Bewildering Stories

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The Outside World

by Brian Grisham

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Joan whispered as she crept closer to Corey on her hands and knees through the septic drainpipe. Sewage squashed onto her ragged clothes and between her fingers like jelly and for a horrible moment the muck felt as if it was somehow alive. She couldn’t escape from the rotten smell. It lingered on her body, in her hair, and she could even smell the putrid stench on her breath.

Puzzled, Corey looked up at his older sister and replied, “Tell me what?”

Joan remained silent, staring at his childish, green eyes. These were the same eyes that she gazed upon when she suggested that they had to hide- that they had to move away from their home. These were the eyes of her brother; her only living relative left on this world.

“What is it?” Corey shouted impatiently, his voice echoing throughout the cement pipeline.

Joan opened her mouth, hesitated for a moment longer then finally replied, “Andrew and Jacob are gone. They were taken above... I don’t know where.”

A heavy moan escaped Corey and suddenly he felt like he was going to vomit. A metallic taste invaded his mouth as he sat down next to his sister curled in a ball with his knees supporting his chin. He stared at nothing, remembering everything about his friends who had just been captured as if he were watching a home video inside his head. Panic gleamed in his eyes, then he quickly looked away, afraid of being lost in his thoughts forever.

He turned to his sister. She was watching him carefully through her long, filthy black hair, waiting for some kind of verbal response. She already recognized his expression. It was the same when she had told him about their parent’s death. They’d been slaughtered by the hideous creatures who inhabit the crumbling streets above. Corey peered at the sour afternoon sun then into the darkened tunnel ahead and said to Joan, pointing, “I think it’s best we should continue back.”

Joan glanced at her grimy clothes then quickly turned away, peering into the tunnel behind her. “I don’t know if anyone saw me while I was up there. We should meet up with the others,” she muttered as she positioned herself on her hands and knees then crawled through the oily muck, “They’ll spread the word for the others not to come this way.”

“I don’t know,” Corey whispered, “It may be too late.

And with that last sentence floating in her mind, Joan remained silent as they continued to crawl down the sewage pipe-line.

Fifteen minutes passed before they ran across a construction lantern. Its red light glowed all around them. She grabbed it by the handle and continued onward until they ended inside a small six by six foot room. A doorway led to the right of them, and in front was a door with a wheel handle that was rusted by countless years of neglect.

“I wonder what’s behind the door,” Joan muttered under a halo of red light.

“Probably just another tunnel leading to the outside. Come on, let’s go.”

They stepped through the doorway and found themselves inside the grating system that was underneath the deserted highway. Ladders were positioned approximately ten yards from each other which led directly to the surface. Joan didn’t like this place. She didn’t like the overbearing ceiling which was made from two-hundred ton blocks of concrete nor the fact that she was so close to the surface. Light cascaded in from the drainage grating above which brought on a look of industrial abandonment.

Corey spoke without looking at Joan, “What do you suppose they’re going to do with them?” His words, quiet as they were, seemed to travel for miles throughout the concrete tunnel.

“Don’t know... either interrogate them or eat them. Maybe torture them to death,” replied Joan.

Corey started to cry. The loss of his friends brought back the memories of his parents. Next week he would be eleven and it had been three years since he last saw them.

“No, don’t cry Corey. I’m sure someone will rescue them.” Though they both knew that they would never see their friends again. They didn’t talk for a long time as they held each other for comfort. Being five years older than him she often held him when he started a panic attack as if she were his mother, though she was his closest thing to one.

“Come on, we’d better get going,” Joan finally said.

They turned toward the iron door that would lead them down into the Earth when an intense white light flashed through the grating overhead. They heard wet, sloshing noises and sounds of chains being dragged across the pavement.

“It’s them!” Joan shouted and started to pull the heavy iron door open.

Corey pulled with her but the door was rusted shut. Five small inches was what it would allow them to have. It was as if the door itself was being controlled by them. The door’s rusted surface seemed to spell out, “Die human bastards.” Then they heard something new. Joan turned and saw the harsh flame of a blow torch. It ate its way though the grating like razor teeth through tender flesh.

“Pull, Corey pull!” Joan shouted.

“I am! I am!” Corey hollered back.

The iron door opened four more inches before it jammed permanently. Joan turned to the grating again and saw three slimy, red tentacles reaching out for them. Each were coated with millions of tiny little razor-like blades. They extended out from the tentacle as if they were thirsting for her blood.

“Get in, they’re coming!” Joan cried.

“I can’t, my head’s too big!”

“Try damn it!”

“I am!” Corey shouted as he turned his head in all angles to somehow squeeze inside. Joan continued to push him and within seconds his head made it through. It didn’t take him long to slide all the way in. The shadows blanketed his weary face and his frantic eyes. He reached out for his sister and took her hand. The tentacles were squirming closer and closer for Joan. She moved her arm and leg through but the rest of her could not fit.

“I can’t get through. You’ll have to leave me,” Joan said flatly as tears ran down her cheeks.

“Wh... what?”

“You have to go... you must warn the others,” she muttered.

“Leave you?” Corey whispered then brought his face out of the shadows to the door. “leave you?” He asked again.

Suddenly one of the tentacles wrapped itself around Joan’s arm. Her eyes widened and her mouth twisted in a silent scream as the little razors sliced deep into her. Another wrapped itself around her neck. Blood gushed down her shirt.

“Noooo!” Corey screamed.

Joan flung out her hand, gesturing for him to escape. The third tentacle caught her by the leg and she was carried up toward the ceiling. Corey reached out for his sister but he quickly withdrew his hand when he saw four more tentacles squirm from the grating and head toward him. Joan could only make a gurgling sound as she was brought up to the surface. The white lights flashed with excitement over the streets and Corey ran as fast as he could to the underground colony.

The creatures eyed Joan and their smiles stretched across their black and red tiger-striped faces as they licked their thick furry lips. Black drool ran down one of the creatures chin. They held her in the air, looking her over as if they were fishermen admiring their prized catch. The creature with a giant scar that ran down its squid-like body released its tentacle from Joan . The other creature raised her higher by her leg, enjoying the terrifying look on her face.

“Mmm, little girl. Not that plump but just as tasty,” the creature gasped as it inspected Joan further.

“Indeed. Too bad the boy escaped,” the other creature hissed. “He would have made a fine feast. A fine feast.”

The giant white lights above them flickered off while both creatures laughed hideously and dragged Joan down the street in chains until they reached a warehouse. The creatures then tossed Joan onto a hovering platform and pulled it into an elevator which lead them deep into the depths of the Earth. Both creatures drooled over her unconscious body.

The elevator stopped. The creatures carted Joan into a single room. Others were there, shackled high to the walls, crying, starving and dying. They chained her to the wall between two young boys who were unconscious as well.

Days passed before Joan regained consciousness. She awoke from the terrifying screaming of one of the boys who was chained up beside her. She turned to her left and saw the creature with the long scar down its body. It was swallowing the boy’s legs as if it were a snake gulping up a hamster. The boy, who Joan had recognized as one of Corey’s friends, Jacob, flailed against the wall, screaming for help. The creature’s stench was intolerable as it burned into Joan’s nostrils.

Again she peered at the creature. It’s giant mouth was closing in on the boy’s thighs. She needed to escape and reach the surface. Though crazy it may seem she actually couldn’t wait to see the daylight sun and the midnight stars.

The creature had moved up to the boy’s chest. His face was frozen in terror and his eyes had rolled up to the back of his head. She remembered the creature’s tentacles around her neck and looked down at the blood on her clothes. There had to be a way to escape. Without warning a crunching noise filled her ears. She turned and saw that the creature had bitten down on the boy’s body. Then with its monstrous jaws the creature tore it from the shackles and only his forearms remained.

“What the hell are you?” Joan gasped.

The creature chuckled and licked the blood off its face.

“Aliens... you’re aliens to take us over.”

The creature chuckled harder then hissed, “Aliens? We’re from the same planet.”

Confused, Joan peered at the creature.

“You see, we were created from your industrial waste... and now we have risen,” it hissed then continued, “Ironic, eh? That you think us as aliens when it was your own species who made us.”

In disbelief, Joan pondered over what the creature had said. In a strange, twisted sort of way it all made perfect sense to her. But how? She felt oddly responsible... was it possible that her people were the enemy after all?

At that moment she caught sight of someone outside the room. Another mutated creature? She looked down at the creature then back toward the doorway. No, it was her brother. He was moving his lips trying to tell her something but she couldn’t understand what.

The creature hissed, “The human race will be wiped out in a matter of months.” It chuckled again.

Corey waved his hands in the air and again Joan peered at him. He was moving his lips and this time she understood him. Distract it, was what he was trying to tell her. She saw two other men from the colony with him. They were constructing something with what looked like a harpoon.

“You all will die! I was going to eat you now but I think I’ll save you for later tonight.” Its mischievous smile widened, taking up most of its face and its small round tongue wiggled back and forth.

The creature turned for the door when Joan quickly asked, “What was it that we did to you?”

The creature gaped at her then hissed, “Your military and political leaders had us confined to the underground sewage plants where we were conceived. They didn’t want anyone to know about us. They were sickened by us. Then they started the experiments. Oh, the endless experiments.” It growled and it’s blood-thirsty eyes narrowed upon her. Joan looked up and saw that the others had the harpoon ready and were aiming it at the creature. All at once, in an uncontrollable rage the creature started to attack Joan with its fierce tentacles. It screamed and screamed as it slashed her body all over.

“Shoot it!” Joan yelled. “Shoot it”

The creature stopped, realizing she was calling out to someone behind it. Quickly it spun around and saw two men dressed in black robes holding up a small cannon over their shoulders. Its tentacle thrashed out for them but the men fired before they could strike. The harpoon swiftly speared through the creature’s face and into the cinder block, missing Joan’s body by inches. Orange, oily muck exploded everywhere. Its slain body twitched furiously and the tentacles swiped across the room mindlessly. Within minutes the body was still.

Corey rushed over to Joan and hugged her tight. One of the men produced a small ax and hacked the chains off Joan and the other prisoners. Joan fell to her knees. Countless scabs marked her face and neck. She hugged her brother back with every ounce of strength she had left.

“Come on,” said one of the men who was wearing an old Red Sox cap. “We need to get out of here before the rest return.”

The other man gave a toothless grin then picked up Andrew and another boy and carried them out over his shoulders. On the ground behind Corey an old man wheezed for air. The man with the hat helped him out carefully.

As Corey and Joan walked out of the prison they came across the other dead creature that was pinned against a wooden column. The harpoon went through its small triangular chest and it stared at them with cold, vacant eyes. They both smiled and knew one day they too will face these monstrosities once again and fight... fight for their lives and for the outside world.

Copyright © 2003 by Brian Grisham