The creatures crouched there on the hardened tarmac. From his hiding spot in the dry arroyo, he counted twenty of them but there might be one or two others, long metallic tubes with outstretched wings. The rising sun glinted off their conical tops.
As much as he hated them, having crushed the life out of the people of this planet his home, there was something majestic about the aliens. Some twenty feet in diameter and over a hundred in length when reaching full adulthood, they seemed slender for creatures of such size. Jagged red and black streaks ran from tip to tail like flashing lightning.
He picked up a rock to throw at the congress, a futile gesture from this distance he knew but even closer would inflict no more damage than tossing an acorn at an oak tree.
All at once two of the creatures leaped into the air, wings snapped rigid. Caustic jets ignited from their tails. The sudden exhaust caught him off guard, knocking him into the arroyo. By the time he’d regained his feet, the two were mere speaks in the sky.
Was it the warmth of the sun? Some unheard signal between the aliens? Whatever, the rest of the congress joined the first two and the roar of jets rattled the air around him even as he dove back into the dry riverbed, covering his head with his arms in fright. When the air stilled he stood. He clambered up the bank and tossed the rock up at the sky and screamed at the vanishing creatures.
You get used to it, the fever. It’s like background noise, present but unimportant. Everyone has some level of fever, and after a while it is like nothing. A degree or two and you go about your business. If it gets much higher than that, take something and keep going. No sense stopping for something as small as a simple fever. Now some have a much rougher time of it and you can’t fault someone for it when a real fever sets in, but for the most part, the fever is like the aches and pains of old age and we never live so long as that so might as well pick yourself up and carry on. It’s the headaches that get to me though. For me, they start in my chest and stab straight up into my temples. It can get so bad I think someone froze my brain and cracked it from the front of my skull to the back. Pain meds used to help, but this is different. The fever I can live with, but the headaches are like a sabertooth tiger gnawing on my cranium. When they get that bad, there’s little I can do except find a dark corner to curl up in and hope it passes soon. Sleep can help, but that brings its own risks. Wouldn’t want to get caught in a lucid loop where I know I’m asleep but unable to wake myself. The nerve bugs trigger the worst nightmares when they get real bad. No vaccine and no cure for those. We’re all infected, so might as well accept what we can, live out our lives as best we can.
You’ve heard many things, from aliens to math, but I’m here to tell you the truth, a truth they won’t tell you. This event, these stones from the heavens, are retribution for our sins. The end times have come, at a time we didn’t predict, in a way we couldn’t prevent. Mankind, with the emphasis on man for it is his shortcomings that are the root of most evil perpetrated on others, is finally coming to an accounting and I can assure you that none will escape judgement, least of all myself. It is the expectation of entitlement that has brought the destruction of the world on our heads, where the only sure entitlement we have is the promise of our inevitable return to the dust from which we have come.
Sticks and stones may break my bones…
Turns out the stones break more than bones. When the meteorites started to fall, obliterating any civilized collective above some capricious population level, so many were simply vaporized. That or crushed under the weight of all the debris from the buildings or ejecta from the impacts. Rumors spread almost faster than the destruction that erased 90% of all people on Earth. Aliens, end times, simple randomness, and the one that turned those of us who survived against each other: we did it to ourselves. No nation survived, so no one believed any one country could have formulated or carried out the atrocity. No alliance of nations could have done so without some word escaping. And besides, all of those possible nations and alliances had disappeared in a span of about twenty-four hours, a single day, one rotation. Instead, we turned to rooting out any anarchist or terrorist who might have survived. Even the hint of recrimination was enough to bring out the mob, however reduced in numbers, to carry out judgement. We lost half of our remaining species before we’d completely spent ourselves.
The dog eyed me with suspicion. It wasn’t like her to turn down food, but something must have smelled off. The medicine rolled inside the slice of cheese shouldn’t have smelled all that much, but she wouldn’t take it any other way.
We were running out of time. The silent alarm had already been triggered so the tripoders would arrive soon enough. Any sound would attract them, including the whine or bark of a dog. It may already be too late to get the sedative inside her. I didn’t want to do it, but she was leaving me with no choice. I reached for the dog’s collar, but she backed away, tail tucked, ears back, and those damned pleading eyes staring up at me.