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The dozer ran past the garbage mountains, but heading away from Serenity, out into the country, such as it was these days.
The trees were gnarled, blackened stumps stunted long before they’d reached their prime.
They were dead, or dying, that much was clear.
Not much thrived out here in the wastelands.
Visibility was poor due to the black branches that hung down like hundreds of limp fingers.
The ground was scorched, cracked in places.
Some of the cracks were small, others were large enough to fall in and never be found again.
‘Careful,’ Tia said. ‘We don’t wanna lose it around here.’
‘They might never find us,’ Davey said, the idea enough to chill his blood.
Everyone sunk into an uneasy silence.
The dozer was purpose-built for this tricky journey; its thick caterpillar tracks helping it to glide over the uneven terrain.
Still, Luna drove slowly, careful not to damage the vehicle.
‘Pull hard left,’ Davey said.
Luna looked at him in bemusement.
Then she saw the huge crack in the earth in front of her.
It would have been enough to swallow the dozer whole.
She hit the side of the crack and the dozer almost flipped over.
‘Fuck me that was close,’ she muttered.
‘What are you playing at?’ Loco said, furious. Rage had finally given his pale face a bit of colour.
‘Trying to kill us, by the look of it,’ Rob muttered. ‘Lucky Davey’s here cause I never saw that hole either.’
‘Alright, keep yer fuckin knickers on. We missed it. Nothing t’ worry about.’
The dozer ploughed over the dirt until they reached land where the trees looked a little healthier.
‘We’re getting closer,’ Rob said. ‘The trees are getting water round here.’
The branches of one of the trees waved around like tentacles, seeming to sense their approach.
‘What the hell is that?’ Davey said, pointing out the bizarre tree.
‘The water round here is heavily polluted,’ Tia said. ‘It’s all the run off from the chemical district. It sometimes makes things a bit strange.’
‘That’s an understatement isn’t it?’ Loco said, pointing to the tree which was reaching for the dozer with its many branches. The branches seemed to be growing, reminding Davey of an octopus’ tentacles.
‘Watch out, they’re headed right for us,’ Davey said.
There were other trees there, their tentacles waving around too, seemingly trying to seek out the dozer’s position.
When the first few branches had discovered their position and begun moving towards them, the others seemed to follow suit, as though they could communicate with their kin.
‘Shit, I don’t like the look of this,’ Luna said.
The branches were growing fast, closing the distance between them and the dozer.
She floored the gas and headed for the closest tentacle, hoping to crush it beneath the tracks of the dozer.
It didn’t burst, the dozer just bucked like it was going over a cable in the road.
They looked back and saw that the tentacle was still intact, minus a small flat patch on the top.
A tentacle grabbed the back of the dozer and started to pull it to the side.
Luna screamed as the dozer lurched to the side, her frantic pumps of the gas pedal seemingly having no effect.
Davey grabbed one of the spears from the back of the cab and slammed it into the side of the tentacle.
It was made of a thick, rubbery substance that was too tough for the blade to puncture.
‘Shit,’ Tia shouted as one of the tentacles reached into the cab and began pulling on the steering wheel.
It seemed to be directing the vehicle towards the tree trunk.
They all screamed as the dozer lurched to the side again, almost tipping over.
More tentacles came from the tree, coming under the vehicle and trying to flip it over.
They all screamed again as the heavy dozer was thrown around like a toy car in the hands of a reckless child.
Davey stabbed out with the spear, aiming for the tentacle on the back of the vehicle.
This time it went in with a sickly squelch.
A foul-smelling liquid with the colour and texture of treacle came pouring out.
He went in for a second swing, but another tentacle wrapped tight around his wrist and pulled his arm back.
He cried out at the intensity of the pain; it felt like the bones in his wrist were being crushed together.
Loco let out a battle cry and dived on the tentacles and began squeezing them with his bare hands like he was throttling his worst enemy.
His digits sunk into the material a little, but it was clear he was doing no damage.
Undeterred, he pulled the section up to his mouth and began to bite.
He burst the skin, making black sludge ooze into his mouth.
He threw up as soon as the taste hit his mouth; it was the worst thing he had ever tasted.
Then the next tentacle grabbed him around the waist and dragged him out of the dozer.
‘Shit,’ Davey hissed and mounted the side of the dozer, ready to jump out.
‘Don’t go,’ Tia said. ‘It’s too late for him.’
He looked and saw that Loco’s face had turned a sickly purple colour.
His chest bulged madly as if his ribs had been crushed into dust.
Davey shook his head. ‘He’s still alive.’
He ran in, a spear in each hand, and began to stab at the tentacles that had wrapped around Loco.
Urgency gave his actions extra vigour.
Luna had long given up trying to steer the vehicle and instead concentrated on firing stones at the tentacles.
They bounced off for the most part, but a couple sunk in when they hit one of the small, eye-shaped holes.
The tentacle she hit began to twitch and writhe like a choking animal.
After thirty seconds, it fell still, landing limp on the floor.
‘Aim for the eyes,’ she bellowed.
Davey looked. They were hard to see, but he could make out slightly lighter patches.
He stabbed a spear into one of the eye holes and the tree off in the distance let out a hideous squeal.
‘Gotcha,’ he shouted.
Loco was digging his thumbs into the nearest eye holes and to his relief, the grip loosened slightly.
He shoved the tentacle down and managed to squirm out.
His legs lashed out as the tentacle came for him again.
The limb retracted, hissing like a kicked dog.
He dived onto it, sinking his thumb into the hole, blocking it. The tentacle began to twitch beneath him.
‘Have that, ya fucker,’ he shouted.
His grin of triumph faded when the tentacles wrapped round him again.
Davey was lashing out left, right and centre with his spears.
Tia was firing a gun into the surging mass of dark tentacles.
Luna was only missing one in twenty slingshot shots, sending the tentacles slumping, limp and dead, to the floor.
But still they came.
Rob was sat in silent thought, eyes closed, breathing heavily.
‘This is no time to have a fucking panic attack,’ Loco shouted out.
Rob shook his head.
Suddenly he stood up, eyes aglow.
He reached into one of the hessian sacks they had used to store the dead rats and raised it up into the air.
The tentacles immediately stopped what they were doing and seemed to turn towards the dead rat.
They stood on end, like cobras about to strike, and wavered back and forth, as though tasting the scent of the meal.
‘You want it?’ Rob shouted.
He looked around for the best place to throw it.
There was a patch of land to their left which would give them a clear path once the tentacles raced for the rat.
Some of the tentacles had already begun to creep towards them again.
Rob swung the rat a couple of times and let go, sending it sailing off into the distance.
The tentacles raced towards the rat’s bloody carcass, and began to fight each other to be first to sample the meat.
‘Floor it,’ Rob bellowed.
Luna obliged and the dozer sped towards Davey and Loco.
Davey helped Loco to his feet.
He looked shaken and lurched like a drunkard, but he seemed ok.
‘Thank you,’ he wheezed, rubbing Davey’s hair affectionately.
They dived over the side of the dozer and they tore away.
Already, the rat had been consumed.
The tree’s carnivorous limbs were turning back towards them.
‘Go,’ Davey said.
The dozer moved fast, a little lopsided – they reckoned the mauling from the branches had wrecked the suspension a little – but the tentacles were already following.
They moved terrifyingly fast, headed back towards the dozer.
Tia fired off a round as a tentacle leapt over the back bumper of the dozer.
It hit the eye dead centre, bursting it in a shower of gore. Thick yellow goo surged from the wound and the tentacle fell away.
There were another dozen following.
Davey moved into the driver’s seat and Luna began to loose off a seemingly never-ending hail of stones into the chasing tentacles.
Between her and Tia, they managed to put down most of the tentacles.
The ones that escaped met with the blades of Rob and Loco.
They’d thinned the herd substantially and the dozer hit level ground, finally giving it a burst of much-needed speed.
The tree far off in the distance let out a frustrated hiss and the tentacles began to pull back in towards the trunk.
The dead ones just lay, lifeless and limp on the floor. It looked like there had been a cull of giant snakes.
Davey noticed that they had bulging eyes up and down their flaccid lengths.
The sight of them staring up at him made him shudder.
‘Shit, that was intense,’ Davey said.
‘And that’s just for fuckin starters, like,’ Luna laughed, a cigarette clamped between her teeth.
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