Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s story is a blend of multiple nightmares that I had in the course of a night. I woke up inspired and immediately opened Scrivener to start writing. I feel this is a very strong first draft of the story that has also served to get the nightmares out of my head.
Sergeant Jamison ran. The creature was out there hunting him. He didn’t know what it was or why, but he knew it was there. He could feel it. The sounds of growling from behind echoed against the bare metal walls. The few doors he found had been locked, and he had no weapons. He knew that running was the only option, but the sound of his feet clanging against the floor was giving away his position.
Jamison was in a maze. The hallways all looked identical, with the only distinguishing feature being the occasional locked door. Inset florescent lights in the ceiling gave a washed out look to everything. He had woken up laying on the painted black hallway floor hearing the growling in the distance. He had been running ever since.
He saw the creature for the first time as it turned the corner into his hallway. It looked almost human from a distance, but the skin on its face was drooping like it had partially melted. The thing’s yellow eyes locked on him and its jaw made unnaturally large biting motions as it growled. The form swayed back and forth, giving the impression that it was unstable. Jamison had a short-lived moment of hope as he thought an injury might have weakened the creature.
The thing was on Jamison before he could even react. It moved so quickly his eyes struggled to track it. Muscles straining, he pushed back against the creature, trying to keep the biting jaw from sinking into his neck. Out of desperation, he leaned his head back and drove it forward into the creature’s face. The thing reeled back, letting out an inhuman howl. Jamison gave himself over to instinct and tossed it off of him while striking out with his right leg. He connected a solid kick to the kneecap.
Sergeant Jamison scrambled to his feet and ran. He hoped it had slowed the creature enough to give him an edge, but the thing was obviously faster than him. Pushing himself, he found he could stay just ahead of the thing, but unlike him, it didn’t seem to tire. He could not keep up the pace forever and knew he needed to act while he still had the stamina to do it.
Jamison came to a sudden stop and spun to face the creature, stepping slightly to his side. With a well-practiced motion, he grabbed the thing by its arm and, using its own momentum, flipped it through the air and onto the metal floor. He had no weapons, but he had extensive training. His foot came down hard onto the thing’s neck and a cracking sound echoed through the hallway. With a flurry of blows, he struck at what would be vulnerable spots on a human body and was rewarded with a sound he could only assume was breaking bones. The creature was not dead, but it was incapacitated, and he wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
As Jamison continued down the hall, he found a new doorway unlike the previous ones he had encountered. This one had a panel on the side with geometric symbols. Squares, triangles, and circles in various conjoined formations on a panel. As he stared at the symbols, they glowed one at a time. Three symbols at first in a repeating order. He reached out to run his finger across the figure and discovered that it was a button. He pressed the symbols in the order that they were lighting up. There was a pleasant-sounding chime as he completed the sequence. Then a new pattern began with four symbols.
Sergeant Jamison successfully repeated the patterns until it got to nine symbols. At that point, he made a mistake in his recreation. He knew the moment he pressed the button that it was the wrong symbol, but it was too late to stop himself. There was an unpleasant buzz from the panel and a powerful jolt of electricity flowed from the button into his body. He dropped to the ground, struggling to get back to his feet. He needed a moment for his body to respond properly again.
The ninth pattern continued to repeat itself on the panel. Jamison took a few moments to compose himself and then put in the correct sequence. The pleasant ding responded again. Being extremely cautious, he input the tenth pattern. This time, not only did the panel present him with a pleasing ding sound, the door in front of him slid open. The room beyond was a kitchen and there was a variety of fruits and meats placed out on the counter. There were also two unmarked bottles of water.
The majority of the food was familiar, but there were items he did not recognize. He also knew that at least one of the berry varieties in front of him was extremely poisonous. As much as he did not want to risk food from unknown sources, he found he was starving and all the running had left him extremely thirsty. Jamison took only what he knew was safe to eat and hoped that it had not been poisoned. Unsure what would come next, he sat at the table, taking this one moment to rest.
Elsewhere, two beings were watching Sergeant Jamison on a set of monitors. The room’s lighting was dim, but their species evolved on a planet with very dense cloud coverage and needed far less light than humans. Hands with three long fingers ran over keyboards, making notes. The larger of the two turned to his counterpart. The language spoken had never been heard on Earth. “Are you sure that this specimen is an accurate representation of its species’ potential?”
“Physical potential certainly. I am not, however, as confident about mental acuity. They think so differently from us. I’m uncertain of the proper method of assessment. This particular specimen is not just military, but is a member of an elite subset of that organization. He is most certainly on the top scale for physical achievement without being an outlier. While previously tested athletes outperformed him in some categories, they do not seem to be as well rounded.”
“He performed very well in the speed and strength tests. I must admit, I was very impressed that he managed to incapacitate the hunter. It will take me days to repair it. I am still unsure on the mental acuity though. I’m going to put them down as a class three.”
“I think that is an acceptable assessment. I believe this species is firmly within our acceptable parameters for military or manual labor usage. Additionally, they possess limited technological defenses and have not left their solar system. I believe they will be excellent additions to the war against our misbehaving artificial intelligences.”
“I concur. I will get the report filed and we can begin the subjugation immediately.”
“Excellent. Now on to the important questions. What do you want for lunch?”