If the font is purple, Erin Keller is telling the story.
If the font is yellow, Alan Christopher is telling the tale.
As I opened my weary eyes to the sight before me, the thick, corrosive air immediately forced them shut. The burning sensation was almost unbearable; tears welled up and seeped through my closed eyelids, streaming down my cheeks like tiny waterfalls. Quickly, so not to look silly, I brushed them away and forced myself to look somewhat composed.
But I could not.
I was trapped in a sea of dead bodies. Most were naked; all were in some state of gruesome decay. Patches of skin had blackened and crumpled away. Bones protruded through the skin, leaking blood and other bodily fluids onto the filthy brown floor. The bodies were carelessly thrown into massive piles, most of which were two or three times taller than me. The looks frozen onto their faces—or what was left of their faces—ranged from pure, utter terror, to relief, to some strange medium in between, and as I walked amidst the mountains of dead, some part of me, deep down inside, would have gladly welcomed death to escape the horrific scene.
The mounds of dead bodies had already weakened me. The sight of dead children, who were clearly violated and killed in the most gruesome means imaginable, was never a pleasant one; I recoiled at the very thought. But the closer I came to the bodies, the more reality started to strike. With each subsequent step, my nostrils were attacked with the nauseating, putrid stench of death. My stomach twisted and turned; I could feel the vomit climbing my esophagus into the back of my throat. I tried to force it down, and succeeded—to an extent, but the pungent stench of decay was so powerful that it seemed to be suffocating me with its brutally potent breath.
My throat and nostrils burned, and my eyes watered yet again. I could feel a thick layer of grime covering my body like a blanket, smothering me in its vile, insipid grasps. I very much wanted to escape, but amidst the mountains of bodies, I didn’t know where to go. The dead were everywhere.
My boots sloshed through the reddish-brown muck on the floor, collecting the stench and bringing it with me. Now, there would be no escape from it. I stopped, feeling my stomach beginning to rebel once more. Slowly, I lowered my head, closed my eyes and cupped my mouth, hoping I could keep down whatever digestive juices were fighting to come up.
I sighed, and slowly opened my eyes to the shallow pool of dirt and blood below me, and almost started to move on—when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small, blood-covered hand coil up into a fist.
Quickly, my eyes followed the little hand to a little arm and a little body. It was broken, blood-covered, and naked, aside from a few well-placed loincloths. He was severely beaten, ailing from jaundice, and violently trembling. Almost dead—but not quite.
I wanted to help him so very much, but as I frisked the front of my uniform, I discovered I had nothing to offer him in the way of help, not even a phaser to put him out of his misery. So I decided the least I could do was comfort him in his final moments.
Slowly, I reached out for the boy’s small, bony shoulder and turned him to face me. His head effortlessly rolled over to my direction, popping his toothless mouth open—toothless no doubt, because the Lycorians had extracted his teeth for reprocessing. I shuddered at the very thought, and reached to close the child’s mouth, when his eyes darted open.
I had been expecting a pair of bloodshot, yellow eyes. Instead, two vibrant green spheres greeted me, glowing satanically in the poor lighting of the internment facility. Acting on pure instinct, I jumped back—but not soon enough. The boy’s arm was extended, and reaching for my shoulder.
He reached out for me with a stern force I had not expected, firmly planting his cold, clammy hand on my left shoulder and squeezing. I could feel his fingernails digging into my back, deeper and deeper until yelped out in pain. Quickly, I tried to dislodge his hand, but as I did so, I noticed that I was no longer dealing with the boy.
“You. Killed. Me.”
It was a Velora guard, and I recognized him well—his pale green skin, his demonic green eyes, the tiny bumps running along the side of his head… the malevolent smirk on his face… Yes I knew him. And he spoke the truth—I had thrown him into a baryon induction field without an ounce of hesitation.
The guard’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Murderer!” he rasped with a conviction in his voice that sent a chill down my spine. “Murderer!” he repeated, allowing his accusation to hang in the air for several moments as his malevolent smirk took hold of his face.
Within a few seconds, I could hear a haunting chorus in the background, chanting the guard’s accusation over and over again.
And then, one-by-one, the dead bodies came to their feet, continuing their satanic chant. The majority of them were naked, beaten and missing limbs, yet they somehow managed to walk, taking a step toward me with each subsequent repetition of their chorus. I was surrounded, and at the center of my troubles, the guard with his hand firmly entrenched on my shoulder—and he was grinning. “Murderer,” he whispered under his breath.
The chorus drew closer. I could begin to pick out faces I recognized—they were all Velora; they were all dead; and they were all killed by me.
I blinked, and the guard was suddenly standing erect at my side. He flashed me a curious smile, and then stepped behind me, whispering, “Your turn…”
The chorus was suddenly armed, and taking aim on me…
“Fire!” called out the guard.
And I bolted up in my bed.