Author : Julian Miles, Featured Writer
That was what they looked like. Tongues. In every possible colour you could conceive that a tongue could turn. They came to earth as refugees from a conflict of such horror that only the vaguest rumours and hints escaped, the details of which were kept to an elite circle of politicians and their chosen.
“Mum, there’s a libbomoff in the back garden.”
“That’s Libidromorph, Ellen. It’s come for Tammy. Don’t look; you know its bad luck.”
That’s how we explained it to the children. Libidromorphs were scavengers. They could eat anything organic, providing it was dead. Watching one of the alien tongue things root out the corpse of a family pet and wrap it gently before crushing and digesting it was something you just did not want your kids to see. Then again, the world was a far cleaner place these days. The tongues smelt nice, a kind of cinnamon and patchouli musk.
“Mum, what happens when they have eaten all the dead things?”
She had a point. Several sensationalist shows had caused some public uneasiness over this. Then the shocking incident in the Valley of the Kings had emphasised the fact that the tongues would eat dead organic matter no matter how old. Archaeologists had been in an uproar for months. But the diplomats had explained to the tongues that certain corpses were not for consumption. You could buy ‘reverence flags’ now that you wrapped your deceased loved one’s body in and the tongues would leave it alone.
Ellen hurtled out of the kitchen and down the hall into her father’s arms. He was home early, looking pale and dishevelled. She went to find out what worried him and caught the end of him telling Ellen to go upstairs and pack because they were going on a very special holiday, right now. She raised an eyebrow at him as Ellen rushed upstairs in a joyful, excited rush. He took her in his arms and hugged her close. As he did, she felt him shaking as he whispered in her ear;
“We were at the nearest landing site, monitoring those growths on the sides of the valley. They’re not some sort of hive, they’re towers of chrysalides. One hatched two hours ago. It ate the observers and every living thing in the valley after that. Damn thing was like some giant flying woodlouse with armoured carapace and pincers. Bulletproof and fireproof too. I took a Hummer and got the hell out when more of them hatched.”
I leaned back and looked at him. Andy always had the answer. I had never met a more capable man than him. He looked awful.
“We have to go. They’re going to nuke the valleys before more of them get loose. We have to do it now or they’ll spread like some biblical plague.”
I asked why we had to leave. He stared at me, horror in his eyes.
“The blasts have to be big enough to go down into their burrows. Which means this city and several others are in the blast radii. God help us, we’re going to kill millions. The predictions are that bad. But if we can destroy the towers, we can mop up the remaining pupae. If we don’t get the towers, we’re dead.”
I looked at the phone. Andy turned my head back.
“No time. You, me and Ellen. We can make the bunker at the base if we leave in three minutes and the roads are clear. Now go.”
I ran upstairs as the sound of huge wings became audible.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows