Wesley knelt beside Quincy’s body. It looked no different from its living form, save the large gash in his throat. Wesley repositioned Quincy’s arms to form an across his body and gently pulled his eye lids shut. Lilana sobbed in fear on Byron’s shoulder. Julia stood quietly next to Avery, who seemed unfazed by the death. The torch, which turned out to be an old florescent beacon, poured harsh artificial light over the events. It provided luminance in a very small radius around them. Beyond its glow the darkness was absolute. Wesley blinked away some tears before standing to speak to Avery.
“When I landed the light was on. I waited for Lilana like as discussed and when she arrived we swam for the light.” Avery looked at the body. “I got close enough to see the bank of the lake before the light shut off. I double timed it to the shore and felt my way up here. I found the switch to the torch; that’s when I found Quincy’s body, he was already dead.” Wesley put his hand behind his head and sighed.
“Help me carry him to the water for burial?”
“Don’t you drink and get food out of that lake?” Avery questioned.
“The eels will take care of the body. It’s how we dispose of the dead here.” Wesley took Quincy’s head and Avery his feet. They slowly made their way down the narrow steps of the ruined building to the city floor. They walked the body to the shore and stood on the high embankment they all climbed moments earlier. Wesley did not hesitate to swing the body into the water. He and Avery retreated back to the roof top. Quincy’s body began to sink into the cold water; soon the eels would come to consume it. Wesley sat in shock underneath the torch controls. Everyone one remained quiet to respect his feelings. Avery constantly peered out into the dark city, attempting to see something. It was an utter failure. Lilana, finally calm, sat beside Byron shaking in her cold wet clothes. Julia wanted to say comforting things to Wesley, but she had none.
“Alright Wesley, enough!” Avery stood at Wesley’s feet. “We need to move! What ever killed Quincy is most likely still here.” Wesley just looked up at Avery with disgust. “This is not a safe place. You said so yourself!”
“Wesley,” Julia broke in. “He’s right.” Wesley met Julia’s eyes and shook his head.
“Okay. Yeah, okay.” Wesley pulled himself up. “Down stairs there should be a room with flashlights and a map. The guards use this building to store survival items incase they’d ever get stranded. We need to get those things before we leave.”
“Excellent, take Byron and get them. We will meet you on floor level.” Avery took lead of Julia and Lilana, who followed him into the darkness. Byron slapped Wesley on the shoulder.
“Lead on then!” He said and Wesley walked forward. They stopped on the second level of the building and passed through a dark doorway. Wesley quickly disappeared into the room, Byron soon found himself alone by the door. He noted the extreme silence of this place. A light flashed in his eyes and Wesley returned with the flashlights, three of them.
“The batteries are probably not full. We should only use them when absolutely necessary.” Wesley made for the door. From the darkness behind them the sound of shattering glass sliced through the quiet. Byron nearly jumped into Wesley’s arms.
“What the hell was that?” Byron composed himself and realized he looked ridiculous so close to Wesley. “Sorry, don’t tell Julia?”
“Sure.” Wesley flicked on the flashlight and peered down its beam. There was no pronounced explanation for the sound. “How about we meet up with the others and get moving?” Byron was already out the door and heading down the steps. He attempted to approach the others confidently. Avery saw right through it.
“Please tell me you didn’t shit your bloody pants?”
“Shut up Avery.” Byron said as he stomped by him and took hold of Lilana’s hand tightly. Wesley followed close behind and came to stand beside Julia.
“We are being watched.” He handed Avery a flashlight. “Two of the creatures are watching us; likely the ones who killed Quincy. As long as our numbers are more than theirs we should be okay.” Julia stepped closer to Wesley as she scanned the area. Avery groaned.
“Can we just get going? Where’s that map?” Wesley held out the map to Avery who snatched it from his hands, clicked on the light and studied it. “Seems simple enough, I’m guessing it’s not?”
“A long walk through a dark ruined city? What could go wrong?” Wesley smiled as Julia snickered just a little. “Shall we?” Avery took the lead and they began to walk due south from the lake side building. The light from the beacon remained highly visible. From what they could see of it, the ruined city looked very much like what Julia and Byron knew from Earth. Derelict vehicles sat along the street. There were even signs of a sewer system. Rubble from fallen structures blocked their path occasionally, but for the most part the path was easy treading. Byron stumbled a few times on large rocks in the street, which made Lilana laugh. She laughed ever more when he swore under his breath. He had no idea if she understood him. The fourth time he tripped he actually fell, taking Lilana with him. Avery marched to them and helped her up.
“Do you think you could be more careful?” He grabbed Byron’s hand and pulled him up with much less care than he did for Lilana. “Just pick up your feet, you walk like you’re ice skating.”
“Sorry.” Byron smiled at Lilana who was obviously holding back laughter. Avery muttered in a foreign language and return to the lead. Julia slapped Byron on the back of the head and smiled.
“Be good brother.” She whispered. Julia looked back to smile at Wesley. Wesley was not smiling. His eyes were fixed upon a point in the darkness. Julia looked, but saw nothing. Avery noticed they were not moving and spun around to scold them all. Before he could, he also caught a glimpse of what had captured Wesley’s gaze. Marching slowly through the darkness, a large group of creatures made their way toward them. They made no sound. Avery aimed his light at them. The ugly, short creatures wailed. Their heads resembled hairless dogs with long sharp teeth. Their bodies looked like mere skeletons wearing loose grey skin. Avery turned to the others and shouted.
“We need to go!” They all agreed and began to run through the dim, ruined streets. Avery burned his flashlight’s battery so they could move quickly. The road began to fill with more and more rubble as they traveled down it at break neck speeds. Wesley hovered at their rear, occasionally looking back with his flashlight. For now they seemed to be losing the horde, but Wesley knew they were not safe. Avery jumped a large fallen wall and stopped. A fork in the road presented two different paths to follow. Avery couldn’t find this on the map. The group huddled behind him waiting for Wesley to clear the wall. Avery studied the map furiously but could not find this fork. Wesley finally vaulted over the wall and glimpsed the predicament.
“Do you recognize any of this?” Avery asked as he shoved to map into Wesley’s hands.
“No, this is new.” Wesley shook his head. “This road should go straight to the river!” He studied the area. “Dear god they must have moved all the rubble to block out the street!”
“Where does that lead us?” Julia scanned the darkness around them.
“Over!” Avery was already moving. “Come on! The road has to pick back up on the other side of the pile.” They all began to slowly pick their way up the pile of rubble creating the fork. Avery reached the top first. The rubble was piled all the way to the caverns ceiling, leaving a very tight gap to the other side. Avery went to his belly and began to squeeze through the gap. The others followed. Avery rolled out of the gap and stood. He swept his light down the other side. Just as he caught sight of the road again, he heard a whistle as something whizzed by his leg. He knew the sound from countless other worlds with primitive intelligence. Arrows.
“Wesley, Byron! Turn off the lights, they are shooting at us!” Avery commanded in a whispering yell. He helped Julia to her feet and called to the others. “Come on!” Everyone wedged through the gap and began down the other side of the rubble pile. Now Wesley knew where he was and took the lead once they reached street level. Avery followed in back and soon heard arrows splintering as they stuck the ground. Wesley drove hard and soon gapped Julia and Lilana. Byron surged to catch him and slow him down, but only ended up gassing himself. He soon fell behind Julia. The run went on for a good ten minutes before Wesley stopped and waited. When everyone caught up he pointed to a small metal shed positioned next to a large rock wall. They made their way to it, catching their breath as they did. Upon reaching the shed Wesley tugged on the door. It seemed was rusted shut. He enlisted Byron to help pull it open while Avery watched for the oncoming creatures. Soon Avery heard their muttering and sensed arrows being strung.
“Please get that door open!” He shouted, forgoing any hushed voice. “Gentlemen lets go!”
“Just about there!” Wesley said as he managed a good hand hold on the door and began to peel it back from the rusty hold. “Okay! Everyone inside!” Byron ushered Lilana and Julia through the door. Wesley went next followed by Avery. Inside, the shed contained a few old row boats. To the right a large opening in the rock face showed them the river flowing rapidly into more darkness. Avery began to pull the door shut when an arrow flew from out of the darkness and dug into his left shoulder. He made little noise and pulled the door fully shut. Julia screamed when he turned and she saw the arrow sticking out. She ran to Avery and put her hand around the wound.
“Tell me what to do.” Julia said to Avery who had slumped to the floor.
“Wesley, get the boat ready. Do we have any supplies?”
“There should be some in back.” Wesley took Byron and they began to prepare two of the boats.
“Avery!” Julia grabbed his face and held it to face her own “How can I help you!” Before he could answer the metal shed began to shake. A noise that reminded Julia of hail stones hitting a school bus deafened them. The tiny fists of the creatures outside began to tear through the aluminum walls of the shed. Wesley and Byron shoved two boats into the water and held them from being taken by the current. Wesley tried to yell for them, but the noise drown everything out. Wesley took a rope and lashed the two boats together. Julia helped Avery to his feet and loaded him into one of the boats. She got in that boat with him and Wesley jumped in as well. Byron and Lilana got in the other boat and Wesley shoveled them away from the dock just as the creatures crashed through the walls of the shed. They stopped at the bank of the river and shrieked, but did not follow.