By Jake Kale
It took Greg a while to realize Monica wasn’t following him anymore, and when he did he almost fell over again. He spun to look back the way he came but there was no sign of her! Greg turned slowly around and around in awkward, dizzying circles, scanning the road, houses and gardens, incredulity crippling his thought processes, raspy, strangled sobs emerging from his shuddering mouth. He could’ve sworn she’d been right behind him! The explosions and the screams had stopped suddenly and the village was quiet, and Greg was alone.
He lost her! He’d lost her!
Then it hit him.
She must’ve gone down the alley!
How could she be so stupid? He could clearly see that alley was bad news, it was obvious that it was a dead end, but no, Monica knew better! Why did she have to be so wilful? She always had been, and it had always driven him insane with exasperation, jealousy and sometimes even with desire. But mostly with rage.
He had to find her.
Still clutching his injured arm, Greg shambled as quickly as he was able back to the intersection, and was relieved beyond measure to find it and the streets that lead into it as empty as he’d left them just seconds before. Whatever catastrophe he had heard, it had not extended this far. It had attracted attention, though—all around him he saw lights flicking on, and even spotted a few nervous forms peeping out from behind front doors. Greg ignored them, his focus solely on finding his wife. He hobbled around the roundabout and to the entrance to the alley, and stood indecisively at its mouth. He’d hoped he might find Monica waiting there for him, but there was no sign of her—he debated shouting her name, but knew he couldn’t risk it. He really didn’t want to go down there, it was so dark.
But he had no choice.
Greg started walking down the alley, passing the locked up pub patio and the rear exits of other buildings, eventually leaving them behind and finding himself surrounded by rough dry-stone walls that seemed to get higher and higher the further he walked. The alley constricted like a black, cancerous artery, its end hidden in shadow even though he must have penetrated at least fifty feet into it. Surely Monica wouldn’t have gone this way, surely she would’ve realized her mistake and turned back? Greg certainly wanted to—he felt as if he were somehow being funnelled directly to lightless bottom of Underhill Lake.
He ended up walking another fifty feet before he finally reached the end of the alley. The last few feet was level ground and led to a small square-shaped alcove surrounded by walls at least ten feet high and topped with a chain link fence, thick bushes obscuring the view beyond them. A single dustbin sat in the right corner in front of him. The alcove was empty.
She wasn’t there!
It didn’t seem possible but she wasn’t there! Greg scanned the alcove in utter disbelief, searching for some offshoot that he might have missed, but there was none. He’d lost Monica, he had actually lost Monica . . !
Somewhere above him a bush rustled, and Greg responded before he could think better of it. “Monica, is that you?”
The rustling ceased—whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t his wife. Wincing at his own stupidity, Greg began to slowly back out of the alcove. Then the rustling came again, more furious this time, and Greg’s nerve snapped. He whirled and started to limp up the alley as quickly and quietly as he could, not daring to look back. He couldn’t hear anything following him, no thunderous footsteps or sounds of destruction, and he wondered if what he’d heard was an animal, a cat or a dog or a fox or something, though even if that were the case he sure as hell wasn’t staying here. He didn’t know what to do! There was almost no chance of finding Monica now, this village was a bloody labyrinth. The only thing he could think to do was try and make it back to the car and wait there, and hope that she somehow found her way back—
—and at that point Greg became aware of that horribly recognizable reverberation, the signature call of the alien machines, only it was much clearer now, much closer, coming from the alley ahead of him! Then Greg saw the immense tower-like body approaching and his blood ran cold—he was trapped! He looked desperately for somewhere to hide and found a short recess, the back exit of some building. The door was blocked by a stuffed wheelie bin and countless black bags and was likely locked anyway, but maybe he could hide there until the thing went past. Greg dove into the recess, secluding himself amongst the carelessly discarded refuse and trying not to think about the vermin that might be lurking amongst it, and the noise was becoming louder and louder as the machine drew near, the deep base fluctuation rising and falling in volume almost melodically, so loud it seemed to penetrate his skull, and he thrust his hands to his ears to try and drown it out but couldn’t bring himself to close his eyes. And suddenly it was there, passing right in front of him, and he saw that it was one of the squid-machines but with its conical body angled vertically, the glowing feelers hanging between four oddly interconnected “legs”, and the sight of it excited a mortal horror so intense Greg knew he had to get out of there or his sanity would be corrupted beyond all redemption. By some incredible stroke of luck it hadn’t seen him, so he counted ten seconds, giving it time to reach the fenced-in alcove, then ran heedlessly out of the alley and as far away from it as his weakened legs could carry him.
During the ensuing hours Greg encountered three more of the biomechanical monsters. The first he heard just before it turned the corner of Dean Street by the village Post Office, and he managed to evade it by scrambling under a parked car. He’d scraped his injured arm on the asphalt and had to lay in silent agony as those weird legs manoeuvred past him. He then ran into two more as they made their way down a sloping road, and dived over a fence into somebody’s back garden, which again did wonders for his arm. Everywhere he went he saw evidence of their passing in the form of destroyed cars and demolished houses, and every now and then he’d hear another deafening explosion, usually followed by more screams that didn’t last very long. He saw no bodies, though he did spot a few survivors, often running for their lives or hiding, but Greg couldn’t bring himself to care about them—he’d lost the only person who mattered to him.
Just as fatigue threatened to overwhelm him Greg spotted a street sign that read “Main Road”, at last a road he recognized, and followed it back Hill Lane. Both it and Harley Road were deserted, and Greg made a point of not looking at the destroyed walls, overturned vehicles and other signs of the preceding carnage, and he made damn sure not to look back at the black, watery hell that had spawned this nightmare as he ran back to the place where his life had, for all intents and purposes, ended. He found Lakeview Cottage and his own car untouched, and he didn’t bother going back for the bags, he simply jumped into the driver’s seat, started the ignition and, steering awkwardly with good arm, sped away without so much as a glance in the rear-view mirror.
Another hour had passed since then. It was now a quarter to four in the morning, and he’d seen no sign that the . . . the invasion—call it what it was—had spread beyond Dunstone, though he had seen a military convoy heading in the opposite direction to him. Greg guessed somebody had managed to raise the alarm. Either that or the military already knew about the threat to begin with, not that it made much difference now. He still had no idea where he was going to go. For all he knew those cephalopoid machines where everywhere, and if that where the case then the human race was done. His future would most likely consist of a lifetime locked away in an army medical lab or subjugation under an alien race. That, or a swift death. None of those options were particularly appealing.
Greg couldn’t stop crying. He’d cried non-stop since leaving Dunstone, even though he knew it was pointless. Monica was gone, and he was beyond hope even if he did survive. What was the point of even trying? He might as well end it all now, might as well drive off the road into a ditch or headfirst into a tree or something, because there was nothing left to live for, to survive for. Greg started to shake uncontrollably as he thought of Monica, and as he remembered the terrible noise that resonated within his skull as that monstrous figure passed him in that pitch-black alleyway, its fat, stubby bioluminescent tentacles dragging the limb form of his wife behind it.
Her eyes open, staring at him.
Out of the Depths by Jake Kale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.