“Right here,” Rodney said in a whisper from behind him, causing Aiden to jump. “Come on. Follow me,” he explained low, motioning for him to follow.
Aiden nodded, his eyes wide as they passed by the wreckage. Why couldn’t he remember seeing them crash? There must have been at least twenty different vehicles around them, all of them burnt to a cinder. He only closed his eyes for a second.
A thick drop of moisture rolled down his forehead and across his nose. He felt to the drop, feeling that it was thick and sticky. In the smoky light though, he couldn’t tell what color it was.
“How’d you find me?” he asked Rodney.
Rodney turned to him, his dark eyes wide with panic. “Oh, man. Uh…” he forced Aiden to pause and searched around them for something to use as a bandage. He spotted the fabric from a parachute and proceeded to rip off a piece. “Hold this to your forehead. You’re bleeding bad.”
“How bad?” Aiden asked gulping back his anxiety. It was then he noticed that Rodney was wearing a soldier’s helmet, dog tags, and a men’s camouflage jacket.
“Stitches bad. Hold pressure on it. You’ll have to get it fixed up once we reach the foothills,” he explained.
“Uh… foothills? Why are we going there?” Aiden asked confused.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “Look, we’ve been attacked by something that’s destroyed half the planet. A bunch of people said they were heading for the hills, so that’s where we should go too. Besides, you said two days ago you had to go there to find something. I don’t believe in coincidences,” Rodney pointed out.
“Two days? I’ve been asleep for two days? What happened?” he gasped.
Rodney shrugged. “I decided to follow you. When I passed the bridge over near the Stanley farm a spaceship started shooting a red beam down at the town. I ran, hid under the bridge. I was down there like forever when the battling finally let up. By then, well…” he motioned around them. “I grabbed a few things I found and continued to look for you.”
“What about our parents?” Aiden asked. He took hold of the track of an overturned tank to remain upright.
Rodney shrugged. “Mine was gone, but so was my house. I’m hoping they headed for the hills. A man ordered everyone to head in that direction from a loudspeaker on a helicopter, right before it was shot down,” he said, obviously concerned for his own family’s safety. “First things first,” he wrapped his arm under Aiden’s and helped him to stand, “we better keep moving. Who knows if or when those monsters are going to return?”
Aiden nodded, his eyes watching Rodney’s new boots. They looked too large for his feet. His left toe was covered in thick greenish blood. “What’s with those?” he asked then motioned to his helmet, “and that?”
Rodney tapped his helmet. “Took it off a guy a yesterday. The shoes, well…” he lifted his foot out of the boot, revealing he was still wearing his sneakers within the boots, “I ran into a bunch of mud back by the old bridge. It was better to use these to get through it.”
“Smart,” Aiden said.
Rodney grinned. “I know, right? Remind me not to ignore your dreams again. Whatever you were dreaming about,” they stumbled over a thick piece of metal, possibly a helicopter blade. The boys took a closer look, noticing something twitching beneath the metal. Aiden jumped back followed by Rodney. To their horror, they saw a long yellowish-green colored finger flexing beneath the metal, reaching upwards as if it were trying to claw its way free.
“What… what is that?” Aiden gulped.
Rodney searched the area with his tired eyes, spotting a thick stick about the length of his arm. With the stick, he poked at the finger. The finger wiggled up, followed by a hand, grabbing the stick and ripping it from his hand with such force it caused the stick to slice through Rodney’s flesh.
Rodney released the stick, running as fast as he could to get away. Aiden stumbled behind him, unable to catch up. He staggered to the ground, his foot captured within the thick unyielding mud.
“Rodney!” he cried out.
His friend spun around in time to see the creature lift the helicopter blade away, sliding the blade to the side. Slowly, the creature pulled its twisted and mangled body from under the wreckage. Its face resembled a preying mantis, the left side of it half-eaten away.
Aiden’s horror-filled emerald eyes turned to the alien creature. In a mad panic, he reached to his entrapped foot, struggling to free it from the mud. Rodney rushed back to him, also helping to tug his friend’s leg free. It was no use, his leg would not budge.
Inch by inch the alien creature grew closer, dragging its body along the muddy ground. Rodney stood, watching the alien. His jaw gaped slightly when he noticed that the lower half of the alien’s body was missing. Only a trail of entrails followed his lower half.
“That’s just nasty,” he gulped, attempting to hold back the mixture of cheese puffs and gummy bears he ate for breakfast.
“RODNEY!” Aiden screamed, his voice filled with panic.
Rodney shook his thoughts back to reality. “Yeah, right, uh…” he glanced around, searching the area for something to help dislodge his friend’s leg from the mud. He found a long piece of metal attached to a handle, pulling it out from a pile of rags. As he lifted it, he soon realized just how heavy it was. The weight of it nearly knocked him off balance. He swung around to face Aiden, but as he did his foot slipped out from under him. He fell backward, the handle jerking from his hands. A loud “WHAAAABAAAAM!” echoed throughout the valley.
Rodney’s head connected with the ground, smacking his face with mud. Dazed, he turned his chestnut eyes to the metal rod beside him. It was then he realized he had found some kind of alien weapon.
“Aiden?” he called, attempting to lift his body from the mud. “AIDEN?” he cried out.
An arm raised into the air. “I’m… okay,” Aiden called back. “I… I think you killed it,” he continued.
Rodney cocked his head, unable to move his body that was now encased in mud. He could just make out his friend through the hazy air. Inches from his friend laid the alien creature, its arm reaching out for his leg.
“Looks… like it,” Rodney returned, his words strained as he attempted to sit up. “Uh… Aiden, I can’t move. I’m stuck in the mud,” he admitted.
A long moment of silence was disturbed by Aiden’s heavy sigh. “Oh. Uh, Rodney?”
“Why is it so muddy anyway?” Aiden asked.
“Planes dropped water to put out the fire,” Rodney explained. “You… you really didn’t see what happened?”
Aiden shook his head, the mud sloshing against his ears. “Nope. I was riding my bike and next thing I know all this had happened.” He paused, listening to the distant crackling of the fire. “Now what?”
“I’m not sure. We wait for someone to—“
“To what? Walk by? Look around,” Aiden yelled.
Rodney moved his head ever so slightly, noticing something hurrying towards them in the dusky light. “Uh, hi?”
“Don’t move!” returned a demanding voice.
He squinted, just able to make out the image of another pistol. This time it was aimed at his head.
“Uh… okay,” he gulped.
“What’s going on, Rodney?” Aiden called out.
The gun fell away from Rodney’s face, revealing a soldier dressed head to toe in camouflage. He reached to Rodney, pulling him out of the mud by his shoulder.
“We heard a gun,” the soldier explained.
Rodney nodded, motioning to the gun that he accidentally shot. “I… I shot it. I didn’t know what it was. It… it killed that thing over there next to my friend,” he explained as he looked around. He was completely surrounded by adults all wearing camouflage gear. Two other people were fast at work lifting Aiden from the muck.
“We’ve got a dead one over here,” called out another soldier.
“Yeah, that’s him,” Rodney said, motioning to the alien.
The soldier patted his muddy shoulder. “Good work. Let’s get these boys back to their families before there are any more problems. I bet they’re worried sick about you,” the soldier mentioned.
Rodney nodded. “I bet they are.”