Part 5 – Chuck Wendig’s 200 words challenge.
‘In Too Deep’
Added the last 200 words to Kurt Bali’s story after Ce Konicki, Lynna Landstreet and Jim Franklin.
The plunge into the ice-cold water hit Derry like an avalanche. A fading knowledge of the film Predator had informed him to lower his body temperature so that the alien wouldn’t see him. Though he hadn’t realised how cold the water would be, how the flow of the water would drag him away from the bank, or how his thick woolen coat and boots would become the rocks that pulled him down.
It’s worth noting at this point that in Predator, the hero was a hardened military veteran with experience in guerrilla warfare, while Derry worked in the Accounts department for a large national fish exporter, and the most alien thing he had encountered in his life so far was the perpetual lack of sticky notes in his office. Being woefully terrible at making quick decisions, preferring an hour or two to mull over every eventuality, also goes some way to explain his poor choice of hiding place.
His limbs stiff, his breathing now wheezy gulps, and his head now spent more time underwater as his legs struggled to move. Derry panicked, with a thought that he didn’t have hours to mull this over…. he was going to die.
As he floundered, the creature loomed over the water’s edge, staring down at him — so much for the hope that it wouldn’t see him! It raised some sort of complicated device to its — those were its eyes, weren’t they? Undoubtedly a weapon of some sort, and he found himself wondering which would be worse: drowning, freezing to death, being vaporized, or being eaten. But no laser bolt came, just a light that illuminated his sodden head as the creature peered through some sort of lens. The hell –? Was that some kind of camera?
The thing opened its terrifying maw, and let out a sound somewhat like a cow being fed through a woodchipper. Or at least what Derry imagined that might sound like, not that he’d ever needed to before now. Then it made some adjustments to a device affixed to its throat, and a strange mechanical voice accompanied the bellowing: “Good evening. I observe that you have placed yourself in a context|challenge|predicament causing respiratory and circulatory distress. May I inquire as to the significance of this act among your tribe|culture|species? Are you attempting to terminate your existence, or this is an artistic performance|athletic event|mating display?”
This was not any of the scenarios Derry had imagined.
“Ath… wha? Uhh, wait, no?” he said.
“Please excuse me. I do not understand your meaning|phraseology|intention. Do you use slang|jargon|patois? This lexicon has not been upgraded to include modern slang.”
What did he say to that?
“I don’t… I….” was all he managed before the water pulled him under again. A struggle for the surface brought limited response from his limbs and panic almost caused him to breathe in. He did inhale when something snaked around his waist and the following flight through the air was punctuated with hacking. He landed hard and it forced the last of the water out of his lungs
Five copper eyes blinked at him.
“Not a mating display,” it said.
“No. I thought…. I thought you were… ah… Predator. From, the movie, because… I did.”
The creature twisted its head upside down like an owl.
“Incorrect. I am not a predator. I am Richard. I am intolerant|on a restricted diet|vegan.”
Derry’s brain surrendered.
“Richard,” he said.
“Richard is not my actual name. I have chosen this name for convenience|to make friends|humour.”
“Richard isn’t your real name. Because you’re a vegan.”
“Correct. What is your name|handle|nomenclature?
Derry continued taking in the looming pile of weird before him. The irony that he was gaping like a fish after his very wet misadventure was not lost on him. He tried to speak, but the chattering of his teeth prevented any meaningful conversation. He may have been saved from a watery grave, but that was only a brief respite before the hypothermia set in.
Suddenly, he was enveloped by feeling of warmth and security. It was liked being hugged by a favorite grandmother while wrapped in an electric blanket. Derry looked up at the stranger to see him/her/it(?) looking down on him intently, all eyes glowing an subtle orange.
“Do you feel better|warmer|safer now?”
“Um, yes. Yes, I do. Thank you.”
“Now,” the being said, “what are you called?”
“Derry. My name is Derry.”
“Hello|Greetings|Salutations, Derry. I am (what followed next was a series of eye twitches followed by what smelled like a cross of rotting citrus fruit, wet dog, and toffee.)”
Derry looked at the creature in front of him, mouth still wide open.
“That is why I choose the name Richard for this mission|job|trip.”
“I totally get that,” Derry said.
“I come in peace|ceasefire|nobombspolicy. My government|chief|mother creates new worlds.”
Derry hesitated. Surely the creature could sense and quell its nameless pestilence once and for all? That woman in Alien, must have been ‘Ripley’, had trouble avoiding all-disintegrating saliva… though there had never been any mention of a killer stench.
What mission?” Derry asked forgetting his predicament, “Why me?
“You have knowledge|data|grey matter about invisibility|perfect ambiguity|transparency.”
Definitely some issue with this being’s lexicon, Derry thought.
“I sell worlds to huge|multiple|countless universes,” Richard continued.
“You want to sell the earth?” Derry asked, goose bumps rising yet fearless, “humankind isn’t for sale to—“
“—Hold your gluttons|ostriches|chargers. I require|oblige|plea for your services. You have great recall function and think outside boundaries|margins|earth. You are a figure master|accountant|magician.”
Startled at the idea that his services may be so needed, Derry felt emboldened.
“Did you come alone?” he asked.
“Disguised|namelessly|secretly. I sold many a world for mother|Mary|Mumma.”
“You got riches all of your own… some on the side, huh? Some tax burden?” Derry asked looking the creature into each eye, in turn, which then averted his, one by one.
“We have covenant|deal|affair?”
“No mating display. You want to do business.”
Finally they were talking.