's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" Sentinels "

Submitted by Ryan Oleynik

There were many different scenarios that could have happened when humanity first made contact with extraterrestrials. Entire books and movies were used to answer the question: What would happen when we meet aliens? If you go with Independence Day or War of the Worlds, then the aliens would annihilate us with their advance technology. Unless we fight back or that bullshit bacteria thing happens. Some imagined a peaceful existence, where we shared both planets and knowledge with each other. Thatís some kind of optimism, isnít it? Superior intelligent life traveling thousands of light years just to be good neighbors. Like that would happen, but Iím getting carried away. These two points are just the two extremes in a whole spectrum of possibilities and different scenarios. When we first learned the presence of aliens, we all wondered: What are they going to do? What do they want? Do they come in peace?

Some expected there to be an invasion. Some believed they would teach us the ways of peace and coexistence. Some even thought they were just dropping by. We expected so much, thought of so many possibilities. Little green men in their flying saucers. Giant cockroaches coming to steal our resources. Reptilians infiltrating our government. But instead of all that, we got the Sentinels.

They came without ceremony or message, there was no ďTake me to your leader,Ē and no musical conversation. Humanity just woke up one day and BAM! Sentinels. It was like falling asleep all safe and snug in your house, and then waking up to find out someone put a toaster next to your pillow. You didnít see it happen; you couldnít even believe it would happen. Such an odd, yet grand, event and you somehow slept right through it. I remember the first few weeks after their appearance, when every scientist and news station was hunting for someone who saw it happen. Anyone who saw them fall from the stars and enter our world. Needless to say, they failed. Out of all the people in the world, nobody saw the Sentinels show up. Aliens had come to earth, and nobody knew it happened.

I saw my first Sentinel early in the morning, on the very day it all started. That may sound obvious to you, but I have talked to some people who didnít see a Sentinel in real life until a few days after the event happened. Where they were from, no Sentinels had appeared for miles around. And though that marked the mankindís first encounter with aliens, there were some people who just wouldnít waste the gas to drive so far to see one. Thatís humans for you, eh? Anyways, it was an early March morning when I was out taking my dog for his daily walk, just before I go to work. When I work, he ends up stuck in the house all day, so I give him some freedom before I lock him up. We were just starting our daily loop around when I noticed a crowd gathering around the playground. For it being 8 oíclock in the morning, there were a lot of people there, so I went to take a look. I thought that maybe a kid fell and got hurt, or some fat jogger was having a heart attack. You canít ask a man what he would see at the town park and expect him to answer ďaliens.Ē I merged with the crowd and craned my neck to see the sight, but I was too far back. Renly, my dog, pushed forward into the human wall, parting the sea for me to follow. I got closer to the front and finally saw what the hubbub was all about. They werenít looking at a person, or even the ground, they were looking at the play structure. It was one of those with stairs and slides, like a little castle with tubes coming out of it. It was made out of colorful pieces of plastic, red supports, blue slides and yellow handrails, like a frigginí rainbow. Except that one of the blue slides was not all bright blue anymore.

There was a black object fused to the side of it, like some malignant tumor. It looked like it was made of pure black rebar that was crisscrossing each other. Like if some welder decided to make a human being out of black pipes. The pieces were all straight as an arrow, not a single curve could be found within the entity. The base of it rose from the woodchips, like a pedestal of dark rods, and disappeared into the bottom of the blue slide. It didnít cut through the plastic or harm the slide in anyway. It was just as if it teleported to the same place as the slide was and was now stuck in it. Other pieces of it poked in and out of the bright plastic. Coming from the sides were two skeletal arms, pointed downward in a neutral pose. There were some sections that barely protruded from the curving structure, little black flecks and small pencil-sized rods. And then there was the face. Its neck and a bit of its shoulders made it out of the top of the slide, holding the head above the bright, blue sea. It was made of the same material, and was almost in the form of a human head. The lack of curves and round parts made it look like some metal Pinhead, with rods and pieces protruding at awkward angles. It had no nose, ears or even a mouth, it only had eyes. Large, flat eyes that glowed with a dim yellow light. They were round like a dinner plate, and had no irises or pupils in them. Only that yellow glow. Those big eyes gazed back at the gaping crowd, staring like a deer caught in the headlights. And that is all it did. It just stood there and stared. It didnít move at all, it was still as a statue. It was as if some extraterrestrial welder tried to make a human statue and then gave up and dropped it in the middle of the park.

People were chatting amongst themselves, taking pictures of it with their fancy phones. Questions flew through the air as people stared at it, and as the Sentinel stared back at them.

ďWhat is it?Ē

ďIs it a sculpture?Ē

ďIs it moving? Is it breathing?Ē

ďThink the government is going to try and cover this up?Ē

For that last question, the answer is: not likely. Had this taken place twenty years ago, some cover up could have been done. But in the age of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and instant messaging, the presence of the Sentinels become widely known within hours. Hell, I would place my bets on minutes. Unless they dropped an EMP and wiped out the Internet, they would never have successfully hid the Sentinels. But I did hear that some governments tried, erecting barricades and moving people away with soldiers. But that would only have worked if they had hundreds of containment squads at the ready, as the Sentinels showed up everywhere. Hard to hide the presence of aliens when one shows up in the middle of the interstate. Regardless, that was the day I saw my first Sentinel. And that was it. Did you expect something else? Something more epic or amazing? How I received a message from another world? How I watched the Sentinel rear up on robotic legs and vaporize our president? Nope. Nothing like that. It went like that because the Sentinels didnít do anything. There were a couple hundred of them, and not one of them did anything beside stare. They arrived on our planet, spread themselves throughout our countries and then did nothing. They only stared with their giant, glowing eyes. After I saw the Sentinel, I stood and watched it for some time and left. Sure, everyone was chattering about the aliens, but the rest of my day went on like usual. I heard that the police eventually got there and set up a safety perimeter. Not that the Sentinels would have harmed anyone. Only if some kid climbed on top of it, like some extraterrestrial jungle gym, and then fell off. And I wasnít the only one who left the amazing event behind. There were plenty of people who got bored of it and left before I did. To them, it seemed like no big deal. The whole world, however, took some time to take it all in.

As you can expect, the religious world exploded. All those God-fearing people were trying to explain the appearance of aliens on our little slice of Eden. Some of them claimed it was the Rapture, that demons had come to slay the sinners. But then again, if the face of Jesus showed up on someoneís toast, someone claimed that the apocalypse was here. Others called them abominations, and that they stood against everything God had made. There were marches and sermons, priests screaming of hellfire and brimstone. Some of this led to riots and chaos, as people prepared for the end of the world. Just your usual religious bullshit. Governments didnít do so hot either. But that depends on who youíre talking about. Some governments, like the US, tried to make contact with them. They tried lights, sound waves, radio, complex math equations, but there was no response. Some countries tried to destroy them. The big religious countries were the ones who tried this, but even then, some seemingly level-headed countries tried too. They attacked them in the name of God, or to show our strength and will, or just because they were in the way. Regardless the message or intent, it never worked. Hammers, pickaxes, blowtorches, bulldozers, even tanks tried to bring down the Sentinels, but no one succeeded. Whatever they were made from, they were tough. I saw a video online of some soldiers stuffing a Sentinel with C4 and detonating the whole lot. Left one hell of a crater, but the Sentinel was just standing in the middle of it. Even more astonishing, some countries ignored them. Hard to believe, huh? Aliens coming to earth and they look the other way. But like I said before, the Sentinels did nothing. Unless they appeared in the middle of highway (one did by the way), no one had a reason to care.

And after awhile, it all started to calm down, as people realized the Sentinels did nothing. They just stood there and stared. No calls for peace, no acts of war, just staring. Experiments on the Sentinels began, with governments scrambling to be the first to understand their invincibility. Protests were still staged, but they became weaker with every passing day. News channels stopped showing live coverage of the Sentinels and resumed their usual stories of celebrities and traffic accidents. Sentinels still made their way into the internet and news, but in all honesty, the world accepted that the Sentinels were here. They came, we tried to talk, they didnít, and life moved on. Things had almost turned back to normal. Well, that was until the Sentinelís came again.

Two months after the Sentinelís first arrival, more came. And just like the first, they appeared without warning. We all woke up one morning, and there were more of them. The one at the park got some companions, a Sentinel appeared in the bus station downtown, and another showed up in the middle of Park Avenue. But that wasnít all. One was reported to have appeared in the halls of the Congress building. Another was found growing out of the Eiffel tower, and there was a rumor that some climbers on Everest found another occupant in their camp that morning. Some showed up in the middle of highways, closing entire roads and causing traffic problems for hours. More of them appeared in buildings, their bodies cutting through electric wires, water pipes and gas lines. Somewhere in California, some house exploded when a Sentinel cut through their gas line and a single spark shot them to the moon. Not the Sentinel, of course, just the family of five who lived there. In New York, a van full of drunks slammed into a Sentinel, killing everyone on board. The Sentinel didnít even have a scratch. These new Sentinels caused quite an alarm in the world, but they werenít the only changes.

When I had seen the one Sentinel at the park, he was about eight feet tall. A pretty tall guy, if I say so myself. But when I saw him after round two hit, he had doubled in size. He had to have been at least fifteen feet tall, with his head and arms rising above the plastic slide that once imprisoned him. And he didnít just grow in height, he had a few new additions on him. What once looked somewhat human now had five arms, the different limbs poking out of random places on its body. Its head seem to stretch upwards and elongate, as if it donned some spiky, black crown. And the eyes, Christ, the eyes. More of them had sprouted on its head, and some even grew on its limbs. Seven large eyes staring at those who passed by, watching us, as we watched them. All around the world, when the new guys came, the old ones grew. What at first was an interesting turn of events now had become a serious problem. They blocked roads, ruined buildings and at the same time, did absolutely nothing. New ones showed up, old ones grew in size, and all sat and stared. Their systematic inactivity, though, wasnít the real issue. It was the humans, because people began to panic again. All the chaos that the first round caused was now brought back to life, as the fires of fear were relit. If this was Wave 2, what was stopping them from having a Wave 3 or 4? It was a question that haunted everyoneís mind. It was the question that drove people to build bunkers and stock up on bottled water. It was a question that we knew would be answered in two months.

Our watchful friends did not want to wait that long though. Three weeks after the second batch, the third wave came. New ones plopped themselves onto our world, while the second guys grew larger, and the first guys grew even larger. Watcher of the playground now stared over the tops of the trees, his black body growing even more limbs and eyes. The play place vanished into its torso, swallowed by the dark rods. The panic from the first wave and second wave paled to what came this time. People tore survival goods off the shelves, killing each other over canned food and bags of ice. Priests screamed about the end of days, groups of fanatics drank tainted Kool-Aid. Looting began in major cities, and there was plenty of arson to go around. Chaos and fear ran the streets, even as the governments tried their best to rein in the public. This madness was tearing the world apart, and someone needed to end it. In an attempt to do so, the desperate countries turned their gun sights to the Sentinels. Rioters and civilians tried to tear them down, armies tried to blow them up. Hammers, bombs, drills and mortar shells were used on the towering statues, but it was all in vain. The fiery hatred of the world blasted itself at these dark, gazing beings, but it didnít leave a dent. This result was more demoralizing then we ever thought. Humanity always imagined that if it would perish, it would go down in a blaze of glory. Be it nuclear war, zombies, robot uprising or aliens, humans would whip out their guns and die fighting. Destruction and death was the only outlet for our rage against the enemy. When we hammered at their forms and shot at their eyes, we were trying to release our pent up frustration and anger. The Sentinels wouldnít give us that satisfaction. All our weaponry and rage did nothing to them, we were dying, and they didnít even have a scratch. They denied us the emotional release of violence, and it made things worse. Much worse. To combat this, some turned away from violence, and instead went to appeasement. All around the world, fanatical groups began to pop up and they were worshipping the Sentinels as gods. A bunch of groups believed that they were the new rulers of the earth and that those who followed them would be saved. A lot thought that worship would end the invasion, that acts of peace and kindness would soften their non-existent hearts. Some cults even offered sacrifices to the Sentinels. How sick is that? But this worship didnít last long. The world was suffering a humiliating defeat to the Sentinels, and everyone was pissed. Every failed attack was a mockery to our kind, a spit in our face. Every time a bomb went off and a Sentinel survived, it was an insult. The pent up hate and frustration only got worse with each new attempt, and the attacks did nothing to release these poisonous emotions. The worshippers of the Sentinels, however, did not share the same invincibility. If the rabid crowd could not unleash their fury on the Sentinels, they would find someone else to take it. And those who worshipped the enemy were prime targets. And I saw it happen.

It all happened at park, where my first Sentinel stood. The big guy in the park had gathered quite a following, with an entire tent city built around him. Prayers and chants could constantly be heard from the park, and candles were always burning. These people lived and breathed for that Sentinel, leaving gifts in its twisted form and always saying a quick prayer when they saw him. I was not a part of this cult, as I never found the Sentinels that worthy of worship. Instead, I was roaming the streets looking for food (a Sentinel had made himself at home in my place) when I first heard the screams. I thought someone was in trouble, so I ran to the rescue. When I made it to the park, my heroism died. Apparently a furious mob had been growing on the outskirts of the park, each soldier filled with malice towards the Sentinel and its followers. Hundreds of people had joined the mob, every one of them insane with bloodlust. The Sentinels had mocked them for too long. They had come from all directions, cutting off all escape routes. They tore through tents and burned down the dwellings. A sea of furious people encircled the worshippers, and descended on them like wolves on sheep. They tore them apart, literally. Men, women, even children were shredded in the frenzy, all to feed a bloodlust that could never be satiated. Screams and curses filled the air, and blazing fires lit up the sky. When the chaos was over, every follower was left in pieces. The base of the Sentinel was soaked in blood. What happened in the park happened globally, as these cults were slaughtered with no mercy. It seemed that in the end, the Sentinels got their sacrifices.

Though it already seemed like the end of world, the new arrivals kept coming. More and more kept appearing out of nowhere. And with each new wave, the old ones kept growing and growing. Hundreds died when planes slammed into giant Sentinels. Smoking, burning wreckages tumbling off the mountain-sized beings who stared as the puny humans perished. Roads became impassable as more Sentinels blocked the way. Boats vanished in the ocean, as they crashed into Sentinels that grew beneath the waves. Even buildings collapsed, as the Sentinels grew into the structure, and the manmade construction sloughed off them like a cocoon. Everything went to hell. What little control that was left in the world was lost. Anarchy descended onto the populous. And they just kept coming.

I donít know how I have survived so long in this world. Of all the people in this world, why am I alive? As I climb through this nightmarish world, I can only feel as if itís punishment. Did I tell you I havenít seen the ground for three weeks? Only this spider web of jet-black metal is left to walk on. You have to be careful were you walk, or climb; you could easily break an ankle. Or fall to your death, either or. I have just been traveling over this alien world in hopes ofÖ. I donít even know what. I try not to think about it too much. But I wonít have to think about it anymore soon. I have a gun you know, though I am not sure when I got it. It used to have six bullets in it, but now it only has one. Shooting Sentinels is useless, that much is obvious. Sentinels are still showing up on this world, piling on top of each other, even as the others grow bigger and bigger. I canít tell you how high I am up from the earth itself, but I have been walking and climbing for three weeks straight. So your guess is as good as mine. I am high enough to notice the air getting thinner, and I am having a harder time traveling. Nothing would be better than to sit down and rest. But I canít. We canít. You have to keep moving, you have to stay alert. Buildings arenít the only things they can grow into. It never occurred to me that it could actually happen. You used to see the Sentinels sticking out of bridges or apartments, but you never expected to see them in people. I remember when I woke up to it, when the cruel reality dawned on me. I saw it when I was traveling through the forest of Sentinels, back when there was still ground. It was like walking down corridors, you just followed any path that was open. During my useless wanderings, I happened across this woman, clawing frantically at the base of a Sentinel. The thing speared the heavens, and was probably thicker than a skyscraper, but despite that size, she seemed devoted to attacking it. She was hollering the best she could, but most of her voice had been lost from hours of use. She tore at the black webbing and pounded on the alien metal. It took me a second to realize what was happening. That was when I saw the handle of a baby carriage sticking out from the base. The rest of it was consumed by the black bars. I turned and ran, I knew there was nothing I could do, and I didnít want to see anymore. I still swear that I heard whimpers coming from the ensnared stroller, but thatís impossible.

And as the alien landscape devoured the land and forced us into its twisted frame, we survivors learned a horrible truth. We could not stop moving, we could not rest. Those who stop to sleep end up embedded in the Sentinels, as they grow out of sight from human eyes. I remember finding a man while I was climbing. One half of his body hung from the monstrous skeletons, his right arm and leg caught inside. I could see the bars spearing through his flesh, but there was no blood. It had simply teleported itself into his skin, fusing meat with metal. Driven insane by thirst or hunger, he merely gibbered at me when I approached, lazily flailing his free limbs. He was a drowning man, caught up in a solid sea. I threw him a line, and used my first bullet.

The other four were used on the other trapped people I found. Those who dropped from exhaustion, and were swallowed up by the growing scenery. How cruel that the sickness that stole our world is now taking us. The tired and the broken lie like sacrifices to an ancient god. Their walking has forever ceased, much like mine. I told you I had been moving for three weeks straight, right? The keyword is ďhad.Ē I couldnít take it anymore, I had passed out during my forced trek. My beautiful rest gave me new energy, and a Sentinel spearing through my lower half. I honestly donít know how I am alive right now, but I will fix that soon. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. No way to fight. There is only one way to resist. The gun is loaded and the round is chambered. The barrel feels cool against my head, the comforting touch of a lost world. A world of colors and life, our world. Where green grass grew and blue oceans washed upon its shores. Nothing like the hellish landscape that swallowed it all and the staring mountains that watched it happen. I wrap my finger around the trigger and I close my eyes for the last time. But I cannot purge the sight of those eyes. The piercing light of their gaze. The eyes that stood and watched as its cancer spread. The burning suns bearing down on me, as if challenging me to do it. The gun barks and the world is torn away.

But still they staredÖ.