[An extract from another of my emerging projects in the War Against Boris the Bytrode Series…]
Letitia breathed in the rich aroma red wine. She weened her absorption off and out of the Dickens’ tale and adjusted to her reality. Letitia was on a scenic flight from Auckland heading south, her Mirror Adelaide home and IGSF mission on hold.
Her daughter Jemima thrust a full glass of red under her nose. ‘Try this, Mother! 1984 Grange from the Barossa Valley.’
‘Mmm.’ Letitia leaned back. Jemima, twenty-six, daughter from a long-ago relationship—Nathan. Complicated, war-torn…another universe, actually. And now this present world, this Mirror World was making her vanish…Literally.
Letitia sighed and thought, I wish I could get away for good. To another time another place—Home to Earth before it’s too late. She hung on in Mirror World, though, to thwart the attempts of Boris from enslaving, by stealth, this beautiful world and its population. But for how long? Twenty-six Mirror years had taken its toll. The IGSF (Intergalactic Space Force) medical technology of regular infusions of nano-bots had kept her alive, but now, were failing. Dr. Mario had shaken his dark Latin head after the last infusion and said the words she had dreaded to hear, “There’s nothing more we can do.”
‘To Antarctica we go!’ Jemima charged her glass and took a slurp. ‘Mmm! Excellent stuff! You should try some! Celebrate, this trip is your way out. You know what I mean.’
Her daughter examined her glass of red as though she were a connoisseur.
‘I still can’t believe we are here,’ Letitia said. ‘And drinking such old wine! Must be at least thirty years old.’
Jemima nudged her. ‘You won the prize, Mum! And you invited me to go with you—you knew how much I wanted to complete my quest to visit every continent on Earth. I concede, Mirror, in this case. But, still, a continent. It’s a win-win, ‘cos I’m here to help you. You’ll see.’
‘Why else would I take all that trouble to return from our universe?’
Letitia gazed around the passenger cabin. ‘Although, I have one complaint. I thought we’d be put in first-class. I won the prize, what happened to the open lounge plan with plenty of walking space and seats that reclined all the way? It’s nothing like the brochure.’
But here they were, sitting in seats that were blue instead of cream, (as portrayed in the brochure) and the passengers appeared to be more crammed in and arranged in neat narrow (than in that brochure).
‘We won the wine,’ Jemima said as she poured herself another glass.
‘Oh, yes!’ Letitia nodded. ‘Great!’
‘Fancy that, it’s survived all those years…Drink, it’s part of the plan.’
Letitia recollected the on-line competition and how Jemima urged her to explain in twenty-five words or less why she would want to go to Antarctica. She remembered Jemima rubbing her hands together and murmuring that she had a cunning plan.
It was after Jemima’s friend Holly and the rest of the IGSF team escaped through the red spot in Jupiter back to Earth. But before the bad news from Dr. Mario. Bad timing. Now that red spot had sailed and it would be another two years…If only the Doctor had told her earlier, she would’ve gone too.
‘1984! Must have been a good year.’ Jemima remarked as she finished her glass. The screen at the front of the section, played a loop of scenes from the icy continent. Icebergs, penguins, and rough seas battering the orange icebreaker. Letitia couldn’t get the earphones working, so it remained a silent show.
‘Well matured, I guess.’
‘It’s our escape;’ Jemima began, ‘I’ve been checking Earth’s history and in 2014…’
The movie froze.
A piercing scream.
A large man lurched from his seat.
Murmurs rippled through the rows.
Jemima and Letitia craned their necks to catch the action.
Letitia stepped into the aisle to witness a scuffle involving a female air-attendant and a burly passenger. They wrestled a small man.
‘What’s going on?’ Jemima asked.
‘It’s a man,’ Letitia said.
‘He’s ugly—not human—he’s wearing a brown jumper.’
A hairy ball torpedoed down the aisle, bounced on the toilet wall and rolled to a stop. At the other end, a body lay jerking.
Jemima stood and peered at the flailing form. ‘Where’s the head?’
Letitia pointed behind her. ‘There.’
‘I think I’m going to be sick,’ Jemima rasped. She reached for the complimentary paper bag. ‘Where’s the bag? The bag?’
A lady with shimmering auburn hair, thrust a paper bag at Jemima. ‘Here, use mine.’
‘Thank you,’ Jemima breathed before burying her face in its opening.
‘Don’t worry. It’s not real. It has to be a dream,’ Letitia said. The whole episode—the plane, the trip to Antarctica, the action down the front—seemed surreal.
‘This is real Mum. We’ve been hijacked by terrorists.’
‘Shut up! Shut up, you up there!’ a man’s shrill voice could be heard at the front of the cabin.
‘No,’ Jemima gasped, ‘Worse than that, it’s…’
A chill coursed through Letitia’s spine as she spied this man in the tawny jumper lording over his victim’s body. The burly man’s body. The strong man so weak, twitching lifelessly in blood. Blood pooling on the blue aisle carpet.
Feeling queasy Letitia’s legs wobbled as she stood in the aisle.
Jemima retched and trembled in terror.
The man marched up the aisle to Letitia.
He waved a vial of clear liquid between his spindly fingers. He seemed to be moving in slow motion, closer and closer. His black beads of eyes glinted reflecting the fluoro lights. He wasn’t that tall. He didn’t look that strong.
‘I thought, you said he was destroyed near Jupiter, Jemima.’
Letitia remained standing. She remembered the story of the devil at the end of Martin Luther’s bed. Like Luther, she had God on her side. No way was she going to allow this little man terrorizing the crew and passengers spoil her adventure. Was that a claw on his hand? No, people don’t have claws. Boris does, though. How did he do that to the big strong man? What happened to the security measures back at the airport? Didn’t they check him for weapons?
‘I will not be afraid,’ Letitia said and locked eyes with this man. ‘God is with me. I will survive.’ Convinced—she’d survived the last disaster—many years ago—an alien attack on her ship, cruising around Earth, in space. That was a Boris attack. Boris—she had heard of that enemy of man, engaged in the war against him, but never had she met the cockroach. They said it was a miracle she survived. Burns to sixty percent of her body. Skin grafts saved her. Presently, in this life, on Mirror World, when she wasn’t fading, she looked like everyone else.
‘What’ch’ya looking at?’ He scowled, baring his small, pointy teeth. ‘Have I got a little—no—big, nasty surprise for you!’
He shook the vial. The liquid fizzed.
‘Oh, sh-t!’ Jemima whispered.
A little girl nearby whimpered. ‘Mummy. I don’t want to die, Mummy.’
The man thumped a headrest. ‘Shut up!’
Two air-attendants hung back, glancing left and right. They hunted for solutions. But the threat of violent chemical reactions in the vial, and the potential loss of another head, prevented them from launching an attack on the man.
This man drew close to Letitia. He blew his foul breath into her face and shook the liquid tube.
‘Say goodbye to Antarctica, Grandma! The seas will rise, the coastlines will be flooded, the planet will suddenly heat up, and a few other nasty things…’ He laughed manically. ‘And this planet will be ours!’
‘I’m afraid you are too late—global warming has already done—’ Jemima piped up.
‘Shut up! Girl!’ the man snapped. Then he climbed in the seat next to Jemima and shaved his claw under Jemima’s chin. ‘Do you taste like your mother? Or father?’
‘What d-d-do you hope to achieve with that puny little bottle?’ Jemima stuttered unfazed by this man in the brown jumper who had a claw jutting out from his finger.
He brushed the bottle across Jemima’s cheek. ‘I won’t bore your puny mind with the scientific details…but,’ he gazed at the glass tube with devilish fascination, ‘But—when this liquid chemical compound escapes and mixes with the heat and airline fuel, there will be a big bang and a most delicious chain-reaction. Think of it as a kind of revenge on what you humans did to my kind, once, many, many years ago.’
‘Who are you?’ Letitia asked, although she had a pretty good idea who this particular monster was.
He rose and leaned against Letitia, his pug nose and flaring nostrils within inches from her face. Letitia averted her face from his onion and garlic breath tainted with cockroach stench.
He spoke slowly, and with menace. ‘I think you know who I am, my dear.’
‘I don’t, really, I don’t.’
‘Really? I don’t have time for this,’ the man said. He thumped the vial on the arm of the chair.
Letitia heard a crack, and a sizzle. The cabin filled with smoke. Then a flash of light and a rumble of thunder. Letitia grew light-headed. In the background as if in the distance she heard Jemima say, ‘It’s Boris, Mum…the Bytrode, you know, the giant alien cockroach…so glad we had the wine…’
Then sinking…plummeting towards the Earth. The screams of panicked passengers and the howl of the wind as it rushed through the fast-descending airbus, blended into agonising seconds of horror.
The force thrust Letitia forward. The aircraft pitched and spun. The ceiling caved and banged against her head as the craft disintegrated. The shattered fuselage nose-dived. Through cracks in the hull, clouds skidded past. The icy wasteland rushed into view.
Boris defied the laws of physics, hovering above his prey. His wings whirred creating a gravitational force-field holding Letitia. He bared his jagged teeth in a sickly smile.
‘So, my dear, Letitia, you are getting what you want most,’ Boris said.
Letitia gasped. How can he talk when she can barely breathe? The cold air rushing the plane to its demise, snatched her words before they became thoughts. Surely, she didn’t ask for this. Never even contemplated it. Why would she want to die crashing to Earth?
Bodies jettisoned around the remains of the cabin. Some bounced off Boris’ shell. He was fully cockroach now.
‘Can’t you see?’ Boris said. ‘Earth.’
Great! Letitia thought and then curled up and waited for the impact.
She imagined that her entire life would flash before her eyes. It didn’t.
She glanced up.
The seats arranged in a semi-circle were white. They rotated as if in some crazy show ride. Jemima was gone. Sucked out, and hurtling towards the icy plains of Antarctica, Letitia assumed.
As if detached from her body, she watched Boris vanish. Then she waited for the final thud…
The thud came. Metal crunched and ground around her. An explosion burst jolting her back to the here, now and her body sliding through slush. Ice caved-in on top of her, blocking light out and trapping her in darkness.
[To be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Sellicks Beach © L.M. Kling circa 1985