Against the Darkness - Release Week Blitz
By A M Griffin
Date Published: June 4, 2014
Seventeen year old Sinta Allen has one objective, to get from Tallahassee, Florida to her mother in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seems simple enough right? Wrong. Hostile aliens have invaded Earth—and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we’re losing the fight. While the aliens bring devastation and destruction and take people away to God knows where in their spaceships, Sinta, along with some of her classmates must rely on their survival instincts, a little luck and each other if they want to survive the venture across the country. The last thing she needs is for Wade, her school friend and Jason, her rescuer, to distract her along the way.
“Please mom,” I say, whining. “I really don’t want to go.”
“Sinta, you know I love it when you help me out, but this conversation is getting old. We’ve been going round and round like this for months. You’re going, end of story.” She pulls into an empty parking space and turns off the car. “I’ll help you with your things,” she says, popping the trunk.
Feeling defiant, and with nothing else to lose, I cross my arms and don’t move. She opens her door and gets out. I hear her saying good morning to some of the other parents and kids, but I don’t budge.
I recognize the kids passing my car with their bags either in their hands or over their shoulders. Some look my way and smile. Some even wave enthusiastically. All are in grades below mine. With this being my senior year, I don’t expect many others from my class to be here. Like I told my mom, band camp isn’t needed for anyone’s college application, especially since most of us seniors applied for college last summer or during the beginning of first semester. Besides Mia and Ian, I expect to be hanging around a bunch of younger kids.
Through the side mirror I see my mom coming up to my door. I quickly lock it. Childish? Yes.
She raps on the window and, when I don’t answer, she raps again, this time faster and harder. When I still ignore her she leans closer to the window. “For the love of God, if you keep it up I will unlock this door and drag your skinny tail out and strangle you in front of everyone here and still make you get on that bus.”
My mom has never hit me before, she’s full of threats and they usually prove empty. I turn to see her glaring daggers at me.
The look on her face says that she intends to do as she said and more. I open the door and step out and around her. I grab my duffle and sleeping bag from the trunk and head to the bus.
“Aren’t you going to at least kiss me goodbye?” she yells out after me.
“I can’t. I need to hurry. I don’t want the fun to start without me.”
Without turning I raise my hand in the air, saying bye. Of course she’ll be mad for a little while, but then she’ll start missing me. I’m her only daughter and she forced me to go on a trip I didn’t want to take. I think by tomorrow afternoon she’ll be calling the camp to check up on me.
I set my things next to the other bags on the ground by the side of the bus and climb the stairs. I only stop briefly to see if Mia has made it yet.
She and Ian are huddled in a back seat, kissing.
Lovely. The fun is starting already.
I walk down the aisle, passing ninth and tenth graders. Closer to the back are the eleventh graders and, taking up the last three rows, the twelfth graders. Myles Jackson or MJ as he’s called and Shayla Day have a seat across from Mia and Ian. Seeing MJ surprises me, because he’s a jock and the number one football prospect from Michigan. He doesn’t need band camp to go on any application. Michael and Aaron take up another seat, with MJ’s best friend Eric and his girlfriend Melissa across from them. Then there’s Daniel and Andrew taking up a seat, and across from them is an empty one.
“We saved you a seat,” Mia says, pulling her mouth away from Ian’s long enough to talk and breathe.
“Thanks,” I say sliding into it. I put my ear buds in and pull the hood of my Huron Band sweatshirt over my head.
Just as soon as I close my eyes I feel the dip in my seat. Opening one, I peek to catch a glimpse of Wade Hill squeezing into the seat next to me.
“Sorry, Sinta,” he says, after settling in. “I asked Mrs. Franklin for my own seat but she told me there wasn’t enough room. Mrs. Burgess told me to sit next to you, since you’re so skinny.”
I close my eyes. This is a punishment.
I hear the creak of the door closing and, after a few minutes, the bus begins to move.
“Testing, testing,” Ms. Burgess’ voice projects over the loud speaker. She’s the new young teacher who just started teaching at our school this year. “How about I sing everyone a nice little lullaby to get you all to sleep, hmm?
Oh. My. God.
“Can someone please tell her she isn’t auditioning for American Idol,” I mutter.
Wade laughs. His meaty arm brushes up against mine as he does.
Let the fun begin.
It shouldn’t be a problem with just seven of us.
“Even so, I hate us being out in the open.”
“It’s our best hope right now. That area has plenty of trees for cover. We can build shelter and blend in with the surroundings.”
I nod, affirming what Wade said. “It’ll be perfect.”
“We thought the last place was perfect,” Shayla mumbles.
There were forty people hiding in some woods by a residential area, I want to tell her. That’s not perfect. That was a disaster waiting to happen. I clench my jaw tight to stop myself from pointing out the obvious.
“What about food?” MJ asks. He puts up his empty hands. “When we left, we didn’t have time to get to anything, food or water. We had to leave everything, even our backpacks.”
Wade pulls his pack off his back and rummages through it. “I have a flashlight, four bottles of water, two sleeves of crackers, a lighter and Swiss army knife. Sin,” he says, looking over to me. “What do you have?”
I don’t have to pull my bag off to recite its contents. “Two bottles of water, one sleeve of crackers, four slices of bread and I have my knife tied to my sweats.”
“Awesome. We’re definitely prepared to head back to Michigan,” Ian says.
“What did you bring?” I ask him, since he’s still being a smartass.
He glares at me before turning the other way.
“Let’s get going. Our circumstance isn’t going to change by just standing here,” Wade says.
We let him lead the way with Mia and I following close on his heels. Shayla and Ms. Burgess are at our backs and MJ and Ian are behind them.
We move silently through what used to be the residential areas. Everyone is on edge, watching out for aliens that could come out from behind trees or what used to be buildings or houses. We also keep peering up, watching for their ships.
Under the cover of night, we go through the few houses that don’t threaten to topple on us. We search for anything that will help us survive. We don’t find any more bottled water, but we are able to find a lot of canned goods and, luckily, an opener. We load what we can carry in three plastic bags. We don’t take so much that the bags will slow us down and only take what is needed.
By the time we get to the lake, its well into the night. We scout out the best possible spot, somewhere with trees thick enough to hide us. Once we find our hide-out, Wade directs us to gather all the wood we can find.
After watching him make a stick shelter that’s only two feet high, we set out to make our own. We each pick spots along the lake, under a tree, and position the openings so that we can see at least two other shelter entrances. We don’t talk about what happened—about how we think everyone else is dead. We hardly talk at all, besides to help each other find sticks and build the hobbit huts that we’ll live in for the next two days.
It’s past ten p.m. before we’re finally done and it’s so dark we can barely make out what’s around us. We’re tired, mentally and physically. There’s nothing left to do but to rest and think about all we’ve lost.
I crawl backward into my shelter. I won’t be able to sit up. I’ll hardly be able to turn around or shift my position. It’s long enough so that I can stretch out. I’m so short that my shelter won’t appear out of place against the bank of the lake. The guys had to make theirs shorter, and have to sleep curled up.
Once I’m fully inside, I glance over to Mia’s shelter. We made ours facing each other. I rest my face on my hands and she does the same, watching me too. I watch her until her eyes finally close for the night. When I’m sure that she’s sleep I roll over onto my side. This position is just as painful as lying on my stomach. Trying to get comfortable on the cold ground with only a few tufts of grass sprinkled in among rocks, dirt and twigs is the least of my worries.
Right about now is when I again start to have my recurring wish for the gift of foresight. But I’m sure everyone in the world has probably wished for the same thing. At least then there could have been some kind of planning. The military could have been ready for the aliens’ arrival and mounted an attack. Not only that, but the government could have organized some kind of evacuation. Although I don’t know to where exactly.
How do you evacuate an entire country?
At any rate, the gift of foresight would have helped us all. Maybe, with it, my mother wouldn’t have forced me to go on the stupid field trip. I remind myself how I’d begged and begged her not to make me go.
But I bet she regrets it now, especially since I’m almost a thousand miles away from her during the worst possible time.
I know what I’m doing and I try to hold onto the feeling for as long as possible. If I’m mad at her then I won’t miss her as much.
Just as I have that thought, my eyes begin to water. Being mad at her usually doesn’t last very long at all. I can’t make it. For all it’s worth, I know she’s regretting she ever made me go and she’s missing me just as much as I’m missing her.
I sniffle back the trickle of liquid that’s making a trail from my nostril and across my cheek. Tears fall in fat drops from the corners of my eyes. I’m crying so softly that I doubt anyone can hear it.
He snaps his fingers, bringing my attention back to his face.
He mouths something that I can’t make out. I shake my head.
He creeps closer. I notice a few other things about him. Like the gun that he’s holding in one hand and some kind of knife in the other.
My eyes widen in understanding.
He’s here to save us.
I peer to my right and left. No one else is paying attention to him. I turn back to him.
“Where are they?” he mouths again.
I nod toward the cabin where Ms. Burgess is screaming.
“How many?” he mouths.
“Three,” I mouth back to him.
He nods and goes back into the woods.
No, I want to yell. Come back, don’t leave us here.
I’m about to do just that when he returns with another man, this one older, but similar looking. They creep closer to us, their eyes scanning everything around them. As they come closer I see the rifles strapped across their backs, the guns in shoulder holsters, the knives strapped around their legs and pistols in their hands. I want to cry.
If anybody can save us from the Tanners it’s them.
The tickle of a tear is on my cheek. I use a shoulder to wipe it away.
I don’t say a word as the younger one crouches behind me and uses his knife to cut through the ropes that bind my wrists. The other man goes behind MJ to do the same. I see him whispering something to MJ and MJ nodding in response. Once my hands are free, he moves down to my ankles and begins to saw away at the ropes there.
He glances up to me, his eyes focused squarely on mine. I have a hard time looking away and I think that’s his intention. “What’s your name?”
Instead of my name a cry escapes my lips.
“It’s going to be okay,” he says, still sawing away at the ropes. He takes a quick peek to his right, where the other man is working to free MJ’s feet. “My name is Jason, but all my fraternity brothers call me JC.” He attempts a smile. “You can call me JC.”
“I…I’m not your frat brother,” I say, in a stutter, as confusion clouds my mind. “I’m a girl.”
Why did I point that out?
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
“Huh?” I’m as confused as ever.
With my feet free, he crawls quickly up to my side.
“Are you still with me? You look like you’re about to freak out and bolt.”
I nod. Yes I’m okay and yes, I’m going to run.
“Stay with me sweetheart,” he says, in a rush. “I’m going to give you this knife and you’re going to free the other girls. After they’re free, I want you to take them where you first saw me, okay? Behind those trees are some backpacks, you wait there for us. Do you hear me?”
“Answer me. Do you understand what I want you to do?”
“But what if you don’t make it. They can kill you,” I whisper. I can’t cover up the fear that is smothering me.
The smile he gives me this time is genuine, not at all forced, and all I notice are the deep dimples in his cheeks. “We got this.”
And for some reason I believe him. “Okay.”
“Shayla,” I say with my voice in a mixture of a whisper and whine. I’m scared to say anything louder.
Stomp, stomp, slide.
I peer in that direction, lifting my sword, pointing it to whatever will come at me. It shakes in the air, my hands almost too unsteady to hold it.
Stomp, stomp, slide.
Shayla approaches my back. “Your turn.”
Stomp, stomp, slide.
“Something is here,” I choke out.
She inhales sharply and steps back, away from me. Only after I feel the tug on the back of my shirt do I realize that she has me, pulling me with her. I take a slow deliberate step back and then another, letting her guide me as I keep my eyes peeled for them. We move to the far corner of the room. All the while the stomp, stomp, slide comes closer and closer, louder and louder.
Briefly I wonder if they can hear it in the basement. They have to. Will they come up and save us? Could they even risk it? I don’t think so. We’re on our own until the aliens leave.
I know we’re at the wall when Shayla stops abruptly and she leads me to rest my back on the wall. We’re standing side-by-side, but I get the feeling that I should stand in front of her. I’m the only one with a weapon. So I do.
“No,” she whispers. “What are you doing?”
“I have a sword.”
“Yeah, one that you’ve been having for all but five minutes.”
“Shhh,” I hiss.
After a blink, it’s there, blocking the entrance. A lizard, green and scaly. Eight feet tall, rippling muscles, staring at me with yellow eyes with black, diamond-shaped iris.
How can a lizard be muscular? My mind screams.
I whimper as it stares down at me, its breathing heavy.
A warm rush of urine travels down my legs.
Shayla’s scream seems to pierce through me.
“You will submit to us.”
Oh, God, No!
In two strides it’s at us. It reaches out for me and all I can focus on are the claws, three black claws, almost like talons, coming closer to me. Instinctively I cringe away from it. But those claws keep coming toward me.
With a “swish” of my sword I swing as hard as I can. It glides through his skin like through butter. A gush of warm liquid sprays me in the face and torso.
I’m not the only one who is surprised by what I’ve done. The lizard stares at his arm with pure shock. I’m in pure shock too. Not that I’ve done it, but that I’ve taken his hand clear off.
Before I can over think about what I’ve done, I take another swipe, this time at its leg. It’s not wearing any clothes, besides some kind of utility belt, so aiming for its knee is easy. The lizard roars as the sword passes through it, making him buckle and fall to his left.
I take a bold step forward and, as it’s falling down, I bring the blade of my sword down across its thick neck, separating its head from his body.
“Oh God!” Shayla cries out.
“I killed it. I can’t believe that I killed it.” My eyes are focused on the ooze instead of blood that’s dripping from my sword and hand.
“We have to get back to the basement.” Shayla rushes past me, but I grab her arm stopping her from leaving the room.
“We can’t. If there are any more aliens, we’ll lead them straight to the others.”
She pulls her arm out of my grasp. “They have guns. They can kill them!” She runs through the door, leaving me to stare at chopped up lizard.
But I have a sword.
Just as quickly as she leaves, Shayla comes back, screaming. “There’s another one!” She runs past me and to a small window on the back wall.
Another lizard, just like the first comes through the door. It takes a quick look at the carnage of its friend and in that time I raise my sword, readying for it.
I killed one. I can kill another.
With a growl it turns and uses its tail to knock me from my feet. As I hit the ground, so does the sword. I hear the clang of metal sliding across the floor and out of my reach. I can’t take my eyes off of it. It peers over me to where Shayla is. It lifts up a foot. I see how rough its skin is, the way his black claws curl inward.
It’s going to step on me and dig its claws in my flesh, ripping me apart.
About the Author:
A. M. Griffin is a wife who rarely cooks, mother of three, dog owner (and sometimes dog owned), a daughter, sister, aunt and friend. She’s a hard worker whose two favorite outlets are reading and writing. She enjoys reading everything from mystery novels to historical romances and of course fantasy romance. She is a believer in the unbelievable, open to all possibilities from mermaids in our oceans and seas, angels in the skies and intelligent life forms in distant galaxies.
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