All of the eight entries I received were wonderfully creative and deserving, and it was a difficult choice for me to select the winner. However I feel that the story of an alien subterranean invasion submitted by Terry Sofian from St. Louis, Missouri reached the highest level. Many thanks again to all who participated.
I will be posting all of the stories in my blog within the next few days, so that everyone can enjoy them. Below is the winning entry.
It was a scene even Dante could not have imagined. The sound of explosions was a continuous roar, not discrete individual blasts but a hot ocean of noise pounding over the Cornish hills. Dust and smoke blotted out the blue sky and vast banks of deadly fog hugged the ground, pouring from cylinders, draining into the deep wounds carved into the earth. Occasionally an alien arthropod would scuttle above ground, desperately trying to escape the subterranean trap The Hive had become. Field artillery or machineguns would bark and the alien’s carapace would shatter. More chitinous fragments would be strewn across the nightmare landscape. Even through the periscope in the armored railcar the panorama was horrific.
Major Barnes and his Company had the terrible task of finishing this war. The end would not come until every inch of alien tunnel under the soil of England had been searched and each last maggot and egg destroyed. Paramount was determining if any mated couples had survived the bombardment or worse yet had escaped to start the horror all over again. That was a job for the PBI, the Poor Bloody Infantry.
Barnes enjoyed a final puff on his pipe before handing it off to his batman. Odd, he’d gladly inhaled the sweet tobacco smoke but would need to protect himself from even a tiny hint of the gases now filling the enemy Hive. Even a single breath of that stew would kill a man. To allow him and his men to breathe Woolwich had provided the new Mark IV Respirator Helmets; a vast improvement over the ones he had worn as a young subaltern during the disastrous Christmas Assault eight months earlier. With built in goggles to give a wide angle of vision and prevent the debilitating blindness of chemical burns, he’d not risk having his glasses jolted from his face. The backpack tanks held septoxygen a dense liquid form of the life-giving element which would be made breathable by catalysts within the mask’s snout-like face-piece. Finally a bright headlamp would keep the soldiers’ hands free. They would have more deadly things to carry than torches.
Leather vests with pockets holding bombs, gas canisters and ammunition kitted out each soldier as they stood waiting for the signal to go “on air” and leave the safe confines of their armored railcar. Barnes stood by while his experienced NCOs did a final inspection. He knew that for many, perhaps for all of them, it would be a final inspection indeed. He drove the thought from his mind as being un-English. “England expects” and all that. With a smile pasted on his face he nodded to his color sergeant. The batman fitted the helmet over his head and turned on the supply of breathing gas. Shortly the last barrier between his men and hell would be opened. He checked his double rifle and howdah pistol. All four barrels were loaded. He stepped off leading his troops towards the nearest tunnel.