelled one of them. Another said, Get back here!
We're already dead, came his response.
[This is surely the end,] the thin one thought. [We'll never survive now.]
With the swarm's approach came deafening noise and vibrating ground. A battle cry? Then the thin one stood and looked directly into the dragon-plague, something they all knew not to do. It seemed different somehow, almost imperceptibly, but different. Noise ran through him, shook his ganglion and primitive limbic system. His sensitive ears overloaded and the dragon-plague morphed into something beautiful. Each individual part adjusted its position in flight and the whole became a fantasy vision that captured him and didn't let go.
He’s caught, dazed and locked in, one of them yelled, looking at the thin one but not daring to reach out.
The old one launched his arrow into the center of the plague. The arrow flew straight and true but didn’t hit anything until gravity pulled it to the ground. He stared into the black and seconds later was consumed by it, a few shards of cloth remained, falling on the rock like discarded and unwanted scraps. The dragon-plague swooped around and up and then returned with a vengeance and consumed the thin teleth who could only stare at its beauty and wonder. Then the dragon-plague spiraled up and away from the remaining two teleths.
One of the parts of the dragon-plague pulled away and landed on top of the rock outcropping. It looked at the two remaining teleths.
Run, said the dragon-plague.
Just a little bit of luck would've been good, said one of the remaining teleths.
We have lots of luck. said the other. It's just all bad.
The dragon-plague cocked its head.
in category Fiction