When the sky starts raining blood, that’s usually a bad sign. When the blood is more corrosive than organic acid, that’s definitely a bad sign. When the pools of blood rise up as part of a sentient blood blob hivemind, that’s pretty much the worst sign possible.
Mei-hua wished she could still believe that was true. In the streets around her, the world was quite literally melting down. The blood rain had been enough to get people indoors before it started dissolving everything. That in turn had convinced the population of Taipei that they needed to be someone else. The army of blood blob monsters had hurried that notion along even as some of the population had begun to understand just how bad their day had become.
Fleeing from a city under siege by inhuman monsters raining down from space was a fantastic idea, but it did beg the question of where, exactly, they could flee too.
It wasn’t that Taipei was the only place on the island, or that passage off of Taiwan was impossible to come by. The problem was that there didn’t seem to be anywhere that wasn’t currently experiencing its own special little slice of armageddon.
Not to mention the fact that Mei-hua had lived in Taipei for thirty five years. Watching a horde of [Blood Blobs] melting down her favorite coffee house did not leave her in the mood to run away.
And she wasn’t the only one.
She’d head of the people who’d vanished to other worlds, drawn away into virtual realities, and how some of them seemed to have weaponized the effect and dragged away the monsters that were assaulting their cities with them.
Mei-hua didn’t have any alternate worlds that she felt particularly connected to though. She’d always been more drawn to fictions around the real world, mysteries, thrillers, romances, and action movies. It wasn’t that she couldn’t suspend her disbelief enough to enjoy a good fantasy tale but her early experiences with them had been soured either by the people she saw them with, or by the atrociously bad writing of the stories themselves. She still had friends who tried to convince her to play this fantasy MMO or watch that magical adventure film, but they just didn’t feel like they were for her.
Which wasn’t to say that the games she did play were ones people would have expected her to enjoy.
“Boom. Headshot,” she said as a round from the entirely real-looking rifle that she’d conjured into being exploded the top half of one of the [Blood Blobs].
“How can it be a headshot when they have no heads?” her friend and fellow FPS veteran, Chih-ming asked.
“They have a brain somewhere in there,” she said, lining up another shot. “It’s floating in the goo, but you can see a shadow of it if you watch them for a moment.”
“Bah. I don’t have your aim. I’m going to do it my own style,” Chih-ming said.
Mei-hua didn’t need to ask what that was. Despite being separated by three blocks, she fancied she could see the fiery glare the moment he opened up with his flamethrower.
They weren’t alone, and more and more people were starting to see that they could fit back, but Mei-hua had played a lot of horde annihilation style games and she didn’t like how the numbers she was seeing added up.
Isabella felt like she was one of the unlucky few. So many of the other players in her [Broken Horizons] guild had been drawn over to the [Fallen Kingdoms] and yet because she had a modicum of skill and was talented enough to not let her character Stardancer die, she was stuck in the real world still, though the view outside her window left her questioning just how real her world could possibly be.
Those weren’t a thing that happened in the real world.
They weren’t even a thing that made sense.
That didn’t seem to be stopping them from existing however.
“I may need to come over to you after all,” Isabella said, speaking to Stardancer, however impossible that might be.
“Things are not what you would call great here either,” Stardancer said as she [Shadow Stepped] away from an attack by a [Dread Wormling] the size of a bus.
The [Dread Wormlings] were spawning at a rate of “Solidly Far Too Many Much Much Too Often”.
“Yeah, but you can handle that. You’re amazing,” Isabella said, watching a [Fire Zombie] climbing into a second floor window across the street to gain entrance to a room where it could find more combustibles.
The inhabitants of the building had seen it coming, [Fire Zombies] were just as predictable as another depiction of zombies that Isabella has seen, and were waiting with fire extinguishers.
Not all of the buildings on the city had such sensible defenders unfortunately.
“We’re amazing,” Stardancer said. “If I lost you now, I would be so much slower. And deader.”
“Which is why I’m thinking I should figure out how to get to you,” Isabella said. “Without you dying.”
“I’d happily die if it meant keeping you safe, but I don’t know if we’re going to win this one,” Stardancer said, two of her [Shadow Wraiths] vanished as another [Dread Wormling] landed on them. The [Shadow Wraiths] managed to do their job and drain the wormlings of the last ounce of their life essence, but by the time Stardancer had called two more [Shadow Wraiths] into existence five more [Dread Wormlings] were in play on the field of battle.
“Trust me. You are going to win,” Isabella said. “The only time you ever lost was when I let you down. You’ve always been an invincible badass.”
“Far from it,” Stardancer said. “But it is nice that you think so.”
“I know so,” Isabella said. “But I’m starting to think we’ve only got enough badass between us to save one of our worlds.”
Gita wanted to celebrate her 80th birthday. She’d been looking forward to it. Her family had flown in from the far corners of the world they’d dispersed to and she knew it might be the last time she would see many of them.
There’d been all sorts of preparations made by her three daughters and four or five of her grand daughters, but just seeing her grand children and great grand children were sure to have eclipsed all of the other efforts people went to.
It was a simple thing to wish for, a very reasonable request of life in Gita’s opinion, but instead something unreasonable had happened.
An eclipse to be precise.
Not of the moon interposing itself between the sun and the Earth. No, Gita didn’t have to worry about anything as mundane as that. Her birthday present instead turned out to be a flying sauce.
Specifically a [Gem Locust Terraforming Arc].
It was larger than the metropolitan area of Mumbai and so the shadow it cast rather effectively turned day into night.
The military had been called upon to deal with it, but Earth weapons were proving to be laughably ineffective against the bugs’ galaxy spanning alien technology.
The reports that Gita listened to said the Terraforming ship had spent an hour irradiating an area just short of a kilometer in radius. The radiation, if it was radiation, seemed to be creating a selective green house effect that was spreading on its own, even after the beam turned off.
The rate of growth seemed to be slow, but it was picking up speed, and at the present rate of acceleration would overrun the city within the day, the country within three day and the world sometime before the end of the week.
Gita was not in favor of this.
Nor were several others.
She was pleased to see that while many people were lost in throes of despair, there were a few bright stars leading struggling to blaze a path forward.
A young boy rose above the city riding a disc of light. From his hands lightning flared and scoured the side of the Terraforming Arc.
One boy against an alien battle force was far from enough though, and no sooner had his attack begun than he was pushed back onto a defensive footing, zooming first high above the alien ship and then down low, seeking cover in the city he was trying to protect.
“That is not right,” Gita said, standing up with only a little help from her cane.
For a moment no one saw her. It was a forgivable error. Gita hadn’t been moving around all that much lately, and there was a giant alien warship hanging over head like an omen of doom seconds away from being fulfilled.
Gita made it to the front door before her oldest son noticed and caught up to her.
“Mother! Where are you going?” Ramesh asked her.
“Out there,” Gita said, as though it wasn’t perfectly obvious.
“But what can you do?” Ramesh asked, looking utterly bewildered.
“I imagine we’ll find out,” Gita said, feeling a calling within her that she hadn’t heard for almost a lifetime.
Amina knew what snow was. She also knew it was absolutely not supposed to be falling Niamey or anywhere else in Niger.
The snow wasn’t what bothered her however.
It was the voices that spoke through the snow. Those were what disturbed her.
The snow storm was burying Niamey in ice heavy enough to start collapsing some of the weaker buildings, but it was the voices that were the true danger.
Listening to them invited them to you. They seemed to know who was paying attention and they spoke louder and drew closer the longer you listened until…
Amina didn’t want to think about that, but it was difficult to ignore the once-human snow beasts that were stalking the empty streets.
She’d seen more than one person collapse after being assaulted by the voices in the snow, only to watch them rise a moment later, their skin transformed into a crystalline blue substance that cracked with every movement they made.
“I’ve got the door boarded shut and I found these,” Nana, Amina’s most beloved friend said, offering a pair of ear plugs in her outstretched hand.
“Will we be able to hear each other though?” Amina asked.
Nana laughed and shook her head. “They’re not that strong. They just make things a little quieter. I don’t know if they’ll even help, but I thought we could try.”
“Oh, yes, certainly!” Amina said. The voices were terrible, but somehow the prospect of sitting in total silence seemed even scarier.
She fitted the plugs into her ears after watching Nana to see how it was done.
“They feel weird, and I can still hear things,” Amina said.
“That’s good,” Nana said. “Just try to make sure they stay in.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Amina said. “If they fall out I’m sure I’ll feel it.”
She assumed she’d also hear the difference too, except everything sounded pretty similar to how it had before.
Similar but not the same.
“You can still hear the howling out there, right?” she asked.
“It’s quieter but…” Nana paused, listening more intently just as Amina was.
“But the voices, they’re missing something,” Amina said.
“The don’t sound as threatening somehow?” Nana said. “Does that make sense? I’m going to take the plug out and…”
Amina grabbed her arm to stop her.
“No. This might be good. We might be able to use this!” she said.
“What do you mean ‘use it’? What can we do about any of this?” Nana asked.
“I don’t know,” Amina said. “And I don’t think anyone else does either. I was so scared before you found me. I just wanted to find some rock to crawl under and hide.”
“It would be a rock covered in snow if you went out there,” Nana said.
“I know,” Amina said. “That’s why I think we can’t wait here. If we do, the snow will eventually bury us, or one of the voices will come in here and pull the ear plugs out, or something else even more horrible. Because there’s no one who can stop it.”
“And you think we can?” Nana asked.
“I think we found something that might help,” Amina said. “Maybe somebody else found something else. Maybe together we can figure out something we can do to stop this. I think that’s our only hope now. This is so much bigger than us, and if we don’t save each other, there’s going to be no one who can.”