01 Feb I am a Babysitter: Something is Attacking Us
Two men wearing hunting attire walked through the dense forest under the night sky.
“Over there, I see it,” automatic rifle in hand, Daniel smiled.
“Finally,” Henry joined him. “Thought It’d take forever.”
“Witnesses say it’s big, so get ready.”
Lacking moonlight, they turned their bright, shoulder-mounted flashlights to illuminate the interior.
“Even If we are two, silver bullets would have helped,” Daniel drew a handheld flashlight to further extend their line of sight.
“Boss said this is a dogman. Any ammo works with them, pay attention.”
The cave was deeper than expected.
“Here, doggy, doggy, doggy,” Henry made clicking noises with his mouth.
Running on all fours, a large animal charged at them. They were fast enough to jump to the side, and avoid the attack. It quickly turned around, stood up on its hind legs, and tried to grab Daniel.
Before it could touch him, he opened fire. Both arms up to protect its head, the dogman let out a roar. It took a few steps back before collapsing to one knee. The man kicked its head, knocking the creature out.
“Well played,” breathing heavily, he reloaded his weapon. “But in the end of the day, you are just an animal.”
“Something’s wrong!” Daniel yelled.
Henry illuminated his friend with the shoulder-mounted flashlight.
A thin layer of black liquid slowly crawled up his colleague’s leg. The man desperately stumbled back in an attempt to escape; the liquid had reached his waist. He collapsed to the floor as it consumed his chest.
He let out a pain-filled yell, one which Henry had never heard before. It forcefully pushed its way into his mouth, replacing the shouting with a gurgling noise.
Seeing his friend was most likely dead, Henry fired his rifle. The bullet holes in the thin layer of liquid instantly filled themselves.
The blackness slithered away from the corpse, and melted into the shadows on the floor.
“You are trespassing,” a monotone voice whispered in his ear.
Henry instinctively jumped back, only to see there was nobody there.
“Show yourself!” He blindly fired a few rounds at the nothingness.
“Hostility is not welcomed here,” a black tentacle emerged from the shadows, and wrapped itself around his arm. The man shot at it, emptying the magazine. Unaffected, it tightened. Bone cracked, and muscle tore. Fighting to free himself, he felt it lift him off his feet.
“Who are you?” the voice asked.
A few feet away, a figure emerged from the darkness. The short, pale woman wore white sweat pants, sneakers, and a tucked-in white tank top. Her eyes were nothing but void black, making it impossible to tell where she was looking.
“You attack us, and have the audacity to skip introductions? How incredibly rude,” she played with her messy black hair.
“You’re not a dogman… what are you?”
“Someone who gets irritated when they don’t have answers,” the woman snatched the rifle from his hand, and folded it like paper. “This can be your neck.”
“We are only hired hunters! Some guy in a suit offered us money to kill this thing. It sounded fun; they also said it attacks local people. So why not?”
“Why not?” the light coming from each flashlight went out.
The hunter’s shouts echoed through the cave.
Penelope could clearly see in the pitch black cave. The darkness covering her eyes shrunk, leaving black human ones.
“Oh, poor baby,” she kneeled down next to the wounded dogman. “Told you not to try, but hey, you insisted.” her voice was caring. Her demeanor had changed to a cheerful one.
She lifted the dogman over one shoulder, and ventured deeper into the cave.
“Is everything alright, Pen?” A second one played with a bone.
“You know how your brother always acts tough. I hope he learned an important lesson today,” she got the animal off her shoulder, and gently placed it on a pile of leafs and bear fur.
“Can you continue with the story?” the conscious one asked.
“Sorry, no. I gotta call your parents.”
“We’re not in trouble, are we?”
“No you adorable, little cub,” she pinched its cheek, resulting in a smile. “It’s the humans again. You two rest, I’ll be right back.”
Penelope drew her phone, and walked up to the cave’s exit.
“Hey, Dora,” She greeted the two cubs’ mother.
“Penelope? Is there a problem?” a worried voice answered.
“Humans found the cave, but don’t worry, they are dead.”
“Oh no… is anyone hurt?”
“Jeremy got a little bruised up, but you know how he can be. I’ll bring them to the neighbors, if that’s ok.”
“Yes, of course! I’ll be home in fifteen minutes!”
“No, no. Relax, it was just humans. Enjoy your special dinner, I promise I’ll take care of everything.”
“How will I ever thank you, you’re the best babysitter a mother could ask for.”
Penelope put the phone away, and walked back inside.
Dark clouds hid all stars along with the moon in the night sky. A crimson convertible sped down the highway, heading towards the distant city lights of Santa Bacia. Amelia, the driver, wore a black tank top under her unzipped white jacket. Being Penelope’s sister, she shared the same black hair and eyes. A small silver cross around her neck flickered at each passing light.
“What happened next?” she asked.
“Everything else went smooth. My point is: five families have been attacked this month; things are getting worse,” Penelope had her elbow on the car’s door.
“Things are bad at the city as well,” Amelia let out a sigh. “Remember the insect people we visited a few months back?”
“Yeah. Did something happen?”
“They’ve been wiped out.”
“All of them?”
“Every single one.”
“But the hive was huge! At least fifty lived there.”
“The humans wont rest till everyone is dead.”
“I haven’t called the house in awhile. Do you think they’re alright?”
“I’m sure of it, our family can handle themselves,” a short melody sounded from Amelia’s pocket. “Speak of the devil,” Amelia glanced at her phone. “Sorry Pen, that movie will have to wait. Someone just messaged me.”
“Who? Do you need help?”
“Nothing serious. Small scale attacks in the sewers; some family friends need help.”
“Right. Drop me off at the beach.”
The convertible reached one of the neighborhoods within the city’s outskirts. Its clock tower stuck out of a field of two story brick houses, which bordered the sea.
“Kisses,” Penelope waved.
Amelia waved back, and drove off.
Despite it being a large neighborhood, PenelopeIe traversed the small streets on foot, and eventually reached the beach. Someone sat at a single bench where she would wait for her customer. The woman approached with caution.
“Maria? Why are you here so early?”
“Hey, Pen,” a young, casually-dressed girl gave her a small smile. “Mom had urgent work, so she dropped me off early.”
“Urgent work? It’s dangerous out here.”
“She also wanted me to give you this,” the girl handed an envelope.
“Strange, I usually get paid at the end of the night,” Penelope opened the envelope.
The moment she did, a familiar tingling sensation ran through her brain.
“I am sorry for doing this to you,” the mother’s voice echoed through Penelope’s mind. “You have probably noticed that in recent days, I required your service multiple times. Humans have been tracking my family for months. While we can avoid them, a life of fear is not one we wish to live. Unlike her siblings, Maria is too young, and wouldn’t survive the trip through the ocean, required to reach our new home. I have left you a generous sum of money. All I require is for you to find a good human orphanage. Living in the underwater colony with her kind is too dangerous.
One last thing: make it clear to her, she is to never shift back to her true form. If she is to survive, she must always stay human. Thank you.”
Penelope shook her head to regain composure.
“What is it, Pen? You look sad,” Maria asked. “What did mom say?”
“Well… She’ll be a little late.”
“So we’ll have more time together?”
“Perfect! You can finally show me how to play basketball.”
“I-I don’t think that will happen.” Penelope stuttered.
“You promised! ‘If we have more time, we can play a human game.’ Those were your words.”
Penelope put a hand on the little girl’s shoulder.
“Mary, your mother isn’t coming back to pick you up.”
“Uh… what do you mean, Pen? She is busy and dad will come?”
“No. You see… well…”
“Spit it out already!” the girl was visibly worried.
“Your family have left the city, and they aren’t coming back.”
“But, why? They wouldn’t leave me. You must have misunderstood something.”
“A giant monster was heading towards Santa Bacia’s coast. Your family went to fight it off.”
“A monster? Why can’t they come back afterwards.”
“It’s really powerful. And it will require time. In a few years, they’ll come back.”
“A few years? How few?”
“Not more than ten.”
“Ten?” Maria widen her eyes. “Are you lying to me?”
“I’d never lie to you,” Penelope smiled.
“No, no, no,” the girl shook her head in denial.
“We’ll stop by a few stores along the way. Buy you some clothes, and I’ll drop you off at an orphanage.”
“An orphanage? As in a human orphanage? Why not the colony?”
“The monster is a danger. You must promise me to stay away from the water.”
“Stay away from the water?” with a loud shout, Maria got up.
“It’s what your mother wanted.”
“Why can’t I stay with you?”
“Won’t be safe. I am sorry, Maria.”
“This isn’t fair, this-“
Penelope covered her mouth with a palm. She could hear a speeding car engine in the distance.
“Mary, we’re going to have to part here, humans are coming,” she released the girl.
“Where should I go?”
“Follow my friend; he’ll take you to a safe location. Humans can’t detect you as long as you are close to him.”
“Your friend? Who is-“ Maria jumped back as she felt something rub against her foot.
A black and grey cat calmly watched her.
“Follow Mr Dark. I’ll be with you soon,” Penelope smiled at the girl. She turned to her cat, and made a strange noise with her mouth. “Ks-ks-ks-ks-ks.”
The cat turned around, and moved down the shoreline. It waited for the little girl to start following, and ran. They disappeared in the night.
Listening to the car doors open, Penelope casually sat on the bench.
“What have we here?” light illuminated her. “Kinda late to be at the beach, ain’t it?” a tall woman wearing ballistic armor held an automatic rifle.
“I can say the same,” Penelope confidently answered. “What are you doing out here all by yourselves?”
Wearing a leather jacket, a well-built man joined his colleague. Attached to his collar, three small wooden crosses emitted a sweet smell. Unlike the woman, the only visible weapon was a holstered handgun on his belt.
The hunters both had flashlights mounted on their foreheads.
“What do you two clowns want?” Penelope watched the sea.
“No need to be hostile,” using one finger, the man gently moved his colleague’s rifle down. “Let me handle this.”
Weapon still in hands, the woman nodded and took a few steps back.
“I’m detective Rivera, mind if I sit down?”
“In fact, I do.”
A fake smile creeped onto his face. “If it makes you feel safe. I’m just wondering, where is the rest of your family?”
“No idea what you’re on about.”
“We’ve had an eye on this place. We know you mermaids gather here.”
“Is that so? Maybe you should mind your own business. All four of you.”
The man looked surprised.
“Ten meters away, I see you two,” Penelope hadn’t moved her eyes from the sea.
“Well, well. Didn’t know mermaids had eyes on the back of their heads,” Rivera took a step back. “Hmm… and you don’t seem too afraid of being shot… meaning you’re either fast, or bullets don’t effect you all that much.”
“You sure like to talk,” Penelope stood up. “Let’s make a deal. All of you run away, and you get to live.”
Rivera shook his head. “Always the same routine. Starting overconfident, ending dead.”
“I can say the same. Always those night-vision goggles and flashlights. Problem is, they are powered by electricity.”
The flashlights went out. The two men hiding behind the bench were puzzled as their night-vision goggles turned off.
Being able to see in the dark, Penelope took a swing at Rivera. To her surprise, he locked eyes with her, and jumped back with inhuman speed.
While his colleague couldn’t see, she could hear. Judging by the footsteps, she aimed her rifle at Penelope.
Rivera squinted his eyes in surprise, as Penelope’s shadow extended towards the woman. It quickly crawled up, and wrapped itself around her body. In a swift motion, it rapidly constricted, crushing her body. He had taken the opportunity to distance himself from the horror show.
His other two colleagues opened fire. A few bullets hit Penelope. Without flinching, she leaped over the bench, slamming into one of them. With a loud grunt, she sent her hand into his chest. Shattered ribs and torn muscle scattered everywhere as she pulled her fist back.
Forming a sharp spike, her shadow detached from the ground, and stabbed the second man through the heart. It wiggled, and hurled the body at Rivera, who dodged it with ease. The shadow flattened itself back on the ground, and slithered towards him. Becoming thinner and thinner as it chased him, it stopped and retracted back to Penelope.
He jumped back in his car, which had its engine on. Eyes entirely black, Penelope tore a large piece of the bench, and hurled it at the car, denting it, and shattering the back window. Once out of range, she ran.
The crimson convertible entered the abandoned parking lot where Penelope had been hiding. It slowed down so she could jump in, and sped off.
“Another attack?” Amelia glanced at the bullet holes on her sister’s body. “The girl is with Simon. He’ll take her to the orphanage.”
“Thanks, sis. What about-“
Mr Dark, the black and grey cat, purred from under the seat.
“Oh, there he is,” Penelope let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks for the help, kitty,” she lifted and hugged the animal.
“How many were there?”
“Four? And they hit you?”
“One caught me by surprise. He could see in the dark and possessed inhuman speed.”
“Must be those new enhanced soldiers. Two accompanied a group of armed humans. Jumped me in the sewers earlier.”
“You said it was a small scale attack.”
“Turns out there were more. That metal skin and armor sure is hard to rip through.”
“Yeah, they look more machine than human.”
“The one that attacked me wore civilian clothes.”
“Those humans keep coming up with new surprises,” Amelia chuckled.
“What do you mean, sis?”
“The exceptions. The special ones. Can be anything. Maybe one of our kind decided to change sides, some strange spliced mutant, cyborgs, a biologically engineered virus, who knows. These hunters keep on popping up. But in the end, they are all the same: monsters searching for an excuse to kill.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”
“I did. Always expect the worst and be ready for surprises.”
“This sucks,” Penelope rubbed foreheads with Mr Dark,” she shut her eyes. “Sis, I don’t feel too well.”
The car pulled over to the side of the road.
“What is it?” Amelia put a hand on her sister’s shoulder.
“Four mortals attacked me. I let one live. It must die,” Penelope’s didn’t blink.
“How much did you use the shadow?”
“Twice this week.”
“Relax, you’re not in any danger. It’s over, no need to fight anymore,” Amelia cautiously removed Mr Dark from her sister’s lap.
“They attacked. They deserve to suffer. I want to touch its beating heart.”
“Snap out of it,” Amelia slapped her sister.
“Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry,” Penelope readjusted her neck. “I can’t retract it,” She gritted her teeth.
“Remember the movie we watched a week ago?”
“The one with the talking dog.”
“Yes, I-I think I remember.”
“It was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was.”
“And do you remember how the barking in one of the scenes scared Mr Dark, and he fell in the pop corn?”
“Right,” Penelope giggled. “Poor Mr Dark, had to clean his fur from the butter,” the giggle turned to laughter. Her eyes returned to normal.
“Thanks, sis. I do feel better.”
“Work can wait tonight. Want to go home?” Amelia returned Mr Dark to her sister.
“I’d like that.”
Penelope woke up at sunset the next night. With the click of a button, the old radio on the bedside table played jazz music. Mr Dark jumped off the bed as she stood up. Thrown on the floor, her clothes from the previous night were covered in holes. She took one of the two sets of identical clothing from her wardrobe, and dressed herself. Once ready, she prepared a bowl of cereal, and a separate smaller bowl with cat food. Mr Dark found his way to the bowl, and shoved his head inside.
Sitting on the bed, she calmly ate with her eyes closed. Halfway through breakfast, an envelope slid under her door. She quickly retrieved it, and returned to the previous position.
“Hello, Penelope,” accompanied by the tingling sensation, a deep, familiar voice spoke in her mind. “Humans have abducted a member of the Beckers family. One of the Beckers will attempt to retrieve them at midnight, and asked for your assistance. The details will be added to your memories.”
“Well, well, what a surprise.”
Mr Dark straightened his ears, and locked eyes with her.
“My little kitten, we will be returning to the same neighborhood as yesterday. If we’re lucky… we might get a rematch.”
She exited her secluded layer, and locked the reinforced door. Standing among piles of crates, multiple holes in the warehouse’s ceiling cast moonlight, partly illuminating the interior.
“Nice place you’ve got,” a voice echoed through the building.
“I might be getting that rematch earlier,” Penelope recognized it.
Detective Rivera walked out from behind one of the many rusty support beams.
“Did you sleep well?” despite being quite the distance away, he didn’t need to shout due to the echo.
“Like a baby. What are you doing all the way over there? Don’t you want to come closer so I can hear you better?” Penelope’s eyes turned pure black.
“No thanks, I like it over here,” he sat down.
“Since you like to talk so much, I’m curious, how’d you find me?”
“You’re not the only one who has a furry little helper. Well, in my case — feathery.”
“You are alone. Why?”
“Others would slow me down. Who’s the woman who dropped you off here last night?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you don’t,” he reached into his coat.
Penelope squinted her eyes as he drew a grey stick.
“You abominations don’t deserve to exist,” his casual demeanor turned to a condescending one. “All you do is hurt the innocent. You show no remorse.”
Splinters flew everywhere as Penelope sunk her fingers into a nearby crate. Lifting it over her head, the planks composing it bent in. She hurled it towards Rivera.
The man quickly rolled to a standing position, finding himself behind a supporting beam. The crate flew by, and shattered into the wall.
With a single pop, he folded the stick. Emitting bright light, it regained its previous straight form.
Penelope paused for a moment. Her questioned expression quickly returned to an emotionless deadpan stare.
“They aren’t powered by electricity,” lighting a second stick, the man revealed himself.
“You think I’m scared of a little light?” effortlessly, Penelope leaped over a few crates, closing in on him. The moment she landed, her shadow twitched, and detached from the floor. Forming a long appendage, it struck at the man, as if it were a snake.
Rivera jumped over the tentacle, which left a deep hole in the floor. Leaving the glowing sticks behind, he quickly crawled behind more crates.
“So you decided to hide?” Penelope searched the surroundings with her eyes.
Revolver in hand, the man appeared at the far corner of the warehouse. With a single shot, Penelope’s forearm bursted into pieces, leaving bone and tiny bits of flesh to hold her arm together. While his bullets didn’t seem to contain any special material, the mere size had the potential to dismember.
Her shadow widened in front of her, catching two more bullets with ease. It retracted, and she quickly hid behind a support beam.
“Five meters,” Rivera’s voice echoed. “Whatever that sentient liquid is, it has a limited range,” he threw a third glowing stick.
All of the light banished most natural shadows in the warehouse.
A black liquid, which had slowly been filling Penelope’s wound, disintegrated the second more light appeared. She felt her muscles weaken, eliminating the option to punch through a wall. The only way out into the night was the warehouse’s exit.
Her shadow slithered to one of the glowing sticks, wrapped itself around it, and launched it out of a window.
Blood splattered across the floor as a bullet bursted through a crate, and entered her back. It exited out of her shoulder, and left a dent in one of the support beams. Each time Rivera fired his revolver, his entire arm sprung back due to the massive recoil.
Penelope’s shadow retracted to its idle position. Dodging more shots, Penelope hid behind another supporting beam. She could hear him jumping from crate to crate, still keeping his distance. Trying to dispose of more sources of light would give out her position.
“I watched you very closely last night,” Rivera shouted. “Each time you manipulated your shadow, your body went idle. As long as it’s moving, you can’t dodge attacks.”
The man’s eyes constantly watched the exit and each light stick’s location, waiting for her to come out of hiding. Hidden behind a few crates, the light began to move.
With a satisfied grin on his face, he fired. The light stopped moving. Not getting too close, he hopped from crate to crate, to find an angle from which he could see better.
Appearing from the opposite direction, Penelope grabbed him by the wrist with her good hand. Applying pressure, she forced the revolver out of his hand.
“How can you be at two places?” he attempted to push her back.
Light stick in his mouth, Mr Dark ran passed them towards the exit. As the light became dimmer, bone being crushed sounded from Rivera’s wrist.
“Assistance needed!” the man shouted.
A large owl flew in through one of the holes in the ceiling, and sunk its claws into Mr Dark, stopping him from removing the last stick.
Penelope’s shadow crawled up Rivera, but stopped midway. An invisible force around him was fighting back. Despite not entirely engulfed, the shadow tightened, crushing both his legs, and covering Penelope in his blood. The two of them fell off the crate, and collided with the floor. Penelope gritted her teeth as vapor appeared. Sharp pain running through her body, the shadow retracted. She loosened her grip, and jumped back.
Rivera’s blood let out a hiss as it tore through her clothing. She ripped them off, revealing burns where his glosy blood had been. The blood ate through the dropped cloth, along with bits of the floor.
Ignoring him, Penelope bolted towards the animals. The owl spotted her in time to leave her cat, and flew away. Still standing, but covered in blood, Mr Dark hobbled to the woman. She quickly lifted him, and glanced at her enemy.
Despite having crushed legs, he was up and running. Way too fast for a crippled person, he exited the warehouse.
“Thanks for the help, Mr Dark,” Penelope cradled her cat. “If this guy wasn’t an overconfident chatterbox, and brought backup… both of us would be dead. It’s not safe here anymore, we need to run.”