Chapter 3: Rescue
“ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” He inches closer to me, but I step back from him.
“I’-ll-be right back,” I rush out and then close the door. The chill air from the outside brushes my skin, and I exhale a breath, hoping to ease my building anxiety. The rummaging upstairs continues, but instead of heading to the kitchen, I run into my room. Quickly, I remove the towel from around my body and put on some clothes: undergarments, black pants, a red shirt, and some matching ebony boots with buckles in the front.
Crash. Crash. Crash. I jump and scream at the sound of something slamming against my bedroom door. As I whip around, I see two of the chairs from the kitchen have fallen down the stairs. One chair is in front of my bedroom door, and the other is next to it, on the wall.
“Hey! What’s going on?!” Ryu says as he runs up to my bedroom door. His eyes roam around the area, looking at the chairs scattered in the hallway.
“I don’t know! But you shouldn’t barge into someone’s home!”
At that, he lifts an eyebrow at me. “Look, there’s some shit happening and—”
Before he can finish, a loud groan fills the air. Slosh. Slosh. Slosh.
“What’s that noise?!” I shout as I walk up to Ryu. Instead of speaking, he stays quiet and then turns slightly towards the stairs. Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. Along with the strange sounds, a musty odor hints my nostrils, causing bile to rise to my throat.
With my mouth agape, I pad my way over to my bedroom door and stare at the stairs. Descending from the staircase is something I’ve never seen before. Emerging out of the darkness is something that’s pinkish-red and round, reminding me of a see-through bouncy ball that’s squishy. However, unlike a ball, this thing, whatever it is, isn’t small; it’s the size of a human, but it’s also long and dripping liquid as it crawls down the staircase.
“What is that thing?!” I yell out as fear and panic fill my body, causing my chest to ache again. Gripping my shirt as I inhale and exhale, I take a few steps back. More pain forms, feeling as though my heart is getting squeezed from the inside.
“This can’t be happening again...” Ryu mutters as his eyes go wide. For the first time since I’ve seen him, concern flashes across his face.
I part my lips to speak, but before I can utter a word, Ryu whips around and grabs my arm. “We have to get out here, now!”
“What...” I wince; the pain takes over my body, along with the what-if thoughts that threaten to consume my mind.
“If that thing takes us, we’re dead!” He raises his voice again and attempts to move me, but my legs are stuck, glued to the floor as fear takes over.
What is happening? What is that creature? I am dreaming, right? This is all a dream.
Shaking my head and closing my eyes, I repeat, this is all a dream. Wake up, Lena. It’s just your anxiety again.
Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. The sound gets louder, and then, an inhuman scream, a mix between a screech and wail, reverberates around us. Boom. Boom.
“Watch out!” Ryu shouts.
Then, I jerk, and a warm sensation presses against my body and encases me. Calming my anxious breaths, I open my eyes, and to my surprise, Ryu’s brown locks are hanging in front of my face. His body is shielding me from something. I follow the trail of his sight, and next to us, two tentacles are smooshed on the wall, spreading a pinkish-goo like a wildfire. The goo goes across the flat surface, making its way over to our bodies.
Ryu’s sight flickers to me again, and he says, “Time to go, and pull yourself together!” His fingers wrap around my arm and pull me along as we rush to the front door.
Screams and shouts—from all different types of voices, men, women, and children—come from the other side of the door, but Ryu doesn’t stop. After we make our way outside, my eyes go wide: the neighborhood is in chaos.
“Damn it! I was too late,” Ryu mutters with anger lacing his voice.
What is he talking about? And what is going on?
Trembling, I watch the scene of destruction unfold in front of me. Pinkish-red-goo creatures cover the streets, sucking up my neighbors into their bodies using tentacles. These beings try to take everyone: men, women, and children. In a panic, some neighbors run to their cars, making their escape while others bring out their guns, blasting away at the inhuman blobs taking their family members; however, the guns have no effect on the creatures. Instead, the bullets stay in their transparent bodies, lingering until they dissolve into nothingness.
Panic consumes me again, and my what-if thoughts come at me like a plague, becoming my only thoughts.
“What is happening?” I whisper as I place my hands on my head and tremble. All of this is a nightmare, a bad dream that must be forming from my anxiety over Ryu’s rejection. More screams fill the air, and behind me, the sloosh sounds grow louder.
“Lena, calm down,” Ryu says, his voice soft as he looks down at me.
He remembers my name. Slowly, I place my arms to the side and look at Ryu in his calm, grass-colored eyes. The pain in my chest still aches, but I attempt to steady my breathing. I don’t know what’s happening, but whatever it is, Ryu is right; if I give into my pain and fear, I’ll be killed by it.
“Do you know what those things are? Where are they taking everyone? Is the US being attacked?” The questions rush out, and without thinking, I grab Ryu’s ebony jacket, positioning myself closer to him.
He averts his gaze from mine, almost as if he is hiding something from me. However, before I can say anymore, another scream fills the night air. I glance behind Ryu, and in my driveway, another goo creature is pursuing a young woman. She falls, and instantly, a tentacle wraps around her ankle and drags her to the creature. With her arms flailing around, she tries to fight it off, but it’s no use; the creature doesn’t falter.
“It’s going to take her!” I step away from Ryu and run to my car before I stop to think. What can I do?
“Hey! I know you want to help, but you need to—”
I cut him off. “I need to what? If we don’t do anything, that thing is going to take her!”
Ryu parts his lips, but then, the other goo comes through the front door and propels itself towards me. However, Ryu pushes himself into me, knocking me out of the way and both of us onto the ground. As I look up at him, his muscular body covers mine. He isn’t looking at me, and his stern gaze is on the creature that just tried to swallow me.
“For the love of God, someone please help me!” The woman shouts.
“Ryu!” I repeat his name, but for some reason, as Ryu watches the creatures, he doesn’t move. He is like how I was before, stuck in some daze of fear. Flinching, he touches his forehead and rolls over, positioning himself to sit on the ground.
“Ryu!” He doesn’t respond to me, and his green eyes are cast down to the gravel, glazed over. I place my hands on his shoulders and shake him back and forth. “Ryu! Are you all right? What happened?” Still, he says nothing.
“Damn it! I need to do something.” Fear crawls back inside me, urging me to sink to the ground and hide, but I can’t. My legs go weak, but I focus on the task at hand. I jump up and run into the house, ignoring the shouts and screams coming from all around me. As I rush to the bedroom, I look for anything I can use as a weapon when suddenly, I eye my Katana on the wall.
“I never thought I would ever use this sword as a weapon,” I say as I grab it from the wall. Outside, the screams, screeches, and wails make music, creating a chorus of pain. “I have to hurry!” I pump my legs and make my way outside; however, everything is different now: the chaos from before is over. The creatures have fled, and the few remaining people nurse each other as they go inside their homes and cars.
On the street, Ryu is standing next to the woman who was caught before. From here, I can’t hear their conversation, but the woman smiles at him and then runs off, going down the street.
Perplexed, I run up to Ryu as I grip the handle of my sword, keeping it at my side.
“Where did the creatures go? What happened?”
Ryu lets out an exhausted sigh and then says, “They’re gone, and I suggest you leave too”—he glances into the distance, looking down the street—“they could return at any time, so. . .see ya!” And just like that, he begins to walk off.
Wait, is he seriously leaving? First, there were inhuman goo-like monsters kidnapping people, and he’s leaving!
My anger grows with every second, despite the anxiety also coursing through me over the fact that the guy I like is still in front of me, albeit walking away.
“Wait,” I mumble, “he said they could come back, so does that mean they’re also at the college? I need to find Lyla and Mark before it’s too late.” Without wasting any more time, I rush back inside the house, grab my bag with my keys and phone inside, and then run to my car. Quickly, I press the speed dial button for Lyla, but the phone keeps ringing and ringing.
“She’s not picking up. Damn it!”
Instead of calling Mark, I yank the keys from my bag and open my car door. As I place my fingers on the door handle, I hear a cough from behind me. Whipping around, the sight of Ryu standing like a silhouette of darkness catches my attention.
I avert my gaze from him and proceed to open the car door. Even as I try to enter my VW Bug, the tension between us weighs in the air.
Wondering what he’s doing, I swallow the gulp in my throat and say, “Do you need something?”
Silence passes between us, and just him being close to me causes my chest to ache and my mind to go into a daze.
“I’ll watch you drive off, just to make sure you’re safe. I suggest you get as far away as you can,” he says nonchalantly.
I slump my shoulders. “I’ll be all right,” I say as I open the door and slip my body in the driver seat.
“Where are you headed?” He asks. When I turn my head to look at him, I see his brown locks blowing in the wind, and instead of facing me, he’s watching the skies, almost as if he’s searching for something.
I sigh. “My best friend isn’t picking up her phone, so I’m heading back to the co—”
“You can’t go there,” he says, cutting me off as he turns to look at me, his voice frantic.
With his narrow eyes, he watches me and studies the expression on my face. Pain raises in my chest again, and I flinch. Inhale and exhale.
Control the anxiety.
“Hey! Are you okay?” He inches closer to me and reaches out his hand.
“I’m fine!” I shout as I shut my eyes. All I want to do is get away from here and find a place where I’ll be safe. What if those creatures come back? What if they’ve already captured Lyla?
“Lena,” he says my name, softly. And to his words, I slowly open my eyes. Ryu stands next to the car, watching me with concern.
“I’ll go back with you. I’m heading that way anyway, so let me drive.”
Instead of responding right away, I attempt to calm my mind, staying in the current situation. Be mindful, and don’t let your thoughts wander.
“Uh...I’m not going to let a random guy drive my car.”
Ryu quirks an eyebrow. “Random huh”—he laughs—“Didn’t you ask me out earlier today? I wouldn’t say I’m just a random guy.” I don’t miss the cocky tone of his voice, and the smirk etched on his lips. He crosses his arms across his chest and waits for my reply.
Rage courses through me to his mocking tone. Yes, I asked him out, and yes, I touched myself to him, but I never expected him to show up at my house with goo-like creatures lingering about.
“And didn’t you reject me? It’s not like we actually know each other,” I mumble in frustration as I adjust my body into a driving position after laying my sword down in the backseat along with my bag. With my foot on the gas pedal and hands on the steering wheel, I begin to put the key in the ignition.
“Well then, maybe it’s time we get to know each other better,” he says as he continues to smirk at me and places his arm against the roof of my Bug. With his green irises staring at me, heat burns on my cheeks, and to prevent my thumping heart from killing me, I avert my gaze from him.
“How did you find out where I lived anyway?”
“That’s a silly question, isn’t it?” He laughs. “I found your information in the college directory.”
“The college directory,” I repeat, wondering if that’s actually the truth.
“Anyway, we should probably get going.” He removes his arm from the car and strolls over to the passenger side door, opens it, and slips his body inside.
“Don’t you want to find your friend? Or, are you waiting for those things to come back?” He deadpans.
I groan as I weigh the options presented to me: drive off with the guy I like and find Lyla, or keep trying to kick the guy I like out of my car. Either way, both options aren’t ideal, but I think back to the goo-like creatures and what Ryu said. He muttered something under his breath as if he knew what was happening, and he did save me twice already.
I let out an exhausted sigh and say, “Fine, you can come.”
“Funny, I didn’t know I needed permission to finish, but I appreciate the thought.” He chuckles darkly, his voice filled with amusement.
Cheeks heating up and heart-thumping, I shake my head, hoping to hide the blush forming on my face. “Let’s just go,” I say as I close the car door and turn the key. The VW Bug roars to life, and next to me, Ryu also shuts his door.
Slowly, I back out of the driveway, and neither of us says anything. As I drive down the street, more destruction comes into view: some houses have broken windows, cars have been flipped over, pseudo-weapons line the road, and bodies, with blood flowing from them, are lying in the street. “How. . .are they dead? Why did this happen?”
I stop the car and shut my eyes, wishing I didn’t see the aftermath of the chaos. For a moment, all sounds fade from my ears.
“Do you still not want me to drive?” Ryu asks dryly, snapping me from thoughts as if the death and mayhem don’t faze him. In a way, his tone is stoic, lacking any emotion for the loss of life.
Surprised by his reaction, I open my eyes to look at him, but his gaze is focused on the sky, and even under the moon’s beams, his features glow, highlighting his handsome face. There are two scenes around me: one of turmoil and the other of walking sex.
Inhale and exhale. I breathe, “I’ll be all right, but thanks for asking.”
He hums in response and continues to watch the stars above us. Whatever is happening, it’s obvious Ryu knows more than he lets on. As we go through the neighborhood, there are almost no signs of life but for a few survivors here and there.
Residue from the goo-like creatures litters the streets and homes, including on the windows, sidewalks, and doors.
Have they taken that many people? What are these creatures? As I make another turn and then another, I remember my car accident and the screams from before. Whatever is happening, I just hope I get to Lyla in time and that my beating heart and panicky chest don’t kill me anytime soon. However, the more glances I steal of Ryu staring out the window, the more my heart beats to the rhythm of panic. It’s going to be a long night, and it’s only just beginning.