Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella), Chapter 9
Though Hope went to sleep right away, it was a strange sleep. She was aware of the weight pressing down on her, and her sweat dripping off her. The dreams marched in, and with it, three ghosts circling around her. These were the ghosts of the movies, not of her reality: faces bloody and torn, like death had distorted them into monsters. They were human, or at least had once been human.
One of them had this strange looking drum that had stalactites running down from the top and glistening with white wax. And when it slapped the top of the drum with a three fingered hand, the sound wasn’t that nice beat that worked into her bones, but rocks flying against metal.
The other two ghosts crowded around the first. Lipless mouths yawed open, revealing blackness. They screamed, trying to drown out the drumbeats, and the drummer ghost pounded harder, grinning, as he tried to drown out the screamers.
Hope snapped awake.
The pounding didn’t stop.
It was coming from outside.
Brooks and Jian were already out of bed, Devil Blasters in their hands. The pilots had Devil Blaster rifles.
Only Hope was unarmed.
Hope swallowed, her mouth going dry. All she could think was that she was unarmed and as slow as a turtle. Easy prey.
The windows outside the shuttle showed a black sky. No moon out.
Her stomach jerked.
Something rushed at the window, like a pile of rags, but not solid. She caught a glimpse of three gleaming eyes, red and feral.
They looked in. Right at her.
Then the shape dropped away from the window. Like it hadn’t been there.
The pounding stopped.
Men’s voices. Yells.
Brooks peered out the port side window. “Mel’s Marines are out there.” He glanced back at Jian. “Ma’am?”
Jian looked at everyone’s face in turn. “We stay. The Marines know what they’re doing. We’ll just be in the way.”
A minute passed. Perhaps two.
It seemed longer.
A sharp, official sounding knock came from the door, accompanied by a muffled voice.
Jian told the computer to open the door. One of the Marines came in. His Devil Blaster was holstered. Hope shifted around on her bed, untangling her legs, so she could see him better. He wore a ‘just dare mess with me attitude’ like a badge of honor.
“Everyone all right?” he said.
Jian stepped forward. “Yes, Gunny. What happened?”
Gunny. It took a second for Hope to remember she’d heard that on Kangjun. Must be a rank of some kind. She’d ask Brooks later.
“We don’t know, ma’am. Something came through the camp. Knocked down one of the tents, overturned equipment.”
“No ma’am. Whatever it was seems to be gone.”
Hope slid to the edge of the bed. “Excuse me, Gunny?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Hope found herself working through her words carefully. This might have been a ghost, and if it was, an angry one. Or it could have been someone living.
But she felt uncomfortable giving the Marine orders.
“Leave everything alone,” she said. “I want to see the damage in daylight.”
Just like that. She swallowed, feeling like her world had been turned upside down.