This is the first part of my 50,000 words in 30 days challenge. It’s a completely unedited first draft written with the primary goal of getting out as many words as possible in a short time, so don’t expect too much from it. More parts will come each week as the challenge progresses.
Chapter 1: The Invasion
“I’m a paleontologist not a soldier!” Eli stuttered to the soldier next to him. The boat bounced through the surf, the salty mist making him shiver. “I shouldn’t be here!”
“Shouldn’t be here!?” the soldier shouted back, “I shouldn’t be here! I’m a dentist. At least I help people. No one’s going to miss a pale-whatever.”
Eli frowned. “A paleontologist!”
Eli started to explain what a paleontologist does, but before he could the driver yelled from the back of the boat.
“Thirty seconds to landing!”
Eli tugged at the straps of his helmet. He was beginning to feel sick.
The driver’s voice barely registered. I shouldn’t be here he thought, I should be in class right now. I should be home. Machine gun fire exploded above him.
Eli couldn’t breathe. The sharp pops of gunfire mixed with the deep thuds of artillery on the beach ahead.
Eli’s knuckles turned white around his rifle. Get up the beach. Take the objective. Get up the beach. Take the objective. I wish I were back hom-
The soldiers lurched forward as the bottom of the transport dug into the sand. Eli felt himself move, as though his legs weren’t his own. The front of the boat unlatched and crashed down into the water and sand.
“Go!” The soldier in front took two steps down the ramp before gunfire raced up the lowered door. The bullets found his legs and tore up his torso. His shredded body tipped forward slowly, arm still outstretched, pointing to the beach he would never set foot on.
Time slowed for Eli. He watched the wave of death crawl up the boat toward him. The soldiers in front of him shoved forward attempting to get to the ramp. The dentist stepped on the lifeless back of the soldier in front of them, almost scrambling over the edge of the boat. He got one leg over the top before erupting in a cloud of crimson and tumbling into the water.
Eli was next. His legs were cement. Red fountains raced up the backs of the dead soldiers. He wouldn’t even make it off the boat.
He clamped his eyes shut, waiting for the bullets to end it.
Instead, the world exploded to his left.
Eli’s eyes snapped open. He only caught flickering images. Corpses floated in front of him. The boat hung over his head. The crackle of gunfire and rumble of shells had been replaced by silence broken only by a faint ring in the distance. Before he could make any sense of it, darkness swallowed him.
The dark was cold, but Eli welcomed it. At least it wasn’t painful to die he thought. The cold forced its way down his throat. It filled his lungs and pressed on his chest. He choked for air but there was none. His elbow sank into something firm, but yielding. There was something rough under his palm, like sand.
Like sand. I’m not dying! He kicked hard fighting to get traction. His equipment tugged at him like an anchor. He burst to the surface, gasping for air. The top of his head struck something solid.
Eli’s hands felt above him, tracing along cold metal. He could barely see shapes bobbing on the surface of the water around him. He realized that the giant object above him was the overturned boat.
When his eyes adjusted he squinted at the dark shapes bumping into him. Bile surged in Eli’s throat as they came into focus. They were body parts.
Fighting the urge to vomit, Eli clamped his eyes shut again. The ringing in his ears grudgingly receded and the sounds of the battle crept back. The metal above him shuddered as gunfire swept over his shelter.
Ok, Eli thought, I’m still alive, that’s something. What now? The dark blobs of dismembered bodies bobbed around him. He stared at the water. A familiar boom resounded to his right. The boat shook and water sloshed in his shelter. They’re still shelling the beach.
He had enough air to stay put for a while, maybe long enough for the battle to end. If a shell hits the boat, will it hold? How much of me will be left? He didn’t want to go home in a shoe box. I’d rather die on the beach. He gulped down the biggest breath he could and dove into the water.
The light filtering under the boat was like candlelight through a glass of red wine. Eli followed it between the boat and sand. His boat had landed right in the center of the beach. Dozens of other transport boats littered the beach disgorged of men. Most were intact, though a few were twisted and torn. The water was choked with bodies.
The sand was littered with steel hedgehogs and sloped out of the water leading to a low shingle. The shingle was lined with razor-wire and backed by a seawall. About two hundred yards behind it was a sheer cliff topped in sections with concrete casements. In several places the slope lessened so paths of sand and dirt could snake to the top.
Each casement was open in the front, and through the mist and smoke Eli could see machine guns raining lead onto the beach. Piles of sandbags filled the gaps between the casements. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers scrambled up the beach, returning fire and finding cover where they could. Ahead of Eli a steel hedgehog was nestled in the sand like a discarded jack. On it’s close edge was a deep crater.
That’s where he would go.
Gunfire swept the boat to his right as he dashed to the crater. His legs gave out and he rolled the last foot. Still gasping for breath, he took a second to survey his position.
He was still a long way from the shingle. The crater was deep enough to keep him below the gunfire, but a stray shell could still find him. He tore the plastic bag off his rifle and found it mercifully dry.
Another shell exploded and a rain of sand fell around Eli. The patter of falling sand was punctuated by a soft thump – the sound of a burnt and bloody hand landing to his left.
A louder, more solid explosion from towards the cliff shook Eli. Soldiers had detonated explosives, obliterating a large swath of the razor-wire and tearing a hole in the seawall. Men were pouring in through the breach while others provided covering fire.
Eli sprinted toward the shingle. He fired his rifle wildly in the direction of the cliffs as he ran. The German soldiers didn’t seem to notice. Seeing an opening, he dove and rolled into another crater.
When he pushed himself up into a crouching position and realized he wasn’t alone.
Another soldier sat across from him resting his back against the edge of the crater. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow exposing the dark skin of his forearms. He lowered the cigarette from his mouth and looked at Eli.
“You’re in my hole.” he said. He took another slow draw on his cigarette.
“You’re a medic, aren’t you?” Eli managed to stammer.
The man looked down at his chest where a large red cross was printed on a white square.
“No. I just figured it’d make it easier for the Krauts if I came with a bullseye on my chest.”
“What are you doing? Why aren’t you fighting?”
“I’m taking a smoke break,” he said.
“I’m taking a smoke break,” he repeated.
The ground shuddered as another shell fell uncomfortably close to the crater.
Eli glanced at the name on the man’s uniform. “Look Mr. Lewis-”
“That’s Sergeant Lewis.”
“Fine, Sergeant Lewis. We have to move. If one of those shells lands here…”
Sgt. Lewis nodded. “There wouldn’t be much of us left.”
Eli crawled his way up to the edge of the crater. His eyes just cleared the edge when a bullet zipped past his ear. Another struck only inches in front of him, spraying sand in his eyes.
“There’s three up there, behind some sandbags,” Sgt. Lewis said.
“Maybe four. They’ve had a bead on me since before you blundered in. I think they get a kick out of popping medics.” He took another long drag off of his cigarette, then tossed the smoldering butt from the crater. “I can’t get near them with my carbine. I wasn’t about to make a dash for it, so I figured I might as well have a smoke.”
“Where are they?” Eli asked.
Sgt. Lewis gestured to crawl over and sit with his back against the sloped wall of the depression. He pulled out a small shaving mirror and angled to show the top of the cliff. Eli could just make out four men hunched over the top of a section of sandbags, their rifles were trained on the hole he and Sgt. Lewis were in.
Taking a deep breath Eli crawled as close as he dared to the edge. Shots tore deep rivets in the sand around Eli. He pressed his cheek to the rifle and peered down the sights.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Ping!
The empty cartridge flew from the rifle. Eli slid back into the hole to reload, but his hands were shaking too much. Sgt. Lewis lowered his mirror, smoke curling around his head.
“Well, how did I do?”
“You missed. By a lot too. I can’t tell but I think they’re laughing at you.”
Eli fumbled around in his uniform for that new cartridge. This time he was able to get ahold of it and slid it into the rifle with a click. Sgt. Lewis looked him up and down and sighed, twin streams of smoke billowing from his nostrils.
“Don’t waste your ammo,” he said. “Hold these and give me that.” He tossed the mirror into the sand and handed him his cigarette before snatching Eli’s rifle. He made sure the cartridge was in place, then crawled to the edge. Eli grabbed the small mirror from the sand and held it up to see the soldiers.
Sgt. Lewis took a deep breath and held it. Four sharp cracks sounded from the rifle and he let his breath back out. Eli’s mouth dropped.
So did the mirror. All four soldiers had fallen.
“Here.” Sgt. Lewis slid down and tossed the rifle back. “Now give me back my smoke.” He scooped the mirror from the sand where Eli had dropped it. “You’re an awful shot.”
“I’m a paleontologist.” Eli stuttered for the second time that day.
“Well, thanks for bringing the rifle…” Sgt. Lewis squinted at the name on Eli’s uniform. “…Watts.” He grabbed his carbine and crawled to the edge.
“Call me Eli.”
Sgt. Lewis paused at the lip of the crater.
He dashed toward the shingle, sprinted over the sand and rocks and pressed his back against the seawall. Eli couldn’t help but feel a little inadequate. If he was going to stand any chance of seeing tomorrow it wasn’t going to be on his own merit. His best chance for survival was against that wall.
Eli forced down the knot in his throat and bolted after Sgt. Lewis. A shell exploded to his left. Too close. He heard someone screaming. He glanced where the shell had landed but didn’t see anyone so he kept running. Sgt. Lewis watched his dash, not trying to hide his look of disgust. Eli reached the wall and Sgt. Lewis clapped a hand over his mouth. He realized it had been him screaming the whole time.
Sgt. Lewis let go when he stopped screaming. Before Eli could catch his breath, Sgt. Lewis slipped through the hole in the wall. Eli stumbled in after him.
“Wait,” he choked out. Sgt. Lewis ignored him. The cliff loomed to the left, topped by one of the casements. Ahead of them soldiers were pushing up one of the steep paths that wound to the top. They were making good progress, using the sandbags and pillboxes the Germans had set up as cover.
A shadow passed over the squad as they fired from the cover of a pillbox near the top. A small dark object dropped into the middle of them and exploded ripping limb from limb and stripping flesh from bone. Sgt. Lewis froze. Eli caught up to him. The shadow that passed over the soldiers was now gliding down the path toward them.
Sgt. Lewis swore quietly. “What is that?”
Eli followed his gaze skyward. When he saw what Sgt. Lewis was looking at, the blood drained from his face.
A giant creature soared in the air above them. It was a dark, mottled brown. From wingtip to wingtip it easily stretched over twenty feet, though its frame didn’t look to be much bigger than a man’s. The beast had no feathers, but its body almost looked fuzzy like it was covered in tiny hairs. Sunlight diffused faintly through the thin, stretched membranes it glided on. It tilted the long beak of its crested head toward them. It wore a harness holding more of the small round bombs that had killed the soldiers on the path. Eli thought he could see the outline of a man on its back.
“Pteranodon longiceps…” He whispered.
Sgt. Lewis refused to take his eyes off it.
Eli responded quietly.
“It’s a dinosaur.”
Continue to part two of the 50,000 word challenge.
Photo Credit: Dunechaser