Chapter 2: Car Troubles
Layla’s eyes fluttered open as she sat up on the couch, she couldn’t remember falling asleep at all after the incident with Chokan and Janka. She muttered softly to herself while swinging her legs over the side of the couch to stand when her eyes fell on the man sitting in her armchair.
Chokan looked human enough with his eyes closed, even handsome too. His hands were folded neatly against his abdomen. Layla let her eyes roam over his body. Well built, tall, and olive complexion. She smirked uneasily when he stirred slightly, it looked like he was dozing lightly but she couldn’t tell. Janka on the other hand roiled and quivered beneath his folded hands as if she was hard at work doing the only God knows what that work might be. Layla cautiously tiptoed closer to them and leaned in to take a better look.
“Would you like to feel?” Chokan whispered softly, startling Layla, “Janka is disposing of the toxic poisons that she removed from your body”
“Fuck, I thought you were sleeping,” Layla almost screamed, “you scared the shit out of me”
Chokan laughed as he grabbed Layla’s hand in his, shoving it on his stomach roughly. The symbiote churned and recoiled under her hand making Layla recoil herself in horror. Chokan stared at her as she wiped her hands compulsively on her jeans, shivering at the not so distant memory of Janka’s movements against her skin.
“Doesn’t it bother you a parasite lives in your gut?” she asked disgusted at the lingering sensation of Janka’s movements on her skin.
“It does not” he replied with a dismayed look, “she is a symbiote, not a parasite and her name is Janka”
“Don’t get your undies in a wad now, excuse me for asking” Layla grunted as she flopped back down on the couch, “So, you gonna tell me about these Gatherers and what not?”
“Very well, I will tell you” Chokan began, “The Gatherers are the first wave of the invasion. They collect food and slaves for what is only known as The Masters. These Gatherers are what one would refer to as the quiet before the storm”
“Pfft, quiet they are not” Layla grunted, “It’s gonna be a shit-kicker of a storm isn’t it Chokan?”
“Do not interrupt me female” Chokan hissed, “What little I have been able to gather as intelligence before my homeworld was destroyed the Masters have never been seen. No one knows what they look like or why they come to destroy whole planets. It seems as if they aimlessly wander the universe marauding different planets for resources with no real goal or aim in mind.”
Layla made a face at him and leaned back to take inventory of what he had just told her. She closed her eyes and threw her hands behind her head. Thinking to herself how utterly complicated her life had just gotten. When she opened her eyes again she could see that he was staring at her. His cat-like eyes darting up and down her body. Layla shivered, unable to explain why it affected her that he was checking her out. It felt weird but interestingly arousing in a way to have him staring at her like he was.
“So, what about you, what exactly are you now?” Layla whispered with a blush.
“I am Ravanian. Our homeworld was called Ravnos” He started, “We are a feline-like race with the capabilities to heal quickly. We have primary and secondary claws as defenses that you have already witnessed earlier. As you know we carry a symbiote who is our immune system and we are their transportation and protection.”
“What’s with the fancy jewelry by the way?” Layla blurted as she reached to touch it. Chokan growled and slapped her hand away from him as he rose defensively.
“You do not touch it” He yelled loudly, “It is a symbol of our coming of age, of the rituals of Pentok”
Layla cringed backward and bowed her head, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was insulting to touch it”
“No, I should apologize Layla” Chokan muttered, “I am not on my homeworld, it is still difficult to get used to the different ways of your homeworld”
EDIT: Chokan cringed visibly at his outburst and how it had affected Layla. It was still a difficult task to adjust to the different cultures of their two worlds. He had not meant to make her feel as she had been made to feel albeit these humans were extremely sensitive he thought to himself. His mouth opened then closed as if to apologize but could not muster getting past his pride to do so. Layla stared at him through her bangs covering her upper face as he wrestled with his thoughts then shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly with a look of defeat on his face.
Layla’s head snapped up and forward suddenly when she heard an all too familiar sound she really could have gone the rest of her life not hearing. It was that same metallic humming sound and it sounded like it was just outside her back door. Layla stared back at Chokan as he nodded knowingly. So he had heard it too then, it wasn’t just her imagination as she’d hoped for.
Chokan stepped toward the other side of the living room, avoiding the large bay window as much as he could and motioned for Layla to follow quietly as they both retreated away from the sound of the Gatherer. Crouching, Chokan cocked his head to one side, listening intently as the Gatherer moved away from the back door and toward the front of the house.
Layla moved past him to her bedroom to gather what she needed. As far as she could tell they had had a close call and it sounded like the Gatherer was moving away from them. As she looked back at Chokan, looking to see if she had the green light she slammed her fist into her mouth to stifle the scream that nearly let loose from her throat. Layla nearly fell backward into her bedroom when Chokan rose quickly and caught her. It had been him on his haunches who had lightly grazed her ankle with his fingers to warn her not to move. Chokan had barely had enough time to stop Layla from walking into the bedroom where another Gatherer was sniffing at the open window.
He pulled her close to him as they both stood in the hallway between the bedroom door and bathroom door. His arms around her almost protectively as they both tried to stay as still as they could. The Gatherer made one final loud sniff at the window then spun around with a high pitched squeal. It crouched low with its double-jointed legs and took off at a gallop Layla couldn’t believe could be achieved by this hulking breed of monster. When she looked back up into Chokan’s face she could see that it was finally safe enough to move and breathe again.
“We must hurry and gather what we need to leave now,” He said
“God damn the best idea I’ve heard all day” Layla grunted, “Just let me grab a few things and we’re good to go. Car is in the garage, there’s a door that leads right into it off the side of the house.”
“Very well, let us be done with it quickly then” Chokan answered back.
Layla ran to her bedroom and grabbed the nearest backpack she had out. A red and black backpack with pockets galore. She knew she would need to pack light but decided to take her side hip bag with her for more important supplies like her .22 pistol and the hunting blade her best friend had given her as a joke for her farewell party back in the city.
Not so much a joke now is it Layla thought as she stuffed both the pistol and hunting knife into the hip bag. Packing clothes, socks, and other essentials she giggled absently as she stuffed a few pairs of her underwear deep into the backpack. Mom always did say bring a clean pair of underwear with you, at least she wouldn’t be able to say she died with her granny panties on.
As she was finishing up Chokan entered the bedroom. He looked around, poking at a stuffed teddy bear then rifling through the contents of her sock drawer.
“Hey, don’t you know it’s rude to look in a lady’s panty drawer?” Layla teased.
“What are the panty drawers?” Chokan asked looking confused.
“Oh never mind, a good joke wasted, sheesh,” She said.
As Layla stuffed the last of what she needed in her back pocket, a couple of sticks of gum, a crashing sound shook through her house. Layla did scream this time and looked to Chokan with a terrifying stare. He frowned, sniffing the air like a bloodhound searching for a missing child. His eyes widened and he growled loudly.
“We must go now” He growled
“That sounded like it was from the garage, that’s where the car is,” Layla said
“Where is the door to this garage, you stay here I will see if the vehicle is still intact” He answered
“Back down the hall, through the kitchen, there’s a second side door right into the garage.” Layla said, “Be careful Chokan”
Chokan made his way back down the hallway and into the kitchen carefully, keeping low to the ground and slinking as quietly as he could. When he reached the garage door he had to sidestep the kitchen counter nearly knocking the vase of flowers off of it. He cringed slightly as he grabbed at the teetering vase before it fell and continued to make his way soundlessly to the garage door. Opening it as gently as he could manage while peeking through the crack to see into the darkness of the garage Chokan sighed.
It seemed this “car” Layla spoke of did not look right. The Gatherer had ripped the front of it off exposing what looked to be its engine to the darkness and cobwebs. The light fixtures in front were smashed out and a few pieces tinkled to the ground as a gray bulky shadow passed by the garage door. Chokan backed up quickly, the Gatherer was still present in the garage which meant that they would have to find another means of transportation.
Chokan spun violently on his heels as the blood-chilling scream wafted toward him from the bedroom. It was Layla screaming. He rushed head-on toward the bedroom, claws swiftly emerging as he ran through the hallway. He growled as he burst through the door of the bedroom only to stop dead in his tracks at what he saw.
Layla was cornered on one side of the bedroom while another Gatherer stood at the gaping hole in the wall where the window had been. It sniffed the air enthusiastically, humming away as it reached with its absurdly short bug-like arms toward Layla. She screamed again prompting Chokan to launch forward to attack the Gatherer when a sound he had never heard before wailed in his sensitive ears causing him to lurch instead of the lunge and slam to the floor. It was an incredibly loud bang that was followed by a flash of bright orange light and an acrid smell he could not identify.
Chokan had only had time enough to look up to see the Gatherer’s head explode into little shards of the skull and greasy flesh as the flash of bright light receded from his vision. Behind the monstrous alien animal in the window, an old man stood pointing something at the dying beast.
Turned out that the old man who lived out in the bushes had heard the sounds and had come to investigate what was going on. Old Man Mac grunted as he stepped over the crumbling leftovers of the window, nodding in Layla’s direction as he did. Mac chortled softly as he offered his hand to Chokan and looked him up and down.
Old Man Mac was the crazy old fart that Layla had heard about. He lived in a school bus that had been retrofitted with a wood-burning stove and painted blue. It even had it’s own propane tank that serviced the stove that ran off of the volatile gas source. She had heard Mac had gone the way of One Flew Over The Coo Coo Nest after the first Gulf War and gone hermit crab when he got back to his home town of Elliot Lake.
It was odd that he was this far out on the other side of Oompa lake though, Layla was on the north side of the lake while his nutty blue bus resided on the south side of the shared lake. Old Man Mac’s rough gruff voice violently shook Layla from her inner thoughts with a jolt.
“Interestin’ get up you got going there kid” Mac gruffed
“You must be Old Man Mac, you live in the bush on the other side of Oompa don’t you?” Layla interjected to change the subject quickly. She cringed as Mac eyed her suspiciously. When Mac turned back to Chokan he leveled his shotgun at him. Chokan growled as he stiffened while the barrel trembled before his eyes.
“Don’t move boy or I swear I’ll blow yer brains all over this room like I did that thing” Mac growled.
“Mac, it’s okay, he’s on our side,” Layla said as she stepped between the two men shakily while pushing away the barrel of the shotgun. Mac eyed balled the both of them wearily again then huffed as he turned his back to leave.
“The best thing for you two is to get the fuck out of dodge,” Mac said, “There’s some crazy shit going on and it ain’t looking all that pretty”
“That was the plan” Layla grunted sarcastically.
Mac stepped over the rubble of the ruined window while ducking his head. He disappeared around the corner of the house and back into his beloved bush as both Layla and Chokan watched him leave.
“We must do the same Layla” Chokan said softly
“You bet dude,” Layla said as she grabbed the backpack and hip bag. Slinging them onto her body she spun on her heels and nodded to him.
Both Layla and Chokan moved fluidly together as a unit, moving quickly through the bedroom door and down the hallway. When Layla made to move toward the garage door Chokan grabbed her arm and shook his head no. She frowned and cursed under her breath when she realized that the crashing sound had been her car taking a pummeling from the godforsaken Gatherers. Cursing loudly as she sidestepped Chokan she made for the front door only to stop suddenly and stare out her living room window.
What she saw both intrigued and disturbed her. A Gatherer had caught a deer in mid-stride and was tearing gruesomely at the poor thing’s flesh, ripping it apart in grotesque shreds of red bloody strips. The deer’s skin and flesh gave so easily to the Gatherers disfigured short arms, like a hot knife through butter. The sounds of the flesh-ripping away from the animal made Layla gag uncontrollably. She tried to look away but it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
When the Gatherer was done its head tilted to the side and that little beady eye made contact with Layla’s eyes. She swore it was sizing up the distance it would take to get to her and how long it would take as well. Chokan grabbed her shoulders and pulled her away from the staring match with the Gatherer, whispering it was time to move now. That got Layla moving with a jolt, it seemed they’d have to take the same way Old Man Mac had and exit stage left through the back door.
Chokan leads the way back to the bedroom, stepping through the shards of glass and guts without so much as a second thought or hesitation in his stride. He grabbed Layla’s hand and pulled her through the now missing window of her bedroom roughly. As Layla cleared the ruins of her bedroom window Chokan yanked on her arm drawing them into a running pace straight for the bushes. Layla was about to protest when she saw exactly why he had done it, a Gatherer was at a trotting pace in their direction. Its acidic tendrils unfurling from its proboscis-like mouth in anticipation of the capture. Its little arms in a flurry of excitement as they pumped back and forth with its running gate and its beady little eyes glistening intensely at them with hatred.
Chokan grunted as he pulled Layla into his arms and hurled her past the bushes while he spun on his heels. His claws glistening in the sunlight of the afternoon as they buried deep into the side of the Gatherer’s head while Layla landed on her ass with a jolt and let out a yelp. The Gatherer’s tiny malformed arms were still pumping back and forth as it sunk to the grassy edge of the bush. Its green blood lazily dripping off of Chokan’s claws and hands.
The pitter-patter of the Gatherers blood on the grass make Layla wretch with the dry heaves as Chokan grabbed her by the hand and yanked her forward. Growling as he told her to move it now. They started running through the bush, Layla leading with Chokan on her heals at a steady pace. She didn’t know which way to go but every time she went to turn in a certain direction Chokan either grunted no, not that way, or pulled her back to a seemingly chosen path he already had in mind.
Tree branches scraped along Layla’s face and arms making her wish she had worn a long-sleeved sweater instead of the tee-shirt she had on. She thought briefly of the sweater in her backpack as another thicket scraped across her forearm making her wince in pain. Layla grunted as Chokan pulled on her, making her lurch to the left just before she ran into a small sapling tree head-on.
As they hit a secondary footpath that crossed paths with the one they were on Chokan steered them roughly into it. He slipped past her daftly as she grabbed at his hand so she wouldn’t lose him in the bushes. God help her if she lost herself in these bushes without his protection, she was a dead woman walking if she did.
Layla yipped with glee as the path ended in a clearing with a rock-cut jutting out from the left. It seems that Chokan had had some type of pre-chosen path in mind after all Layla thought, well at least the man came prepared. It was a cavern that he was aiming for. It would provide them with protection from the elements and a place to regroup from the surprise attack they had endured.
Chokan paused briefly to sniff at the entrance of the cavern then nodded as if satisfied it was safe enough as he plowed forward headlong into the darkness. He spun around as he grabbed Layla’s waist and heaved her up onto his hips. He lunged upward claws distended and dug deep into the rock face. Clinging to the cavern ceiling he motioned for Layla to maneuver her way into a lying position between his body and the cavern ceiling.
“Rest Layla,” Chokan whispered as he dug deeper into the rock face to secure both his weight and hers.
“Are you going to be able to hold this position for long?” She asked, “I mean I ain’t no lightweight you know and you don’t look like it either”
“Never mind me, just rest and catch your breath before we have to move again” he grunted as pearls of sweat broke out on his skin.
“Looks like we have to find another car huh?” Layla poked, trying to lighten the dismal mood that had befallen them
“Shhhh…I said rest female” Chokan growled.
“Men” Layla grunted sarcastically.