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THE BREACH • by Gay Degani

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Artwork by: Lindsay Joy

The sudden hammering on the door jolts him awake. He doesn’t know for sure if it’s dawn or dusk. His upended sofa, his queen-sized mattress and box spring, his mother’s hutch block the loft’s only row of windows.

“Dan! It’s me.”

Val? No way. How could she make it through the city? He’s dreaming. But he never dreams anymore. Almost never sleeps. Not if he can help it.

“Daniel, open up.”

At the door, he wavers. Anyone might be a carrier, a host, the instrument of death. He glimpses through the peep-hole. Val’s chestnut hair is tangled, her face streaked with mud. She clutches his wedding picture, an armful of clothing, Darwin’s collar. He lets her in.

“They got Darwin?” he asks, locking the door behind her. Watching her. He still finds her beautiful. That long curve of neck still moves him.

“Ran away,” she says and darts around his new place like she used to dart around their apartment. She used to look for women. Now she looks for Chloratons.

“We’re going to the lab,” she says. “Dad says it’s safe.”

“Nowhere’s safe.” He doesn’t tell her he can’t face the danger. The devastation.

“Let’s go. Now.” Val’s eyes. Big. Dark. He reads something there he hadn’t expected to find.

He goes.

He didn’t want to know how bad it was. And now he does. People fleeing in every direction, panicked by an enemy whose tiny size and almost noiseless stealth make surprise attack the common tactic. Human corpses obstruct doorways, hang from windows, clutter curbs. And the dying–curled where they’ve fallen–cry out as the Chloratons drill into blood and muscle with their needle antennae, each victim yielding up his precious treasure of deoxyribonucleic acid.

Val slaps Dan’s face. He wants to deck her, but she grips his arm with both her hands–the bundle of clothes, the photo, the dog collar dropped at their feet–and yanks him forward.

She stops. Swears. Spits out, “The car’s gone. Someone stole the car.”

Dan’s voice comes out in a rush. “We gotta go back.” He stumbles toward his building, but a woman twists through the front door onto the steps, ripping at her clothes, tearing at her skin. Val grabs his arm–“Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go!”–and he lets her drag him across the street and into the Factory where he used to drink Jack Daniels, straight up, most nights since Val kicked him out. That is until the waves of Chloraton war ships landed.
Light sputters dimly from sconces inside the saloon despite the crash of the city’s power grid. Orbital’s “Out There Somewhere” pings and pops from the radio. Carl, the bartender, is at the far end of the bar, hunched over, talking to some old alkie.

“Carl,” Dan calls. Waves his hand. Val bats it down.

“Stop!” she hisses. “Come on!”

He jerks away from her, pushes through upturned tables, knocks over chairs. Carl doesn’t look up. Neither does his customer.

Dan grips the bartender’s shoulder. It’s sharp, brittle. And then Carl turns toward him, but Carl isn’t turning. He’s tumbling to the ground. Dan reaches out, snaps back as Carl’s body hits the cement and shatters. Val’s there, whispering in his ear, “Come on, baby, come on. C’mon, C’mon, C’mon.”

She shoves him through what they both now realize is a battleground of human husks. Yet Dan has to suppress the urge to stop, to see if they too will shatter.

In the back room, Val finds the basement door and while Dan lurches down the stairs, she stays at the top, slamming the rotten door, sliding the rusty bolt, listening for the faintest shuffle of Chloratons in their wake.

Trembling, Dan struggles to hold himself together, tries not to see the woman on the steps of his building shredding at her flesh. Not to see the bartender’s splintered shards at his feet. Val tiptoes down. Wraps her arms around him, yet he’s still shaking. A generator vibrates nearby. He pulls away from her and kicks the machine into silence.

Val says, “We’re gonna be okay,” and pushes him behind barrels of beer, cardboard boxes, a metal table. Dan slides onto the damp cement and wonders why he hadn’t struck out across town to find Val. Why she had to come for him.

She brings a blanket and scrunches down next to him.

“They advance and retreat,” she says, meaning the Chloraton invaders. “Dad says it’s a matter of timing. We’ll wait a while, then head for the tunnels. It’s not too far. He has a car waiting.”

Dan says nothing. She snuggles in. Kisses his cheek. He feels ashamed.

When Val’s breath wakes him, Dan rests his lips against her forehead. It’s warm, smooth, smells like sweat. She stirs, moves closer to him. He loves her. He wants to save her, but how? The bartender didn’t fight against the invaders, staying where they found him, not moving, letting it happen. But the woman who ran from his building did fight. She tore her own flesh to get to them. But neither survived. Neither Carl’s acceptance nor the woman’s defiance proved strength against the enemy.

Val says, “Do you think they’ll come?”

Then she gasps, her fingers tightening around his arm. He listens. Hears the slightest purr on the stairs.

Their flimsy fort won’t repel the Chloratons. But a distraction might, a body manifesting itself at the front of their march could lead to a mindless frenzy. And leave enough time for someone to escape.

“Val,” Dan says, turning toward her. But she’s gone, the grip of her hand still tingling around his arm.

Beyond the barrels and cardboard, a faint shadow flicks by.

A sharp cry, a groan, and the sound of someone thumping to the ground.

Dan holds his breath and wonders how long before he can make his break for the tunnels.


Gay Degani is looking forward to a year more dedicated to writing than ever before.

GD Star Rating
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THE BREACH • by Gay Degani, 3.9 out of 5 based on 57 ratings
Posted on March 13, 2008 in Science Fiction, Stories
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42 Responses to “THE BREACH • by Gay Degani”


  1. Sarah Hilary Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Stunning stuff, Gay, so action-packed and breathless. I love zombies, the infected, all that mess and mayhem – and you did a brilliant job of conjuring all the right emotions whilst inventing something new, these tiny, savage invaders.

    *shiver*

    5 out of 5 – top star rating! Absolutely loved it.

    Sarah

  2. rumjhum Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 4:38 am

    This is a very good read. Thanks for the story. :-)

  3. Oonah V Joslin Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Gay, tell me the Chloratons aren’t coming for me…I’m scared…I don’t want my DNA sucked out and go splat on the cement. :)

  4. Sarah Hilary Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Not to worry, Oonah, I’ve saved you a place in my helicopter. Please being a machete.

  5. Sarah Hilary Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Please BRING a machete – the panic is making me type funny

  6. Alexander Burns Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Fantastic.

    I don’t think a machete will help. :)

  7. Sarah Hilary Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:27 am

    Maybe a miniature one? Or an egg whisk? Damn, I need a weapon!

  8. gay degani Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Wow! Thank you, you guys. I’m an old-school SCI-FI fan: Asimov, Herbert, Heinlein, Bradbury, Finney and more than a little frightened to take the plunge, but it was soooo much fun. Thank you for liking it!! (“The Lab” is JPL–not four miles from my house–so you can follow me!! We’re on the same side of the tunnels!)

  9. Nik Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Intense! And I like to see a woman in the typically male heroic/self-sacrificing role.

  10. Nathan Trader Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    There is a lot packed into this short piece. Interesting sci-fi plot aside, the characterization is amazing. You managed to sneak in just enough story behind these characters (Like the dog collar! Nothing to explain that, but the effect was profound), that I felt almost like I knew them. That’s really important with this kind of ending, and it left me heartbroken. That’s quite a feat for a story just a little over 1k words.

    I loved it. 5/5 stars from me, as well.

  11. Kevin Shamel Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Yeah, Gay, five stars from me, too. Simply brilliant writing. Great backstory elements to go from, fast paced, good characterization. I really, really like this story.

    I love that the Chloratons are from another world, too. Teeny alien invaders who eat your DNA. That’s good stuff.

    It reminded me a bit of Shawn of the Dead, but not at all slapstick and goofy like that.

    Yay, Gay! I can’t wait to read the stuff from when you’re “more dedicated to writing than ever before”. Treats for us!

  12. Betsy Weigandt Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Gay, This is your best short story ever. Keep up the good work!!! Betsy

  13. gay degani Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I was worried after I had them go into the bar. I did see Shawn and loved it, but decided that the story and people were different enough not to change to setting. It’s always a tough call. Thanks to all of you for such kind words!!!

  14. Sarah Hilary Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Gay, for me this was much more Romero than Shawn. You’ve got the claustrophobia and the emotions, the humanity driven to extremes (good and bad) by the stress and pressure of the situation.

  15. Jane Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Very good story Gay. Keep writing – you have a great style!

  16. Erin Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I really enjoyed this. Action-packed and a breathless ride, but also stand-out characters. Well done.

    Poor Val!!!

  17. Claire Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Whoa! I’m biting my nails! Loads of drama…Please keep writing! Very thrilling! Louisiana’s in…OK?

  18. Mark Dalligan Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Great read. Liked the idea of the world brought low by tiny invaders.

    Definitely 5/5.

    Cheers

    Mark

  19. DJ Barber Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    5*!!!!!

  20. Denise P Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I want more! What happens to them?

    I like the characters, very believable…and the subject matter is also a favorite of mine, I grew up on sci fi in the ’60s & ’70s, my dad encouraged us to read all of his favorites, Bradbury, Asimov (we are Russian), Heinlein, we saw all the movies, too. My younger brother still shudders thinking of Soylent Green and Omega Man…

    Gay, this could be a great pitch for a film script…

  21. gay degani Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you soooo much. I don’t know about a film, but it does feel like the germ of a larger piece to me. Hmmmm, time for research!

  22. willow christer Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Wonderful read.

    Willow healy

  23. willow christer Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    You have the writer’s ability to write gripping copy.

    Willow

  24. Doris, Grammy, Mama D Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Great Gay!! We all loved it. You know I am not a fan of sci-fi but as usual, your characters are sooo real!
    5 shiny stars

  25. Bev Callister Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Awesome, Gay. I’m very impressed!

  26. June Korte Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    The chlorotons sound so real–would like to hear more of the same. You wonder if he makes it to the tunnels, and what happens to her? Is she now a zombie? June Korte

  27. Jim Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Incredibly engaging as usual…though now I’m actually a bit scared of your mind! You go, Gay!

  28. Denise P Says:
    March 13th, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I say DO IT!

  29. Alan Beard Says:
    March 14th, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Just caught up with this story. Excellent – like one of the commentators I’m impressed with the characterisation – the relationship summed up in little details (she used to look for women..) – as well as shock of the Chloratons – their smallness a touch of genius. Yep definitley conjures up scenes from a film to me. Great!

  30. Avis Hickman-Gibb Says:
    March 14th, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Good old fashioned Sci-Fi. Great pace, and I was left wanting more. Very natural writing and so believable. Can I cadge a seat in your ‘copter Sarah H?

  31. Rena Sherwood Says:
    March 15th, 2008 at 8:56 am

    You write as if the end of the human race would be a bad thing :-)

  32. Marcos Villatoro Says:
    March 16th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Gay Degani says she looks forward to another year of writing, and I’m glad. This is a wonderfully tense story. Forgive the reference, but I had “I Am Legend” in the back of my mind–more for the tension and the ‘feel’ than plot. The story has voice.

    MV

  33. gay degani Says:
    March 16th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Marrrrrrcos! Hey there. Thank you so much for reading this. You helped put me on the path!!!

  34. Sharon T Says:
    March 20th, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Wow! This story had me on the edge of my seat. I don’t say that as a cliche metaphor. I was literally on the edge of my seat. My adrenaline is pumping now, and I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee. Interesting that someone above mentioned “I Am Legend.” I got more of a “War of the Worlds” vibe (and I mean that as a complement). Great suspense, and so many details packed into such a small space. Loved the dog collar, too. Way to go!

  35. GMoney Says:
    March 24th, 2008 at 5:23 am

    It may not score high on originality, but very well-written and an enjoyable read. I liked the contrast between the acceptance of the bartender and the women tearing off her own flesh.

  36. Coralie Johnson Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Could this be the beginning of a larger sci-fi piece? There seem to be endless possibilities based on the last lines…I wonder what will happen next?

  37. TL Gardner Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Great suspence!! I love it!

  38. Interview with Gay Degani | Every Day Fiction Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 12:03 am

    […] placed third in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Choice Awards, and her second “The Breach” is this month’s most read story (and is already edging its way up EDF’s Top […]

  39. Prakash Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 4:35 am

    Hi Willow, I liked the story, too. Remember Dhulikhel? If you do write back. Prakash

  40. Anne Marie Says:
    June 13th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Kept me reading! How would they escape? Could they? Do we get a sequel? Or even a prequel?

  41. Christina Says:
    January 12th, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Gay, loved it! I can’t believe we never spoke of our mutual Sci-Fi appreciation. I was glued to every word, while my imagination filled in imagery likened to Twilight Zone meets Hitchcock, but better, because I know you personally. I can’t wait to read more. May 2009 bring you inspiration to continue to create, and even more love and encouragement from those around you.

  42. Podcast EDF016: THE BREACH • written Gay Degani • read by Robert C. Eccles | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 12:02 am

    […] EDF016: THE BREACH by Gay Degani, as read by Robert C. Eccles “The Breach” was originally published in EDF on March 13, 2008, and is included in The Best of Every Day […]

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