1 comment

Thriller Science Fiction Friendship

A door slammed, and I flinched. The lights flickered and dust fell from the slats in the ceiling. But then there were heavy footsteps overhead, and I knew I needed to be as quiet as I could possibly be.

Slowly, very slowly, I reached my hand out to find the button on my extension cord. The click was too loud, but then the lights went out and I held my breath. The steps continued across the floor and into the next room. Another door slammed and my shoulders fell away from my ears.

“That was close,” June whispered. She clicked on the flashlight around her neck, but kept it trained on the floor. “Do you think they got a tip about us being here?”

I shook my head. “Regular patrols. If they were searching for us, they would have stayed longer.”

The light bobbed up and down as June nodded.

“In any case, we need to think about a new camp. We’ve been here too long. One of these days, those aliens are gonna think about looking under the floorboards.”

June nodded again. After another minute, I clicked the extension cord back on and our small space again filled with light. We went back to our nightly routine of rolling out our sleeping bags and packing everything up in our duffels.

We never knew when we’d have to run, and so even though we’d been camping out in this crawlspace for three weeks, we didn’t get too comfortable. We would always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. The last thing I tucked into the bag was the extension cord, and then we were plunged into darkness again.

We clicked our flashlights on and stared at each other. June was my very best friend, and we’d escaped our city together. Once the aliens revealed themselves and it became clear they weren’t interested in sharing our planet, the people of earth moved quickly to make their own changes.

“How much further do we have to go?” June whispered.

I’d looked at the map before dinner and didn’t like what I had to tell her.

“It depends. If we take the most direct route, it’s about fifteen miles.”

“Oh! We could cover that in a day!” June’s face lit up with excitement. I hated having to dim her shine.

“But that would take us through the city.”

Her face fell. “Oh. So… what’s the way around?”

I reached a hand across the space between our sleeping bags to find her hand. “Going around will be three times as far. And we’ll have to find new places to camp on our own each night since I don’t know any other refugees past this point.”

She squeezed my hand and sighed. “Okay.”

“But we’re so close.” I wanted to cheer her up. We’d been on the road for so long, having to hide and run and hide again. “Once we’re on the other side of the city, it’s the last alien stronghold until you hit Colorado. We’ll be able to settle down somewhere and relax.”

“Yeah.” But she didn’t sound convinced.

The next morning, we ate our meager breakfast of stale granola bars and washed it down with instant coffee that tasted more like dirt than anything else. But we were running low on supplies. Another reason we needed to move camp.

Our contact here had only been able to secure the place to stay while we were here. They were already living on scraps and couldn’t afford to share with us.

“Okay, so what’s the plan?” June seemed a little more determined in the light of day, but the weight of this journey still dragged down her shoulders and her smile.

“We wait for the morning call. All the troops will return to the city center and we’ll have exactly thirty minutes to get out and on the other side of the wall.” I unfolded the map again and traced along our path with my finger. “Then we get to the woods. And we’ll be able to travel without worrying about being spotted from overhead.”

June nodded and followed my hand, but I noticed her eyes dart in the other direction, towards the city.

“What if we… go through the city? How dangerous could it be?”

I sighed. “June… we’ve been through this. The aliens have completely taken it over. They kill humans on sight in there. It’s too dangerous.”

She nodded. “But what if… what if they don’t see us?”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “How do you think we’d manage that?”

“Sewers? We could travel under the city.”

She said it so fast; I knew she’d been considering it for a long time. And I had to admit, it wasn’t the worst idea I’d ever heard.

She took my silence as at least the beginnings of agreement and pointed towards another path on the map. “There’s an entrance over here. It empties out into the river. I think there’s a metal grate over the entrance, but I have those bolt cutters, so it shouldn’t give us too much of a problem.”

“How long have you been making this plan?” I couldn’t help the smile spreading over my face.

She shrugged, but grinned back. “A couple days, I guess. I heard Sam and Lilly talking about the sewer systems and it gave me the idea. They told me about the entrance. I was just waiting for the right time to tell you.”

I nodded. “Well… I think we should try it.”

“Really?” Her eyes lit up. She flung her arms around me and squeezed me tight.

“I think it’s a good plan. And one day trooping through the sewers sounds a whole lot better than three days of woods and questionable camping locations.”

We finished our packing and crawled out from under the house. In the shadowy cover of the porch, we waited for the morning call. It would ring and all the aliens in the area would teleport back to the city. Every morning, we were clear to do as we pleased for thirty minutes before the next round of troops showed up. Anyone who lived here took that time to gather more supplies or change locations. It happened again before sundown and since the takeover, they’d become the only time people could come out in the open if they were near an alien stronghold.

The human race wasn’t sure what we’d done to offend the aliens so badly. According to them, they’d been living among us for years and years. But one day, they shed their human suits and changed everything. Humans went into hiding. Because if we didn’t hide, the aliens made us slaves. Or killed us. Or ate us. Depended solely on their mood.

The chime filled the air, and my skin tingled in anticipation. Once the last bell rang, we’d be off. There was plenty of time to get outside the wall and to the sewer tunnels, but we would run the entire way just to be safe. Outside the wall, the aliens were less likely to bother with us. But there was always a chance.

Silence fell and June kicked the lattice frame away so we could crawl the rest of the way out. I was careful to put it back the way we’d found it, and then we took off.

The others knew we’d be leaving today, and a few waved as we passed them, but they had their own business to attend to in the free window so no one tried to stop us for a chat or a long goodbye.

Up ahead, someone already had the door in the wall open. There was a small hold-up as a crowd bottlenecked at the single door, but then we were through and in an open field.

“Which way?” I asked, not wanting to take the map back out to look again.

June glanced back and forth and then pointed to the left. “Over here.”

We sprinted again until we were under the cover of trees. The woods came right up to the town’s limit. Once we were out of sight of the skies, we slowed to a walk.

June opened her water bottle and took a small sip. I copied her. Even though we were running painfully low on water, no way was I going into a sewer thirsty.

I saw the grate before June did, and then we rushed forward.

“How much longer do we have?” She asked as she dug out her bolt cutters.

I checked my watch. “Fifteen minutes.”

“Plenty of time.”

The bolt cutters snapped right through the metal rods and she opened a space large enough for us to crawl through. Once we were inside the tunnel, the light dimmed and we had to turn on our flashlights after only a few feet.

My watch beeped once to let me know our grace period was up, and I pressed a finger to my lips.

“We’re not going to be able to talk once we’re under the city,” I said.

June nodded. She took a deep breath, and we were off.

I lost track of time in the sewer tunnel. June had her flashlight pointed down at the water and small ledge we’d been following to dry our shoes out a little. We knew we were under the heart of the city now. I heard cars rumble overhead and there was strange music and talking in their language. At least we didn’t have to worry about them hearing us walk through the water over all that racket.

I chanced a light to see the time and was surprised to see we’d been walking for half the time already. And it was still daylight above us, the small shafts of light stabbing through the holes in sewer grates every few feet.

June slowed to a stop and sank down into a crouch. I saw we’d reached the end of our ledge and we’d be back in the water with our next few steps.

“Break?” She mouthed the word at me and I nodded.

I sat next to her and found my nearly empty water bottle.

We had to get out of here before nightfall. I wasn’t going to sleep in the sewer. But my feet were aching and stiff since they’d gone back and forth, being drenched and then dry. And I was worried our progress wouldn’t be smooth the whole way through. It would be too easy.

June opened her bag and looked for her pack of gum. She offered it to me, but I shook my head. The idea of eating something, even gum, while down in the sewers turned my stomach. I was barely handling the stench as it was.

We sat in silence for a few more minutes. We’d have to get back to walking soon if we wanted to get out of here in time. But it had been a few weeks since we’d travelled so much in one day. My feet throbbed and June was massaging her calves.

But then she froze, and I saw her gaze lock on to something across the tunnel. I grabbed my flashlight, but she stopped my hand with both of hers.

She leaned closer and whispered in a voice shaking with terror, “We’re not alone.”

She’d spoken out loud, and I knew that was a mistake. But it was too late now.

A second passed, and then another, and then the entire tunnel filled with a green light as the alien watching us opened its palm. We were able to see the twisted expression of glee and hunger for a solid second before it flung its body across the tunnel and was on us.

August 07, 2023 19:27

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Tom Skye
19:35 Aug 14, 2023

Really good build up of tension. I liked the repeat mentions of the sewer as well. Set the scene vividly. Good job. Enjoyed it

Reply

Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.