As we turned to head back to our vehicle, however, my ears caught another one of those thin wails, barely on the edge of hearing. Kurt drew his sidearm, while Bradley brought his rifle up to his shoulder. A moment later, I remembered that I had been given a pistol, and I fumbled to pull it out of the holster on my belt.
Just as I got the weapon free, the wail intensified, and I saw movement breaking through the clouds off to one side. The mercenaries raised their weapons, and the many-limbed monster died in a hail of bullets before it was fully through the clouds. But we could already see more of those thin tentacles reaching down as its fellows followed.
“Lights!” Kurt roared over his shoulder at the convoy. The spotlights mounted on the vehicles clicked on, and bright beams of light struggled to cut through the hazy twilight. But as they increased our vision, we could see thousands more tentacles dropping down, all around us.
The other drivers were also beginning to emerge from their vehicles, guns at the ready, but Kurt waved one hand at them, signing that they should stay in their vehicles. “Be ready for the portal!” he shouted. “We can’t hold them off forever – we need to be ready to move through the portal when it opens!”
I wasn’t sure that we would make it that long. The men were being more selective with their shots, aiming for the large clusters of unequal-sized eyes that would drop down at the heart of the writhing tentacles, but the stream of monsters seemed to be unending. They were coming at us from all directions. I couldn’t even tell from which direction we’d come – the shifting sand had already obscured the tire tracks of the convoy.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement above one of the delivery trucks. I let out a wordless shout, pointing up at the nightmare of a spider that was falling out of the clouds, but no one else was paying attention to me. I grabbed at the gun strapped to my hip, managed to free it. I raised it up, both hands shaking as I tried to keep the surprisingly heavy pistol steady.
I pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Idiot! The safety! I flicked at the switch until it clicked, and then once again raised the weapon. I did my best to sight down the trembling barrel at the monster as it began to wrap its tentacles around the truck.
Bang! Bang! The gun leapt in my hands with each loud report, but the monster jerked and shuddered. I pulled the trigger twice more, and the creature’s largest eye, in the center of the coils of tentacles, exploded into a mass of ruined ichor. The creature fell, bouncing off the top of the truck and landing only feet away from me. I stared in horror as it thrashed in its death coils.
A loud scream broke my concentration. One of the soldiers from the back vehicle had climbed out, and was now caught in the grip of several tentacles. I forced my eyes away as, with a disturbingly wet ripping sound, the tentacles pulled him apart. I raised my pistol again, sighting down the barrel at another one of the beasts that was drawing close.
In between my shots, however, I heard a new sound – one that I had never thought would be so welcome. As the crackling, buzzing noise increased, I saw a large mirror shimmer into existence, twenty or thirty feet from the lead Humvee.
“Back to the vehicles!” Kurt roared. “Double the suppressing fire! Give them everything!” The thumping of gunfire increased as we all sprinted back towards the oversized transports.
I reached our Humvee, but struggled to get up the high first step into the back cabin. Kurt’s arms tightened around my collar, and I felt myself literally lifted and thrown into the backseat. Kurt was less than a second behind me, slamming the door shut behind him as he leapt in. “Go!” he shouted, slamming a hand down on our driver’s shoulder…