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A Wonderful New World
It had been the longest year that she could ever remember. That thought made her smile because, in fact, she hadn’t remembered the year at all. It felt as if yesterday she had been placed inside the holding cell and put in a dream-like state for over a year, but her birthday had come to pass along with Christmas, Easter and all the other holidays in between. The treatment crew had awakened her, but before she could try to stand or move around, they whisked her off on a stretcher to the recovery room where the doctors trained for the falling asleep and waking up process would make sure she was ready. Phoebe felt as ready as she would ever be.
In the recovery room, the doctor filled her with liquids and stabbed her with long syringes. She did everything as instructed and was released into a small waiting room still inside the space shuttle. She had been briefed the year before that she was to meet her partner here, and that he would then introduce her to The New World.
What she was expecting in a partner, and what she received, was probably the biggest shock of the day to Phoebe. She had been briefed and prepped months in advance for the year of isolation and sleep on the space shuttle from Earth to this New World, but never had she been told about her partner. She had expected a nice, elderly scholar who would tell her all she needed to know, and they would spend the remainder of their next ten years on this newly discovered planet doing scientific research. However, when a young, exceedingly tall man strode into the room, Phoebe felt the breath being punched from her stomach. Apparently, the man had been expecting a scholarly, elder woman as well, because as soon as his eyes and hers met, she saw the flicker of understanding cross this face. Then she saw anger and felt almost afraid.
“Are you Phoebe?” he growled menacingly, and she noticed for the first time his odd, ragged appearance.
Phoebe didn’t want to outwardly show the man how shaky and uncertain she was of him, so she stood and raised her chin, “I am she, and who, may inquire, are you?”
The man took a step closer, and she was shocked at how long his stride was, “I am Cole the head scientist here in this wonderful new land.”
She felt her mouth open slightly; so it was the man she was supposed to be partnered to. “Well, Cole, I am your new partner, shall we exit the shuttle then?”
Cole growled down at her, “I don’t really see a need for you here, I think that it would be best if you stayed and went back to high school at home. What are you, sixteen or seventeen?”
Phoebe felt the blood rise to her cheeks. It was true that she was young, but she knew that she neither looked sixteen nor seventeen. Her dark Native American skin color and sophisticated Spanish features gave her the look of a brilliant, fierce savage. These looks were the reason she had, even as a teen, been asked to try her talents in modeling, but Phoebe had known all along she was meant for science. So, how dare this man mock her young age!
Feeling all fear leave her limbs, Phoebe stepped closer, “I, sir, am twenty-three and have my bachelors in foreign science. I was trained from the beginning of college to come to The New World, so how dare you try to send me back home. I was hand picked by the NWSA* for this job!”
Cole laughed lowly and grabbed her wrist, pulling her close to him. Phoebe kept her chin raised as he lowered himself from his six-foot-seven height, and stared her in the face. “You dumb little girl.”
Phoebe had the feminine urge to slap him, but controlled herself, “Excuse me?” Was all she said in an icy voice.
Cole pulled himself back to his full height, and Phoebe’s tiny five-foot-two inch stature made her feel short and odd. He glared down at her, “You have been asleep for a long time, haven’t you?”
Phoebe looked up at him with a sarcastic grin, “Why actually it has been a full year.”
Cole pulled her wrist tightly, and without saying another word, drug her from the shuttle. Phoebe had been prepped to expect that when she left the shuttle there would be cameras and interview questions asked, and as the man pulled her through the almost eerie halls, she tried to compose herself. When they reached the exit, Phoebe wished that she had more time to prepare for the big entrance and tried to smooth out her button- down cream shirt and kaki pants which the doctor had given her. However, when they entered into the completely new atmosphere, it was silent and no one was there.
It took only a moment before what was in front of her set in. The shuttle had landed in a clear meadow, a meadow she had seen in many pictures before. However, in those pictures, the meadow was full of buildings and the beginnings of a society. Now what she saw before her was a malady of destruction. All the buildings were burned and collapsed, the science labs she had admired during her time in college, completely ruined, and the only people around were ragged and dirty staring at her with a grim expression. She felt faint and had to grab onto Cole for support, “What has happened here?”
“We have been destroyed by the creatures,” Cole said gravely looking down at her.
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Cole laughed, “You and this ship were our only hope. Now it has been ruined. We can’t leave. We can’t count on your expertise which is much less then our own. We are all in all, damned.”
Phoebe was angry again at the intellectual gab, but she could see in the small crowed of starving and ragged people that she had been a hope, and now, a let down. Phoebe felt weak. She knew that the shuttle didn’t have enough fuel to get back to the filling station in space, and in that moment, she did feel damned.
A man came to Cole and pointed to the sky, “Cole, the second moon has emerged -- we need to get back to the cave.”
Cole released Phoebe and nodding towards the small group of people, started to leave her at the shuttle’s opening. Phoebe felt real panic and chased after him.
“Wait! Where are you going?” she yelled, fiercely grabbing Cole’s arm.
Shocked, Cole looked down at her, and Phoebe let go, slightly embarrassed at her lack of control. Cole looked at her hand and then her face, “We have to get back to the caves before nightfall, or else they will kill us.”
Phoebe was, once again, left staring at the back of Cole, dumbfounded, “Wait!” She yelled again, “Who are they?”
Cole walked forward in a pace she could hardly keep up with and didn’t look down on her as he spoke, “We call them the creatures. We are not quite sure what they are really. All that we know is that they came from the ground about six months ago and started to eat and destroy all things human. Some of us were able to escape. We figured out quickly the creatures didn’t like the light and only came out at night; otherwise they hide under the ground. They also don’t like fire. The remaining people and I found a cave, and every night we build a huge fire at the entrance to keep them away.”
Phoebe was utterly shocked at this long announcement about the world, that it seemed like yesterday was perfect and a scientist’s dream. “But..” she stammered, still processing all the information, “what about the people on the shuttle? Won’t they be killed? We have to warn them!”
Cole glanced up at the fading sun and shook his head, “No time, it will be completely dark soon. We have to get back to the cave. Plus, you are an extra mouth to feed and we don’t need anymore.”
Phoebe couldn’t speak; she wanted to save the lives of so many on the shuttle, but what Cole said sank in fully, and she peered back at the space ship. There was no way that the people on the craft could leave because their fuel was so low and obviously the fuel they were counting on here was gone. They were doomed, and Phoebe felt horrible guilt, but followed the others in an eerie silence. Every now and again she would catch Cole peering down at her, but he would quickly look away when she glared at him rudely
It was only a short while before they reached the high cave, and to Phoebe’s horror, they could still see the space shuttle in the distance. Hopefully, the fire would be high enough at the entrance that she wouldn’t have to see the blood bath which would surely ensue. She momentarily questioned Cole’s truthfulness, but then chose to believe his story. At the cave there were more people, women and older men mostly, who were cooking over Coles what looked like meat covered in banana tree leaves.
Everyone stared now at Phoebe, including Cole, with a look of dissatisfaction on their faces and she was ashamed. However, after the awkward moment when Cole introduced her and then sat her on a mat in the corner, she felt nothing but scared. Phoebe was absolutely silent as the torn and ragged men constructed a huge fire out of dried wood and she felt the heat radiate off her face.
After the fire was well built and people were setting down to eat, Cole rested himself next to Phoebe on the mat, “Here eat this.” He handed her some white fishy looking meat. Phoebe crunched on it thankfully before speaking, “I am sorry I let you down.”
Cole grinned slightly in a sad way and sighed, “It wasn’t your fault, you are a scientist and you came here to study. You weren’t exactly expecting this when you left.”
Phoebe shook her head, “No, no I….”
It was then the blood bath started; outside of the cave entrance, they all could hear the horrible death screams of the shuttle crew. Phoebe felt vomit rise in her throat as she peered closely between the flickers of flames and could see terrible, white translucent tentacled creatures crawling up the side of the shuttle, and plucking out its inhabitants to feed from.
Everyone in the small cave was completely silent, listening to the horrible noises of death. Phoebe set her food down and started to cry silently, she was stricken with a gut eating guilt. Those people, who had looked after her for a year and we so nice to her, were now dieing and she had done nothing to warn them. She felt Cole’s arm wrap around her, one of the first nice things he had done for her, and she curled into his body, disturbed. Cole put his food aside and layed down on the grass mat, pulling Phoebe with him. He was sorry he had been so harsh with her and regretted making her feel bad; it wasn’t her fault. Phoebe slept on and off all night, waking sometimes to cry and hug herself against the slightly snoring Cole for the comfort of a human body.
The next day was just as horrible as the people went to survey the death. Cole told Phoebe not to come, but she had to see. She had to see the death she completely blamed on herself. It was not until the scene had been totally assessed, and some peoples’ stomachs spilled, that the men and women of the cave started to act rather oddly. They gathered in a circle and pushed Phoebe to the center; angry looks upon their faces.
One shouted out, “This is your fault entire!”
Another sneered, approached Phoebe and slapped her hard across the face. Then he growled hatefully into her ear and said, “You will die for this.”
Phoebe fell to the ground, shocked, and put her hand on her stinging face. Looking up, she saw expressions of disgust everywhere. She couldn’t even speak she was so shocked. Cole pushed his way through the forming mob and jumped to Phoebe’s defense. “What are you doing?” he shouted angrily. “This was not her fault; she couldn’t have known what was happening here, she left Earth a year ago.”
The people just sneered at them; they were too blinded by the death and destruction that consumed all their lives for the past six months to see the right. They were hurt and they were mad, and they needed someone to blame for all they had gone through: a tribute of sorts to settle their hatred and pain and Phoebe the focus and now Cole too.
The man who had slapped Phoebe spoke up again, “Don’t try to come back to the cave with her, Cole, we will kill you.”
Phoebe stood and hid her small body behind Cole’s as best she could; afraid the people might try to attack her again. Cole was outwardly calm and in control of the situation, but Phoebe could feel him shaking. Whether out of anger or fear she wasn’t sure. Cole knew how the people felt, and also knew he was not a killer; he could not leave Phoebe to die alone. Plus, what kind of lives were they living anyway in this Hell, unable to get away from the horrible monsters.
Both Phoebe and Cole watched in silence as the people left with backward glances of hate. Phoebe moved out from behind Cole and stretched her neck to look in his face. “I don’t understand what I did wrong.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, they are tired and scared. They need someone to blame for their problems,” Cole answered, looking back down at Phoebe.
Phoebe tried not to cry, but big sobs leaked from her body. She felt hopeless and numb as she sank down to the ground. “Is there not somewhere we can go?”
Cole crouched down besides her and shook his head, “I’m afraid not before nightfall.”
Phoebe curled herself into a ball while her body shook with sobs and she moaned, “So we just let ourselves be martyrs for no good reason?”
Cole stretched out besides Phoebe and put his hands behind his head, closing his eyes. When he didn’t answer, Phoebe looked up and it seemed to her that Cole had an air of thankfulness about him. She realized he was happy that he was going to die. Phoebe stretched out beside him, her tears stopping. “Cole,” she said and he looked at her, “Are you happy?”
Cole shook his head, “Happy to die, no; relieved to get away from this life, yes.”
Phoebe laid her body next to his; she wished she had his courage, “Cole.” He grunted and she went on, “Do you think they sent another shuttle?”
Cole shrugged, “Maybe, but why haven’t they arrived yet? Some of the smaller ships only take months to get here not a year. Why would the NWSA not position more satellites our way to see what is wrong?”
It was Phoebe’s turn to nod; it was true they did have shuttles that could get to The New World in three or four months, but she went on the yearly because the small shuttles couldn’t hold any supplies and she needed her gear for The New World.
Phoebe was lost in silence for awhile thinking about her family at home and wishing she could give them a kiss goodbye. Not long after she could hear Cole’s slight snoring and she felt herself drift off to sleep even among the atrocious carnage and death.
Both Cole and Phoebe were startled awake by a loud sound. Phoebe could see that the two moons were in the sky and that the sun was almost set over the hill in the distance. She felt lost and looked to her last support, Cole, for help. He was watching the area where the noise was coming from. Phoebe followed his gaze to the sky. There, coming swiftly down into the atmosphere was a small shuttle.
They scrambled to their feet as it landed, and the doors came open to admit astonished scientists. “Hey!” Cole called out, and it was as if Phoebe was pulled from her daze and panic set in. She raced towards the people shouting for help, Cole only a step behind her.
The man who came to great them looked amazed and dazed, “Are there only two of you left?”
Phoebe and Cole were stopped silent, and they looked at one another curiously. Both of them knew without a doubt that they had no time to go back to the cave, and neither of them felt very generous.
“Yes,” Cole answered.
Phoebe added, “We have to leave now or we are all going to die!” She pointed the carnage to reinforce the idea of death.
As if the words die set off a time bomb, they were hustled inside, and the crew prepared to leave. As they were leaving Phoebe could have sworn she saw white, translucent tentacles rising on the shuttle, but they left, and just like that the nightmare was over.
On their way to the filling station Cole reached over to squeeze Phoebe’s hand before walking to the captain.
“Captain,” he said, “we have left some people behind.”
The captain nodded, “we will send for them.”
Cole walked to Phoebe and they flew back to the safety of Earth, the NWSA closing all connection with The New World forever.