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Them Again

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Them Again

by Ryder W. Miller

They sat quietly listening to the wind and waiting for them to come. There were seven of them left in the house they made into a fort, seven battle weary and battle wounded patriots. This would be their last battle, but they would send a message by dying bravely. They would show that resistance was possible. They would show them that humankind under certain circumstances would always be a problem. They would not yield. They would shoot down as many of those giant cocker roaches as they could before they gave into death. It was a doomed cause, but surrender was worse. They would rather die than be slaves, used to make industrial products or be experimented upon.

After The Great War, what was for Earth ‘The War of the Worlds,’ the day the outer worlders nuked the planet, humankind had to live in a post apocalypitic wasteland. The air and water had been poisoned. Forests and grasslands burned and the deserts expanded. It was worse than global warming ever could have been. It was a nightmarish future where humankind needed to hide from the evil oppressors in a polluted wasteland. Only canned food was edible in this disappointing and nightmarish future.

And then there was Them, the giant insect machines they used to wipe out any humans they could find. It was almost as if they knew how to make our worst nightmares real. The outer worlders destroyed the world in days, destroying all the major cities and the civil infrastructure, but mankind survived in the outskirts, and was determined to fight back where they could. But the adversary were now giant bugs, roaches the size of cars. They could run on numerous legs and they had danger metal pinchers which could tear flesh and cut bones.

Genny died just by the sight of them. They surrounded her in town square and she died of a heart attack. They were not neoflesh, but rather metal and mechanical. They were also programmed to understand human languages, but they were not able to communicate back. They would be singing battle songs from their distant world with their clicking sounds, when they marched in for the kill. There would be many of them now because they had been unsuccessful with this town in the past. The streets were littered with their defunct remains.

Noelle was the leader of the group. He had found a few weapons that would kill them, and it wasn’t easy because they were tough and mechanized. One needed a lot of fire power to disassemble them. In the gun shop he found a few guns that could stop them in their tracks but hand guns were not powerful enough. Now they all had rifles which they called zookas.

But not all of them were happy with Noelle’s plan.

"I tell you we should leave. Let them have the city," said Bryan.

"It will not be any better anywhere else," said Noelle.

"Here we have cover. Here we can make a stand," said Zandie.

"But we are certain to die," said Todd.

"We will die if we leave to," said Zandie.

"If we get caught we will wind up as slaves or worse," said Leah.

"They want to understand us, let them see that we will fight to the death," said Brooks.

Only Montgomery remained quiet.

"How long have they been here now? It has been three years and they have destroyed everything. They will destroy all who resist," said Bryan.

"If you want to leave you can. We are going to defend this town to the death," said Zandie.

Noelle projected an image of them onto a wall. They were very similar to roaches with four sets of legs, mandibles and pinchers.

"Their pinchers can cut through flesh and bone. They can dismember. They also spit poisons and can start fires," said Noelle.

Using a light pointer to illustrate she continued:

"Here is their gas tank and there is not place for them to fill up in the nearby area. Hit them here and they will blow up."

"Here is their communication array. A shot here will also make them defunct. A shot here is like shooting them in the brain. These are the eyes and sensors which can work partially if they are not fully destroyed with a hit."

"If you shoot them in the legs it will slow them down, but they will keep coming."

Fred was growing annoyed but he didn’t interrupt until Noelle was finished. He stood in front of the projector and said, "Just down the street is the car dealership. We can drive a car away from here."

Noelle grew angry, "They will keep coming. They will keep coming forever."

"I am leaving," said Bryan.

"You will let them know where we are," said Zandie.

Todd pointed his zooka at Bryan.

"What are you going to kill me now?" said Bryan.

"Let him go. He will lead them away from us," said Noelle.

Todd pointed his gun downwards.

"Take care Fred. They can outrun a car or cycle," said Noelle.

"Will anyone go with me?" Bryan asked.

"Here we can fight them off Fred. Out in the open we will be vulnerable," said Todd.

"I am going to run away. I am going to find a place they have not found," said Bryan.

"There is no place. They will hunt you down and kill you. At least here we can make a last stand. They will think twice about bothering us after what we do to them," said Noelle.

"Nobody else wants to leave?" asked Bryan.

"We will teach them to fear us," Noelle continued.

Noelle looked around the group to see if there were any interested parties, but there were none.

"No we will stay and show them they attacked the wrong planet. We will teach them they can count on resistance," said Noelle.

Bryan looked around the room and then made his way to the door.

"Good luck," he said.

"Good luck Fred," Leah said.

Fred put a bag over his shoulder and carried a zooka out with him and then left alone. The group grew somber and it was a few hours before anyone talked. Noelle left to picture of the roach on the wall and sat down to eat. Owning a can opener was now essential. They had many can openers lying around the living quarters.

After they had eaten Noelle began again.

"So we are all agreed? We stay here and fight to the end. We are all agreed?"

Everybody nodded.

Alison looked around at the group and concurred.

"To the death," Zandie said.

They decided to take turns keeping an eye out for the bugs. Once they got their scent they would converge and try to wipe them out. But it would be glorious end. They would blow up as many of the roaches as the could. This would teach them to think twice about bothering humankind anytime they wanted to.

They decided to play cards while they waited for the roaches to find them. Montgomery would sit on the roof and look for them with the binoculars. Despite that they lived in a small town, there was a super market with a years worth of canned food on the shelves. Their fort was an abandoned brick house which had bars around the windows.

After Fred had left, there were no signs of the roaches for weeks. Spending all the time together was growing tiresome, so most had decided to read books. Meanwhile, Noelle searched for radio station alerts or television signals, but he was not able to find contact with the rest of civilization. The spring was ending and it would be getting warm again. The electrical and water systems were also down. They needed to ruff it like in the old days, the old cowboy days with daily trips to the well and trading in the market, but there was no market or society. This town was deserted except for the half dozen survivors in the old house.

"Maybe we should have a better goal than fighting to the end Noelle?" Leah said.

"They haven’t bothered us for months. Maybe we should find a better or more comfortable place?" said Todd.

"It is going to get hot in here with the summer coming along. Maybe we should find a place with an internal generator?" said Zandie.

"You know I am getting a little tired of all this canned food. We could start a little garden in the back and grow some fresh vegetables?" said Brooks.

"There are seeds in the store," added Montgomery.

"That will let them know where we are," said Noelle.

"Isn’t that the point. Are they not supposed to find us so we can fight to the death?" said Zandie.

"We need to scare them so they learn to leave our kind alone," said Noelle.

"I would like to eat a good meal before I die," said Brooks trying to be humorous.

"They were supposed to be here already for our grand finale, but now that we have time to think maybe we can think of a way to be more effective?" said Alison.

"We can’t very well and go and attack them. The city is swarming with them. There are millions of them in the city," said Montgomery.

"Maybe we can knock down one of their ships? Maybe we can blow up one of the communication centers?" said Brooks.

"Maybe we should just leave them alone and go on living?" said Todd.

"They destroyed us. They tried to wipe out our kind. Our days are numbered out here. We need to remain vigilant. We need to stay prepared," said Noelle.

"The roaches are just their foot soldiers. They made them here to wipe us out," said Brooks.

"We need to set an example. We need to let them know that they cannot do anything they want to us. A big battle here will let know that they should leave us alone," said Noelle.

"But where are they? When will they come?" asked Todd.

"We will probably need to lure in those ugly creeps," said Zandie.

"If we want to lure them in for a battle I can think of a few ways," said Montgomery.

"Okay, what are they?" said Noelle angry.

Montgomery got up from his chair and walked over and picked up a boom box and a few tapes.

"I think we all here like the Beatles," he said.

"Some beetles have snazy designs, unlike those ugly things out there," said Brooks.

Noelle smiled and said "How about Abbey Road?"

"No Sargent’s Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band," said Montgomery.

"No Rubber Soul," said Todd.

"How about their Greatest Hits. I think we can agree to listen to their greatest hits," said Zandie.

Noelle smiling said "That sounds good to me. We will start the concert on Friday night."

The assembled nodded.

They would play the music from the roof and wait there with the zookas to shoot any of the roaches that showed up. They had already taken a trip to the gun shop to get all the ammunition they needed. The only thing lacking now besides a toilet that flushed was the adversary.

Montgomery found all the speakers he could find and he assembled them on the roof.

"Can anyone think of the bands that used to open up for the Beatles?" he asked the group.

"How about a lot of sets. Lets have a lot of sets for the Beatles?" said Leah.

"I thought we agreed to play the Greatest Hits?" said Montgomery.

"What if that doesn’t work?" asked Zandie.

"Why we will play it more than once or we will figure something else out. Can you put the Bass up high," said Noelle.

"You got it captain," said Montgomery.

The town was silent and dark, and then the music went on. Brooks searched the horizon for the roaches who did not immediately flock to the concert that was put on for their benefit. But as the night got colder Brooks thought he could see eyes in the distance. They were all around the small town and moving in on them.

Brooks went down into the house to let them know that the battle was afoot.

"Show time!" he said as "Octupus’s Garden" played on the boom box.

Zandie and Todd, nestled together woke up a grew alert in tandem.

"Our fate is upon us," said Noelle handing out the zookas.

Leah grew philosophical. "They picked roaches to fuck with our minds. Those are some of the most scary things on the planet, but now they are bigger than and made of metal. Let’s teach them a fucking lesson."

"They are also greasy and probably flameable," said Brooks.

Montgomery went up to the roof.

"They are coming in fast," he said.

"As Nothing Is Going To Change My World" played the roaches with glowing eyes were finding their way to fort by the roads available.

"There are thousands of them," said Montgomery.

"The more the better for the party," said Noelle.

The six of them spread out in 360 degrees to prepare for the onslaught. Montgomery was on the roof, others looked out from the windows. Each of them has a zooka in their hands.

Alison turned on a tape recorder to record what was going to transpire.

"Revenge of humankind," she said into the recording device.

"No these are not roaches. These are intergalactic bugs. Insects are just making a living. These drones are programmed to kill," said Brooks.

"Let me listen to the music," Noelle said as the Beatles were playing "The Long And Winding Road."

Todd was happy that he could only see and not hear the bugs who were coming in fast. He would have rather gone out listening to music by another band.

"Wait until you can see their many eyes before you begin firing," said Noelle.

The Beatles were singing something about the beginning, and then the song was over and it was "Good Day Sunshine". Brooks thought about the times that he enjoyed going for walks by the ocean. These things got in his way and now it was time to kill them. Who were they to dare to take such a noble experience away from humankind? Those walks in the wild were so healing.

"I think I can hear them clicking. Can you make the music louder?" said Alison.

"Can you change the tape?" said Leah.

"No, the Beatle’s Greatest Hits 1967 to 1970. That is final," Montgomery said as his voice was drowned out by the music.

When the song "I Want To Tell You" went on Noelle took the first shot. All followed. The zookas added assorted percussion to the music, and the roaches were crashing defunct on their way to the fort.

Montgomery could see hundreds of them surrounding the building, and he knew if they could take out the first rank they would make it harder for other roaches to continue. The next group would have to climb over the dead roaches that surrounded the fort.

Bang, Bang, Bang rang out into the night. Some of the roaches stood on their back legs watching what was transpiring to the front runners.

"As Here, There, And Everywhere" played the dead roaches were falling in piles around the fort. Montgomery with a prime view from the roof was noticing the fires that were spreading around the fort.

When the song "She Said" went on the roaches stopped their attack and gathered around in a big circle to acknowledge their losses. Montgomery looked into the night and saw thousands who were gathering for the concert and onslaught.

"Keep on shooting," said Noelle as they gathered for another attack.

"Love Me Do" went on and the roaches started attacking again, but this time more fiercely. Soon they were spreading fire to fort, but the brick walls held. The roaches ran over their colleagues, and the pile made the roof easily accessible.

Montgomery was the first to bite it, falling as the Beatles played "The Fool On the Hill". He had a chance to flip the tape, but as the song played they could hear him screaming.

As the roaches massed on the roof, the roof began to crack and eventually fell in. Todd and Alison were caught underneath the falling roof and were crushed.

As "The Magical Mystery Tour" played Noelle was shooting fiercely, but she was overtaken by a gray roach with sharp mandibles. Noelle was cut in half as "Lady Madonna" went on.

When the roof broke, Brooks pulled Leah into a closet, and even though they were both non religious, they prayed. They sat in the walk in closet as "Hey Jude" played loudly, but not completely above the screams of their compatriots and the clicking roaches. The roaches were very bluntly designed and Brooks hoped that they would not be able to detect them inside the metal walls of the closet. They both stood there silently, catching their breaths as the chorus played on. Leah never realized "Hey Jude" was this long, but she could hear the shuffling of the roaches. As the chorus disappeared into nothingness they held their breath and listened to the departing bugs.

They drew a sigh of relief when "Revolution" went on.

"I love you," Brooks said to Leah who smiled.

She kissed him on the cheek and waited for the tape to end. When the tape was over they would know that the bugs had left.

As the Beatles were singing the music was disconnected. Brooks was disappointed. He wanted to hear the Beatles protest song "Back In The USSR". They stood there quietly listening to the bugs leave the fort.

Leah whispered to Brooks that they should spend the night in the walk in closet.

"But I snore," he said quietly.

"We will have to stay awake," she said as they both sat down.

In the silence they heard roaches leaving, but they would wait a bit longer before they would wander out of the into the house to see if they had escaped

Rather than sitting across from Brooks, Leah decided to sit in his arms. Brooks smiled and kissed Leah on the cheek, and then leaned back against the wall to wait out the night. Brooks turned on the light on his wrist watch to show Leah that it was 3am already, and not very long until morning.

Leah fell asleep in Brooks arms and she breathed quietly. When the morning arrived, Brooks awoke her. The stood up and they grabbed their zookas before they were willing to open the doors of the closet.

When they stepped into the main room they only saw three roaches, but they had already been killed. Noelle was dismembered into two pieces. Montgomery’s head was bitten off. There was blood coming out from the part of the roof which landed on Todd and Zandie.

"If we leave, we will probably survive," said Leah.

Brooks smiled. He always wanted Leah all to himself. Though tired, she looked radiant in the morning light. Brooks was larger and easily could hunk her down.

"We made our point, now we can leave," he said.

"Let’s take a car away from here," she said.

"Okay," said Brooks.

"Don’t get the wrong idea. You were not my first choice. You take too long. You creep, but you are okay for now," said Leah smiling.

Brooks opened the door, and there was a crowd of roaches surrounding the premises. They were resting, but one opened its eyes and started clicking. They looked startled, but they woke up suddenly and went to attention. There would be no honeymoon for the new couple.

One of the roaches held up Bryan’s scalp, and the clicking grew louder.

Brooks wished she could hear "Why Don’t We Do It In The Road" again.

Leah would have liked to hear "The Long And Windy Road".

Copyright Ryder W. Miller 2006

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