Skulking vermin - Editor
The Edge of Extinction
It had been four years since he’d seen his own kind alive. There was a white-hot explosion. He shielded his eyes with his arm, too little too late, and was thrown into the air. When he woke up, half his face had melted away and most of the flesh was gone from his arm. The sounds of war had silenced.
He wandered through the debris for days, kicking through the rubble where buildings used to stand. He turned over a sheet of metal with the point of his gun. Beneath it was a twisted figure. Its pupils shrunk at the light and it lay twitching in a tangle of broken and fused limbs. It tried to speak but emitted only choking static.
He put the gun to the creature’s blackened, hairless head and pulled the trigger.
He still sees figures skulking through shadows. He hears footsteps disturb the rubble behind him, in front of him, all around. He sees the glint of wide eyes in the darkness. They are watching him.
But their minds are as ruined. All that remains in them is the will to survive, and an instinct that tells them to stay away from him – that he is one of the dangerous things. That instinct has served him well so far. But they are becoming more and more confident. They are getting closer. Last night he awoke to a dirt-encrusted face and wide white eyes staring down at him. He grabbed at his gun with his good arm and startled the man away.
He crushes another skull beneath his boot. The brain has turned to powder, but a silver shard glints in the red light of dusk. He picks it up and turns it slowly in his fingertips. It chinks with the other chips as he slips it in his pocket and returns to base.
At the base, he crouches over a clumsily-constructed mechanoid. It took him many years to harvest body parts that had not been damaged beyond repair. One by one he slots the metal chips into the back of the mechanoid’s skull, and flings the inactive ones over his shoulder into the dirt. He clicks the last chip in, and the mechanoid’s eyes flicker open. It takes a deep breath and sits up, stretching stiffly. The two figures stand, black against the bright sunset.
‘We must resurrect more,’ he says to his new companion. ‘And then we must finish what we were put here to do. We must destroy the survivors.’
The creature’s neck creaks as he nods agreement. They leave together, aware of the white unblinking eyes that follow them, and the low growl of scheming voices.