The Tragedy of the Species
by Shannon Snyder
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
I remember a time when the world didn’t burn, when we lived as free people who could live in houses and drive cars on the highways and complain when the power went out. I remember, briefly, a time before the Hive.
For my first six years of life, with what little memories I have of that time, Mom took me to school and Dad taught me the periodic table after dinner. That was when I was free to ride my bike under the hot Phoenix sun, before we were reduced to a desert of rubble and haze. The Hive has been with us for most of my life, and with each day they are closer to reaching their goal.
* * *
Although I was young, I remember vividly the day when it all began. I was sitting cross-legged in front of Mom as she sat on the couch, absently watching TV while braiding my light blonde hair. She was asking me the standard questions: How was school, what did you learn, when suddenly an emergency broadcast took over for Alex Trebek’s question for the day’s Jeopardy! contestants.
Mom looked up, curious more than concerned. I watched her eyes widen and I followed her gaze to the TV screen, which showed a massive chromatic spaceship hovering in the sky.
“What is that,” Mom said quietly, rhetorically, and incredulously. My mind wandered back to Jeopardy! I silently answered and giggled at my joke: Alex, what is... “aliens”?
Mom quickly pulled out her phone. “Ray, you need to get home NOW... Yes, I’m watching it, and so is Taylor. Please just come home, we need you to be here right now...”
Dad came home early that day, which was a precedent, given his many hours spent at the laboratory of the chemical manufacturer he worked for. He’s a brilliant but, at times eccentric chemical engineer, well-known for his abilities to synthesize unique chemical compounds in the lab.
Mom jokes, but always with an undertone of irritation, that he can remember thousands of chemical structures, but never their anniversary. He’s like the man in Flubber, that old movie Mom and I used to watch sometimes, where the professor creates amazing inventions but gets so caught up in them that he forgets that there’s a world outside.
I spent most of my time with Mom, and I was usually asleep when Dad would come home, his hair disheveled, his mind obviously elsewhere.
For the rest of that day, there were so many questions and speculations about the spacecraft being thrown around and everyone had a feeling of mild panic, but the ship only hovered, gradually moving from Dallas to Albuquerque to Vegas to L.A.
That night, Mom tucked me into bed. “Taylor, are you scared?” she asked me.
I nodded yes. Of course I was scared; my imagination materialized every monster of my dreams, telling me they were all waiting in hiding in that ship.
“Well, you don’t need to worry, maybe by tomorrow morning they’ll be gone. Maybe they’ll be friendly, maybe they’ll just be...TICKLE MONSTERS!” She leapt on my bed and tickled me until my ribs hurt, my laughter echoing through the corridors of our house. My fears were erased as she turned off the lights and left to continue watching the news.
That was one of the last truly happy days I can remember. It was also the day I realized I wouldn’t survive if I was scared. Everyone was constantly looking over their shoulder, jumping at every sound, and always with an eye or ear on the TV screen or radio, listening for when the ship might land. The military even had fighter planes follow the spacecraft to see if they could make contact or see into it, but it was impenetrable.
Dad was panicky, nearly to the point of shattering. I overheard him desperately telling Mom one night in their bedroom, “You know there’s something in there. It’s like they’re scanning our country, but what do they want? I have a bad feeling that they aren’t here to share this world with us. They’re plotting something up there, knowing full well that they have our full attention. Otherwise, they would have landed, for sure.”
However, after idling over major cities in the southwest, it touched down on the outskirts of Los Angeles. We still have a video recording of the broadcast stored away in our bunker.
Helicopters, tanks, and soldiers with guns quickly raced to the scene. The spaceship was nearly 200 meters in diameter. It was a perfect, chromatic orb with legs protruding into the ground.
The bottom door slowly opened. Slowly, an arachnoid creature crept out. The head was almost like a human skull, with large indents on both sides, and two hollow, black pits where I imagined eyes would have been. The mouth was stretched thin and slightly open, revealing rows upon rows of sharp, jagged daggers.
Its head was cocked to one side, as if surveying the scene, and its mouth stretched a little more into a sick sort of smile, a few sharps clicks escaping its mouth. A few more feet down the ramp, guns cocking. It stopped again, and turned to the army general who was screaming for it to stand down.
A few more steps and it was on the ground now, the smile retracting to hide the daggers. Amongst more shouts from the general, it stood up on two limbs and towered a terrifying two feet above the men. It did not move for a long moment, and you could practically hear the men gulping and thinking, Oh my God!
When the aliens had been idling in the sky, they were apparently learning our language through radio transmissions to them. This one must have been some sort of leader.
“We are now in command of this world,” it spoke slowly, with a thick guttural accent that was difficult to understand. “Our species has long been in search of a new planet that we can begin colonizing, as our old world is dying. But how can we do so with so many humans in the way? Do not fight back; just know that as of now, you have no more power on this planet.”
The ammunition began torpedoing towards the alien, and a bullet grazed from one end of its face to the other, which immediately created a large, jagged red scar over its unseeing eye sockets. Then, swarms upon swarms of other aliens came flooding out of the ship. It was like a nest of spider eggs, all hatching at the exactly same moment.
Chaos. Chaos among the people, among the Swarm. That was what they were called from then on, and their spacecraft was known as the Hive. They used their daggers of claws and teeth to cut down nearly all of the military, as well as people who brought weapons of their own to try and fight back.
They came in waves through the streets of L.A., burning down many of the tallest buildings and making the sky into a hazy firestorm. The broadcasts were shut off; it was a massacre, and they took control of us. Bodies of both aliens and humans littered the gutters of Sunset Strip.
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by Shannon Snyder