Taken by the Grey

by Chadrick Neal

...everywhere I go, I still clutch her picture from that time a couple years ago when we were at that place..that bar. She's laughing-- I can still hear it. Some nights, when I sleep in a junked out husk of some vehicle because it's okay on the surface, I'll wake up in a cold sweat because part of me swears that she's close to me..reaching...needing... And for the most part, the surface is okay. That is if you can call this savage wasteland \"okay\". The animals came back, but different.. they are all smarter, somehow, if that makes sense. It almost seems as if they are \"talking\" to each other, if such could be believed. All things run in packs, too. And any human that they see is mostly ignored; I say mostly because the laws of nature still haven't changed. Wolves are still wolves, lions are still lions. And the Invaders? The Amazonian race of flawless, silver skinned beauties of murder and dominance? (Turns out that they do have males within their society, but these fellas seem to only take care of the animals, repair the ships, and blow into horns that make no sound.) They simply float around in the atmosphere in their massive ships that dot the sky like blotches of Mercury from a broken thermometer. And they still resemble insects. These flagships deploy smaller craft that float down to the surface and that smaller craft will deploy a detachment of soldiers, all of them female and all of them packing Las-Rifles, there's always one of them carrying what looks like the gatling gun that one guy had in the first Predator movie...you know, the guy with the hat and the chewing tobacco. They always have a human with them, too. Chained and led out before them like a packhound. Most of the human race retreated underground; hiding in basements, ceiling off tunnels and subway stations. Entire networks of people survived the invasion and now lived in fetid, dimly lit conditions. There were only a couple, like me-- and when I say couple, I'd say that there are maybe twelve hundred men and women who stayed on the surface and continue to fight, either crazy or driven mad that our sanctity and our entire civilization had been torn asunder in a matter of months. No more internet, no more gas prices, no more taxation. No more iPhones, iPads/Pods, Tablets, PC/Mac, Audi, BMW, Chik-Fil-A, Burger King...all of that shit is gone. You can find it, oh yes, but what you find is just a remnant of what was and a blatant reminder of what is. All of these things remind me of her; I mean, not the BWM, Audi part...I can't remember what the fuck she drove. I sure as hell wasn't driving either one.

I have survived since the beginning and I'm not going to lie, man...it's been a fucking wild ride. I even managed to take one of the bitches down. Caught her by surprise, but she (I say she, but I mean it..but they're built like she's...I mean, fucking perfect in every way..) had managed to turn on me and we wrestled. I remember how impossibly strong the thing had been, how it's teeth had clenched and for the first time I saw the inside of their mouth. It's black. Like they had been eating Space for so long and it had stained their gums and teeth the same color as a lightless closet, just endless black. She hissed at me, she growled at me, she snapped her teeth and damned near took my nose off. Don't know how I managed it, but when I woke up, it lay sprawled and unmoving next to me. It's naked form unnaturally still and when I sat up, spitting blood and swearing softly, I noticed an entry wound with no exit wound. It looked like aphotorefractive keratectomy. Whoever had saved me had shot this thing and had done so through it's icy, silver right eye and it seems like the bullet never left it's new lodgings. All that power and ferocity died the same as we did. I remember my own wound from that scrape. She had gotten me pretty fucking good. I think she cracked a rib and I somehow lost half of my right index finger, but I was alive. So I took her weapons; the Las-Rifle, the strange sliver of polished metal attached to a cylinder with two buttons. Pressing the oval button causes the blade to vibrate too fast for the human eye to follow and the blade seemed to disappear. It cuts through anything (and I mean anything, dude...) with very little sound and no true effort needed. The the cylindrical button I don't want to touch. It's function I've seen in action on the ones they've enslaved. It releases a long, metallic wisp of rope; like a steel cord only for it to come alive with vibrant arcs of plasmic energy. I've watched through the rifle's sights how this thing can carve a person's skin up or if applied with enough force (or malicious will) can cut a man clean in half, with both ends cauterized for easy clean-up. (And get this, the animals are the clean up crew. Rats, carrion birds, fucking hyenas, too. They come out of the woodwork anytime someone dies and carry them off to God knows where..)

Today, though, I'm feeling hungry. I've made a camp for myself in what used to be a business office. You know, come to think of it, I don't even know what city I'm in right now. All I know is that it's been comfortable outside and the weather has been temperate. Not too hot, not too cold. I'm not anywhere near a body of water. (Because I think they're taking all of the water from the planet.. I think that's been their goal all along.) And up in this building, seven stories up, I can see everything. I don't dress in bright colors (...didn't dress in them before all this shit happened, either) but every once in a while, you'll see a flash of red or a streak of yellow down in the street. It's someone who's left the sanctity of underground to scavenge above ground. For what? There's nothing up here really, the can food is still around, but it's buried under collapsed buildings or has long since been crushed and exposed. The vegetables on the planet have flourished. Vines, grasses, even new trees have started to sprout through the cracked and shorn concrete of the Earth we once knew simply two years ago. And still I clutch this picture of her. From my high perch, I squint the old left eye and lay flat on my belly. I had gotten really accustomed to this odd form of sniping. The Las-Rifle never seemed to lose charge or need to be reloaded. Not an automatic rate of fire, but you could adjust how much strength you wanted behind each shot. (I have had almost 8 months to figure this shit out and be damned if I don't almost have it.) The scope was hidden, there was a (not steel, this wasn't any alloy that you could find on Earth. The weapon seemed alive, to me..warm to the touch and almost seeming to meld with my skin whenever I touched it...I love it..I named it Ainslee..) metal clasp that you slid up and forward. This caused a slight mechanical whine and servo-gears would cause the high-tech scope to rise from the rifle's stock. And I could cycle between infrared, night-vision (which made no sense, but I guess when you're space-faring alien invaders, you prepare for everything..) and even an odd sight that seemed to indicate biorhythms..and I don't mean like your heartbeat or breathing, no. I mean...like it could see your very life essence...your spark...maybe even your soul, if that helps you understand. That's how I found out that all of humanity hadn't been wiped off the face of the planet and from the history books. That's how I found out about the animals being back. It's why I haven't given up looking for Ains..because I feel like I'll know that spirit anywhere. I'll rescue it and we'll find some island far away from all this...we'll start over. The New Adam and Eve for the human race...--my daydream is cut short. The canopy I had crafted to conceal myself snapped and rustled in what felt like an autumn breeze. Another hunting party. Looking for more stragglers or slaves..

\"No...\" I didn't realize when I started crying or how loud I got. I don't even remember pulling the trigger. But what I do remember is how scared andfrailshe looked..how one side of her face had looked sunken in and then had had time to heal. Her perfect pale skin was criss-crossed with whiplashes..her hair...oh, baby, what'd they do to your hair... I felt bile surge up into my throat and my stomach turned. Failure. You couldn't save the one person you've been staying alive for for all this time. \"I'm s-s--..\" I couldn't think, let alone apologize. All of this waste around me and I didn't give a shit; I never gave a shit about any of this.. I just wanted my fucking girlfriend back..\"GIVE HER BACK TO ME!\"

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