You Aren’t What You Eat

The following is a flash fiction I wrote for HitRECord inspired by the prompt: a quiet drive home: what are they thinking?

Everything would be alright when they got home. John gripped the steering wheel for another corner on the rural lane, repeating the thought in his head. It had been a tough weekend, harder than any of them had anticipated, but it was under control, all over. They just had to get home and they could relax. He looked at the dashboard clock. They had plenty of time. Dusk was settling in, but they were almost home and there hadn’t been any noise from back there since they had left the camp site. The last hurdle was a toll gate on the edge of town. As long as he had his charge card they would slip through the barricade and be drinking a chilled one before Eddie had another chance to complain. The thought of his companions drew his gaze to the rear view mirror, where he could see Eddie. He had forced himself as much into the corner made by the car door and the seat as possible, scratching his face every few seconds. What was he thinking?

Eddie caught his brother looking at him in the mirror and made a sneer. It was childish but they had always had that relationship. Johnny hated him for being a wimp. Not everyone could be the athlete with a chance at the Olympics, well, not that anyone would now. That was before it all changed, and it would never be the same, no matter what Johnny said. Eddie only went along because, he hated to admit it, but he didn’t know what else to do, and no matter what his brother said they weren’t gonna make it, they wouldn’t. How could they? In the trunk, they always look in the trunk, it’s the first place they look! The movies were right on that one. The only good that came out of it is they found a use for all his xanex. He couldn’t get any more, so there was no use him taking it. There wouldn’t be any noise, not from her… Shit! Shit, he had to be quiet. They could read thoughts too.

A thick, black arm slapped across his chest. “Hey, Eddie! What ya doin’ man. You’re bleeding, scratching yourself like that.”

Eddie jumped, looked at his finger. It was red and glistening with blood. He wiped it on Gabriel’s arm. That guy had even more muscle than Johnny, and brains too. So Eddie liked him better than his brother. He barely fit into the tiny hatchback. Eddie wondered how he managed to sit so proud in such a seat.

It wasn’t easy. None of this was, Gabriel knew it. He peered down at Eddie, and felt sorry for him. He was the weakest, and he had an anxiety problem before any of this had started, but like him or not, he wasn’t going to let some bad nerves get them caught for the body in the trunk. It had happened, now they dealt with it. No dwelling on the girl, her life, it had happened. Like all this shit. At least she would save a few… assuming they made it home before the patrols came and plucked them into the sky. There wasn’t any coming back from that.

It was getting darker, but there was a pin point of red light on the horizon that they could see as clear as the sun; the checkpoint at the toll gate. The girl was asleep, quiet, they had no reason to check the trunk. It would be fine. The three of them would be home drinking a beer, and he was sure John would agree. John had already dimmed the lights as they approached the checkpoint, and slowed down. He was a calm one, no wonder they’d let him grab the girl.

John signaled to pull in when the scarlet glare of the checkpoint beacon became bigger than a basketball. He could see the guardsman waiting outside the booth. That was one thing John found unnerving about them; they were always in position before anything happened, silent, motionless. He swore if a cat fell out of a tree they’d be there 5 minutes beforehand, ready to catch it. That was assuming they gave a shit, and if the damn things didn’t eat everything with flesh that couldn’t work for them.

The guardsman, a spindly figure of dark metal, topped with a shiny mockery of a policeman’s cap, gestured for the car to stop and the passengers to wait.

Nothing to worry about, it wasn’t going to look deeper than their surface scan. No reason too. As long as Eddie shuts up, they’d be fine. John flashed his charge card, ready for what came next.

The robot emitted a net of red lights over the vehicle, a basic scan for illegal technology, but that was their weakness wasn’t it? They’d so relegated flesh to inferiority they’d never consider what it could do, never imagine, if they could imagine, that it would bring about their downfall.

Eddie winced as the lights passed over him, sure they would give him a migraine later, but he knew what was at stake. He took deep breaths.

A massive creak of metal broke the tempered silence. The robot zipped to the source of the sound. Even Gabriel flinched as the machine froze next to him. He had only adjusted his position, sitting in this cramped vehicle for so long had given him pins and needles. He had to move. He glared into the oily black of the robot’s eyes and refused to emote further. The robot moved away and resumed scanning from where it had been interrupted – the petrol hatch and the trunk.

John had his fingers tightly pressed around the ignition, ready to take off at a moment’s notice.

It beeped, then the robot walked with a clunk back to it’s booth. In darkness, they couldn’t see what it was doing. Then the red light of the beacon blinked off for a second and the barricade lifted with a grinding sound. John didn’t wait for further instruction. He turned over the engine and rushed the vehicle through the checkpoint.

“What did I tell you?” he said, to his companions. “No problems.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Gabriel, teasing him.

Eddie let out a big breath. They had done it. They’d let them into the heart of the city with the cure, and that’s where you had to hit them: the heart. The metal of those alien bastards was only skin deep. Inside they were flesh too. That flesh was hungry. Only there were certain people the machines never touched when they devoured everyone else by the truckload. Eddie, weak as he was, swore he’d never end up in one of those death camps, but it was Gabriel who had the idea. He was sure something about those uneaten few was poisonous to the invaders. Get one of them to some scientists in the city, he said, and they’d figure it out. We could free the world. John had been the first to jump at it, eager for the fame and popularity he’d been denied from his derailed Olympic career. So they had absconded to the nearest death camp, and waited to see where the uneaten were kept. They’d had the luck to find a young woman but they had spent more than a day trying to get her out unnoticed – not for nought though.

“We did it, kids,” John said. “Home sweet home. And soon it will be our home again.”

 

What did you think? It took me about an hour to write. I’m proud of it, but I feel it might be better if I didn’t explain so much and let people work out what happened. How do you think?

Well, if you liked it, please check out my other writing on HitRECord. I write a lot of flash fiction there. I only post the longer pieces here on my blog. Thanks for reading anyway. Love you.

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