Monsters, grotesque goliath-sized insects with scorpion stingers, obsidian skin, and beady red eyes. Their bodies were cumbersome. I could smell their rotting flesh through my connection. I hated them from the moment they invaded my mind. They called themselves the Scythes, and what they wanted was simple – a new world.
I tried to shake them from my thoughts, which only made my head burn that much more. They were furious with me, but I didn’t care. It was then I learned the true power of their mind – they could read thoughts and manipulate objects without touching them. A war with a neighboring planet in their system brought them to Earth in search of a climate much like our deserts for a place to live. Nasty fucking bugs.
Argh! My head snapped back and these dirty beings took more from me – my memories. They forced me to relieve my childhood growing up in the Soviet region of Kyrgystan near the Chinese border. In order to escape poverty, I joined the Soviet Air Force and became a pilot. They learned everything I had to offer. Bastards! Raping me like a common thief!
Then I felt the wind rushing past me, debris splattering against the clouds. The sunlight blinded me. That’s when I realized my plane, a MIG-29, had been destroyed. It was falling to the ground in pieces with me in the middle. Those filthy little insects had torn apart my jet - and my thoughts. Inches from death, I pulled my rip chord on my flight suit, and the emergency parachute flew out, yanking me skyward, lifting me above the debris of my MIG. Where were those fucking bastards? Searching the sky, I found their spacecraft, a gigantic, elongated metallic gray cylinder. Only now it appeared unsteady, wobbling in its flight.
I watched, mesmerized, as it continued to jerk uncontrollably, descending quickly in the sky. How did it fly? I didn’t see any engines or rockets. It was as if the craft was feeding off the Earth itself. Finally, it disappeared from my view and a few seconds later I heard a loud roar.
The ground came racing up to me. I recognized the plains of Kazakhstan near the Irtysh River and realized I was over a 2,000 kilometers from my air base near the Caspian Sea. Getting back to base would not be easy. My fighter squad had scrambled to intercept an unidentified flying object, which was first sighted on radar going 10,000 kilometers per hour over the Caspian Sea, traveling at a low altitude of 6.4 kilometers. My squad caught up to it, but we were pushing the limit. Then we received orders to bring it down. I fired a nuclear powered, heat-seeking missile at the object after giving a warning. The missile must have interfered with the spacecraft’s systems. It was shortly after that I felt the burning probe in my head from the bugs.
Debris littered the ground. Burning gas and metal made me sick to my stomach. I did my best to maneuver the chute to land in an unoccupied space, bending my knees, falling to the side. My entire body ached. Slowly, I got to my feet and looked around. The remains of the other MIGS lay scattered about. My comrades were dead. I was the only survivor. In that moment, it gave me pleasure to know that those loathsome insects had crashed, too. Still, I felt like I’d been taken to one of the dangerous ledges in the gorge near my home, blind folded, pushed there by a race who only wanted to sacrifice me for their own greedy needs.
I did not stay on the plains for long. A rescue team had been sent for me and I was taken back to my air base. After resting on the helicopter, I was immediately taken to the General Anton Kurchatov’s office. My escorts, two enlisted military police were quiet – somber. As soon as I entered the General’s office and found myself face-to-face with the base’s senior officer staff, I knew that what I had witnessed was too important for the command to ignore.
“Captain Pachanko, welcome, Comrade,” began the General. He stood tall, his eyes focused on a map of Kyrgystan. “We are sorry for the loss of your comrades, but we have other, more pressing concerns now.”
“Oh?” I asked.
The General turned around and motioned for me to sit at the oval table in front of him. Several other high-ranking officers gathered around the table. One even offered me a cigarette, which I accepted.
“The unidentified craft crashed near the town of Karakol. It went down to the east, in a rocky gorge called Shaitan Mazar, near the Sary Dzhaz River. We intend to recover it. I understand you are familiar with the area?” General Kurchatov asked.
I shivered. Shaitan Mazar seemed a fitting place for those vile insects: it would not be an easy recovery. The gorge was very rocky, steep, and untamed. People feared it. “Yes, I am familiar with the area.”
“Good. I want you to accompany the military team that will venture out there. Now, did you learn anything about the craft?”
I took a long drag on the cigarette.
“The craft? No.”
“Sir,” offered Major Gorkii, the intelligence officer, “an analysis of the destroyed MIG’s instruments seem to indicate the spacecraft used EMP, electromagnetic pulse, as it’s form of propulsion. Once our jets got within 800 meters of the craft, the instruments failed. I would speculate that the crash site might be extremely radioactive.”
“We will be prepared,” the General announced. “Cpt. Pachanko, did you learn anything about the occupants of the spacecraft?”
I drew in a deep breath as all eyes in the room looked at me. To admit what I learned might subject me to weeks of psychologists and batteries of mental tests. I had no desire for that. “I sensed they were unfriendly,” I replied.
“I did not see them with my eyes. I only sensed what they were like,” I continued. To my surprise, the General didn’t press the point.
“Fine. Major Gorkii, assemble the team. You leave for Karakol tomorrow. I want to recover that spacecraft before anyone else finds it and winter sets in,” the General barked.
Hushed whispers floated around the room as the General dismissed us. I grew up in Karakol, and couldn’t help but wonder if the insects had forced their craft down near Shaitan Mazar for a reason.
The journey was not for the faint of heart. It took a week to arrive in Karakol. We traveled by train, with a full compliment of military equipment. Then it took us three weeks to establish a camp. We put up tents on the outskirts of town for our essential needs, sleeping, bathing, and cooking. A kilometer to the south, we established a mini-helicopter landing pad. Near there, Major Gorkii assembled the equipment we would use in case of radiological dangers.
As we prepared to go into Shaitan Mazar, I had the chance to meet with my family. They were happy to see me, but also unnerved by what they had witnessed. They were also worried for my sister, Svetlana. Two days after the crash, she disappeared. My mother had forbidden my father to go into the gorge to look for her, fearing he would not return. Strange things were already occurring. For those who entered Shaitan Mazar and returned, within days they developed burns and died. I gathered the cause of this might be the radiological poisoning Major Gorkii spoke of. Watches and electrical equipment malfunctioned as one neared the gorge.
I did my best to comfort my family, telling them the military would determine what happened, and find Svetlana, too, but even as they told me of all these things, I worried. It was too much of a coincidence that the Scythe’s craft crashed near my home and now my sister was missing.
Once all the proper radiation hazard precautions had been taken, we were ready to go into Shaitan Mazar. The day we did, it began to snow. We all cursed at the development. It was the devil’s work, the people of Karakol said. The devil did not want us to find out the secrets hiding in the gorge. Only on orders from General Kurchatov did we enter. As we drew nearer to the edge of the gorge, I wondered if my mind would be pushed past the brink of sanity.
The gorge was just as I remembered it – rocky and untamed. Leaves had long ago fallen from the now barren trees. The ground was hard and the rocks slippery. Our chemical suits kept us warm and secure, but we had to rest every two hours. At nightfall, a feeling of dread and anxiety came over the squad. Then we saw our MI-8 helicopter high overhead. After landing in a nearby small clearing, the pilot confirmed the spacecraft was not far from our position – a little over 1200 meters. Satisfied with our progress, we set up our tents and tried to sleep. Worry filled my dreams. I felt my sister’s presence nearby, but she was not the same. I sensed she’d been raped psychically like me, physically, I could not tell. My feet shuffled closer to that unforeseen precipice. I felt the flames threatening to blast over the edge and closed my eyes, afraid to look.
The next morning we were ready to proceed. Everyone changed the filters on our masks, and I made sure I packed an extra one in my gear. For having snowed the day before, only a light layer of white covered the ground. I could only guess the radiation was so high, it was melting the snow. A squad of ten men, Major Gorkii, and myself included, marched on. As soon as we were within 800 meters, our electronic equipment failed, and the cause was now within eyesight – the Scythe’s spaceship. The trajectory team determined the craft had smashed into an overhanging cliff, possibly causing an internal explosion. Then it skidded over 8,000 meters before coming to rest. It now lay there, it’s nose broken in two, dented from the impact.
At approximately 500 meters an energy field stopped us. Our cameras grew hot to the touch, even through our suits. Nothing worked. One solider took his glove off and quickly developed radiological burns.
I looked inside the broken area from my position and saw beams, flooring, and green symbols lined neatly on the walls. Their language? It was then I noticed a fluttering motion zip past the entrance. Something was still alive in
Before I could tell Major Gorkii, the loud whirling sounds of the MI-8 helicopter came up overhead. It suspended at about 1,000 meters above the object. Long ropes attached to the suspension system descended with titanium claw hooks. They pierced the skin of one of the broken pieces of the shipwreck and began to lift it, slowly traveling out of the gorge. As I watched, I realized the craft was too heavy for the ropes. The couplings began to buckle and then snapped. Before any of us could react, the helicopter and craft crashed. I could only assume the radiation from the spacecraft brought the helicopter down. We stood there in horror. How many more good officers would we lose?
My head jerked in the direction of my sister’s voice. It was coming from the untouched piece of wreckage. I saw her standing there, naked, clutching the side, and I was horrified to discover she was pregnant. My mind grew numb with helplessness. My own sister! I wanted to help her, rip that ungodly thing from her belly, but all I could do was stand there, shell shocked, allowing the rage to thunder throughout my body. Then, to my absolute disgust, I saw with my eyes what I’d only seen before in my mind. A scorpion-like insect. His beady eyes looked directly at me, taunting me. Once again his thoughts reached into me. He was the only survivor of the Scythe’s, and he had purposely sought out my sister. This was his revenge for my firing the missile and damaging their spacecraft.
I collapsed to the ground, my head burning from the intrusion of his thoughts. He showed me how he did it – tying my sister up to a wheel with red bindings, spread eagle, shoving his slimly, bulbous tail inside her. I yelled and cried, furious at his violation! How dare he! Then I learned my sister would die a violent death when the fetus was ready to burst from her womb.
“Captain Pachanko! What’s happening! Are you in contact with that being? Do you know that woman?” Major Gorkii asked, shaking my shoulders as the squad stood around us.
All I could do was nod my head. That insidious insect had to be stopped. My sister could not give birth to such a horror. It would terrorize us all!
I looked up, directly at Svetlana. “She is my sister,” I whispered to Gorkii, through my mask.
Svetlana locked eyes on me. She was going to do something. What? I saw her race into the ship, the Scythe in pursuit. A loud whooshing noise pierced the air and I realized she’d drop the barrier that kept us apart. The how of it never crossed my mind. Leaping to my feet, I ran to the ship, my only intention at this point was to kill the Scythe, and then…if I was forced to, my sister.
As soon as I entered the ship, I felt gravity pull on my legs. It was hard to walk, but I found the Scythe had secured my sister to the wall with the same red bindings he’d used to keep her still earlier. Major Gorkii and two other soldiers were directly behind me.
“He won’t let you take me,” Svetlana called out.
The Scythe turned on us, raising his stinger. Gorkii and his soldiers eased back, toward the broken opening of the vessel.
“Svetlana, we can’t let him live,” I barked.
“He is hurt – injured. He’s dying. He wants you to know that,” Svetlana called out. Tears fell from her eyes. Her distended stomach began to wiggle.
“Can’t he tell me this?” I asked, reaching over my shoulder and pulling out my AK-47 rifle, squaring it on the slowly approaching insect.
“It hurts his mind to project his thoughts to us. It takes too much out of him to make himself understandable to us. Sergi, listen to me – there’s not much time. There is a dimension you can send him to that will imprison him!”
“How do you know?” I cried.
“There’s no time to tell you, Sergi. You must trust me. He has shared all his secrets, knowing I will die. They can’t be allowed to repopulate here on Earth!” she yelled.
I stood still, and the insect paused as he realized I was talking to Svetlana. One more step and I would shoot.
“It was intended to be a last means of escape for them in case something happened to their mission. They can find their way back to their planet if they use it, but first they have to make their way through hell!” Svetlana yelled. “The button is the green symbol with the lighting bolt!”
The Scythe’s creepy eyes traveled between my sister and I. Then he surprised me by lunging out with his stinger. I barely avoided the hit, falling to the ground, and slowly rolling away. My chemical suit was too bulky for me to fight aggressively. Taking a prone position, I fired my rifle on automatic, aiming for the heart of the insect’s body. The bullets bounced off him as if he were made of rubber. Again, he lunged at me and I barely avoided the sharp point of his tail.
Major Gorkii and his soldiers had retreated to the entrance. I glanced at them as I made my way to the green symbol on the gray-dark wall. The wall itself was slick to touch, covered with slime. The Scythe lumbered toward me. I looked to Gorkii and back at the beast as it approached.
“Press the button, Sergi!” Gorkii yelled.
I nodded my head and looked right into the insect’s beady red eyes. “Let's go to Hell!”
It lunged at me and I pressed the green lightning bolt. The world around us began to fade away as a loud humming noise grew sharp. The bastard! I saw Gorkii, our soldiers, the dead helicopter pilots. Everyone in a 800 meter radius was transported – including my sister, to a plane where one floated on unbearable hot air. It was transparent and I could see Earth falling away from me. My sister cried out and I spun around to look at her, only to watch the larvae implanted in her rip out of her stomach, then discard her like a rag doll. As I watched Gorkii get torn to pieces by the newborn hybrid, colored in human flesh, yet still possessing a sharp, distinctive stinger, I realized we’d gone to Hell at Shaitan Mazar, - “The Grave of the Devil.”
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