A Facebook writing group I’m in does prompts every now and again for flash fiction pieces. These works are generally 500 words or less and are mostly just a scene.
Prompt: How a creature could be so simultaneously horrifying and beautiful was beyond her understanding…
She was anything but graceful as she tripped down the ramp from the loading bay. Hurtling towards ground, a blur of purples, reds, and blues swirled around her as she fell with a hard grunt and a puff of olive shaded dust.
Melanie groaned as she squinted up at the harsh glare of the three suns. A whimper caught in the arid clench of her throat as the understanding that Atera, the planet they’d been heading to, had two suns, not three, filtered through her muddled thoughts. They were also the same golden yellow of the home planet abandoned generations ago, not this strange red light.
Scrubby brush in shades of blue and purple should have been verdant swaths of green, too. Struggling up to elbows and then palms, she surveyed the too foreign scene before her. The dirt in the holograms had been rich brown, perfect for the crops needed to sustain life. This place, whatever and wherever it was, was not where she should be.
The explosion of sound through the eerie landscape as the engine of the escape pod lost its final battle knocked Melanie to her back. Breath knocked from her lungs, the very air boiled with heat. Face aching as flames erupted into the pristine sky, she crawled in an awkward scramble on her back towards the safety of the twisted strands of bushes and trees.
Flipping over to hands and knees, she continued the bid for safety in a flailing rush. Limbs unresponsive, she fell more times than she could count. Lip split, eye blackened from a rock, she was thankful for the eye that remained and the tooth that was just chipped.
The fire grew higher, the shriek of metal loud in the clearing as it burned and twisted from the heat. Tearing gaze still fixed on the demolished hopes of escape from wherever she might be, she didn’t see the looming shadow.
Didn’t stop until she ran shoulder first into something that was slick and hard. A brick wall of strength that moved and kicked her back, sending her sprawling on the dusty earth.
The scream somehow overpowered the sounds of destruction behind her. Ungodly and shrill, it pierced her ears, her scream joining the thing’s as she clapped her hands to her ears.
Silence reigned when the thing stopped its noise. Melanie couldn’t hear the multiple smaller explosions though she felt the bursts of heat against her back as she sat up to stare.
She couldn’t call it a creature, no matter that her mind tried to place it as something known. It looked nothing like any insect she had ever encountered, yet her mind kept trying to call it that. Armored plates of slick chitin and limbs that hinged the wrong way, it was taller than she was, larger than anything she’d ever seen. Its head was on a thin stalk too far above what she tried to call shoulders, thin and triangular with huge orbs of inky black that did not so much pivot as see take in everything at once.
The chitinous armor was nothing short of glorious. Oil slick black with hues of vivid green and blue, magenta and even gold reflecting in the odd light. It shimmered with a beautiful iridescence with every movement of its chest as it breathed. It stepped forward with a terrifying grace, its bulk and disproportionate parts elegant in their agility.