Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero

Tabitha (66 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘Oh
my god,’ Tabitha mumbled, staring back at the spouts with a new horror.

‘Or
we’re steroids, I guess,’ Alex added. ‘Sick as it is, it’s a hell of a system.’
Tabitha could only nod and stare in silent revelation, watching spiders and
Fishbowls tirelessly to-ing and fro-ing between one another and the structures
like a giant ant colony.

‘They’ve
been programmed into doing this,’ Tabitha concluded, watching the
tentacled
gardeners at work. ‘Those
things
changed
their nature and made them do this.’

‘You
mean the tall ones?’ said Alex, turning to her. ‘The,
er
,
alien people?’

‘Yeah,’
Tabitha replied. ‘Just like Seven. He’s animal on the outside, and a ship on
the inside. They turned him into a machine.’

‘Makes
sense to me,’ Alex replied. ‘I mean it doesn’t, in one way. It’s crazy. But I
do know there’s some messed-up genetic engineering going on. I mean, look at us.’
He grabbed his tail and waggled it with a metal rattling sound, proving his
point.

‘We’re
freaks,’ said Tabitha, with a slight smile. ‘But if the messed-up genetics have
kept us alive this far…’

‘True,’
Alex conceded. There was a trembling in the ground then, coming from a smaller
metal-webbed chimney in the cluster that was already complete. Shorter than the
tall chimney being built, but still four storeys tall at least. As the
afternoon sun crept around a distant skyscraper and spilled light down into the
hive, the whole chimney stretched and swelled. There was a slow ripple up the
structure’s length, like grey muscles flexing beneath the metal latticework.

‘What’s
happening?’ said Tabitha. Alex was grinning.

‘Alien
power plant,’ he replied. ‘Pun intended. It’s starting up.’ A rumbling tremor
shook the ground. A giant organ spurted out from the chimney then, slick and
shimmering with iridescent mucus. But it wasn't an organ for long. Tabitha
watched it unfurl, broad and bright and webbed, and she recognised the shape. A
gigantic turbine flower like the ones Fishbowl had grown, bigger than any tree
she’d ever seen. It was drinking in the sun and turning slowly in the wind. The
spinning bloom gained momentum like a wind turbine facing the sky, and suddenly
Tabitha felt a flood of energy flowing into the hive.

‘Can
you feel that?’ she said, turning to Alex. He smiled and nodded, feeling the
same tingling tide of current rushing through his body from the ground. Tabitha
watched it all with a freaked out fascination. The hive was both a home and a
power plant. No fumes, no waste; only endless energy from the wind and the sun.
A masterpiece of engineering.

‘It’s
weird,’ said Tabitha, staring off across the meadow. ‘I always thought they
just wanted to be at the top of the food chain. And yeah, they do. But there’s
more to them than that.’

‘Well,
they’re like us,’ Alex replied, with a sad smile. ‘We both want to build a
world on our own terms. They’re just better at it than we are.’ Tabitha looked
at him. He’d hit the nail on the head. ‘The worst part is, they’re probably
much better for this world than we ever were,’ he said. Tabitha watched the
power plant grow in the sun, spinning faster. It was true. She saw silver
spiders and floating Fishbowls, bustling past one another to work tirelessly
for the hive. A garden city flourishing. Everything grown, everything recycled.
All of it fed by wind, water and sun. No cars, no rubbish, no pollution… the
new dominant race fitted the planet like a glove, and they hadn’t even moved in
yet. In the space of a few weeks humanity had been chewed up, spat out and
thrown down on Darwin’s great scrapheap in the sky.

 

‘So
yeah, that was the newest neighbourhood,’ said Alex, leading Tabitha away from
the power plant and the glassy honeycomb complex.

‘So
that’s just a part of it? she replied, following him into another stretch of
black and white forest. They were heading for toppled buildings around the edge
of the hive city.

‘Yep,’
Alex replied, picking a sliver of white spider meat out of his black fangs.
‘They’ve been growing the hive in a huge circle. Maybe they’ll just keep
growing it out to cover the city, I don’t know. But I know where it all
started, and I know that’s where the main reactor is. It’s the same place
they’re keeping those people like us.’

‘Where?’
said Tabitha, desperate to know.

‘Right
in the middle of the circle,’ he replied simply, leading her around another
toppled building. ‘There.’

‘Oh
my god,’ Tabitha mumbled, putting a cold metal hand to her mouth. Hidden away
in the deepest limits of the alien city was a colossal black plant; a living
cathedral of twisting roots and bone-fingered ribs that reigned over the new
skyline. A dark
biogothic
domination that punched its
presence into the landscape like a towering cluster of knives.

‘Can
you feel the energy coming from that place?’ said Alex.

‘Yeah,’
Tabitha muttered, startled at the sensation. They were nowhere near the
building, and still she could feel a pulsing tingle of current in her chest.
Like her
heartcore
was tuned in to the structure.

‘I’m
just guessing now, but I think this is where all the electricity goes,’ said
Alex.

‘It
feels like a reactor, like you said,’ Tabitha replied, clutching at the feeling
in her
heartcore
. It was a supermassive magnet pull;
black tidal waves of faith and fury inside her.

‘And
if we can feel it all the way over here,’ said Alex, staring at the alien
cathedral, ‘…imagine what’ll happen to the neighbourhood if we blow that fucker
up.’ Tabitha looked at him. Despite his tone he looked deadly serious; he
wanted to wipe everything out. Should they, really? There was so much new life
here, and not all of it aggressive; did they have the right to snuff it out?
Tabitha thought about everyone and everything the aliens had taken from her,
and she soon forgot any even-handed approach. A burning streak of anger rose up
through her mind; definitely Seven’s brand of rage. A footprint of his
thoughts, imprinted on hers. Black and boiling at the prospect of revenge.
Tabitha glanced down at her mum’s ribbon on her wrist, dulled in the dust of a
life on the run. The material still shone though, where the dirt rubbed away; a
muted silky gleam in the sunshine.

‘Let’s
get those people out. Then we burn it all,’ she said. Alex grinned and led the
way.

 

‘It’s
not the fastest way there, but it’s safer,’ said Alex, leading Tabitha through
the alien forest along the outside of the hive. They made their way silently
under the shadow of the trees until they were facing the bizarre cathedral
through the treeline, looming large in the distance. Rays of sunlight shone
through gaps in the branches above them, dappling the ground in bright shifting
spots. Something tiny and alien scrambled away nearby, scurrying up a tree with
scratching claws. Tabitha took a few cool glugs of water from the bottle on her
belt, and passed the weird vessel to Alex. She looked around and saw silver
plants everywhere, growing like giant weeds.

‘Spiders,’
Tabitha mumbled, backing away from them. Alex wiped his mouth with a sleeve and
passed her water bottle back gratefully.

‘It’s
better to kill them in the ground, if you can,’ he said knowingly, stooping
down to drag one from the soil by its branching legs. ‘They’re much more like
plants right now.’ He looked at Tabitha and smiled, and pulled the plant apart
with a dribbling fibrous snap. Its silver blood spattered and slapped on the
ground.

‘Are
you sure you don’t want some?’ he asked her, between thirsty gulps. ‘It’s
good.’

‘No,
thanks,’ she replied, turning away to look at the twisting cathedral. She
thought about the sweet taste of silver blood; the electric high. And the
biting hunger between fixes. She didn’t want that kind of dependence again.
That was a life tied to the spiders, hunting them and being hunted in return.
And anyway… that blood high just didn’t come close to the warm filling light of
the sun on her skin.

 

Cautiously, quietly, they made their way
on through the trees and ruined buildings towards the alien cathedral. The
green grass hadn’t spread this far into the hive; there was a more sudden
change here between the old world and the new. The ground beneath their feet
faded from hard grass-scattered asphalt to a carpet of pale blue moss,
stretching all the way to the towering structure looming up ahead. The
broken-down buildings were covered with a living blue carpet, like the wild new
world was claiming everything. Bright giant
fuzzball
flowers bobbed on spindly stalks; a million neon
flowerheads
glowed softly in dark recesses across hills of mossy ruins. And spurring it all
on was the weird energy coming from that towering black structure; pulsing
waves of life and growth from a thundering
lightwheel
heart.

The trees and
toppled buildings gave way to new twisting plants as Alex and Tabitha neared
the cathedral, standing silver and monolithic above them as they walked.
Tabitha stalked by cautiously, just to make sure they weren’t a huge new breed
of spider growing in the ground. The pair made their way out from the trees and
into a forest of flowers, bumping into Fishbowls that puttered past on their
way between the plants.

‘I’m not seeing
any spiders,’ said Alex. Tabitha shot him a look, motioning to be quiet. They
were heading deep into the nest now, far from any sight of New York. This was
an alien world. The pale turquoise moss grew everywhere, one vast carpet,
softening their footsteps as they crept closer to the cathedral across the
meadow. Scattered windmill flowers towered over the field, lining the way to
their destination. Alex stopped suddenly. There was a snapping sound in the
forest, off to their left. A giant footstep. They looked at one another in
silent terror. Alex gripped Tabitha’s wrist and ran, pulling her behind him
back in among the trees. They ducked down behind a thick tentacle tree, waiting
in the silence. Tabitha’s insides were in knots. The deathly quiet bit down
into her nerves. The only sound was their hushed breaths, rapid with panic. A
hulking black monster crept by around the other side of the tree, bigger than
any Tabitha had seen before. It was looking for them, sniffing at the air mere
feet away on the far side of the tree trunk. Huge claws crunching against the
mossy blue ground like snow. Breathing heavy. Its cold white eyes were staring,
searching around at the trees and the forest of flowers beyond. Tabitha reached
quietly for the pistol on her belt, looking wide-eyed at Alex. He looked back,
just as terrified. Tabitha closed her eyes, tried to breathe silently, and
hoped against hope that it wouldn’t find them there. The monster had stopped.
It was just breathing. Sweat beaded and trickled down Alex’s dirty cheek. The
monster was sniffing around the tree, getting closer. Tabitha tore a lump of
brick from the mossy ground and tossed it away, and it knocked against a
distant tree trunk with a bamboo thud. The monster growled and bounded after
it, searching the trees beyond. Alex and Tabitha got away in a silent scramble,
looking back over their shoulders as the brute disappeared into the forest.
Suddenly the sunlight spilled down on them, and they were out in the open
again. Before Tabitha could ask, Alex grabbed her arm and pulled her behind him
as he ran for a towering alien chimney. Breathless, they pressed their backs up
against the structure and hid away. They stared at the grim height of the
cathedral across the blue mossy field; hell’s own castle. They were running
from fear into dread.

‘We need to get
those people out,’ Tabitha told him, trying to rally their spirits. ‘They’re
our tribe. Do it for them.’

‘We’ll stick to
the flowers,’ Alex whispered, looking around the alien meadow for any sign of
movement. Tabitha nodded, and they ran through the thick blooms to the next
chimney and hid against it. Tabitha looked to him as they rested for a second.
She nodded and led their sprint around to the next power plant chimney along.
Sprint by sprint, they were making their way closer to the cathedral. Closer to
freeing their tribe.

When they
sprinted on and pressed their backs against the next chimney along, Alex felt
something around the corner tap against his arm. Looking down, he saw a spindly
silver leg around the curve of the wall. The spider took a sudden interest,
crawling out from inside the structure to investigate. Alex panicked and dragged
the spider out from the entrance, and tore it limb from limb. It was a noisy
execution; Tabitha helped him finish it off quickly with her claws. They looked
around the meadow once the thing was dead, half expecting to have been heard by
something. But the coast was clear. Alex grinned at her and sighed with relief.
He dropped the spider’s body and it clanked loudly against a jagged lump of
brick buried in the moss. Tabitha’s heart froze. They looked around, petrified,
as the sharp clanking sound rang out across the meadow.

‘In here,
quick!’ Tabitha whispered, running into the hollow chamber inside the towering
windmill power plant beside them. There was a gentle glow in here, almost
eerie. It was a walled garden; feathery white fronds were growing all over the
walls. Dotted everywhere were little crystalline bird nests, growing seeds and
plants that Tabitha already recognised. Feeding on power from the chimney walls
around them. So this was where it all started; places like this grew armies.
Alex tapped her shoulder and pointed at something deeper inside the chamber.
Tabitha looked and jumped. It was one of the black monsters, standing like a
hellish statue amongst vast writhing leaves. A towering horror, frozen in time.
It was growing from the roots of the chimney itself; a monstrous black fruit
not yet come to life. Tabitha stepped closer despite herself, drawn to the huge
terrifying energy she felt around it. The
statued
abomination
moved a little, cracking and rustling in the rubbery metal
leaves. Alex and Tabitha looked at one another and backed away carefully.

BOOK: Tabitha
8.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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