We expected the monsters, we’d sent them here, after all. We expected the monsters to be pissed off that we’d followed them, or to be pleased that we’d come so they’d have victims again. We didn’t expect a warning buoy in orbit above the planet with a list of precautions. We didn’t expect the reception committee we got, but it had been easy to forget that some of the monsters look just like us.
Coglan and Caruso were the first we lost. They went out to scout the northwest sector and never came back. Caruso in particular had been dismissive of the precautions the monsters warned us were necessary for our own safety. The trouble was, the monsters didn’t explain the danger, not clearly.
They’d brought us inside their stronghold but not to hold us as prisoners, because they made it clear that we could go anywhere we liked, during daylight. The catch was that, if you stayed out after dark, you could never come back inside. Ever. We saw them do that to one of their own children.
We hadn’t expected the monsters to have kids, they’d been pretty vicious to ours, but they cherished these and this kid in his teens didn’t come home from the forest one night. His mother, one of the Huntresses, was distraught. He turned up outside the gates after sunrise, but before the sun had hit the ground, and claimed he was okay, that he’d spent the night in a tree. They turned him away, told him that if what he said was true then he knew enough to make himself a safe place – outside their boundaries. The other kids weren’t allowed out into the forest until they were certain he’d moved on. His mother was a pillar of walking grief, but she didn’t object, and no-one told us why.
Now I know why. The precautions they gave us weren’t complete. It should have included “Don’t go into deep valleys where the sun doesn’t shine.” That’s where we found Coglan and Caruso, or rather where they found us.
Coglan took out Tyrrell from behind and broke his neck. Caruso caught Findlay, put his face up to hers and something black oozed out of his mouth and nose into hers. Then Coglan caught me, but he only tied me up, he didn’t do the black stuff thing. Then they ate Tyrrell while they looked at me with their solid black eyes. I can’t help wondering if I’m still alive because they like their meat fresh…
It’ll be sundown soon. Help!