‘WaspZilla.’ Chuck Wendig Image Challenge #3

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/03/flash-fiction-challenge-share-an-image-write-a-story/

With so many good images to choose from it’s hard to pick just one, so here’s the third.

This one was ‘WaspZilla’, contributed by Kristin at http://mireles-musings.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/wasp-zilla.html

*Note: Because this comes with multiple warnings I attempted to ask Kristin (twice) if she was okay with strong content, but her blog kept eating my comments. I toned the story down from the original, but it’s still pretty full-on. Kristin did say on her blog that she wanted a story that’d give her nightmares, so I hope this fills the bill.

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Strong horror warning. Catastrophic injuries warning. Strong violence warning. Environmental disaster warning.

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The wolf lay dead by the river bank, the stench of it’s dank and rotting carcass overpowered by the toxic smell of the chemicals that had killed it. Further downstream floated hundreds of dead fish, their white bellies dull in the sunshine that should have made them sparkle.

It was the strong smell of death that had brought Kristin down here from her home, set back a few minutes’ walk from here, but it was the absence of flies that made her wonder. Fish kills had become more common in the four years since the new army research centre had opened upstream, but this was the largest. She’d seen another large predator only a few months ago that seemed to have died from eating spoiled fish, and the flies had swarmed in such masses she had to bury her face in her hands and quickly retreat, hunched over, from their buzzing mayhem.

She marched home with growing anger in her eyes that percolated up from the fury in her heart. How many toxic spills, how many protests, and how many newspaper articles would it take before the army worked out that the river was not a sewer to be filled and poisoned with their overflow?

A low humming distracted her from her thoughts and she looked up and around into the sparse trees. “Oh, for goodness’ sake!” she said aloud. Looking back in the direction of the river she saw a military drone shaped like a helicopter hovering. A glint of light from its undercarriage revealed that it was taking photos of the deaths she’d discovered. Good. They could deny all they liked, but somewhere there would be a record of this, which made her think she should go back and record it herself on her iPhone. Turning, she heard the pitch of the drone suddenly change and, looking up, she just could not believe her eyes. Something … something arced up from the sandy shoreline and attacked the drone, sending it spiralling down into the river. This was getting crazy and scary. She saw whatever had attacked the drone regain its altitude, hovering unevenly on the early afternoon breeze. It wasn’t a drone, that much was certain. It looked like a giant … “Wasp!”, she said aloud, much louder than she’d intended. It spun around where it was, facing her now, and hovered as if it was deciding something. It decided damned fast, and it came for her in a straight line.

Running now, crashing through the knee-high ferns she had loved so much, Kristin was wide-eyed with fear. The buzzing sound behind her became louder, and then it became louder again. With instincts recalled from the darkest and oldest part of her brain, those passed down through many  generations of our species, she fell to the ground at the last possible second. “It can’t be a wasp!”, was her last thought before searing pain hit, and a long gash opened on the back of her arm, from shoulder almost to elbow. She looked up quickly as the flying attacker raced past her and swung upward, intent on turning around, intent on coming at her again. A small strip of cloth from her shirt flapped wildly in the wind, attached as it was to one of the sharp claw-like feet of whatever the hell that thing was. She hadn’t been stung, but she’d still had suffered a razor-like injury.

On her feet now, running toward her home, and all the while wondering if she’d make it in time. Not far to go now, but her senses, as wild as they were, registered that her attacker was lining up behind her once more. “Open the door!” she screamed. “Open it now!” She closed in quickly, and fleetingly saw her mother at the window, her hand to her mouth and no doubt wondering what was happening. And then a whole bunch of things went wrong, all at one time. Kristin tripped as she ran up the steps, falling face-first into those above her. The ‘thing’, unable to correct its trajectory in time, rocketed over the top of her just as her mother swung the door open wide.

It was like a shell hitting a target. The ‘thing’ smashed into her mother, and then it smashed through her. “Mum!” she screamed in terror as she stumbled once again to her feet. Her mum stood there, as if resting against the doorframe, looking down at the massive hole in her chest as if she was wondering how it got there. And then she crumpled to the floor, her back a ragged mess of flesh, blood, and exposed bone.

Through tears and pain Kristin staggered onto the porch. In her shock and grief her awareness had ebbed to a pinpoint, and all she could see was her mother, laying there. From somewhere in the recesses of her mind she finally registered that whatever had attacked her and killed her mother was now inside her home, and it may well come back at her. She scrabbled out of the doorway and  hunched over, putting her back to the wall. Crying silently, her hand over her mouth to stifle her sobs, she tried to fight down the panic and think about where safety may lay. She tried to still her ragged breathing, to force air into her lungs, to stop her hands from shaking so badly they were useless to her. It was then she heard the intermittent buzzing that was coming from inside the house. “Oh, God,” she whispered, her thin voice raising and breaking as tears threatened to overflow her eyes and flood her cheeks again.

She couldn’t stay here like this; she knew that. Out here wasn’t safe, and she didn’t know if it was more dangerous here or somewhere inside, but she couldn’t bring herself to go in there, not when she could still hear the buzzing that had struck fear into her heart, pain into her arm, and death into her mother. She looked out into the yard and then further into the more distant tree line. Black dots flashed before her eyes, and it took mere seconds for her to understand that this had nothing to do with blood loss, horror, or grief. Focusing as hard as she could, the still indistinct shapes were really there, and not grit on her eyes. And there were hundreds of them, swarming over the water.

She had to get inside. She had to. Kristen knew she couldn’t stay there, not with her mother like that and that thing in the house and those things out over the river, but to get the car keys she had to go inside. She began crying again, shaking violently, as fear welled up in her, but she raggedly forced herself to ease up the wall until she was in a crouch and, with a deep breath and a sob, she silently stepped around her mother’s cooling body and into the twilight interior of the house that would never again be ‘home’.

There was a hole the size of a football in the wall at the back of the lounge room. Whatever had pierced Kristin’s mother had just kept on going, crashing from this room into the next. Good. She hoped it stayed in there long enough for her to get the keys and get out. Silently and stealthily, she crept toward the side table where she knew the keys were. Shock rippled through her like an electric bolt when she heard the buzzing, which was much louder inside. It was coming from this room, and not the next one. Trembling, she reached out for the keys, silently crying and wishing, hoping, the thing wouldn’t notice her and attack again.

They were in her hand now, and as she turned to quickly escape she saw it, there on the floor below the hole in the wall. It was alive, but it was wrecked and dying, that much was obvious. Her feet betraying her, she took the steps needed to get closer, to get a look at what it was, but that same strong chemical smell she’d stepped into at the river assailed her nostrils here, too. She got close enough to see that it was a wasp, and nearly as big as the drone it had downed. It moved, and she startled. And then even more horror struck. It was dead, but what was making the angry buzzing sounds were the babies, as big as her thumb, that were milling about and beginning to fall out of their mother’s wrecked body, where they were even now fanning their wings to dry them before they’d take flight.

In sheer bloody terror, she raced from the house and down to the car, wrenching open the door and jamming the keys into the ignition. It roared into life and she skidded out through the gate, tearing down a dozen fence posts in her escape. Along the River Road, she witnessed the dead and dying bodies of a dozen different species, one of them human. They were everywhere, and the closer she got to town, the higher the body count rose.

A very loud bang on her passenger-side door made her think, at first, that she’d thrown up a rock, until she briefly saw a juvenile wasp that had hit it and flown up over the hood of her car. Screaming, she awkwardly bent across the seats and scrabbled to find the gun that was hidden there. Another loud bang brought her upright, dropping the gun between her feet. As she raced past the service station she saw a man with a gun, who took another shot at the wasps that were swooping him. He was torn to shreds and bleeding profusely, but he wasn’t going down without a fight. The next bang definitely came from outside her car, and again a wasp flew up, this time in line with her hood. Kristin accelerated wildly, and in seconds she was outrunning the wasps that even now seemed to be growing in number behind her. A hundred yards, two hundred, three hundred, and now she’d lost sight of them, although she knew they were still there and they were still coming.

Ahead, Sweet Jesus, she saw a roadblock into town and massed trucks and military personnel. She was going to make it! The bodies of folk she’d known now littered the sides of the wide street, and she sobbed in relief at the army’s presence, and pain at the loss of her townsfolk. Three hundred yards to go, and suddenly all the soldier’s guns were trained on the wasps behind her. And then she realised in a shock of new horror that they were actually trained on her. At 250 yards one of them fired a shot into the grille of her car, and she stopped hard in a cloud of smoking brakes and tyres.

She sat behind the wheel, bewildered. Nothing moved except the swarm of angry wasps that even now were closing in on her. She’d die torn part and stung, or she’d die at the hands of the soldiers who were, for some incomprehensible reason, keeping everyone out. She looked out the window and saw many bodies that had not been mutilated by wasp attack. They’d died of gunshot wounds.

“They’re protecting their weapon,” she said aloud. She realised what the true nature of the research centre was about. Their experiment had breached their security, but they weren’t going to give up on it. Not now, and not here. They had a plan to stop the wasps; they must have, but they also had a plan to contain their secret.

Kirstin reached for the gun, opened the door, and stepped out. She looked at the soldiers and then back at the approaching swarm. Then she looked up at the sky. “Forgive me, Father.” she said as she tucked the gun under her chin.

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3 thoughts on “‘WaspZilla.’ Chuck Wendig Image Challenge #3

  1. Dear Kristin,
    I’m sorry I killed you and your Ma, and the guy in the service station. Not so sorry about the wasps, though. Oh, and sorry for the dents in your car. I’m a bit worried about the wolf and the fish, too.
    I hope this gives you the nightmares you asked for but if not, well, I’m willing to take another shot if you are. Ummm … I could have probably phrased the last part of the previous sentence better. 😀

  2. Thanks, Bob. I think you way underestimate your own ability. Or overestimate mine. Kristin has been silent on the whole wasp-killing-mother matter, so she may well have found my writing worse than giant killer wasp stings and military might.

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