Trigger warning: rape
Creature (krē′chər) noun
1. A living being; an animal.
2. A human.
3. A being from outer space.
4. An imaginary or fantastical being; a mythological creature.
(All four have their own special place in the following narrative.)
“I can’t believe that we actually got away,” Samantha Wringley said as she changed the dressing on Buck’s punctured leg. Brazilian swampland encroached on the shoulder of the two-lane road upon which Buck reclined, threatening to smother them both in its humid, emerald tentacles.
“Ouch,” Buck Taylor complained as Sam secured his splint. “When we docked the space elevator without its cargo pods, I was sure we’d be met by a TSC security squad, but all we had to contend with was the flabbergasted loading crew.”
“Too bad that one security guard at the gate, who I’m sure, was one of those damned alien invaders, spotted us as we stole that Zero DSR,” Sam bemoaned, glancing at the drained electric cycle scuttled in the foliage. Exotic birds and forest fauna voiced noises that felt to Sam like they were mocking her.
“The thing that sticks in my craw is the fact that we’ve been unwittingly transporting their asses down to earth from the space colonies for ten sodding years!” Buck clenched his ex-navy fists in frustration. “The colonies are overrun, and I did the math…there’s between a third to a half-million of these monsters hidden among us!”
“You’ll have to tell me more about how you survived alone in space for ten months, but shush…there’s a truck coming up the road and we desperately need a ride out of this swamp.” Sam let her long blond bangs fall down across the side of her fetching face and stood up facing the approaching vehicle; it was an older model Tesla electric semi, and the only noise it made came from its battery management system doing its job cooling down the vehicle’s power cells in the equatorial heat. Samantha unzipped her company-issued flight suit to reveal a laced black brassiere that boldly contrasted with her young creamy cleavage. Sweat droplets lingered on her pale skin, and she extended a thumb to hitch a ride.
“What the hell are you doing?” Buck protested.
“Relax, Buck, I’m just improving our chances of getting picked up,” Sam tilted her frame and rested her other hand on her shapely hips; her facial expression was unemotional, giving off the impression that she didn’t care one way or another whether the driver stopped.
The electric big-rig slowed to a halt; the only sound it made was the whine of solenoids engaging its brakes. Someone inside leaned over and swung open the passenger-side door. The driver, a Brazilian native wearing dungarees over a stained white T-shirt invited her to hop in with a gravelly smoker’s voice, “Entrar, garota.”
Sam didn’t know any Portuguese, but Buck did. “Você fala inglês?” Buck asked the driver as he limped up behind Samantha and she zipped up her flight suit.
The driver tried to hide his disappointment with a forced smile when he answered, “Yes, I speak English. I said, get in, garota…girl.” He leaned over for a closer inspection of Buck’s injured leg and noticed the blood stains on his TSC uniform. “Fine girl, your white-haired daddy can come along too; you can make him comfortable in the sleeping bunk...” he offered. Then he threw a towel at Buck and added, “…but don’t put that greasy head on my clean pillow.”
Sam helped Buck into the cab, and then climbed aboard; she didn’t bother correcting the driver that Buck was not her father. “Thanks, I’m Sam and that’s Buck.”
The driver released the truck’s brakes and it steadily started to roll. “I’m Tiago; my load is headed for the airport in São Paulo. So, how far do you want to go?”
Buck answered for Sam from the cab’s sleeping compartment. “Would you mind dropping us at the US Embassy and Consulates in São Paulo?”
“No problemas, Daddy,” Tiago assured them.
The truck silently travelled down the lonely roadway, and the driver tried to start up a conversation several times. However, Sam didn’t want to give away too much about their predicament so her answers were always short, and before long, Buck was sawing logs. Eventually Tiago gave up, “Okay fine, garota, but it’s going to be a long boring three or four hour ride.”
In the stillness of the cab, Tiago began to hum and sing what sounded like some Brazilian folk song.
Que a cuca vem pegar,
Papai foi pra roça,
Mamãe foi trabalhar.”
Samantha couldn’t tell if Tiago was singing to bide the time, or to annoy her into talking with him, but either way it worked. She stopped him, “Hold on; are you going to sing the whole way? If so, can you sing it in English?”
The driver started over and hummed the tune for a while before singing the translation.
“Sleep, little one,
The cuca’s going to get you,
Daddy went to the fields,
Mommy went to work.”
Samantha interrupted him again, “Hold on; is it a lullaby? It’s creepy, what the heck is the cuca?”
“She’s from Brazilian folklore. The cuca is an old witch that only sleeps once every seven years and appears as an alligator, or crocodile, or dragon, to steal away disobedient children.” The truck driver chuckled to himself and added, “My parents used to tell me the cuca will get me if I didn’t go to bed.”
“Okay, stop. Let’s not sing anymore,” Sam suggested, although Buck was still singing his snores from the bunk area.
Tiago probed her for information once again as he took a detour onto a poorly maintained side road to avoid what he said was construction, “Then tell me, what are two Americans in the uniform of the Transnational Space Community doing in the middle of Brazil?” The electric semi was still running quietly, but the road noise had increased markedly.
Sam figured they were far enough away from the coastal cities at this point, and once the driver dropped them on U.S. soil in São Paulo they’d be safe enough, so she spilled the beans in hopes that he’d be so shocked that he’d stop talking, “We were operators at the Fortaleza space elevator. We discovered that creatures, which appear human but have retractable metal claws, have taken over the space colonies and have been secretly shipping themselves to earth for the past ten years. We killed one of them using a gun on the elevator and I dissected it; they’re cyborgs, half-flesh and half-mechanical, and they can live without oxygen in zero gravity. We escaped the TSC properties and fled into the jungle on a stolen E-cycle…then you showed up.”
Silence filled the cab until the driver burst out laughing, “HA! What a story! He-he…you might as well have said you were paranormal investigators looking for the …he-he, ha…the…ho-ho…o cocô!”
“You mean the cuca?” Sam crossed her arms.
“No, not cuca…cocô…shit!” the driver yelled, and he engaged the brakes to bring the semi to a stop on the side of the gravel road. “The damn engine stalled. I hope it’s just a low battery…I have backups in the trailer.”
Tiago swung open the driver’s door and jumped down to open the battery array compartment. Sam checked the dashboard indicators and then followed him outside. “If it’s a battery, it didn’t overheat; the temperatures are all normal…I have two engineering degrees; let me help you.”
The truck driver already had a battery disconnected. “It has to be this one; I’ve had issues with this one before. Can you run back and get one of the spares out of the back of the trailer? They’re right inside the door.”
Sam kicked up dust from the road as she shuffled the length of the trailer; it was the least she could do for the free ride. However, when she flung wide one of the two rear doors, her heart nearly stopped as still as the truck’s engine. There were no spare batteries; instead there were thirty or forty refrigerator-sized metal crates stacked from floor to ceiling. She’d seen these transport caskets before…and she was sure that each one of them contained a hibernating cyborg soldier! As she stared at the cargo, she heard the crack of a small tree branch behind her. Spinning around, she saw Tiago, with a wicked looking cuca’s smile on his face; a long machete in his left hand reflected the afternoon’s sunlight menacingly.
“It’s time to pay for your ticket, garota.”
Instinctively, Sam leapt up into the trailer and attempted to close the door. The truck driver caught the door with his knife hand and grabbed her by an ankle. “Don’t struggle…and maybe I’ll keep you alive for another go later. As for your daddy, I’m afraid he’s going to be jungle food.”
Sam reached up and tried to grasp the top crate in order to keep her from being pulled from the trailer, but she ended up just randomly pushing buttons on some kind of control panel. Tiago yanked her leg and she slipped to the floor of the trailer, cracking the back of her head against the stack of caskets; scarlet ichor began to discolor her honeyed hair.
The truck driver scrambled up and effortlessly pinned her to the floor; he placed his machete to her throat, and with his right hand he slowly unzipped her flight suit down to her groin. “I told you not to struggle, garota…ah…matching underthings…I like black…now let’s see just how long you’ve been in Brazil…long enough to be a true Brazilian maybe?”
He thrust a rough hand into the revealed gap and clumsily pulled at her black laced panties; Sam shrieked at the top of her lungs, “BUCK! HELP!”
Alarmed, her attacker pulled out his free hand and used it to cover her mouth, “We can’t wake your daddy, garota!” He tucked the machete under the bridge of her sable bra and sliced upward, cutting it in two, revealing the pale buxom glories it contained.
With eyes like saucers, Sam attempted to speak through the hand cupped over her mouth, but only muffled something that sounded like, “Mumphpher!”
“If you can refrain from screaming again, I’ll allow you to speak. But…if you wake your papa…it won’t go well for you.” The driver let his hand slip down to grope her breasts and hear what she had to say.
She didn’t scream, but only shook uncontrollably as she whispered, “Monster…”
Tiago smirked twistedly, “I suppose you’re right. I just might be a MONST…” His voice rose in a crescendo but quickly ended as razor-sharp, obsidian tridents pierced his lungs from behind and emerged from his chest in a shower of gore; one of the alien invaders was loose, and Sam had been the one that had freed him from his artificial slumber.
Sam shoved the driver’s corpse off her and rolled out of the trailer and onto the rocky ground. The cyborg yanked his claws from the lifeless body and jumped down to follow her. The humanoid alien looked around the left side of the truck and saw the open driver’s door; he then peered around the right side and saw the open passenger’s door, but there was no sign of his quarry. Crouching down, the monster saw her scrambling under the trailer.
Sam stopped moving; she curled up into a ball and whimpered as the creature ambled its way up to where she hid and squatted down to extend his pitchfork claws under the truck to skewer his prey. Unfortunately for him, the spears never reached their intended target; instead, the cyborg’s head was separated from his body and it rolled underneath the big-rig in a jumble of severed wires and tubes that spilled sickly, yellow, synthetic plasma as it tumbled.
Buck reached out a tattooed hand and pulled Sam to safety; he’d surgically dispatched the cyborg with the truck driver’s deadly machete; they were even; she’d saved him on the elevator and now he’d returned the favor. Gratefully, she wrapped her arms around the old man, pressing her nakedness against him, and she kissed him passionately on the lips. After a time, Buck pushed her back. “Thank you, honey, I think, but now that we’ve saved each other’s lives, we need to get back on the road. You reconnect that battery, and I’ll load the bodies into the trailer.”
“The driver must’ve selected this bypass for its lack of traffic in order to attempt his…his deed.” Buck paused to choose his words carefully, so as not to upset Sam while she did her best to drive the semi on the untraveled byway. Buck’s leg was still in a splint and he couldn’t control the pedals; at least the vehicle had a fully automatic transmission; that made it a bit easier for her to handle.
Sam didn’t respond; she was still trembling after being violated. She drove the truck up and onto a narrow bridge over a deeper section of swampland and slammed the vehicle into park. “Buck, we have to do something with the bodies…and the damned aliens too…before we reach São Paulo,” she insisted.
“What do you want to do with them?” Buck questioned.
Sam leaned out the open window and saw the water below was swarming with alligators. “Why can’t we toss them to the cucas?”
“Cucas?” Buck wondered aloud.
“Alligators…or dragon witches…or something. I’ll explain it to you later.” Samantha promised. “Maybe we can just detach the damn trailer and push it into the swamp?”
Buck shook his head, “They can live in the vacuum of space, Sam. Surely they can live fine underwater.”
“I don’t care, let’s at least get rid of the two corpses,” Sam asserted.
They opened the trailer and dragged the driver’s dead body to the railing and tossed the rapist over. The predators quickly relished the present that had fallen from the sky and looked up for more. Soon after, the headless alien came down in two pieces. Surprisingly, the animals enjoyed the flesh parts of the cyborg as much as the rapidly disappearing human. “Well, I suppose we can open each container one at a time, then kill the cyborgs before they animate and toss them to the gators…I’m not sure the reptiles won’t get too full to finish all…” Buck counted the crates and added, “…thirty-six of them.”
With their minds made up, Buck and Sam set themselves to the grizzly task. As they worked, Sam sung the Brazilian lullaby that the driver had taught her. Buck didn’t bother to question her; she’d probably explain it to him later when she explained the cuca.
On each sarcophagus, Sam activated the control panel while Buck stood by with the machete. As soon as the box opened, Buck would slash the creature’s throat while Sam tenderly intoned, “Sleep, little one.” After they’d dragged each cyborg corpse to the edge of the bridge and heaved it over the rail, Sam would hum, “The cuca’s going to get you.”
When the disagreeable job was complete, and the alligators were sated, the weary duo climbed back into the truck’s cab and put it in gear. After her experience on Brazil’s backroads, Sam wasn’t quite sure whether the human race deserved to be saved, but she decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, and as they left the scene of the crime, Samantha crooned the final lines of the strange verse, “Now it’s time for Daddy and Mommy to go to work.”