Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

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

Tabitha (68 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
11.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

the fuck are you going?’ Tabitha screamed at the last two, leaping Seven off
the roof to chase a dragon down as it turned to fly away. Seven shot into the
sky, staring hungrily as he chased it down. The dragon was dodging and weaving,
frantic to escape. Seven snatched it up in his talons and bit down into its
wing, tearing it off at the shoulder in a gush of blood. The grey dragon
screamed and fell away in a spin, spurting blood in a silvery spiral before it
crashed down into the ruins.

really going to wish you weren’t the last one left,’ Tabitha told the remaining
dragon. It glanced back at them gaining fast as it zig-
in the sky. Their prey gave up ducking and dodging and opened up its jets into
a straight-out sprint into the blue, trying desperately to escape Seven’s
shadow. Tabitha chased it down and sank Seven’s cruel talons into its back,
forcing the struggling grey dragon to a rooftop where they could pick it apart
one screaming shred at a time. Tabitha thought about her mum and took her
bloodbath revenge. She thought about Emma and Jen, the Ghosts… and her Laika
and Fishbowl. She thought about herself, being force-fed to that monstrosity on
. Thought about every healed-up gouge
and screaming punishment she’d never deserved. When the watcher emerged broken
from the grey dragon’s mangled corpse, Tabitha leapt out of Seven’s cockpit to
finish it herself. The dazed figure looked up from the rooftop to see the human
hybrid standing over it. Gold eyes staring, the same colour as its own. It
watched her carefully and opened its hands out at its sides; asking for mercy.
Tabitha flicked her claws out and ripped its throat away, forcing the screaming
watcher down on the rooftop to strangle the life out of it.


Alex felt his arms
cramping as he wrestled another spider to the ground. He buried the knife in
its heart and staggered to his feet, exhausted from the fighting. Suddenly
there was a clawing clambering weight on his back as another pounced on him
from behind. Grunting with the effort he threw the spider over his shoulder and
pummelled it into the ground. Almost forgetting, he pulled the knife from the
bleeding spider behind him with a shrill metal squeak. He sighed breathlessly
and looked around at the never-ending swarm creeping closer. He felt his heart
in his throat when he saw the spiders bursting apart in the distance. Something
huge was ploughing through them to get to him. The biggest monster he’d ever

he said, exasperated, hacking another spider away. He had a tail; he had the
knife. Maybe he stood a chance. He faced the monster as it charged towards him.
He was faster, smaller. He could give it a matador cut when it came past.
Enough of those and he might even bleed its strength out. Alex leapt away too
late though, and the monster raked its claws down his arm as he dived aside.
The monster skidded in the moss and turned to run back at him. Alex wasn’t even
on his feet. A sudden shadow descended and bit down into the monster’s side.
Gigantic jaws mangled the screaming creature into a bloody mess, and tossed it
away to flail and die. Seven stood growling at the spiders, a deep murderous
rumble. Tabitha watched from the saddle as the silver tide hesitated and backed
away. There were no more dragons above; no hulking brutes charging from the
forest. Only the shrinking swarm of spiders sulking back, and a creeping hope
of victory in Tabitha’s mind. The breeze was thick with the smell of fire and
alien blood; the blue silver-marsh meadow was strewn with bodies around them.

still alive then,’ she observed, looking down at Alex sitting in the moss. ‘Oh
god, your shoulder!’

Alex nodded, staring at the gaping wound in his cradled arm. The torn scales
and flesh streamed silver, mixing with the spiders’ blood on his hands. ‘I
could say that it’s
and I could
carry on
, but this really
fucking hurts and I’m losing a lot of blood.’

on,’ said Tabitha, jumping down from Seven to help Alex to his feet. ‘We need
to get you inside,’ she said, nodding at the living cathedral. ‘We’ll be safer
in there.’

just get those people out so we can get out of here,’ Alex grumbled, gripping
his bleeding arm. ‘And if they don’t sound grateful enough when we find them,
I’m going to be
pissed off.’

me too,’ Tabitha chuckled. ‘Seven, can you stay out here and keep the spiders
away please?’ Seven growled and snapped at the swarm to force them back. ‘I
don’t think you’d fit through the door anyway,’ she told her dragon with a
smile, stroking his bloody snout. Seven watched Alex and Tabitha stagger off
towards the cathedral and disappear inside. He stomped after them and sat by
the entrance, guarding the door. The surviving spiders lurked in the distant
trees and ruins, creeping away into their holes to wait. Seven lay down
dominant, owning the empty field and looking around at his kills.




on, we can’t stop here,’ said Tabitha, helping Alex across a giant entrance hall.
The structure was a church of living metal inside, walls swelling and falling
with peaceful breath in the sacred silence. Pulsing current. A ghoulish
towering hybrid, lit by a million lights glowing cold and aquatic. It smelled
like a forest in here.

you sure they’re in here? The prisoners?’ said Tabitha.

here, somewhere,’ Alex replied, grunting at the pain. There was a rising
heavenly drone in this place, like it was seeping from the walls. A rumbling
choir of static in their heads. Their whispering footsteps echoed down the
hall. The choir of current was rising. And behind the sound, the breath of the
building. Constant, calm. Monumental.

need to get you bandaged up,’ said Tabitha, looking back at Alex’s trail of
silver blood on the scaly floor.

know, I’m not going to argue with that,’ Alex replied, grunting again at the
pain as they moved through melting doors into a vast hall. They crossed the
room in a kind of reverent silence; staring around at organic walls and glowing
plants, ornate and skeletal.

place is incredible,’ said Alex, breaking the silence. Tabitha noticed how pale
he was; shaky and sluggish. He was looking up at the high vaulted ceiling.
There were webs of branches or bones up there; alien scaffolds that seemed more
grown than built. Starlight twisted and fluxed in the fibrous rafters, lighting
the place with a ghostly pulsing glow. Alex pressed his palm into a bony temple
column beside them, and watched a glowing white imprint of his hand in the
material fading back to grey. For a second the skin of the column ran through
with illuminated veins, pulsing the touch of his skin to the rest of the
cathedral like a message. Alex stared up in wonder at the haunting light show
and pressed his hand against the column again.

on you idiot, you’re bleeding to death,’ said Tabitha, helping him on deeper
into the hall. The walls grew brighter as they made their way up a wide ribbed
slope, until at the top they found a glowing garden in the heart of the
building. Fishbowls were floating around between alien shrubs and flowers,
tending to their plants under a pale aquatic light. There was a trickle of
water somewhere, beyond the trees ahead. Strange white proto-birds jetted their
way between the flowers, sipping arcs of current from the blooms. Insects
Tabitha had never seen before drifted placidly between the plants, floating and
translucent like tiny jellyfish bobbing through the air.

seems like a nice place to die anyway,’ Alex said shakily. He grunted with the
pain as Tabitha helped him through the flowers to sit him down on the blue

not going to die,’ Tabitha told him, rinsing his wound with her water bottle.
She looked around the garden and plucked a huge spiral-patterned leaf from a
smoky-red shrub. She picked at the edge, and tore it into long spongy strips.
Gently she wrapped the strips around his metal-skinned arm and tied them off
tight like bandages, one by one. Tabitha worked in silence as the alien birds
and insects floated and fluttered around them in the garden. High above,
miniature moons hovered motionless below the ceiling. Glowing deathly pale,
shining a watery light down on the growing garden. A glowing cloud of stardust
swelled and shifted like a mist against the ceiling; a bonsai nebula writhing
snail-slow above their heads. Tabitha tied off one last strip of leaf around
Alex’s arm, and sat back on the moss.

like you’ve
the flow,’ Alex joked, grinning at her.

an idiot,’ she replied, with the tiniest hint of a smile on her lips.

really hurts,’ he said, flapping his arm like a chicken wing.

stop moving it,’ she said despairingly. ‘Here, lie back.’ She plucked a giant
tubular fungus and set it down like a pillow, helping him lie down on the moss.
A flurry of spores puffed from the moss where he lay down, dancing up like
glowing dust into the air.

you trying to seduce me?’ he said, grinning. ‘I’m not that kind of guy.’
Tabitha fought back a smile, holding onto her stony expression.

did well out there,’ she said, trying to change the subject. ‘You’re a good
fighter.’ She checked the bleeding beneath his makeshift bandages, and brought
another leaf over to tear up and replace the sodden strips. Tabitha worked in
silence, scoring out the strips with a claw before she ripped the leaf into

the saddest person I’ve ever seen,’ said Alex, watching her face as she tied
the new bandages around his arm. Tabitha looked up from his wound into his
eyes, and didn’t know what to say for a second. Caught off guard.

lost everyone,’ she replied quietly, tying off the last strip of leaf. ‘Of
course I look sad.’

there’s more to it than that,’ said Alex, studying her expression where he lay.
‘And I know, losing everyone is hell, and I’m right there with you on that one.
I’ve lost everyone too. But you look… lost. Absolutely lost. Like you’ve given
up on the world.’ Tabitha sat back on the moss, staring at the garden. He had
no right to start making guesses about her like that. But he was right. And the
thoughts bubbled up into words before she could stop them.

‘…I’ve killed
people,’ she told him. It felt so weird to say. It wasn’t something she’d ever
expected to admit to. It wasn’t something she was capable of. At least, she
never thought so. The building looked so much like some weird church though,
that it felt like the right place to confess her sins. And most of all she felt
the weight on her mind lift, just a little, when she’d said it.

‘I’ve killed
people too,’ Alex replied, staring at the moonlit ceiling high above. ‘I didn’t
have any choice,’ he told the stardust. He pushed himself up and grunted with
the pain, and shuffled his way over beside her. ‘Look, we had to stay alive,’
he told her. Tabitha looked up into his eyes. ‘We did what we had to,’ he
assured her.

‘I’m a
murderer,’ she objected, quietly. She felt a tear roll down her cheek. ‘I’m the
worst kind of person. A monster. This thing I’ve turned into… it isn’t me.’

‘We’re not the
people we used to be,’ Alex replied. ‘But what else were we supposed to do,
just lay down and die? Let those people kill us instead? This isn’t the same
world any more. It’s just
, to do what it takes to survive.’ He
met Tabitha’s gaze. ‘Civilisation’s disappeared,’ he told her. ‘So have the
rules. Morals go out the window when you’re trying to survive. Especially when
you think about what we’re up against.’

‘True,’ Tabitha
said quietly, looking back down at the bright blue ground. They were
interrupted for a moment by a strange passer-by. Both of them glanced up and
watched an
alien creature swim by
silently through the air, like an airborne squid or a nautilus. A bony
shoe-shaped creature with tentacles and staring eyes. It drifted by, indifferent.
Tabitha watched it go, thinking, and looked back down at the ground. The grief
and sadness she’d fought off for so long came back with a vengeance, and
swallowed her up completely.

‘Look, we’ve
both done things we aren’t proud of, along the way,’ said Alex. Tabitha looked
up through her tears and saw a fierce conviction in his eyes. An intensity.
‘But we did those things for a reason; the only reason that matters. To stay
alive,’ he said. ‘And here we are, still hanging on, even after everything
that’s happened to us. That’s all it comes down to. Here.’ Suddenly he took her
black metal hand in his own, and Tabitha felt a current there between their

‘Do you feel
that?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ she
replied quietly, looking up into his eyes. It was the strangest sensation; a
tingling magnetism like she’d never felt before. Electrostatic lust.

different. We’re a new species,’ he told her. ‘We’re going to do whatever it
takes to survive, and we’re going to do it together.’ Tabitha looked into his stark
eyes, and dropped her guard. She’d only just met him. Whether it was the
voltage or something else that made her
race, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that when he leaned in closer, she
didn’t pull away. Suddenly she didn’t feel so alone any more.

perfect,’ he said softly, and kissed her. Tabitha hesitated, and tasted the
salt of her tears on her lips. She kissed him back, and felt the warm strength
of his body move closer to hers. She felt his hand on the back of her neck,
heavy and strong. Felt a blissful wholeness to take her sadness away. And the
fierce sudden agony of a blade pushed into her heart. He’d stabbed her with her
own knife; he was staring with a black-fanged grin. Tabitha gasped and clawed
him wildly and kicked herself away to the wall. Staggering to her feet,
panicked, she stared in shock at the black handle of her knife jutting out of
her chest. Silver blood streaming down her front. A pain that threatened to
tear her mind in two. Alex was on all fours over in the garden, yelling and
shouting as he clutched a hand to his mangled face. Screaming, Tabitha pulled
the knife out from her chest. The tear in her catsuit healed up, but not her
skin. The wound was too deep, too far into her core; her heart wasn’t healing.
She felt the hot blood gushing through her suit, and the wrenching horror of
death as her
pounded and sparked. Muffled
and distant, as if underwater, she heard Alex laughing. He was coming closer,
grinning as he walked.

‘Let me eat you,’
he said happily, still clutching a hand to his bleeding face. ‘I need to eat
the strongest to get stronger, and you…’ he pointed a grey finger at her, in
awe of her. ‘You’re a masterpiece.’ Tabitha staggered away as he stepped
closer, punching her own chest in a daze just to keep her
from stuttering to a stop. It still wasn’t healing. She held the bloody knife
out at him weakly; dropped it with a clatter as her heart sparked and burned
like phosphorus in a flare.

‘Come on, let me
eat you,’ said Alex, holding out his hand to her. His sharp tail was waving
behind him. ‘Like I said, you’re perfect. I need you, Tabitha. Your strength,
your abilities… I need them inside me. And like I told you, I only get stronger
when I
eat strength.
’ Tabitha couldn’t back away fast enough, and in a
moment Alex was up close. She saw his dark figure in silhouette against the
starlit wall behind, hand out and tail writhing. Demonic. She backed into a
pillar and collapsed on the floor. Alex stood over her, smiling his coal-black
smile. His voice was a distant mumbling in the deep; murky and half-clear.

‘Let me eat
you,’ he repeated, with a seductive tone. ‘Come on.’ Tabitha looked up and
barely saw him in the growing dark of her vision, still punching her chest to
keep the current flowing.

to eat you,’ he insisted, smiling at her. ‘It’s all I’ve really wanted to do
since I first saw you,’ he admitted, as if he was declaring his love for her.
‘But I really didn’t want to face off against your magic dragon,’ he chuckled.
‘So… I’m sorry. There’s no prisoners to rescue,’ he said, pulling a sad face.
‘The story got you in here though, away from your bodyguard.’ He chuckled to
himself. ‘You really made me work for this! I almost died!’ he recounted it
like a funny story. ‘So here I am thinking I can, you know, kill you somewhere
along the way. But guess what, you’re still not dead!’ he chuckled, shaking his
head. ‘But in all seriousness… just die already. I don’t want to get too close
again.’ He pointed at his mangled cheek, streaming silver blood. Slowly, in
agony, Tabitha reached for the gun on her belt. Alex moved his tail around
playfully and skewered her wrist before she could reach it. Tabitha screamed,
echoing in the cathedral. She wrestled against Alex’s tail as it wriggled out
of her arm and tried to bury itself in her face. She gripped the point,
swerving it away from her eyes with all the strength she had left.

‘Just fucking
die,’ he chuckled, wiggling his tail around playfully to try and evade her
grasping hands. The ground shook then. There was a distant explosion through
the cathedral door, and Seven swept up the ramp and crashed down in front of
them. He took one look at Tabitha in her pooling silver blood and roared like
thunder, lunging out to clamp his jaws down on Alex. Alex leapt away and ran
for a pillar, sheltered from the white napalm that Seven belched out furiously
across the floor. Seven was about to hunt him down as he disappeared down the
hall, but stopped and turned at a thought in his head. The red-haired creature…
she was dying.

Tabitha reached
her hand out towards Seven. He was growling with a burning fury, and turned
back to the melting doorway where Alex had disappeared. Desperate for revenge.

‘Seven,’ she
said weakly. He looked back to where Tabitha was slumped against the pillar,
weak and deathly pale. ‘Get me away from here, Seven,’ she said quietly,
reaching a hand out towards him. Seven rolled his wing into an arm and gently
picked her up, and placed her down in the saddle. The harness embraced her
slumping body. Tabitha couldn’t see straight. Sparking life bled out of her
onto Seven’s back. She held on tight to the saddle scale, terrified.


BOOK: Tabitha
11.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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