By Melissa L. Webb
The man climbed across the charred ruins. The burnt flesh of the fallen redwood trees cracked under his weight. He didn’t know where he was, but he struggled forward, trying to free himself from the hellish landscape.
Acrid smoke hung heavily in the air, causing his lungs to labor. His body slowed without his consent, but still he did not stop. He couldn’t. Stopping would be the end of him.
He wiped filthy tears from his eyes, tears that seemed to burn more than his lungs did. When his sight cleared, he saw the bits of metal for the first time.
They were giant and hollow, looking like pieces of a knight’s discarded armor. However, no knight the size of this armor ever walked the earth. The pieces made the man feel no bigger than an ant playing near some child’s toys.
He couldn’t identify any of the parts except for the eyeholes. Large empty spaces where optical orbs should be stared back at him. They seemed to mock the man as he scurried by.
What had happened here? Had he stumbled across the aftermath of a battle? Was this the death lands of some futuristic race, or was it something worse? Something closer to home?
The man couldn’t think about that now. He needed to keep moving. He needed to find away out of this mess. The dead would have to stay dead.
But as he hopped over a chunk of wood, the black soot staining him worse than before, he heard something under his feet. A slithering sound echoed around him.
The man realized with pure horror that he wasn’t alone after all. Something was moving below. Something that squirmed under the metal and the wood. He wasn’t in the aftermath after all.
The battle was still going on.
Darkness blurred next to him as the wood rattled. Something was moving close by, like a shark waiting for its victim to make a mistake. It slowly entwined itself into a metal piece. Its movement caused a hollow thump to rise up around the man.
He stopped, fearing his heart might seize in his chest. He didn’t want to know what the thing was, but he knew there was nowhere to go. It already knew he was there.
Something peered out of one of the eyeholes from deep inside. A hissing sound rattled the man’s teeth as the thing watched him. Neither one moved. They stayed there, locked in silence as decisions were weighed.
The man knew he couldn’t stay there much longer. He needed to move. He needed to put as much distance between the thing that lurked and himself.
He stopped thinking and ran, hurrying back the way he came. More movement rattled the wood around him as he flung himself through it. It wasn’t just one of those things. They were everywhere, including under his feet.
The man didn’t stop. He kept his body moving through the ruins. Tears from the smoke and fear coming fast and hard. He didn’t know why he was there. He didn’t even know where these death lands were.
He had fallen asleep in his bed. He should be there right now, back in the normal world of work, bills, and family. This was insane. This place couldn’t exist.
Maybe that’s all it was. Just a dream. A horrible nightmare brought on by too much meatloaf before bed.
And…maybe that giant mouth that had popped up in the blacken debris in front of him wasn’t really going to eat him.
© 2013 Melissa L. Webb