"Back World" is a serial thriller about a young couple facing an apocalyptic future.
A new episode will be published each week.
1 - Arrival
June 14, 2012
At the alley's opening, two of the entities turned the corner and headed to the collection of humans and trash cans.
Realizing that he and his companions were on the wrong side of the waste receptacle lineup, whether the idea worked or not, Devin began pulling a trashcan out of formation to allow passage.
"What are you doing?" the homeless man screamed, as if someone had grabbed and mishandled one of his children.
"Coming through," Devin replied.
As he held the can with one hand to allow Dina and Celia to scamper through, the disheveled man made a move to block them. Celia only had to bring the baseball bat to port arms for the man to angrily relent.
Once everyone was safely inside the barrier, Devin followed then replaced the can, making sure it was touching its metal mates on each side.
The four of them fell back almost to the second line of trash cans. Devin readied the shotgun while Celia tightened her grip on the baseball bat like the Sultan of Swat awaiting a pitcher's 3-2 delivery.
The creatures hurried along the alley, their organic blades dragging against the asphalt.
"Now you'll see who's a nut," the bearded man said. "As soon as one of those things hits the first can, you're going to see the Fourth of July in the middle of the day."
"You better hope so," Celia said through gritted teeth.
The two beings began to separate, spreading out for strategic advantage as they approached the shiny silver picket line. They neither sped up nor slowed down, displaying neither excitement nor fear while keeping an even pace.
"If they break through, do we run or fight?" Dina asked, pointedly aware that she was armed with nothing more than a garden hoe in one hand while still clutching the macabre souvenir of the organic blade from the first alien encounter.
"Fight first, run if more show up," Devin answered.
"Don't you worry," the homeless man interjected again. "The cans'll stop 'em."
The two amorphous forms reached the line of silver sentries. Without actual faces, much less facial features, there was no way to read whether the creatures registered the existence of a blockade in their path. When they were barely a foot away from the cans, they suddenly changed direction. Instead of pushing through, they simply floated higher, easily clearing the barricade's three-foot limit without disturbing a single lid. Once inside the bearded man's makeshift fort, they were only 40 feet away from the group.
"Wait!" the man shouted at the intruders, rage filling his voice as he took an angry step forward. "No fair! You can't do that! Go back and come in the house the way you're supposed to!"
The entities paid him no heed, returning to earth until their blades again touched groun while continuing toward the four mismatched people backed up against the second line of trash cans.
"You gonna shoot or you gonna dance?" Celia said to Devin in a low voice.
"Waiting to see the whites of their eyes," Devin responded without looking away from the approaching attackers.
"If they're too far away, the pellets don't stop them," Dina explained for her husband, who was now sighting down the barrel toward the creature on his right.
The two interlopers began a pincer move, zeroing in on the collection of humans from left and right. Devin again marveled at the silence of the beings as they moved. The thought was an intentional mental distraction he invoked to keep from getting overexcited and shooting too soon.
When the creatures were less than 10 feet away, it was time.
A roar erupted from the group's right as Devin let loose with the first barrel.
A hole immediately appeared in the center of the roly-poly to the right, the jagged opening ringed by black burn marks. The power of the blast not only stopped the thing's progress, it actually jolted it back nearly a full meter.
Finally, the bearded man's prediction came true as a cascade of sparks and miniature lightning bolts began pouring from the rupture. The blob then toppled to its left. When it struck the asphalt, the light show began in earnest as the sparks increased in volume and intensity. With the being's body now laying sideways, fingers of electricity firing out like the climbing arc of lightning between the two poles of a Tesla Coil.
Devin broke his attention free from the light show just as the second creature reached Celia. He spun left and fired.
Instead of a clean shot into center mass, the squadron of lead pellets grazed the right side of the being, tearing off one of its three-pronged "arms" which skittered across the macadam and banged against the far wall of the alley. The off-kilter shot served as a winding physic, spinning the creature on its blade like an out-of-balance top. After the fourth pirouette, the holes had already healed, and the being was able to regain control and return to its original path toward Celia.
Once again cursing the two-shot limit of a double-barrel shotgun, Devin broke open the weapon and extricated the still-smoking empty shells.
Celia wasn't going to wait for the reloading process. Bringing her fisted hands to her right shoulder, she stepped toward the Zydebin and swung the bat with every ounce of her strength.
The Bammer, Babe Ruth, would have been proud.
The bat connected at the spot where the remaining three-pronged appendage erupted from the gelatinous body, knocking it loose but not off. The sharp scissor-like blades spasmed open and closed at the end of the metal arm, which dangled uselessly to the left.
Celia stepped to the right, paralleling herself and her target with the line of trash cans that had just been at her back, giving her less of a trapped sensation. She then wound up again. This time the powerful swing struck the large protrusion that served as the thing's head. The force of the blow rocked the creature to it's right.
Now behind Celia because of her turn, Devin finished reloading the shotgun and snapped it closed before stepping to his right to get clear of the bat-wielding woman. Before he could raise the gun and take aim, Dina laid a restraining hand on his arm.
"No," Dina said quietly. "I think she needs this."
Devin looked at his wife, then nodded, but kept the shotgun at shoulder level in case Celia needed help.
Another swing, another double to left field, and the being lurched further to its right. Instead of tiring after two hard swings, Celia seemed to be gaining strength from the success.
But her third swing was the last one.
It was another perfect strike to the thing's head, which sent the entity reeling further to its right, where it bumped into a trash can.
The smell of ozone immediately filled the air, followed by a fresh shower of sparks as electricity poured from the being and into the line of metal cans, then back into the creature to form a completed circuit. For the first time, Devin heard a hum as the electricity conducted to the metal but also encountered greater resistance than the pure energy field of the alien. The connection lasted only a second, as the trash can came loose from its line of compatriots and toppled over.
But the damage was done.
Smoke began leaking from the holes where the appendages had been, accompanied by the strong light of whatever was shorting out inside the amorphous body. More sparks and tiny lightning bolts began firing from the holes, bouncing against the asphalt.
The group began backing toward the undisturbed line of trashcans toward the front of the alley, watching the entity begin to tremble and vibrate as the arcing increased.
A few steps behind them, a brilliant flash reflected against the walls. The four spun to catch the end of the flash as the first downed alien exploded in a ball of purple and blue light.
Two heartbeats later, the second alien bathed the alley in a similar glow of purple and blue as it blew up in a spectacular yet inert spray of light.
When the lightshow burned itself out, there was no sign of either alien, save for four mangled metal arms and a bookending pair of curved brown appendages.
"I told you it would work," the homeless man said.
"Yeah, well I guess you didn't notice the flying part of the show back when you were on their planet, huh?" Celia shot back.
The man hesitated before answering.
"Maybe there's a different kind of gravity on that world," the man offered, more pensive than before, as if trying to figure out this wrinkle.
A small flash of darkness passed from one end of the alley to the other, as if a large bird had momentarily blocked out a line in the sun during its flight. Celia and the homeless man interrupted their exchange long enough to look up with Dina and Devin.
Hovering above the alley, they could barely make out the shimmering image of an alien ship similar to the one that had originally launched the fireball attack on Kansas City earlier that morning.
Devin turned to the others."Now we run."