Monsters did exist, only they weren’t snarling creatures that hid under your bed. They were massive aliens, hungry for your body, your sex.
And your soul.
I knew them well, bastard aliens who’d taken over Earth, their desire unlike anything your worst nightmares could fathom.
The words remained on the tip of my tongue as I stood glaring at the monstrous aliens. I lifted my bow, the arrow already in place. I’d hunted them, searching the monsters even as they pretended to protect us. I knew better.
They were nothing but scavengers, preparing to take every fertile female to provide what their kind could not.
“Don’t come any closer,” I stated in a booming voice. There were three of them, all regal in their impressive size, almost seven feet tall, their skin glowing. Everything about them was impressive, including their chiseled bodies and angular features. I refused to be impressed. They were the enemy after all.
The leader stood his ground, a smirk on his face while the other two moved to flank my sides. They truly believed they could best me. They had another think coming. With my skills, I could easily plant the sharp arrow between the leader’s eyes within a split second. They had no idea who they were fucking with.
I was well aware they could speak English, even dozens of other languages, yet they remained quiet.
Calculating my next move.
I loathed the look of amusement on the leader’s face. I wanted nothing more than to allow my arrow to hit its mark. While they seemed to be highly intelligent, they had no understanding what kind of danger they faced.
From a single human female.
“Leave this place and you won’t be hurt.” My words seemed to scatter in the wind. As one of the other creatures shifted, his heavy boot stepping on a fallen tree limb, I shifted my taut arms, making certain he knew I had no issue shooting him as well. I had plenty of arrows in my satchel.
When one of them laughed, I allowed the arrow to fly, missing the leader’s handsome face by only a single inch. I quickly reloaded before any of them reacted, pointing directly at the massive alien’s neck. “I repeat. Leave. Now.”
Taking a deep breath, the leader dared to take not one but two long strides closer, his eyes never leaving me. “I am Voltar. You now belong to me.”
Was the asshole kidding? I laughed, swinging my arms from right to left in an effort to warn them that I was serious. “And I give a shit why?”
Voltar exhaled, tilting his head. “You will be punished for your actions.”
If the alien was trying to insult me, he’d done a damn good job. “Not going to happen, alien freak. I am my own woman.”
I could actually tell he was using restraint, the creases in his face deepening. When he spoke again, he’d already moved another two feet closer.
Every inch of my skin tingled, the breath catching in my throat. Starting a battle wouldn’t do well for my people, but I felt I had no choice. I would kill them if necessary.
“This is Kodroth and Degan. You will submit to us.”
The formality was amusing. He actually thought I would be frightened. “So. What?”
Centurions were vile creatures, hell spawn from another planet. At least as far as I was concerned. When all three descended without hesitation, easily disarming me, I finally realized how terrified I actually was. I’d heard about their levels of punishment, the kind of harsh discipline used on humans. Their methods were brutal, primitive in so many ways.
But they were effective in keeping order.
“Let go of me!” I screamed, knowing that even if anyone heard me, they wouldn’t dare defy the authority of the Centurions. Struggling, I managed to give several hard punches before the alien Voltar had called Kodroth secured my hands behind my back. I was going nowhere.
“Fuck you!” My scream brought another smile.
Voltar studied me from head to toe, his massive iridescent green eyes piercing in more ways than one. Every look he gave me was riddled with heightened lust, the bulge between his legs increasing in mass every time I dared to take a glance.
Shame rushed through me as my nipples hardened. I couldn’t be attracted to these beasts from another world. There was no way.
Yet my body told no lies, my pussy already leaking juice into my panties.
Swallowing, I did everything to stand my ground, glaring at the freak of nature as he approached. Using a single finger, he rubbed the tip down the side of my face, chuckling under his breath.
“You’re a fucking asshole,” I spouted off, still struggling, doing everything I could to get out of Kodroth’s grasp.
“She is… extraordinary,” Degan said as he inched closer. Even he was excited, his cock throbbing in a visible manner against the tight-fitting pants.
I was mortified that I even noticed, my face flushing from the embarrassment as a feeling of white-hot heat rushed through every cell in my body. What was wrong with me?
“Yes, but she deserves harsh punishment,” Kodroth stated with a guttural growl.
“And punishment she will have. Undress her,” Voltar commanded.
“No. No!” I knew my cry would go unheeded. I realized there was nothing I could do. I was at their mercy. Tears rushed to my eyes as the other two aliens tore at my clothing, easily ripping away the material as if the hindrance was nothing. I wanted so much to be strong, to honor my mother and father in the fight against their tyranny.
But I realized I was nothing but a girl pretending to be a warrior.
I closed my eyes as fingers brushed across my naked skin, sliding up and down in a provocative manner. The way they were touching me was so intimate, tingling every portion of my body. I was thrown, pitched into a place of near insanity by the way my body reacted. Every part of me was so alive, shivering uncontrollably.
“No. Please…” I knew my words were lost on them. They took what they wanted without question, their utter domination barbaric in nature. While I expected nothing but pain, the moment those same fingers flicked across my nipples, swirling in lazy circles before pinching and pulling, I was unable to stop a series of moans.
I finally opened my eyes, trying to rationalize why I could enjoy something so horrible. Lights flashed all around me. It was as if Earth had changed colors, the sky no longer a beautiful cerulean blue, but a bright and stunning tangerine, clouds floating like heaven’s angels across the sky.
“Look at me, Felicity,” Voltar commanded.
How did he know my name? I was unable to resist, obeying him almost instantly. His eyes bored into mine, brilliant in their luminescent manner, his irises flecked with gold. I allowed my gaze to fall to his chest, admiring the deep ‘V’ chiseled from his slender waist to his muscular thighs.
And his cock.
My breath was stolen, my mind stripped of all understanding. He was a thing of beauty.
“As I said, you will be punished, and you will learn our ways. You will also obey my every command,” he said in a whispered tone, yet the words seemed to boom in my ears.
“Never,” I was able to retort, gasping as Degan’s fingers found my pussy, flicking across my clit.
I was so wet, my body infused with combustible heat, goosebumps popping along every inch of my skin. The pleasure soon ceased, the two Centurion soldiers dragging me to a tree. Even though I struggled, there was no use. My arms were tied, my legs forced to widen.
“Bastards. You will never get away with this!” My exclamations were useless even as I fought the bindings that held me in position. I’d never felt so helpless in my life. All the fighting I’d done, all the protection I’d given my family and I felt like a failure.
They’d captured me.
Now they were going to whip me like some bad little girl.
My wrists were almost instantly chafed during my fight to free myself, even though I realized the effort was futile. The chill of the breeze floating across my naked skin made me shiver, my heart race, and the fear was suffocating. My throat was so dry, every cry I made almost useless.
Then I heard what I knew to be Voltar’s heavy steps as he approached.
“For your crimes, you will receive thirty lashes.”
His voice was so victorious, as if he’d already claimed me as his own.
Over every inch of my dead body that would happen.
I continued to fight, whimpering softly as I attempted to see what he was preparing to do. The action was useless, further tightening the binds that held me in place. Then I heard the whooshing sound, one I would never forget.
There was no way of understanding my body’s reaction as what had to be a thick piece of leather was sliced against my bottom. At first, I could feel nothing except for the tingling sensations that continued to dance throughout my body.
When the second and third strikes were given, only then did I realize the pain that had bloomed, shooting both up and down from my ass cheeks. The anguish became blinding, my mouth opening wide in a silent scream. What atrocities had I done to deserve this? I was a human, fighting a ruthless alien invasion, striving to be free. I wanted my entire colony to find a way to escape, finding a new location where the Centurions would never find us.
And I’d failed.
As another hard lash was given, I made a promise to myself that I would never give in and that I would find a way to kill the monsters.
No matter what I had to do.
No matter if it meant my death.
Many of them would die by my hands.
I felt the light touch of Voltar’s hand, the bastard actually caressing my bruised skin. How dare the fucker even try and act like he cared! Incensed, I issued a harsh snarl, hoping he would understand that one day he would face my wrath.
Voltar walked closer, allowing me to see his face and his penetrating eyes. “I suggest you stop fighting, little human.”
“Or what?” I spouted back.
“Or your punishment will be much worse.”
I realized the moment I spit on him that I’d crossed the line, but I refused to give into some ugly creature.
Growling, he shook his head before resuming my discipline, delivering another six strikes in succession, one brutal whip coming after the other.
I was no longer able to fight back, sagging against the tree. Even breathing became difficult as the spanking continued. I tried to think about my sister, her sweet face and laughter. I attempted to pretend that this wasn’t happening, but I failed miserably, finally succumbing to the pain I was forced to endure.
I finally heard the beasts talking in their native language and although I had no idea what they were saying, I was trying to prepare myself to strike again. If only I could secure one of their weapons. Maybe, just maybe I could escape.
Kodroth moved closer, lowering his head until his lips were close to my ear. “You’re very beautiful. You will enjoy belonging to us.”
Us. The single word made me sick. They really believed that I would succumb to not one but three of them? They were out of their minds.
“Fuck. You.” I could tell my exclamation startled him. Then his eyes lit up, hunger evident on his face.
I closed my eyes as I was released, falling to the ground. I continued to hear their voices even as I attempted to crawl away.
Voltar dropped to his knees, fisting my hair and yanking me back. “Felicity.”
I suddenly hated my name and tried to fight with every ounce of what strength I had left. “You will never have me.”
“That’s where you are wrong. I will take you, use you, and I will break your will.”
“Not until hell freezes over.” I clawed the earth, trying desperately to get out of his clutches. My mind had already realized there was no chance, but the woman inside refused to give in so easily.
I felt the rough pads on his fingers gripping my reddened bottom, the whimper slipping from my mouth involuntary. I knew he was kicking my legs apart as he settled behind me. Ready to take me.
Ready to ravage me.
Still, I continued to dig my fingers into the dirt, groaning and hissing like a wild child. They might take my body, but they would never take my soul.
I’d heard stories of horrible brutality, the Centurions taking women in a violent manner. Yet when Voltar touched me, his hand caressing my hip and upper thigh, I was shocked at the gentle action.
He lowered his head until he could breathe across my back, his breath so hot that I tingled all over. I gasped, trying to fill my lungs as the anticipation shot fire into my stomach. The way he rubbed his cock against my bottom was shameful.
I cinched my eyes shut, fighting with every nerve ending and blatant desire rushing through me. This was horrible. This was unforgivable.
He slipped the tip of his bulbous cock past my slickened folds as if teasing me.
“Oh. Oh!” Why did my voice also betray me, allowing the bastard to believe I might want this?
Because you do.
The ridiculous voice inside my head was wrong. I groaned again, my hands still trying to claw their way forward even as his cock was shoved further inside. I could feel my muscles accepting, allowing him to take me without any hesitation. As my pussy clamped around the thick invasion, I let out a bedraggled moan, hoping the entire world would hear.
And come to my rescue.
I knew better. There was no one willing to fight.
I fought every raging emotion as he thrust hard and fast, the force pushing me down until my face was almost pushed against the ground. He was brutal in his mannerisms, the gentle touch all but forgotten. He wanted me.
He’d claimed me.
Now I belonged to him.
“Fuck. You. I. Will. Kill. You.” I knew my words were left on deaf ears. His growls were primitive, his entire body shaking as he fucked me. Even the sound of his balls slapping against my skin made me sick to my stomach.
Although my pussy was soaked, drawing his shaft in even deeper, I couldn’t understand why our connection was so strong, electricity soaring. There was no fighting the way he made my body feel, no matter how hard I tried.
With every hard plunge, he was bringing me closer to nirvana, sweeping me toward a mind-bending orgasm that I didn’t want. No. I couldn’t want.
But there was no denying him or the way he made me feel.
“Uh. Uh. Oh…” He yanked back my hair, forcing the words from my mouth, slamming into me even harder. Then I lost it, unable to stop the climax from rushing into my body.
Oh, God. Oh, God. This wasn’t happening.
But it was.
The climax pummeled every nerve ending, sending me into a cataclysm of extraordinary pleasure, moving quickly into ecstasy as the single orgasm turned into a wave. I was unable to see anything in front of me, so lost to the delicious moment. Even my breathing ceased for a few seconds, my mind reeling from the concept a freaking alien had given me this amazing moment.
I shuddered uncontrollably, gasping for air, fighting the tears that formed in my eyes. I would not surrender.
Voltar folded his massive body over mine, raking his teeth over the skin of my shoulder. “What does it feel like to belong to me?”
He knew I couldn’t speak, had no words to defy him. I dropped my head, more ashamed than ever.
The monster slapped my ass twice before pulling out. I thought the ordeal was over, but when I felt the tip of his cock slide up and down the crack of my ass, I whimpered once again. “Oh… Don’t, I…”
Chuckling, the tone oh-so sensual, he pulled aside one of my ass cheeks before wiggling the tip of his cock to my asshole. I was stunned, arching my back in an effort to thwart what he was about to do.
There was no stopping the monster.
He bridged my entrance, pushing into me until he hit the tight ring of muscle. I’d never felt anything like the searing pain as he entered me. My scream was cut off, my breathing choked.
“Let go, human. Enjoy,” Voltar said in an offhanded manner. As if we were lovers.
As if he cared.
I knew better.
This was his attempt at making certain the others knew he was the one who owned me.
I tried to fight once again, bucking and struggling to get out of his firm grasp. He simply wound his fingers in my long strands of hair, pulling me backwards as he thrust further inside.
In those moments, I lost what was left of the girl inside, trying to latch onto the warrior I’d tried desperately to become. Yet pain and pleasure melded together, the agony of his entrance quickly shifting to unbridled nirvana. All I could do was hold my breath.
Voltar fucked me long and hard, taking every inch of me in a savage manner. I stopped fighting, accepting that I’d lost this battle, even as my mind prepared for another. He would never best me. He would never take me.
He would never win.
Harder and faster he plunged, his breathing becoming more ragged, more savage.
And in the end, as my body responded only to the taking, my muscles clamping around his thick cock as he erupted deep inside, I knew that this alien had completed his task.
I now belonged to him.
Two weeks later
“You’ll be punished.”
How many times had I heard that very statement before? How many sleepless nights had I envisioned the monsters taking me, using me? Filling every hole with one of their thick, hard cocks?
Shivering, I blinked away the ugly visions, making a promise to myself that I would escape. Somehow. Someway.
Then there was my family to worry about. I cringed, my skin tingling from anticipation. The Centurions were monsters. Brutal savages. And there was nothing any of the aliens could do to change my mind.
The horrible premonitions were coming true. My mind was rattled, petrified that everything I’d dreamt during the last two weeks had actually occurred. My skin tingled, my pussy quivering much as it had since the experience in the woods. Maybe I was losing my mind, the fear overtaking any concept of reality.
But I couldn’t get the monster out of my mind.
His entire body reeked of testosterone, a man to be feared, his power evident in every move he made. Broad shoulders, a carved chest, rippled abs that were every girl’s fantasy.
But he was an alien. A damn beast that I was supposed to fear.
Then why did I hunger for him every night?
Every time the primitive drums were hit with the cloth-covered mallets I jumped. There was no fear given what they were doing was on the massive screen, just simple disgust. Others in my group crowded closer, as if the monsters holding court were magical gods, able to free them from their daily confines. I wanted to laugh and make fun of them for their obviously misguided cravings, but what else did they have to live for?
Being locked away, never having the freedom to make a single choice—other than to submit or die.
I am woman, hear me roar.
I’d learned the expression, one from so long ago, from my mother. But even she’d lost her will to fight. A nauseating chill swept down my spine, trickling along the backs of my legs even though the temperature was close to eighty degrees. Everything about the Centurions and their ruthless ways repulsed me yet sent the fear of the unknown skittering into my bloodstream. I’d fought so hard to keep my self-worth, trying to enjoy the life we’d been forced into, but days like these were debilitating, shaking me to my core. I thought about the words I often said to myself in an effort to curtail my rage.
I am Felicity Michaels and no man or beast will ever strip away my identity or my dignity. Ever.
Only the aliens were capable of doing much more, at least if I was lucky enough to win the so-called lottery.
We all stood staring at the videogram, a retelling of one of the recent celebrations, the show meant to entice us for the upcoming Feast.
Feast. Feast. Feast.
The chanting would forever burn in the back of my mind.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” one of the girls asked no one in particular, her dilated eyes wide open and her hand raised as if able to stroke the copper-colored hair of the girl leading the others into a tight formation. Every single one of the women on display in the video seemed catatonic, as if they’d been drugged or worse, brainwashed into thinking they were facing a glorious life. They were all dressed in magnificent clothing, silks and satin in vibrant colors. I knew in my heart their attire was all for the glorious show.
They were simply being turned into well trained pets for the Centurions, a fate worse than death in my mind. I couldn’t fathom why no one else in our group seemed to notice the chosen’s artificial smiles and glassy eyes. Maybe they simply didn’t care. I glanced around me at the eager faces, pursed lips, and body language indicating they were turned on by the few aliens being shown in the videograms.
“No, they’re not,” I answered, more under my breath than anything. I wasn’t well liked, as if I gave a shit, but I had to be careful not to cause a commotion or the Watchers would flag my number, removing me from the upcoming celebration. They were the low-level Centurion soldiers, every one of them dangerous. I’d seen with my own eyes what the nasty creatures did to misbehaving girls. Any of them causing commotion were humiliated in front of every man and woman, stripped of their clothing and shackled, spanked like naughty little girls until their ass cheeks were flaming red.
“Come here, Earthling. You deserve to be punished.” His deep voice floated across the courtyard, the sound penetrating into the darkest parts of me. He patted his lap, his lip curled in an exaggerated fashion, the sneer on his face indicating he approved of my naked body.
I heard the chants all around me, the gregarious calls from those hungering to see me punished. A light breeze wafted across my skin, forwarding the horrific stench of the monster in my direction, yet my pussy clenched in anticipation. I did as I was told, my feet dragging as I inched closer, trying not to breathe, willing my mind to obey. If not, the consequences would be even worse.
He reached out, his fingers dancing along the skin of my forearm, tickling my synapses until my nipples hardened. I had no idea why I felt such blatant desire for a being I considered so wretched, but my body betrayed me, my breasts aching with deep longing. “Do you understand why you’re being whipped, little girl?”
I wanted to shout out that I was a woman and not a little girl, but I merely nodded. The thick leather strap lay by his side, a favored implement and one that could inflict significant pain. Why was my mouth watering and goosebumps popping along my arms and legs?
“Excellent. We will mold you into a perfect mate yet.” Yanking me over his massive lap, he pressed his hand on the small of my back. “You are to be given thirty lashes.”
As the strap was driven down against my buttocks, I squirmed and moaned, pain coursing throughout my body. And I wanted more…
The vision was far too real, leaving me shivering. I’d never wanted a controlling man, one who was used to getting what he wanted. Never. I wanted a hero, a gorgeous blond human fighting for my love, gentle and understanding. Unfortunately, he would also be fighting for our lives. No human male was allowed to mate with females any longer, at least not those under the protection of the Centurions. Human males were used as workers, true slaves tending to fields and what livestock remained living on Earth. Every young woman was considered property of the Centurions.
I gagged, swallowing back my bile and I swore to myself that this would never happen. Not to me.
Sadly, I had no choice in the matter.
One human man had pretended to care, but I’d realized his treachery within hours. He would never stop hunting me, putting my family in danger. No one knew what had occurred and no one ever would.
But one day, I would kill the bastard.
“Yes, they are beautiful,” another girl stated with spite in her voice. “They’re being wedded. What about this isn’t breathtaking? You’re just jealous because your number will never be selected.”
Several of the other girls laughed, receiving harsh glares from the Watchers.
She meant breath—and possibly life—stealing. How little the naïve girl knew about the possibilities. Not a single human female on Earth able to conceive was left unscathed, but the majority had been brainwashed with these trite political messages, all provided by the elite government faction of humans specifically created for this bi-yearly event alone. They were protected bastards, white-haired men who pretended we weren’t caged animals. This showing and our attendance was mandatory. Twice a year and the same bullshit, all meant to indoctrinate childbearing-age females into acceptance of their wretched fates.
Total submission, body and soul.
And I was one of them.
Only I didn’t believe in any of the crap that was spewed. Not from the Centurions. Not from the government. And certainly not from my parents.
The sickening feeling remained as I stood watching the preprogrammed screening of the last episode of doom, a name I’d adopted years before in an effort to maintain some level of sanity. Over the years, I’d seen only a few girls from our colony leave, never to return, but certainly not in the last few lottery selections. This fact left a black mark on our colony, our supplies running low. Hope was all our colony seemed to have left.
The girls chattered amongst themselves, talking about how exciting it would be to finally become one of the few on Earth to be selected. Mating with the enemy. I snorted at the thought.
“Listen!” the girl exclaimed, pointing to the screen, her glare laced with a nasty tinge.
I looked, more out of spite than anything.
The aging Centurion male on the screen had stark white hair, his sunken face lined with heavyset creases. Even his green eyes seemed glassy, as if he was no longer able to focus, yet he stepped in front of the telescan units with pride. Closing my eyes, I clenched my fists, digging my nails into my skin in an effort to keep from screaming. How could this have happened? How could the various powerful governments of so many countries have allowed Earth to be invaded over a half century before?
“We are gathered here today to celebrate the most honorable marriages between dozens of lovely brides and their intended mates.”
The crowd on the screen cheered, the girls surrounding me cooing like stupid children. I tried to drown out the sound as the official spewed off various aspects of these supposed marriages. Then came the great and well-rehearsed finish.
“You will obey your mates or face the ultimate demise. You will do everything that is commanded. Do you accept your destiny?”
“Yes, sir,” came the collective voices, all like good little drones. I couldn’t help but think they’d make excellent slaves.
The girls had already learned total obedience, no doubt disciplined as required, their understanding perhaps finally kicking in.
They were nothing but prisoners.
Unable to tolerate anymore, I backed away from the group. When I was finally a few feet away, I sprinted toward the small house I’d grown up in, gasping for air. I was suffocating, my heart racing as I headed straight for my bedroom. I couldn’t bear another thought about the upcoming event.
I was left alone for some time, the rest of my family choosing to ignore me. They didn’t share my views or my concerns and merely tolerated my mood swings. And they were preparing. The next two days were oh-so very important in our ridiculous existence. I thought my parents hated me for my defiance, certain I was partially the reason that our colony had a black cloud enshrouding every fertile female. My mother had even suggested harsh discipline methods in order to help me improve.
My father had refused; it’d been the only time I’d ever seen him yelling at my mother.
“Felicity, Mama is preparing a good meal. Come join us.”
I heard my sister’s voice from the doorway, her tone full of angst. While normally she was able to pull me out of my dark moods, she could have no power over my inner demons until this travesty was over. “Sure.” I dragged myself off the bed, brushing hair from my face before walking into the common room and sitting down next to my sister. Neither my mother nor my sister bothered to glance in my direction. They were simply praying the anger would pass.
“I need to get your father,” my mother said in her usual exasperated fashion.
The entire house rattled from an explosion, the thin walls reverberating the crushing sound. A single alarm went off, the click-clicking noise always reminding me of an insect instead of a state-of-the-art security function.
As if the Centurions gave enough of a damn to protect their property.
Instantly on edge, I knew exactly what was happening.
“God damn it!” I heard my father’s heated voice even over the loud crashing sound. My instincts kicked in, as they usually did. The explosion was meant only as a scare tactic, the same crap as always, but we were all growing weary of the bullshit. The damn marauders were at it again, threatening our colony. They always had the innate ability of knowing exactly when six months had passed, even though all sense of time had been destroyed. They were humans, but considered the bottom feeders of life, prepared to take what they believed was rightfully owed to them. They were also vicious killers, more organized than the Centurions wanted to admit. They didn’t care what species was caught in the middle of their killing sprees. I had a desperate feeling pooling in the pit of my stomach that this particular Feast would be one to remember.
What happened every six months? A grandiose Feast in every breeding colony in the world. Another time for what I called abductions.
The word as well as the concept left a nasty taste in my mouth. Earth. The year 2345, invaded and taken over fifty years before. We were nothing but cattle, prime Grade A beef. At least the various colonies with winning contestants were provided with lavish food and drink, all for the price of relinquishing their daughters to the aliens. What was truly worse was the fact the majority of humans believed this was a true reason to celebrate—with the exception of the marauders. They were hell bent on destroying the aliens, but had no issue taking out the colonies as well. We’d been taught the marauders were our enemy.
I loathed both sides, neither one of them anything more than animals.
But they were free. Free to make choices. Free to arm themselves. Free to love whoever they wanted.
I was already a prisoner.
Another blast rattled my last nerve. They meant business this time. I’d had it with being the victim, wanting nothing more than to protect my family from any additional brutality. Jerking to my feet and racing to my room, I grabbed my favorite crossbow and ammunition, and was already at the door when my mother attempted to block my path.
“You can’t leave, Felicity. You’re required to stay in the compound especially right before the lottery. Those are the explicit rules. You will be punished if you go outside the walls or worse. That can’t happen. That won’t happen,” she snapped, her face twisting then softening. I couldn’t help but notice how nervous she was, as if there was some secret to be told. Beads of perspiration had formed on both sides of her face. She wiped them absently, breathing out before speaking again. “Besides, we have protection. The Centurions will eradicate any threat.”
Snorting, I studied my mother’s once beautiful face, now riddled with age as well as defiance. Both my mother and father knew my little secret, that I ventured out of the prison walls to hunt and forage for food as well as information. My mother had even threatened to turn me in, but knew I’d be immediately disqualified as a contestant. Today, I wanted out. I would fight and keep the threat from harming those I cared about. I would also run, free from the demons plaguing my mind. No matter the danger, I adored the outside world.
There were periods that we were all allowed outside the gated walls, but we were never alone, the Watchers surrounding us at all times. I preferred hunting alone, savoring the freedom if only for a few hours. “And just where is our protection, Mother? Where are these fucking beasts required to guard us against the Demons of the Forest? Our great worthless masters. I haven’t seen their sorry asses in two months.”
The hard slap across my face was swift as well as unexpected. Reeling, I glared at her, biting all the nasty words that were positioned on the tip of my tongue. My mother didn’t deserve my wrath. The damn aliens who ruled our life deserved that and an arrow between their eyes.
As if I would ever have that chance, but I’d die trying.
I was considered one of the lucky ones, even privileged, just like every other family in this and hundreds of other compounds. Our family had been selected to live in relative luxury, provided with a secure and clean location to live, decent food and clothing, and even certain entertainments. Other humans hadn’t been so lucky after the invasion. Some lived in basic prisons, required to work in fields harvesting food or mines digging for jewels. I’d never been more than a few hundred yards away from the colony, having spent my entire life like a caged animal. I laughed bitterly at the thought. I had no recollection of the overthrow of Earth. I hadn’t even been born yet. All I knew was what had been taught by my parents, a few stories from other elders in the colony.
Colony 57 to be exact.
I had learned that there were hundreds of these protected environments scattered all across Earth. I’d also heard horror stories of families attempting to leave. Shuddering, I rubbed my face, almost wishing I could be surprised at my mother’s vehemence. I wasn’t.
Tomorrow was the day for the great lottery, the Feast. The importance of the celebration made me sick to my stomach, but so many families in my colony were always eager, praying even that one of their daughters would be chosen. In two days, those lucky enough to win the various lotteries would be on their way to Skars, a distant planet in another galaxy. And the reason?
To mate with three nasty-looking aliens. At one time. Together. Then to bear their children.
I wouldn’t call that luck in any regard, more like damnation.
“How dare you react that way. You know how important this is to all of us! You know how much we need to finally win.” My mother was shaking, almost in tears. Granted, our particular colony was considered unlucky. Not a single girl had been selected in almost five years.
Win. I wanted to be shocked at the single word alone, but I wasn’t. Every parental unit in the colony was prepping their precious daughters for tomorrow’s lottery event, as if more festive clothes and prim and proper actions had anything to do with the random selection.
“Mama! Let Felicity alone. You know how she feels about this.”
Hearing my sister’s now lilting voice created a string of spider-like shivers, more like tentacles trickling down my spine and the backs of my legs. I adored Winter; would protect her with my life. She seemed so fragile where I was a tomboy and always had been, preferring climbing trees to learning anything about being a woman. I frankly couldn’t give a shit that I was a hot commodity, a beautiful young woman destined to mate with a Centurion or three. Even the extra rations provided to the families during the event including the finest chocolates and spirits, actual meat and poultry, and clothes and money had no effect on my piss poor attitude.
But the delicacies were highly coveted by everyone else.
Thank God Winter had yet to reach the age requiring her to join in the fun and games. I, on the other hand, was ripe and ready, nearing almost twenty-two. This would be my second spectacular event. Fuck it. Bile rolled into the pit of my stomach. I could recite the proclamation by heart.
You will be required to submit to your masters in every manner, no matter what is asked of you. You will be used sexually over and over again, every hole taken brutally. You will be punished for any and every infraction severely, sometimes in a humiliating fashion. And you will bear their children.
How could I forget the rules? I’d signed my acknowledgment and acceptance on the dotted line the day of registration, the very day when the chip was implanted in my arm, the one that would glow bright red if I’d been oh-so fortunate enough to win.
“I know the regulations, Mother, but I refuse to allow any of the marauders to set foot in this camp. You know what will happen if they do. Then where will we be?” I adored my mother’s name, Lily, like a flower I’d never seen, except in what few books hadn’t been destroyed.
Lily exhaled, her eyes darting back and forth and her emotion uncharacteristic. “I’m so afraid when you do this. I’m terrified I’ll lose my little girl.” She cupped my face, trying to smile even as tears formed in her eyes.
I wanted to tell her that if her wish came true, that she’d lose her little girl forever, but I couldn’t be cruel to her. She’d endured so many years of pain and worry already. I wanted to hate her for all the harsh words, but everyone survived on hope alone. “Don’t worry, Mama. I’ll be back before dark and you know I’m very good at what I do. I can take care of myself.” At this point, my mother knew better than to try to stop me. I was hardheaded as they came, even more so than the majority of boys in the colony.
I was taking a significant risk, but I was ready to take on the assholes who terrorized us. The marauders had never set foot inside the compound, but they continued to try, getting closer every time they attacked the security system. That’s why I wanted to put the fear of God into them. However, if any of the Centurion foot soldiers found me outside the walls, I’d be disqualified as well as punished in front of every member of the colony, and my family stripped of its ranks. Then my entire family would be tossed into the general population to fend for ourselves amongst murderers, rapists, and thieves, praying one of the factions of marauders would take us under their wings.
I knew the direct consequences better than most. The vicious memory of becoming lost in the forests remained fresh in my mind, leaving my stomach full of jitters. I was smarter now, and much more cunning.
The thought of being caught weighed heavily on my mind, but if the marauders breached our security, they would do much worse. I raced toward the furthest perimeter of the colony, to where I knew was the weakest area, allowing me to escape to the shadows of the forest. Even though I was terrified of the dangerous men who ruled the dark and treacherous cities, I craved the limited peace allowed by being outside. By myself. I’d yet to kill a Centurion, but it wasn’t against my capabilities. I was prepared for anything.
I often wondered why the marauders picked this time in particular to hunt closer to the colonies. Perhaps it was because the Centurions were always scarce. However, I knew the Demons of the Forest, as they’d been called as long as I could remember, enjoyed the game. Catch and release. Or what I’d heard as catch, fuck, and release. Sullied girls could never be selected after that. The game enraged the Centurions and any human caught participating was executed on the spot.
There was no trial, no witnesses. Only death.
The Centurions had no other method of breeding. The majority of their women were infertile, what few were left. They were a species of mostly male warriors, fighting to reclaim what they believed they owned; the entire universe. I’d seen only two Centurion females in my life, both frail, their skin translucent as if their bodies were riddled with disease. I knew there were at least a few more, kept in secret locations and used to prepare human females after selection in the lottery.
I’d detected the single weak spot located in one of the far walls when I was a child, a slip in the alien’s defense system. The breach was away from the prying eyes of the Centurions’ surveillance system, as well as the electric shock mechanisms wired to instantly incapacitate any human attempting to escape. While the Watchers patrolled the perimeter, they were regimented in their actions, just like clockwork.
The area of departure was very small, requiring my footing to be perfect lest I set off the alarms. I eased the crossbow around my shoulder before attempting to climb over the wall, holding my breath as I teetered just near the top. The Watchers were far too busy with the threat of marauders to notice one misguided human.
I was certainly no longer a child, able to climb like a monkey, whatever that was. My father’s saying. The only animals I knew were deer and the occasional bear, creatures I hunted for food and pelts. Another activity for which I could be punished. After dropping to the ground, I scanned the perimeter, listening for any sounds of approaching marauders or Centurion soldiers for that matter. I was free.
At least for now.