This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The black night of the Iraqi desert is pierced by a blinding white flash. For a moment the dry landscape is thrown into harsh light, sending animals scurrying into hiding. The flash catches the attention of a man dozens of yards away, though he doesn’t even realize he saw something at first. The man absent-mindedly rubs his eyes with a patchy glove and continues his movement.
Private Calvin Reynolds is pacing the wall, looking out into the dark desert of Iraq. Night patrols are the worst. He thinks to himself. Nothing happens out here anymore. This particular US Army base hasn’t seen action in decades. The base is only manned to keep a military presence in Iraq, to keep the conservatives happy at home.
Private Reynolds can see his breath cloud in the cold desert air; the gloves covering his fingers were getting threadbare, allowing the chill air to creep between the fibers. Damn budget cuts, Reynolds thinks, can’t even afford new gloves for these night shi-. Reynold’s thought is cut short as he peers in to the darkness. Was that movement he saw? Beyond the reach of the dim lights on the walls, the desert is pitch black.
Reynolds stops walking and peers into the inky black beyond the wall. Could’ve sworn I saw something move. “Hey Wallace, turn on that spot light will ya?” Reynolds calls over to the other soldier patrolling the wall.
“Why?” Wallace asks, clearly annoyed that Reynolds expects him to get off of his beach chair. Wallace had been bringing his chair out for patrols long enough that Sergeant Howland didn’t even bother reprimanding him anymore.
“I thought I saw something out there, just turn it on for a second, you could use some exercise.” Reynolds smiles at Wallace, knowing he can’t see him that far away, but hoping he could hear the smile in his voice. Wallace wasn’t exactly known for doing favors, especially in the middle of the night when he’s already hunkered down in his beach chair.
“Ugh, fine. At least it’ll pass 30 seconds.” Wallace grunts his way out of his chair and slowly lumbers over to the spotlight, bolted to the railing. He flicks the switch and swivels the light around, shining the massive bulb over the desert floor. He immediately regrets this. Hundreds of sets of eyes shine back at the men on the wall from the gloom. The eyes aren’t human, that’s clear enough- they shine in three pairs per body without blinking. The forms are smaller than a person, but can barely be considered humanoid. They are bipedal, walk on two legs, but their legs are very short and dense with muscle. Their arms are more like an orangutan’s: long and are used to support their movement. After the eyes though, the first thing the soldiers on the wall notice are the teeth. The mouths of the things out in the dark are filled with them. The mouths are the size of the thing’s torsos and their teeth spill out in all directions, unable to be covered.
Wallace can’t move, his legs are paralyzed from fear.
“Turn it off!” Reynolds shouts, his fear taking over as panic. The dark forms rush the wall in silence. Reynolds and Wallace aren’t even able to sight their laser rifles before they are overrun by the tide of dark bodies.
Sergeant Hank Howland rushes out of his bunk as soon as the alarms sound. He is ready with his trusty shotgun and has his men gathered fast enough to make the strict Sergeant proud.
Howland and his squad of ten trusted soldiers smash their way out of the barracks into the compound proper. The havoc and mayhem they see is astounding. Dozens of misshapen black forms are rampaging through the desert army base. These are no Iraqis or Kurds or even angry Satyrs. Up close, the monsters are even more grotesque. Their skin is mottled black and gray and seems to shift constantly. Their bodies have clumps of straggly black hair and short horns on the tops of their neckless heads. Their huge hands extend into long talons, easily ripping through fabric and flesh of the soldiers manning the base.
To their credit, Howland’s regiment are holding their own all about the compound. The beasts can leap yards, launching themselves with their arms as much as their legs, crashing into ranks of American soldiers. Laser fire flashes in every direction, Howland himself has to duck to avoid friendly fire.
“To the vehicle bay!” He calls to his squad of trusted men and women, “We’ll need some bigger guns for this mess!” His squad responds immediately and they all set off towards the vehicle bay.
The path is difficult; around every building they encounter a new group of monsters. The beasts go down easy enough to laser fire, as they wear no armor and do not seem to care for their lives or those of their comrades. The entire complex is in chaos. The crack of laser fire fills the air as much as the growls of the monsters and the screams of men. Howland is sweating quickly, as much from fear as from exertion. His thick moustaches drips salty sweat on his lips and he spits it angrily as he yells to his men, “Keep up the pressure, these beasts are nearly mindless! We’ve got them on the run!”
As they round the last corner they see the vehicle bay is overrun. There are dozens of beasts, far too many to count at a glance. There are bodies of soldiers strewn about the lot, a grim reminder that these beasts are here for blood.
“I don’t think we have enough guns, sir,” one of the soldiers says, a slight shake in his voice. As he speaks, the beasts stop and turn as one towards Howland and his men. Their too many, unblinking eyes hone in on the new sound, and their jaws slacken, showing off rows of long serrated teeth.
“No, Rodynski,” Howland says quietly, “I think you’re right. We need to regroup and figure out what’s going on here. Retreat, slowly.” The men start backing up, taking deliberately slow and careful steps, rifles pointed at the beasts. The monsters stay where they are, watching the soldiers. One beast hops down off the tank he was standing on, seemingly curious. Others start moving towards the soldiers as well making little chirping and clicking sounds, communicating with each other.
Howland’s sweat returns with a vengeance, regardless of the fact that it is a cool desert night. “Quicker, quicker,” he growls through his teeth. Alarmingly, the closest beasts begin growling back, mimicking the sound Howland makes.
The men round back past the corner and Howland takes a moment to look around, fear clouding his memory of the layout of his base. To their right is a radio room. We can use that to call for help Howland realizes, the kind of help you need when aliens are your business and there are far too many of them. Howland knows what he has to do- call in reinforcements.
Howland signals to his men to head to the radio room. The first few men enter the room just as footfalls quicken from around the corner in the vehicle bay. Howland signals to up the pace. A beast shows itself in their corridor, slouching, walking on its knuckles like a gorilla. More follow and soon the entire corridor is full of the beasts steadily advancing on Howland, unrushed.
“Faster,” he growls again. The men file inside as quickly as they can, but the beasts appear to get the message and start moving faster as well. The closest beast begins to drool in anticipation, thick ropes of saliva falling from its mouth. Howland backs into the doorway after Rodynski and quickly shuts the door. Immediately the door buckles from the fists of the beasts. Rodynski and the other men help to brace it. A sound like nails on a chalkboard breaks the quiet of the radio room as the monsters claw at the metal door.
“Thank goodness there are no windows in here!” Rodynski calls out as he shoves his thick glasses higher up his nose which is mostly nostril. The tall, thin man is not exactly the picture of soldierly confidence. The rest of the men stand at the ready, rifles leveled at the door. Howland gets to the radio equipment immediately after making sure the door is secure.
The room is full of ancient-looking banks of radio equipment. Most of the machines fill the long tables in the room, leaving little room for the rolling chairs or anything else. Back in one corner of the dusty room there is even an ancient monstrosity that still has reels of tape to record audio, technology that is clearly a few hundred years out of date. The room is snug for the ten men and women now filling it. The equipment is covered in a thick layer of dust and only some of the florescent lights in the ceiling work, leaving the room gloomy and stifling.
“Blasted budget cuts,” Howland mutters, “All of this is decades out of date! Who knows how to use this junk, Harvey?” A young woman soldier, her black hair cut as short as any of the men, breaks off from holding the door and rushes over to the bank of radio equipment.
“Sir, this’ll be no problem,” Harvey says, “Who are we calling again?”“The Hundred Dollar Heroes, soldier, this problem looks to be beyond us.”
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