I crouched, worn muscles twitching, on the edge of the precipice, and waited for the sun to go down.
I’ve been on the move for three days. So far nobody’s seen me, and I’m not sure if there was anyone to lay eyes on me in the first place, but even so I’d taken steps to cover my tracks. Since they came…you can’t trust anyone.
It’s been a rough few days. The burning sun above makes the damp air humid and smothering, and hunger has a way of getting at you. Most of the food I have managed to find has been covered in flies and rotten for at least a week, but in its own way these discoveries also serve a useful purpose; rotten food tells me that the house is safe. No one’s there to find me.
Of course, it also gives a reason to fear. That tiny, horrible knowledge lurking in the back of the mind; if I run forever, soon I’ll be the only one left. The only one not devoured by one of them, turned into a living, undetectable puppet. The only one not a servant to their will.
The will of the Nith.
In my head, their call ran over and over again. “We’re already here.” I’d first heard it broadcast over the world; a once-classified transmission recorded and repeated across every television screen and radio on Earth. Warning us. But it was too late. They’d appeared out of the blue, transforming and bursting from the skin of people on the street, in office buildings and on public transport. Everywhere. And then the possession began.
That had been just over four months ago. The last remnants of the Earth’s governments had banded together to stop the onslaught, to destroy what we called the Nith. As a top biologist and researcher, I was among those selected to unveil the origins of our new found companions on Earth.
And the first thing we’d discovered was that they were definitely, absolutely not from Earth.
We managed to capture one of the specimens before most of our facilities were overrun. It usually happens from within. The Nith like to bide their time, wait it out. The possession is quick and after it’s almost impossible to detect who is a puppet and who is still in control. Then they reveal themselves when the time is right and convert everyone around them into a homunculus for their dominance.
A group of elite soldiers brought the deceased Nith they’d managed to capture to a research facility in the Pannonian Basin in Slavonia, Croatia, where I was based after the initial attack. Our initial tests revealed its biological structure to be unlike anything anyone had ever seen. They didn’t need to breathe, eat, or drink, and the tough outer carapace protecting their inner organs was impervious to both heat, extreme physical force, and even some of our most corrosive acids.
Most repulsive about it, however, was that it could seemingly metamorphose into alternate shapes, and reconstruct its own DNA as it saw fit. The genetic structure we obtained from a sample of its flesh was impossibly unstable, but also completely malleable and responsive to alteration.
Our discovery had provided little information on how to defeat them or how their abilities had worked. A month ago I was removed from the facility to investigate an outbreak of the possessed in Spain, and not a moment too soon. Eleven days later, the Nith had woken and slaughtered everybody at the Croatian facility. Looking back, I’d barely made it out.
Chaos had struck the moment I’d arrived in Spain. The agent sent to meet me had turned within hours of my collection and attempted to devour me, but had chosen a bad time and I’d escaped through sheer luck of dropping into a manhole in the abandoned roads. It had been the most intense moment of my life at the time.
I’d stolen a car and drove out into the middle of nowhere, eventually holing up with a rural Spanish family. We couldn’t communicate very well, but they’d allowed me to stay with them for a time.
A few days ago, they came themselves. Two of the Nith, and large ones. They didn’t have any mercy and slaughtered the family, but I managed to escape again, this time completely on foot. I can’t remember quite how I’d done it. All I can remember is the sound of their snarls, the scratching, clipped words they’d managed to chirp out. We never found out how they learned our Earth languages, but they knew them. And then they’d hunted me.
And here I am now, as the sun sets on the final day of my life. I’ve covered my tracks, but somehow I know that the time has come.
It’s peaceful while it lasts. The bluff is sharp and abrupt, the land simply cutting off to a spectacular drop, all the way down to the crimson water. And as the final streaks of beautiful sunlight die across the horizon, I hear them arrive behind me.
I turn, unafraid. My fear left me hours ago. All that’s left now is resolution.
The Nith stood, tall and wraithlike. Their black exoskeletons are like suits of armour crafted from shadows. Claws like swords and legs like a jackal. Their heads are elongated, with pale yellow stripes and no visible eyes or mouths.
“Don’t blame us. We were here first. This is our home.”
The harsh scratch reached my ears on the wind, and my bones rattled. I didn’t answer, but turned around and looked back out at the water.
“We are not monsters. We are protectors. Guiding your race to our paradise.”
They moved in together, swift and uniform, and as I drew my final breath I captured the image before me in my mind. The ocean, the sun, and the sky.
“You don’t need to,” I whispered. “We’re already here.”