“RUN!” I screamed at Terry, grabbing his arm and pulling him along. He stumbled as his feet became entangled in each other.
There were five of us fleeing for our lives this time. We were displaced from our colony by the giant floating box and transported to the spike zone – the spike zone from which few return. However, we’re human, and our spirit is strong: this will be the first time all of the displaced return to the colony.
Our ancestors came from a place called Earth, a planet full of beautiful sights and sounds. It had a blue sky and green plants, with a wide variety of plentiful food. Here in Tulga, it’s constantly dark until the box cracks the sky and descends to take us to the spike zone. The only sounds are the constant mumbles of despair of the humans in the colony, and the occasional distant rumbles of the planet.
When the box descends from the dark sky, it’s preceded by a large crack of light that extends across the sky – a harsh light that burns our eyes. Sometimes the box disperses a little hard, dry food for us, but at other times a solid wall emerges and sweeps around in a broad arc, herding some of us into the box. The box has holes in it, so, if you’re chosen, you can hear your loved ones wailing and grieving below as you ascend into the crack of light in the sky.
Terry and I are the only ones who survived being transported by the box intact. The other three humans from our colony all have broken limbs and severe injuries from being jostled around during the trip across the sky – a sky full of confusing sights and colours.
“I can’t run anymore, Jamie,” Terry panted. He slowed down even more than before I’d started dragging him along, and a brief moment of panic flared in my mind. Do I leave him and save myself, or do I stay and help him?
If you can avoid being taken by the boxes until you’re hairy or bumpy, then you’re rarely taken by the box. Once you’re hairy or bumpy, you’re able to produce young humans, replenishing the supply of humans for the Spike Zone. Young humans are not displaced until they are able to walk by themselves. Humans who are old enough to produce young humans, do so as much as possible in the hope that at least some of their young will survive to produce their own young.
As I made my decision and reached around to grab Terry and continue dragging him, I saw a giant silver spike descend from the sky and pierce one of the other three humans, Tracy, through her shoulder. She screamed and flailed her limbs as she was dragged up into the dark.
Jethro is the oldest human in our Colony. He returned from the Spike Zone in the box a long time ago, unable to walk or produce young. Some of the hairy-bumpy people want to kill him, as he eats food that would be better served going to the young. Others refuse to let this happen, as he is a good source of knowledge. The colony had no idea that the spike zone even existed until Jethro returned from it. Personally, I hope they let him live – he makes me laugh. I don’t believe his story of bending the spike and making it bleed, and with each telling of the story Jethro enhances it a little more, but he provides much needed humour in our Colony. It seems that each time he tells his story, another hair on his head turns white.
Tracy’s screams grew softer and softer, until I could no longer hear them. According to Jethro the spike wouldn’t appear again for a while, so I grabbed Terry’s arm and started pulling him along behind me. We were in the middle of a large circle of white, hard, slippery ground, and my goal was to get us to the dark area at the edge.
It’s a curious thing in the Colony: the closer you are to becoming hairy or bumpy, the more parents you seem to have. It’s a status thing to have your young make it to the hairy or bumpy stage, and the older, white‐haired hairy-bumpy people each try to claim the developing young as their own. With the communal way the young are raised, it’s often difficult to tell who the parents actually are, especially the hairy parent. Bumpy parents physically produce the young; however, they’re never quite certain which hairy parent planted the seed.
Terry and I reached the incline at the edge of the hard, white ground. The incline led up into the darkness, and, presumably, safety. Terry was in a bad way, and I had to help him up onto the initial lip. The surface was smooth and slippery, making it difficult to work our way up the slope. We were no more than a few steps up the incline when three silver spikes descended quickly, striking the ground in front of us. Terry screamed and fell backwards, falling off the lip and onto the flat ground. I scurried down after him and picked him up. We started running in the opposite direction, away from the giant silver spikes blocking our escape.
There’s no mistaking which of the hairy and bumpy parents are mine. I have my hairy parent’s distinctive nose, and my bumpy parent’s distinctive eyes – although, at this moment, I’m sure my eyes are wide and filled with barely-controlled panic. A few of the other young also have features from one or both of my parents, including Terry. Although there’s no way of knowing who Terry’s hairy parent is, he has the same shaped face as my bumpy parent. One day, when Terry is hairy and I’m bumpy, I want to produce young with him and preserve the features of our bumpy parent into the next generation of young.
We avoided going near the remaining two displaced humans – with their injuries they were easy prey for the spike. Although they were alive and moving, they weren’t trying to run or escape; their injuries from being transported in the box were too severe. As we scurried diagonally across the hard white surface, we saw two more spikes descend from the darkness and pierce each of them. Neither of them made a sound nor struggled as they were plucked up into the sky.
My mind started to wander during our flight. I pondered whether our parents would notice we’d gone, and whether they’d try to replace us. The population of our Colony remains fairly constant, with equal numbers of young being born to replace those that are taken by the box to the Spike Zone. When someone dies in the Colony, we rejoice. We’d celebrate with singing and dancing, and a feast of fresh food – food that wasn’t hard and dry for a change.
Exhaustion overwhelmed us, so Terry and I stopped to gasp for breath. I began to think that maybe we wouldn’t survive the Spike Zone and return to the Colony as heroes, after all. However, such doubts are counter‐productive so I pushed them from my mind. I dragged Terry to the closest lip that led to the incline and darkness.
As we scurried up the lip, a silver spike struck down and pierced Terry through his calf muscle. He screamed, and I watched with dread as he was lifted into the dark sky by the spike. I jumped and reached for him, but missed and fell to the ground. Realising there was nothing I could do for Terry, I jumped to my feet and fled as fast as I could, desperate in the hope that I could climb the incline and escape before the spike returned.
Just as I reached the top and peered into the darkness, the spike descended swiftly and pierced my thigh. Screaming with agony and frustration, I was lifted into the darkness of the Tulga sky.
“Tulga! Don’t play with your food!”
Tulga cast a guilty glance at his mother, then looked at the wriggling morsel of food on his spike. He wanted to savour it, as it was the last one on his plate.
“And please use your cutlery,” his mother continued. “You shouldn’t put your spikes in your mouth.”
Tulga liked to play games with his food and have a piece on all five of his spikes, all alive and wriggling at the same time. This time he’d failed, but sometimes he succeeded. He popped the last morsel of food into his digestive hole.
“Wash your spikes and get ready for school,” his Mother said. Tulga jumped up and ran from the kitchen.
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“Spike Zone’ is a speculative fiction short story, released as a teaser for Brett’s upcoming collection of short stories called ‘The Cursed”. Stay tuned for the release date!