The Waters of No Return
At eight o’clock in the morning, the invasion started. Dozens of paratroopers launched from their cylindrical, hollowed-out shaft and, as gracefully as autumn leaves, landed in the water. They did not communicate with each other or make any more noise than necessary as they drifted stealthily across the surface. The nature of the Enemy’s eyesight was such that they did not know to which colors, if any, it was colorblind, so the intruders wore a motley spectrum of uniforms including pale indigo, lime green, red, brown, yellow, pink, and several others.
They floated for a few seconds, letting the gentle but steady current carry their bodies. Then, without warning, the Enemy struck. One of the red troops was the first to go—he did not even have a chance to scream before the jaws opened from beneath and swallowed him whole. Some of the other troops caught sight of the mouth, the eyes, and the armor as the Thing from the Water reached the peak of its arched path just above the surface and then slithered back into the deep like a parasite navigating its victim’s bloodstream.
Another troop, Yellow 199, fought back a tear. He had known that first victim ever since they were initiated as soldiers at the processing plant. There the entire army had been split up into squadrons and placed in separate cylinders to await their assignments.
He had spent weeks next to this same crimson victim in that dark, crowded shaft. His name had been Red 206, and except for his military friends, he was alone in the world. He had no dreams of returning home, because he had no home to return to. Yellow 199 supposed this was the way of every troop in that cylinder; they joined because they were somehow outcasts from a society they had never even seen, to fight an Enemy no one else dared approach, at the beck and call of the Unseen Force that opened the cylinder hatch every day and poured the next set of a couple dozen troops into the Waters of No Return.
Yellow 199 looked around at the others who floated with him. The red troops definitely looked fazed, and no wonder: their color, they now knew, was not immune to the Enemy’s power. Yellow 199 fancied that every soldier with a hint of red hue in his uniform had just paled a bit at what all of them had witnessed.
As he silently drifted forward with what remained of the platoon, Yellow 199 swallowed his own disquietude at his friend’s sudden disappearance and tried to comfort the nearest red troop, summoning in his mind the inspirational (but unrhymed) Creed of the cylinder: “Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to be fish food...”
Goldie aimed at the yellow flake above her and, once “Red 206” was completely in her belly, powered her way toward the water’s surface once more. She knew her mother had told her not to play with her food, but this was way too fun...
She opened her mouth to receive the next portion of breakfast. She imagined the yellow flake yelling, splashing, and desperately trying to get out of the way, to escape the inevitable GLOMP of the piscine Enemy.
With an egotistical shrug of her fins as she swallowed her second flake of the day, she congratulated herself for defending her territory against “invasion.” Her next target would be the green flake floating in the nearest corner of the fish tank. He would be Green 011, and he would be the platoon’s lieutenant, trusted and respected... whose absence would cause such a general panic as to throw the minds of all the other troops into chaos...