Jeff Arce/Jarce ArtThor
Monsters on a Mountain
No matter how fast she could run, no matter where she tried for cover, or what wood she could get herself lost in, or ruined suburb she could thread through, those red eyes were always there behind her, smoldering in the night like burning embers.
She was still only a child, but she knew fear better than any living man could still walk the earth. The red eyes belonged to a monster. And that monster was coming for her. Her muscles were too young to escape it. She fell at last, panting, exhausted. Sweat drenched her. She was terrified. She would have screamed if she had anymore energy in her to do so. Instead, she put the last of her strength in her arms and she crawled. The dry dirt beneath her felt like a hot desert’s sand between her fingers, even though it was the black of night, but still she heaved. There was no respite from the heat anymore.
Twisted metal, and old charred rubble surrounded her. The skeleton that remained of the world of yesterday fascinated her youthful imagination. She always wanted to know what that world was like, before their own massive stockpile of antiquated death was launched against the world—before they took the world.
Now it was coming for her, like it came for everything: the beasts with the red eyes. She could hear the weight of their footfalls drawing in. It was behind her, like all that wonder she had for the fallen civilizations that made them. She rolled on her back, seeing it with wide-eyes through a curtain of sodden bangs sticking to her face. It was awful. It’s eyes pierced the night, and it’s silver skeleton hand reached out to grab her.
Natasha sprung from her bedding with a gasp in her throat. After a few gulps of rotten air she new at last it was all only a dream... but it wasn’t. It was all very real, and inexorable. Nothing can stop it... nothing. She looked. There were people around, of course, but they were sparse, and miserable. Silhouettes of the life moving about the ghetto were thrown on the broken walls by candlelight. They huddled in their corners with what scraps remained to remind them of their lost humanity. She saw a mother and her child, close in arms, whimpering. The adult wept for the life she wasted in front of the beloved box, where the child cried for that life he could never know. Natasha at least liked to think they were kin, it was a romantic idea in her head; part of her own stubborn humanity that just won’t die. They were watching a television, but it was only the frame of one. Grandfathered survivors had told her once how it used to be, when there was power, and there wasn’t a care. But it could have all been bullshit, for all she could know. That magical box—as it was said—told them endless stories about man’s triumphs, and even their humilities. She wished she could have seen it then. But she was born after the cities had gone up in flames. Now, all the mother and son, or stranger and waif could do was watch a fire eat away at debris that had been piled inside where the tube once had dwelt. It was such a very poignant image to behold.
Something hurt. Her legs were sticky in strange places. Natasha did not feel well. An unusual sickness turned at the pit of her stomach. She removed her threadbare sheets, and she suddenly knew it at once: It was very bad.
“No,” she panicked.
Quickly she scrambled out from her bedding and she was running, like in her dream. The couple in front of the relic television watched her go, their eyes curious, and sore from the wistful tears.
When Natasha was alone she ripped down her pants, and only stared at it, not knowing what to do. The hollow wind howled through the decrepit complex. Distant on the breeze, she could hear the high scream of the droning air vents on the patrolling Sky Hunters. She could not let them find her, not like this. She then hurriedly took off her top, leaving herself standing naked under the stars. All of their shelters in the ghetto were without roofs. It was so the warden could always watch them as they lived, scrutinizing—studying how they lived.
Natasha would have to be quick about the matter, and she would have to burn the evidence. Her maturity was becoming vastly difficult to conceal, but she had to, for as long as she could, so long as she lived there. She had not grown too full in the breasts, so that was at least one blessing she did not have to fret for, but now she was bleeding. It ran hot, thick-bodied and copious down her thighs. She spit on her bundled up shirt and she scrubbed, sobbing all the while she worked.
Her blood was a rare thing. They kept a close watch on her development all the long years she had been trapped in captivity. A cult were left as her guardians, recording her every change. At first, in her naive innocence, she was proud to have them, calling them mommy, and daddy, and uncle, joining them in ritual. But that was before she knew the truth: that they had meant to harvest her when she would come of age.
“The Time Has Come!”
She was too late. Standing there bare as a new born under the cloud flanked moon, Mommy had found her.
Her vanity prompted her to fold her arms around her body, and she begged them to show mercy. She asked them to keep her secret. But it was useless. Before long they were dragging her by both arms. Her tattered jeans clung to her foot as they took her up the mountain, where They were waiting for her—the ones with the red eyes. She wailed, and the cult sang, rejoicing in her horror. The beauty in the stars high above mocked her naked and scourged body, exposed for her prey to feast on. They threw her down at their feet. The cult in unison dropped to their knees and they prayed. They thought these things were gods; they have been lost in this world far too long. They were not gods—They were demons. Several of them stepped out from the darkness, their silver bodies glistening in the night. Their Sky Hunters slicing the darkness with high-beams, like great birds of steel floating over the scene. The beasts moved hard on her, their eyes blazing red as blood, always analyzing and calculating. They were always precise, and that’s the true reason why they could not be stopped. Nobody was as strong as the brain that knew only math, logic, and balance.
Natasha stopped crying. She sat up on her knees and glared at them. There was nothing more left for her to do—it was over.
Her blood was too special. The cult stripped off her clothes, and that was bad, but They would strip her flesh. That was what they wanted. The machines encircled her, and they wasted no time. The whine of gears was all she could hear beyond her own screams as they tediously cut her open, and drew her apart, collecting every drop of blood that sprayed in the process. She remembered seeing shattered pieces of the massive letters that used to spell the word Hollywood there on that strange mountain, but now it was where the beasts did their malign work, and where their sycophants worshipped them as slaves.
It was a long time before she was dead. They were called T-800’s. They were different from the ones before; they were worse. They could be more human, and that was an egregious thing anything with such a mind as Skynet could ever possibly achieve. Natasha thought that before she finally went. She was grateful for death, though, at least in death she did not have to face the impossible trials humans only had left to confront before their final descent. Only a miracle of invention could save them. And that miracle was far from their mortal reach. That would take a mind with more time to be so dangerously ambitious. Or perhaps so cunning that lack there of would dare challenge them to think in their final moments so brilliantly. Still, none of that mattered for her anymore. In death, all was forgiven, forgotten, and done.
Inspired by characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd***