The large shadow vehicle moved swiftly across the rough terrain, bobbing and weaving through a cluster of thick trees, driving their air automobiles—big hovercrafts dredging past all things living. The pilot’s cabin smelled of grease and ginseng, manned by two shadow people: Andrew and Mark. The two of them didn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of human beings; quite the contrary, they exuded cuteness, cheeriness, and kindness. They looked like German shepherds who wore blue hoodies. They were the grunts. The soldiers nobody paid attention to, because they looked so damn harmless. In fact, as they saw themselves as well—an aura of nonthreatening puppy-likeness—, Andrew and Mark gave off an air of weirdness, an exotic familiarity with the mundane.
The hovercrafts, shining and flashing with intense lighting, launched through the dense forest and into a huge and open plain, as broad as an untouched paint canvass. In the distance, wolves hurried underneath the wide meadow, and howled ferociously as the clouds grew black and dark.
Andrew, young and sad-faced, massaged the steering-wheel, from one groove to the next, staying focused on the giant line of bird and bear statues ahead of the hovercraft. He took in a deep breath and thought of how he yearned to be in space again. He missed living in the empty fullness of the galaxy. Reaching in his shirt-pocket, he removed a holographic picture of a girl wearing a black derby hat, a black dress, and black heels. She had a gaunt face and purple eyes. The girls’ name was Abigail, and for weeks Mark and him had been searching for her.
The brakes squealed and a cushion of air blew out from the jet fans, pressing against the ground, as the hovercraft lowered onto the grassy plain. The hovercraft’s wings closed and its metal claws retracted and pinched into the dirt, like lacing up a Velcro shoe. You could barely hear the engine as it purred, hardly louder than a mouse’s whisper, the exhaust pipes cooling and stopping to a halt. Mark unbuckled his seatbelt, got up from his chair, and turned off the mainframe terminal. He had huge orange eyes, a square nose, and heavy teeth. He had on a red bomber jacket and dress pants, with moon boots on his feet. Born with one arm shorter than the other, Mark compensated with his flaws by bulking up his upper body. His arms were thick and strong as a tree’s boughs.
Andrew on the other hand, looked slim and skinny, almost malnourished in his appearance. His face was incredibly thin and small. He wore a blue uniform with white stripes decorating his jacket and pleated pants. He kept a box of toothpicks in his pocket, and took one out now, putting it in his mouth, chewing on the wooden tip, as he fell into concentration. They were brothers, not by blood, but rather by a close friendship, one crafted out of trust and grit.
As the door raised, opening up and high, Mark and Andrew marched out of the hovercraft, stepping onto the lush, green grass covered in scattered patches of dirt and gravel. They put on their shadow helmets and turned on their heat-seeking tracker devices. A faint signal appeared on the radar monitor, a tiny white blip on the green screen. Light rain started to spear down on the ground, accumulating in small increments. Andrew moved forward and took out his shockwave gun out of his knapsack, a path forming in front of him, as a force-field began to conceal the location of the hover-craft. Mark trudged along behind him, slowly and carefully, keeping watch and making sure no one was following them. He was bored at this point. He didn’t want to be on earth. He wanted to be back on his home-planet: Darzonia, the realm of the shadow people. Back there, in his town of Zin, he took care of a dog named Riley and a child named Tessa. And here, he was just another grunt, looking for some foreign earthling. Abigail, the girl; her name sounded slick and tangy in his mouth. He rarely spoke about his feelings about the mission. He knew it was important to recover the girl and bring her back to the captain, in order to trade her back to the enemy at Japan Station No. 1, but Andrew and him had been wandering and searching the terrain of earth for nearly a month no, with no real results.
Andrew approached the bird and bear statues, when the rain had stopped raining, and put his hand up, letting his friend know they’d reached the stone well. The white signal on the radar, beeped faster and faster as they moved closer to the well. Mark walked up to the well and hunching forward, he peered into its huge opening. He could see nothing down there: only darkness. The blip on the radar blinked once, twice. He breathed hoarsely. A wolf howled from a place far away.
Suddenly a large, black bird swooned down from the branches of a dogwood tree, and spreading out its wings, it flew into Mark’s neck. Mark screamed out in pain, tumbling forward and over into the opening, and clutched his neck as blood spurted out his wound. He cried and tears burned his cheeks, his body falling deeper and deeper into the well. Andrew leapt up and reached straight into the well, but was too late to take hold of Mark’s hand, just touching and grazing his fingers, a light tap, tap, tap, and then watched as his friend disappeared down the deep and unrelenting darkness.
As the well swallowed up his friend, Andrew heard two women talking several feet away: humans. He hurried away from the well and found refuge under a thatch of dark green bushes, kneeling down. He put his hand on his shockwave gun, removed the safety, and looked through the crosshairs. The women were carrying a plastic pail and walking up to the well. One of them had smoke coming out of her mouth. The other seemed cautious and alert. He itched the trigger and took a long, and deep breath, waiting for their next move.
Andy Tran is a young professional working and living in the Washington DC metro area. His work has been featured in The Virginia. Normal, Defenestration Magazine, and Calliope, and currently at Queens Mob Teahouse. He's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and he has a degree in English.