He could smell their presence. It had been a long winter without them. And he woke hungry.
Now that he had grown, fed intermittently by the travelers, he needed the meat. And they hadn’t been back for a while. Perhaps he had been too greedy the last time. He had left no one to return home. He had thought it best, there would be no stories to tell.
But they were back. He moved toward the surface, where the rolling machine rumbled overhead. He could hear their chatter. Though he didn’t understand all the words, he could divine the meaning. Their voices were loud, blasted through their helmets so they could hear one another. The sounds were weird, though, different from the others who had come before. The pitch of these voices hurt his ears.
“Stop here. This is the center of the crater.”
“No, head just over there. See the larger rocks. Let’s get those.”
They rumbled ahead. He followed silently below.
When the engine cut off, he could hear their footsteps as they smacked, heavyweighted, onto the ground.
“Look at this sample. It looks stained. Most of the rock is black, but this one is a dark brown.”
“This was where the last team disappeared.”
“Nothing much here.”
He could hear the movements, shuffling around, looking over the cleaned ground of his feast. He was content that he had cleaned so thoroughly. The helmets and bits of indigestible metals were buried well below the surface where their meager hands could not dig. The blood stains he could do nothing about except let the lunar winds bury in dust. The ubiquitous dust. He despised it for all its dryness.
The darkness of life underground had nearly blinded him, but he would still be able to see their outlines when the time came. Smell was his best sense, heightened to a point of excruciating sensitivity. It served him better than his eyes ever had.
He nudged closer to the surface, hovering just below the feet of one. It smelled different than the previous travelers, sweeter and yet more noxious. There was something very disturbing about this smell. He didn’t like it. He wondered at the change in the beings. No matter, it would not protect them.
He rubbed gently where the blast from a weapon had hit him during the last feast. It had hurt but had healed over with time. He knew they would all carry the weapons now. But that was pointless. It could not penetrate the thick hide over his vital organs. He nosed upward, now just under one.
“Do you feel that?”
“Yeah, some kind of rumbling, like a small quake.”
The beings moved closer together.
“I’m radioing for backup.”
He could hear some static and muffled sounds. He knew this meant more meat would come. So he would wait.
He purposefully shifted slightly under their feet to keep them alarmed.
“We should get back in the rover.”
He heard one move into the rolling machine and then worried he would lose his meal. So he pushed his nose through the surface and sought the one who had remained on the ground. The scream was high and shrill as it caught sight of him. He knew he was hideous to their eyes, which helped in paralyzing them.
He grabbed the bottom part of the being, biting hard into the lower limbs. He felt the warmth of the blood as it squirted into his mouth and the shrieking stopped. Then the blast from the other one. The blast stung, but there was another, more painful sensation that alarmed him. His mouth burned. He let go of the being, something he had never done. The pain was searing, deadening his every sense. He began to writhe, flailing half in half out of the ground. He could vaguely make out the scrambling noises of others coming to the rescue.
“Holy shit, what is that? It’s hideous.”
He stilled. The rescue continued around him, unafraid.
“Mary’s been bit. Clamp off her suit. She’s unconscious now. “
“Ann, get the E-Kit. Move quickly. The suit autolock won’t hold for long.”
“Damn, she’s hard to move. Jen, get over here.”
“I think it’s dead.”
“Houston was right. We’re poison to it.”
Carol Summerfield is an operations director at a digital marketing company. The 1.5 hour commute to and from her job provides her with ample uninterrupted time to write. When she isn’t writing she is trying to keep the bumper rails up on her offspring’s path through childhood. Which is much harder than either her job or writing.