Last to Fall - Book cover

Last to Fall

B. Shock

Chapter 2: Xanadis

I opened my eyes to darkness.

Groaning, I attempted to feel my surroundings. Where am I? When my hands came in contact with the smooth metal hatch, it cracked open with a hiss as air leaked out.

From the crack, I could see what looked like sunlight peeking through.

Pushing against the hatch, it moved upward on its own, and I was blinded by the light of day. When my eyes finally adjusted, I was in disbelief of what I saw before me—the lush greens and blues of an alien jungle.

Pushing myself up, I carefully climbed out of my pod and ascended from the small crater left behind by my landing.

Looking around, I found there was no sign of any buildings anywhere…much less signs of people. Lush blue grass covered the small open field I had landed in, and many strange plants and trees were visible from where I stood.

Grabbing my head, I squeezed my eyes shut and told myself this wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real!

But to my disappointment, I opened my eyes to nothing but the jungle.

This wasn’t a dream…it was all real.

“No, no…” Looking to the sky, I tried to find some sign of the ship, but there was nothing, just blue skies and two of the planet’s seven moons lingering in the sky, along with one of its two red suns.

I was on my own.

Thoughts raced through my head as I stood by my pod. What do I do? What can I do? I have nothing…

Looking back at the pod, I could see it had no thrusters of any kind, so there was no way to fly it back…they made these things a one-way trip to hell.

Unlike the other planets humans had colonized, Xanadis was uninhabitable. The entire world was considered extremely dangerous due to the harsh environment and deadly inhabitants.

Not only were the creatures that lived there dangerous…there were rumors that the plant life was also dangerous…

Toxic fumes produced by flowers, poisonous fruits, carnivorous plants that eat their victims alive… I shuddered at the thought of running into one of those dangerous creatures or plants.

Closing my eyes, I tried to think of the most logical thing to do.

After a moment I realized I did have something.

Going back to the pod, I searched its interior for what I was looking for. On the floor I found a latch that should open a secret compartment for supplies.

Hopeful, I tugged on the handle, but it just wouldn’t budge, no matter how much I pulled.

Pulling with as much strength as I could wasn’t enough as my hands slipped, and I fell back on the ground with a thud.

Groaning, I sat up and looked around the surrounding area. Maybe there was something I could use to pry it open.

Noticing a branch near a tree, I made my way over and picked it up off the ground. But as I did so, a vine on the tree beside me moved.

Spinning around, I didn’t see anything strange, but something felt off. I took a step back, looking around, still seeing nothing.

After a moment of looking around, I decided to take the branch back to the pod, only for my foot to instantly get caught on something…or better yet, for something to catch my foot.

“Ah?!” I fell face-first into the ground. Any other time, I would have laughed at my stupidity, but this wasn’t the time.

The thing I caught my foot on wrapped itself around my ankle, and I could feel it start to pull, trying to drag me into the forest. What is this thing?!

I looked back to see a thick blue vine woven around my ankle, and through the bushes, it was dragging me toward a tall, barren tree covered in vines and thorns large enough to pierce through someone’s body.

Under the tree, where the vine was attached, I could see a burrow full of much thinner vines covered in thorns. I tried to claw away or pull myself free as it dragged me closer, but there was nothing for me to grip onto.

As it reeled me in, one of the thorn-covered vines shot out, wrapping around my leg and squeezing it in a bone-crushing grip.

I cried out in pain as the thorns from the vine dug deep into my flesh. This thing was going to tear me apart!

Struggling much more frantically now, I took hold of the branch and struck the vine as hard as possible. To my dismay it only held on tighter, digging its thorns even deeper into my leg.

It pulled me even closer, dragging toward the entrance of the thorn-filled burrow. I grabbed onto one of the tree’s giant protruding branches to keep it from dragging me into the pit of thorns.

Another thorn-covered vine came from inside and took hold of the same leg, squeezing it just as tightly as the first, and I cried out at the burning pain as multiple sharp, blade-like points dug themselves into my calf.

My heart was pounding as I held on for dear life. Looking down, I could see more of the vines trying to reach for me.

Using my free leg, I kicked at the vines woven around the other. They flinched, but did not release me.

I cried out for help, and my voice only seemed to echo in the trees. “Someone, help!”

There was no response, and I felt my heart sink. No, no. This can’t be happening.

Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes as the thorns buried themselves even deeper into my leg.

Frantically, I looked for anything that might help. A pointed rock was sticking out of the mud next to me about a foot away.

Looking down at the vine, I could see that it was soft in the areas where there were no thorns.

My grip on the tree branch was starting to slip as I decided between holding on or taking a chance.

Closing my eyes, I gathered my courage to let go of the branch and grab the rock.

The vines pulled me closer as I moved down and raised the stone before smashing it down onto one of the vines, severing it from the rest.

A sickening hiss came from the plant as it pulled the rest of its injured vine into the den away from harm like a retreating animal.

The rest of it that was still connected to the tree squirmed and thrashed around violently as it retreated back into the burrow.

I did the same for the others and the vines all seemed to retreat away from me, mere feet from the burrow.

Scrambling, I moved a safe distance away to catch my breath as my heart threatened to burst from my chest. I nearly died!

I had to shake my head and get control over myself before I broke down. Not even an hour of being here and I was just nearly murdered by a tree!

I had heard of plants with similar abilities, but this was on a whole new level.

On Homeworld, there were vines that would often grow in thick bunches and catch onto the fur of unlucky animals passing them.

The more the animal struggled, the more they became tangled in the thorns and hurt themselves. Eventually the animal would die and its corpse would provide nutrients to the plant.

But this thing wasn’t passive. It actively grabbed onto me like an animal… I closed my eyes, feeling helpless…

Shaking my head, I tried to get a hold of myself. No, I have to keep going!

The vines that had severed from the tree were still painfully wrapped around my leg with the thorns embedded into my skin, leaving small divots of blood.

Carefully I uncoiled them, grimacing as they pulled away, leaving my leg a bloody, scratched-up mess. I held back tears as I got to my feet and limped back to the pod with the branch.

Breaking open the hidden compartment, I removed the bag that was inside. Opening it up, I was disappointed to find hardly anything of use, and worst of all, no food, water, or bandages.

I dug through the bag, looking through the contents. This can’t be it! Where’s the first aid, the rations, the matches to start a fire!?

I stared at the supplies before me. A knife, a book, a pencil, a small flask, and a set of clothes.

My hope sank at how little I had. How was I supposed to survive with this?!

Grabbing my head, I squeezed my eyes shut as tears threatened to fall.

What am I supposed to do? Staring at the items before me, I debated on what to do next.

Do I stay by the pod so it’s easier for Varin to find me? No… There’s a chance someone else might find me if I do that…if anyone is even still alive on this planet.

Looking at my leg, it was clear that I needed to clean it off… But how?

Sighing, I gathered everything into the bag except the knife and slung it over my shoulder.

Keeping the knife on my belt, I stood up and looked around. Deciding it would be best to go in the opposite direction to the murderous tree, I started walking, being extra careful about where I stepped this time.

I came across exotic and colorful flora as I went and noticed how there were a lot more blue plants than green. I also noticed a few ferns that were pink in color. For a hostile planet, things were quite colorful…

Hours passed as I traveled, and I could see the suns were getting lower. My leg hurt, and every step sent a wave of pain through me.

I’m not sure if I should consider myself lucky or not…unlucky that I injured myself or lucky that the vines weren’t venomous, or else I’d already be dead…

I looked to the sky guessing that I only had a few hours before sundown. Ideas of what might lurk in this forest at night had me pushing forward in hopes of finding some kind of shelter before darkness set in.

Looking forward, I could see some jagged rock formations sticking out of the ground, creating a small ledge that could provide some cover for the night. Maybe my luck hadn’t completely run out.

Holding my knife in one hand, I moved closer and noticed a den dug out below the ledge. I looked inside to make sure there weren’t any unwanted inhabitants. To my amazement, there wasn’t.

Crawling into the small cave, I got as comfortable as I could and sat down to inspect my injuries. My leg had many deep cuts that had bled profusely, and there was dirt, blood, and grime covering the suit I wore.

There was no way I could leave it like this. I needed water or something to clean it off and bandage it. The wounds weren’t deep enough to make me bleed out, but they were susceptible to infection.

Sighing, I rested my head against the dirt looking at the underside of the rock formation. How am I going to survive like this?

Glancing outside, I noticed something purple and round sitting on the ground outside the cave. Squinting, I moved toward the cave’s entrance. The strange object looked out of place.

Looking around for more, I noticed a few pieces of the same item scattered about as if something had cracked it open.

Trailing my line of sight upward, I could see more of the strange balls growing in the tree, just above me, like coconuts…

Excitement rushed through me at the first logical explanation: Food.

Crawling out of my small bit of cover I grabbed as many of the untouched balls that I could.

Most of them were old and had already been scavenged by animals, and there was no way for me to climb the tree to reach the others, so I only managed to collect three fresh-looking ones.

Looking to the sky, it was clear that night was starting to settle in, and I wouldn’t be able to see very well soon.

Moving back over to my hole, I inspected the objects. To my dismay they had a hard outer shell like a nut or seed of some kind. The outside was smooth and kind of reminded me of a ball I used to play with as a child.

Finding a large stone, I attempted multiple times to try and crack the blasted thing open, but the rock hardly made a dent. I glared angrily at the nut, despising its impenetrable outer shell.

Then it clicked in my mind as I remembered that I still had my knife.

Pulling the blade from my belt, smiling, I wedged the nut between two rocks. Gripping the blade’s handle, I hovered it over the outer shell.

Taking a deep breath, I raised the knife and brought it down upon it.

The next moment I cried out in agonizing pain and gripped my bleeding hand. The blade broke at the hilt and cut open my hand, and it hardly left a scratch in the thing.

Gripping my hand tightly, I whimpered and looked at the blood that continued to drip. The wound was deep and bleeding profusely…

Clutching my bleeding hand, I held back tears that threatened to fall and crawled back to my hole.

Why was I being punished? What had I done to deserve this?

Pulling out the shirt in my bag, I carefully ripped off one of the sleeves with my teeth and wrapped it around my bleeding hand.

The sunlight completely faded away, leaving the forest in darkness, and I couldn’t see anything outside my little den. I was alone…

No one was around for miles, and no one could help or comfort me. I was completely isolated and completely helpless.

The chirping of distant forest insects and animals lulled me to sleep as I lay there curled up, completely oblivious to the thing lurking just outside…

Next chapter

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