I’m probably signing my own death warrant by writing this account. I know for a fact that I’m breaking at least a dozen federal laws with penalties that could send me to prison for the rest of my life. But jail time is the least of my worries. I fully expect to get grabbed one of these days by a squad of government goons…a hood being placed over my head before I’m put on a secret flight and transported to some god-forsaken black site on the far side of the world.
They’ll make me disappear, toss me into a dark pit and leave me there to rot. You don’t fuck with these people, not if you want to live. But none of this matters now. I’ve accepted my fate, because the stories I need to tell are too important. The public must know the truth about the threats we face.
This isn’t easy to explain, but I’ll do my best. For the past two years I’ve worked within a top-secret government project, jointly financed by the Department of Defence and some of the wealthiest individuals and largest multi-national corporations on the planet.
What is our purpose? Well, perhaps you’ve heard of the multi-verse theory, that is the idea of alternate universes which exist in parallel to our own. Well, our scientists have not only proved the existence of multiple universes but have developed the technology to allow human beings to cross over and visit these alternate versions of Earth.
I’m not going to give away many details of the technology we use to cross over, or the science behind it. I’m avoiding this area for two reasons. Firstly, I wish to protect my identity for as long as possible and therefore have no intention of revealing my precise role in the project. Don’t get me wrong, I know the government will catch up with me eventually, but I want to keep them guessing for as long as possible, and I need to stay alive long enough to finish my story.
Secondly, I don’t want to drop any hints to America’s enemies that would help them develop their own trans-dimensional portals. I know for a fact that China and Russia are working on their own TDPs, and they’ll probably get there within the next couple of years. But the situation is fucked up enough already, and a multi-verse race will only exacerbate the problem.
However, it goes without saying that our portal technology took years to develop and cost many billions of dollars, not to mention the human cost in casualties. To be fair, the taxpayer hasn’t fitted the entire bill, as a vast amount of money has been pumped in by the private sector. On paper this is a scientific mission, but the reality is more complex.
The political and business elites look at our world and fear for the future of humanity. With overpopulation, climate change, the threat of war and global pandemics all in the mix, many experts believe our world is doomed and so are looking for an exit strategy.
Terraforming Mars isn’t considered feasible, nor is sending a generation ship to another star system. So, their plan is to find an alternate version of Earth that’s less damaged and fucked up than our own and establish a seed colony upon it.
Needless to say, this colony will be populated by the wealthy elite and their offspring, as they leave the rest of us to burn on this slowly dying planet. Pretty fucked up, right? But believe it or not, this isn’t why I’ve decided to sacrifice myself by whistleblowing on this top-secret project. What really gives me nightmares is what I’ve seen on the other side – the terrifying alternate worlds and the monsters which inhabit them.
These evil and ruthless civilisations are technologically advanced and so surely capable of building their own TDPs, now that we’ve unwittingly revealed that its possible to travel across the multi-verse. My worst fear is that these monsters will cross over to our world, unleashing hell and fury upon us. This brings me to the story of my first mission – our visit to Earth 217, a hellish dystopian world which I was lucky to survive.
Before I get to this however, it’s worth explaining a bit more about the process of trans-dimensional travel. Again, I’m not going to reveal any technical details, but I can explain a few things. You might imagine a trans-dimensional portal as something like a whirlpool or a black hole. This is the way such portals are often portrayed on TV and in films. The reality is somewhat different, however.
The best way I can describe the portal is a fluid membrane, a window to another reality. It’s a controlled passageway which allows one to see what’s on the other side, an image as clear as looking through a pane of thin glass. When you pass through the membrane its like immersing yourself in water. For a few seconds you can’t breathe, and everything goes dark, and for a terrifying moment your brain panics, as you think you won’t make it, but then you pass through to the other side, taking a deep breath of (hopefully) clean air and never having felt so relieved to be alive.
Needless to say, it takes an astronomical amount of energy to open a portal and to keep the field stable long enough for a team to cross over safely. The money and power that goes into this means its only possible to keep a portal open for two minutes, and the passageway is only wide enough for two men to cross over, walking shoulder-to-shoulder. Therefore, we can only deploy small teams with the bare minimum of equipment.
We can’t bring whole vehicles through, so need to rely on quad bikes and motorcycles, and we use small, short-to-medium range drones for reconnaissance. The initial crossing is a tight and well-organised procedure, but the return trip is often frantic and chaotic. The survey teams aren’t able to open a TDP from their end – this must be done from the research facility back on our Earth.
The timeline is tightly co-ordinated, with the portal being reopened exactly 24 hours after the initial crossing. Any members of the team who don’t make it back to the rendezvous point in time are going to be stuck on the other side indefinitely and will need to deal with whatever threats they encounter without assistance.
Now, the return shouldn’t be a problem if the team has a clear run on the other side, but if they’ve run into trouble…well, that’s a different story. Its worth pointing out that the majority of the worlds we’ve discovered and visited aren’t so different from our own. There might be a few historical divergences, but basically you have societies not dissimilar to Earth 1. These worlds are written off as unviable, however. They have the same problems as us – overpopulation, pollution, the threats of an extinction-level event, and so on…Basically, they’re not what our wealthy benefactors are looking for, as they aren’t suitable for colonisation.
Nevertheless, the trips over to these worlds are generally straightforward and risk free. It’s the minority of missions that prove problematic. Now, it goes without saying that we don’t send men and women across until we check out the conditions on the other side. As a first step we send across a robot similar to the Mars Rover, designed to test soil samples and oxygen levels, checking the atmosphere for toxins and background radiation, the latter could indicate that a nuclear war has occurred at some point in the planet’s recent history.
On two occasions, the probes haven’t returned. One time, the robot emerged in the stratosphere, floating aimlessly through space before the communication feed cut out. Our theory is that – in this universe – the Earth itself had been destroyed and broken up into debris. On another mission the robot discovered a dead planet without any signs of life and no evidence that it had ever existed. The temperature was so high that the robot burnt up within a minute, and the mission was abandoned. Most times however, the probe will send back its data for analysis, and our people will assess that it’s ‘safe’ to send in a survey team.
Things become interesting when we discover a world very different to our own. The most viable world we’ve visited is one where homo sapiens went extinct before the last ice age, and instead neanderthals have evolved to become the dominant species. However, this neanderthal civilisation hasn’t developed at the same rate as ours. They never reached the industrial revolution and are instead living in a medieval world – a primitive, agrarian society with a relatively small global population.
This version of Earth is actually considered the most viable for colonisation by the folk running our operation. However, there is a moral debate within the project’s leadership, as its widely accepted that any human colony will likely result in the genocide of the native neanderthal population. I suspect this argument won’t hold sway in the long run. Millions of natives were wiped out during the colonisation of the Americas after all. But of course, this all depends on us surviving long enough to make this happen, which brings me back to my first story – the mission to Earth 217.
Its difficult to describe my emotions on that morning, as I stood in line with my pack and equipment strapped to my back, dressed in combat fatigues and full body armour. I’d been through extensive training and preparation prior to this – my first mission and first time entering a TDP, but nothing fully prepares you. I stood on the metal gangway along with eight other men and women, each ready to push forward either a box full of equipment or a bike, all fixed up to a rail to allow quick access to the TDP. The portal wasn’t open yet, but we knew we’d need to move quickly whenever it did, and the entire team had worked together through training to ensure we could complete our crossing within the tight two-minute window.
Our team leader stood at the bottom of the gangway, close to the vast array of powerful equipment which would be used to open the TDP in just a few short minutes. I’m not going to name the man, nor will I identify anyone involved in the project. Instead, I will use aliases. Many of these people are still alive and working on the project. Others have died, often under horrific circumstances during missions. Their families have been told fake accounts of how their loved ones died, and given the terrible truth, I believe its better they continue to believe these lies. Sometimes, the truth is too hard.
Our team leader on that mission was an ex-military officer, and for the purposes of this account I’ll refer to him as ‘Custer’. I’ll never forget the way Custer looked on that morning and the words he spoke in the last moments before our crossing. The well-built, battle-hardened veteran seemed to exert total confidence as he shouted to be heard over the increasing volume of equipment and machinery coming to life.
“Listen up ladies and gents!” he bellowed, “Some of you are making this crossing for the first time, others have walked through the portal before. Frankly, it’s makes no difference. I’m a veteran of a dozen missions and let me tell you…no two journeys are the same. The probes only tell us so much, and there’s no way of knowing what we’ll encounter on the other side. It’s an unknown environment and we must be prepared for anything!
Some of you are ex-military, others are experts in your individual fields – geologists, climatologists, anthropologists, tech and communications. You’re all vital members of the team. But never forget that this is a team, and I am your leader. Military or not, when we’re in the field, my word is final! Remember your training, listen to my orders, and you’ll get home safely. Now, am I making myself clear?”
“Yes sir!” we answered in unison, the ex-military personnel doing so rather more enthusiastically than us civilians.
Other than Custer, there were three other members of the security team – Mitch, Jerry and Kaz. All were heavily armed and appeared focussed and deadly serious. If they were as scared as me they were doing a good job hiding it. The rest of the team was made up by our medic, who I’ll call ‘Doc’, our tech guys Phil and Juan, and our team geologist Helen. It was a damn good team, and we’d spent weeks in intense training in preparation for this mission, forming a close bond with each other in the process.
I can’t help but feel a terrible sadness when I think back to that time, given what happened…But, in that moment we were still a team, pumped up with adrenaline and ready to undertake our mission. My legs were shaking as the spectrometer burst to life, the power surging through the conductors as the initialising process was commenced.
My brain was racing as I imagined all the things that could go wrong. Would today be the day that the stabilising field failed and the whole facility was blown to kingdom come? Or perhaps the entire team would fall into limbo, lost in the nothingness between the two universes. But I had to put these fears to the back of my mind, as there was simply no time for hesitation or doubt.
Suddenly there was a burst of blinding light, followed by a wave of intense heat which almost knocked me off my feet. When I opened my eyes I saw it – the trans-dimensional portal, a window to another world suddenly opened against the back wall of the bunker.
I stood there awestruck for a moment, staring at the incredible scene before me. Perhaps part of me still hadn’t believed a TDP was possible, and my brain couldn’t come to terms with it. But I was soon awoken from my trance by Custer’s barked orders.
“Move God damn it! Get the equipment through! The clock is ticking!”
I remembered my training as I shoved the metal container boxes down the rail, physically exerting myself as I worked with my team members. Two minutes, that’s all we had. I didn’t think we’d make it, but Custer knew what he was doing. Container boxes and vehicles went down the rail and through the portal, followed by people – human beings disappearing into a fluid membrane, temporarily ceasing to exist in any universe until they suddenly emerged in an alternate reality.
I hesitated for a brief second before it was my turn to cross, only to feel a firm hand on my back, physically pushing me forward. I literally fell through the membrane, my brain racing in panic as all the air left my lungs. For a terrifying moment I knew nothing but darkness, a non-existence that is almost impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. But – thank God – it only lasted for a moment.
My limp body spilled out on the other side of the portal, hitting the ground hard as the bile rose up my throat and I vomited all over the grass. My head throbbed and my whole body shook as I struggled to breathe, and I adjusted my eyes to my new environment. A moment later, someone pulled me up to my feet, and I was amazed that I could stand without support.
I glanced back just in time to see the portal vanish into thin air. It was too late to turn back. We were over here in this alternate universe and entirely reliant on our colleagues back on Earth 1 to bring us home. If anything went wrong over there, we’d be trapped here forever. A terrifying prospect, but I couldn’t think about it in that moment. I needed to focus on the mission.
“Welcome to Earth 217, ladies and gents!” Custer boomed.
People around me were already jumping into action, our security people setting up a defensive perimeter while our tech guys recovered and set up their equipment, checking that nothing had been damaged during our crossing.
I examined my surroundings, finding myself standing on top of a small grassy hill. The sky above was blue, with only a few specs of white cloud to be seen, and the morning sun shone brightly on the eastern horizon. All this was a good sign, as was the fact that I was breathing clean air.
“Not bad huh?” came a voice from behind me.
I turned around to see Helen, our team’s geologist – an attractive and intelligent woman in her late 20s. Helen was one of my closest friends during our training.
“Looks good.” I agreed, without committing to much.
“Could be our Goldilocks’ world.” Helen added, “But, we still have tests to run.”
“Air quality is all good.” said Juan, one of our tech guys, as he typed into his laptop. “Let’s get the transmitter set up, then we’ll send the drone for a spin.”
There are a couple of things I should clarify about our insertion point before I continue this account. Our research facility was purpose built for this project and intentionally located in an isolated and sparsely populated corner of the continental US. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to reveal the location, but suffice to say its pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
When we cross over, the team will arrive at the exact same location on the alternate version of Earth, and the theory is that there will be nothing much located on the other side of the portal, allowing us to get in and out without drawing attention. Usually it works out that way, but not always.
We use small remotely controlled drones to survey the surrounding area, most of which is empty countryside. However, on our Earth there is a small town located about 10 kilometres from the insertion site, and often the town will also exist in the alternate worlds we visit, although not always in the manner we’d expect. However, another and safer way of finding out about the civilisation is simply to set up a transmitter and receive any indigenous radio signals or television broadcasts in the vicinity. We’ve learnt almost everything we need to know about numerous alternate worlds by using this simple method.
For the next few hours we got to work, patrolling the perimeter, taking soil samples, and collating and analysing data. The initial survey didn’t bring up much of concern. If anything, the air was cleaner and less polluted than back home. My job – for what it’s worth – was to analyse the drone footage and broadcasts to make an assessment on what type of civilisation we were dealing with, and what I found did raise a few red flags.
We sat down after lunch to provide our intelligence briefing to Custer, sitting cross-legged in a circle as our leader stood over us. I’ll confess that I found his stern gaze and authoritative voice rather intimidating, especially in this alien and unknown world.
“What have you got for me?” he asked, or rather demanded.
I gulped before replying. “Well sir, the drone has brought back footage of the surrounding area, and we’ve found no signs of life. The town exists in this world, but it appears to be uninhabited, and the evidence suggests it’s been so for quite some time. The buildings are crumbling, and whatever vehicles we can see are rusted wrecks.
Most of the roads in the area are nothing more than dirt tracks. The road to the north looks like it’s been paved in the recent past, but clearly its not a busy throughway. We’ve not seen any human beings, although that’s not to say there’s nobody around…”
“What about the airwaves?” Custer interjected impatiently.
“Well, that’s been more difficult to interpret.” I replied sheepishly, realising from Custer’s hard glare that he’d surely want more. “What we’ve heard and seen can largely be regarded as propaganda – military parades, political rallies, government sanctioned information broadcasts. Not much in the way of cultural diversity…”
“So, what does this mean?” Custer interrupted. Clearly, he was losing his patience.
I nervously shrugged my shoulders before answering. “I can’t fully commit myself without additional data, but my guess would be some kind of dictatorship or totalitarian regime…”
“Great, god-damn Commie world!” quipped Phil, one of our technicians.
His joke earned him a few sniggers from the assembled team members, but a hard glare and harsh words from our leader.
“Shut your damn mouth!” Custer shot back.
The former military officer stood still for a moment, staring off into the distance as he engaged in quiet contemplation. After a tense delay, he opened his mouth to speak, delivering his orders concisely and with confidence.
“We’re going in.” he commanded.
I temporarily forgot myself, calling him out in shock. “Are you sure about this sir? What about the protocol?”
“Damn the protocol!” Custer shot back angrily. “I’m the leader over here, and what I say goes! We must gather more data, isn’t that what you said?”
I nodded my head in reluctant agreement.
“Well, so its settled. We’ll take a four-man team down to the old town, see if it’s really as abandoned as it looks. I’ll lead the team.” He pointed directly at me. “You’ll ride with me. Kaz and the Doc will be our back up. We move out in ten. Get your shit together people!”
I experienced a moment of intense dread in that moment. I didn’t want to go on this mission but knew I had no choice. But of course, I had no idea of what lay ahead.
It was almost dusk by the time we reached the seemingly abandoned town. We drove to the location on two quad bikes, doubled up. I rode with Custer, while Kaz and the Doc had the second bike. Kaz was a tough ex-Marine in her mid-thirties, a strong woman who’d spent her life needing to prove herself in a male dominated environment.
The Doc was our team’s medical attendant. He was an odd man with peculiar obsessions. As I recall, he’d never really bonded with the rest of the team during our training, and we all regarded him with a degree of suspicion. I got the distinct feeling that Kaz wasn’t happy about riding alongside the Doc, but she didn’t question her orders.
To this day I still don’t know why Custer ordered the reconnaissance mission, especially given the risks and unknowns involved. I can only assume he was acting on orders from higher up.
The town itself could be described as ‘Anywhere USA’ – small, out of the way, and unremarkable. When we descended from the hills and drove through the main street, we confirmed what the drone footage had already told us. This was a ghost town of crumbling buildings, smashed storefronts with faded signs, and rusty old automobiles which looked like throwbacks from the 1950s. Obviously, the settlement had been abandoned decades ago.
But why? There were no toxins in the air, no background radiation. It was as if the entire population had just upped and left one day for no apparent reason. At first glance there were no signs of life. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly uneasy as we drove down that debris-strewn main street. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I got the distinct feeling we were being watched.
Suddenly I saw a flurry of movement out of the corner of my eye, turning to see a dark figure disappearing behind the smashed-up wreck of a truck.
“Did you see that?” I whispered in a panic.
“Keep calm.” Custer answered in an authoritative tone.
He put his foot down on the accelerator, but a few yards down the road we hit an invisible wall, as all of our tires were pierced simultaneously, bringing our quad bike to a sudden halt.
“Fuck!” Custer swore, “They’ve spiked the road!”
In an instant, he jumped off the bike and pulled his assault rifle from his shoulder, and a moment later he dragged me from my pillion seat, pulling me down to the ground as we took cover behind the now immobile quad bike. Custer shouted back to the second bike, which was yet to hit the spike trap.
“Stop!” he cried, “Ambush! Get down!”
Kaz responded in an instant, bringing her vehicle to a halt before descending with her rifle at the ready. The Doc kept his head up, scanning the horizon with curiosity, until Kaz pulled him back.
I peeked over the top of our vehicle and saw the street suddenly come to life, as armed figures emerged on rooftops and shattered windows, aiming their guns straight at us. I don’t know how our drone had missed this armed group during its run, but obviously they’d remained hidden in order to mount an ambush.
In a panic I scanned the street and counted at least a dozen armed men and women, surrounding us on all sides. There were only four of us, and only Custer and Kaz were armed. I know little about combat, but it seemed obvious to me that we wouldn’t stand a chance if it came to a shoot-out.
A tension-filled stand-off ensued, before a voice from the other side broke the silence.
“We’ve got you outgunned and surrounded. You don’t have a chance. Put your guns down and come out with your hands up!”
I couldn’t see the man speaking but it sounded like he meant business. Judging by his response, Custer clearly agreed.
“Fuck!” he swore under his breath, before calling out his response. “Okay, we’re putting our guns down. Don’t shoot us! We mean you no harm.”
“We’ll see about that.” answered the suspicious voice from the other side.
Custer carefully lay his assault rifle down on the ground before he slowly stood up, his hands raised above his head. I copied his actions, as did Kaz and the Doc. My whole body shook as I struggled to stand. I couldn’t believe we’d stumbled into this deadly situation and feared what these people would do to us.
“Just let me do the talking.” Custer whispered in my ear.
I felt angry, knowing our team leader had gotten us into this mess. I had no idea what Custer was going to say to our captors. How could he possibly explain our presence here?
Gradually the ambush party emerged from their hiding places, approaching us with caution and with their guns still raised. I watched our captors under the fading light and was surprised by their appearance. The twelve included men, women and even children. They were of various ages and different races, but all appeared dishevelled and malnourished, their eyes tired and hungry and their faces filled with desperation. All were thin to the point of being emaciated and wore ripped and soiled clothing.
I’m no expert on firearms, but their guns looked ancient and obsolete – a combination of World War 2 era rifles and civilian shotguns. All in all, they looked like the kind of ragged armed survivors you’d expect to find in a dystopian wasteland.
One of our captors stepped forward, slinging a Grease gun over his shoulder as he came. He was a black man with a noticeable scar across his face and a hardened look in his eye. He seemed like a man who’d been to hell and back, and by the way he carried himself, I guessed he was the leader of this ragged band.
“Wise decision.” he said, with a slight grin on his dry lips. I recognised his voice, realising he was the one who’d called for our surrender moments before. Custer opened his mouth to reply, but he never got the chance.
In that moment, everybody’s attention was drawn to the rooftops overlooking the street. I heard a low animalistic growl which chilled me to my bones, looking up to see what I can only describe as a living nightmare. The creature was half-man, half-wolf, its snout packed with razor-sharp teeth and its eyes filled with intense hatred.
I looked on in awestruck terror as the beast stood up on two feet, revealing claws as sharp as steak knives, and then it opened its horrible maw, unleashing a god-awful howl that drowned out every other sound.
The armed men seemed frozen in fear for a second, until their leader prompted them to take action, screaming – “KILL IT!”
Suddenly, the air was filled with bullets, the din of gunfire almost deafening. The beast should have been hit, but it moved so fast, leaping from the rooftop and pouncing on the nearest rebel, ripping his throat out in a mere second, and spilling his blood all across the street.
Somebody screamed before the gunfire commenced once again, but the beast seemed immune to the bullets as it tore down the street, hitting one rebel after another, tearing them to shreds with its teeth and claws before they could react. I heard the blood-curdling screams and saw the blur of bloody violence, as bodies were ripped apart and viscera was spattered all over the tarmac.
Custer shook me out of my shock-induced trance, grabbing me and screaming – “Get behind me!”
He picked up his M-4 carbine and made it ready to fire. No-one from the other side tried to stop him – they were too busy dying. By now, the beast was ripping the head off it’s sixth victim. Custer advanced upon it, firing on full automatic as he moved. At least one of his bullets hit the mark, causing the monster to howl in pain. But the round didn’t even slow it down.
Suddenly the beast turned its attentions to Custer, who was desperately trying to load a new magazine into his M-4. The beast jumped him before he had the chance, slashing Custer’s chest with its claws. Custer screamed as he fell backwards, and the beast bit deep into its victim’s shoulder.
I was sure he was done for. But, just then, the gunfire started back up again, as a burst of rounds struck the monster and forced it back, releasing its deadly grip upon Custer. I looked up to see Kaz advancing, firing short bursts from her M-4. The beast was hit again and again, but the bastard wouldn’t die.
Kaz didn’t miss a beat, however. She kept pumping bullets into her target’s body until her magazine was empty. And then, she dropped her rifle and drew her sidearm – a 9mm Glock. She kept on shooting without mercy, ignoring the creature’s whimpered cries in her determination to end its life. Finally, she stood over its limp body and emptied the last five bullets straight into its head.
This coup de grace seemed to do the trick, as finally the beast stopped moving, its life force extinguished. Slowly, the survivors emerged from their hiding places to survey the carnage left behind after the savage attack, a lightning assault and battle that had lasted less than two minutes.
Kaz and I ran to Custer’s side, quickly establishing that he was still alive despite his horrific injuries. I looked on in horror at the deep wounds to his chest and shoulder. He’d lost a lot of blood and clearly was in considerable pain, groaning in agony as he struggled with every breath.
Kaz placed pressure on his shoulder wound to stem the bleeding as she called out – “Doc! Where the hell are you? We need your help!”
I scanned the blood-strewn street for our medical man, finding him leaning over the body of the wolfman, poking at its ribs as if he were conducting a post-mortem.
“Fascinating. The exoskeleton on this animal is unlike anything that occurs in nature. Its almost as if someone has set out to design the perfect killing machine.”
I needed to place a firm hand on the Doc’s shoulder to bring him back to reality.
“God damn it Doc!” I exclaimed angrily, “Custer is hurt bad. You need to see to him!”
The doctor appeared rather annoyed and taken aback, but he complied.
“Yes, of course. Let’s see what we can do for him.”
He leaned down beside the wounded officer, shaking his head and tutting as he opened his medical bag.
“He’s in a bad way.” the Doc said, as if stating the obvious. “I can bandage up his wounds and give him something for the pain, but most of my supplies are back at the base camp. I’ll need to get him back there and stabilise him, otherwise he’ll never survive the journey home.”
Kaz nodded grimly. With Custer incapacitated, she’d taken on the role of team leader, and no-one was questioning her.
“Okay.” she said, “The tires are out on the lead quad bike. The Doc needs to take Custer back on the second bike, which means we’ll need to stay here.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“So, we’re stuck in this hell-hole?” I exclaimed in dismay.
“Calm down.” Kaz replied, “I’ll radio back to base. Get Mitch and Jerry to ride down here on the motorbikes and pick us up. If we ride pillion, we’ll get back by sundown, in time for the rendezvous. It’s cutting it fine, but we’ll make it.”
I was far from convinced. None of this was part of the original plan, and there were about a million things which could go wrong. I knew how tight our window was, and if we were even five minutes late arriving back, we’d be trapped here forever. But this wasn’t even my biggest concern in that moment. I was far more worried about how we’d survive the night.
“And what the hell do we do if another one of those monsters shows up?” I asked, pointing to the bullet-ridden body of the wolfman.
“Then we deal with it!” Kaz shot back angrily. “Now, help me with Custer.”
We gently lifted our leader’s broken body and got him onto the back of the quad bike. I watched as the doctor drove the bike out of the ghost town and back into the hills. At the time, I honestly believed we’d signed our death warrants, but I couldn’t deny that Kaz had made the right call.
While Kaz radioed back to base, I turned my attentions to the surviving rebels, watching as they tended to their fallen comrades. Some said tearful prayers over the shredded remains, while others recovered their weapons, ammunition, and anything else they had on their person; including food, tobacco, and various other trinkets and personal effects, as meagre as they were.
In all, six of the dozen rebels had been slaughtered in the beast’s lightning assault. Half of their number killed in just under two minutes.
“I guess we should be thanking you people.”
I turned around to see the rebels’ leader approaching, his weapon shouldered as he extended his hand in friendship. Only moments before he’d been holding us at gunpoint, but things had changed very quickly. I took his hand and shook.
“Wyatt’s my name, and these are my people. Well, what’s left of them.”
I introduced myself and expressed my sorrow for his losses. Then I nodded to the dead beast laid out on the roadside.
“What the hell was that thing?” I asked incredulously.
Wyatt seemed puzzled by the very question. “What do you think it is?” he replied.
“Looks like a god-damn werewolf!” I quipped, only half joking.
“Sure.” Wyatt confirmed with a shrug, “But this one’s a rogue. A hunting dog which got away from the Aryans. Now they roam the countryside, killing everything that moves.”
Alarm bells started ringing inside of my head. “Hold up…Aryans? You mean like Nazis?”
Wyatt appeared even more puzzled. “Nazis…yeah, they started off that way, back during the Final War. They’re something far worse now. But, how can you not know this?”
I felt a twinge of panic, realising I’d given away too much.
“We’re not from around here.” I answered meekly.
“Well, that much is obvious.” said Wyatt, “You aren’t Aryans, that’s obvious too. But the guns, equipment and vehicles you have are far better than anything we’ve got…You might be from another district, but the Aryans rule the whole world…Hell, they even have bases on the Moon and colonies on Mars!”
I saw Kaz had finished her call and was now listening in on our conversation, shooting me a reproachful look as a warning not to say too much. But I didn’t see any way of explaining this to Wyatt, nor did I see any advantage in keeping secrets from him.
I took a deep breath before answering. “We come from another world, or more accurately…another version of this world. Our scientists have worked out a way of crossing from our dimension to the next, and so here we are…”
I expected Wyatt to laugh in my face, but he didn’t. Certainly, the rebel boss appeared shocked by my admission, but he didn’t dismiss my explanation out of hand. I guess when you live in a world run by Nazis and overrun by werewolves its going to take a lot to phase you.
Wyatt looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. “In your world, does the USA still exist? Is that where you come from?”
“Yes.” I confirmed, “We’re Americans.”
Those words seemed to bring Wyatt some comfort, to know that his country still existed in some alternate version of Earth.
Kaz interjected at this point. “Who are you people anyway? The American resistance?”
Wyatt shook his head, and I saw the sorrow in his eyes before he began his sorrowful explanation. “We used to be, many decades ago. America stayed out of the war in Europe during the 40s, and when the Nazis eventually conquered us, they allied with people who looked like them and brutalised the rest…
The same thing happened all across the world – nations conquered, and populations trampled under their damn jackboots! They enslaved some and slaughtered the rest, first by firing squads, then by gas chambers and mass starvation, and finally by releasing viruses designed to kill non-Aryans. Millions wiped out, whole continents emptied.
Now, the Nazi’s descendants live in fortified plantations and citadels. They’ve used their evil science to create their damned ‘master race’, and worse…” He pointed to the dead werewolf. “Monsters like this. They’re the result of their twisted experiments – intelligent and super-strong predators, trained to be obedient to their masters…”
He raised his voice, and the anger and pain were evident in his words. “And us? We’re not the resistance anymore. We’re god-damn prey! They hunt us down for sport. Slaughter us like cattle! All us folk can do now is try to survive. We hide, move from place to place, and fight back when we can. But we’re dying out, year after year our numbers grow smaller…”
He sighed and lowered his head, tears welling up in his eyes as his surviving comrades gathered around him. His story was horrifying, but I had no doubt he was telling the truth. This world was a place of living nightmares – one of Nazi super-soldiers, genetically-modified werewolves, and human hunting. I’d never imagined I would visit such a terrible place, but here we were – right in the middle of this shit.
I was still trying to come to terms with what Wyatt had told us when Kaz brought the conversation back to business.
“What will your people do now?” she asked.
“It’s too dangerous to travel on foot after dark.” Wyatt replied, “We’ll need to hold up here until dawn.” He pointed down the street. “There’s an old church down there. Not much, but it still has four walls and a roof. We’ll take shelter there tonight. I’d suggest you come with us. It’s the safest place to wait for your rescue team.”
“Fine. Let’s go.” Kaz replied, motioning for me to follow.
I felt a cold chill as we walked down the tarmac. Somehow, I knew we were in for a hellish night.
The old church was predictably a wreck, but as Wyatt had promised, it still had four walls and a roof, which made the place more habitable than most in the ghost town. Wyatt and his team went to work as soon as we took up residence, using discarded pews and various debris to barricade the doors and windows. Clearly, they expected a further attack during the night – whether by Nazis, werewolves, or whatever the hell else was out there. We’d barely survived the last attack, and so I dreaded to imagine what would happen next.
Kaz helped to organise the rebels’ defences, taking charge and adapting to the situation with typical military efficiency. I could do nothing but admire her courage and resilience. Kaz knew all too well that I was no fighter, so she gave me her Glock pistol and ordered me to stay at the back. She gifted Custer’s M-4 to Wyatt and gave him a quick tutorial on its use. The rebel leader looked as pleased as punch with the upgrade.
After the defensive preparations were made, there was little to do but wait. I engaged Wyatt and his people in conversation in an attempt to find out more about their world’s society and tragic history, but they were understandably distracted and perhaps unable to answer my questions. It was a terrifying time as we sat in the ruined church staring out into the darkness, waiting on whatever nightmares might emerge to devour us.
I did wonder why I’d ever gotten involved in this operation. What madness had driven me to come to this hellscape? Perhaps Kaz shared my regrets, but if so, she showed no signs, remaining cool and focused throughout. I can’t describe the relief I experienced whenever I heard the whine of the motorcycle engines, followed by the burst of communication from Kaz’s radio.
I eagerly glanced out the window and saw the two security men riding in on their bikes. Our rescuers had finally arrived. My elation faded when I looked to the tired and desperate faces of Wyatt and his people, realising we would be leaving them behind. But, as it happened, fate intervened.
As Mitch and Jerry pulled up in front of the church, a third vehicle drove in from the opposite direction, its heavy diesel engine drowning out the sound of the motorcycles. I looked on in horror as a grotesque jeep-like vehicle tore down the street, its powerful headlights illuminating the tarmac. The large automobile was heavily armoured and bristling with weaponry, and something much worse – three human skulls mounted to the hood in a horrific display.
“Fuck.” Wyatt swore as he came up behind me. “It’s Steiner and his hunting party. They’ve found us!”
I looked into the man’s hard eyes and saw his fear for the first time. Terrified, I turned back to the window and saw three figures emerging from the jeep and moving with speed – muscular and athletic men in dark body armour and carrying alien but deadly-looking assault rifles. And from the rear of the vehicle leapt not one but two of those hell hounds – vicious werewolves as ferocious as the feral we’d previously encountered, except these two were clearly trained and under the control of the Aryan hunters, obeying their every command.
Mitch and Jerry were out in the open, apparently unaware of the immense danger they were in, at least until Kaz shouted them a one-word warning – “RUN!”
The gunfire started a second later, as the Nazi hunters opened up with their rifles. Mitch and Jerry ran for it while laying down covering fire. They couldn’t make it to the church in time, so they took cover in a disused gas station across the street. The soldiers made it by the skin of their teeth, as bullets flew and hunting dogs snarled.
By then, all hell was breaking loose, as the rebels opened up and the Aryan death squad began their assault. Just then, Kaz grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me away from the window.
“Stay down and keep out of the way!” she screamed at me, before taking up her firing position and joining the battle.
I did as I was told, taking cover behind the pews and laying low as the gun battle raged in all its fury. As I cowered in the corner, I missed much of the anarchy which followed, but I did witness the bloody results. Three of the rebels fell in quick succession – a man’s head was blown off not ten yards from me, a woman was cut down by a burst of automatic fire, and a kid who could only have been 14 or 15 got hit by shrapnel from a grenade.
The carnage was horrific, and I feared we were about to be overrun, but Wyatt and Kaz continued to fight back fiercely, moving from window to window whilst laying down suppressing fire.
Suddenly, there was a pause in the firing, and for a brief second I dared to think the battle was over, but then a single shot rang out, striking Wyatt in his shoulder, the impact throwing his body backwards.
“Shit!” Kaz swore, as she abandoned her position and sprinted towards the barricaded door. A moment later, there was a mighty explosion which rocked the entire structure. The room filled with dust and my ears were ringing. I looked up and was horrified to see the barricade breached. A figure emerged from the chaos, moving with immense speed as he shot a rebel through the head and tore across the floor.
Kaz tried to stop him, but he floored her with a blow to the face. A second later, a ferocious werewolf tore into the church after its master, slashing a rebel to shreds with its mighty claws before he could get off a shot.
Suddenly I realised there was nothing and no-one standing between me and the beast, and I would need to defend myself. Raising my pistol with a shaking hand, I managed to fire a single shot, missing my target. The beast was so fast, and I never got a chance for a second attempt. I screamed in terror as I saw the hell hound bear down upon me.
In an instant it was on top of me, knocking me to the hard ground and pinning me down, its sharp claws cutting into my chest. Its maw was only inches from my face, its foul breath making me retch as its teeth snapped. I was certain I would die there and then, my head ripped off by the beast’s mighty jaws. But clearly its master wasn’t done with me yet.
I heard a loud, high-pitched whistle and suddenly the beast released me, retreating to his master’s feet. I struggled to breathe, hardly believing I was still alive. I looked for my pistol but found it had been thrown clear, out of my reach. I couldn’t stand in any case. Helpless and defeated, I glanced at the jackboots of my assailant, scanning upwards to see the muscular body in black combat fatigues and the large weapon aimed at my head.
I noted the Death’s Head emblem on his uniform, surely a throwback to his Nazi ancestors. He appeared like you’d expect a ‘pure blooded Aryan’ to look – blue eyed, blond haired, and with chiseled Nordic features. But he glared down upon me like a predator would look upon its prey, casting a cruel and sadistic gaze which showed no hint of compassion or capacity for mercy.
When he spoke it was in English, but his accent was vaguely European.
“You people killed two of my men.” he said in an accusatory tone.
I struggled to reply through my quaking lips, stuttering my words. “We…we didn’t come here to kill anyone…”
I regretted my words as soon as I’d spoken them. But the Nazi surprised me by merely shrugging his shoulders and laughing.
“No matter. Those boys were weak. The truth is, our race has become soft. Its good to have some worthy adversaries after all these years…” He paused, looking me over with contempt as I lay helpless before him. “Although evidently you are no warrior.”
I spluttered, unable to find the words to respond. The Nazi grunted in disgust.
“Cat got your tongue, sub-human? Well, let me introduce myself. I am Commander Steiner, lead hunter-general of District 23, North America. And you are an intruder in my district. Evidently, you’re not one of these wretched bandits. Your equipment and weapons are too sophisticated. So, who in Hitler’s name are you?”
I kept my mouth shut, knowing all too well the consequences of revealing the truth to this monster.
Steiner looked amused by my pitiful show of resistance. “Fine. It will be enjoyable forcing the truth from you. I consider myself something of an expert on torture techniques, and I’m always keen to find new subjects for my work.”
Steiner grinned sadistically as he shouldered his rifle and drew a sharp and long dagger. I shuddered in terror at the sight of the blade, wanting to run but knowing I wouldn’t make it far. Steiner’s werewolf never took its eyes off me, its fangs dripping with blood and its eyes filled with hatred.
Steiner advanced upon me, his eyes focussed and his knife at the ready. In my panicked state, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, a scream of fury from a voice I recognised. To my astonishment, I saw a wounded Wyatt charging across the floor, screaming like a berserker as he came. I looked to his hand and saw the deadly device he carried – a grenade, with its pin pulled.
The werewolf reacted fast to defend its master, but not quickly enough. The beast hit Wyatt, knocking him down, but the grenade detonated a second later, blowing them both to kingdom come. The explosion was so close I was deafened by it, as the blood and guts of the man and beast sprayed all over me in a sickening display.
Somehow, I forced myself to my feet, surveying the carnage and gore before me. Wyatt had sacrificed his life to save me, and I could never thank him. I searched for Steiner and saw his motionless and bleeding body laid out on the floor.
I struggled through body parts, still in a daze when I spotted a figure approaching at speed. To my relief, I saw it was Kaz – badly bruised but on her feet and still fighting. She grabbed me firmly, shaking me out of my stunned daze.
“Come on! We’ve got to go!” she cried.
A moment later and we were running out of the church and back onto the street.
“Wait here.” Kaz commanded, temporarily leaving me on the sidewalk.
I looked to the old gas station and saw what remained of Mitch and Jerry, the security men who were meant to rescue us. Jerry lay sprawled across the street, his head almost severed from his neck. Meanwhile, Mitch sat leaning against a wall, his head slumped and his guts torn out, the M-4 laying by his side. A dead werewolf, riddled with bullets, lay about six yards from him.
Evidently, the two men had died fighting the beast. I spared a thought for my fallen comrades before being interrupted. Just then, the hunter’s grotesque jeep pulled up alongside me, with Kaz in the driver’s seat.
“You can’t be serious!” I exclaimed in disbelief, “You want to ride in that thing?”
“You got a better idea?” Kaz shot back angrily, “We need to get back to camp before sunrise. Unless you want to become a permanent resident?”
She was right again of course. And so, I jumped into the passenger’s seat of the Nazi death-mobile and we sped out of the ghost town, leaving the death and carnage behind us.
We raced up the hillside at I don’t know what speed, tensely watching the clock all the way, and we arrived back at the camp with literally minutes to spare, just as the morning sun was rising over the hills. Helen and the others looked on in shock and no doubt concern when we approached in our commandeered vehicle. A death jeep decorated with human skulls isn’t exactly the type of car anyone’s happy to see.
“Where the fuck did you get that thing?” Helen exclaimed, as Kaz and I jumped out of the jeep. “And what the hell happened to you?” she added in concern, no doubt noting the blood and gore covering me from head-to-toe.
“No time to explain,” I answered frantically, “We have to go!”
“Where are the others?” Helen added in confusion.
“Dead.” Kaz answered firmly. “What about Custer?”
“He’s dead too I’m afraid.” answered the Doc, as he suddenly emerged to greet us. “His injuries were too severe.”
“Fuck!” Kaz swore.
I was also upset at the news, but there was no time to grieve, as just then there was a burst of light and energy on the hillside, only yards from where we stood. They were reopening the portal from the other side, creating a passageway for our return. I scanned the base camp and saw how the team had already packed up our gear, ready to ship. It was protocol not to leave any equipment behind when we left, but this mission had already gone to shit.
Still, I watched with joy as the portal opened, and I thought we were finally safe. But once again I was wrong. I heard it first, the ominous drone of rotor blades, and then Juan – one of our technicians – cried out and pointed.
“What the fuck is that?”
I looked in that direction, horrified to see an attack helicopter approaching at great speed. It was something akin to an Apache but of a different design – heavily armoured and bristling with weapons, a Swastika clearly visible on its nose.
“Jesus!” I mouthed.
There was no time for anyone to react before the killer aircraft opened up, pumping machine gun bullets into our camp. Phil – our second technician – was caught out in the open, torn to shreds by high-velocity rounds, his body performing a macabre death dance before dropping to the dirt.
Juan cried out his friend’s name and had to be physically restrained by Kaz and the Doc.
“Its too late! We’ve got to go! Leave everything…Just get through the fucking portal!”
We all started running, beating a hasty retreat as the bullets kept flying. One by one, I saw my comrades descend through the portal – the Doc, Juan, and then Helen. Kaz waited for me, waving and shouting frantically as I sprinted towards the opening.
I don’t know why, but I paused at the last moment, turning and looking up at the chopper. I saw the man in the cockpit and was shocked because I recognised him – Steiner. His head was bandaged but it was definitely him. I would recognise his cold, predatory stare anywhere.
To my surprise he was no longer shooting. Instead, he simply watched – observing our hasty retreat. I froze for a second but Kaz saved my ass once again, tackling and physically shoving me through the portal entry.
We left that vile world in an instant, descending into darkness and limbo before we emerged on the other side, our bodies collapsing onto the metal gangway back at the facility.
“Close it!” Kaz screamed.
But there was no need, as a moment later the power shut down, and the link to the other world was broken.
I struggled to breathe as I adjusted to my surroundings, my brain not registering that we were really safe. In an instant we were surrounded by security men, medical staff and technicians, all appearing shocked and frightened. And who could blame them? They’d never seen a mission go south this badly. A team of nine had made the crossing over to Earth 217. Just 24 hours later, only five had returned, without any of the weaponry and equipment they’d set out with.
The mission had been a total cluster fuck, and I dreaded the inevitable hours and days of debriefing which would surely follow. But that’s not what really scared me. I couldn’t forget about Steiner, the Aryan commander who’d seen our trans-dimensional portal first-hand and was now in possession of all our team’s equipment. The Nazi fuck would surely report his findings back to his superiors, and who’s to say the Aryans aren’t capable to building their own TDP, given time?
The thought of those monsters crossing over to our world keeps me up at night. Still, I thought Earth 217 was the worst we would ever encounter. But, once again, I was wrong. There are parallel worlds out there just as bad and perhaps even worse. I know, because I’ve been to them.
And, if the feds don’t track me down before then, I’ll tell you all about these hellscapes, because this is shit people need to know. Until next time, my friends.
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