This book is the second in The Guardian of Life series from Kim Iverson, which blends Science Fiction with Fantasy and a touch of Horror.
The sky turned as black as night. Haley Johnson’s stomach dropped like an icy lump of lead and the blood drained from her face. When she left the house not long ago, the clock said eleven thirty in the morning. At the other end of the grassy field the sky displayed the beautiful brilliant blue.
The weatherman predicted sunshine and warmth. A calm Spring day without a cloud in sight. One that would stay that way all day. So Haley took advantage of the nice weather to take her Australian Shepherd down the hill to the park. Just the two of them.
The sky churned above her in a thick dark mass of swirling clouds. In ways she had only ever seen on television. From Storm Chasers. Hunting tornadoes.
“Oh God,” the words tugged out of her on the increasing wind, drowning them out.
Cassie pressed the limits of her leash and whined, drawing Haley’s attention. The Australian Shepherd whined and tugged at the leash again, telling her owner in no uncertain terms, they needed to leave.
The dog practically wailed, and the sound spurred Haley into action. Cassie sensed a dangerous change in the atmosphere only animals were privy to. In this instance, Haley sensed the change as well.
Haley took a step. A thunderous roar from above shook the ground and made her teeth chatter. Her legs trembled beneath her. She wobbled, struggling to stand. The clouds roiled, opened, and a monstrous gaping hole a mile wide blotted out everything else. The circle grew. Haley couldn’t bring her feet to move.
Cassie tugged and whined, jerked and yelped. Her brown eyes showed far more white as she faced the monster above. The growing mouth of the tornado sparked and lightning crackled along the lip of the sphere. The utmost center of the mouth was nearly as blue as the sky had been, brightening in color. Haley’s hair fluttered around her face, hiding the view, revealing it, hiding it. A comic show of horror.
The speed and size of the tornado and the lightning that struck the surrounding ground, told Haley they would never make it to safety. The lightning bolts struck fiercer and harder, more frequently, spewing dirt everywhere. Haley shielded her face with an arm. Cassie hid behind her legs, afraid of being struck.
By the time the growing beast touched the ground, they would be on the outskirts of it, but still within the borders. Cassie and Haley stood in a dead zone, safe in the eye of the storm. Haley’s hair raised on her arms, the back of her neck, her head. Static electricity built along her skin, tugging at her clothes and hair.
An electrical storm came to mind, but she’d never known anything like this, and she’d experienced a few storms in her life.
Haley hunched down and wrapped her arms around her dog to protect her. The growing storm could touch down in another area. She would risk the chance to wait it out.
She tucked her nose into the dog’s shoulder. Cassie lay her own head on Haley’s shoulder. Cassie knew as well as she did they may not make it. Haley closed her eyes and reached around to tuck Cassie’s face beneath her, hiding the dog’s face under her chest. At least her best friend and she would go together.
Her hair whiplashed her face and an invisible hand tug tug tugged at her hair. She forced herself to keep her eyes closed. Here we go. This is it. She no longer felt the ground, no longer felt anything but that warm body beneath her grip. Dirt and debris pelted her cheeks, bit at her skin. The roar of the giant vibrated through her entire body. Her body was torn apart from the inside out, her cells realigned.
The hair on the back of Haley’s neck stood up. Chills swept through her body. Cassie let out a deep groan that lasted for what seemed like an eternity. A vibrating roar overcame her ears and blocked out all other sounds, rumbling so hard her body grew numb.
The ground shook beneath their feet and paws. Haley fell to the ground with a painful thump, tumbling past Cassie’s body. The dog yelped. It felt like a giant picked them up, then dropped them from above the ground.
Haley shouted, “No!” and scrambled back to her dog across burning sand, scraping her hands on rocks, her nails filling with grit. Cassie stood up and gave herself a shake. With no thoughts to the whereabouts of the tornado, Haley’s first priority remained ensuring Cassie’s safety and health.
By the time she got to the Aussie, she wrapped her arms around the dog and held her close. Haley squeezed her so much the dog wiggled around, trying to tell her, mom! Too hard. I can’t breathe.
Haley choked a sob out, and loosened her grip, “Sorry,” she mumbled into the dog’s fur. She wiped the back of her hand over her face.
She gradually noticed the temperature and the total silence. No birds, no wind, no sounds of the park. Her skin grew clammy, her cheeks flushed. She didn’t remember it being so damn hot. Sweat beaded up along her spine and along her temples, a sheen built between her breasts and she shifted uneasily. She checked her palms, seeing crusty marks along the flesh. Haley gently rubbed her hands on her thighs, wincing as some sand dug into the small scratches.
Haley released her grip on Cassie and climbed to her feet. Her entire world turned upside down on her. She rubbed off a random drop of sweat with the back of her hand as it made its way down her cheek. Above, she found not a blue sky, but a red hue. Not the orange of sunrise, nor the pink and purple of the sunset familiar to her.
Weird. How much time passed?
Cassie barked in alarm. Haley jumped out of her skin with a yelp, “Whosit!” She put her hand over her heart and took a deep breath. In a much calmer tone, she asked, “You scared the living crap outta me.”
Then she saw it . . . or . . . didn’t see anything, really.
Haley slowly turned in a circle. Dirt, rock. Dry and dead as far as the eye could see. Red sand and dead plants long since trampled into the ground surrounded her and Cassie. Haley bent down and grabbed a tiny piece of brown twig, but it crumpled into dust. She spotted nothing living.
Wherever they were, it wasn’t the park. She’d never seen anything like it. No wind, no shade, no living animals. The stifling heat and red hue to the sky made her think of Mars, as the old books used to show the atmosphere.
Haley went to grab Cassie’s leash, but the dog no longer had a collar or leash. Haley stared at her own hand in astonishment. What the hell? Pretty sure I had it in my hand.
“Stay close, Cassie,” Haley commanded and as ordered, the dog kept beside her owner. Haley absently scratched Cassie’s head as they walked. The sand shifted underfoot as she walked, dust swirled up around her tennis shoes from the plants she crushed. If they didn’t find shelter or water they’d be in trouble in no time. The heat penetrated her down to the marrow in her bones, drying her out.
They walked for hours and hours, or what felt like it, until Haley didn’t believe they would ever find any shelter, let alone water. Her legs ached and grew sluggish with the heat. Her mouth felt like a desert itself and she smacked her lips.
High above their heads were two suns. Each the same size, each red in tone, and near one another. As they walked, the sky grew deeper red and if she didn’t know better, the two suns deepened in color as well.
Cassie’s tongue lulled to the side, much hotter than her owner thanks to her thick double coat. It’d been so long since Cassie had any fluids that her tongue didn’t have drool to drop. Her tongue grew so dry small lines developed along the top.
Haley’s hair clung to her forehead, beads of sweat trickled one after the other down her spine, her chest, her temples, making her itchy. Her ponytail drooped. She pushed the hair out of her face once more and tried to use her ponytail to fan her.
It may as well have been a heater for all the good it did her. Her shirt clung to her back and her jeans sagged from her butt with the weight of the sweat. Haley kept tugging the shirt off her back, but it kept sticking all over again. She kept hitching up her pants, but they kept sliding back down. That alone made her mood grow sour. She didn’t handle heat well, being used to the temperate climate where she grew up, heat made her sick.
The beginnings of heat sickness took its toll on Haley. Drowsiness, nausea, lightheadedness. If they kept walking, Haley may pass out and not wake up. After the quick walk down to the park, Haley planned to go home and grab lunch, so neither she nor the dog had much in the way of water or food for a few hours before their trip to the park.
Cassie didn’t look much better. Haley stopped once in a while to check Cassie’s paws. The hard rocks did a number on the black pads. Haley rubbed her dog’s feet, but Cassie tugged her paw out of Haley’s hand. Haley kissed the top of the dog’s nose.
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Daughter of the Red Planet is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Kim Iverson
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