Hey peeps, let’s try something new!
I started a relaunch of this story which I had originally published on Amazon, but took it down again within a week because of major editing issues.
Anyway, it’s back. Better, faster, bigger and prettier of course 😉 So, if you like, follow me along as the first book of Worlds Rising: Rebellion unravelles — chapter by chapter — here on Joey’s Café.
So, without any further ado, here goes:
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
There had been no warning. Not even the slightest feeling of unease to mark the day as anything but ordinary. If she had known, so Abbida would wonder later on–much later–might she have been able to change the course of events? To save lives? Maybe even save the village? But there had been no signs, and when the previously peaceful summer skies suddenly erupted with lightning it was far too late for everybody.
Her small group of gatherers had been roaming the woods for herbs and berries since the early hours. The girls’ idle chatter blended right in with the familiar sounds of nature, interrupted only by occasional bursts of laughter. With her sister Latisha she had struck a rich spot brimming with thick, ripe berries, smelling and also tasting just as sweet as you could wish for. They were plucking them eagerly, when a faint, but steady hum first wormed its way into Abbida’s consciousness. Something about it felt odd, yet it took her a while to realize it was coming from way up above.
With the humming steadily growing stronger, Abbida abandoned her work to squint intently into the sky, trying to make out its source. But there was nothing to be seen. Only the widespread bed of fluffy, summery clouds obscuring the view. Then, suddenly, all surrounding sounds fell away, making her skin crawl. As if nature itself were cowering before an unknown danger. More and more girls became aware of the change, pausing their activities, exchanging uncomfortable glances.
Abbida’s unease grew. A dark line just over the horizon caught her attention. Movement, something gaining rapidly on them! And then, from one moment to the next, she was drowning in a polyphonic roar that deafened her ears and sent shock waves of adrenaline through her veins. An unnatural storm came sweeping over them, weighing down the trees, raging through the underbrush. Thunderbolts lit up the sky, hissing and zipping to the ground in a furious staccato, followed by crashing impacts. Right above the village countless dark constructs fell through the clouds, disappearing behind the treetops.
The skies were ablaze.
Abbida dropped her basket. All those plump, ripe berries tumbled between her feet, getting trampled by scared girls crowding together. Pressing her hands to her ears she gaped into the sky with stinging eyes when she felt somebody pulling away her hands, yelling, “What is that?!” Wild-eyed her older sister Latisha pointed up, her tight little braids bobbing with every jerking movement. “What are those monsters?!”
No monsters. Abbida knew exactly what they were looking at, but who could have imagined…? Such things didn’t exist anymore! Nobody could build those! Not since their last engineer had become old and bedridden. And even she would not have been able to build them for lack of materials. Yet, there could be no doubt, “Aircraft!”
As the noise gradually died down they could hear shouts and cries now, coming from the direction of the village. The wind carrying the smell of burning and the clamor of many, many trampling boots. The village was being overrun.
“We can’t stay here!” Inez called.
She was the oldest among them, about to be a mother soon, so naturally she was the leader of the group. Wrapping an arm protectively around her pregnant belly, she turned, pulling one of the younger girls with her. “Come on, to the hunting cabin!”
Most of the girls followed her. Abbida hung back, alternating between fascination and terror, but her sister grabbed her sleeve and dragged her along. The girls’ frightened chatter broke off. Pushing past one another, they ran as fast as they could back the way they had come. There was a small clearing and a cabin filled with supplies, tools and materials. Maybe some of it could be used as weapons, and all of the girls were carrying knives. But even so, their equipment would hardly do them any good against the sort of weapons their enemies were likely bearing. Abbida clenched her teeth.
Upon reaching the hunting camp, Inez started counting heads, sighing audibly when no one was missing. Unlocking the door she beckoned the girls in, “We’re all staying together; nobody leaves the group, you hear? And be quiet.”
Frightened, the girls crowded in, but Abbida couldn’t bring herself to comply just yet. In a pinch the cabin would accommodate a hunting group of six or seven. With so many of them it was already hopelessly jammed. Seeing the others huddled together, a sense of claustrophobia washed over her. There was only one exit. They’d be like mice in a trap!
Nervously, she scanned the flashing skies with her eyes, “Who knows, we may have been discovered long since! They’d have a much better overview up there than on the ground.”
“The forest is way too thick around here. Now, get inside!” Inez hissed.
“But–what if the fire reaches here?!”
The girls were peeking out to them, anxious expressions on their faces. Abbida could hear someone sniveling and some stifled sobs; a girl was rubbing her eyes covertly with her sleeve. Inez grabbed her arm. “Come on–now! The longer we wait…!”
An eerie buzz cut her short mid-sentence. Before Abbida even got a chance to turn around, something flashed right past her, smashing into the wooden planks above the cabin door, leaving a perfectly circular hole. It was gleaming brightly before turning to ashes just as quickly. In a sort of disconnected way, part of Abbida’s brain tried to make sense of it.
The other part made her hit the dirt.
Around them the shrubs seemed to explode with people charging at them from all sides, bearing strange, armored clothing, boots, helmets – and weapons.
“Don’t shoot!” Inez cried out. “They’re only children!”
A male voice bellowed some command at which the fighters rounded them up in a threatening semi-circle around the cabin. Still flat on her belly, Abbida tried to lie low, ducking her head, only peeking through the lashes of her eyes. Several guns were pointed at Inez and herself now. Suddenly, a pair of heavy boots and the muzzle of a huge gun appeared right in front of her, making her start. Was that it? Was she going to die?
The gun’s muzzle was thrust between her ribs, wresting from her an involuntary shriek. From above, she heard a woman’s voice yelling at her. Blinking away tears of pain, Abbida squinted upward. She found a stocky female fighter towering over her, glaring down at her through a transparent face plate. She jerked her head in a sideways motion, and though Abbida wasn’t sure, she thought it might mean something like, “Get up!”
Hoping with all her heart, this would not become the very last mistake of her life, she struggled to her feet. Inez was still standing on the same spot with her arms wrapped protectively around her baby bump, with no less than two barrels directed at her. A man came stomping towards them now. He was older than the woman fighter, with three stars flaunting each of his shoulders. Was he the chief?
“How many are in hiding here?” he barked. His pronunciation sounded strange and harsh to Abbida’s ears and his wording seemed old-fashioned.
“Fourteen, counting myself,” Inez croaked. Though she wouldn’t budge, there was no mistaking the way she was stroking her belly time and again, her face speckled with a hectic flush.
Snorting audibly, the chief turned around and said something to yet another brawny fighter standing nearby. His words weren’t completely incomprehensible to Abbida, but they sounded like something you would find in old texts, not like the language they were using nowadays. A tallying command perhaps?
Complying with the order, the hulk planted himself in front of the cabin door causing the girls inside to shriek in terror. Inez made a protesting sound, faltered and gasped in pain. Exhaling sharply, she doubled up and squinched her eyes shut. Before Abbida could even think straight, she was rushing towards her, grabbing her arm.
“Hold it right there!” the chief bellowed. Abbida stopped dead in her tracks.
She hardly dared breathe, her heart throbbing like crazy when she heard him approaching with stomping strides. From the corner of her eyes she caught him jerking up a handgun, thrusting its barrel against her temple. She couldn’t help flinch. The muzzle felt warm as if it had been fired before, and her guts clenched. With his thumb he activated a lever, sending a cracking noise through her skull.
“Now, what in the world do we have here?” he grated, his tone sending chills down her spine. He was eying her up and down now, and before she knew it he pinched her arm, lifted his fingers to his face and sniffed at them!
Abbida freaked. If it hadn’t been for the gun still pressed to her forehead she would have bolted there and then.
“Colonel!” somebody urged in a deep voice.
Scowling, the chief looked up. Another man disengaged from his position in the semi-circle of fighters. Taller and slimmer than his chief he also looked less burly despite his outfit. On each of his epaulettes he bore one single star. On approaching, his visor glided upwards into his helmet revealing young features, too, maybe about the same age as Inez. A colorful tattoo ran down one side of his face from his temple to his ear: a mythical creature with a snakelike body, horned head and long, pointed claws.
Not paying any attention to Abbida while closing up, his almond eyes were riveted on his chief’s. “The woman is obviously indisposed. I’m sure the girl merely wanted to give some support,” he said.
Though his pronunciation, too, sounded unfamiliar and stern to Abbida’s ears, his tone wasn’t as harsh. With the gun still pressed to her head she gave an affirmative cheep. For quite a number of heartbeats nobody stirred. Then, there was this cracking noise again at her temple, and the colonel finally pulled his gun away. Not without grazing her scalp, though, and a subtle contraction of his eyes let her know it hadn’t happened by accident.
“Your objections have been noted and recorded–Lieutenant.”
“Colonel.” The lieutenant acknowledged, yanking his right hand to his helmeted temple.
The gesture reminded Abbida of a scene she had witnessed as a child. At the cremation ceremony of a deceased village council elder, Engineer Friederika had made a similar hand movement–only her. At the time, Abbida had wanted to ask what it meant, but the old woman had been grief-stricken, and Abbida hadn’t dared speak up. Later on she’d forgotten all about it.
Stony-faced, the colonel returned the gesture curtly. “Dismissed.”
Turning on his heels the lieutenant marched back to his previous spot within the semi-circle of fighters. Huffing irritably, the colonel watched him, then proceeded to bellow more orders. Moments later, he retreated back into the undergrowth and was gone.
Abbida exhaled in relief. She had no idea why the colonel would listen to a younger fighter with fewer stars, but she wasn’t going to question her good luck. Apparently, the strangers had come to agree on keeping an eye on Inez outside, whereas nobody bothered with Abbida any longer. Side by side they perched on the fallen trunk of an old tree, huddling close, keeping quiet. From here they had a good view of the other girls whose whimpering and sniveling had died down with the immediate threat gone.
Abbida felt drained of all spirit. On this very spot she had sat many times, whenever she would be allowed to give the hunters a hand with their preparations. Now, she worried how everybody fared back at the village. Her throat became constricted and she desperately fought down tears.
At least, her sister Latisha was within her sight, crouched down on the far end of the cabin, the cheerful colors of the scarf with which she’d wrapped her many tight braids painfully out of place. In a half-conscious gesture Abbida brushed her own loose, frizzy curls behind her ears, grimacing when she touched the still smarting spot where the colonel had scraped her with the barrel of his gun.
The sound of footsteps dragging over dry grass made her look up, just to find the woman who’d harassed her earlier sauntering towards them yet again. She was eying her now with a scheming expression on her moony face, and Abbida’s heart skipped a beat. Before she knew it, the woman reached out and grabbed a handful of her hair, pulling it straight up! Abbida couldn’t help but cry out in surprise and pain.
“Shut up!” Roughly yanking Abbida’s head back, tugging her curls this way and that, the woman was scrutinizing her now as if she were a rare, particularly disgusting insect. “What kind of skin color is that even supposed to be? Damned if I’ve ever seen that before! Is it… green? Like, are you moldy or what?” she spat.
Biting her lips, Abbida fought to control her temper. Next to her she felt Inez doubling up again, this time heaving a loud groan. Instantly, the bully shifted her attention, finally releasing her grip.
Inez was clutching her belly tightly now, her forehead damp with cold sweat. The baby! Worried, Abbida put her arms around her, ready to call the woman fighter off, but somebody else beat her to it. “Step back, soldier!”
The lieutenant closed in again with long, determined strides, his face with the menacing looking tattoo like an unreadable mask. Reluctantly, the soldier straightened herself and turned to face him, a defiant look in her eyes.
“Nobody is to touch the natives. We are here to keep watch, nothing else,” he said.
For a split-second she seemed to hesitate, then, casting a glance in the direction where the colonel had disappeared, she shrugged and made as if to turn away. “Alright.”
Frowning, the lieutenant cut her off.
Moments passed, with him staring down the much brawnier woman and her holding her ground. Then, finally, she gave in. Shouldering her gun she straightened her back, yanked up a hand to her visor and barked, “Yes, Sir!”
Just as stony-faced as the colonel previously, he returned the gesture. “Dismissed.”
Without any further resistance, the woman turned sharply and backed down to the semi-circle of her comrades. Relieved, yet not knowing what to do, Abbida sighed inwardly. The lieutenant had helped them again. Was she expected to thank him? Should she even consider it? After all, he was their enemy just as much as any of the other fighters. Who knew, he might have shot one of her friends, maybe even killed somebody!
Before she came to any resolve, he had turned away, leaving her to tend to Inez by herself. After that, she lost sight of him. Thankfully, Inez seemed to recover a bit, and shortly after the other girls were being shooed from the cabin. At gun-point they were all rounded up like a flock of sheep and herded back to the village.
None of them would ever forget that day when the invaders’ aircraft had darkened the skies for the first time. Dealing the village a blow from which they would never truly recover. At the time, they didn’t know it yet, but it was also the day some of their men were taken away, never to return.
~ to be continued ~
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 2 of Worlds Rising: Rebellion will be published here in Joey’s Café.
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Rise on up! <3