• Kiran Esvaran

Arthropod Takeover: Futuristic Tech Before the Dinos

*NOTE*

This is not historically accurate. There was no atomic volcano causing the end Devonian extinction, just too much oxygen dissolving in sediment, causing a global decrease of oxygen. There was a rise (higher than today) in oxygen levels after that. The giant insects only came after this oxygen rise. Also, nothing was that intelligent back then. This is entirely fictional.



Jack


Late Devonian, 359 million years ago: Everything you know about prehistoric animals is wrong.

I woke up. Where was I? I had just blacked out after being chased by a giant sea scorpion. Was I inside it? That couldn't be. I would be dead if that had happened.

Tall trees towered above me. Phew. What happened to everyone else who was there? My family? Did the sea scorpion get them? I had to try to find them, if they had survived.

I was in an unknown part of the swamp. The water I was in was murkier than where I was last. Enormous trees towered over me, full of insects that looked ready to eat me. Amphibians prowled the edge of the murky waters. The water was warm, but not relaxing. Predators could be lurking anywhere.

Buzz! Buzz!

Overhead, two huge griffinflies fluttered their diaphanous wings. I curled up my snake-like body and raised the venomous spine behind my head just in case. They probably wouldn't try to eat me; they wouldn't want to get their wings wet.

“Should we eat it?” one said.

“Ugh, no! I don't wanna get my wings wet. And sharks aren't yummy. This one’s only thirty centimeters or something,” said the other.

“We haven't eaten in days. All because you don't want to get your wings wet or dirty or whatever,” said the first one.

“I’m not doing it. You can if you want,” said the second.

“Now that I think about it, there are better food sources nearby,” said the first.

“Fine with me,” said the second.

Phew. I thought.

Then the two slender bodied flying insects as large as a dog, a predicted future animal, whispered something to each other. I could make out a few words like plan, arthropods, future, small, and attack. They must have been trying to hide something from me. They must have had a plan that they didn't want me to know about. An attack, maybe?But what did they mean by future and small? What did ‘arthropods’ mean? I had heard them say that unusual word.

Hiss! Hiss!

I twisted my slender body backwards. Two creatures armed with vicious crab claws that looked ready to slice me stealthily glided through the water. Sea scorpions. To be precise, one Pterygotus and one Jaekelopterus.

The Pterygotus reached its dagger-sharp claws out towards my tail fin. It darted through the water, its crab claws ready to mince me. I did not want to become shark fin soup.

Suddenly, the bloodthirsty sea scorpions lunged at me, ready to destroy. I slithered through the water with lightning speed as my heart pounded and my fins trembled. The sea scorpions charged at me with their claws poised for the kill. I slithered toward a river choked with roots and debris. There I would be safe. I just had to hold on a little longer.

Out of the blue, a huge claw lunged out toward my tail, just about to rip my tail fin. The chance of me becoming shark satay drastically increased as a third sea scorpion suddenly came out of the murky swamps.

Great. I thought.

“Come here, little shark. Come here! You definitely won’t survive this, you know,”the Jaekelopterus, the largest of them all, sneered.

Ahead of me, the safe waterway grew closer and closer. Behind me, the three deadly sea scorpions grew closer and closer.

It was life or death. I swished my tail fin as hard as possible.My gills were exhausted as I caught my breath in the safety of the debris-choked waters.The roots and debris protected me, blocking the bloodthirsty creatures. It would be safe to rest my fins and gills and catch my breath.

What had happened during the time I had blacked out? Had this happened to anyone else? Were they okay? Did they need help? The sky overhead was black and glittering with stars. My whole body ached.

Darkness filled my tired eyes as I fell asleep.

Hours later, the river was lit with morning sun. I woke up to the sight of a sleek-looking figure. A shark, slightly smaller than me, with eel-like features that looked like that of a fast swimmer, swam up to me. I identified her to be a Cladoselache, a smallish, sleek, agile species of shark with a rounded snout.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I looked at my eel-like body. It turned out to be a bloody mess, covered in scratches.

“I’m fine. It doesn't hurt,” I replied.

She looked at me for a few seconds, then asked, “Have you just been chased by three sea scorpions? Also, it's nice to know someone else who sleepswims.”

I didn't sleepswim.

“How do you know?” I started to get a bit suspicious. “Before that, I was also chased by a giant one.”

“You also came to the same place, you have the same kind of scratches, and you look exhausted. I was chased too. By the three, I mean. Not the giant one. Do you know why they chased us? I think they might be planning something.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“SharpTooth,” she said. “You?”

“Jack,” I replied.

“Do you think the insects are working with the sea scorpions? Every time I get near one, they start acting all whispery,” SharpTooth said.

I started thinking. Was the griffinflies plan or something related to how the sea scorpions attacked me?

Then I puzzled the words that the two griffinflies had whispered earlier. Were they trying to have an attack plan in the future, or because of something that would happen in the future?

Would every animal turn on them, causing the insects to attack? Insects could nearly predict the future using clues from the past and noticing patterns in the way things worked to find out what the most likely outcome was.

Was that why the sea scorpions had attacked me? Were they working with the insects? Were arthropods any animal similar or closely related to insects, like the sea scorpions?

What if they were planning to take over the world?

“Look out!” I heard SharpTooth’s voice say.

I turned around. A huge, plated mouth full of armored teeth gaped before my eyes. The teeth were daggers. They gleamed like knives. A Dunkleosteus, a gigantic type of armoured fish, was about to eat me.

I closed my eyes, waiting for excruciating pain to pierce my body. It never came. Had it paralyzed me? Had it put me in a trance? Had the world ended? Had the universe been sucked into a huge black hole?

“Wake up!” I heard a familiar voice and a not-so familiar deep voice say. I looked up to see a shark around my size with a sleek body and a huge armoured fish just about to eat me. SharpTooth was right next to the Dunkleosteus.

I nearly fainted from terror and the fact that SharpTooth did not look anywhere close to scared.

“You okay?” said SharpTooth.

“What about the huge Dunkleosteus just about to swallow you?” I said.

“He wasn't trying to eat you,” she said.

“Why would you think that? Ohhhh, it's because my species is hungry, deadly, and evil,” the Dunkleosteus said.

“Sorry, it’s just a reflex,” I said. “Also, my name is Jack.

“William here,” she pointed to the Dunkleosteus with her fin, “says the same thing with the three sea scorpions happened to him. But the giant one is only with you, Jack. Is there anything we all have in common?”

“It’s fine, Jack,” William said. “Oh great. Sea scorpions. Perfect timing. They just figured out our location.”

We all dashed as fast as possible. Seven sea scorpions, all the same size as a Dunkleosteus. How is that possible? They started to chase us. their claws were like swords ready to tear through anything.

I had the best camouflage in these muddy waters, but if I got spotted, I would be over. My venomous spine wouldn't even make a dent in their tough exoskeleton. It would be like hitting a T-Rex (if the insects’ theory about the evolution of “dinosaurs” in the future is right,) with a cotton ball.

William was larger, heavily armoured, and could bite them and at least make a dent, but he was a slower swimmer. He stood the best chance.

SharpTooth was the fastest and most agile, but still couldn't fend off one of those oversized sea scorpions if they managed to catch up.

I looked behind. A claw was reaching for me. I was done for. I swam faster than I ever could before. Until I realized what was up ahead of me.

A huge branch blocked my path. It had just fallen a few seconds ago, on both of my friends. I couldn't lift it, but they had to be alive somehow. Somehow. I had to fight.

The deadly claws advanced forward, just about to rip me apart. I winced, curling up my body.

Wait, that's exactly what I shouldn't do. I opened up my eel-like body, hissing and pointing my needle sharp spine toward the pincers. I couldn't fight them. I had to intimidate them.

They threatened me with their claws. I kept hissing at them. I kept my spine pointed. Abruptly, the sea scorpions swam away. It worked. I couldn't believe it.

“That worked!” I heard two very familiar voices say.

“How are you still alive?” I asked.

“Well, I was tanky enough to survive, and she was small enough to survive. Also the log was hollow and had an opening in the bottom and we are totally not cramped. Not at all.” The voice of William came from inside the log.

I then heard struggles and squeezes as my two new friends turned the log and squeezed out of it.

“You did it!” SharpTooth said.

“Follow them,” William said. “They're probably going to they’re secret base or something.”

We snuck behind them and followed them. A cave gaped before us. We went in.

A huge place full of books that were above the water, and sea scorpions guarding below the water. The water line was still, calm, and prevented us from getting to the books. Books that could reveal everything.

“How do we get in?” I said.

“Sneak,” Sharptooth suggested.

“Fight,” William volunteered.

“If we sneak, we can avoid getting hurt. The hard part is you,” Sharptooth said to William.

“That's the problem with sneaking,” said William. “I’m so stealthy. Except for the fact that anyone at all could see me coming.”

“What if WIlliam knocks out the guards, then me and Sharptooth sneak past to the books? Then Wiliam jumps and splashes the books so they fall onto the shore, then we poke our fins out of the water and read them,” I suggested.

They both agreed.

“Wow, that sounds great!” said Sharptooth.

“Hmmm, not too shabby,” said William.

William swam up to the guards.

“You again.” They opened their pincers. Sharp edges gleamed like a dagger, ready to rip and tear. Sharp serrated edges gleamed like a dagger, ready to rip and tear. These sea scorpions were smaller than the gargantuan ones we had just encountered.

With a few blows, William knocked the aquatic arthropods onto the floor where they lay unconscious.

Now for the next stage of the plan.

A piece of paper, lightly falling into the water, landed on the surface silently. Paper was rare here, insects and some amphibians being the only ones who could make it and it was tedious work, chopping down the huge swampy trees.

I told SharpTooth that there was an odd piece of paper and I wanted to investigate it.

I swam towards it. It was wet, but none of it had been torn.

It read in messy handwriting (well, the insects say neat handwriting will only be perfected when “humans” come along):


To Jack,

Here is some advice on how to stop this. Spy. Get as much information as possible. Read every book possible that they own. Also remember this: insects are natural tricksters. They are great with tricking enemies. Try to find others put in the same situation as you, SharpTooth and William have been in. Find arthropods who are against the plan, if any. Also, you specifically Jack, avoid physically fighting them. You are no match. SharpTooth and William stand a better chance in physical combat.

From, 5had0w


Seems useful. I thought. But who was Shadow? I’d never seen a name like that, ever. Also how did he know this? It was very unsettling.


I showed the letter to SharpTooth.


“How does Shadow know about this?” she asked, having the same question as me.


William came back. Instead he wondered, “Why was this ‘Shadow’ guy spying on us?”


We decided to let it wait, and go to stage two of the plan.


Stage two worked pretty well and only got the books minimally wet. Now we had to read the books. I brushed my dry fin on a book called Plans 1. Out of the water, it had felt as all the moisture had been sucked out of my fin. Even though the air was “humid” as the insects said.


The other two coincidentally chose plans two and three. It read in messy cursive handwriting:


Due to the upcoming Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse, insects will lose their size and become easily crushed by the new arrivals, the reptiles. To stop that, wipe out all non arthropod species. Take out members of each species one by one. Do young ones first.


I didn't think that that was a very logical plan. The Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse was caused by a decrease in oxygen levels. There probably wasn't a way to stop that. But maybe wiping everything else out would help. Maybe it was caused somehow by animals.


Plans 2 and 3 turned out to be decoys. They weren't really books, painted rectangular rocks with impeccable realism. After more time, most of the shelf turned out to be decoys. We tossed the rough, sandpaper-like stones into the water, waves thrashing violently. The guards didn't notice. They must have been knocked out hard. It turned out that Plans 1 was the only legitimate one.


Tap! Tap!


Something tapped me on the dorsal fin. I turned around and a sea scorpion my size was there. I opened my mouth to scream for help.


“I'm with you,” he said. “I’m Shadow.”


Shadow was a sea scorpion? One against the plan?

William and SharpTooth turned around.


“You're Shadow?” they both asked.

“That's my codename I use when I’m sneaking around,” he said. “My real name is SharpPincers.”


A new thought came to mind.

“Have you been spying on us all this time?” I asked.

“That's what I do,” he said. “SharpTooth and William, Can I have a private talk with Jack? Thank you.”


Point of View: Shadow

I had been spying, looking for someone or someones trustworthy enough to help fight the insects. They seemed smart enough, and worked well together as a team. I figured out the insects were trying to take out possible threats. But they had failed. I had failed them too.


Back four years ago, when I was only eight, I had been recruited as a spy. Back then, I thought they were the good guys. I had trusted them. I never thought twice about what they did. But then, watching the other animals, I realized that I trusted the insects too much. I realized that the other side was the good one. The insects were trying to wipe them out after they had done nothing wrong. After this I had gotten exiled. But I knew I could trust this trio. I had seen them try and stop the insects while I watched others in the same situation run away into the deep, hiding like snails in their shells. This trio saved each other, such as when Jack scared off the sea scorpions. They were good at finding information, such as when they searched the insect library. I knew these animals had potential. I had to try and find ways to tell them what they need to know. First, I had to tell Jack about his unusual and alarming situation.


Point of View: Jack

The friendly sea scorpion dragged me away into the inner layers of the cave. A blue light brighter than the sun spread across the cave, lighting up even its darkest reaches. It was like a piece of the sun. Luminescent moss grew in the cave, using its own light to photosynthesize.

“Listen. I think there's a traitor within your group, but I'm not sure who.” He looked grim. “I know it's not William, as he wasn't there when you first met SharpTooth. I noticed some strange activity then at night, but it was too dark to see in detail. But, the odd thing is, the head silhouette was more pointed and the tail was more eel-like, but I couldn't fully tell in the darkness. This may sound strange, but what if you are a traitor to yourself, but you were unconscious when you were doing it? The arthropods could have given you something, or had some mind controlling thing that also erases part of your memory.”


It took several moments before I realized what he was saying. That sounded absurd. Also, if they had mind control or some kind of nonexistent magic, wouldn't they use it all the time? He could have just misjudged the shapes. Or he may have been actually evil and giving me false information. I couldn't fully trust him yet.


“How come you don't know about any of the insects' plans?” I asked.


“I was banished for trying to stop their plan. They figured I may be useful later, so they didn't kill me,” he replied.


The sound of hundreds of legs pattering on the ground hit my ears.


“Quick, hide, run.”


“What’s that?” I whispered.

“An arthropleura.” Shadow was dashing through the water. “It's basically a giant millipede.”


Yikes. I imagined the thousands of legs crawling on me.


Now we were swimming fast as possible. The sound got louder. We were seconds away from getting caught. Danger was right above us. Danger that indirectly threatened the world. All we had to do was swim fast enough.


We arrived back at the books. Were the guards still knocked out?


Yes they were. It was safe. Then I glanced around.


A piece of the floor looked unusual. There was a piece of metal next to it that looked like a hinge for a door. It shimmered a rose gold that glinted aqua in the blue light of the glowing moss. It was made of real gold. It was a trapdoor.

“Guys, I found something.” I pointed to the trapdoor. I pushed it open.


“Wait,” said Shadow. “That was one of the secrets they wouldn't tell me. I spied and heard them talking about a secret door. When I asked, they wouldn't tell me more.”


“I think we should go in,” said SharpTooth. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”

William agreed.


Creak! We lifted up the trapdoor. High-tech buildings shot up from the ground. Us water creatures had only simple caves as houses (you cannot build well with fins), nothing like this. A waterfall rushed down into the city, spraying mist on the metallic windows. An orange liquid bubbled and boiled in rocky pools, radiating heat.


This wasn't a mountain, it was a volcano. How could the insects survive in this place? We agreed that for safety, we should all go together.


I leaped in. Whee! I plummeted with the streams of water. A river lay below the falls, violent waves thrashing through it. The only thing is, the river was purple. It met with the falls in a vibrant indigo that splayed into violet.


A purple river. That had to be related to the plan some way or other. It could be some toxic serum that would pollute the water. And we were about to fall into it.


“Everybody, cover your mouth, eyes, and gills until I figure out a plan,” I yelled over the rushing waterfall.


They all did it.


“The plan is to splash as much water into the pool as possible, diluting it.”


They all nodded.


SPLASH! A gargantuan wave gushed into the pool at once, removing the purple more than the relatively gentle waterfall ever could.


I was ecstatic. My not very smart, last resort, type of plan actually worked! But how? The waterfall itself wasn't much, but it added up and had to be there before the buildings.


“It worked!” I exclaimed.


The water was now an azure blue, enough to be safe to swim in. It may have stung a bit, though.


I landed with a splash into the water. A ripple spread around me. The water wasn't acidic, but it burned. It was still safe to swim in. A kind of heat radiated from the water. Not a warm, comforting heat, but the kind that burned like lava, even if it really didn't. It was mental. There was no pain.


Phew. I thought.


So it probably wasn't a toxic serum. What was it then?


The now azure water flowed in grooves toward the huge city. Pipes took it up to the huge buildings.


It was drinkable. At least to insects. I glanced around. A huge millipede (arthropleura) stood, holding a wickedly sharp sword in his hand. It was tipped with red. That could only mean one thing. It was equipped with lasers. Apart from that, he didn't look very malevolent. He was wearing heavy, thick armor on top of his exoskeleton that tilted to one side. They normally used their exoskeleton as armour. The armor was painted a rose pink. He was wearing a mask with googlier eyes than normal. And, he was only a little older than me.


I nearly burst into giggles about his weird armour. Was he serious? Maybe this was just a cunning trick. It probably was. This was probably to let others guard down. He was probably a vicious fighter.


“How do we get past him?” me and SharpTooth whispered in unison. She had the same idea.


“Just what we need,” William said. “A guy standing in our way.” He had been quiet for a while.


“I think I know this guy,” Shadow replied. “I think he might be on our side. I haven't been here in years.”


“Let's check! In disguise though. How do we get on land? Oh! I’ve got an idea! We all go through the pipes and one creature gets out, and we regularly splash water on them! Then we need a sea scorpion disguise unless it's Shadow,” said SharpTooth.

“Actually,” started Shadow, “we have something for that. At least, I remember we do. It’s called a watersuit. It’s meant to be for sea scorpions, but I think you can operate it. So, there's a control pad, where you move your fin or whatever the way you want to go. It also hydrates you every few seconds and reuses runoff water. It's also a good disguise as the eyes are disguised cameras displayed by a screen to make it look more like it's really a sea scorpion. They used to use it as secret armor. I think they still do. Back when I was little, they were planning to implement new features to it, which I wasn't trustworthy enough to know about, so it may be a little different than what I’ve described.”

“Coooool!” Me, SharpTooth, and WIlliam gave him a wide eyed look. Mech suits! Awesome!

“Follow me,” said Shadow.


We swam over to a stand full of the mech suits. They gave off a metallic gleam, orange from the nearby lava. They were so realistic. They looked exactly like Shadow, just a little more menacing. It had serrated pincers, and a shrimp-like tail.The words Kid Size hung in thick, slightly distorted letters above the lifelike mech suits.

We each got in.


The control pad was easy to operate. The mech never stumbled around. It moved smoothly. I slowly drove it out of the water. Clink! The sound of metal clinked on stone.


We walked up to the guard.


“Hello,” he greeted.

“Hello,” said Shadow.

“You're back,” the guard removed his mask. “You're trying to figure out the plan. I can help you with that. The insects trust me so much now. It’s so easy for me to get in.”

I could tell he was being sarcastic about that.

“I’m pretty sure he’s safe, but let’s just be wary,” said William. “Also, I like his sense of humor.”


We all eventually came to an agreement to be wary, but still let him help.


“So, step one is sneaking into the planning HQ. Pretty simple. Step two is disabling their super complex, impossible to hack, super thought out security systems. Also pretty simple. Step three is gathering as much information as possible that’s so well hidden. Also pretty easy,” the arthropluera explained. “Also, if you wanted to know, my name is Alex.”

“So Alex, do you have any idea on how to bypass the security?” I asked.

“Finding out their password?”

“Let’s think, what would insects find tricky to guess? What would you find tricky to guess?”

“Well, a secure password should contain letters, numbers and symbols, not have any words in it, and be at least eight characters long.”

“How many secure passwords have you tried?”

“999,999,999,999,999,888,898,789,987,567,919,110,982,103,999,456,789,999,999,999,999,999,876,598,890,345. I’ve been counting. I’ve tried this since I was really, really, little.”

“Oh, I've got an idea!” SharpTooth chimed in. “What if we try an insecure password!”

“Why didn't I ever think of that?” volunteered Alex. “Let’s do it!”

“Password?” William suggested. “That would make a nice trick.”

“But first, how do we sneak in?” I wondered.

“Oh, that’s simple.” Alex really meant it this time. “They use their security to prevent enemies from getting in. They don't need guards or anything.”


We headed toward the buildings. There were no guards or anything. I bet they believe they're security is impenetrable. Well, sometimes simple does it.

* * *

“Access granted.” The doors slid open, revealing a complex maze lit by deadly lasers. The maze twisted and turned so much, I couldn't tell what connected to what. We needed someone who was agile, slender, and fast.

“So, we need someone to try it out,” SharpTooth volunteered. “Can I? Actually, we should think this through.”


Not William: too big, not Alex: too slow, not me: too slow, Shadow: just right, SharpTooth: just right.


“I’m pretty sure I would fit,” volunteered Shadow. “SharpTooth probably would too. I’m pretty sure we could fit together in case something goes wrong.”

Everyone agreed.



Point Of View: Shadow


I looked at the maze. There was something about it that felt...odd. Not like your average maze.

Me and SharpTooth stepped in. The lasers were fixed in one spot. We both could probably dodge it, judging by what I’ve seen of SharpTooth’s agility.


“Left this way,” I turned a corner.

“Right here.” SharpTooth pointed to a turn.


SLAM! We both whirled around, glancing behind us. The gate had shut. There was no turning back. We had to hope there was something at the end.


We twisted and turned through the maze, arriving at the center. A dead end lay in front of us, with an open passage to the left. But something was wrong. Was it those slamming sounds? Was it the feeling that we were stuck?


“Doesn't it feel like we're trapped?” I said.

“Oh yeahhhhhh. But how?” SharpTooth said. “I don't know why I feel that way.”

SLAM! We both whirled around. A part of the maze had slammed shut behind us. This wasn't an ordinary maze. This was a shifting maze.


SharpTooth looked somewhere between intrigued and nervous.


The passage in front of us slid open. It provided a way to finish the maze. From the end, there were two tunnels.

“That way!” we both exclaimed.

We swiftly rushed through, before the maze could shift again. The tunnels were marked Go back and Continue to lab.

This was the right place. We headed back and told the others.


Memorising the patterns of change, we completed the maze with ease. We walked into the tunnel saying Continue to lab , and a griffinfly stood, blocking our way.

“Caught you,” he glowered with rage, showing a hint of triumphance.


We all turned around to dash, but instead stared into compound eyes that gleamed with malice.


“Where do you think you're going?” smirked the second griffinfly. “We know who you are, two traitors and three escapers.”

“Should we kill them, or brainwash them?” asked the first.


They must have added a new feature allowing arthropods to see or hack through the suits. That must be how they detected us.

“I say brainwash,” the second suggested, “We need more people on our side. Anyways, they'll forget after we execute the plan, and then we can dispose of them.”


Then everything went black and I got knocked out cold.


Point Of View: Jack


I blinked my eyes open. Shadow’s theory about the brainwashing was right. Every little detail of it. Either he was really smart, or in cahoots with the insects in the first place. But then, if he was, why would he tell us?


I was still thinking my own thoughts, so I couldn't have been brainwashed. But, it felt like I had blacked out for days. Like there was a part of time I couldn't remember, but I knew existed.


Shadow, Alex, and SharpTooth were gone. William was knocked out in a separate area filled with brown water. I had to get him out of there. That's when I realized our suits were gone. Two timers sat by each other. One read in pixelated letters

“Time till the volcanic pressure machine is ready.”

While the other read, “Time till hydrogen bomb inside volcano detonateS.”

Both read one hour. We only had one hour to save the world from an atomic volcano. One hour. An atomic volcano. I had to alert William somehow. A security camera whirred above us.


I sent up a wave of water into the camera. It fell down.


“William!” I pointed to the countdown timers. “We need to make a plan now.” William had a grave look on his face.


After a while of brainstorming, I remembered something crucial.


“The insects said something about a devonian mass extinction soon. Maybe they are the ones causing it?”

“That was related to too little oxygen,” William recalled.

“Maybe they have something that makes them fireproof, or a way to wait out the volcano.”

“What if we pretend we were brainwashed? We could see if they can see through it,” William suggested.


We now had 40 minutes left. We had to put the plan in action.

“One problem,” I pointed out. “We have no way to get on land.”

“Wait, the water pipes. We don't have to go on land.” William realized.


It was a jump, but I could make it. Barely. I took a flying leap toward the area between me and William. I flew through the air, landing with a splash in the pipe.

A sudden jolt of water sucked me up.


I entered a mangrove swamp. A huge creature that would give the monster of your worst nightmares his worst nightmares bared its fangs at me. They gleamed like knives. It had big red eyes, snakelike features, and huge spiny fins. It was the Slayer, a cryptid I had always believed existed even though there was little evidence. It terrorized me in my dreams. It was rumoured to silently slay one creature every night. It chased me through the tangled roots. It was surprisingly nimble and stealthy for its size. I glanced around. There was a pipe. I leaped in. The monster was only a few feet away. I made it into the pipe which carried me along.


After a while, I ended up in front of something that looked like a bomb. I saw Alex tied up with rope here. The insects wanted Alex to die first. He was a traitor to them. He had tricked them for a while now. They also must have put the pipes here as a trap for anyone who came to investigate, as it had shut. I was soaked in enough water to free him and probably defuse the bomb.


I freed Alex from the rope. Alex showed me how to defuse the bomb. He said what to cut and which circuits to keep.


Bleep! Uh oh, we only had three minutes left. I rushed over to the bomb.

“We have to escape!” said Alex.

“No, we have to defuse the bomb,” I said.

“It's too late,” Alex said. I never knew he was a coward. “I only helped you because I live next to the lab. I wasn't trustworthy enough to know where the safe room is. But it’s over.” Alex shoved me into what looked like a portal.

I fought back. I flailed around. But it was no use. A huge blast shook the earth as we made it to cowardly safety. What had happened to my friends? What about everyone else? Were the swamps still there? What would replace it? Anyway, I had to find my friends, my parents, and see if everyone else is alive.



Epilogue


The swamps covered the land, but ruled by the insects and amphibians. On land, the insects dominated. The griffinflies were top predators. Some animals survived the event. The insects forced them to change the story. They forced them to explain it was about oxygen dissolving in sediment, reducing the levels. But they knew their end was coming soon, and their giant humidifier plan was nowhere close to ready.

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