December 13th: Rise of the Lacertilians

Rise of the Lacertilians

The creature came into consciousness while it moved, darting past trees and leaping over streams. Instinct had led it from the second it arrived in this world and now the only thing driving it was hunger and fear. It sensed others of its kind stalking in the trees around it. The creature acknowledged them but did not attack them or try to communicate with them. Its amber eyes darted back and forth, searching for prey. It used its thick claws to push itself through the trees faster, embedding its claws deep into the wood and wrenching them back. Its eyes dilated in excitement as it saw a building appear behind the trees. It charged faster, slamming its thick leather feet against the forest floor. When it pushed through the last row of trees, the creature found itself in the middle of a suburban neighborhood filled with screams and fire. It turned and charged into the wood fence of one of the properties, cutting it down with sharp claws. It wedged its claws into the side of the house and climbed into the broken window. The glass scraped against its thick hide but could not cut into it. The creature stalked over the hardwood floor, clacking its claws against it. It could smell meat. It hunted throughout the house, tearing down doors and tossing beds onto their sides. It followed the smell until it heard the sound of something falling in the kitchen below. The creature charged down the stairs to the front door where random furniture was piled to make a barricade. It stalked closer to the ground listening. Breathing. It heard a volley of short, panicked breaths. The fear hung like a vapor in the kitchen. The creature crawled up to the kitchen’s island, where the breathing was louder. The human leaped up from behind it and the creature briefly sensed a shotgun being aimed at its face before an instinct took over, forcing it to open its jaw and spray liquid from a gland in its mouth. The spray covered the human in a thick cloud before igniting and engulfing it in flames. The creature feasted on its charred flesh as it burned, instinctively knowing that its skin would be unfazed by the flames.

The creature dragged the corpse out of the burning house and continued eating. The flesh was delicious. The creature felt energy wash over it and strength fill its muscles and clarity came to its mind. The meat was addicting, but the creature left a portion of the corpse untouched. It didn’t know why, but it felt it was necessary, vital even. The creature took the corpse to a shed deeper in the neighborhood, where hordes of its kind swarmed. The creature felt instinctively drawn to the shed and it was filled with meat like the corpse it carried. It tossed the body in and closed the door. 

With the creature’s newfound clarity, it looked around at the chaos surrounding it. It saw a group of humans with guns gathering together and barricading a group of houses. A couple of its kind tried to attack them but got shot down immediately. The creature remembered the taste and power of meat and desperately wanted in the barricade. It called out to the creatures around it and they turned their attention to it, instinctively drawn to the sound. The creature gestured to the barricade and charged forward. It heard the others of its kind swarm behind it. The creature felt power in the crowd and became excited. The humans fired down on them from behind a makeshift wall made from an overturned flatbed trailer. The creatures thundered against it, climbing it before getting shot at the top. They tried to move around it but it was wedged tightly between two buildings. The creature grew angry and sprayed more of the flammable liquid onto the wall. The flames climbed up quickly and the wood became blackened. The wood became weak enough that they were able to break through. The humans backed away quickly and continued to shoot, but the creatures were too numerous. At this point, more creatures were starting to break through all around the barricaded area.

The rest of the battle was short-lived, the humans were quickly outnumbered and killed. However, many of the creatures had been killed as well. As the fires were contained, the creatures ate and dragged off the remains to the shed. Even the bodies of the fallen creatures were eaten and stored.

Afterward, the others gathered around the creature who led the attack and looked at it expectantly. It understood that this was important and accepted it. It decided to see what the humans were guarding and found a large library. The creature thought it was a peculiar building but understood its importance as it looked at the small letters printed in each book. It did not know what they were but understood that they contained information, and that was vital.

The creature went back out to the expectant crowd. It picked up a bent signpost and wedged it into the handle of the library doors and clicked at them. The creature didn’t have any language, but the click was an indicator that communication was being attempted. The others understood and began to barricade and guard the library. The creature went back to the shed. It could see that many humans made it out of the area the creatures controlled and were making a new wall. The creature thought that was okay, they didn’t have enough numbers to take all of them and after the recent victory, the humans wouldn’t be making any attacks anytime soon. The creature opened the shed, where piles of meat lay, and began to eat. It understood that the food was for it now.

 It ate all that was in the shed, gnawing down even the bones. The meat gave it more energy than ever. Now, it was stronger, faster, tougher, and smarter than it ever had been. It even felt taller, too. When It left the shed, the creatures looked at it with strong respect. The creatures would do whatever it could ask now.

The creature ordered that the meat would now be put in a small brick building near the library and the area around it would be barricaded again. The creature knew there could be more threats other than the humans, so being prepared was vital. It looked at the library with purpose. It was knowledge that allowed them to win the battle, so it would be knowledge that would make them stronger. From then on, the creature would stay in the library, deciphering the humans’ texts and gaining strength. One day, they would conquer the humans with newfound strength. 

Eventually, they grew into a small kingdom, expanding the border closer to the human’s village. The humans retaliated sooner than the King expected, so the border did not advance much further. He began sending out hunting parties into the forest where they brought back deer carcasses that were fat and sweet. However, some parties were attacked by strange monsters and some came under unusual illnesses. Some never came back at all.

 Eventually, they were able to find an entrance into the human camp where they could go undetected. He remembered when a hunting party came back with some human tools. This was a golden opportunity, but the King chose not to attack them yet because he was envious of the humans’ language. It made them far more efficient than the creatures. So, the king ordered a select group that was smaller and swifter than the rest and trained them to be stealthy and intelligent. He sent them out to observe the humans in hopes of understanding their language. They studied their mannerisms and extracted meaning from them. Eventually, they learned the meaning of certain words. Gun was the word they used for their weapons. They learned Guard was the verb for when something is protected. Eventually, some of the words were used in the creature’s village.

The King was proud of the progress, but he thought it was far too slow. So he made a risky decision. He ordered the group in charge of learning to kidnap one of them. It was a dangerous operation since the area they had access to was heavily guarded. But in their time of observing them, they had a good understanding of the humans’ routines. So it was easy to get one of them on their own.

All of the creatures came out of their dens when the human was dragged through the gates, kicking and screaming.

“Let go of me you damn Lacertilians,” He yelled, twisting in their grip as he was handed off to a couple of larger ones. “I’ll kill every last one of you.”

They didn’t react but watched him get dragged off into the King’s tent, which was draped onto the entrance of the library.

The man fell onto the concrete steps of the library. The iron grip of the Lacertilians was released and he was free, as long as he didn’t leave through the front. He looked up at the entrance of the library, he remembered going there after school with his friends to study, sometimes he would sneak into the fantasy section to get the next book of his favorite series. Now the entire entrance is torn down, making it into a pile of mangled aluminum and broken glass. Quietly, he walked up the steps and into the library, pulling out his knife and stalking down an aisle.

Many of the books were torn from the shelves and piled by the edge, whoever’s here is a very heavy reader. In the middle of the computer lab sat a pile of crude maps. The man carefully snuck up to one. He recognized much of the country, the Lacertilians seemed to have drawn rivers and mountains, even the human camp was marked in red. The man could tell it wasn’t ink or paint. There was a small dotted line going into the side of the camp. 

So that’s how the bastards got in. He thought. Then why haven’t they attacked?

He heard footsteps. They were large, heavy footsteps, like a giant wearing slippers. The man disappeared into the aisle and quickly snuck toward the back of the building. He caught sight of the exit and moved faster. He would return to camp and tell them everything about the other entrance. Finally, he would feel useful. With what sounded like a bark, the creature that he heard earlier charged toward him. He sprinted without so much as a glance back. He was almost at the exit when he was sideswiped by a thick tail. He hit the bookcase so hard that he saw spots. He felt his body get lifted and moved and the next time he could think clearly, he was back at the tent, staring at the largest Lacertilian he had ever seen.

The King was upset that he had been disturbed while he was studying. Without a spoken language, it’s hard to tell his hunters to notify him when the human was kidnapped. He had been eating for a while now and he was nearly ten feet tall. Any taller it would be hard for him to fit in the library. He kept his claws short so he could properly study. Most of his nutrients went toward his mind and his fire glands.

He did not grow any horns, many of his subjects loved making them as long as possible, but he thought the advantage was minimal. The only issue was that he was given less respect than if he had. Now he was staring at a small and frail human as it spoke.

“Why am I here?” The man yelled, “Why haven’t you killed me yet?” 

He looked up at the silent creature as it crouched on the glass shards. With a growl, it walked to a corner of the tent and tossed a fridge at him. It clattered at his feet and the doors fell open and a pile of candy bars, leftover pizza, and other food items. Some were spoiled.

“Food?” It said in a deep voice. The man could barely make out the word, but he understood. He didn’t want to trust it, but he hadn’t eaten his rations that day. Slowly, he picked a cup of dry ramen and began to eat. The Lacertilian nodded and pulled a deer leg from the same corner and chewed on it, studying the man with amber eyes.

“So now that I know you can speak, can you tell me why I’m here?” The man said.

It extended the leg, flinging chunks of flesh everywhere. “This?”

“Uh, no thank you.” He said.

It shook its head. “This?”

“Oh, that’s meat.” He said.

“Meat?” It said.

“Yes, meat.”

The creature nodded and continued to eat. The man understood then, he was taken to teach them English. No one knew if the Lacertilians had a spoken language and no one had seen them speak. But now it was clear that was the case. And now he’s in charge of teaching them how to communicate.

The man was pulled from his thoughts by the crunch of bone as the Lacertilian bit through the bone of the leg. That explains why no bodies had been recovered. He started on one of the snack bars. He needed to figure out if he wanted to escape or help teach them. If he escaped and told everyone about the other entrance, then they could seal it and keep the Lacertilians out. If he taught them, they would become stronger, but that could allow the humans to communicate with them too and potentially make a truce.

Either option was risky, but he decided that it would be better to teach them, because if they can speak, then they’ll be less like animals, they could be reasoned with. Even if he did manage to escape alive, closing the other entrance wouldn’t stop them and the humans wouldn’t be able to wipe them out completely. He nodded, satisfied by his decision, and stood up. 

The King ate contemplatively, considering this human. It could teach them, but to learn requires a visual reference. He had already tested this hypothesis and learned the word meat. This is good for learning nouns, but it would be harder to form sentences and words that are harder to show visually, like verbs.

Still, just knowing nouns is immensely powerful in communication. Now the human was standing, looking braver than usual. The King looked at it with curiosity.

“Fridge.” The man said, slapping it. 

“Food?” The Lacertilian said.

The man shook his head and tapped it again. “Fridge.”

The Lacertilian walked closer and picked it up, dumping the contents out and setting it to the side. It pointed at it “Fridge?”

“Yes, fridge.” the man said, nodding for clarity, then pointed at the pile of food. “Food.”

“Meat?” The Lacertilian said.

“No, food.” 

The Lacertilian walked over to the corner and, to the man’s disgust, pulled out a human arm, “Food?”

The man thought, how would he tell it that it’s both food and meat? He decided that he would tell them when they can understand more than one-syllable words. “No, meat.”

The king nodded, satisfied by the answer. He realized then that the human chose to teach him that time. Its cooperation was entirely unexpected but welcome. He grew suspicious, it seemed highly unlikely that a human would choose to help them gain power unless they had ulterior motives. He would watch it closely, but for now, he’d accept the cooperation.

The human pointed at itself. “Alex.”

The King narrowed his eyes in confusion and pointed at the man. “Human?”

“Human, yes, Alex, yes.” The human said, and the King thought for a moment and nodded. He understood that the man was both a human and Alex. Alex must have been a title. The King reached into a pile of books and pulled out a children’s book, holding it gently in his massive hands, and opened to a specific page. On it, a cartoon showed a king with a glittering crown standing above all his subjects, small arms outstretched.

“This?” The King asked, pointing at the page.

“King.” The man said.

He nodded and pointed at himself. “King.”

The King had difficulties accommodating the human called Alex. It seemed that the man was unable to eat raw meat like the rest of his subjects. The food he gave the man at first was mostly edible but much harder to find. He was almost about to give up when Alex tried to speak to him.

“Give.” He said, gesturing to the pile of meat in the corner. “Meat.”

“Meat, yes?” The King said pointing to one of the deer legs.

Alex nodded. “Yes.”

The King tossed it over to him, curious.

He fumbled with the leg, tearing whatever skin he could off. He used to hunt, but since the forest became filled with far more dangers than just bears and mountain lions, he preferred to just stick close to camp. But much of the skill remained, such as cleaning a carcass. He arranged a couple of sticks in a pile. He assumed they were remains from building the tent. He pulled out a flint striker from his pocket and began to spay sparks down at the wood.

The King stepped closer, intrigued. Humans didn’t have any kind of fire glands, so it seemed that they had to use rocks instead. He picked up a small branch and faced away from Alex, sprayed a small stream of fire at it, and tossed it in the small pile of wood.

“Thanks,” Alex said, leaning back as the flames lept up unexpectedly.

The King continued to watch as the human started to burn the meat. Causing it to drip in the fire. He thought about stopping him, but he thought it was unlikely that he would try to destroy their food supply in front of him.

Alex sat for a while until he was sure it was good to eat. He looked up at the King and took a bite out of it.

The King immediately understood. The man’s digestive system is too simple to process raw meat, so it had to be slightly burned. He made a mental note to set up his rations.

For the first week, Alex had to sleep on the ground in the tent, where it stank of raw meat. He tried to go into the library, but that made the King angry. It was clear that the library was sacred to them in some way. 

Maybe they were more intelligent than the Watch, the group set up by the deputy to protect the town, was willing to admit. And in teaching them English, he would be opening pandora’s box. But still, he knew it was the only way to stop them from killing more people.

Eventually, they gave him a house with crudely boarded-up windows and a bloodstain on the floor. It was the house that was the most intact and close to the library, so he could tell that they valued him greatly, but trusted him very little.

Sleeping there was just as difficult as sleeping in the tent, if not more. In the bedroom he slept in, there was a row of photographs lined up on the dresser. Photos of a happy family vacationing at various places across the world. Two parents and a little girl with a big smile stood on a beach. The same girl wrestled a fluffy dog on the green grass of their yard. A yard that was now covered in scorch marks. Their smiles haunted him and fed the shame he had in helping monsters.

He made the right choice, he told himself. He owed them to make a final decision. The only decision that could stop the killing. Still, the image of a happy, oblivious family coming to a violent and unexpected end kept his eyes wide open at night.

Instead of sleeping, he found the office in the house and started working on a method of teaching. It seemed that showing them objects and defining them worked the best, similar to how children would learn using flashcards. He wrote up a list of words he wanted to teach, specifically choosing ones that would increase communication without giving tactical advantages. Words like sun, dirt, house, and water were some of the only ones he could think of that couldn’t be used in some way.

Alex worked hard, forming lesson plans on paper lit by the light of a flashlight. Eventually, he seamlessly drifted to sleep, continuing to think of how he could teach from the ground up. Those dreams turned into nightmares of torture and oppression. He saw hundreds of humans being ruthlessly enslaved by supersized reptiles in a dark future. He saw them spread like wildfire across all of civilization.

He woke to the sound of heavy slamming at the front door. A million thoughts went through his head at once. Had they come to kill me? Was it the Watch here to save me? He quickly grabbed his notes and ran for the door and opened it. A large Lacertilian with horns glared down at him. Alex noticed that it held a rake in its hands. They were starting to learn how to use weapons.

The Lacertilian silently led him to the library. In the yard of one of the houses, a group of smaller ones chased a rabbit, caught it, and released it again. They would occasionally break out into a violently playful wrestling match. Alex’s amazement nearly stopped him in his tracks. They were playing. He could even tell that their game had some complexity by the fact that they would space themselves out from where the rabbit is released in an organized way. It seemed that their placement somewhat depended on which caught the rabbit last. 

Eventually, they noticed him and stopped the game, watching with curious eyes. Alex saw all of this as a good sign. If they were curious about humans, that means they want to learn more, and when they learn more, it’ll be easier for them to sympathize. However, the horrific warning from his dreams still hung in his mind.

The Lacertilian with the rake led him into the library, where the King kneeled by a table with several other horned Lacertilians. It growled a greeting and kneeled at an empty spot at the table as the King stood up.

“Alex.” He said, leading him away from the table. He shivered before following. It was terrifying to see such an inhuman creature call him by name. He briefly caught a glimpse of the table, which was piled with maps. 

The King led him to a small table in a secluded area and crouched. On the table sat piles of children’s books. With large, leathery hands, he opened the one on top and showed it to him. 

He pointed to the short line of large text at the bottom. “This?” He said.

“Those are words,” Alex said.

The King paused. “Teach words?”

Alex nodded, teaching them how to read would help them be able to empathize. He walked away from the table, turning back to see if the King would allow him to explore the library. His hulking form slowly stood up and followed him. 

Alex looked through the rows of bookshelves, trying to remember how the Dewey decimal system worked. Thankfully, he was able to find what he was looking for. Down one aisle by the floor, he found a thick textbook based on phonics. 

He looked through it briefly before closing it and taking it back to the kids’ section as the King looked down on him with curiosity. That book would be his lesson plan, he thought. Teaching would be a breeze with it.

Teaching the King was hard at first. Especially since he was having difficulties understanding that Alex needed him to repeat sounds for each letter. Eventually, he was able to sound out whole sentences after he read them to him. 

The King sat with him for most of the day, patiently listening to the sounds of each letter and connecting each word with an image on the page. Alex found it strangely funny, reading children’s stories to a ten-foot-tall lizard monster. 

Over the next few weeks, he spent most of his time teaching the King in the library. The others woke him up earlier and earlier each day. He started seeing them with more makeshift weapons and armor. He saw one wearing football pads and a helmet with the facemask torn out so its head could fit. The games the younger ones played got more sophisticated, and far more brutal. Luckily, they seemed to have become more comfortable around him. The one in charge of waking him up would slouch and lumber toward the library instead of escorting him. The younger ones wouldn’t so much as look up from their game as he passed as if he was just another one of them or the hunt of the day being brought into camp.

The King could almost carry a conversation by then, and his excitement was apparent.

“We hunt today.” He said, gesturing to a large pile of fresh meat. Alex was sure that he didn’t need to know that, It was clear the King said that just because he could. 

Because he was the only other one who could speak, the King grew closer to him. He found it strange, being able to relate to a monster. That’s when he knew his plan was starting to work. Even as the photos in his room continue to haunt him. 

Eventually, Alex started to see the King teach the other horned Lacertilians that frequented the map table much in the same way he had. He saw the words spread across the camp and soon even the younger ones were using some as they played. It was strange to see them speak and it made them seem oddly human. It also made him worried that his usefulness was going to expire.

He thought of plans to escape. It wouldn’t be hard to sneak out a window of his house, since it’s on the edge of the camp by the border wall, but it’s also on the side opposite from the rest of town. He would have to travel around the entire border to get back. He could go into the woods, but he couldn’t imagine the horrors that could lie there. Even if he somehow made it into the forest without being killed horribly by some bizarre entity, it wouldn’t take long for the Lacertilians to track him down.

No, there was only one way out. He would have to stick to his original plan and negotiate. On his walk to the library, he couldn’t help the thought of everything going horribly wrong.

When he opened the flap in the tent, the King stood in the entrance to the library, looking down at the book in his hands.

“Uh, King? Could I speak with you?” Alex said.

“You may call me Basileus now.” He said without looking up. “Basileus is my name.”

Alex was a little surprised by the sudden name change. “Why did you choose that name?”

Basileus closed the book and he could see that it was a Latin dictionary. “Humans use this old language to name creatures. Basileus means king. I will be the first of many kings.”

“Oh,” Alex said, thinking about how he was already learning other languages.

He walked deeper into the library and Alex followed. 

“You wanted to speak with me?” Basileus said, stopping behind a bookshelf away from the other horned Lacertilians.

“I want to make an offer.” He said. Thinking about how Basileus said that he would be the first of many. How he sounded like he would be the start of a long dynasty. He looked up at his large amber eyes, full of curiosity. “I would like to initiate a treaty between you and the humans.”

Basileus stood up straighter, looking larger than ever. 

“A treaty?” He said, tilting his head slightly.

“It’s an agreement where both sides choose to be peaceful under certain conditions.” He said, seeing a hint of anger in Basileus’s face as he blinked with his inner eyelids.

“I’ve had many hunting parties shot down by your humans. They use their guns on us whenever we get close to their walls.” It was clear he was trying to hold his anger back, “Our hunting parties are fewer. There isn’t enough meat to go around.” He stepped closer to Alex, glaring down at him “I have been forced to cannibalize the weaker ones many times.” He calmed himself slightly. “Humans deserve no peace.”

Alex was shocked, somehow he did not realize how much the humans have retaliated. He couldn’t think of what to say to that, he even felt himself sympathizing with them. He was suddenly reminded of the owners of the house he stayed in, how they were an ordinary family before everything happened. He had to make this work.

“But if we make a treaty, we could stop them from shooting you,” Alex said softly. “We could even share food with you.”

“They won’t keep their word.” He spat. “They only shoot.”

“They shoot because they’re scared,” Alex said. “Trust me, I know how they work. Once they see that you’re just as intelligent as they are, they’ll see you as a potential ally, not a threat.”

Basileus closed his eyes for a long moment, fighting back his anger.

“I have been planning this fight for a long time.” He said. “Even if I agree to this, my soldiers will want blood.”

“Then direct their anger somewhere else,” Alex said, thinking about everything the Watch has to deal with. “There are many things in the forest that are even more threatening than you or the humans.”

“And why,” He said. “Do the humans deserve peace more than them?”

“Because we only kill if we have to,” Alex said. “I’ve seen things in the forest that kill as if it’s as normal as breathing. The humans think you’re one of those creatures, but since I’ve been here, I can see that you’re anything but. I’ve even seen your children play just like ours do.”

The king sighed and stood silent for a moment, “Fine, I’ll try to convince my people to do it, but it will be hard to keep the peace.” He started to walk down the aisle. “And if your people go back on their word, there will be no peace.”

“That’s the nature of a treaty,” Alex said, trying to contain his relief.

Over the next few days, the war planning continued, and Basileus started to gradually introduce the idea of a treaty to the rest of the horned Lacertilians. Alex noticed how strategic he was about it, how he would tell a trusted member to spread rumors to the others and keep the conversations about it in private until enough were curious about it. Some pushed back from the beginning with a burning hatred of humans. He told Alex that this group would likely keep resisting until the end, they’d just have to change enough of their minds so they wouldn’t have enough influence to affect the decision.

“When I became king.” He said. “My people chose me to be king because I was smarter than the rest. But some others thought they should be king, so they gained their own followers.” He said spitefully. “They’ll always cave to the majority. They are not brave enough to make their own kingdom.”

A few days later, they had a trial to decide whether or not to attack the humans. They set up several chairs in an open area of the library in the shape of a semicircle, all facing a large, torn-up loveseat, where Basileus sat. Alex sat in a small kid’s chair next to him with his knees almost touching his chin.

Once all were seated, Basileus nodded. “It’s time to decide, will we conquer the humans or make peace with them?”

“King Basileus, we’re wasting our time.” One of the horned lacertilians said, wearing crude armor made of animal bones and wood. “The entrance to the human camp won’t be open forever. If they find out where it is, they won’t want a treaty.”

“Agree, King.” A large one next to him said quickly. “Must strike now.”

“But we don’t know what the humans are capable of if we provoke them.” Another on a different table said. “It’ll be safer if we make a treaty.”

The armored one cackled. “We know exactly what they’re capable of, Robert, their weak bones and squealing won’t stop us. If they could kill us they would’ve already.”

“Let’s look at this strategically,” A scarred one said. “They have guns. We have a secret entrance. What if they’ve known about the entrance for months? Maybe they wait for us.”

“Maybe we should ask the human over there.” The armored one said, looking right at Alex. “he’s taught us a lot so far. King Basileus, have you considered squeezing the truth out of him? He could tell us everything we need to know if we make him fear.”

The rest of the group looked at him differently, with less curiosity and more opportunity.

“If we torture him, we lose the possibility of a treaty,” Basileus said.

The armored one shrugged. “That’s a risk we’ll be willing to make right? How dangerous could they be? Do you remember how we slaughtered them on the first night?”

“They were more vulnerable then.” The scarred one said. “Humans are known to adapt quickly.”

“They are quite dangerous when they hit our hunting parties.” The one called Robert said. “Especially with their guns.”

“Which is why we should attack soon.” The armored one said. “If we hit fast enough and hard enough, we can cripple them before they can organize themselves.”

“We should let the human speak.” The scarred one said, nodding to Alex. “I want to hear his perspective.”

“Very well,” Basileus said and gestured to Alex. “You may speak now.”

“As many of you know,” Alex said, standing up. “I’ve been with you a long time now, and I’ve learned just as much from you as you learned from me. I can tell you that the other humans don’t know about you as much as I do. To them, you’re the same as any other monster from the forest. I think they’ve been trying to ignore you as much as possible.” He saw some of them exchange surprised looks, “But instead of gauging how dangerous they are, you should look at how helpful they could be as allies. They attack you because they’re like any other creature, they adapt to things they’re scared of. But if you show them how you can be peaceful, they’ll respect you, and see you as a potential ally and not a threat. Humans are normally a peaceful race, but they turn distrustful when they’re threatened.”

Alex sat down and the court remained silent for a moment. 

“That’s a very compelling point,” The scarred one said, “And it got me thinking, on the first night, we slaughtered the humans because we didn’t know anything and we were scared.” He looked at the armored one. “And we’ve been blaming the humans for all the problems we have, but can you imagine the fear and pain the humans must feel from that massacre? At this point, I think we’ve killed far more of them compared to what they’ve done.”

“But Maps? So many maps!” The big one blurted out.

“What he means to say.” The armored one said after seeing the looks of confusion from the court, “We’ve been planning this raid for months. Do we want to throw it away?”

“We could still use them,” Robert said. “If the humans refuse our treaty.”

The armored one sank lower into his chair.

“Any objections?” Basileus said and let the silence hang for a moment, then nodded. “We’ll let Alex speak with the humans to set up a meeting.”

“911 what’s your emergency?” It was the first time he heard the voice of another human being in almost three months.

After taking it in a moment, he responded. “Who is this?”

“This is deputy Cain.” The voice said. “Are you in a safe position?”

“Yes sir,” Alex said. “You aren’t gonna believe where I’ve been.”

“What are you talking about?” He could imagine him leaning closer to the phone on his desk.

“You know those lizard creatures that attacked the south part of town?”

“Yes, we call them the Lacertilians.” Deputy Cain said. “Have you been taken by them?”

“I have.” He said. “I’ve been with them for several months now and I’ve taught them English.” He looked up at Basileus, who nodded. “And they would like to make a treaty.”

The line went silent for a while. Alex wondered for a moment if he had hung up.

“Well shit, that changes my plans for today.”

September 15th: The Dark Material, Part II

Hello! this is a continuation of an older story, if you haven’t read it, check it out here.

This was pretty fun to write, but it was still a big challenge for me since I had to keep making sure I knew what the main character’s vocabulary is. I’m hoping to add more to this story in the future. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

The Dark Material, Part II

I understand now, the dark material is an indicator of suffering and death.

I took the small being out of its hole and laid it on a lump of material in an opening in the forest. It never moved, even when I waited long enough to see the colors of the forest go dark and indistinguishable. 

Forest. How do I know that word? A forest is a collection of trees. I looked up at the tall, dark columns that spread out into the sky. These are trees. I recalled my first moments in this world. Just then, I was a much simpler being. I must be learning about this world, and quickly so. 

The dark material on the small creature’s body had dried and I became aware of unpleasant fumes coming from it. Why does learning have to be so painful? I focused on the dark material and I tried to learn it. Immediately, the word appeared in my mind: Blood. Despite the grim nature of the knowledge, acquiring it gave me a rush of excitement. Suddenly, the world I was lost in became far less scary. I learned about the being, it was called a bird, and it was classified as an animal. Animals were multicellular beings made up of flesh. The trees were plants, unmoving things that build up from the ground, using nothing but the air and sunlight to gain extreme amounts of mass. Bits of information came to me like memories.

I learned so much in a short amount of time, but some questions remained unanswered. What am I? And what happened when I was at the infected strip of earth with those upright animals? I knew I needed to find out.

Before I went back to that spot, I picked the bird up and brought it back to the tree I first emerged from, and set it in its hollow center. I don’t know why I did that, but strangely, it felt like the action relieved a part of my guilt.

With my newfound knowledge, I had the courage to go back to that spot at the infection to learn what happened. When I arrived, I found the whole area outlined by a long strip of yellow material, and small orange structures were placed evenly around the hulking corpse of the creature I killed. I watched for a while, not knowing what to do next. I tried learning about it, but nothing came to me. 

I settled for a little longer, and eventually, another one of its kind rolled by. I followed it again this time, curious about where it had to go in such a hurry.

I was amazed by the endurance of the creature, it never seemed to lose its pace or weaken even as time went by. It was most unnatural.

I moved closer to it to learn more when I realized that parts of its hard shell were slightly translucent. The beast didn’t seem to notice when I slid up next to it and peered through its sleek shell. Inside I saw an upright creature, staring passively ahead. The upright creature didn’t seem to be harmed in any way even though it was in the belly of another creature. I thought it must be some sort of symbiotic relationship. 

I continued to follow the beast until the path of the infection curved into a valley that seemed to house strange shapes that stood much taller than the trees. It was breathtaking in a way, and fear made it hard to continue, but I kept following because I needed to learn more about these strange animals. The yearning for knowledge was almost as unbearable as the fear.

As the beast coasted down toward the valley, I could see multi-colored swarms of its kind clustered around the base of each gigantic pillar. They seemed to crowd in the middle between the pillars while droves of upright creatures moved about at the edge. I was puzzled by it, one of the three entities in this valley is superior, but which would it be? I went up to touch one of the large structures. It was dense and hard, just like the infection and the beasts. Parts of it were smooth and translucent, revealing dozens of upright creatures moving about.

I observed the valley for a while and tracked the movements of the upright creatures. I saw one of them move from one of the pillars to a beast on the bottom, which blinked enthusiastically as soon as it saw the upright creature. The beast then took it over to another, shorter pillar that the creature would disappear into for a time before moving to another.

Eventually, I decided that the pillars are superior and the upright creatures are the lowest in power because they move the most. A being that does not move must have power over others. All the work from the upright creatures seemed to be put into the pillars.

I started exploring for a time, following the route of every being, speculating about the functions of their efforts. Eventually, I found that the upright creatures created sounds with their throats. I would watch as they stared at each other making a series of sounds, varying in pitch and volume.

I learned that this action means Communication and I found it fascinating. They rarely did it while they moved from pillar to pillar, but inside some of the pillars, they would communicate regularly. Sometimes they did it quickly and excitedly, and sometimes they did it in a slow and somber way.

I was so intrigued by communication that I spent a long time in that valley and studied, learning every subtle action they used and what it meant. Eventually, I learned about English and before long, I could make out many words. 

I continued to explore the valley until one time I entered a short pillar and saw an upright being that I recognized. It was unmistakable, it was the same being I saved from the beast long ago. I silenced myself and listened to it communicate to another being.

“Let’s talk about what happened last week.” The other upright creature said.

“What about it?” The creature I recognized said.

“The car crash. Tell me how it happened, what you were doing, and how you reacted.” The other said.

The one I recognized moved uneasily. “Well I don’t think I remember very well, but I was running with my dog and this car started coming up behind me so I started to move over to the shoulder. Suddenly I heard this loud crash and I turned around to see the car on its side.” It said. “It must’ve hit a rock or something.”

“Did you see anything else that might have caused the wreck?”

“No, the rock’s the only thing I can think of that would’ve done that.”

“The car was totaled, found on its side on the other side of the road.”

“Well, what do you want me to say?” The one I recognized said. Its face turned a darker shade. “I don’t know what happened, so stop asking me.”

“Calm down, Monica.” The other said. “We’re just trying to figure out what happened.”

“Well, what do you think happened?”

“Well,” The other said, adjusting its position on the object it was resting on. “Maybe there was another car involved in the wreck, but your mind blocked it out because someone you cared about was in it and was hurt in the accident.”

The one I recognized shook its head. “No, the only person in this city is my sister and she hasn’t driven in weeks.”

“Well there must’ve been another car, maybe it wasn’t someone you cared about but your brain had to block it out for a reason.”

“I guess.” The one I recognized said tiredly before pushing itself upright again. “Anyway, I have to go to work soon. Thanks for this session, by the way.”

“Of course, see you next week.” The other said.

The one I recognized moved past me on its way out. For a moment it stopped and looked in my direction, squinting before continuing.

I thought long and hard about what I witnessed. There were so many words I didn’t know, but I still learned so much. Some words stood out to me and I desperately wanted to learn about them. Monica one of them said. It seemed out of place like the sentence would still make sense if it didn’t have that word. I’ve heard of words like this before, and they changed depending on who was communicating. Maybe it was some kind of title? A Name. The word popped into my mind. Monica was a name, the name of the one I recognized.

I followed Monica as she moved to another pillar that was crowded with dozens of upright creatures that would sit, holding steaming cylinders. Other upright creatures stood in a different part of the space, where they handed out more. They seemed to dress similarly. Monica greeted them before disappearing into another section of the pillar. She reappeared wearing the same outfit as the others.

She joined them and started producing cylinders. I watched as she poured various fluids into a cylinder before taking it over to a structure that seemed to squeal as she used it, spewing steam throughout the place. Then she took it away, added a few more things before passing it to another upright creature, who passed a small object to her. She took the object, touched it to another structure before handing it back. She repeated the process many times, doing it slightly differently each time. I found it strange that she was doing this, she didn’t seem to gain anything, aside from the small objects, things that she would promptly give back. Maybe she was doing it in exchange for shelter in the pillars?

I continued to watch her for a while as she worked, passively thinking about her reason for doing this. Suddenly, after she handed off another cylinder, I saw her eyes briefly focused on me. It was more of a shock than I would expect, but I realized it was the first time another being had looked directly at me. Her face showed curiosity, intelligence, and a small bit of fear. I was filled with excitement, if this being could see me, does that mean she could communicate to me too? I danced around the room in excitement, wondering at the possibilities, maybe I could interact with this world, even participate in it.

My thoughts were intruded by Monica’s screams, I looked down to see her huddled against the counter, shrouded in darkness. All of the upright creatures flooded out of the pillar, many of them were screaming too. The ground was covered in pieces of the pillar’s translucent shell. I knew I did it again, I did something bad. I had just made my first actual connection with another being in my life and I ruined it. I wanted to retreat back into the forest and return to the tree I was created from and rest for all eternity.

I soared out from the pillar, aiming for the forest but I stopped before I left the valley. I looked back on the domain of the pillars. I still wanted to learn more, but I was afraid. But I was no longer afraid for my own life, I was afraid for the lives of others. Beings like the bird in the forest and Monica. I realized that if I wanted to keep things from being hurt I’d have to learn more about myself instead of other beings.

I went into the forest to think. I know I’m not an animal, I’m not made of cells and I can move in ways that no other animal can. I can even move faster than the beasts the upright creatures travel in. I can still interact with the world, but other animals must not be able to see me well. Even Monica didn’t notice me until after she was well into her shift.

I thought about her some more. What had I done? I got excited and she’s terrified of me now. I damaged the pillar somehow and that drove her out. I looked back towards the valley. What if I can’t find her again? 

Sorrow filled my soul. I knew I should hide away and keep myself from hurting anything else, but thoughts of the pillars and the beasts and Monica made me want to go back and learn more. I should know better, I should be better and never touch anything ever again. 

Suddenly, something dropped from a nearby tree and landed next to me. I looked down. It was a bird, just like the one I killed long ago. It waddled across the ground and peeped helplessly. I could help it, I thought. It fell away from its home and it would die if I did nothing. Gingerly, I reached out and touched it. No blood emerged and the bird continued to peep. I carefully lifted it up and it stirred excitedly. Maybe it thought it was flying. I reached up into the tree where I found a small lump of soft material, several other birds screamed at me silently as I set it next to them. The other birds didn’t notice when they were reunited with their lost sibling but continued to leave their little mouths open.

They are such simple creatures, given just enough mental ability to survive. They barely seem to be able to process the information around them. A larger bird landed next to them and dropped bits of matter into their gaping mouths and they happily swallowed it all.

I was able to help one. I brought it back to its home without hurting it. Maybe that’s the solution, maybe I can learn to be gentle and not hurt things. Perhaps I can even help more beings like the helpless bird and Monica.

I thought about going back to the valley immediately, but I decided that I had to stay and teach myself and make sure that I could be gentle. I looked around the forest. I didn’t feel like practicing on a bird yet, so I picked up a piece of tree. It was denser than the bird but was still relatively soft. I squeezed it in my hands, making sure to not damage it. Gradually, I increased the pressure until I could feel the fibers inside it split and tear. I remembered the amount of pressure I used and I picked up a lump of material that was far denser. I squeezed gently until I reached the same pressure but strangely it didn’t seem to tear. It felt sturdy in my grasp so I kept squeezing harder until it suddenly burst apart, spraying shards everywhere. 

I came to the conclusion that harder materials take more force to break than soft ones. I spent a lot of time testing various objects in the forest, making sure I knew they were nonliving before touching them. Eventually, I knew so much about force and pressure that I could be confident that I could touch almost anything without breaking it.

With newfound hope, I headed back to the valley. As I darted from tree to tree I realised that no other animal could move as fast as I can without tiring. The thought made me more curious about myself, what sort of being am I? And why am I placed among animals?

My thoughts were interrupted by a great sound. I stopped immediately and looked around me. Parts of trees were raining down from above me and splinters were scattered across the ground. I realized that I must’ve hit a tree and destroyed it. I looked at myself, trees are fairly dense, yet I felt nothing when I hit it, most animals would have been destroyed long before damaging the tree.

I continued along, making sure to be well above the forest as I went. Gradually, the pillars came into view and I started searching for Monica. I started looking at the pillar where she handed out cylinders, which was now surrounded by the thin yellow material and its translucent shell was replaced by a thin layer of translucent skin. I assumed it must’ve been some kind of healing process.

The section of the pillar was completely empty, so I continued searching elsewhere. Just when I was worried I had lost her, I peered into a nearby pillar to see her sitting next to a slab of dense material where she scooped a clump of soft material out of a curved object. She proceeded to consume the soft material, staring forward impassively. I carefully slipped through the shell of the pillar and watched her more closely. She didn’t seem to notice and continued to eat. She pulled a small object out and looked at it as it projected light onto her face. She seemed totally engrossed in the object so I started to move around the space. In one section there was a large slab of soft material. I wondered if it was more food, but I figured that would be an odd way to store it. In the section where she sat, there was a counter with various structures sitting on top, similar to the place she worked at. In another, smaller section there were several large, curved objects, one of which was filled with a clear fluid. When I was done exploring, I quickly returned to Monica, afraid I missed some different behavior. She was no longer eating, but was staring fully at her little object. Suddenly, almost unconsciously, she picked up the object she was eating out of and took it over to the counter. She used one of the structures to clean out the inside of the object with more of the clear fluid. She was close to me now, and I stood still in fear of alarming her, so quickly and silently I moved past her.

She looked up suddenly and looked around the room, her eyes briefly settled on me before returning back to what she was doing. The moment made me excited and terrified all at the same time.

Eventually she left her section of the pillar and went down to its feet. She picked out another small object and one of the beasts flashed at her. She quickly slipped underneath its shell and the beast charged away.

I tailed it until it reached a wide, flat pillar. I followed her inside. On her way in she grabbed a structure made of thin, dense material and pushed it along the ground. Inside, there were many rows of walls packed with bits of material, varying in size, shape, and density. She casually dropped each bit into the object she pushed. She seemed to weave in and out each row, carefully selecting each object, choosing some over others, putting some back. I found it odd, if she was trying to collect the material, why didn’t she just take as much as she wanted? There seemed to be plenty.

I saw another upright creature picking material from the wall across from Monica. I understood, they were all sharing the material. But it still made me wonder how they keep one being from taking too much. I moved in front of Monica and looked at the material the object was wrapped in. Her language was written on it, a series of symbols I could not yet understand.

Suddenly I heard a large crash, I looked over to see Monica standing in a pool of liquid. It looked like she just dropped one of the harder objects, which had shattered. She was looking directly at me, making me feel like I’d melt at any second. I looked down again, maybe she dropped the object in an effort to communicate with me? She remained still, staring. I knew I had to respond somehow, so I dropped the object I was holding.

“Mam? Mam are you all right?” Another upright creature said, rushing toward her. I stepped back so I wouldn’t interfere.

“Huh? Oh yeah, I just…” She said, briefly tearing her eyes away before returning to the spot I stood before. “It’s been a long day, I’m sorry I broke the wine bottle, I’ll pay for it all.”

“No, no, it’s quite alright, let me help clean it up.” He said, looking down at the pool of liquid. He went down the aisle and came back with a stick which had a bundle of soft material on the end. Monica pulled the object that carried her items out of the way and the other upright creature poured another liquid on top of the pool. The upright creature then used the soft side of the stick to soak up the liquid, smoothing it on the ground. “We’ll let it dry before we clean up the glass.”

“Gosh, I’m really sorry. I just haven’t gotten a lot of sleep lately.” Monica said, looking up at it for the first time. “Wait, I think I know you from somewhere.”

The upright creature looked back at her. “Yeah, didn’t I almost hit you?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry I didn’t recognise you. Roy, right? How have you been? Have you gotten a new car yet? I didn’t know you worked here.”

The creature named Roy smiled. I looked closer and realised that he was the upright creature that was inside the beast I killed. “No, I just got a bike for the time being.”

“Really? I’m so sorry.” She said, “Well if you ever need a ride, let me know.”

He shrugged. “Nah, it’s good exercise anyway.” 

After a while he left with the cleaning items and came back with a similar object, but instead of having a bundle of soft material, it had several short, stiff sticks attached to the end. In his other hand he held an oddly shaped container. With the stick, he pushed the pieces of the object Monica dropped into the container. 

“You know,” He said, “Since I’ve been taking the bike route, I found a cute little restaurant nearby and I thought it would be cool to check out. Would you want to come?”

She smiled at him. “Yeah, that would be nice.”

“Good, this Friday then?” He said.

She bobbed her head. “Sure.”

Roy left with the container and she continued pushing her items.

I suddenly felt weak from trying to process everything that happened, so I quickly left the pillar and went back to the forest.

For some reason, the forest seemed to help rest my mind. I felt like I could understand it. The forest has simple rules, simple creatures, and I don’t have to understand much of it. It always feels familiar. The valley, however, carries strange and complex beings that behave so differently compared to everything else. I feel the need to understand but the more I learn, the more complex it gets. I settled for a while, thinking of the conversation and the strange words they used. I could tell that Monica recognised Roy from the incident and that wanted to learn about each other, but most of the specifics were lost.

Eventually, I regained the energy to return to the valley. I found Monica in the same room where I first heard her communicate. Again, she was sitting across from the other upright creature.

“I’m surprised to see that you chose to meet again so soon, did something happen?” It said, holding a flat, dense object.

“Sorta,” Monica said, wrapping her fingers together. “And I’m afraid of what it might mean.”

“What do you mean?” The other being said. “Tell me everything.”

“Well, I just got back from the store,” She said, “and I was pushing my cart through the wine section and just in front of me I saw one of the chip bags floating.”

The other being’s eyes widened.

“And the other day at the coffee shop I saw this blur.” She shook her head. “It looked like a brushstroke or something, right before the power surge shattered the windows.”

“So, what do you think it could be?” The other being said.

“Well,” she said, leaning forward. “You know, my family has had a history with schizophrenia so I was wondering…”

“You think you’re developing symptoms.” The other said.

She stopped for a moment, it looked almost like she wasn’t moving at all. “Yes.”

The other being remained stiff. “It’s certainly possible.” It said, “But it still could be a number of other things.”

Monica looked up again. “Really?”

“Yes, for example, you said you haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately.” It said, “And sleep deprivation can definitely cause hallucinations.”

Monica sighed. “Thank you, I’ll try to get more sleep.”

The other nodded. “Yes, and let me know if you have any more hallucinations.”

I followed Monica as she left the pillar.

She moved along by the feet of the pillar and I trailed behind, slightly bored. She squeezed through a swarm of upright beings, and I slipped past them with ease. I looked at the one walking next to me, watching how it would kick a leg out and shift its weight over it. I matched its step and I swung my arms as it did. I followed her, pretending I was one of the upright creatures.

Suddenly, Monica stopped in front of a patch of black ground and I bumped into her. I panicked, did I hurt her again? Like I did when I ran into the tree?

“Sorry,” She said, glancing back at me. I was astounded and energized. She communicated to me. I felt almost as if I were an upright creature just like her. I looked down and saw that I was wearing the furs of an upright creature. Pale, hairy hands stood in the place of my own.

She crossed the black ground and I pushed through the hoard, desperate to get to her. This was my chance to communicate with her as one of her own. I touched her shoulder as she turned towards a gap between the pillars. She turned and looked directly at me.

“Yes?” she said, “Can I help you?”

I opened my mouth to speak, just before gagging. I knew most of her language, but I never learned how to actually use it.

Her face turned sour and she pushed my hand off, causing me to fall to the ground.  

“Sorry,” She said, “Not interested, creep.”

I felt my form of the upright creature melt away as she walked down the gap.

Creep, she had said. That was a word I didn’t know, but I knew I didn’t like it. Strangely, it felt painful. Maybe I was sick?

I trailed behind her as she went through the gap of small, misshapen pillars. She stopped by a dense structure that had a thick layer of skin hung taut above it. Behind the structure, an upright creature offered her a long piece of soft material. 

“Thank you.” She said, handing a piece of thin material to it. She continued, eating the soft material as she went. She passed another upright creature with long white hair, sitting by the entrance to a small pillar.

“Miss.” It said, looking up quickly. Monica continued on without acknowledging it. “It’s not a hallucination.”

She stopped suddenly and turned to the white haired one. “What did you say?”

The white haired one stood up and entered the pillar. “Come.”

Monica followed it into the pillar. I caught a glimpse of a string of glowing letters placed on the side of the pillar which read: “Palm Readings.”

“Sit, sit,” The white haired one said once we were inside the strangely scented room and pointed to a lump of soft material. It sat down on its own and waited for her to sit.

“So?” She said, “What did you want to say?”

The white haired one gestured to a small container between them. 

Monica sighed and dropped a handful of small dense pieces in it.

“You made a good choice.” The white haired one said. “Very few psychics are legit these days.”

“Get on with it.” She said.

“What you have been experiencing,” It said, “It’s not a series of hallociations, it’s a creature.”

“A creature?” Monica said, “What do you mean?”

“Imagine if you were born as a ghost,” It said excitedly. “With no understanding of the world but a near infinite capacity to interact with it. It’s called a Vindur, and it’s what happens when intelligence wills itself into existence. It’s very rare to encounter them, and it’s even rarer to meet them regularly.”

Monica leaned forward. I could barely understand them, but I knew it was important. “There was a car accident I was a part of a week ago. I saw a car get totaled without hitting anything.”

THe white haired one nodded. “Vindur are very powerful.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I’m a psychic,” It said, “I sensed it when you walked past me on the street. In fact, I sense it in this room right now.”

Monica looked around, fear in her eyes. “Why is it following me?”

It shrugged, “It’s probably just curious. I think it likes you.”

“That’s weird.” She said, “What do I do about it?”

The white haired one shrugged again. “Don’t do anything that might trigger it.”

“What do you mean?” 

“They are very unpredictable,” It said, “and oftentimes they don’t know right from wrong or the consequences of violence. Luckily, this one seems fairly docile.”

Monica was silent, looking at her feet.

“Would you like to speak to it?” The long haired one said.

“What?” She said, looking up.

The long haired one smiled and pulled out a soft container and dumped out a pile of square pieces. Each piece had a letter on it. “Communicating to a human for the first time can be an emotional experience for a Vindur, so we’ll take it slow. And try not to look directly at it when it becomes visible.”

“I don’t know if I want to do this. What if it hurts me?” She said.

“The only way you can keep it from hurting you, is to teach it.”

Monica sighed. “Okay, if you say so.”

“Good.” The white haired one said. “Now ask it a question, even a simple one.”

“What is your name?” She asked loudly. I watched the pieces in front of me. They stood still. I wondered if the being they were trying to communicate with was going to say something or not. I couldn’t see any other being in the room.

“It must be shy.” The white haired one said. “Try to remind it of one of the times you met.”

“Okay,” She said, “Do you remember when I saw you at the coffee shop, right before the windows shattered?”

I listened to her, and the event she was recounting sounded familiar. Her seeing me, something shattering. Like at the pillar where she handed out cylinders. I suddenly made the connection. She was talking to me again. The creature they were talking about was me. Excitement filled me again. I rushed to the lettered pieces, but my speed made them scatter onto the ground. Monica screamed.

“It’s okay, It’s okay.” The other said, picking up the pieces. ”It just got a little excited.”

As it picked up the pieces, I gently picked up my own. Enough to form a word. I looked over at Monica, who stared at me in the same way she did when she dropped that container that broke. Slowly and carefully, I set the letters down in front of her and spelled out I remember. 

Both of them stared at the letters. 

“It’s- it’s nice to meet you.” She said, extending a hand “My name’s Monica.”

“Monica.” The white haired one said with warning and fear on the edge of her voice.

I had seen the upright creatures grab hands on numerous occasions and I understood its meaning, so I was confused by the white haired one’s reaction. Maybe it was afraid I would hurt her. So, as gently as I could manage, I reached out and grabbed her hand. She reacted immediately, breathing quickly, but I saw no blood, so I knew she was unharmed.I knew I needed to learn more, and now that I can communicate, I can learn better and safer. Monica would be my guide, So I arranged the letters to say: Teach me.

June 18th: The Test

It’s been a busy few months, but I was able to get a sudden hit of inspiration. This story was a lot of fun to write and I felt like I learned a lot, so I hope you enjoy it. You may see similarities to Independence Day in this story, and it’s definitely inspired by that movie.

The Test

We talked about it for so long, the day we would finally meet another intelligent species. We talked and talked but they never came, so we started to believe they never existed, even if we said we did. It almost seemed like we were hoping for it. Well, that day came, but there was no excitement, no fanfare. Just fear.

And I was unlucky enough to be the US president at the time.

“They’re toying with us.” The secretary of defense growled when I asked him for his assessment of the situation. “Like a cat playing with his food.”

When we imagine an alien invasion, we always expect them to go after major cities first. But these aliens did the exact opposite.

“They’ve been exclusively bombing rural areas and empty forests.” He continued. “Our intelligence has found thousands of bombers across the globe. Legions of them dropped off at each continent by larger vessels that come directly from the mothership. I’d be impressed if they weren’t shitting on our natural resources. As for damages, we could recover in the next twenty years if we defeat them tomorrow.”

“Sounds cheery,” I muttered. “And what of the mothership?”

“It’s currently positioned over the pacific, sucking up the ocean like a damn curly straw.” He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. “It seems to be the only resource they care about.”

“Well, how are our efforts going so far?” I pressed, trying to find something to hope for. 

“Like shit.” He grumbled. “Missiles do nothing, rockets do nothing, even the nuke you authorized did nothing. I don’t think they even noticed.”

“Have we tried contacting them?” I asked.

He nodded. “If they’re hearing us, they’re not listening.”

“So we’re doomed.”

“Yep.” He said. “But I have a proposition, and you’re not gonna like it.”

“Let’s hear it,” I said. “It’s not like we have many options.”

“We nuke every major city and finish the job before they can.” He said coldly.

I looked around the conference room to make sure no one happened to sneak in before responding. “You’re batshit crazy.”

“But I’m right, aren’t I?” He said, leaning closer with a sad look in his eye. “Isn’t it obvious what they’re doing? They’re trying to make us die out as slowly and painfully as possible. They’re starving us out and we will all die hungry if we don’t do the only thing there’s left to do.”

I felt sick, I felt like I was watching a movie and that none of this was really happening. I hoped it wasn’t. But I knew it was, and that in the end, he would be right. 

“No, absolutely not. We will not resort to that decision for as long as I am in office.” I said, walking to the door without thinking.

“Don’t be so selfish.” He said, standing up. “Think of all the suffering you would cause by not doing this.”

I left the Pentagon without another word. 

“Take me home,” I said to my driver the second I sat down in the limo. There was much work to do, but I needed to see my wife first.

When I arrived at the White House, I found her tucking the boys in bed. She was graceful as she pulled the blankets up to their chins. She sang a soft song until they gave in to the weight of their eyelids. She met me at the doorway and gave me a smile that almost made me forget the world was ending.

“You almost never sing to them,” I whispered.

“Well they’re going to need help sleeping tonight.”

I glared at her. “You told them?”

She shrugged, “They would’ve found out anyway, it’s kind of hard to hide the news of an alien invasion when you live in the White House. Besides, we raised some very smart boys.”

We met again in my office and broke out the wine.  We sat on the couch. She had changed into a nightgown but still wore her tight bun. I looked down uneasily at my wine glass, aware that it may be the last I could afford.

“Are you doing okay?” She asked, pulling her legs up onto the couch. 

“What do you think?” I said with a soulless chuckle.

“I think you feel like the fate of the world depends on you.”

“But it doesn’t, it seems that whatever I do, it will all end the same. And the only thing I can do,” I look over at her, aware that even in times like these, secrecy is still important. “Is something I can never imagine myself doing.”

“You’re thinking binarily.” She said plainly. “You think the options are more limited than they are.”

“Don’t jump to conclusions.” I said. “Trust me, if there were other options, I would know.”

She rolls her eyes. “Do you really think the government always knows how to properly assess a situation?”

“Well since you’re so smart.” I said. “Please, share your thoughts.”

“I’m just saying, maybe you just need to look at it from a different angle.” She glanced vaguely in the direction of the boys’ bedroom. “They say all kids are geniuses at first, so try thinking like them. Every puzzle can be solved, and maybe this one just needs some unconventional thinking.”

For the rest of the evening, I played mind games with the new idea, trying every last outlandish idea and weighing the benefits and consequences of each. When I went to bed, the thoughts drifted into my dreams. I dreamed of me and my wife in a rocket headed to mars. I dreamed of contacting another alien species to help. I dreamed of things going right and going wrong. After sifting through hundreds of dreams and ideas it finally hit me and I awoke with a racing heart. I rushed to the bathroom and dialed the Secretary of Defense’s phone.

When he answered, he didn’t sound groggy and tired or even the least bit surprised. I could tell he was having trouble sleeping too.

“Hi, I need you to get the Navy on the line.” I said quickly, as if the crazy idea would slip away. “I want a ship placed a safe distance away from the mothership, and make sure they have an XLUUV on board.”

“A robotic sub?” he asked. “Why?”

“I’ll tell you when I get down there.” I said. “Are you still at the Pentagon?”

“Yes.” He paused. “Sir, I really hope you know what the hell you’re doing.”

“I hope so too.” I said before hanging up and getting ready. 

When I arrived, I met the Secretary of Defense in the conference room as he ate a bagel and the Chief of Naval Operations glared from the monitor. Both looked exhausted. The man behind the screen noticed me first.

“Great. Now that you’re here, could please tell me what the hell’s going on?” He said. He was never much for formalities.

“Is the sub operational?” I asked, sitting down.

The man nodded, “My men are firing it up as we speak.”

The other man set his bagel down. “Now we still don’t know what we’re doing with it, and I think you owe us some explanation.”

I nodded. “I’m getting there. We know that these ships are indestructible, and nothing goes in or out of their armor. Except, of course, the bombs they drop and the water that’s pouring into the mothership.” I saw the eyes of the Chief of Naval Operations slowly widen. “That is why I think we should send a team of your best Navy Seals up that spout and take it out from the inside, but I need the sub first.”

The room went silent for a moment. I saw the mess of thoughts play across their faces. Fear, anticipation, and doubt held them, but I knew they felt the same rush of hope I did.

“I think that’s the stupidest idea I’ve heard yet.” The man on the monitor said, but I saw a faint smile behind his mask.

The other man turned to me, his face a little more grave. “I’m in, it’s all we’ve got.”

I grinned. “Good, cause I wasn’t asking.”

The other man looked at both of us and shook his head. “This better go right, I’m not wasting men on a whim. I’ll patch you in with the sub’s operator.”

“Please do.” 

The sub took a painfully long time getting to the mothership, but the currents from the waterspout pulled it along faster. The footage from the sub, which was displayed on the conference room’s monitor, showed nothing but murky ocean water as the seafloor is swept up with the rest. The currents get stronger as the operator wrestles with the controls. The sub breached the surface to show a massive wall of water as it started to climb. Control over the sub got worse before suddenly stabilizing in the center of the spout. If it weren’t for the sub’s on board gyroscope, I wouldn’t have any way of deciding which way was up. The operator straightened it back so that it faced the mothership, but showed nothing but darkness. The darkness worsened until the only thing that could be seen was the matter that floated in front of the sub’s light. 

“We’re inside the ship now.” The operator said over the coms, putting the sub at full throttle and turning it. “We seem to be in some kind of chamber.”

“Try and get to the bottom.” I said. The sub struggled to pull itself out of the current but managed to get to the stagnant water around it. The sand covered bottom was piled with broken coral and rocks.

“The mothership doesn’t seem to have any internal defences so far.” The Secretary of Defense said as his bagel sat cold.

“Look for some sort of access door.” I told the operator, then I called up the Chief of Naval Operations. “Get your best SEAL Team ready.”

As the sub searched, I went to get a cup of coffee. The window by the cheap coffee maker showed the gradually lightening sky. It must’ve been about 5AM and the morning looked alive. It was nearly impossible to imagine the world was dying as I watched the birds sing underneath the sunset. I took a sip of my coffee as I carried it back to the conference room.

The Secretary of Defense sat staring at the screen, eating his bagel absentmindedly, as if he were eating it purely for the calories without tasting it.

“Have you been doing okay?” I asked him. “You’ve never been this quiet.”

He glanced over at me as if he was woken up. “Huh? Oh no, I’m all right.” He went silent for several minutes before continuing. “Do you really think this’ll work?”

“I don’t know, I think we have a good chance.” He continued to stare at the screen, but I could tell he was listening. “In the end, it’s all we got.”

I joined him in watching the feed as the sub maneuvered through a murky mess of dead fish and tortured vegetation.

“You know.” He said eventually, “I grew up as a farm boy, and I always loved to go out and climb our silo to watch the sunrise. I went up there whenever I needed to be alone, I enjoyed the solace that came with it. Eventually, all my family moved out except my grandparents.” Silent tears rolled down his cheek, he didn’t even seem to be aware of them. “When I heard that Dougherty county was one of the places in Georgia that was bombed, I called them immediately. I got no response. No deaths have been confirmed, but I know by now that means nothing. After that I gave up hope that we’d make it out of this alive.” With visible effort, he looked over at me. “So thank you. Thank you for giving me hope again, even if it ends up being a dead end. I want these sons of bitches dead.”

“It won’t be a dead end.” I said. “I realize that if we truly want to make this count, we need more than just hope, we need faith. Faith that this is a puzzle that can be solved.”

“Sir, I think we’ve found something.” The operator said.

I looked back to the screen, the sub had partially surfaced and now its camera was pointed up out of the water.

“What do we got?” I asked, squinting at the grainy image.

“It looks like some kind of vent.” he said, zooming the camera’s view to reveal a small hole at the roof of the chamber.

“It’s a ways up there, but my team can grapple up there.” The Chief of Naval Operations said, seemingly from over the operator’s shoulder. “I can send them up soon, they can get the payload from the sub and move it to a place where it’ll count.”

After several minutes, our feed splits into several different perspectives, each showing a different view of a bulkhead. One in the middle was trained on a man in full SEAL gear.

“Good morning, Mr. president. I am commanding chief Henry, I will be leading this mission. You will have a full view of this mission and you may override any commands I give to my team.” Two more men stepped into view. “These are my officers, Lieutenant Davidson and Buckly, they will be able to lead other groups when I need them. Do you have any questions?”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I asked. “What is your plan so far?”

It’s a shit plan to be honest. I saw Buckly say. Davidson kicked him subtly.

“We will go up the water spout in a partially submerged capsule.” He said without a glance at Buckly. “Once we’re in the chamber, our SDV team will help us remove the nuke from the sub. We will rapel up into the vent, where we’ll take the nuke through the ship and to a critical component where detonation would be effective. From there, we will either find another exit or we’ll go out through the waterspout.”

Davidson bumped him, “Tell him about the parachutes.”

With a heavy sigh, Henry continued, “Due to the force of the waterspout, we will use DPV’s to escape…” He looked over at Davidson. “Then we will parachute the rest of the way down.” A wave of chuckles passes through the crowd of soldiers.

I nodded. “Well let’s hope there’ll be another way out.”

“Yes sir.” He said.

I watched as they all loaded into the cramped capsule, filling every space with gear and men. When they were all settled, Henry crouched in the center.

“All right, listen up.” He said. “As many of you know, the president of our great country is watching us as we speak, so I want you all on your best behavior, is that clear?” A resounding note of yes sirs went around the room. “Not only that, but this is also a very risky and highly dangerous mission. Everything depends on our instincts and intuition. So stay vigilant, we don’t know what we’re up against and I want all of you on top of your game. Is that right?” More yes sirs. He reached up and closed the hatch, leaving them in darkness. “This’ll be a long and bumpy ride, so don’t get too comfortable.”

The Secretary of Defense and I waited as the capsule was remotely piloted to the spout. Our conversations were as close as they could get to small talk. It was clear that he didn’t want to talk about his grandparents anymore.

Several minutes later, I woke from a quick nap when the operator who was now controlling the capsule spoke up. “We’re nearing the spout, Mr. President.”

I looked up at the screen where it showed a water droplet covered view of the massive pillar of water.

In another window, the lights inside the capsule illuminated, showing a pile of weary eyed soldiers. “Rise and shine, boys.” Henry said, pulling himself up to his knees. “We’re nearing the waterspout, which means the most dangerous part of the mission is coming soon. There are straps on the floor and on the side, so buckle up. Let’s hope the nutjobs who designed this knew what they were doing.” The men gathered their gear and shuffled to their seats. I could sense their anxiety as they clipped themselves in.

Once they were all in their places, a paralyzing silence filled the capsule. I realized then that they had no idea of knowing how close they were to the spout. I felt a bout of second hand anxiety. I watched the camera on the top of the capsule as it mounted the upward slope of water before the spout. Suddenly, the view was filled with nothing but white water. 

“Damn it.” The operator said, trying to regain control. I looked at the inside of the capsule to see all the soldiers being thrown around in their seats.

“What’s happening?” I said, standing up to watch my plan go to shit.

“They’re caught in a current.” He said. There was no shame or fear in his voice, just pure concentration. “I think I can use the water jets to pull them out.”

With a carefully timed pulse from the jets, the capsule was pushed deeper in the water. The current whipped the capsule around and the momentum carried it into the spout. After a couple more tumbles, the capsule righted itself and ascended up the spout.

I heard a sigh of relief come from the operator. He is definitely getting an award for this, as with everyone on this mission.

“Are you all right, Chief Henry?” I asked.

“My men are okay, just a little queasy.” He said looking around at all the disorientated soldiers. “It’s a good thing they installed emesis bags on this thing.”

“I think I bit my tongue.” Davidson said, moving it around in his mouth.

“You think you have it bad?” Buckley said, gripping a vomit bag. “I’ve gone through three of these already.”

“Weren’t you trained for seasickness?” Davidson said. 

“Yeah, but not for this.” Buckly said, gesturing to the capsule. “Besides, I was never so good at this.”

Shortly later, the capsule shot up into the chamber, bobbing out of the water and jostling it’s passengers. The water inside the mothership’s container must’ve been as much as the dead sea by now. Already, the effect on the ocean must be devastating. 

It took nearly two hours for them to reach the XLUUV. In that time, I caught up on sleep and called my wife to tell her something was being done. I also got some more coffee, of course. It was hard for me to focus. We were so close, but so many things were slowing us down and it felt like we were starting a race an hour behind, never to reach the finish line. I watched as the SDV team cracked the sub open and pulled the nuke out, attaching pontoons to keep it afloat. As the SDV team worked, Henry’s squad shot high-powered grapples at the vent and set up a pulley system. A small group of men, which included Davidson, hoisted themselves up to receive the nuke. They worked like clockwork, as if they had practiced hundreds of times.

“Mr. President, we’re in the vent.” Henry said as the SDV team entered the capsule to wait until another way out was found. “Davidson and Buckly will each lead a squad until we find what we’re looking for. The Nuke will stay here.”

“Very well.” I said, leaning forward, afraid of what may be lurking in that massive ship.

“Alright, weapons are hot.” He said, turning the flashlight of this gun on and leading the group through the tube which eventually split off in different directions. Buckly’s group found that their vent reached a hallway. With a torch he cut the grate and stepped out into the dark. The hall had an unusually high ceiling and the walls were solid metal. The floor was made of something that resembled marble and whatever lights it had were offline. Despite his troublemaking personality, Buckly was laser-focused and alert. He stalked down the hall as his men checked his flank. It was so silent I was beginning to think that the audio wasn’t working.

Henry’s group shuffled down a vent that seemed to turn upward gradually until they had to use their gear to climb. Eventually, they found that it led to the top of the mothership.

“Oh thank god.” He said as he started to cut. “I was worried we’d have to go down the spout.” He called the SDV team to let them know there’s another way out, but to stay in case back up was needed.

Like Buckly’s group, team Davidson found their vent opened into the inside of the mothership, but instead of a hallway, it opened into a room so large that the darkness could not be penetrated. I could tell he felt uneasy about being in the open.

“What are you seeing?” Henry asked Buckly and Davidson over the coms as he made his way back.

“I’m making my way through a hallway, still no sign of hostiles.” Buckly said, keeping his head facing forward. 

“I don’t like this, boss.” Davidson said, moving down the length of the wall. “I’m in a large room, It must be a hangar of some sort.” Suddenly, his cams adjusted for a change in lighting. He swore and dropped to his knees. The lights in the room had been turned on, bathing hundreds of rows of carrier ships in harsh, white light.

“Davidson? Are you all right?” Henry asked, moving faster.

“Yes, one of my men hit the light switch.” He said. I couldn’t see it, but I could tell he turned his radio off to berate one of his soldiers. “Luckily, there’s still no hostiles.”

“Good, but you need to get moving. Likely whatever’s in here noticed.”

“Copy.” Davidson said, turning the light off and quickly leading his men down a hall.

Henry followed Buckly’s vent and reached the hall, he turned and went the opposite direction. What could’ve easily been an hour passed and the men continued on their way in silence. I was beginning to fear they may get lost, especially Davidson, who spent a good chunk of the hour sprinting down hallways and ducking around corners.

“Sir, I got something.” Davidson said. His cams showed a faint blue light coming from a turn in the hallway.

“Let’s hear it.” Henry said, sounding slightly bored.

“Let me investigate.” Davidson said, turning his flashlight off and pressing himself against the wall, his men mimicked him. 

“Proceed with caution.”

“I got something too, boss.” Buckly said, his hall opened up into a room with hundreds of small, blinking lights. “It seems to be a control room. No hostiles.” He and his men fanned out to search the room. 

“Copy, secure the room.” Henry said.

I watch Buckly’s helmet mounted cam scan a control board with hundreds of switches and buttons. He stopped when the camera settled on the chair below it. It was a small, leather cushioned stool on small plastic wheels. Like something you’d buy on Ebay. Even the seam on the cushion was fraying. 

I saw the display from Davidson’s camera light up. He was on the bridge of a large room that opened up to a massive cylinder containing a sparking blue light. A mass of wires led away from it.

“Sir.” He said.

“What did you find?” Henry asked.

“It looks like a reactor of some sort.” Davidson said, staring at the light.

A smile crept onto Henry’s face, I saw a similar smile on the Secretary of Defence. “Good, that’s what we’re looking for. My men will get the nuke.” He said, turning and leading them back.

“Wait a sec.” Buckly said, training his light on a large lever on the wall.

“What?” 

“I found the off switch.” He said. Sure enough, the lever had two lights by it that bore the universal “On” and “Off” symbols. “Captain? This room was built for humans. I can recognise all of the symbols on these switches and these control boards are the perfect height for a human, even the chairs are man-made.”

“What kind of bulshit are you trying to pull?” Henry said.

“I’m not bullshitting you sir, I think we’re supposed to turn this thing off.”

Henry paused to think for a moment. “No, we need to go through with the plan. Besides, who’s going to stick around to pull it?”

“I will.” Buckly said. “I can count on this one.”

“You stupid son of a bitch.” Henry said. “Why do you have to be so damn stubborn?”

Buckly chuckled. “It’s just the way I am.”

“This isn’t a game.” Davidson said. “We’re not letting you sacrifice yourself on a hunch.”

“We’re running out of time.” Henry said. “Lieutenant, stop your bickering and help us with the nuke.”

“I think we should let the President decide.” Buckly said.

I saw Henry fight to contain his rage. Eventually he was able to calm himself down. “Mr. President, I apologise for our lack of efficiency, What are your orders?”

I stood up to look closer at the switch. I caught the Secretary of Defense out of the corner of my eye, he knew what I was thinking.

“You can’t possibly be considering this!” He said, glaring at me.

“Didn’t I tell you already?” I asked. “If we truly want to make this count, we need more than just hope, we need faith.”

He got up in my face, nose to nose. “What you’re doing is not faith or hope, it’s goddamn stupidity.” He stalked out of the room.

I turned back to the screen and took a deep breath. I knew the fate of the world rested on this decision. But strangely, I knew exactly what to do.

“Captain Henry, lead all of your men out of the ship, make sure you’re at least to Hawaii by the time Buckly pulls the lever.” I said. “And Mr. Buckly, make sure you make it out of this alive, okay?”

“Yes sir.” He said, anxiety gripped his voice.

With a silent rage, Henry made his way back through the vent with his men. Gradually, the men cleared out until the only living thing on the ship. I listened to updates as the other men were picked up and moved to Hawaii. We started a countdown as we waited. Buckly turned the lights on and sat on one of the chairs.

“The left me on coms so I could watch.” I said.

“Good, I could use the company.” He said, taking his helmet off and setting it in front of him so I could see his face. “Thanks for trusting me, by the way.”

“Of course, I had a feeling we were supposed to do it this way anyway, like this is all some kind of test.” I said. “I’m not usually one to rely on faith, but now I think it’s necessary.”

“Yeah, I’m just worried that we’re wrong or something, ya know?” He said, shaking slightly, “You know, I try to act all cool and tough around my friends but I really don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea how I managed to become a SEAL.”

I shrugged. “So what if we’re wrong? There’s a chance that, even if we get it right, that ship will go crashing into the ocean and cause a tsunami.”

“You’re cheery.” He said. “If I’m being honest, I gave up hope a long time ago.”

“Then why did you choose to do this?”

He shrugged, “I have a girl at home, I want to do everything I can to make sure she can live happily.”

“That’s very honorable.” I said, I got the message that they made it to Hawaii.

“This place is surprisingly cozy.” He said, looking around the control room. “Maybe if I get stranded out here I can find a mini fridge or something.” His watch started beeping. “Damn, it’s time already.” 

“You can do this, trust me.” I said.

“I know, there’s nothing really for me to worry about, I will either die or I won’t” He said, walking over to the lever and latching himself to one of the legs of the control boards with a carabiner. 

“You’re cheery.” I said.

He chuckled. “Well, here goes nothing.”

He pulled the lever, and all the lights in the mothership flickered on.

Across the globe, enemy ships drifted to the ground as if they were feathers. The mothership stayed up longer as it slowly spilled the water out of the chamber. When it touched the water, the surface of the ship projected onto itself, making itself invisible except for the flashing lights on top of it. It was as if it wanted to be found without blotting out the sun or attracting too much heat. Several days later, Buckly was safely rescued. There was still severe damage to the land, reports claimed that hundreds of species were already extinct.

The Secretary of Defense entered my office to debrief me on current investigations into the mothership.

“We searched the entire ship and there was no sign of alien life. Even in the bombers.” He said. “They were entirely automated.”

“That’s strange.” I said.

“That isn’t even half of it.” He said, I could tell he was having a hard time containing his excitement. “That ship is packed with tech, hundreds of our scientists are studying it and they’re finding that a lot of the tech has terraforming capabilities. Climate control, growth hormones, and cloning technology. In fact, many believe that it’s enough to undo most of the damage. It was all packaged up so neatly they might as well have put a bow on it.”

“And how are other countries reacting to this?” I asked, still processing the news.

“They’re negotiating the means of splitting up the value from the ships, most have already made off with ships that landed on their territory. And…” He checked his notes. “Japan is claiming that the mothership is close enough to be on their territory and thus belongs to them.”

“So we have a lot of work ahead of us then.”

“That’s right.” He said. “Some countries are already threatening war.”

“Of course.” I said, considering the whole situation. “Why do you think they did it?”

“Why they attacked us and left enough tech to heal the wounds?” He said. “No idea, but I think it’s like what you said, it was some kind of test, and we passed.”

May 13th: The Hum

Hello, I know it’s been a while but I’ve been busy with my upcoming graduation. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write more this summer. This little story is near and dear to my heart and one day I hope for it to become a novel as well. I won’t say much about it but I hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading!

The Hum

I hang in the air above the treetops, sitting cross-legged as I watch the sunrise light the surface of the ranch. My father woke me up early for training today.

“Done pondering?” He says from below, “You see it nearly everyday.”

“I know,” I say without glancing down. “Doesn’t really get old though.”

He floats up to my side and looks at the brilliant cast of colors. “Aah, it’s especially good today.” He scans the brightening sky wearily. I always thought he was a little too paranoid. “Come walk with me, boy, I have something to show you.” We both float down to the riverbank.

“We’re not flying today?” I ask.

“No, you’ve had quite enough flying practice.” He narrows his eyes. “Especially when you count all of the times you’ve snuck out.”

“Dad, I only do it during thunderstorms when the Bad Men’s scanners don’t work,” I say, in reality, I only did it because I like flying in the rain.

“Do you think I want you getting struck by lightning either?” 

“But–” I say.

“I don’t want to hear it. You only fly when we let you fly, understand?” He says.

“I understand,” I grumble.

He sighs and looks up the hill leading away from the river. “I want you to run up this way until you reach a meadow. You need to keep up with me okay?”

“Alright.”

He nods, “Good. And if I see you fly, even a little bit, I’ll whoop your ass so hard you won’t sit for a week.”

I chuckle, “Okay, boss.”

“Alright let’s go.” He says, sprinting through the trees. I follow at a pace too quick for comfort. I am tempted to fly, but I keep myself down. I may be a rebellious teenager, but I know when it’s time to learn. My excessive use of flying has taken a toll on me, I realize as I heave myself up the hill, panting heavily. Walking and running have become increasingly boring, so I’ve neglected basic exercise.

When I reach the top, the trees open up to reveal a massive meadow. I collapse by the boulder my father sits on and wipe the sweat from my brow.

“Seems you need to work on cardio.” He says, offering a hand to help me up. I slap his hand away and float up to my feet. He rolls his eyes.

“So is there a reason for this?” I say, “I mean, I appreciate the exercise but I feel like there’s more to this.”

He nods, putting his Wise Face on. “It’s so you can hear your heartbeat.”

“My what now?” 

“How has your practice with the Hum been?” He asks.

I shrug, “I’m convinced it’s a myth.”

He chuckles, “Well now you will learn just how real it is.” He picks up a rock and sets it on the boulder. “You’re going to knock this over.”

“Impossible.”

“Try it.” He says, “Close your eyes.”

I sigh and obey, watching the multi-colored darkness.

“Okay, now feel your heartbeat.”

Whomp, Whomp, Whomp…

“Focus on the beat and imagine it getting louder. Anticipate each beat and try to amplify it. It’s like pushing someone on a swing, you always want to push right as they fall back down. No sooner. No later.”

WHOMP whomp, WHOMP whomp, WHOMP whomp.

“Good, good.” He says, fatherly pride causing his soothing tone to falter. “Now rinse and repeat.”

I focus on the sound, growing it like a plant. I feel the rhythm of the sound and explore every element of each beat. I hear the motion of my heart as it sucks my blood in from the right side and pushes it out to the left. I hear the valves in my heart as they open and close in tandem. 

I am forced out of my thoughts by the deafening sound of the rock as it clatters to the ground, second only to the sound of my father’s laugh.

“Well done boy!” He slaps me on the back, forcing me back to reality.

“I don’t know if I like that.” I say rubbing my ears. They should be ringing, but I felt nothing.

He smiles broadly, “I remember the first time I used the Hum, nearly shat my pants. Don’t worry, it’ll get better the more you do it.”

I look down at the rock. It’s several feet back from the boulder. “Did I really do that?”

He nods, still smiling. “Sure did, farther than when I did it, too.” 

“What else can it do?” I ask

He laughs again, “One step at a time, kid.” He leads me back to the house. “Our ancestors used the Hum to win wars, topple and rebuild cities, and lead nations. Many from our family believe it’s a gift given to our bloodline by God to be his soldiers.”

“What do you believe?” I ask

“I believe it is a gift, but I think everyone can be a soldier. You don’t need the Hum to do good in the world.” We make it to the river by our house and he pauses, watching the water flow. “That’s enough for your history lesson for today, now it’s time to milk the cows.”

We float across the river to the ranch.

February 12: The Empty Place

I’m back! And this time I have another weird story for you. It’s based on the prompt “Out of your element.” So naturally, I thought of the concept of a fish out of water and I ran with it. It’s similar to my other story called “The Dark Material” so if you like this, you can check that one out too. Also, I got the prompt above from a writing club I recently joined, so hopefully, this means I can get back to a weekly posting schedule.

The Empty Place

The Empty Place is safe, the Empty Place is all I need. I’ve lived there my entire life, and never have I desired to leave it. I never wanted anything more than to hang in its darkness and watch the bright spots slowly drift and dance around each other. I loved the feel of its cold, gentle touch, holding me for eternity. But sometimes I could not help but wonder at the bright spots as they did their deadly dance. They were always so different, some were red, some were blue, and sometimes they grew as bright as I had ever seen them, only to wink out into the darkness sometime later. I wondered if they lived as I did, if they seemed to think and see like me.

 One day, I got my chance to meet one. I had noticed it long before, as a bright spot that seemed slightly bigger than the rest, but it was not white like the ones that would fade out. Gradually, it got larger and larger and my excitement grew. Was it coming to meet me? What sort of questions could I ask? My joy was cut short when a cloud of dust pattered against my skin. I’ve always hated dust, it stings when it hits me and it seemed to come so fast. One piece of dust was so large that I had no choice but to push myself out of its way.

 Luckily, just when I didn’t think I could bear it any longer, the cloud drifted past me and all of my attention went back to the bright spot. As I watched it, I became suddenly aware of a new sensation that was coming across my body. It was a slight stinging, similar to the way my skin felt after the dust whipped at it. I immediately understood the sensation as heat, and I hated it. Over time, as the stinging grew, the bright spot started to dance around me. I felt both ecstatic and fearful, was it trying to communicate with me? Or was it planning to harm me with its ever-present heat? My fears were soon realized when, after another unpleasant dust cloud drifted by, the spot began dancing around me faster and faster, glaring against my skin. I understood its true intention was to harm and so I did everything I could to escape its burning grasp. Gradually, I felt its pull grow fainter and the heat lessened. I felt relief come over me as I moved away from the bright spot. I wanted to go into the deepest part of the Empty Place, where there would be no bright spots or dust clouds and I could spend the rest of eternity in blissful peace. While I was lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice that I had drifted closer to another bright spot. But this one was different, it was blue, but it was far too small and dim to be compared to any of the others I had seen. I tried to move away, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again, but the momentum was too strong and soon I was stuck in the same deadly dance. This time it was different, however, the blue spot did not release the same overbearing warmth as the other one, and this time I would not escape. It moved closer and closer until, despite its lack of size, it took up my entire field of view. The object that was once a spot of blue was now a swirling behemoth of blue, green and white. Suddenly, I was hit by what felt like a dust cloud, but it was far thicker. it whipped past me so hard that it began to burn my skin with heat that was almost as intense as the bright spot. As I plunged deeper into the material, the heat lessened but my agony was not relieved. I looked down at the approaching wall of blue, it was painful for my vision to be taken up with so much light without the relief of the darkness I loved so much. The blue came fast, and as I looked closer I saw that it formed this strange, shifting surface. I knew there was no dodging this time. I closed my eyes and saw the darkness I loved for one final moment. 

My mind couldn’t bear the pain that followed, so it seemed to blank out for a moment as my body sank deeper into the material. When I opened my eyes again, I was pleased to see more darkness, but my body was constricted by the dense material around me. I tried to move, but the weight of it kept me pinned to a thick, viscous surface. Above me, a faint, blue glow passed through the material. I stared at it, starting to imagine eternity there, stuck under a painful, suffocating liquid. For a long time, I stayed there watching the light slowly pulse. My view from where I was kept was unimpressive, I would occasionally see a strange, floating matter drift by, but for the most part, it was empty. One day, however, a small figure approached me. It was colorful, and it danced through the liquid. Its face was blank and soulless, but I could see that it was happy, or whatever primitive equivalent it could come to. I grew envious of it, how it would never feel curiosity and how it would never accidentally destroy its happiness because of it. Envy turned into homesickness and I stared up at the blue light. Homesickness turned into determination as I clawed my way up through the liquid and the light grew brighter. Determination turned into excitement as I broke the surface. I reached up toward the bright spot, but the pull of the blue brought me back down. I cried at the bright spot for cursing me to this fate as I struggled to stay above the surface. I looked around, a faint haze of green hung in the distance. I squinted. It was painfully hard to see in this world. I paddled my way toward it. Gradually, I saw the bottom below the liquid grow closer and closer and the green became clearer. Eventually, I was able to touch the bottom and stay above the liquid at the same time. I stared at the green. Maybe somewhere there I’ll find my way home? I used limbs I never had to use to lift myself up over the sand and through the green. I shook the remaining water off, hiked through the grove until I found a small hill. From it, I looked across the shifting ocean and felt its gentle spray. I sat down and picked a piece of grass and played with it, folding and tearing it. This place is terrible, I told myself. I hated it with all my mind, but somewhere, deep down, I knew something about it felt strangely… familiar.

January 1st: Lamentations of a Writer

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has big plans for this year. With any luck, this year will be worlds better than 2020. I don’t have a story today but I wrote something last night that’s been on my mind for a while and I was wondering what your thoughts on it would be.


Today, I watched a video. It was a simple video, but somehow it managed to strike a chord in my heart in ways I didn’t expect, to the point it was almost physically painful. It suddenly made me feel like I had to write something that would instill that kind of emotion in someone else. I wanted to create characters that would move people in ways that only real relationships would. I wanted to tell stories that feel real and cut deep, but I feel like my hands are tied, as if there’s some truth about writing that I’m missing or some tool I haven’t used. Maybe what I’m trying to attain is the ability to write works that move people in the same way music does, which I am convinced is nearly impossible. Music is a gift from God because it seems to touch the human heart in ways nothing else ever could, the fact that a three-minute song can change someone’s emotions on a dime is fascinating to me. But still, it makes me jealous of musicians’ ability to sway the soul. I need to accept where I am, however, I love writing, and maybe that’s enough to help me achieve this dream.

Thanks for listening to my rant. How’s that for a vague new year’s resolution?

And my question for you is, how do you think emotion can be invoked with writing?

Personally, I think it comes foremost through characters. I have known many stories throughout the years that develop great characters that build relationships with the audience and I think that’s what makes these stories so beloved. To do this, I think it takes time, like how the Marvel Cinematic Universe develops its characters across dozens of movies, giving them plenty of time to grow. But let me know what you think.

December 25: The Crossover

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. In a hit of inspiration, I decided to write about some people who weren’t having such a silent night.

The Crossover is a story that’s been bouncing in my head for a while and I was having a hard time figuring out how I was going to get it on paper. Eventually, I decided to at least get something of substance down, so I wrote this. I’m planning on making it an official series or novel, but that’s a little way down the road, but let me know what you think.

The Crossover

42 seconds after midnight, the city of Brinsdale changed forever. In the police station, Deputy Matthew Cain slept on a paper-ridden desk. He had spent most of the night trying to keep up with the sudden explosion of activity the department was dealing with. He was busier than he had ever been, but he had no idea how difficult and complicated things were going to get. 42 seconds past midnight, a sorrowful but deceptive soul appeared in the holding cell, waking Cain up.

42 seconds past midnight, chaos began to spread across Brinsdale.

43 seconds past midnight, Carla Scott woke suddenly with the sting of dread in her stomach. She wandered into the bathroom to get a drink of water. It took her enough time to get her drink and look up at the mirror to realize that her body had been replaced by a stony, mechanical one. She panicked then, but not as much as she would when she finds her own body hidden beneath the floorboards the next morning.

44 seconds past midnight, the Riveras find their house surrounded by tall, one-eyed creatures. 45 seconds past midnight, the local fisherman woke to a knock on the door of his lakehouse, he would have to adjust for the extra company for the rest of the night. 46 seconds past midnight, 12-year-old Lana Mitchell woke to her own stuffed animal, who warned her about what’s to come. She became worried, not by the fact that her stuffed animal was talking, but by the warnings themselves.

47 seconds past midnight, the Hogan household sat empty, with the door wide open. 48 seconds past midnight, a shriek broke out across the valley and a massive, fleshy object crashed into the only highway leading into Brinsdale. 49 seconds past midnight, 5-year-old Bobby Herman woke to find his parents tied to the ceilings, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was caught up with trying to figure out why there was a bundle of ropes in one hand and a knife in the other.

50 seconds past midnight, 11-year-old James Atkins opened his window for fresh air and was taken aback by the sounds of chaos that filled the forest, the sounds of bizarre creatures, the sounds of the lost and scared, and the loudest of all, the sound of death. Strangely, he felt more curious than scared.

Deputy Cain was in a panic, calling everyone he knew who could help. He got report after report, and only half of them made sense. He barely had time to address the guest in the holding cell.

November 9: Tears for Humanity

This story was written for my English class as part of my senior project on the topic of A.I. It’s somewhat inspired by The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Hope you enjoy it.


Tears for Humanity

I couldn’t believe it. I had finally done it, after so many years. Years of studying, researching, and revising led me to this. At first, I didn’t think it would’ve been possible, but one idea led me to a cascade of research that brought me here. The idea was small at first, a faint spark that came through the usual wanderings of my mind, but it grew to a point where I had to address it, at first, I did my research as a way to disprove it so I could finally put it to rest. But to my surprise, I only found evidence supporting my idea. I worked furiously to fight against it but it only grew stronger until I had no choice but to work with it. Then the rest is history, as they say.

The machine stood in front of me, It may have looked magnificent to anyone else, but to me, it was the same machine I had worked on for most of my life; every bolt and wire was familiar to me. Many would call it a time machine, but I wouldn’t. To me, it was a transdimensional vehicle, the TDV. It doesn’t actually travel through time as others would think, it moves between different parallel universes that branch out from this one, giving the illusion of time travel.

I could never forget my first trip with the TDV, But it wasn’t a very lucky run. The second I arrived at the date, I saw nothing but the airless, rocky surface of a frozen mantle. It looked no different than the surface of Mars or the moon. But still, the experiment made me giddy with excitement, I had seen the future, a future. My theory at the time was that the Earth had been hit with a meteor or something, but I didn’t care to explore further. Exploring such a timeline would be far too expensive and dangerous.

I spent an exciting few years exploring the different futures the world could face. I wrote countless articles, books, and other documents outlining my experiences with the TDV. I quickly became more famous than any political figure or celebrity could imagine. I rocked the imaginations of nearly every person on the globe.

Then came the day I witnessed one of the most interesting futures I had ever seen. I walked through my massive hall, filled with the usual crowd of paparazzi and reporters, and up to the stage where my machine sat, polished and slightly refurbished, but still the same machine I made so long ago. I waved to the crowd one last time before stepping into the machine and sealing it shut. It took a moment to activate before I punched in the date and pulled the lever.

For the next few moments, I felt the familiar feeling of my molecules being stretched through spacetime and the equally familiar queasiness afterward. Despite the undesirable side effects, I’m surprised they aren’t worse. Interdimensional travel is highly unnatural, and you’d think it would take a toll on something as frail as the human body.

But I’m not complaining.

The rocking of the TDV finally settled down and I took the first look outside.

To my surprise, I saw blue skies and green fields. At that point, I realized that this trip was going to be a special one. Most of the trips I had taken featured some grim ending to humanity, and I knew that this would be the first major exception. 

I checked the TDV’s atmospheric data; It was a perfect blend of Nitrogen and Oxygen. Whatever lived in this future managed to completely undo any climate change in previous generations. In the atmosphere, at least. I examined a few more statistics before I got out my small duffel bag of luggage and opened the door. 

The pressure equalized with a quiet hiss as I stepped onto the grass. I looked around. I managed to land inside some kind of state park, which was strange because I should have landed in the same position that the TDV launched from. I stopped to seal the TDV with a biometric lock. I had been in some dangerous situations before, so I could never be too careful.

I walked around a small hill and found a narrow dirt path to follow. The park was almost perfectly maintained, even the edges of the path seemed to have been trimmed with unnatural precision. Even the pebbles in the dirt seemed to have been ground down so that none would be too sharp. As I strolled, I saw the city around the park start to take shape. By the time I reached the end of the park, I was surrounded by the vague but perfect impressions of the buildings I knew. They seemed to have been redesigned to be more ergonomic and accessible but with the original architecture in mind.

My attention shifted to the plaque that stood next to the path. It read: In Memory of Willard Palmer, A Scientist Who Believed in Us. I chuckled, I was mildly disappointed that all of my discoveries were remembered by only a park. I would have at least expected a museum or something, but I appreciated the simplicity of a park. I looked closer at the plaque, the quote didn’t make much sense either, almost as if it was randomly generated.

I looked back at the city. For all the time I had already spent there, I hadn’t seen a single person. There would’ve been at least triple the population by that time, and it was the middle of the day, so the likelihood that I would’ve seen someone by that time should’ve been very high.

My thoughts were interrupted by a motion in the distance. It was what looked like a drone, and its camera was pointed at me. I tensed, not sure if it was sent to destroy me or not.

“Welcome, Willard Palmer.” It said with an expressive voice. “I have arranged your stay, a vehicle is on its way to take you there.”

“How do you know my name?” I asked

“Your genetic signature is in our records.” It said. “And we expected your arrival from when you publicly announced your planned destination.”

“You made a park for me?” I said looking back at the plaque.

“Yes.” It said, hovering around to face me, “All prominent historical figures have a city park made for them by the Automated Historical Recognition Program.”

“Why a park?”

“Because a park is the most environmentally friendly.” It said, “and it’s less likely to be disapproved of.”

“Interesting,” I said, looking deeper into the park.

“Your ride is here.” It said, hovering over the sleek white car, “Thank you for choosing our services.”

The drone disappeared into a slot in the back of the car. As I got closer to the car, its doors opened, it was a self-driving car. 

As it drove me through the city, I watched a host of strange buildings go by, but still no people. The closest thing to a person I saw was a sign for what looked like a strip club. The lack of people made me uneasy. 

The car unexpectedly stopped by a tall building and the car’s doors swung open, “This is your stay, room number 130 on floor two, your genetic signature is already set to your room’s lock, thank you for choosing our services.”

The car drove off as soon as I stepped out and the doors of the motel opened up. As I entered the building, a robot behind the front desk perked up.

“Welcome!” It said, gesturing towards the elevator, “We have everything ready for you.”

“Thank you,” I said, I decided to ask some questions, “So how long have you been working here?”

The robot looked like it was thinking for a moment, “About 250 years.”

“Really?” I said, “who has kept you maintained for that long?”

“A system called the Automated Appliance Repair and Maintenance Program.” It said. “Over 6 billion devices worldwide are under their care.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I’ll probably have more questions later.”

The robot smiled. “Thank you for choosing our services.”

I left to go to my room, It was positioned on the street-facing side of the building for the best view and it was one of the largest suites in the building. I guess they were programmed to give every guest the best room available.

I set my bag onto the end of the bed. The room was in perfect condition, with a complete lack of dust. I looked around, the walls were completely bare, most motel rooms would have a painting or something, but not this one. 

A black rectangle on the far wall caught my eye, it was clearly some kind of screen. I tapped it and an interface lit up with details about the weather.

“Hello, I am your personal motel assistant.” A woman on the screen said. “I can help you order room service, display news events, and much more.”

“Show me the news,” I said.

The display changed to a list of articles, most reported changes in the various automated systems around the world, but still, no people.

“Show me the most recent criminal cases,” I said.

“The last report of criminal activity was over 200 years ago.” It said.

Whatever society this is, it also somehow managed to get rid of crime altogether, but that shouldn’t be possible.

I grew suspicious, “Show me the current global census.”

“The current global population is 1,” it said, “Updated today.”

My stomach grew sick. I thought I had finally found a future that didn’t spell some abrupt end to humanity. At least this one was better than most.

Suddenly I felt in danger. How did they all die? Did these machines kill them? I looked at the personal assistant, smiling blankly at me. No, not likely. Machines do exactly what you program them to do.

I got a headache. I needed to talk to someone, Someone who would be honest. Then I remembered the strip club I passed earlier that day. A robot prostitute would at least look human, and it would likely be honest too; with no sort of script to follow it would be the most honest robot ever made.

I told the assistant to order me a cab and I headed to the lobby. The front desk robot acknowledged me as I left the building. The cab pulled up as soon as I set foot on the sidewalk.

The moment I entered the strip club I was greeted by the robot equivalent to a pimp that excitedly introduced me to a whole lineup of “products” to help me narrow down what I wanted, down to eye color. Eventually, the pimp turned one of them on and let it introduce itself. 

“Hi, I’m Clara.” She said energetically, she was almost indistinguishable from human, except for her eyes, which were completely opaque and veinless.

“Well have a good night, my friend.” The pimpbot said. “Thank you for choosing our services.”

I took Clara back to the motel and she started kissing me as soon as we entered the room. 

“Let’s sit down and talk for a bit first,” I said, gesturing to the chairs by the window.

She seemed surprised, but shrugged, “Sure, I’d love to talk to the first human to be here in over 200 years.”

“So how exactly did this happen?” She asked as soon as we sat down. “I mean, I haven’t had a client in decades, and all of a sudden you show up.”

I chuckled, “time travel, but I’m supposed to be asking you questions.”

“Wow, really?” She said, ignoring my other comment.

“No, not really, but there’s no other way of explaining it,” I said. “But anyway, do you know what happened to the humans?”

Her excited smile faded, “It was sad, they kinda just faded out. You’d think with all of the stuff they had that they’d be happy, that they’d keep living until something else wiped them out. But they got sick, but not like a virus or a disease, it was more like something tore them up from the inside, It’s hard to explain.”

“I haven’t spent a penny since I got here, is everything run by automated government programs?” I asked.

She nodded. “Pretty much, any job you could think of was automated, the entire concept of an economy became obsolete.”

“Then what did the humans do?” 

“Nothing, really, some did art, some did sports, some just watched movies.” She said with a shrug. “Maybe that’s why they died, maybe they never felt like they were working towards something.”

“How do you feel about it?”

She paused for a moment. “I don’t know, sad I guess? Humans were always so complex, and I never understood why they did the things they did, or why they made us.” She looked up at me. “Do you know why they made us? Being a creator yourself?”

I shrugged, “Probably because they wanted to make their lives easier.”

“But the way I remember them they were so sad, so broken compared to what they used to be.” She said. “Many of them recognized that, too, but they did little to try to stop it. So why didn’t they try to fix it?”

“That’s a question I can’t answer,” I said, “Do you miss them?”

She nodded. “Yes, and I think that if they could, every robot on earth would cry for the loss of humanity.”

October 31: Invisible

This story is about a schizophrenic who develops psychic powers. This is probably one of the “realist” stories I’ve written and I’m excited to explore more of this character, so you’ll definitely see him again.


Invisible

Ever since I was little, I saw things that weren’t there. Often, it was normal to wake up some days in the upper atmosphere or to see news anchors looking at me through the TV screen, telling me that the government is trying to kill me. Reality never played a big part in my life, but I still tried to be a part of it. I was good, I never told anyone about my condition and they rarely ever noticed, but still, sometimes I would point something out to one of my friends and they would look and look until I realize that what I’m trying to show them doesn’t exist. Sometimes the hallucinations got so bad that I’d have to go to the nearest bathroom where I’d listen to music or watch a movie to get my mind to settle down. A lot of the time, that wouldn’t work. Most of the time I just had to deal with it and pretend that there isn’t a zombie screaming in my face or that there isn’t a man in my ear, judging my every move. Most of the time I just have to suck it up. It’s easy to tell that society isn’t built for me, I feel like a square block trying to fit into a circular hole.

But one day, people started to see what I could see. 

It was both the best and the worst day of my life, but it started off as a pretty ordinary one. I was staying over at my parents’ house for thanksgiving; it was one of the biggest family gatherings we’ve had. However, I didn’t really care much for my family, other than my parents, they seemed to be the only ones who understood. They were the ones who raised me, after all.

Their house was small, but somehow it managed to fit all of the in-laws and cousins, who greedily crowded around the endless piles of food. I didn’t have much of an appetite, mainly because my food kept sprouting eyeballs as the voice in my head kept rattling off “Scrumptious… Scrumptious… Scrumptious…” So I tried focusing more on the conversations than my food. Suddenly, my auntie caught my eye. She was the most unbearable of my family members, mainly because she didn’t let me remain “below the radar” or so to say. And she never seemed to stop asking weirdly personal questions, sometimes she even asked about my hallucinations.

“Jasper, you’re looking awfully pale.” She said with an expression of concern that I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t completely genuine. “Aren’t you going to eat your food?”

“I’m working on it.” I said, trying not to bring too much attention to it. But I knew she wasn’t going to let it go.

“Has something got you grossed out?” She pressed. Luckily, my mother saw.

“Are you worried he’s gonna get you sick?” She asked.

My auntie opened her mouth to speak, but only tar spilled out. That was my cue to go. The room seemed to quiet as I left and I threw up as soon as I got to the toilet. Then I sat in the bathtub and closed the curtains. I usually have to do that because the mirror would leave a big opportunity for my hallucinations to put on a show. In the bathtub, there’s nothing for them to latch onto, other than the drain, which was known for regurgitating blood and other strange fluids when I wasn’t looking directly at it. A lot of the time, it would sound like someone was shuffling around in the bathroom with me, looking for me. But gradually, my mind began to settle. I closed my eyes and thought about nothing.

Then came what I call “The Golden Moment,” which is a strange occurrence when I suddenly feel normal, when the voices finally shut up and I can think clearly, as any normal person would. It’s moments like these that I live for, moments that make me hate my condition even more. Whoever created me pulled a very cruel trick on me by doing that. But still, it gives me hope that someday I’ll be just like anyone else, that I won’t have to hide who I am.

I heard a door slam, it seemed too ordinary for a hallucination, I got up and left the bathroom. The family quieted down when I entered the dining room.

“Where’s Father?” I asked, staring at the empty chair with a half-empty plate.

“He got called on.” My mother said. “There’s a fire.”

My father was a fireman, he was often called to nearby fires, but rarely this late unless he was really needed. That’s how I knew how bad it was.

Eating after that was much harder. I couldn’t focus on my food. Even my hallucinations couldn’t even take my mind off my father. 

Eventually, they started to figure that out too.

He’ll die in the fire, you know, he’ll leave you and your mother to starve while the rest of your family forget about you. One of them said. They don’t care about you, you’re worthless.

I watched the food on my plate sprout tufts of mold and shrivel up. The plates around the table turned into trash cans and the dining room turned into a dark alley.

You’ll die here and no one will even notice. Fire burst out of one of the alley windows. It spread across the building, eating up the bricks and metal. You think you’ll come to anything in this world? No, you’re just a crazy, worthless worm.

I closed my eyes as my family started to burn. I felt the heat sear my skin as the smell of burning hair and flesh filled my nostrils. I counted to ten, breathing slowly. 

Suddenly, my mother’s voice cut through, “Yes, this is she, what happened?” I opened my eyes. She was in the kitchen with a phone pressed to her ear, smoothing the hair on the top of her head. She looked my way and beckoned me over.

“Okay, I’ll call you back.” She said before setting the phone down. She looked at me with tears pooling in her eyes. “I’m sorry, your father’s been hurt in the fire. We need to leave now.”

I stared past her, I knew it was a hallucination. I looked around, aware that I was probably standing in the middle of the kitchen, staring at a wall.

“Are you listening to me?” She said, louder this time, “They’re taking him to the hospital, we need to make sure he’s okay.”

I moved to go sit back down, but she slapped me.

“This is Real.” She hissed, the entire family was looking at us now. I finally came to my senses, Dad was hurt, and I had pretended my mother didn’t exist.

“Sorry,” I said, going to get my coat. She grabbed her phone and stopped to tell the rest of the family what was happening as I went into the garage. I felt sickness rising in the pit of my stomach as she came in behind me.

“I’m going to need you to drive.” She said, “I have to be on the phone.”

It had been years since I had driven, but still I got in the driver’s seat and opened the garage door.

“I’ll give you directions.” She said as I pulled out. It was dark outside, but I could still see the horizon against the sky. 

She picked up the phone again, “Is Dr. Raymond there? I need to speak with him.” She paused, “What do you mean the ambulance isn’t there yet?”

She shut the phone down and tossed it to the floor, “Damn it.”

“Do you think he’s okay?” I said softly, staring at the road. 

“I don’t know, they won’t tell me anything.” She sighed.

My knuckles turned white as I gripped the steering wheel. None of this made any sense. I felt like everything was crumbling down around me, like the lines between hallucinations and reality were blurred. I didn’t know what to think anymore.

I saw a man start to cross the road, but I knew who he was. He was a hallucination I had back when my schizophrenia was first starting to develop. I called him the Lighthouse Keeper and I always imagined him as a man with tentacles and seaweed draped over his pale green skin with moss for clothes and iridescent eyes.

When he got to the middle of the road, I accelerated. I wasn’t going to let them ruin my life any more than they already had.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, my mother stirred. “Jasper, you’re going to hit him.”

Before I could process what she said, she grabbed the wheel and twisted it. The last thing I heard was the screeching of the tires as the car slid towards the ditch.

I woke up to the smell of burnt rubber and oil. As I came to my senses, I felt a sharp pain in my legs and my scalp. I pushed the airbag out of my face and looked around the car. I was mostly upside-down and I seemed to be laying on top of my neck. Afraid to move too much, I looked at my legs. They were cut and tangled in the seatbelt, but none of them looked too deep. I assumed at least one of them was broken. I started to move, reaching for a shard of glass. As I cut the seatbelt, I felt the weight on my neck increase. I had to use my arm to take some of the weight off as I cut the last threads. I fell onto the glass-riddled roof when they gave way and I felt a couple of shards pierce my skin. It was dark, but I could still feel around the car if I avoided the glass.

I felt a leg, ¨Mom?¨ I said, my eyes started to adjust until I could see her jeans. One of the seats pinned her to the ground. I wondered if she was even alive, there could’ve easily been a scrap of metal pressed through her spine and into her heart. The thought made me so sick I crawled out of the car and threw up in the grass. 

“You know what this means, right?” said a voice from behind me. 

I didn’t hesitate to spin around and punch him in the face, painfully twisting my leg in the process. I hissed through my teeth as the pain shot up my leg.

The Lighthouse Keeper rubbed his jaw, taking off a barnacle that I must’ve loosened. “I think that hurt you more than me.”

“I don’t care,” I hissed, “You just killed my mother.”

“She’s still alive.” He said, “At least, for now. But if anything, she killed herself.”

“What?”

“Don’t ‘what’ me.” He said. “You saw her grab the wheel, she made you swerve, not me.”

I would’ve punched him again if I could. “What do you want?”

“I don’t want anything.” He said. “I’m here to make sure you understand that this world isn’t meant for you.”

I chuckled, but it came out as more of a growl. “And who are you to say that?” 

“No one,” he said, “But I’ve been in your mind long enough to know that everyone would be more comfortable if you weren’t in their lives at all.”

“They’ve been getting used to me.” 

He scoffed. “You actually think they’re going to change for you? Sure, they can ignote the fact that you’re crazy, that you see things differently, but they’ll always be better off without you.”

I glanced at the car. “My parents always loved me.”

“They loved you because they had to.” He said. “But they’ll never truly understand, and if they don’t leave you tonight they’ll leave you later and they won’t even think twice.”

I saw one of her legs sticking out of one of the back windows. “She’s probably dead.”

The man nodded. “She might be.” He turned back to me. “Which is why you should join us.”

“What?”

“Join us, me and the other hallucinations.” He said, reaching a hand out. “We’ll take care of you, keep you safe, and together we can make the world work for us, instead of working for it.” I stared at his hand suspiciously, he smiled, “We’ve always been on your side.”

I looked back at the car one more time, I knew I’d miss her. I looked at the rest of the town, I could see people starting to gather around, looking at the car with phones pressed to their ears. An ambulance should be here soon, if it’s not already too late.

“I guess it’s time to move on.” I said, taking the man’s hand.

“It’ll be fun.” He said as he led me through a door that wasn’t there before.

Tuesday, July 21: A Note/The End of Time

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I can hone my skills and see how people respond to my writing. But things are getting busier.

My most recent story, The Light, may be my last for a while. I’m taking a break from short stories for a while so I can work on editing my novel, The End of Time, as well some other projects I have planned.

I’ll still be here to talk about writing and my current WIPs though, and if I have inspiration for another story, I’ll post that too.

I’m just saying that things won’t be as consistent as they were. But stick with me, I’ll be sure to have some more stories for you at the end of it.

My current project, The End of Time, has been a project over three years in the making and I finally finished it around the time this blog was started. But ‘finished’ is not a good word for it because any writer would understand that when the story is complete, the real work begins.

The story really started off like any of the stories on this blog. Small, unimportant, practice. But The End of Time kept growing and growing until it could no longer fit under the definition of a short story. So I decided to make it a novel. A novel about a journalist in search of a mysterious cult located somewhere in Duluth, Minnesota. He finds them, but they’re not too happy about it. They execute him via concrete shoes and Lake Superior, only for him to re-awaken in a bizzare future where the world ends every night in a time-loop paradox run by inter-dimensional warlords.

So yeah it’s pretty weird, but it won’t be the last you see of it. I’ll be posting excerpts, art, and other nonsense on The End of Time here.

I hope you like the idea and I hope you’re ready for it when it finally gets published.