Isabel awoke, pulled off her blanket and stood up on the carpeted floor. She noticed that her fellow escapees were still asleep, so she walked through to the bathroom, did her ablutions and then stood up to undress and wash herself with a bucket of water. With there being no water or electricity anymore, the five of them had to make do with ‘Dark Age’ amenities. She washed her long, thick auburn hair with some salvaged shampoo and soaped her body thoroughly at the same time...
Today would be a big day for her– for all of them in fact, as they would be heading off on a mission to salvage whatever they could. Last night they had shared the last of their food and she had to make do with half a can of tomato and onion mix. Her tight, lean stomach growled in protest at the memory, and she knew that if they failed to find food today they would all soon starve to death.
She finished rinsing her hair and stepped up to a full-length mirror, which like most things in this half-dilapidated house, had not survived the recent series of asteroid strikes: It was now a display of spider-webbed cracks which served to divide her reflection into a one-point-seven-metre-high jigsaw puzzle. She stared at herself, mystified and entranced at the serious twenty-two-year-old face that stared back at her. Where was the carefree, fun-loving face she remembered? This was the face of one who had known suffering. Even her sapphire blue eyes seemed to glow with the lustre and intenseness of a soul who had stared into ‘the great unknown’ for far too long. Her face was the lean, sharpened, triangular face of an athlete, and whilst her slightly tanned skin still radiated health, there was no longer a speck of fat behind her cheeks. She was a beautiful girl, and her body was lithe and agile, although her hip bones and ribs were starting to protrude beneath her skin. She allowed herself a minute to admire the defined ripple of toned muscles, undulating down her body, so in contrast to the feminine curves of her hips, waist and peach-sized pair of rounded breasts.
She was perhaps too tom-boyish to be a classical model of feminine perfection, but she was a striking beauty nonetheless.
‘Nothing beats an apocalypse to keep a girl in shape,’ she thought to herself.
Bella dried and brushed her long, wavy tangle of auburn hair, pulled on her faded jeans and tight black T-shirt, and made her way back into the lounge.
“Everyone’s still sleeping,” she whispered to herself and walked over to the window.
Outside their ruin of a house, a thick haze of dust had blanketed off most of her view. This was perhaps a small mercy, as the sky these days was filled with strange anomalies and the city landscape was a ruin of rubble and decay. In fact, it very much resembled the aftermath of an apocalypse. At least, everything she could remember seeing in ‘apocalypse’ movies was now manifested in the world around her.
“Talk about ‘predictive programming’,” she mumbled to herself.
Gone were the days where she would have looked out at a lush garden and clear blue sky overhead. Now there was more than one moon in the sky at any one time and the dying sun looked more like a flickering weak fluorescent light than it did a star.
Isabel wondered now unbidden, if she should even have bothered escaping from the Enforcers, since survival and continued freedom were almost impossible in this hellish new world.Against all odds, she had initially hidden and survived for months on her own before meeting up eventually with some other hardy survivors. Only the toughest people were able to endure this hellish new reality... Not for the first time she wondered if becoming a slave would really be all that bad? At least they were fed some kind of insect-based gruel and allowed some safety and security. Surviving day to day was a dangerous and almost impossible chore. The sky was littered with NWA surveillance drones, which were exceedingly difficult to evade, and being recaptured or killed seemed to be the only inevitable outcome of their futile attempts to rebel against this new dystopia.
She remembered how she had instinctively made a run for it the moment she and her friend had alighted from the NWA helicopter, surrounded though they were, by heavily armed Enforcers. It was almost a year ago now and yet she still remembered every moment as if it had happened only yesterday. The Enforcers had been attempting to herd them all towards a newly erected razor wire fenced enclosure, but she had opted instead to make a run for it... They had shouted orders for her to stop and lie down, and when she had ignored them they had fired their automatic rifles at her. She distinctly remembered the awful sound of automatic gunfire and the zinging sound of bullets whizzing past her. And yet, she had somehow made it out of there without being wounded. Karen, her best friend had not been as lucky. She had been caught and pinned down the moment she had begun running...
Bella felt a sudden pang of guilt at the memory. Should she have turned back and surrendered so that she could be with her friend? Her near brush with death had spooked her, and so without even thinking, she had run...
She and four other escapees now hid in what had been an eight-bedroom luxury house in a formerly densely populated, up-market suburb, north of the old city. Just a few years ago, Bella’s view from that window would have been a landscaped splendour of perfectly tended gardens, oak tree-lined roads, luxury homes, bricked garden walls, and the distant golf course. All the hallmarks of a neat, civilized community full of hope and enterprise. But then came the wars: both international and civil; the climate chaos; an encroaching planetary system with accompanying asteroid strikes; and the New World Alliance, aka ‘alien takeover’. The contrast was appalling.
Her reminiscing was interrupted by the sight of common citizens, about sixty or so of them, adults intermingled with children, ambling along the dusty road, forlorn and defeated. They were being herded by an almost equal number of ‘Brownshirts’ or human Enforcers. These used to be comprised of mainly ex-police and military personnel, but many survivors had flocked to swell their ranks so that they could benefit from the extra provisions and fringe benefits which came along with betraying their own kind.
“Low-life, miserable, sadistic vermin!” she hissed under her breath. “So early on a Sunday … Can’t they give it a rest, even if it’s only for a day,” she muttered softly to herself.
“We’re in for a big storm later–” Bella turned around in alarm as Siya, a thirty-something Zulu man, now stood beside her. She had been too lost in thought to notice that he had woken up and walked up to stand beside her. She wondered if he had meant this metaphorically, as she could only see a dry dusty haze outside.
He chuckled at her confusion. “Can you not smell it Bella? The ozone in the air...”
She sniffed the air coming in through the cracked glass and could now definitely detect the electrically charged smell that made her think of lighting striking damp earth.
“Are you sure you’re not a Sangoma?” she asked – referring to the local term for a shaman, or medicine man, not merely because he had a canny ability to predict the topsy-turvy weather, but also because he was the one person who was supremely unfazed by all the chaos engulfing their lives. He was also quietly confident that he knew exactly who the aliens were and what they were doing here on Earth... In fact they’d been here many thousands of years ago doing the exact same thing – or so his ancestors had told him.
They had yet to lay eyes on any of their new Nordic ‘overlords’, but Siya had told them that they were powerful, three-metre-tall humanoids, who had in almost forgotten ages past, forced some local African tribes to mine the precious gold that was in so much abundance in Southern Africa. These very same archons or aliens were here once again to force humans into slavery. He also explained that it may not be gold their slaves would be forced to mine this time. With food now being the new ‘gold’ in these apocalyptic times, they might instead be harvesting people for meat.
‘Aliens... Giant cannibals. Well that’s just great!’she had thought to herself upon hearing this.
“We should go now then. Just the two of us,” she suggested, knowing full well that the two of them were the most capable. They were, after all, quicker and stealthier than the others, and therefore more able to avoid being spotted by Enforcers or drones.
“Hai’bo’ – not alone,” Siya exclaimed. “The rain will provide us with some cover – at least from the Enforcers – and I doubt we’ll be able to stop the others from joining us even if we tried.”
He was right of course. Christy, Kate and Mustaq would be desperate for food and desperate to help find a better hideout. It was only a matter of time before Enforcers searched this house, or before alien drones detected their heat signatures. Their hours were numbered and their only chance was to keep moving.
Christy was a middle-aged widow, who had hid in a basement not far from here for many months before running out of food and seeking company. Kate was a young mother who yearned to find her ten-year-old daughter, Michelle, who had been cruelly taken from her during her capture, and Mustaq was a quiet, withdrawn Pakistani man who had chanced upon their group a week before. Through the shared trauma of their circumstances, they had all bonded to form a closely- knit family, and this meant that they would all do everything they could to help one another survive.
Sure enough, only two hours later, the sky darkened and it began to pelt down with heavy rain. A thick, dark, broiling mass of cumulonimbus cloud had appeared out of nowhere and transformed the dusty bright morning into the darkness of night. The pounding on their half-caved-in, tiled roof was deafening, and thick streams of water poured through the damaged roof to drench the carpeted lounge.
“We should go now before it starts to hail,” Siya voiced his opinion while looking ponderously out at the increasingly heavy droplets of rain.
Within seconds they were all drenched through their clothing as they shuffled out bravely into the storm. Bella and Siya led the way as they clambered around fallen trees and piles of rubble where walls had once stood. It was slow going. Often they would stop and stare around corners or up at the rain in an attempt to sense the presence of NWA humans or drones. They dared not risk moving out onto the open roads as they were sure to be spotted if they did. So for hours they made their agonising way through the litter and wreckage of a broken city, which at least served to provide them with plenty of cover. They were nearly invisible in the heavy storm, but the alien drone technology could easily negotiate the heaviest storms and could use infra-red detectors to sense their presence from as far as a kilometre away, and so they never felt truly safe. They also had no idea where they were going, but they at least knew what they were looking for: A house or a building that had survived destruction and that would be likely to still be storing some food provisions.
Bella was tired and shivering with cold as she sneaked from cover to cover with Siya. She constantly had to wipe stinging rain and wet locks of hair from her eyes, and she began to despair that they would never find anything intriguing, when they at last chanced upon an amazing site – a house! A large mansion, with ten rooms or more, loomed out at them from the thick curtain of rain. It had miraculously survived the asteroid storms and even all the looting that had inevitably followed, and seemed totally out of place and time here.It stood out, solid and proud amidst all the neighbouring ruins. Even the high three-metre plastered wall seemed formidably unscathed, and when they circled around to the high wrought iron driveway gate, it too seemed secure and undamaged. The high arched gate was spiked but not impossible to climb and, after cutting off a protest from a hesitant Siya, Bella leapt up onto the bars, and like an agile monkey, straddled and then climbed down the other side.
“Try to find a remote for the gate. Hopefully the battery still has some charge. Otherwise you’ll have to manually disconnect the motor,” Siya advised, knowing that it would be almost impossible for the others to climb the gate.
“Ok. Wish me luck,” Bella said and sneaked off towards the house.
All the doors were locked and the darkened windows were shut. Fortunately there appeared to be no security sensors, and so Bella was able to break into the house by climbing up onto a first-floor balcony and smashing open a side window with her elbow. Groping her way through the dark and spooky interior of the room and out along the corridor, she became convinced that the house was empty. It was furnished and neat, and even the bedding looked newly made up, but she saw no other sign that anyone was with her inside. Abandoning her stealth now, she casually made her way down the stairs into the main entrance hall and easily located the remote-control box on the wall next to the front door. She pushed the first button she saw and heard the slight, tell-tale sound of static.
“Siya can you hear me?” she tried.
“Well done Bella, you found it,” came the instant reply. “Now, can you let us in please…”
The second button did the trick and within a minute the group was there, dripping and shivering in the hallway.
“Oh! This is much better,” declared an excited Christy, obviously having already decided to make this their new home.
“Great idea! We wouldn’t be conspicuous at all living here. Maybe we could even hang out some Christmas lights,” came Kate’s sarcastic response.
“Let’s see if we can find the kitchen–” Bella’s suggestion had the hungry group moving off at once to search the house.
They found it easily and began tearing open cupboards and drawers until they’d succeeded in collecting an impressive pile of dried and sealed food products, including pastas, cereals, sweets and canned food. Mustaq sensibly tried to suggest that they ration the food, but soon gave up and joined the others in the feast. Bella tucked into a packet of chewy sweets first before opening a can of meatballs. None of them had eaten this well in a very long time and they simply couldn’t restrain themselves. It was shear bliss! They gorged themselves and joked and laughed with each other. Soon afterwards they continued to explore the house for other provisions and managed to find some spare clothing– male and female – and some bedding. They settled on clearing an area in what had been a study or reading room and were all fast asleep before nightfall.
Bella awoke with a start in the middle of the night and was the first to hear the sounds… They were almost inaudible creaking and shuffling sounds. She glanced around quickly, hoping that one or two of their group had perhaps gone off to the toilet, but her heart began to beat faster as she realised that they were all still sleeping. She crawled over to where Siya was and shook his shoulder, cupping her hand near his mouth and raising a finger to her lips for him to stay silent. They were no longer alone... Someone or something was approaching the door.
She rose and silently tiptoed to the inner wall of the doorway. She looked around desperately for a weapon but could only see a bronze statuette of a cat. It would be better than nothing she decided, so she reached out and grabbed it while Siya stood next to her, clutching a large ebony candlestick to his chest. They watched in horror as someone slowly turned the knob and the door began to creak open…
She could barely make out the shape of a head in the near total darkness, but it proved to be enough of a target for her to smash the bronze cat into its temple. The form crumpled to the floor just as three other men abandoned their stealth and barged into the room. Both Christy and Kate screamed as the fight commenced. Bella shoved the improvised weapon into the neck of the second man and he grunted and stepped back. Siya had struck another man and was now wrestling on the floor with him as yet another had managed to get behind Bella to grab her in a neck lock. She tried to strike the statuette behind her shoulder, but it was ripped from her grasp and the man increased the pressure of his chokehold, causing her to have to gasp in vain for air. She clutched at his large hands and dipped her chin to bite into a prised-open finger. The man yelled in outrage and loosened his grip just enough for her to be able to wriggle around and knee him in the groin….He grunted painfully and bent over enough for her to step back and kick him solidly under his chin… and with that he collapsed….
Suddenly something was hurled into the middle of the room and it exploded with a flash of intensely bright light. They were all blinded now, and Bella squeezed the palms of her hands to her dazzled eyes in an attempt to restore her vision as an extremely powerful hand gripped her throat and pushed her up against a bookcase.
“I see there is the spirit of a warrior in such a tiny form,” a dark, rasping voice breathed near her ear. “We know just what to do with the likes of you...”
Through her still pixelated vision she caught a glimpse of her tormentor … a tall Nordic alien held her up off the floor and against some books, in a vice-like, effortless grip. Siya was wrong about them being three metres tall though ... He was barely over two metres tall and he was obviously not superhuman, as he winced with pain when Mustaq struck him with a lamp stand. Still holding Bella with one hand, he withdrew a tazer of some sort and zapped poor Mustaq squarely in the chest. He grunted and fell to the floor in a spasm of pain...
The Nord was dressed in a neat uniformed blue suit and his light-skinned Aryan face was outlined by shoulder-length platinum blonde hair. His bright, light turquoise blue eyes studied her with a glint of amusement, which contrasted his otherwise severely stern features. To her, he resembled an ancient Greek demigod or a Viking hero of legend. Bella somehow dredged up the strength of resolve and defiance to lash out at him and scratched the side of his face, drawing a fine line of blood. He reacted swiftly, prodding his tazer rod into her side with his free arm and sending a strong jolt of electricity into her.
Bella was knocked out cold and slumped to the floor…
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish