Chapter 1: Monstrous Beginnings
Layla stepped out onto her front porch listening to the birds chirping in the woods next to her Elliot Lake home. She had just moved here from the city to escape the rat race and the daily grind of city life. Elliot Lake was a beautiful little town surrounded by woodlands and lakes of varying sizes. The town was small with mostly retired people and a good number of younger families.
It used to be a mining town back in the eighties. Booming with uranium mines the town was built around the natural resources that put them on the Canadian maps. Layla smiled softly as she watched a fox trot by, probably hunting for the same birds that were chirping in the wooded areas of her one-acre lot. It was peaceful here and that’s they way Layla wanted it. No humming power lines, no street drag racers, no screaming neighbors and most of all no distractions. Life in Elliot Lake was as lazy and humdrum as a natural waterfall bubbling over a rock face in the middle of nowhere woodlands.
Layla opened her front door to let out Belle, her Golden Labrador, and turned back to the stairs as she began her quick trek to the mailboxes at the end of the road. Belle happily yipped as she followed behind Layla, dancing her canine dance around her feet as they walked down the gravel road. When they came to a fork in the road Belle let off a sudden growl as her brown eyes darted back and forth through the thick brush. She was tracking something, probably the fox she saw trot across the front yard Layla thought with a smirk.
Belle growled again and her fur stood on end as she crouched low and started to creep with her tail stiff and straight out. Bearing her teeth as her tail shot straight up Belle began to bark as a dark hulking shadow moved from the brush to a less dense set of trees off the side of the road. Layla frowned, it was bear season and the beginning of it. Bears were now beginning to come out of hibernation and those buggers could be nasty when they felt threatened or cornered. It was also a dangerous part of the bear season because they were pretty grumpy when hungry with so little food to compete for.
“Shoosh Belle, you’ll startle the bugger and make it mad” Layla whispered as she pulled out her bear whistle.
Belle regarded her for a moment then went back to barking at the bulky shadow that seemed to just stand there and stare back at them. Layla frowned, that was an awfully big bear. Maybe the shadows were playing tricks on her waking and groggy mind. Layla strained to identify the shadow more closely, wondering if she should just get her mail later. That sounded like a good idea as Layla turned on her heels quickly and headed back the way they had come but Belle wasn’t following her.
“Belle, come on now, let’s go” Layla called, “BELLE, NOW” As Layla hollered her commands at Belle she took off into the bush and straight for that shadowy figure. Layla startled but hesitated as she slowly drew the bear whistle to her mouth.
“BELLE, come here now” Layla hollered nervously, “Damned dog”
Layla started toward the bush with caution gripping the bear whistle like it was a lifeline. She wondered if she should run back for her .22 caliber pistol that was in her lockbox in the bedroom. No time she thought to herself as she edged toward the bush line, straining to see where the shadow and Belle had gone. The smaller trees were swaying with the recent passing by of Belle’s body but the bigger trees beyond that were bowing with the other shadow things movements, she could see whole birch trees bowing dangerously close to snapping point. These trees were not baby trees either but the whole, full-grown trees. What could possibly be big enough to do that to full-grown established trees Layla grunted under her breath as she stepped closer to the ditch just before the woodlands.
Whatever this thing was it was huge and Layla doubted it was a bear at all. Maybe a moose but it was too wide and too tall for a moose. What the hell could it possibly be she wondered? Her thoughts were interrupted with a scream that she could not identify right away but soon realized it was Belle who was screaming out of sheer terror and pain.
“What the fuh..” Layla grunted. The rest of the sentence would never be finished as Layla was slammed to the ground and knocked unconscious. Her head had hit a fair-sized rock jutting up from the side of the road that bordered the bush on the other side of the ditch she was standing beside.
The thing standing above her hummed with a metallic tinny sound as it dropped the body of Layla’s dead dog Belle. The carcass was ripped apart from neck to shoulders, rank tracks of burnt flesh were still melting in slimy rivulets onto the gravel road. Its beady black eyes glistened as it turned its head sideways to look at its newly found prey. It seemed to be regarding Layla with intelligence that rivaled human intelligence. Its snout quivered with anticipation as it sniffed closely at Layla’s face leaving little trails of drool and snot across her cheeks. Opening its mouth wide it lets the digestive tendrils flop lazily out of the end of its proboscis-like mouth. A few droplets of acidic fluid dripped on Layla’s left cheek with a plume of smoke as her eyes fluttered open.
Layla tried to scream at the hideous monster in front of her but not even a squeak flowed out of her fear clenched throat. She tried to skitter backward from it but the gravel prevented her from being able to dig her heels in or going very far as it crunched under her flailing feet. Layla rolled to her left to be met with Belle’s dead eyes staring her in her own. Nothing was left of the dog but the spine, nerve endings, and a few blood vessels with the dog’s head. Little rivulets of red chunky liquid flowed down the slope of the road and into the ditch. Layla’s eyes followed the flow of liquefied flesh knowing her own flesh would do the same as Belle’s when her eyes fell on a man crouching at the ditch except this man was different somehow.
Layla’s eyes met with his dual colored eyes, they looked cat-like, not human at all. His black long hair was wavy and down past his shoulders. Some sort of ornamental like jewelry on his left ear glistened in the morning sunshine as he cocked his head to one side. Layla could see he was wearing some weird type of clothing, it looked almost alive and she could swear she saw parts of it ripple and squirm.
The man bore his teeth, also cat-like, as two sets of glistening knives seemed to grow from the backs of his hands as Layla pleaded silently with her eyes for him to help her. The sheer terror in her eyes seemed to move the man into action.
The man moved with accuracy and speed charging the monster with a roar of rage and anger while he raised his built-in weapons high above his head. He pounced on the menacing creatures back and began stabbing ferociously at it. A green substance began to flow from its back and mingle with the liquid remains of Layla’s dog coloring the stagnant water in the ditch a sickly greenish-red.
Once again the cat-like man drew back and stabbed at the monstrous beast. Fluid flowed in fast spurts across the gravel road even spraying Layla in the face. The smell was awful, like decaying flesh in the hot summer sun. Layla realized the smell wasn’t just the green goo flowing from the beasts back but the beastly monster itself that reeked of decay. She gagged roughly at the smell as it intensified and crawled toward the other side of the road where she promptly puked the morning’s breakfast into a bed of wet leaves.
Layla screamed impulsively as a hand touched the back of her shoulder, turning as she threw up her own hands reflexively trying to shield herself with them, the bear whistle still roughly clenched in her right fist. The man crouched next her and regarded her silently as he seemed to be waiting for Layla to calm down enough to speak with her.
“Female, are you wounded?” The man asked softly
“I, Uhm I don’t think so,” Layla said as she surveyed her own body to see if she was hurt, “who or what is that thing?”
“I am Chokan, of the House of Daemar” He said, “and that thing is called the Gatherer”
Layla stared at him hard, what the hell was this dude on she wondered nearly out loud. Her eyes caught a movement and she scrambled backward nearly screaming as she did. His abdomen, it was wriggling and squirming around. Layla pointed at his abdomen with a gaping mouth, trying to ask what the hell it was when he started laughing at her.
“That is Janka, my symbiote.” He laughed, “I am her transportation, she is my immune system.”
“Fuck me sideways” Layla grunted as she lay down, “good god, I suddenly don’t feel so good”
“Where do you reside female?” Chokan asked, “We must take refuge quickly, where there is one Gatherer there will be many others”
“Up the road, the only house on this road” Layla sputtered as she passed out. Chokan lifted the female human gently into his arms and looked up the road. He could see the rooftop of the house and began to walk toward it quickly. The female’s eyes fluttered briefly as Chokan hopped the stairs of her home in one leap. Not only must they take refuge but it seemed that this female was succumbing to the acidic poisons in the beasts saliva.
Chokan would have to act quickly in order to save her life, the poisons were quick with the females of his own kind and he presumed it would be for female humans too. It was a tactic that effectively castrated the species it was used on to keep reproduction to a minimum as well as control the species while the alien Gatherers silently invaded the planet.
As he entered the female’s home his eyes darted around the room and fell upon some sort of large sitting apparatus. It would have to do for what he meant to accomplish he thought as he laid her gently on it. Her eyes fluttered a second time and came halfway open as he leaned into her, nearly laying on top of her fully. He removed the organic abdominal plate from his armor then lifted the female’s shirt above her round pink breasts. He paused briefly to stare at the two mounds of supple flesh on the female’s chest, seemed they were not that far off anatomy wise between the species he thought as he smiled softly.
Laying belly to belly Chokan winced as tendrils forced their way out of his abdomen and into hers. Janka reached far into the female human’s abdomen with her tendrils seeking out the poisons that ran rampant through her body and sucking them up into them for later disposal. Layla’s eyes popped open and she started screaming as she kicked and slapped at Chokan. He grabbed her harshly by the arms and hissed for her to stay still as Janka continued to finish healing her from the Gatherer’s poisons.
“Get the fuck off me” Layla screamed
“Calm yourself female” Chokan hissed angrily, “you pull away and you will kill all three of us”
“I don’t care, get her out, get off me damn it” Layla growled as Janka withdrew already done what she had been asked to perform.
“We are done anyhow female” Chokan grunted as he pulled away from Layla roughly and stood at the side of the sitting apparatus she was laying on.
“I have a name asshole” she hissed between clenched teeth, “It’s Layla”
Chokan regarded the abrasive human female as he sat on a smaller sitting apparatus. His shoulders dropped abruptly as he stared at the woman as she started to sob uncontrollably. He frowned and offered his hand to her gently as a peace offering. As she stared at him he shrugged his shoulders and tried to smile at her, it didn’t turn out all that great as Layla began to sob harder.
“Layla” He whispered as gently as he could, “we must prepare to move out of the area. There will be more of them”
“What the hell are they Chokan, why are they here? What do they want?” Layla asked between sobs
“I will explain to you on our way to your Royal Family” Chokan whispered.
“Royal Family? We don’t have that, do you mean government?” Layla whispered back not knowing why she was whispering but only the following suit with him.
“Very well then, your government,” Chokan said, “We will camp here in your dwelling until dusk then we must move quickly to where your government is”
“You’re kidding, right? You do know the government is in Ottawa right? That’s across the province, miles, and miles away, hours away.” Layla grunted in disgust.
“We must warn your government Layla, this invading species has already destroyed my homeworld and people. They are dangerous, you have seen what it can do.” Chokan pushed adamantly.
“Okay, but I insist on driving ’cause I don’t think you know how to do that do you?” Layla pushed back.
“What is driving?” Chokan asked with a funny look.
Layla began laughing hard, she laid back against the couch as tears of laughter ran down her already tired-looking face. Who would have thought her first morning in her newly adopted home town of Elliot Lake would be this eventful. Her dog was dead, she nearly became some hideous creatures lunch and now she had an alien man sitting on her arm chair staring at her like she was some lunatic while she laughed her ass off. This was going to be an interesting journey she thought to herself as she stared back at the alien cat man before her.