A reassuring hand resting on my shoulder wakes me from my daydream. With the look of the creature that lay beneath me, I could tell Rose handled it for me.
"Coco?" Rose asks. "You froze up back there! You could've gotten killed!"
No words can describe how I feel at the moment. The creature was beyond ugly. With its big bug body and bulging black eyes that stared into my soul, daring me to move a muscle, I wasn't sure if I was going to survive.
Ever since this creature apocalypse began, I had known to protect myself and try my hardest to stay alive. Creatures and creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes bombarded Earth and threatened to kill everything in their way. And they were everywhere. I almost lost my life to one of them; that is until Rose found me and ushered me into an underground layer along with a few other people.
"Coco?," Rose asks trying again. "Are you.. okay?"
"No I am not. I am not okay. That creature... it... it...," I try to speak but the words wouldn't come out. She holds out her arms and I run into them. We stay in this embrace until Bobby, a forty-year-old man who lost both his wife and two kids during the start of the war and was ushered into the underground layer, walks into the room.
He looks down at the crumpled creature and looks up at me and Rose. He jerks his head to the dining room and calls us for dinner. Then he walks out leaving us some space.
"Coco, you're okay now", Rose says. "I mean, how many times do I have to save your life." We both chuckle at this.
Rose has light olive skin and rich dark brown hair. One long gold streak runs through the front of her run. It's fallen in front of her face, so I push it behind her ear and get distracted by her lips. Her full lips were painted rogue pink with lipstick. They were stunning.
Her chocolate brown eyes stared intently at mine and before I could stop myself, I reach out and pull her into a kiss. Almost immediately, she kisses me back. Bobby rounds the corner, and again, we pull away. She nervously pushes her gold strand back behind her ear, as it had gotten loose during our embrace.
"I said dinner is ready," Bobby says. His eyes glance from me to Rose and we both blush. "C'mon now before the food gets cold."
"We're coming, Uncle Bobby," I say. Of course he's not my real uncle, but in this bunker, everybody is family.
When he walks away, I look at Rose and she looks back at me. Silently, we both agree that we shouldn't talk about what happened... with anyone.
We walk to the dining room and sit on opposite sides of the cardboard table that our family had made a while back. Twelve of us circle around thirteen bowls of broth and beans. Where is Bethany?, I think to myself.
Light conversation plays in the background and I could tell Rose was avoiding my eyes the entire time.
"How did it get in?," Aari asked. Aari's story was pretty gruesome. He had been at work when the apocalypse started, at the hospital treating patients, when all of a sudden a huge bug-like creature with multiple legs destroyed the wing he was in.
None of his patients made it out that day, and he had yet to see any of his coworkers since it happened. In a haste to get away, he ran to the houses around the corner and saw a man trapped under a steel bar next to a fallen house. He stopped to help him, but a tiny creature, who had yet to be named, crawled into the man's earlobe and killed him from the inside out.
Michael, Rose's cousin, pulled him away from the dead man and dragged him along with a few others into the underground bunker. Aari hasn't been outside since.
"What do you mean he imperiled the mainframe?," Aari shouted. He had risen from his seat so fast that the broth from his bowl flipped over and started spilling on the floor.
"Coco?" Bobby says. "Care to explain how that happened?" He knows full and well how it happened. He just wants me to confess it.
"I... I opened the door," I barely whisper.
"You what?," Aari yells. His face had turned beet red and it looked liked fumes were coming out of his ears. He starts speaking fast Arabic, and I catch a few curse words in the mix.
I end up drowning out his rant and spying on Rose's perplexed look. Her brows furrow together like an itchy caterpillar and her lips purse.
"Stop," Rose says, but Aari is so angry that he misses it. She says it a few more times and he keeps going. Finally she yells "STOP!" and he shuts up.
"It doesn't make any sense," she says. "There's no way that creature could've gotten inside from the outside. It was way too big."
"What do you mean big?," Michael asks. She gets up from her seat and gestures to the room we had just came out of. Everyone sits for a few seconds and decides to follow her.
When we gather around her, she points down to the creature and then down the small hallway where the door to the outside is.
"Look at how this creature is built," Rose points. "There's no way that this thing could fit through that door." She's right. The circular door down the hall was only big enough to fit an average-weight human.
Aari picks up a wooden board from across the room and flips the big creature onto its back. Its six legs lay crisscrossed in an x-pattern. A piece of fabric was caught between one of the legs. Aari slowly reached down and pried it from the legs.
Navy blue fabric with white lettering on the pocket. It said "BYW" in drawn-out cursive letters. I've seen this shirt before and the thought makes me sick to my stomach.
"Bethany," I whisper. Everyone looks at me and looks at the piece of fabric in Aari's hands. Suddenly, the pieces start to fit together. Pieces of jean fabric I had never seen until just this minute were sprawled all over the floor. Her golden chain, the necklace was the only thing she had taken from her home, lay crumpled in the corner. The pieces start to fit in together and soon we all understand. Only Bobby thinks to say anything.
"You mean to tell me," Bobby starts. "that that thing... is Bethany?"
"It's the only logical explanation," Rose pipes up. "But how did this happen? Are these creatures somehow evolving?"
Everyone looks at me, then Rose, then the clues on the floor. Mumbling arises in the room from every direction but I can't hear them. I can only see Rose, who's staring back at me.
What do we do?