Bryan Hopper peeked around the corner of his desk. The sounds of shrieks outside his office door had disappeared down the hall. He looked over at his assistant Jen Shula and whispered, "I think they're gone."
He stood up, wiped the dust from his gray suit, and pushed his glasses up on his nose. His fox-colored hair stood up and out in every direction. He straightened his tie and took his iPad out of his coat pocket.
"What are those things sir?" Jen asked, standing up with Bryan and trying not to grin at his hair. She wore jeans and a black t-shirt. The t-shirt said "Serenity." Her tied-back hair was unnaturally blond, but her brown eyes and dark eyebrows gave away the secret of her affair with hydrogen peroxide.
"How should I know what they are?" Brian asked while he brought up the Lockheat Honeygood Building 106 Security app on his iPad. "Some of the little buggers came out of the rift. Others entered the field chamber through ceiling and floor vents. "They've breached all entrances and exits. I think they're trying to break into the server room too..."
Bryan tapped on the iPad screen button, which represented Building 106's Server Room. The resulting display showed four real-time security camera images.
He tapped on one image and zoomed in on two gnome-like creatures wearing deer hides and moccasins. One little person sat on the top of the other litter
The little person on high wore a full deerskin suit with long arm fringes. The breasts under her shirt gave away her gender. Coarse hair covered her hands, neck, and face. The creature struggling to hold the female up was a male dressed in a loin cloth. Dark fur covered his face and torso as well. Thrashing on the male's shoulders, the female used a huge bone to smash the fingerprint scan device next to the Server Room door.
A hairy face filled the iPad screen, and the security camera's image went black.
"Crap," Bryan said. "That equipment is worth millions, and those things have already smashed the field generator. That puts us out about a billion dollars right now. First contact was never supposed to be like this...oop..." He poked his iPad screen. "Wi-fi just went out. What the hell are those things?"
"They're dressed like ancient little Catawba Indians," Jen said. "And they're kind of cute when they're not chasing us around and trying to kill us.
Ignoring her last remark, Bryan said, "They're bipedal and anthropomorphic for sure."
"Huh?" Jen asked.
"They look like people," Bryan said. "For a 4.0 GPA science intern, your vocab sucks."
"Thanks," Jen said. "I'm a double major in math and physics, not biology. Go find yourself an English intern if you can't talk like a real person."
"I'll remember you said that if we survive this," Bryan said. "How would you know what an old Catawba looked like anyway?"
Jen shrugged. "I figured that, since the government stole more Catawba lands for this project, and I was going to intern in the middle of a sacred forest on this reservation, then I should find out a little more about the tribe's culture. I went to a couple powwows, visited the Catawba's museum, and read about their history. This reservation ranger guy named James--I guess he's come kind of tribal council member--showed me around too."
"That was stupid." Bryan said, pecking away at his iPad. "No point. Their culture is already dead anyway."
"If you respected cultures, customs, and people a little more, then you might not be in so much trouble right now."
"I didn't think the field generator would connect us to another dimension right away," Bryan said. "I just took over this project--and that was mostly to benefit my kids. Nobody told me anything. And if you mean I was being disrespectful by using an armed private security team at the rift sight, well..that was just a precaution. Look where we are now. Those things have taken over. I should've hired an army."
Jen said, "If I was one of those tiny things, and some big soldier in black clothing was pointing a gun at me, I'd be scared and mad too. The government already took enough from the Catawba people back in the 1700s. Lockheat didn't need to build this place here. These little dwarfs are probably just getting back at us. They're like the Catawba's revenge."
"Ah...how New Age of you. You're one of those people who feel guilty about everything the bad rich white man did way back when, huh? Your advisers at Winthrop University should've gotten you an internship at one of those green, tree-hugging companies."
Jen crossed her arms and said, "I quit."
Still tapping on his iPad, Bryan shrugged. "There are a million other free interns to take your place. I'd have given you a bad reference anyway. You don't take orders well."
With narrowed eyes and a snarl, Jen said, "I can't believe I served you coffee and cleaned your office for two months..."
Several little people burst through the ceiling tiles at once. They landed in a circle around Jen and Bryan. Musty dust clouded the room. Broken tiles and little bodies littered the ground. As the invaders untangled their limbs and stood up, Brian said, "Run." He threw his iPad at the nearest tiny man, knocking him off his feet. Jen and Bryan jumped through the gap in the circle of diminutive attackers. As they hurried toward the door, a teeny woman grabbed hold of Jen's shadow and tore it from the brown carpet underneath her.
Jen screamed as she ran. Bryan threw open his office door as several little creatures drew sapling bows and fired nothing at him. "Idiots," Bryan said. "You don't have any arrows." The little man who Bryan had knocked down stood up and aimed his weapon at Bryan's face. The little man released his bowstring, and Bryan felt something pierce his neck.
"What the hell?" Bryan said, feeling blood trickle down his neck as he followed Jen out the door.
"Just come on," Jen said. "I hate you right now, but we need to work together to get out of here."
None of Building 106's electronic door locks worked anymore, so they had an easy time getting to a fire exit. Along the way, they passed a little man feeding on a Fulcrum Security officer's body. Blood dripping from his beard, the dwarf man looked up at them and growled.
As they fled down the hall, Bryan said, "I've been wounded with...with...an invisible arrow of some kind. It makes no sense..."
"Tell me about it," Jen said. "They took my shadow, and it hurt real bad--like someone ripped my skin off. But we have to keep moving."
"That's impossible," Bryan said, panting heavily. "A shadow isn't even an object. It's just the absence of light" His frail body ambled along in jerky movements. Sweat dripped down from his brow onto his glasses' lenses.
"Please don't make me say that overused Arthur C. Clarke quote about advanced technology looking like magic," Jen said. They began ascending the ten flights of emergency stairs, which led to a door above ground.
"Advanced technology?" Bryan said, huffing away. "Ad-vanc-ed tech-no-lo-gy?"
"Yeah," Jen said. "Thanks for repeating what I just said."
"Those things are using bones to smash our technology," Bryan said. "They're eating people raw. Do you really want to posit that they're using advanced technology."
"No," Jen said. "I just want to posit getting out of here."
"Fine," Bryan said. "Thanks for sticking with me, by the way. I really do appreciate it. Sorry for being a jerk. Business is business."
"I'm not going with you by choice," Jen said. "You're just kinda following me."
Bryan's vision blurred. He stumbled into Jen and they tumbled down half a flight of stairs."Ouch," Jen said, standing up slowly. "My knee."
"I think I hurt my back too," Bryan said. "Something's wrong with me. My vision is going bad, and I feel light headed."
Jen looked at Bryan's neck wound. "You're just trickling blood. The arrow just nicked your skin."
A door to one of the metal landings underneath them opened and slammed closed. The patter of little hands and feet on metal sounded on stairs below. "Here they come," Jen said. "We've got to go. Take my hand."
Brian took Jen's hand. She helped him off the floor and led him up to the ground level exit, which was still locked. "Give me your master key," she said as twenty-or-so little creatures bounded up the last flight of stairs toward them. Brian gave Jen the key. As she was struggling with the lock, several tiny people leaped on Brian. They began clawing and biting him. "I'm sorry," Bryan screamed. "Please...peace...please."
Jen jiggled the lock open and dragged Brian out into the South Carolina dusk. By then, He was covered in little people.
Outside, the forest teemed with dwarfs too. Jen shrieked, but none of the little creatures attacked her. Bryan fell to the ground, shrieking in pain. The little people piled on top of him. They nibbled on his limbs and poked him with bone clubs. The little woman who'd stolen Jen's shadow ran by as a deep voice echoed through the trees. "Stop Yehasuri," It said. "I have a libation."
An old Catawba Indian, dressed in a tan forest ranger outfit, came out from behind a tree. He wore his gray hair in a short flat top. His eyebrows were
long and wispy. His big belly stretched his shirt, but his limbs were spindly. The little men and women made a path for him. Bryan's attackers ceased their
assault and growled at the approaching Indian.
"James?" Jen asked.
"You remembered my name," James said. "But I don't recall yours."
"Right," James said, walking up to Jen. "That was my first guess. It looks like you white folks have got the Yehasuri all excited. Your friend must be a mean one too. They don't usually attack like that."
"You know these little people...these Ye-has-sur-i?" Jen asked, gesturing at Bryan's attackers.
"Help me," Bryan muttered. The Yehasuri who'd piled on top of him growled.
"Of course," James said. "The Yehasuri have haunted and pulled pranks on my tribe for generations, but I've never seen so many of them angry and out in the open." He pointed at Bryan. "Too bad for your friend there. It looks like one of the Yehasuri shot him in the neck. He'll die soon."
"No," Bryan said. "Help me. Please. I can't see anymore. I've got kids at home. Their mom is gone. I took this job for them. They need a parent."
"Sorry," James said. "Nothing I can do. The Yehasuri's invisible arrows are poisonous, and there's no antidote for them...in this world, at least."
Brian's eyes went wide and darted in every direction. "Jen, I'm sorry," he said. "Don't leave me alone. I'm cold. I'm not really as mean as I try to be. Before she died, my wife always said I wasn't cut out for corporate management. I shouldn't have said those things back there. Dealing with government bureaucrats and corporate assholes all day has jaded me. Please hold my hand."
Jen didn't hesitate to sit by Bryan's side and grab his hand. "Can you do anything for him?" Jen asked as she looked into James's dark, sad eyes.
"I can make them go away for a while," James said. He walked past Jen, toward a black cigarette butt receptacle near the door to Building 106. He retrieved a butt from the receptacle and rubbed it on his hand. "Dugare ini para'ti na yehasuri deme hana te we stere yanamusi sere," he said.
The Yehasuri disappeared into the forest.
"That usually keeps them away for a long time," James said. "But something's wrong here. There's a wound in these woods now, and it's growing. I saw it on my way here. The wound opens up to a different place...maybe the Yehasuri's home."
Brian said, "Lockheat hired me to make this...wound. We call them rifts. The government has built field generators all over the world. The rifts grow over
time. They're merging our universe with another, but the machine screwed up. It's vector calculations were slightly off. The supercomputer told me as
much--after the fact. We opened up the wrong world."
"You have no idea," James said, shaking his head.
Bryan nodded. "I do now."
"The Cherokees believe that the Yehasuri treat people according to how they think and act," James said. "Me, I just think they like to cause trouble. Either way, your people's ways were bound to come back on them. You might as well have just cracked open hell. I have to go warn the Catawba."
James turned around and started walking away through the leafy brush among tree trunks.
"Aren't you going to help us?" Jen asked. "What about my shadow?"
"I just saved you. Not much else I can do. You can live without your shadow for a while. Many Catawba children have grown up without one. I'll call an ambulance, but it won't do Bryan much good. My advice: Have him call his kids and say goodbye. He'll be dead before night."
This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel. If you'd like to read the other stories in this growing book, please click on the links below. To leave a comment, please go to the story's page by clicking on the title. Scroll down and type your comment in the Disqus box.Chapter Six: The Cop
Chapter Seven: The Hunted
Chapter Eight: The Escapee
Chapter Nine: The Mercedes Man
Chapter Ten: The Shooter
Chapter Eleven: The Monster
Chapter Thirteen: The General
Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo
Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian
Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites
Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian
Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted
Chapter Nineteen: The Captive
Tags: yehasuri catawba indian generator field dimension interdimensional aliens myth cherokee bryan james jen science fiction biology physics tales stories
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