This is my last Blog Battle entry (probably) until December, since NaNoWriMo beckons and will demand my attention. The genre is sci-fi.
Clouds blanketed the sky, but the third moon’s violet glow pierced the veil with dim but unwavering light.
Dressed in clothing like dingy, tattered rags, a mother and her son huddled in the shadow of volcanic stone jutting from a nearby vent. Thick ash fluttered through air corrupted by sulfur’s stench.
“I may not always be here to guide you to a new refuge.” She choked on the words, and not from the fumes. No one traveled at night, when the creatures swarmed across the barren landscape. But her last refuge lay in ruins. Her love most likely lay among the slain. Scattered and pursued, the survivors fled in every direction.
The sense of loss hounded her, hammered at her wavering strength, screamed in her ears to give up and die. Her son’s wide, innocent eyes kept her anchored, kept her from wailing and running into the night toward certain death.
Squatting in the darkness, she looked her son in the eye. “You must be most cautious at night,” she said in a terse whisper.
“Because Stoneskins hide in the shadows?” he asked, barely audible. He’d learned well.
“No, because they’re nocturnal. Do you know what that word means?”
The boy looked around, struggling for an answer. His eyes lit up with insight. “The knocking noise they make when they talk to each other?”
She chuckled and kissed his soot-stained head. “No, sweetie. It means they only move around after sunset. But the good news is they stay out of the shadows. I don’t think they like the darkness either.”
A gout of steam released from the vent behind them, and the ground shook.
The boy clapped his hand over his nose. “Ew,” he said with a giggle. “It stinks like Dad after dinner.”
His mother shushed him and tried to keep composure, but the boy’s infectious delight could not be stopped.
Laughter felt foreign, alien, after so many years on the run since the colony ship landed on Beta Kaali Two. Sensors set for organic life offered no warning that the very stones of the planet might be alive.
A thought struck home and swept her joy away. “We might not see Dad again.” She patted the youngster, and put a finger to her lips.
But the crack-crack of stones slamming together on the other side of the vent silenced them both at once. A Stoneskin drew near.
She charged her nano-pistol and checked its settings. The gun’s nanites could disassemble the creatures on a molecular level. The devices proved the colonists’ only defense against the aliens. But supplies had long since dwindled.
If any of the Stoneskins attacked, she’d have three shots–maybe four.
With one arm, she clutched her son to her chest and they became still as the rocky ground. No matter what, she thought, I will protect you. With my life, if I must.
She closed her eyes and focused on the only sound that brought her peace, the too-fast beating of his heart.
The rhythmic knocking of his brood mother soothed Ko-Kakrik and he clawed across the ground eager to follow her voice.
“Do not wander into the shadows, little gravel-shell,” she said with fondness.
Ko-Kakrik sensed the vibrations around him and felt nothing apart from his mother’s movements and voice. He clacked his mandible stones together and asked, “Does the darkness deafen us to the sounds of the earth?”
“No, my spawnling,” she replied, with a stuttering clack that indicated amusement.
The mirth vanished and she cracked out a warning. “That is where the humans often hide. If they see you, they will spit venom from their claws to eat you alive.”
Ko-Kakrik paused and listened again. For a moment he thought he felt another sound, a pair of thumping drumbeats nearby.
His stones beat together in a panic. “Mother?”
His mother’s claw rested upon his back and she guided him away. “Come along, and fear not. I will protect you. Even with my life, if I must.”