He felt something prodding his ribs. Then he felt cold. And pain. Lots of pain. The floor was cold. His face was on the floor. There was a sound, very weak, as if it came from far away. The pain was waning. The sound became clearer, it didn't seem so far anymore, it was a voice. "Are you alive? Are you ...are you one of them?" it asked.
He opened his eyes. Closed them again. They hurt. He tried to open them a few more times, until he managed to. He was in darkness. No, he was in dim light, his eyes were getting used to the light. There was another man near him, wearing shirt made of cheap pli-nex, coloured pink with some green flowers. The man was a rather ugly and old, and gazed at him with his very light blue eyes. The man was holding a gun. A 687-EC electrical current discharger. He was not sure how he knew that. Because he knew little more.
"Wh-what happened? Who're you? What happened to the lights? ...where are we?" the questions came, one after the other, slow at first. But increasingly faster. The other man shook his head, slowly. He sat on the ground, his face buried in his hands. After a moment of silence, he started talking.
"You too? It seems they got us all. Dammit, I thought that the security guards would be immune somehow. I haven't seen many of them...I thought they were fighting it! Dammit! You remember something? Anything? Where is the communicator, maybe?" during his speech, the man's face went from hopelessness to anger, then to curiosity, and then to hope.
"I-I...I think I remember my name, it's... Galgreen. And...and I know that this is a 687-EC electrical current discharger... Where are we?" Galgreen managed to get up and sat beside the old man. He noticed that he was wearing a brown jacket over a black T-shirt, 08 was written in white, big lettering on his jacket. And below it, it was written "Security".
The man offered his hand for Galgreen to shake, it was accepted eagerly, but its grip was a little stronger than Galgreen anticipated. The man breathed, and said "I am Julius. We are in some kind of secret military base orbiting a planet. Something happened, I'm not sure, I don't remember, but some aliens have entered the base, they cut off the power and made us forget somehow. They're hunting us. One by one and they...get inside! Quickly!" the last bit was said in a whisper, as Julius dragged Galgreen inside a nearby door that, Galgreen quickly realized, was the source of the dim light.
There was a window on the room's wall, and Julius was looking through it. Galgreen went there and tried to follow the old man's gaze. There was a cluster of small green globes, high above the floor. Very high. Slowly they went on, almost flying, up and down. After several seconds, the...eyes went around another corner.
"These are one-way mirrors, they can't see us. Their eyes are the only thing I've ever managed to see, since it's pitch black out there. Only the rooms have some emergency power left. But Klauser told me she saw their bodies as they entered a room she tried to hide in. Big and deformed. Their arms were almost two meters in length. With claws. They are huge, and Klauser told me the one she saw was covered in blood. We are lucky their eyes are so bright. It is the only way we know they are coming around the corner."
Galgreen was still thinking about the eyes, so it took some times for his mind to register the new information, "Klauser?" he asked.
"Yes, she was with me, but...they got her already. I thought she was dead at first, but she wasn't. She got back, after one day...or two...I'm not sure. I never know how many days have passed, it's always dark in this Goddammed place," the old man was visibly anxious to get out of that room as quickly as possible.
"She came back? You said they got her," Galgreen wanted answers before leaving. He needed answers.
"She wasn't the same. She tried to fool me, but she was different. She acted weird. And her eyes were green now, and they were brown before. I-It's not natural. They got to her somehow. Possessed her." Julius was wide-eyed and spoke quickly. Galgreen was worried that the man could have been driven mad from the stress, "We can't stay here for too long..."
"You said you were without memory too...how do you know we are at a military base?" Galgreen asked. Maybe they could find a map in wherever he got the information.
"The briefing. I'll show you, but please, keep quiet. It's safe there, it's very deep. And the lock is not electronic," the man said, and pulled Galgreen's arm as he started walking. They left the room and were back into the darkness.
It was very hard to walk in the pitch black twisting corridors of wherever they were in. They had to keep close to the walls, both to make sure they didn't lose any exits to the right or left and because they needed to stay close to the rooms in case the eyes came back. Julius' method of navigation consisted in entering the rooms and reading their name and number, that was written on the inner side of the door. Galgreen saw three types of room, "staff", "administration" and "security".
It was a poor method. Every once in a while, they had to come back because he made a wrong turn and only discovered it a few blocks too late. In one of these detours, Galgreen was surprised to hear a buzzing sound coming from seemingly all directions, it was quiet enough to be near-imperceptible, but loud enough to be impossible to miss. He tried to find the source of the sound, perhaps a working machinery, when he shoved into one of the rooms and dragged away from the door.
He was about to ask what the hell was happening, when Julius forcefully silenced him, putting his hand over Galgreen's mouth. "Are you insane? That's their sound, stay put." Galgreene was surprised. He hadn't heard the sound last time the eyes were nearby. Perhaps he hadn't fully awoken from his slumber at the time. He got up, and, silently, went to the window, in part because the unseen monsters still sparked his curiosity, and in part, though he didn't want to admit it, to prove to himself that there was no reason to doubt Julius.
But there they were. The eyes, in their seemingly aimless wanderings through the darkened corridors. What could possibly be their goal? Just to go around killing every human they see? It made no sense. The eyes slowly went on, oblivious to Galgreen, and turned around a corner. Julius pulled his arm again, gesturing for them to go, "It's never a good idea to stay in one place."
From then on, Galgreen walked much more slowly and looked around at all times, prepared to enter a room at the first sign of a green hue to the darkness around them. He still remembered the way Julius shoved him into the room, and didn't want a repeat. The terrors that he experienced must have been indeed great for him to act like that. He couldn't still forget about Klauser...she had been "possessed" according to Julius, but what happened to her? Why weren't they together? "You killed Klauser, didn't you?"
"It wasn't her. Not anymore. They killed her and took her body somehow. I only killed the thing inside her," he spoke with conviction, and Galgreen was in no position to disbelieve him.
"I thought the 687-EC wasn't a lethal weapon," was Galgreen's only answer.
"Not when overloaded. I'm kinda good with electrical things, I discovered when I tinkered with it. But it did survive much more than I expected, full thirteen seconds," Galgreen guessed that "it" was Klauser, "I guess that even when in humans they are stronger than any of us."
They remained silent the rest of the way. Three more times they saw the eyes, and in one of them, they were dangerously close. In all of them Galgreen heard the sound, and his trust in Julius grew even stronger. After what seemed to be hours, they finally reached a short hallway with no doors, and, at the end of it, an open doorway, in which they entered.
After they crossed the doorway, Julius stopped and turned around. He slowly closed the metallic door, trying to do the least sound as possible. After he was done he put his right hand in the various pockets of his clothes, one after the other, searching for something. Seconds later, a metallic thing was held by his hands, a silvery key, that he inserted into a keyhole on the door and slowly rotated it.
Galgreen remained silent as Julius led him up some steps, sixteen, Galgreen counted. There was another door, that Julius also locked once they had went under the door way. They turned left on a corner, and, on the next second, they were in a completely different place from where they came from. There weren't any cramped hallways, but plenty of open space, and the ceiling was much higher. There were some dim lamps on the floor to illuminate paths, and a luminous sign, trying to glow, bathed the darkness around it in a red hue. The sign read: "Drink Bar"
"I think this some kind of living quarters, or maybe a recreation facility, we found an electrical generator here with a bit of combustible left. Klauser and I dragged it into an armoury, there's a screen there, that plays a recorded message. You'll see," while he talked he gestured toward one of the doors, in which the light was much clearer than the others.
Galgreen didn't wait for him. He just barged inside the room, to see it with his own eyes. There were three racks with rifles on the wall, though he didn't know what kind of rifles they were. On the wall to his left there was a screen, turned off, but the blue light glowing below it made it clear it was operational. An emergency generator was humming, connected to socket nearby.
Julius entered the room and turned the screen on. Blue letters appeared on the screen out of the blackness, they read:
1 RECORDED MESSAGE(S). PLAY MESSAGE Nº 1? Yes, play message / No, next message
"I left the generator working in hopes someone would send another message to the station while I was out looking for more survivors. But no other came, it seems. Maybe they don't know we were attacked," Julius explained. Galgreen couldn't care less, and intimately, wished the other man would stop and play the message already. His unsaid wishes were quickly fulfilled, as Julius pressed the left side of the screen.
The face of a man appeared on the screen. He was wearing a black and grey uniform and an eyepatch, he had an air of superiority around him, and a stern look on his face, "Salutations, soldier! Our greatest fears have come to fruition, as you know, an unidentified alien race has invaded and conquered Earth, exterminating almost the entirety of the human race. We have lost contact with other colonies, and it seems a large alien ship is nearing our base, orbiting Varneus. In this room, there are new models of rifles developed by our scientists as the only means to fight this alien menace," the image froze at this point, and only went on three seconds later, but the quality was horrible, with constant white noise in the audio and freezes in the video.
"The rifles are very zzt to use, Zzztply position you finger on the sensor on the upper side, and a zzzzzttt will turn on below the barrel. This means the zztle is activated. Then pull the trigger, located on zzzzztt. Remember, the aliens cannot survive in our environment without their life-support systems, located in their chests. Shooting on it is the only way to scozzzttt," and only silence followed. The message was seemingly irreversibly damaged in the initial attack.
Julius only breathed when the message was over, and, turning his head on Galgreen's direction, said only one word, but a word that had more impact on Galgreen than any other he remembered hearing, "See?"
Galgreen thought about the message, and explored the possibilities it presented, "The rifles? Why don't we use them?"
"They don't work. The light goes on, but they don't do anything when I pull the trigger. The light just blinks for a second or two, so I guess we're lacking ammo," was Julius' answer. Galgreen decided to check the rifles nonetheless, but all he managed to do was to prove that Julius was speaking the truth. There was a large door nearby, and Galgreen moved to open it.
"Don't do th..." Julius started to say, but it was too late. Galgreen opened the door one second before his mind registered the objection, and when it did, he already had a good idea of what he would find inside. The room was large, but there were metallic bars dividing it, one side much larger than the other. It looked like a shooting range. And, lying on the floor, in a strange position, and exhaling the horrible stench of burnt flesh, there was the body of a woman.
Galgreen was disgusted. He knew Julius had killed her, but to leave her body on the floor like that? Though, of course, there wasn't much else that could be done. Galgreen approached the body and examined it with morbid fascination. Momentarily oblivious to the horrible odour that permeated the room, Galgreen examined the woman. She was at most nineteen, her hair was dyed purple and her nose was pierced. Her eyes were still open, and they were indeed green. Very light green.
"Well, I thought it'd be better for you to not see this...she only remembered her family when she woke up. Well, actually, when she woke up, she said she was the daughter of the President, and fiercely defended that until for an entire day. She did love a good lie, the poor thing. Later, she admitted she wasn't, and she managed to describe her family to me, so I hoped her memories weren't as damaged as mine. But that was all she remembered. I found her inside this very same room, actually. It pained me to do what I did, but she was already lost."
"How do you know? You only said her eyes were green, and that she acted weird. How weird?" Julius' slowly lifted his gaze from the girl's face to Galgreen's, a look annoyance and pain on his face.
"You don't believe me, do you? Do you think I wanted to do what I did? I struggled against the decision for hours, but the signs were just too obvious for someone that spent as much time with her as I did. Her eyes didn't simply change colour, they changed. The way she looked, it was calculating and cold. The way she walked was more stiff, her voice, her accent and her tone, they were completely different. She spoke as someone that was just learnt a second language, very slowly, carefully enunciating every word. I actually remember the first thing she said when she came back, 'Hello, sir. We see each other again after all this time. Are you happy to see me?'" at this point, Julius chuckled for no apparent reason.
"Old man was the most respectful term she managed to call me before, and now she was calling me sir! Besides...besides, I am almost certain that this was her first sentence since I first met her in which she used no slang.
"Gosh..." Galgreen's thoughts on the matter were not very clearly transmitted by that word, thought it seemed to suffice for Julius. Perhaps it was better this way, for Galgreen's thoughts were conflicting. On one hand he agreed that if what Julius said was true, then there was no reason to doubt him. But on the other, all this time in the darkness may have taken its toll on his mind. And even now he didn't sound completely sane.
Suddenly, Galgreen noticed the smell coming from the corpse, and ran out of the room, gripping his nostrils with his hands. Julius followed him. He leaned on the wall and fought the vomit that he felt on his throat. Breathing hard, he said:
"It seems no message is coming, you should turn the generator off. Maybe we can use it on something else," he made a short pause, and asked, "Where do you get food?"
"The bar. You probably saw it when we entered this floor. They have a food compartment there, but without refrigeration, it won't last much longer. You should eat something, and then we should sleep. When we wake up, we should see if in the lower floors we find something we can use to send a message to the planet. Oh, and don't be surprised if more of your memories come back in time. I remember something new every day."
That's what they did, after a rich meal (Galgreen felt he hadn't eaten in days) they went back to the room with the screen to sleep. Galgreen didn't dream, and woke up still tired. Julius was nowhere to be seen.
Galgreen quickly got up from the floor, suddenly apprehensive. "Julius! Julius! Where are you man!?" he yelled, but there was no answer. The lights were even dimmer than they were when he went to sleep. It seemed the emergency power supplies were slowly being used up. Where was Julius?
"He is probably exploring the lower levels," Galgreen thought. Because Julius certainly couldn't have disappeared, because Julius had said that Klauser "got back", which means she was gone for a time. The same certainly couldn't have happened to Julius. It was impossible. Galgreen saw something metallic softly glinting on the floor, with the back of his eye. He took the 687-EC electrical current discharger and put it in his pocket, as he already had one in his holster.
What was he going to do now? Julius left him alone. He had no idea how to navigate the lower levels, and he couldn't just stay up here. Julius was clearly not in his right mind, and if he came back...when he came back he would probably be as suspicious of Galgreen as he was about Klauser. Galgreen wasn't so sure how much of what Julius said about Klauser was real and how much was his imagination. Maybe everything. There was no hard evidence that the monsters could somehow possess humans. And there was much evidence that Julius was under lots of stress.
Galgreen need to go to the lower levels and see if he found more people. According to Julius, he only woke up about four days after Julius did. So it was possible that the lower he went, the more people he would find that were still unconscious. And he could find Julius and reassure him that he wasn't one of...them. If Julius was still alive. Galgreen took his EC from its holster and gripped it firmly in his hands. Maybe he could even find some soldiers that were fighting the aliens, or ammo for the rifle.
He paused. Something was off, but he couldn't quite grasp what. He looked at the rifle rack once again, for a long time. Then it hit him. If he was in a military space base, then it was normally full of soldiers. Why did they need security guards? And Julius...he was wearing flowery clothes, it was by no means a military uniform. And Klauser, she was with her family...
He took one of the rifles, that he still couldn't identify, and searched its entire surface. He soon found what he was looking for, there was a compartment on the butt stock. With only little use of strength, Galgreen managed to open it. Inside, there were batteries. And they weren't special weapon-grade batteries used in electricity based weapons. They were common household batteries.
The eye patch on the person on the screen, the recreational upper levels and administrative lower levels, it all made sense. He wasn't in a military base, he was in a...some kind of vacation spot. But the monsters...
He had only seen the eyes, and Julius was clearly mad, then perhaps the eyes were his trickery, playing with him before killing him. It made sense. One more reason for him to leave this place. He thought of that as he left the room. The door for the lower levels was closed, but unlocked. One more clue pointing out that not even Julius believed this nonsense. He had to leave this place, right now, he thought, as he entered the darkness of the lower levels. His pace slowed down considerably. He walked slowly, staying close to the wall. He couldn't see even in front of his own nose
Then again, he thought, If everything was a product of a ride and a highly impressionable madman's mind...where were other people? Where were Klauser's parents, where were the other security guards...why didn't he remember a thing? While he thought that, he looked around, searching for any movement. Julius was unarmed, but he could still do something if he took Galgreen by surprise.
And the lights? Did Julius turn them off? Then why did the emergency supplies engage? Maybe he blew it up. But how did he pass the security guards? ...where were the security guards? Galgreen thought he heard a sound and entered quickly one room, "I know it's you Julius! Show yourself! We'll get out of here together!" he yelled. But there was no answer. And nothing appeared, neither Julius nor the eyes. When he turned out to leave, he saw words written on the wall, illuminated by the faint light, it was an arrow, and below it, it was written "Space Lock".
Space lock? It made no sense, so they were in space? No, it was probably how they pointed to the exit without breaking the atmosphere, so important to vacation spots. He followed the arrows to see with his own eyes, oblivious to any worries about the speed with which he walked, and the noise that echoed throughout the corridor. But then, over his steps, he heard another sound. The buzzing.
He turned around and the darkness was softly coloured green, "Julius! Stop that! You don't need to do this!" but the green eyes continued to go toward him. He pulled the electrical dischargers and aimed them at the bright green eyes. The buzzing was becoming stronger. "Really Julius! You need help! Come with me! They have places for people like you outside!"
The eyes kept moving toward him, buzzing. He knew they were only trickery. A ploy by Julius to distract and put fear in the people he walked with, before killing them. But they were still walking toward him. Still inexorably moving closer to him. He stepped back, but quickly chastised himself for it. It was what Julius wanted. And he couldn't give Julius what he wanted, he needed to keep his eyes and ears aware of his surroundings (the sound grew louder and louder).
The eyes were so close that he could see his gun, with a green tint. He ran away, as fast as he could. But as he ran, the eyes followed.
He ran quickly, and accidentally dropped his weapon. He ran in the direction of the space lock, whatever it was, either an exit or a dead-end, but he sorely hoped it was the former. He ran and ran, but whenever he looked back, the eyes didn't seem any farther. He could already imagine the green clawed monsters to whom those belonged. And he could already imagine they rending his flesh and tearing his limbs apart. Or capturing him and taking him to wherever they took the others, and Julius. Oh, Julius, why didn't he trust the old man!?
He fled, he tried to run faster, but he couldn't outrun the buzzing. The creatures were fast, and high, but they made no sound as they ran. Finally, he could see a light very far in front of him. Two bars of very dim light, one very high and another very low. He ran, his hope burning fiercely, but extinguished quickly when he noticed that the lights illuminated a closed hatch. It turned out the space lock was a space lock indeed.
Still he ran, and ran, perhaps somewhere in his primal mind dominated by fear there was the thought that he would go through the hatch to salvation. It didn't happen, because the hatch was opened when he was about seven seconds from it, and people in suits and helmets with internal lights exited it, holding XXC-897 fused-benilium blasters. He ran as fast as he could and crouched for protection behind them.
The eyes kept coming, and the people in suits did not aim their guns at them. The bright green eyes reached the light and started flying around the suits. One of them even landed on one of the helmets, which prompted the owner to try to squash it, cursing, "Dammed fireflies! The director of the station really liked them, huh? How come they're still alive?" the little green lights, scared, flew back into the darkness.
The voice of a woman was heard answering, "I guess they found some food. Now let's look for those missing. We found one of them, it seems. Only two to go," and one of the suits started to walk away, the others soon followed. Galgreen, still in shock, managed to raise his hand and yell:
"Wait! ...The girl...she is dead, the old man killed her...He's around somewhere, take off the helmets! If he doesn't see your faces and know you're human, he may be dangerous," the suits stopped, and the woman pressed a button on her suit, the helmet slid back into the suit, and looked at him, as if only now she noticed he was there.
"Damm! He's not armed, is he?" Galgreen shook his head, "Well, so far so good. I really like it better when they're unconscious though. Oh, the doc said he wanted to talk to you, to examine your brain and all, he's at the medical bay, ask anyone," having said that, she turned around and entered the corridors. Galgreen understood vaguely what she said, and went into the hatch. At the other side of a short tunnel, the atmosphere was completely changed. Bright white lights illuminated everything, and there were various electronic mechanisms on the walls.
A man was waiting for him, and expressed no surprise when he entered, "Here, I'll take you to the medical quarters. Come," Galgreen let himself be guided by that man as they went through various hallways, halls, and doors. They finally reached a small room that was a perfect square of 4x4 metres, with a bench, a painting, a plant and a door. The guide opened the door and motioned Galgreen to enter. He did.
Inside, there was a desk, a woman with auburn hair wearing a white uniform was sitting at one side of the desk, at the other, there was a metal chair fused into the floor. Galgreen sat on it, warily.
"I assume your memories are foggy," she said, simply.
"Well, it'll come back to you eventually, but, just temporarily, I'd better give you some info. Let me see...as you must have assumed, you were in a recreational space station orbiting Varneus. It's a really popular place actually, all the time there are shuttles being launched to it, carrying lots of tourists. A week ago, though, there was a problem of some sort, they're still investigating, so I don't have details; seven of the ten power generators of the station blew up. There was a power failure and the emergency systems engaged. A message was sent by the computer to warn the rescue stations back on the planet surface, the emergency power supplies were engaged, a gas was poured into the station that put the people in stasis to prevent panic, you know, the usual."
"I see. But why did I forget?"
"Well, we sent teams to rescue everyone, but someone messed up and three people were left behind. Now, you probably know that leaving stasis can be a traumatic experience without following certain procedures. Of course, they weren't followed with you three, so there are parts of your body that aren't fully functional yet. Specially secondary parts, like the memory region of the brain."
"And the ey...the green fireflies?"
"Oh yeah, Luminosis garreta, a rare species of green fireflies from Jahutt. They were pets of the station's director, you won't believe the trouble he gave us, he wanted us to go back there and rescue the fireflies."
"Gosh...well, I suppose it's all sorted then. Thank you. You can't believe how crazy things were in there," Galgreen stood up and shook the doctor's hand.
"You're welcome, tell the other ones to come in after you, please. And if you need anything else before we're back at the surface, just come by here," the doctor stood up from the chair and opened the door, smiling. Galgreen exited the room, and noticed that Julius was there, with his backs turned to him, looking at one of the paintings.
"Hey, Julius!" he said, for one second, the old man seemed as if he hadn't heard, then he started turning around counter-clockwise, but stopped midway and turned clockwise, very slowly, and stiffly. "The guards must have given him a tranquillizer," Galgreen thought. After one second, with a blank face, he gave him a smile, that seemed forced, and half-closed his light-green eyes. He slowly extended his hand, offering it to Galgreen, and said "Hello, sir. We see each other again after all this time. Are you happy to see me?" very slowly, carefully enunciating every word.