Silence (A Familiar Darkness)
“It has to be more than that.”
“Ten minutes, and then the FBI shows up,” said Rich Christiansen. He opened the Buick’s glove compartment and grabbed two billfolds.
“No way,” said Samuel Idestam with a shake of his head. He took the billfold Christiansen offered him. Opening it, he scanned over the ID card inside. Idestam snapped it shut and slid it into his coat pocket. “Why do I have to be ‘Jefferson’ again?”
“Because you were Jefferson last time, kiddo. Helps you remember your alias, build a character, not get us caught out, that sort of thing.”
Idestam checked his wristwatch. “Fine, ten minutes. Starting now.”
“Starting two minutes ago,” said Christiansen as he opened his door and stepped out. Idestam followed his senior as they stepped behind the car. Christiansen popped open the trunk, grabbed the single, black briefcase inside, and slammed the trunk shut. “Let’s go.”
Wind kicked through the parking garage. Debris scattered and danced in the cold air around the men while they walked to an elevator. Few other cars sat on the gray concrete. Yellow lights harshly glared down on the pair.
Idestam eyed a nearby car as they waited for the elevator to arrive. “Is that a Rolls Royce?”
“Who cares?” Christiansen stepped into the elevator without giving the car a look.
Idestam joined him. “Ground floor, right?”
Idestam keyed the elevator. “I think that was a Rolls Royce. I never figured scientists would make that much.”
“Maybe he’s a Russian spy,” Christiansen muttered.
Idestam scoffed. “It’s been decades since the Soviet Union. I doubt they can even leave Europe right now, let alone come to the West Coast.”
Christiansen shrugged. “It made things a lot more interesting back when they could.”
The elevator gave a soft ring and slid to a stop. Stepping out, a harsher, quicker wind welcomed the men. This time, it nipped through their dress clothes and bit at anything exposed. The cold of night punished them as they left the relative cover of the parking garage. Above the men, city lights drowned out any possibility of a night sky.
“Four minutes,” warned Christiansen.
“We didn’t put money on it.”
“We should have,” Christiansen said. A short walk across the street brought them to the brick and glass walls of the Lush River Research Center. A small bronze statue of a space shuttle stood proudly next to the double doors. The entryway welcomed them in with a warm gust of air from vents above the door as they walked inside. A short man waiting by an empty receptionist desk clapped and walked up towards them. A nametag clipped to his tweed sweater vest said ‘Doctor R. Swan.’
“Gentlemen, good to see you’ve made it. Right this way, please,” Dr. Swan motioned to an elevator bank set in the wall beyond the reception area. “I must admit, I’m surprised to hear the Federal Bureau of Investigation has an interest in our findings.”
Christiansen smiled and pulled his billfold out of his jacket. His New England accent slurred into a perfect, Deep South tone of voice without warning.“Actually, Doctor, we’re with the United States Postal Service.” He flashed the badge tucked within the billfold. “Security and Insurance Division. I’m Agent Jensen and this is Agent Jefferson.”
Dr. Swan furrowed his brow and cocked his head to one side. “Oh. Um, okay then. What would the post office do with a radio telescope’s research, if I may ask?”
“Well…” Christiansen put away the billfold and tucked his thumbs into his belt loops. “The broadcast affected a few of our parcel planes’ navigation systems. We just want to be able to troubleshoot this. We take great pride in being able to ship the mail without any problems. Neither snow nor rain, you know.”
Dr. Swan chuckled and shifted on one foot. “Ah, yes. Of course. I’m so sorry to hear that. I didn’t think the signal was that strong. But, that just goes to show what a momentous discovery thi--”
Idestam interrupted. “Do you have the data of the signal here? Telemetry, recordings, anything else that may help us… fix things?”
“No, not here, actually. I tried to explain to the federal agent who called, but she was very excited and merely wanted to meet. It’s all still at the actual telescope. Dr. Calvin is there now. He’s a bit eccentric, but given the news we’re all happy to burn the midnight oil. He left me some rough notes we can go over.”
“No, that’s all right. What’s the address? We’ll go and speak with him.”
Dr. Swan firmed his jaw, glowered, and stalked around to the back of the reception desk. Taking a post-it note, he scribbled down the address and handed it across to the men. Christiansen took it and nodded.
“Just follow the freeway, and take the third right after the Slick-n-Pick station. It’s a bit of a long road. I always say that right when you feel like you’ve gone up the wrong road, you’ll see the facility. But of course, no one listens to what the museum director says. The one time I allow some after-hours exploration and suddenly the entire Stars and Stripes wants to talk to our resident retiree…” Dr. Swan’s voice trailed off.
“Thank you, really,” said Christiansen.
Idestam checked over his shoulder. Outside, two figures in black suits crossed the windy street. He leaned over the desk and stuck out his hand to Dr. Swan. “Yes, thank you for your help. We’ll be going.”
Christiansen looked at Idestam for a moment before turning around. Idestam followed him outside. Neither man acknowledged the official-looking pair who tramped past them towards. The newcomers walked with an air of confidence. Their shoes clipped and echoed on the pavement.
Once past them, Christiansen spoke in a hushed tone. “Told you. Ten minutes.”
“How’d you figure?”
“Been on the job long enough. Every once and a while, some government drone will get overly invested into being a nuisance. It goes on for a little while until their bosses notice the waste of resources or they fall from a tall building. And, we have a man in almost every branch of the FBI. Got a call that their flight was landing just ten minutes after ours.”
“That’s cheating,” protested Idestam as they got in the parking garage elevator.
“Is not. Besides, that was the same call that gave us the job.”
“Why’d you shake that man’s hand?”
Idestam shrugged. The elevator opened to reveal one more car in the parking garage. He produced the key to the rental car from his pocket. “Just being friendly. He’d remember us more if we were rude.”
“No, he’ll remember you if you are anything. Friendliness is just as memorable as hostility. The point is to be neutral, monotone, baseline. Nothing he can easily recall if asked.”
“He’ll remember us if we speak like robots,” said Idestam.
“Get in the damn car.”
The drive to the telescope proved uneventful. Leaving the city and journeying into the flatlands outside, light waned around them and a soft night sky appeared. Glimmering pinpoints of white sparkled above them. An occasional car broke the monotony of the open road. The headlights flew towards them as two beams before whipping by and disappearing.
Idestam looked over after a few minutes of silence. “So, what’s the plan? Spill a cup of coffee on the keyboard when we get there or something?”
“Some sort of accident, I suppose,” said Christiansen. “We’ll make polite conversation, you distract whoever is there, and I’ll just see what needs to be done with their discovery.”
“Do we need to get a recording of it?” Asked Idestam.
“We weren’t asked to. I’m going to assume the Office has what it needs already and we’re just on clean up.”
“But this is definitely a burst?”
Christiansen shrugged. “Potentially. When I took the call, they couldn’t say. But, I’ve seen bursts play out like this before. Something somewhere gets through the fence and plays in our yard for a bit.”
“What’s the worst one you’ve seen?”
“Dayton, Texas. A good many years back. The Office fucked that one up pretty bad.”
“I think I heard about tha--”
Christiansen pointed over the dashboard. “There’s that gas station. Slick-n-Pick.”
“Yeah, I see it. Only thing around for miles.” Idestam turned the car. The gas station’s neon sign stuck out amongst the dark landscape of trees and lone houses. “No one died at Dayton, though, right? Couldn’t be that bad.”
“No, but it got plenty of attention. That’s almost worse. A body is in the news for a week. A court case is a journalist’s paycheck for at least half a year.”
“At least there weren’t any deaths.”
“Could have been.” Christiansen shrugged again. “I worked with Artemis on it. Told him and his partner it would have been easier to just off the three witnesses, but he got all moral about it. He had a point, there being a kid and all, but… the forest for the trees.”
Idestam shot raised eyebrows at Christiansen. “Jesus. Is it really that common? Killing anyone in our way?”
Christiansen sneered slightly and stared through his door’s window. “No, but sometimes I think I’m the only one who takes the job seriously. There are times we can’t bribe, trick, or discredit someone. If a burst slips a miracle cure into the mind of a nun, you think we can blackmail her to stay quiet? No, she’s going to think the Big Guy came down and gave it to her personally. People like that often pass away in their sleep. Protecting the American people from the Signal is more important than one person’s livelihood, or life.”
“Even for a ‘miracle cure’? What if it was for cancer?” asked Idestam.
Christiansen reached into his coat and pulled a small cardboard packet out. “Gum?” He held it up to Idestam.
“I’m fine, thanks.” Idestam frowned.
Christiansen produced a silvery tab and tucked the packet away. He cocked his head to one side while unwrapping the gum. “Can’t trust the bursts. Anytime the Signal cuts through into our reality, we don’t know why. Sure, maybe for some reason the cure to cancer gets dropped into Sister Mary’s noggin. Purely at random, she gets the cure and the Catholic Church gets to go on healing people and remaining relevant for at least another century. But, what if the Signal is malignant? Hostile? Her drug or therapy cures the cancer, but in exchange you lose free will or something. Can’t trust the Signal’s bursts.”
“It’s been so long and we still can’t figure out what they are?” asked Idestam.
Christiansen smacked his lips a few times as he started on the gum. “Kid, just what is it they taught you during orientation?”
“It was drinking from a fire hose, to be honest. But that’s why I’m training under you, right?”
“Training is one word for it. You think we missed a turn back there?”
A tall, concrete building appeared on the dark horizon. A wooden signboard next to the parking lot entrance welcomed them to the ‘Lush River Radio Telescope Experience’. As Idestam slowed down and entered, he noticed only one other car parked there. Beyond it, the lit windows cast a yellow glow on the parking lot.
“All right. We probably have more time here. There’s no telling if the feds will want to come out here late at night.” Christiansen scanned the building with his eyes before exiting the rental car.
“Yeah, working this late would be crazy,” said Idestam as he followed the senior agent up the path to the front door.
“Easy, kiddo,” warned Christiansen. He approached the front door and pulled a handkerchief out. Using it, he tried to open the door. It creaked and revealed a softly-lit interior. The doorway opened up to a small lobby with a coat rack and a card table with brochures on it. A few chairs lined the wall opposite of the table. A placard on the wall announced the place’s hours of operation. It should have been closed hours ago. Christiansen took a small step inside and looked around the interior. His head slowly swiveled left and right. “Okay, no cameras. So far, so good. Wood veneer walls, also good. We may need to burn the place down.”
“Okay, that’s plan B. Let me take point on this one.”
“No, you had the last job. Just follow my lead. Training, right?”
“Right.” Idestam rolled his eyes. “Training.”
Christiansen walked past the table. He ignored a little bell set on it with a ‘Ring for Service’ placard. The door beyond the table proved to be unlocked, and he swung it open with ease. Christiansen poked his head through and called out “Hello?”
From inside, Idestam heard a startled “Hello? Who’s there? Agent Kaunis?”
Christiansen smiled at Idestam and waved to him, before entering the room himself. He whipped out his billfold and let it fall open. Light glinted off the badge inside. Christiansen’s voice morphed again into a southern drawl. Vowels stretched in each word as he took up a twang accent. “Ah. No, sir. Postal Inspection Service. We were told you got a radar ping of some kind?”
The room circled around itself. A walkway around the outer wall passed by numerous computers and desks. In the center, a small metal walkway rose up to a platform. An older man with a cheap, ill-fitting toupee stood on the platform in front of a computer desk. “Radio broadcast, gentlemen. I apologize for not meeting you at the door. I wasn’t aware that the… post office would take interest.” He started to descend the stairs, but Christiansen raised a hand.
The agents closed the distance between them and the stairs. Christian braced himself on the railings installed on either side of the stairs. “That’s all right, sir. It’s just your little radio play up there,” Christiansen waved a hand towards the computer behind the scientist. “It’s got our planes and helicopters grounded and making a terrible mess of their electronics.”
“Oh, that’s just a play-by-play. The full thing is being recorded on the computers over there,” the scientist nodded his head towards a bank of computer screens.
Christiansen followed the man’s motion with raised eyebrows. “Really? That right there is what’s causing all our trouble? What is the thing behind you, then?” He asked with a voice of piqued curiosity. He began to ascend the stairs towards the scientist. The man excitedly welcomed Christiansen up and beckoned him to approach the monitor.
“Think of it like a window to peer in on whatever signal we’re seeing. Or listening to, rather. I asked them to set the place up like this when we first built the array and the administration got rid of the actual telescope we had here. Makes me feel a bit like the philosophers in the days of old, you know? Watching the stars. Listening, in this case.”
Idestam stood at the foot of the stairway as Christiansen made a point of fawning over the computer screen. Idestam’s hand flew to his holster when the scientist picked up a black object from the table. It was a pair of headphones. He carefully relaxed and hid the weapon holster inside his jacket again. Checking the ceiling, Idestam realized there were no cameras in the observatory anywhere. Part of him felt lucky, but a cold pit began to form in Idestam’s stomach. He kept an eye on the scientist.
“Here, try this on. You can hear what it sounds like through these,” the scientist leaned forward and tried to slide the headphones onto Christiansen. Christiansen ducked back and pushed the headset away.
“Thank you, Doctor…” Christiansen checked the nametag on the scientist’s jacket. “...Calvin. But I don’t need to do that. So this computer here isn’t recording the broadcast?”
“No, just that one down there. It actually has one of those new CD-ROMs that we can use to save it. I plan to burn several copies for when we arrange a press conference.”
“You haven’t told the news yet?”
Dr. Calvin shook his head. His fingers drummed on the headset slowly. “No, I want the full thing to be ready. There’s no telling how much is left. I called Agent Kaunis after the first transmission, since she’s taken an interest in my past work. But, then it restarted. And it’s all different from the first part. I’m letting it complete before I make any more phone calls. I didn’t think to really call anyone else. Not even the… post office. I apologize.”
“Please, Doctor, we’re happy being the unsung heroes. Well, it’s recording right now.” Christiansen clapped his hands and examined his surroundings. “Down there. And surely you must have written down the coordinates or frequency or what have you?”
“Ah, again, all on the computer. I did write out a brief description of it for my colleagues but everything else is electronic.” Dr. Calvin nodded reassuringly. He glanced between Idestam and Christiansen.
“Description?” Christiansen slowed his syllables in a questioning tone. He mirrored the doctor’s head nods and shakes while maintaining perfect eye contact.
“Just what the machines told us at first. I’ve never seen a Fourier decomposition quite like this. At this point, it’s all conjecture,” shrugged Dr. Calvin. “I believe there were few patterns in it, and I could not help but hypothesize. This could be a new chapter in history aft--”
“I take it you listened to this thing?” Christiansen interrupted. The faux southern drawl dried out of his words and betrayed a cold, monotone clip. His native Yankee accent didn’t return immediately.
“It was beautiful. Like a chorus of ang--”
“You listened to it,” nodded Christiansen.
“It’s the first broadcast from out there,” protested Dr. Calvin. “I had to know.”
“Well, it’s fortunate you’re up here,” said Christiansen. The senior agent checked around himself and wiped his palms on the sides of his jacket.
“Anyone would be fortunate enough to hear it. And soon, we can share it with the whole world. You yourselves are fortunate to be here.” The scientist smiled at the men.
Christiansen’s arm shot up and grabbed the man by the back of the neck. “Yeah, saves the poison we’d normally use, I guess.” Without another word, the senior agent tripped the man with one foot over his leg. He followed through and hurled the researcher over the top of the railing. Idestam flinched as the old man gave a short cry and hit the floor below them. A dark puddle spattered out from underneath Dr. Calvin upon impact.
Idestam slowly turned from the murder scene before him to Christiansen. He turned his palms outwards as he glared at the senior agent. “Goddamnit, he was innocent.”
“No, he wasn’t. You heard him: ‘Entire world will hear’ and bullshit. Can’t have that.”
“I mean… Can’t we call the Office and ask for, I dunno, blackmail or something?”
Christiansen shook his head. “A scientist like that doesn’t go quietly. Blackmail wouldn’t work. Besides, an old man working late in unsafe conditions like this? Accidents happen.”
“There’s a safety rail.” Idestam pointed two fingers at the steel pipe on the edge of the walkway.
“Yeah, that’s why I put my whole body into it. It’s a fluid motion, kid. The trick is to use your foot as an anchor and then push your hip to--”
“No, that’s not-- what the hell?”
“We’ll deal with this later. Those agents are bound to show up at any point. Help me find the computer.”
Idestam looked back down. The scientist weakly twisted in place. His face slowly formed a tortured expression. Words formed on the man’s lips without sound.
“Kid, come on.” Christiansen walked back down the stairs towards the computer banks. Idestam followed him after one more glance down to Dr. Calvin. The computers whirred and hummed. Lights danced on and off on various panels. Christiansen stopped at a blinking computer screen. A message on it announced the progress of a recording.
“This looks like it.” Christiansen cracked his knuckles and began typing. “Give me a second. Watch the door.”
“Yeah, sure,” muttered Idestam. He kept an eye on the door for a moment, before giving a side eye to the body on the floor. The scientist shifted uncomfortably in his own blood. The man still said nothing and stared at the ceiling. “So, two FBI agents are going to come here and find a dead man and no recording.”
“And no coordinates,” said Christiansen. He remained hunched
over the computer while talking. It beeped and chirped in response to the commands the agent gave it. “They’ll find nothing of use.”
“Except a dead man,” repeated Idestam.
“That’s not enough for the Bureau to open an investigation. It’d have to start locally. These two aren’t on an official case, anyway. Our man in their office said the expense report came through without a case file or justification.”
“I wonder how they’ll get away with that,” said Idestam.
“Who knows? Friends in high places. Others with eccentric interests. Office politics is a boon and a bane. There we go,” Christiansen stood up. Taking a cloth from his jacket, he wiped down the keyboard. “No recording. No more logs of where the telescope’s been pointing for the past few weeks. And, it’s now going to point elsewhere.” He looked at Idestam and stuck a thumb to a small door in the wall. A neon exit sign cast red hues over its metal frames. “Let’s get going.”
Idestam followed behind Christiansen, mute. The transition from artificial light inside to darkness outside came almost as a relief. Idestam took a deep breath of the crisp night air while they trudged to the car. Still only one other car sat in the parking lot. The buzzing fluorescent light pole on the parking lot’s edge forced the car to cast a long shadow. Idestam could almost make out a bumper sticker on the compact car. My Child is an Honor Student at… He looked away.
“Keys. I’ll drive,” Christiansen said, with a hand outstretched. Idestam fished the rental keys out of his pocket and handed them over. He stared at the entrance of the building. Even as he opened the car door and sat inside, Idestam stared. Part of him wished the scientist, Dr. Calvin, would come walking outside. He knew the doctor wouldn’t be walking any time soon, if at all.
“Where to now?” Idestam asked quietly as they pulled out of the lot.
“I saw a frozen yogurt place on our way into town earlier. Come on, kid. We’ll get some, call the Office, and then find a place to sleep tonight.”
Idestam nodded. He turned to watch the outside world scrawl past as they drove. The stars dimly blinked from their places in the night sky. An occasional tree eclipsed his view for a moment. No sound came from outside. Idestam’s ears filled with the hum of car tires on the earth below him.
Hello! This short story is from my fictional work "A Familiar Darkness" and is a standalone story. Think of this as like The X-Files' monster-of-the-week episode, with the main storyline being available on my Patreon. I also publish on Reddit and Royal Road if those platforms are easier for you to access!
I was searching for my blind date. An angel falling from the sky. I keep coming up with nothing but sun spots. Because of the glare in my eyes. By the looks of the pics she sent me. I’m one lucky guy.
But when I saw Ms Thing holding up our sign. I so let down. On account of her lying. I couldn’t let her see me breakdown and start crying. So I jumped in a trash can. That I’d hoped I would die in.
She looked nothing like her picture. Where‘s her trademark monocle? And unique complexion? And her nose is no larger than mine upon further inspection! I know I’m not much to look at. But I am as advertised. Your common caucasian cannibal. Living in the land of plenty. Looking for someone to romance from out of this world.
One look at this basic bitch before me. And I’ve lost my appetite. She probably lied about her taste for human remains too. This is why I said I was done with dating apps. All the dishonesty is driving me insane.
And here I was about to play her song. On a boom box held over my head. How did it go so wrong? Embarrassing myself in public to proclaim my love for her.
As she explained it. She was a One eyed. One horned flying purple poeple eater. A one eyed one horned flying purple people eater. And that would have been a sight to see. But instead I’ve been catfished and left with a boat load of intergalactic long distance phone charges again. With nothing to show for it. No dinner. No Valentine’s Day massacre.
Manifestations Of Visceral Accord
Heart thudumps abounded. The moment was so surreal. Nimbly yet numbly, she stepped into her intellectual lover's house, easily avoiding the unintentional booby trap of a scuffed threshold mat but (mentally) tripping upon the makeshift Gothic-style calligraphy sign which read "Trespassers shall be harvested for experimental purposes." She was almost certain her beau had penned it himself in his own noble hand. ...Smiling at the warm tickle welling up in her belly she knocked delicately on the open door, perusing and inhaling the interior of the ink-musky abode adoringly while she awaited permission to enter further. Carpets of various thicknesses layered the floor and books titled on incoherently scholarly subjects were scattered in tasteful disarray everywhere her eyes dared to roam. Century-old jazz music was emanating from his domain as though it were softly resonating from the walls themselves, though she could see no speakers nor could her ears pinpoint the direct source of the mysterious revelry.
"Well?" a vigorous voice came somewhat gruffly from an amalgamation of scruffily concentrated artistry adjacent to an antique desk in the corner. "what business have you here?" (this intoned without glancing)
Her heart thadumped again. He'd been there all along; perfectly camouflaged to his eccentric surroundings in much the same way a weedy sea dragon dwells elegantly amid kelp and sponges.
After a moment or two of silence he looked up from his work and their eyes met. Each of the two entity's lovelorn gazes seemed to chew on cloud-cud nibbled from heavenly pastures for a time before reality befell them once more and they were there in the dwelling again; a male and a female of likely the same awkwardly bipedal species, each sweaty-palmed with an excruciating lack of indifference for the other.
He was not expecting her to ever see him in person. This much was abundantly clear from his blissful horror at her presence in this paltry corner of the galaxy.
The collector collected himself, intricately gathering his feelings together before performing the inexpiable barbarity of uttering another word to this angel of interstellar transience.
In the end he opted for silence. They possessed such intimate knowledge of each other... one must understand that these two were intellectually on more familiar terms than many constituents of a corporeal marriage spanning decades would have been. The female, for a mild example, was profoundly and appreciatively aware that the male intensely enjoyed having his scrotum fondled in a particular manner, whilst the male was unforgettably cognizant of the female's silent yearning for nipple stimulation.
Though they had never physically touched, their minds had copulated in every imaginable way, and some heretofore unimaginable ones. It was all in accordance, each one supposed, with the other's overzealous idolatry, and nothing to do with their self as a person. Yet both were aware of an ineffable connection; Something which surpassed purely biological reactions, but which remained perpetually within the realm of procreation instincts nevertheless. They called it "love" (a geekily archaic term applied in relation to early homo sapiens mating rituals) The feeling of attraction and mutual understanding came to each of them in overwhelming surges at times, and other times lapped and gargled along the periphery of their minds like a babbling brook. It felt so unique that they thought they might've invented it, or else extracted it from legends and mythology and morphed it into a kind of shared delusion.
Anon she smiled bashfully and slithered eagerly toward him, one hand placed affectionately atop her own gut while the other reached up to tentatively stroke his luxurious mane. How she'd longed for this... He extended a dexterous claw to touch her gently, and in stunned reverence, felt a kick emanating from within her tumescent abdomen.
Ours, she said, through eyes sparkling with both incredulous mirth and sheer adoration...
We did it? his eyes whispered back.
"The first known viable conception through cybermingling expanse technology." she confirmed aloud.
He grinned in paternal pride, wiping the rapidly accumulating ooze out of his eye-socket lubrication duct.
Big Red Button
I wake up with no memories but my mission.
I wonder only briefly at the empty spaces in my mind. Who needs memories when you have purpose?
So I sit up and feel the crisp, white sheets slide down my arms. I'm in a bed, in a pristine room. Gauzy white curtains billow at the edges of the glass wall opposite, and I push the sheets away as I look out over the city.
The floor looks like wood, but it's smooth and cold on my feet. I put my hand on the glass. It doesn't fog under my fingertips, and I leave no prints.
The sky is hidden under a flat, white sheet of cloud and the light is diffuse. It makes the city look flat, a perfectly lifelike drawing. A photograph. Something that once was real, but this is only a likeness of it.
It's all glass and metal, and I don't know if it's familiar or not. Nothing feels familiar except my own body, so does that mean I've never been here before, or is it only gone with the rest of my memories?
I step back so I can find my reflection in the glass, superimposed over the city. She's vague and doesn't look quite like me, but she smiles when I smile and mimics my wave.
I find clothes in a closet, and dress myself in a shiny grey jacket and billowy white pants. There are boots—tall, sleek, and baby blue—that fit me perfectly.
I tie up my hair in the full-length mirror hung on the back of the closet door, studying my face as I do it. This reflection is clear, and looks like me, but I don't know what I've done, where I've been. There's only this place, here, and my mission. My purpose. I tighten my ponytail and smile.
The building beyond that room feels empty. I cross a mezzanine with a glass railing and evenly-spaced potted plants that could be real or fake. I walk down a glass staircase.
I don't know where I'm going, but I don't need do. I know what I'm here to do, and I'll do it, one way or another.
The city feels more real when I step out into it, but there's still an eerie quiet in the air. The buildings here are tall, and the street is wide, and when I stand in the middle of it and look, all I can see is an endless tunnel of metal and glass that vanishes into the sky.
Walking down the empty street, I find my eyes watering. I don't know why. Tears run down my face, and a sob shakes its way out of me.
Maybe my body is remembering something my mind can't.
For a split second, my resolve wavers.
At an intersection, I find an abandoned vehicle floating askew. The sliding door isn't working right and bumps loosely, sliding repeatedly partway shut and open again.
I knock on the metal hull, and listen to the echoing ring die away.
I climb up through the broken door, the vehicle rocking under me as I walk along it. Whatever stabilizing mechanism it had isn't working, maybe because it's broken, or maybe just because the vehicle's turned off.
I try to turn it on, but nothing changes.
So I leave the vehicle and keep walking. I go into some of the buildings. Everything's still, until a breeze comes and pokes at my pants and the ends of my hair.
One of the buildings has a metal door just inside the entrance, with a screen on the wall beside it that I tap on without expecting anything.
It lights up.
I scroll through a list of locations, and then set it back to the original one. 92 Quadranth Street.
When I go through the door, that's where I am. I find the number on the building, and a street sign, just to be sure.
I explore a few more places through the door, out of interest, but everywhere is empty and much the same. When I find a park, I stop and walk there instead, off the path and into the trees. Surrounded by them, I could almost pretend there was no city at all. But even the trees don't feel quite alive anymore.
I'm struck by another fit of sobbing when a memory slices through my head. Or through my chest, maybe. Now I remember not only my mission, but how to achieve it. There's a place I need to go, and a button I need to press.
A button that will end the world.
I consider this as I walk there. It's a long walk, so I have plenty of time to consider.
I begin to wonder if I'm confused—this world feels dead already.
But no. I know my mission. I'm here to end the world.
Maybe because it's too far gone to save.
I walk up to a sliding glass door. It's supposed to be automatic, but nothing happens even when I wave my arms at it. I have to push it all the way open, fingertips squealing as they slip across the glass.
There's a big open space beyond, with sleek benches and sleek potted trees and a sleek elevator. The doors won't open, so I take the stairs instead.
At the top of the tower, a room. I pause to lean against the wall, breathing heavily from the climb until my heart rate slows.
I push open the silver door. But before I can step into the room, I'm struck by another memory. It's big and powerful and makes me gasp and fall to my knees. The pain of my kneecaps striking the floor is only enough to distract me for a moment, and then I'm lost in the deluge of memory.
By the time it's over I'm lying, gasping, on the floor.
I remember everything.
This isn't the end of the world at all. This world died long ago; I have come to the beginning of time. The beginning of my world's time, anyway. I haven't yet been born, and I won't be born yet for years and years—centuries, in fact.
This time when I start to cry, I know why. I cry for everything I've lost—a whole world, given up. I sacrificed my future so I come here and kill the world. So I could come here, and erase this dead, empty space so new life can begin.
I sacrificed the rest of my life so that the start of my life could be possible at all.
Gathering myself together, I get to my feet. The tears course down my face as I step toward the console, a wide sweep of chrome counter covered in lights that have gone out.
In the centre, a simple red button. As I step closer, I find that it's not what I expected, and yet it makes more sense, somehow. The button isn't made of plastic or metal; it's organic. It's soft and slightly veined and I can see where it has caused a tiny crack in the console where it grew through the metal.
The world is practically asking me to end its misery.
I reach out and hesitate, my finger hovering. I think of my face, not my real face but my reflection in the window. I think of the empty, echoing streets.
"Thank you," I whisper to the old world, and I press the button.
neon lights reflect sporadically off the ashtray settled on the black silk duvet covering up half her body, bare skin, glistening in the neon lights placing the cigarette between her lips, soft ember brightening as she inhales, harsh smoke filling her lungs.
The sharp, cold metal, intertwined with flesh, up by her elbow, always that cold reminder, she lost something more that day.
That last touch, smell of iron and death, crisp in the air.
She exhales, all the blood draining from her face,
Panic rises and her heart bounces against her rib cage,
she feels the heavy weight on her,
that abyss grips hard, pulling her down into darkness.
Russia Always Was Against the World…
End the world?
Sure, I will.
Teleport to Moscow,
A smaller hop to the research station,
Spend hours going through security
(Apparently people have never
Been more stupid)
And knock on the door
Explain the design
Of the nuclear bomb
To the disbelieving scientists
Start from the sheer basics
Reprove water is H2O
Explain atoms, constituents
Atomic particle accelerators
Take years to do it
These people are so dumb
Nick a few cores for myself
Convince these Russians
They will rule the world
If they obliviate every nation
By launching these nukes
I laugh to myself
As I construct my bombs
Trust me completely
In 20 hours it is over
Now only Russia remains
The government holds
A party now
I am the guest of honor
I slip out early
Fly my brand new car
To my brand new office
Car is ruined by the wayside
(I’ve never been much of a pilot,
but it won’t matter anyway)
I smirk as I set the launch timers
For 20 minutes
I hasten to my bomb shelter
"Maybe in some parallel universe we found each other.....we are meant to run toward one another....chances are, I'll never know." Erin Van Vuren
Before the dawn
Of awareness and revelation.
I stretch out my hand
And touch the air.
I can feel it:
Of a parallel universe.
From the other world
You step in, a seeming
Vision and not reality.
Yet, when my eyes
I know the secret:
You are trespassing
Into my sphere of time.
For long moments
All thought is suspended,
I am transfixed
By your gaze.
Longing fills me,
I desire it all
But you are only mine for
A mere macrocosm in time.
Crescendos, then settles.
You know it, too:
Here, wrapped within
Our private cosmos
We love and
Know each other
To the depths of our being.
But of a sudden,
A flash of light,
The earth trembles.
You are gone and
My heart falters.
Like grains of sand
Our time has vanished.
Whispers, echoes –
Nothing more –
Remain in the dawn.
The brief eclipse
Of love so divinely felt
Only moments ago
Disperses in the morning air.
You aren't even a memory.
Parallel universe and
Star crossed lovers?
Still, we don’t recall
Each other’s visage,
Cannot search high and low
Throughout the universes
To find our destination:
Obscure, unfathomable love.
Thus, a moment
Is suspended in time.
The rarest opportunity
Like the morning dew.
We are none the wiser
Nor will we ever know
The treasure that was missed.
To cradle Perfection
in your hands,
and twist it into something horrible
between your fingers.
I've come to destroy
although now that I have
I am unsure
as to why.
of no disease,
Yet somehow it is vile,
as wrong as any
Even if I cannot
I must destroy it.
as if I am
not to care
and I, it's connoisseur,
assigned to wrangle it like
an unholy snake.
is just another loose end
in the cosmos.
I must traverse its spread
before I end it.
A surveyor looking for flaws.
There are none.
It is a perfect world.
As I walk the streets,
they are lined with gold.
Neon lights without any of the pollution,
steam powered cars shining
with the hue of
a future we forgot.
Everyone is plastered with smiles,
the real ones,
not the mass-produced knockoffs
of the modern age.
One blink and I can admire the sea,
another and I can stare across
endless acres of green fields.
There is no hunger, no waste.
Not yet, anyway.
By the time I am through,
all of this beauty will be lost
and I will be the cause.
I should regret it,
should mourn the loss of this world
that no one else knows existed.
I should traverse every inch
of this masterful canvas
and take its secrets with me
into the modern age.
When I walk the streets there are no vendors
peddling their handcrafted wares.
There are no murals adorning the walls
or ornate rugs hanging out of open windows.
There are no coffee shops
with local art hung on their walls
and hearts made in latte foam.
The smiles of the passerby
when they look at you
do not warm the heart
for you know that they don't see you.
Their smiles are permanent,
not a gift but an obligation.
Their verity does not increase their potency.
Faces and clothing are plain,
as there's no need for anything more.
Even the buildings have turned stale,
none of the ornate designs of old cathedrals,
nor the geometric asymmetry
of the modern age.
There are no
carved into the doors of bathroom stalls.
And in a world without death,
there is already the telltale stench
threatening to pull apart this utopia
at the seams.
Eventually, they will be forced to invent death,
to crush down their population
under the guise
And the people
will agree, readily,
because they no longer have
to be an individual.
When you are a collective whole,
there is nothing left.
When you are we,
there is no more me.
This world must be destroyed,
we grow stale
in the stagnant pond
of our utopia.
Lost in Transportation
we wrote to each other
through the stars
hoping their beauty would
show you how much
I loved you.
But all my words
or were lost in the expanse of darkness
you couldn't see how bright my emotions bled for you.
But then again maybe you did see and just didn't like the shade of red that ran along my thin skin.
Distance was our enemy
and love was our war
but in the end, we lost.
To whom it may concern:
I appreciate the opportunity given to me to end the world but unexpected circumstances have led my personal priorities to change significantly. I can no longer compete the tasks and conditions of my employment so graciously bestowed upon me by your organization. Consider this letter to be final notice of my resignation from your firm.
My lawyer will be in contact with you concerning severance and other particulars.
I wish you and my fellow employees the very best as you seek to fill my position and continued success in the accomplishment of your impression organizational mission.