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Content Warning: Blood, graphic description of injury


Few feelings can compare to the feeling of being in immediate mortal danger, and being completely unable to do anything about it.

It was a feeling that Lachlan had experienced only once before, after he’d been carried from the truck into that clinical white room, as the gravity of his situation had finally hit him. He felt it again as he struggled against the creature, but this time, there were no drugs to dull the sheer, all-consuming panic.

Sure, his life had been in danger more times than he could count over the past few days, but this felt different. He was unable to move his arms or struggle, powerless to defend himself.

He thought of being paralyzed in the back of that truck, not able to fight back or cry out as he was lifted into that room with no idea what would happen next, and his panic grew. The more he tried and failed to move his arms from his sides and break free of the creature’s grip, the more paralyzed he felt.

He felt detached again as his legs swung a meter above the ground, but this time, there were no drugs to explain it. His friends’ speech blended together more and more, until he couldn’t tell who was talking.

“–thought you said they weren’t dangerous–“

“–usually aren’t, but they can be very strong and sometimes–“

“–just standing there! Why don’t you help him?!”

“–holding him in front of its weak point. I just need to get behind it–“

“–if we can knock it over, I can kick it like I did before–“

The creature lurched, and Lachlan saw the largest skull squid had wrapped an arm around the creature’s leg. More of Falcon’s brothers reached out, prying at the creature’s long arms, trying to free Lachlan. The creature kicked, swaying back and forth toward a shop building on the side of the road.

The creature stumbled, and its arms gave way, losing its grip on Lachlan and sending him flying.

Glass shattered as he hit the shop window, nicking his arm and chest as he fell through. He rolled over onto his back, feeling weak and lightheaded as the panic subsided.

Mrs. Sharma ran toward the creature, axe brandished, but one of Falcon’s brothers dispatched it first, wrapping a tendril around its neck, then twisting until there was a snapping sound. The creature crumpled.

Lachlan tried to stand, but he felt too weak.

His friends rushed to the shop, crowding around him.

“Oh, my god,” said Naomi. “Oh, my god, Lachlan.”

“Oh, my god, yourself,” he said.

He looked up at his friends, noticing their expressions of wide-eyed horror.

“What?” he said. “What’s everyone looking at?”

“Shh,” said Chelsea. “It’s okay. Don’t try to talk.”

“Everyone move over,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Let me through to him.”

“No, he needs air,” said Chelsea. “Give him some space.”

“Unless one of you has a master’s degree in biology I don’t know about, I’m the most qualified to help your friend. If you care about him at all, you’ll move out of the way.”

“What are you talking about?” said Lachlan. “I’m fine. Well, as fine as can be expected, considering… you know…”

He still felt so weak, and the feeling was getting worse instead of better. He felt colder than he had before, and there was a strange, empty feeling in his head that made dark spots flicker at the edge of his vision.

Lachlan’s friends moved out of the way, and Mrs. Sharma approached him crouching down at his left side.

“Naomi,” said Mrs. Sharma. “Come lift his left arm above his heart.”

Lachlan looked down at his left arm, and realized why everyone was so worried.

When Sam had lost his fingers, Lachlan had thought there had been a lot of blood. Now, he realized he hadn’t had any baseline for what ‘a lot of blood’ really was. His blood was everywhere, bright red blood spurting from his arm and dark blood flowing from his chest, soaking through his glass-shredded clothes and pooling around him.

“I… oh, fuck,” he said. “Oh, fuck…”

How was this possible? The glass had only cut him a little. Even now, he hardly felt any pain as he bled out onto the shop floor.

How had he not noticed that sickening copper smell?

Naomi held up Lachlan’s arm.

“What are you going to do with that knife?” said Naomi.

Mrs. Sharma cut away the torn pieces of Lachlan’s sleeve at his shoulder. She examined his arm, then pressed down on the inside of it. Whatever she did seemed to ease the bleeding.

Sam pulled off his jacket and removed his undershirt, handing it to Mrs. Sharma.

“Here, maybe you can use this to make a tourniquet or something.”

“A scarf would be better for a tourniquet, but I can use this to bandage his chest. Chelsea, give me your scarf.”

The cold dizzy feeling was starting to overwhelm him as his vision begin to blur.

“Quickly, Chelsea. Unless you want your friend to die. Someone, find me a stick.”

Lachlan fought to stay alert, but he couldn’t stop himself from slipping into unconsciousness.

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