The World That Ends in Fire – Chapter 21


The roar of the giant monster that had come to claim Hawaii left Hanna with an odd, dissociative feeling of calm. The worst thing that could possibly happen had occurred. She was in an Effect Zone. No one in an Effect Zone lived. She knew that; she’d lived it and absorbed it, literally breathed it in while she was in Japan.

Panic is the response of most creatures to their own imminent demise, but sometimes panic is to weak to express what the creature is feeling.

“We need to go,” Hanna said, her voice perfectly steady.

Kimberly was crying and wordless. Dr. Tishone was blinking and hyperventilating. Even Kalia was frozen.

“We need to go,” Hanna repeated at no additional volume. “Now.”

“Where?” Laura asked, her voice warbling with gut churning fear.

Hanna had no idea. Nowhere was safe. She was keenly aware of that, but cutting through that existential dread was the even more certain knowledge that staying where they were meant death. No building in an effect zone had ever been left standing. The observatory was lost. The whole Earth might be lost, but all that mattered was that they be somewhere else immediately.

“The ocean,” Hanna said. “No Effect Zones in the ocean yet.”

“Boats,” Kalia said, thawing at the hope of escape. “If we can get to the resort we can get on a boat and get out of here.”

Kalia’s plan broke through Dr. Tishone’s paralysis.

“Order an evacuation,” she said. “There’s a helicopter we can use. It dropped off supplies for the collision observation.”

Laura was able to get the order broadcast to every corner of the building and to the cell phones of everyone registered with the facility before power failed thirty seconds later. Emergency lighting kicked in a moment before the roof of the facility was ripped off.

Lightning flashed in the dark sky above, illuminating the titanic form of the Lightning Planet’s giant monsters, but it took Hanna a long moment to work out what she was seeing.

Limbs the size of skyscrapers but shaped like bulbous blades of grass connected in a series of joints that bore no resemblance to an earthly creature.

“Run,” Hanna said, still not able to raise her voice. Screaming wasn’t needed though. At the command to move, everyone charged for the door that lead outside. Everyone except Kimberly. Hanna paused and doubled back for her friend but when she grabbed Kimberly’s arm she felt the other woman shaking uncontrollably.

“We have to run!” Hanna said her voice still unfathomably calm.

“I can’t,” Kimberly said, standing like a rooted tree. “I just can’t.”

“Right, then we’ll run for you,” Kalia said and in a surprising show of strength, lifted the smaller woman up and over her shoulder.

Together. the three dashed from the ruins of the observatory to find the world outside had gone just as insane as they imagined it would.

Two giant, insectile creatures, looked over the Hawaiian bay. Both were covered in sparks of the rippling yellow energy that signified an intruder from the Lightning Planet. Each was laying crystal spheres onto the landscape through appendages that looked like elephant trunks at the center of their bodies. With their great forward limbs that curved like scythes, the two creatures were laying waste to the countryside in broad, powerful swipes.

“They got the helicopter!” Kalia said, pointing to a twisted and burning pile of wreckage on the far side of the parking lot.

“Trucks,” Hanna said. “We can use the trucks.”

She looked across the parking lot and blinked. It was a thousand miles long. They would never make it to the trucks, and the trucks could never get them down the mountain because the observatory was a thousand miles in the sky.

She looked around for her friends and saw the three of them. Kalia, Kimberly and herself. All three were impossibly far away from her, which made no sense.

Then she remembered to breath, just in time to catch herself from falling over.

“Are you ok?” Kalia asked. “We’ve got to catch up to the others.”

“I’m messed up, but let’s go,” Hanna said, fear racing down her veins at last.

Crossing the parking lot was an ordeal. Hanna was aware of that on some level, but at the same time it so surreal to be moving the shadow of such colossal beasts that part of her refused to accept it as real.

“We won’t all fit in one van,” Dr. Tishone said when they arrived at the group of researchers who’d escaped the observatory’s destruction. “Let’s spread out into three groups. That gives us a backup in case one of them breaks down.”

Hanna, Kimberly, and Kalia jumped into the nearest vehicle, a Range Rover, and Kalia pulled the keys from the driver’s side sun screen. Before they could take off though, Simon, joined them.

“Dr. Tishone wanted me with you,” he said.

“She wants you with Kimberly,” Hanna said. “See if you can help her.”

Battlefield psychology wasn’t something Hanna had ever studied, but instinct told her that having warm, familiar hands wrapped around Kimberly would do the shell shocked woman more good than anything else they had to offer under the circumstances. Part of her was screaming that she needed the same thing, pointing out that out of body experiences weren’t the sign of a mind that was holding itself together properly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option for her and so she would just have to go mad in a quiet and useful manner, she decided.

The drive down the mountain from the observatory went better than Hanna expected, right up until one of the two Mega Mantis creatures shattered the road out from underneath them.

To her credit Kalia managed to turn into and partially control their sliding fall as well as anyone possibly could. To the rover’s credit, the airbags it was fitted with did perform their intended function and kept those inside the car alive, but even with the impact cushioning, none of them were left undamaged by the crash.

“We have to keep going,” Hanna said. “Can everyone walk.”

“No,” Kimberly said. “But this time I’m not losing it. I can’t feel my legs.”

“Give me a second,” Simon said. “I can carry you.”

“You should leave me behind,” Kimberly said and the admitted, “but I really don’t want you to.”

“It’s ok,” Kalia said. “We can’t outrun them anyways. We just have to keep moving. If Garcia gets tired, I can carry you for a bit.”

“I can too,” Hanna said, not sure how long she could manage that feat but certain that she wasn’t going to live Kimberly behind to die.

“Which direction to the marina?” Simon asked.

“South east,” Hanna said.

“Anyone have a compass,” Simon asked.

“It’s over there!” Kimberly said, from her perch on Simon’s back. “The stars are still out, we can navigated by them.”
“Thank god for star gazers,” Kalia said.

The pace they set was an insane one from Hanna’s point of view, but Kalia and Simon were able to keep it up and Hanna was determined not to be the one to hold them back.

“Why did they attack here?” Kalia asked as they ran. “I thought Hong Kong was the next Effect Zone?”

“It was,” Hanna said, panting out the words as she fought not to stumble over her own feet. “Got hit…just before…us.”

“Manila too,” Kimberly said. “I saw the report right before the lights went out.”

“Three Zones?” Kalia asked. “What happened?”

As though in answer to her question, there was an explosion of sound that knocked the three runners to the ground.

Hanna had to shake her head and hold her head to get her vision to clear. When it did she saw that a new monster had arrived. This one was vaguely canid in appearance. It stood on the top of mountain Hanna was in the process of fleeing down and it was surrounded by steam and licks of fire. It’s skin was a deep blue and it possessed three pairs of legs but it was the cavernous maw of razor sharp teeth that stood out most in Hanna’s mind.

“What is that?” Hanna asked. “Mythical Hawaiian beast?”

“No, or not that I’ve ever heard of,” Kalia said.

“What about those two?” Simon asked, pointing out to the ocean where an enormous crocodile was rising from the waves beside an equally gigantic jellyfish.

“Looks like the home team decided to bring an ass-kicking early this time,” Kalia said.

“That’s great,” Hanna said. “Go Team Earth, but we do not want to be between them when they throw down.”

“Right. Time to run again,” Simon said.

“I might be safe here,” Kimberly said. “You can leave me if you want. You’ll be able to get away faster if you do.”

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Simon said and lifted Kimberly up again.

They made it to the Mauna Kea resort area to find the place a burned shambles. The damage from lightning strikes was apparent but the destruction of the resort had been interrupted by the arrival of the Earth monsters.

For a minute the fighting raged outwards, away from the populated areas, but as Hanna looked back, she saw the jellyfish monster and one of the Mega Mantis creatures thrashing closer to them.

She tried to run faster, she urged Kalia and Simon to flee and leave her in the dust, but it wasn’t enough to get them clear of the destructive path of the battle.

A tsunami of slammed down the road, the wave driven up from the ocean by the struggles of the Mega Mantis as it slashed and tore at the Jellyfish’s elusive hide. Hanna and Kalia were able to jump onto a raised balcony and escape the flood. Simon passed Kimberly to them but was dragged away by the current before he could reach safety himself.

Kimberly was the first to scream, but the flood didn’t spare the building for long and all three women screamed as the foundation let loose and the building collapsed like it was made from cardboard.

Hanna was pitched off of her perch and landed in the rapidly dwindling water, rolling across broken detritus before she came to a rest.

She propped herself up in time to see the Jellyfish monster being sliced in half by the Lightning Mantis. The titanic blob burst like a ballon, spraying blood and monster viscera all over the resort town. The jelly fish didn’t die in vain though. The Mega Mantis was burned across most of its body from the jelly fish stings and as the blobby creature deflated, it held the Mantis in place long enough for the giant crocodile to sink its teeth into one of the Mantis’ arms and tear it off.

Coughing at the overpowering smell of the Jellyfish’s blood that drenched her, Hanna struggled to move away but even crawling forward a few feet sent her head spinning out of control until the blackness claimed her.