Desert as far as the eye could see. Amy stumbled over the hot sand, falling to her knees as the two blistering suns above her beat down with a fiery heat. She was so tired. So thirsty. So hungry.
She had been on this God forsaken planet for over five weeks now. The first four had been spent locked in a cage. A cage that was anchored to the back of a long convoy of wagons that floated above the sands. It was piloted by a group of strange looking aliens that walked on four jointed legs that bent backwards at the knee and were covered in a light, sand colored hide that looked as tough as leather. Two arms, with double elbow joints hung down at their sides, and thin wisps of hair stuck out around their flat, noseless faces.
She didn’t understand anything they said, nor did she understand what her captors wanted from her when they snatched her from the little cabin she was staying at in Washington.
All she knew with certainty, was that she was not on Earth anymore.
After she was taken from her father’s old cabin, the aliens placed her into a clear gel-like liquid in a slim tube. While she fought, a mask was forced over her face, then darkness fell over her.
From the moment she woke up, locked inside the cage, all she saw was the endless desert. Nothing for miles in any direction. Nothing, except the ugly four-legged beings that walked beside the cage, shouting at her every few miles.
Amy had just curled herself into a corner and tried to make herself as small as possible. Without understanding what they wanted from her, or where they were taking her, fear cocooned her in it’s nasty web, making her shiver despite the heat.
For four weeks the convoy of cages, prisoners and strange alien creatures moved through the desert, day and night, without stopping. The aliens fed and watered them through the bars. They were even forced to do their business through the bars as well.
Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, the convoy stopped close to a sprawling mass of jagged rocks. The soft, pale yellow sands shifted to dark grey and brown rocks that rose from the ground in tall, sharp pillars all around them.
Voices carried over the rocks. Loud shouts came from the aliens in the front of the convoy as they called out a warning to the others. Amy watched as all the aliens around the cages grew nervous, drawing their unusual, black weapons and aiming them at the rocks. The suns began to set, casting the scenery in a pale orange glow.
She shook her head, trying to forget the bloodshed that followed, when the massive black creatures attacked from the rocks.
Their glowing red eyes still haunted her. The screams of the prisoners as they were torn apart still echoed in her ears. Her clothes were still stained in their blood.
The only reason she survived was because her fellow prisoner had knocked her over during the attack. She smacked her head on a rock and passed out.
When she woke in the pitch darkness of the night, she lay beneath a dead prisoner, covered in his blood.
Fear paralyzed her as she tried to see anything around her.
It took her all night to gather the courage to roll the dead alien off of her and rise to her feet. As the first light of the rising suns hit the desert, she saw the massacre that had ensued while she slept.
Everyone was dead. All the prisoners, all the guards, everyone was torn apart.
After expelling the meager contents of her stomach, she had gathered what little supplies she could carry, and anything she knew how to use. She swallowed her fear and made her way out into the barren wasteland.
Her food ran out first. The strange bland bars they fed them during their journey lasted five days, even though she tried to ration them as best she could.
Amy withered away over the weeks of travel. Her ribs protruded through her body, the bones pushing from her pale, sickly looking skin in hard, painful lumps. Her captors did not believe in three meals a day, preferring to feed them only once a day, in the evening when it grew a little cooler.
The long silver tube her captors used to give them all water was another strange device that she could not comprehend. All she knew was that it gave out a cup of water every three hours. But whatever science or magic that allowed for such a luxury ran dry yesterday.
Weak from lack of food and dehydrated from the baking suns, Amy stayed on her knees, licking her dry, cracked lips with an equally dry tongue.
The sands around her shimmered from the heat, making the desert dance in her vision.
She closed her eyes, allowing her mind to take her back to the beautiful lush forest she had been in when she visited her father’s cabin and recalled the soft rain that fell the evening before she was taken. She let out a dry laugh as she thought about how she’d moaned about the rain. What she wouldn’t do for just a drop of water now.
Amy lowered her head, her eyes still closed and thanked whoever could hear her silent prayer that her sister and two best friends had gotten stuck in traffic and were late arriving at the cabin. She couldn’t bear to think about her baby sister suffering like this, or being torn apart by those creatures from the convoy. A silent tear slipped from her eye as she took in her own fate. The tiny drop of moisture dried up as quickly as her hope did on her sunburnt cheek.
She was lost in the desert on an alien planet and would die out here, soon.
Shaking off those thoughts, Amy climbed back to her unsteady feet, taking a moment to steady herself, and scanned the horizon around her. Her eyes moved over the wavy sands, but all she saw were endless dunes. Turning to her right, she scanned that area as well, but found only more sand.
“This is it,” she rasped through a dry, sore throat, “This is where I die.”
She closed her eyes, forcing one foot in front of the other as she moved in the same direction she had been for the last week.
If her calculations were right, judging by the placement of the two suns, she had at least another six hours before the suns set and she got at least some reprieve from the blistering heat. She wouldn’t make it that long. She could feel her body shutting down.
“No!” she growled out, pushing herself forward on the loose sand, “I won’t die out here. Not today.”
Shuffling one foot in front of the other, Amy kept moving. Her whole body ached, begging her to stop, but she ignored it, afraid if she stopped now, she would not get up again. For the next two hours, Amy moved slowly, falling several times, only to get back up again and keep going.
When her vision began to swim, which had nothing to do with the heat waves off the sand, she stopped, her body swaying back and forth.
She stood on top of a tall sand dune, overlooking nothing but endless desert as far as she could see. Helplessness and defeat filled her soul, the realization that there was no hope for her to survive a place like this filled her mind. She wanted to cry, to howl and fight, but she didn’t have the energy anymore. She barely had enough to keep standing. As black spots began to dance in her vision, Amy closed her eyes and sent out a silent message to her sister, telling her that she loved her and missed her.
Her body began to feel blissfully numb as she swayed even more, her ears ringing and her vision growing darker. Her skin tingled, going cold as her knees finally gave out beneath her.
She vaguely realized that she was tumbling down the dune, her nose and mouth filling with the hot, dry sand as she rolled. The bright light of the sun seemed more like a strobe light behind her closed eyes as she rolled down the sand.
Something hard smashed her shoulder. The light changed to complete darkness. She felt like she was falling for a moment, before another hard hit to her side made her breath explode out of her dry throat.
Amy kept her eyes closed, pain pushing away the darkness as her ribs and hip throbbed.
Cool, damp air touched her skin, making her groan with relief. She could smell the moisture in the air, but still kept her eyes closed. Her battered mind couldn’t take it if she opened her eyes and saw only the endless sand. She knew people saw hallucinations in the desert, mirages of things that didn’t exist. If the glorious shade she was in, and the cool, damp air was all in her mind, it would shatter her fragile grasp on sanity. She didn’t want to die like that. She would rather keep her eyes closed and pretend she was back in the cabin, excitedly waiting for the girls to gather for the weekend.
Something cold and wet touched her cheek. She wondered if it was some small desert creature that ate the bodies of whatever happened to die out here. Another gentle touch brushed her other cheek, caressing her in soft, long strokes.
“Accept us,” A voice whispered. Amy wasn’t sure if she heard it in her ears or her head, but it sounded gentle, kind, and warm.
Her hazy mind tried to figure out what was going on, but she was too tired to think, too exhausted and weak to open her eyes.
“Accept us. We will save you.”
Those simple words penetrated her shadowy mind. Save me?
“Wh… What?” She croaked out, using the last of her energy to speak.
“Accept us, child. We will save you.”
Amy gave up all of the fight inside her. She had nothing left. She relaxed her muscles, opened her mouth to answer, but no words came out. Instead, Amy nodded before she released the final tiny thread she had on consciousness and fell into the blissful, painless abyss of darkness.
Amy woke periodically over the next few days. At first, she felt only pain in her side, ribs, hip and left leg. It was excruciating, making her moan. Sleep quickly reclaimed her after that.
When she woke again, she was moving. Her eyes were too heavy to open, but she felt her body being dragged over something hard.
The next time she woke, she was laying in a shallow pool of cold water. Her body shivered, goosebumps rose all over her skin at the cold. She tried to open her eyes, but all she saw was darkness.
When she woke for the last time, she was laying on a soft, sand covered floor. Her body didn’t hurt anymore. She could feel something incredibly soft and warm pressed to her back, like a thick fur rug wrapping around her.
She tried to speak, but her throat was still raw and dry, making her words come out as a moan. When the warm fur rug behind her moved, adrenaline raced through her, waking her up even more and her eyes shot open. She was in a dark cave. A large open space filled by dark grey and black rocks that enclosed her inside a cavern. Water trickled from not far away, making her mouth feel even more dry. When a low rumbling purr came from behind her, Amy spun to look. She froze in terror as her heart sank.
Behind her, laying sprawled out on its side was a massive black beast. She recognised it instantly. It was the same type of black monster that had torn the convoy apart.
Fear tore through her veins, making her trembling grow more intense. She slowly scooted back, praying the beast would not wake. She moved back a few feet, her eyes never leaving the massive body of the beast. She came to a dead stop when her back brushed another soft, fluffy body behind her. Swallowing down the panic that rose, she slowly turned to look at the second sleeping beast. Amy closed her eyes for a moment, pushing back the tears that threatened to spill.
She had gotten a very good look at the beasts that attacked the convoy. They were huge, black monsters, standing as tall as her five foot six. They had glowing red eyes, and mouths filled with long, razor sharp teeth. Their paws had long, sturdy claws, sharp enough to cut through the metal bars of the cages like they were butter.
The beasts had the sleek, powerful body of a large cat from Earth, with powerful legs and jaws made for death. She remained frozen on the damp ground, her heart pounding in her chest so loudly that she wondered if it would wake the monsters. A flash of a thought crossed her mind. She would rather have died in the desert from the heat than to be torn apart by these creatures.
Knowing that she couldn’t just sit there between the two creatures forever, she slowly and silently got to her feet. She was still weak. She managed to get to her knees when the black creature in front of her, the one she had used as a pillow, stirred and began to move. Panic gripped her as her heart fell again. A scream tried to escape her mouth, which she was barely able to silence.
The creature raised its head, stretching out its huge body like a lazy house cat. It extended its paws out in front of it, claws digging deep grooves into the rock as it stretched and yawned, giving Amy a clear view of the long, sharp fangs in its mouth.
When it turned to face her, Amy’s life flashed before her eyes.
She saw her mother and father before they died. She saw her sister, her best friends, her boring job at the all-night convenience store, and her small one bedroom apartment in Portland. Sadness filled her at the thought of never seeing her family again. At how unfair it was that her life had to end like this. She had always tried to be a good person, helping those she could and avoiding confrontation as much as possible.
Now, her life was going to be shredded by long, sharp claws on an alien planet… alone.
It took her a moment to realize that nothing was happening. She wasn’t being torn apart, or eaten alive.
Taking in a ragged breath, Amy slowly opened her eyes. The moment she did, her heart skipped a beat. Her gaze locked onto the brilliant green eyes of the beast in front of her.
It stood inches away from her, its face lowered to sniff her.
“Please,” She whispered in such a low voice she barely heard it. She didn’t want to die. She had survived so much already on this planet; the abduction, the prison convoy, and the desert.
“You live.” A soft, soothing feminine voice said in her head.
Amy’s eyes widened as she stared at the green eyed beast in front of her.
“What?” Amy asked, hoping that rescue might come from a dark corner of the cave.
“We were worried you would not survive. I am glad to see you are awake.”
Where was that voice coming from? It sounded like it was in her head, but that couldn’t be right.
“Who are you?” Amy asked, trying to tear her eyes off the emeralds in front of her.
“I have no name. Perhaps you can grant me one.”
“Where are you?”
“I am right here, in front of you.”
Amy frowned deeper. In front of her? The only thing in front of her was the monster.
She took a second to stare into the green eyes. They were soft, and held no bad intentions. They also shone with intelligence and understanding.
“Are you… Are you the big black monster in front of me?” Amy asked cautiously.
The green eyes blinked, a hint of amusement in them as the large black head nodded.
“Yes. Although I do not like to be called a monster.”
Amy’s mind went blank. She just stared at the creature in front of her, her eyes wide as she tried to understand what was happening.
“Sorry,” Amy replied. What else could she say to a creature that towered over her crouched body, only inches away from her face?.
“It’s alright. I take no offense. I know how others see my kind. I understand more now.”
“What… What is going on?” Amy finally asked, rising slowly to her feet. The creature raised its head as Amy stood, not once breaking eye contact with her.
“You fell into our lair. You were almost dead. We were not sure you would survive the bonding.”
Amy tried to understand what the creature was saying, but her mind locked onto one word and held it as her body began to shake again.
The green eyes softened again, and if Amy didn’t know better, she would swear the thing was smiling.
“Yes. I live here with my mate.”
The green eyes shifted from her to look past Amy’s shoulder. A cold shiver ran over Amy’s body as she remembered the other creature sleeping behind her. She swallowed, slowly turning to look at another huge beast, this one bigger than the green eyed one.
It stood staring at Amy with shining blue eyes, brighter than anything she had ever seen before.
“Oh, God,” Amy breathed, taking a step back from the massive beast.
“That is my mate. Greet our Alpha, my love” The voice spoke in her mind softly.
The beast with the blue eyes stared at her for a moment, then bowed its head, lowering its gaze to the ground.
“Alpha?” Amy breathed out, turning to keep both creatures in sight.
“Yes. Kisma and Maku chose you to be the alpha. We are finally five.”
Amy felt like her head was about to explode. What the hell was going on? What did she mean by Alpha? Like a pack alpha, like with wolves?
“Did I harm you?” A deep male voice asked in her mind, in the same way the other voice spoke.
Amy frowned, looking back at the blue-eyed creature. It was watching her, worry filling its stunning eyes. She took a second to think about what it had asked. She felt fine. No pain, no weakness, nothing.
“No… No, I’m fine, I think. Why would you think you hurt me?”
“I was the one who dragged you out to the pool. I feared I had harmed you. You were very weak.”
She could remember waking up to the feeling of being dragged.
“No, I’m okay. I actually feel pretty good.”
Relief swept through both sets of eyes and the huge black bodies relaxed.
“That is good to hear,” the female said, stepping closer to Amy. Despite her fear, Amy stayed still, waiting to see what would happen next. Had telling these creatures that she was fine only given them the go ahead to eat her?
But when a huge head pressed into her chest gently, a low, rumbling purr coming from its chest, Amy’s heart felt like it would beat right out of her chest. At first, she frowned to see the female beast rubbing its head against her like a cat. But a second later, a small smile broke out over her lips. This was the weirdest thing she had ever experienced, yet her hand still rose to gently stroke the luxurious fur on the side of her head. She smiled wider when the purring grew louder as she dug her fingers into the fur to get to the warm skin beneath.
“Where am I?” Amy finally asked, looking over at the blue eyed creature. It watched its mate with such an intense look of love in its eyes that it took her breath away. These were nothing like the creatures she had seen when the convoy got destroyed. They were gentle, caring, and intelligent.
“You are on the planet Raka. This cave is in the center of the wastelands. Where are you from? We have not seen your kind here before.”
“I’m from Earth. I was abducted from my father’s cabin. I was brought here with a bunch of other prisoners. We were dragged through the desert in some sick slave convoy or something.”
“How did you escape?”
Bile rose at the memory of the night the convoy was attacked.
“Creatures… like you attacked it. They killed everyone. I hit my head and passed out underneath the dead body of one of the prisoners I was locked up with.”
A deep, dangerous snarl echoed off the walls of the cave, making Amy jump. The large male bared its teeth, turning away from them as it strolled over to a shallow pool of water not far away. It paced back and forth, emitting a low, deep rumbling sound as it strode back and forth.
“He is angry,” The female voice said, “our kind has… They have suffered a great injustice.”
“What do you mean? What happened?”
Green eyes filled with tears as the female raised its gaze to her.
“Our kind was poisoned by the Korok's. They are a vile species that inhabits this planet. They are hunted and killed by all those that live in the city of Mura, but their biggest enemy are the Arusian's. They hate them just as much as we do.”
“Who are the Arusian's?”
“They are beings very similar to you. They walk on two, and speak with sound. They are different as well. They are part living and part machine. Very dangerous males with exceptional skills in hunting and killing. They live in the city.”
Hope soared in Amy at the sound of other human-like beings living on this planet. At the idea of civilization.
“Is this city far from here?”
“Yes. It is at least a five days walk. Do you wish to go there?”
Amy chewed her lip for a moment, glancing around the cave. She couldn’t stay here, not if she had any hope of getting back home.
“Can I?” She asked, meeting the deep, stunning green eyes.
“If that is what you wish, Alpha, then we will take you. But you must understand who and what you are now. You are not one anymore. We are now five.”
“Five? What does that mean?”
“You accepted us all. We are bonded and will die without each other.”
She swallowed, “Bonded? Who are the other two? You said five, I only see you, me and him.” She gestured to the male still pacing by the pool.
“Come,” The female said, turning to walk towards a small grouping of rocks beside the pool, “Sit. I will explain it to you.”
Amy followed the massive black cat-like creature to the pool. She climbed up one of the smaller rocks, sitting down to be at eye level with the female and waited.