Friday, 15 August 2014
Anyone wishing to read Part 1 can find it here:- A stillness in the air (Part 1)
A STILLNESS IN THE AIR (Part 2)
Before long the red glow thickened, took on form.
The air rapidly grew hotter and heavier as the cloud approached. The thrumming reached almost ear-shattering levels.
Blake buried his face in the ground, his hands clamped tightly over his ears, fear and anger flooded through him as the very earth shook and trembled beneath him.
His whole world became an energy-draining cacophony of howling, whipping winds and deafening, shrieking, bone-shaking vibration. A blinding kaleidoscope of swirling reds and purples, spangled with diamond glints and sizzling blue flashes.
He clung to his sanity for what seemed like an eternity. His screamed prayers snatched from his mouth by the turbulence.
Eventually the assault on his senses lessened as the cloud passed his position. He rolled onto his back and stared at the enemy.
The monstrous, multi-hued, vaporous cloud a hundred feet or so from the ground rolled inexorably toward the citadel.
Blake raised his Minigat and took sight, then faltered indecisively.
There was nothing to shoot at, nothing tangible to target. How do you fight something that has no substance?
Several yards to his left a weapon opened up. The thousands of light pulses per second thrown out by the multi-barrels appeared as one solid stream as it arced up and into the cloud, spraying back and forth in what should have been a murderous firefield.
The cloud just absorbed the rounds and continued on toward the citadel unscathed.
A narrow red beam sliced down from the cloud to touch the shooting soldier. Blake watched in helpless horror as he vanished. No blood spray, no screaming, just a momentary red flash and the soldier disappeared.
Blake watched, transfixed with fear, as the same scenario was repeated time and time again all along the ridge. Hundreds of weapons sprayed into the cloud, and rapidly the army on the ridge vanished beneath a hail of red needles.
The cloud rolled on across the plain as if the engagement had never happened.
Blake dragged himself to his feet. Fighting this thing was futile. Whatever it was, these weapons were useless against it.
There was only one thought on his mind now, Sulya and his daughters, if there was any chance he could save them...
He shouldered his Minigat and set off toward the citadel. After only a few paces he saw the immense Spitlights open up, pouring billions of pulses into the cloud. Even from this distance he could feel the heat from the incredible amount of energy piercing the air.
Hope crept into Blake's heart. Surely nothing could withstand a barrage like that?
Blake watched unbelievingly as once more red beams lanced down. They grew in number until the whole citadel was sheathed in a massive scarlet cloak. The bright light pulses rapidly diminished until there was only red. Bright arterial red.
And then nothing.
No sounds. No firefight... No citadel.
Blake slumped to his knees, allowing the tears to fall freely. There was no-one left to see them, to witness his humiliation.
The cloud seemed to gather in on itself, as if compressing and centralizing its energy. It became smaller, shrinking in on itself until it became a solid red orb. Slowly, slowly it began to rise. Gaining speed and height it flew straight up into the sky until it was lost from sight.
Blake continued on to the citadel. Hoping against hope that Sulya and the girls had somehow survived. They would have been in one of the safer, lower levels, far below ground. They would still be there, there would be more survivors. There had to be.
As he walked he reflected on the other incidents around the planet, the other citadels. No contact had been made with them once the cloud had reached them.
Blake refused to give up hope. The cloud must have destroyed the communications systems in all the citadels. That would be logical, that would explain the lack of contact.
Sulya was still alive. His precious children were still alive. He knew it. With unshakeable certainty Blake knew his family waited for him in those lower levels.
He quickened his pace, his heart soaring. They would flee to the forest, live amongst the trees. His children would grow healthy and strong in the beautiful outdoors.
Two hours later found Blake at the lip of the crater, staring down into the depths of the massive hole in the ground.
Of the citadel nothing remained. Not a brick, shard of metal, shred of flesh. Not a molecule to say there had ever been anything there but earth. The building was gone, right down to the lowest foundation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was three days later that the first craft landed.
Blake watched from cover as the huge silver machine settled onto the plain in a whirl of wind and hissing of retro motors.
A ramp slid down from the ship's belly and angled to the ground.
Several small, humanoid creatures walked down the ramp, gathering at the base in a huddle. Conversing animatedly.
Large eyed, blue-skinned heads stood on long necks. They wore grey uniforms, but the lack of helmets told Blake they must find our atmosphere breathable.
He understood now, the cloud was a weapon, not the enemy. This was the enemy.
This was something he could target, something he could shoot at, something he could kill.
Blake stepped out into the open and sighted his minigat. The creatures appeared not to notice him, his Invisuit hiding him from their view. Blake hesitated, concealment would be a precious weapon in his arsenal.
These creatures look physically weak, soft skinned, vulnerable.
Blake grinned widely, a grin that wouldn't reach his eyes, couldn't reach his heart.
He had nothing but time, plenty of ammo, and carried more hate than a man should be capable of.
He would wait, let more come, let them settle, become complacent.
Then he would turn their newly acquired world into a nightmare.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 8 August 2014
There was not a whisper of a breeze. Not a rustle of leaf or twitch of grass.
It felt like the world held its breath.
Possibly the last breath it would ever hold.
Blake scanned the valley and the distant low hills, flicking through the spectrums with each pass of the scope. Nothing.
If there was life out there the scope would have found it.
Nothing. Not an insect, a bird, a rabbit.
They knew. They all knew something was coming.
Blake slid the scope into its sheath. He glanced back over his shoulder at the squat slab of the citadel in the centre of the plain several miles away.
Even from this distance the massive walls looked impregnable, unbreachable. Bristling with weaponry. The huge, multi-barrelled Spitlight cannons could take out anything known to mankind.
But it wasn't men that were coming for them.
Of one hundred and sixteen citadels scattered throughout the planet, this was the only one left.
One by one they had all been crushed.
Blake checked his weapon one more time. A miniature, hand held version of the massive Spitlights. A devastating weapon, proven in many campaigns, but it brought him little comfort now. At least wielding it meant he would die a soldier's death.
He sat down on the grass and breathed deeply, forcing himself to relax.
The stillness in the air felt unnatural. It had the aura of an animal frozen in fear.
Even so, Blake took what he could from the peace and quiet.
A slight tremor ran through the ground, barely detectable. The air began to thrum.
Blake flicked his commset. “Base, this is Scout Delta niner, they're coming.”
His earpiece crackled. “Roger Delta niner. Hold position, let them pass, then engage at your discretion... And may god be with you.”
A rapid staccato stabbed the quiet as the men all up and down the line locked and loaded.
A slight shimmer briefly distorted the ridge as Invisuits were switched to full camo mode.
Blake reached into an inner breast pocket and pulled out the picture of Sulya and the girls. He looked at it for several seconds, feeling the emotion building in him. He kissed the photo then replaced in his pocket, the one next to his heart, storing the love there alongside it. He wiped the single tear from his cheek as he switched on his own camo.
Blake gazed at the horizon, a faint pink glow appeared, slowly darkening toward red.
The storm was a long way off yet.
But it was coming fast.
Bringing them with it.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Continued in:- A stillness in the air (Part 2)
Friday, 18 July 2014
I am aware.
It shouldn't be possible for me to be aware... of anything, but I am.
I am aware of the anaesthetics when they flow through the catheter, and the nutrients that keep me alive.
I am aware when they harvest my dreams, and of the contract that brought me to this living hell.
One year of my life they said. One year's worth of dreams, then a full pardon and freedom.
I am also aware, somehow, that the year has long ago come and gone.
They will never let me wake up, never let me go.
When my dreams die, I will die with them.
Yes, I am aware, and that awareness itself is my punishment.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 11 July 2014
On the ledge (Part 1)
On the ledge (Part 2)
ON THE LEDGE (Part 3)
I shouted up at the guys at the top of the cliff. After a few moments the faces reappeared.
“Ah... look guys, this might sound crazy, but I can't leave the ledge yet, I have to stay here until morning.”
“What? We have to get you out of there man. There's blood all over everything up here, and whatever did it might come back.”
“No worries, the killer's all broke up at the bottom of the cliff, but I think I got an infection from him, a real nasty one, and if I have I don't intend to let it leave this ledge.”
“But we need to get to the cops, man.”
“I know, but trust me on this, if this virus gets out there'll be even more deaths, best to play it safe.”
The pair looked at me dubiously. I knew their phones and internet wouldn't work out here, so they couldn't call for help, and it would take them several hours to make it to the nearest town.
“Well okay man, it's your call. We're camped a couple of miles north of here, we'll come back in the morning, but after that, whether you come up or not we're gonna go find the cops. Is there anything you need down there to see you through?”
I reeled off a list. Food, water, toilet paper, clean jeans, tee shirt, boxers, and my kindle.
Before long the gear was lowered down to me in a rucksack. The rope slithered back up again once I had untied it.
“Sorry about the blood stains on the jeans.” One of them said. “They were the cleanest pair we could find.”
“That's okay, blood stains are better than the ones I'm sporting right now.”
After ensuring that I would be okay until morning, the two left me alone. Understandable really, no-one in their right mind would want to spend any more time among the mess at the top of the cliff than they had to, and I was pretty sure they weren't convinced that the gore-spreader wouldn't return.
I stripped, washed using up one of the three bottles of water, and put on the clean clothes. I then ate a whole packet of chocolate digestive biscuits washed down with luke warm water. I eyed the tins of corned beef, beans and peaches hungrily, but since I stupidly didn't include a tin opener in my list, and they stupidly thought I must already have one with me, they were off the menu.
I pulled the kindle from the bag, flicked it on, and settled myself down to read while I waited for the sun to go down.
The kindle turned out to belong to one of the other guys, not mine. So I resigned myself to not finding out if the butler had, or indeed had not done it in my current book, and feasted my eyes on the available titles.
Dark side of the moon
The joys of camping
Wuthering heights... Wuthering heights? Sheesh!
I tossed the kindle to one side, closed my eyes and leant back against the rock face.
Kate Bush dancing in that ghostly, flowing white dress swam into my mind's eye..
“Heeeethcleeefff... it's meee Catheee I've come ho-ome I'm so co-o-o-old...”
She stared straight into my eyes as she danced her way closer.
“Let me in at yo-our windo-o-o-ow”
The dress slipped from her shoulders.
“Oooh it gets dark... it gets loneleee...”
It hit the floor.
“On the other side from you...”
She leaned right over me.
“I pine a lot... I find a lot...”
I was mesmerised by her naked beauty.
“Falls through without yoooou...”
Her fingers touched my cheek, caressed, tickled... annoyingly so...
I jolted awake, slapping at her hand, and dislodged a massive spider from my face. The creature fell to the ledge and disappeared down an impossibly small crack. Ugh!
The sun was almost down into the sea now, spreading its red skirts through the sparse cloud cover. Beautiful, I just love sunsets.
I stared at the horizon until the red faded, and was replaced by a darkening grey.
Although I couldn't see it, I knew that on the opposite horizon, the one behind me, the moon was on the rise. A gloriously full, beautiful, bad moon rising.
I knew it because I could feel it in my bones. The very bones that seemed to be growing, pushing my hands and feet further away from me.
I could feel it in my lengthening fingernails and protruding jaw. I could feel it in the very hair that was rapidly covering the whole of my body.
But most of all, I could feel it in the primal howl that was building up inside me, like a massive dam on the verge of rupture.
I stepped to the lip of the ledge and snarled down at the rocks hidden below in the dark.
My tee shirt and jeans ripped open as they succumbed to the growing pressure of expanding muscles.
As I stepped off into space, I was still human enough to feel the annoyance at the unfairness of it all.
But then again, no-one ever said that life was supposed to be fair.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Many thanks to Kate Bush for the words, and the images in Wuthering heights.
Friday, 4 July 2014
For anyone wishing to read from the beginning
Part 1 can be found here:- On the ledge (Part 1)
ON THE LEDGE (PART 2)
Before long my injured arm began to throb rather painfully. I pulled my tee shirt over my head, and with the aid of my teeth managed to tear it into several strips and fashion a crude bandage around my elbow and upper arm.
My stomach lurched again, so I retrieved the wrapper, folded it around the wad of gum and put it back into my pocket.
I leant my head back against the rock face, closed my eyes, and tried not to think about what was waiting at the top of the cliff,
A tap on the head caused me to open my eyes. Christ! I must have dozed off. The filtering light told me it must be nearing dawn now.
Another tap on the head, then a shower of dust hit my scalp. I looked up, shielding my eyes as best I could, and was panic-stricken to see a pair of long, hairy legs amidst the powder avalanches.
Jeez! The thing was climbing down.
A massive shower of dust and small rocks hit me in the face blinding me. A long, primal howl joined the cacophony of scrabbling claws and rattling debris, culminating in a rather loud thud as something big, heavy, and very pissed off landed in a thrashing heap on the ledge beside me.
I furiously rubbed the dust from my eyes and when I saw my new neighbour, wished to god I was still blinded.
The huge, dusty furball beside me began to unfurl. It pulled itself to its full height, and shook its head confusedly.
I tried to sit even lower, making myself as small as possible, shrinking back against the rock face, holding my breath, maybe it was too dazed to notice me?
I should be so lucky. Yeah, that's me, just like Kylie bleedin' Minogue. Lucky, lucky, lucky. For some insane reason I found myself humming a few bars of the song under my breath.
Uh... Oh! Bad idea,
The creature's ears twitched. It's head slowly swivelled in my direction. Yellowed, malevolent eyes glared at me. A mouth, lips drawn back to reveal finger-length incisors snarled menacingly.
“Err... Nice doggie? I croaked, hopefully.
The snarl deepened and more teeth were bared.
I felt the blood freeze in my veins as sheer terror washed over me. My testicles fought with each other in a futile race to hide inside my stomach. The crap I had earlier managed to keep in let loose and with a warm, liquid splurge filled the seat of my pants. Wonderful... just bleeding wonderful!
The first rays of sunshine hit the ocean as the creature raised its head skywards and opened its jaws wide.
What began as a deafening, throaty howl, gradually diminished over several second to become a squeaky whimper.
I watched disbelievingly as the creature literally shrank before my eyes. Claws retracted, hair receded, limbs shortened and thinned. The snout flattened and the ears rounded.
What now stood beside me on the ledge was a slightly podgy, naked, middle aged man.
He sank slowly to a sitting position, his back against the rock face, holding his head in his hands. Almost mimicking my own position.
We sat side by side like that for a few minutes, the silence growing like a tumour.
He was the first to break.
“Errr... I don't suppose you have a cigarette you can spare?”
“No... sorry. I don't suppose you have any toilet paper you can spare?”
“Err.. no, sorry.”
We both lapsed back into silence again.
I don't know what was going through his mind, but I was wondering what would happen if we were both still on the ledge when the moon came out again.
When he spoke again, the sudden noise, quiet though it was, startled me out of my thoughts.
“Look... I'm err... sorry about your err... friends.”
“It's not your fault.” I replied. “You can't help being what you are. No hard feelings, eh?” I said, and offered him my hand.
“Well, that's awful decent of you.” He said as he reached sideways and clasped my hand in a soft handshake.
I gripped his hand tighter, rose half-way, and putting all my strength into the action, dragged him up and around in a swinging arc, letting go just as he reached the tipping point. I watched dispassionately as he sailed, arms flapping, off the ledge and disappeared from view. His shrill scream ended abruptly as I heard the crunch when he hit the rocks at the cliff base.
I looked down, his body was draped over the sharp rocks, all odd angles and over-jointed. Well, that was one problem taken care of, and I had the ledge to myself again now, a bit more room to spread out.
I must have fallen asleep again, because the voice seemed to come from far away. A distant whisper that grew in volume until it dragged me back to reality.
“HEY!... HEY!... HEY YOU DOWN THERE!”
I looked up to see two faces peering over the cliff edge.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” One of them called.
“My arm's injured.” I replied.
“Hang on, we're gonna get you out of there, just hang in there.”
I almost wept with relief, salvation was at hand. How the hell I was going to explain all this, I don't know.
The stink coming off me was kind of self-explanatory though.
My arm began itching annoyingly. I lifted the bandage and took a look. Impossible as it seems, the wound looked almost healed, and poking out from the skin were several thick, bristly hairs.
A sudden, chilling thought hit me like a hammer blow. Was I infected?
I think the moon is due to be full again tonight. I guess I'll find out then.
Continued in:- On the ledge (Part 3)
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 27 June 2014
I was reasonably comfortable sitting on the narrow ledge, despite my left arm being torn and shredded, that was sure gonna hurt when the shock wore off though.
I could hear the thing pacing about at the top of the cliff some twenty feet or so above me. The stealthy silence it used before the attack unnecessary now as it prowled about impatiently, a horrible symphony of snapping twigs and clickety claws, overlaid with deeper growls and incisor-gnashing snarls.
At least these noises were easier to deal with than the earlier ones of snapping bones, tearing flesh, and slurping mastication as what was left of my friends were disappearing down its throat.
The camping holiday of a lifetime, yeah, a beer and a laugh around the camp fire had changed rapidly into something else the moment John's hand slapped me wetly in my face, just his hand, the rest of him was hitting other places as he was torn limb from limb.
By the time I had recovered enough to run the creature had almost finished with Paul and Billy. I caught a slashing blow from one massive claw across my upper arm as I dodged around it, just before I tripped and went headlong over the cliff edge.
Something warm dripped onto the top of my head, then trickled its way down the back of my neck and under my collar, cooling as it slimed its way down my spine. I ran my hand over my scalp, then looked at my fingers, slick with globs of drooly, blood-slicked saliva. I didn't need to look up to know the thing was staring down at me. I could almost taste its hunger, and rage.
Occasionally the clouds would part slightly allowing the full moon to peep through and reflect yellow off the dark sea below. It had been a beautiful sight earlier in the day with the sun glinting off the water. We had sat drinking and joking as the sun had gone down, making plans for the morning.
Well, those plans were in the bin now.
I considered my options, such as they were.
I couldn't climb back up, although I guess the creature at the top of the cliff would be absolutely delighted to see me. I couldn't go downwards, the view from the cliff was magnificent during the day, affording a beautiful seascape, also a grand view of a sheer, two hundred foot drop onto the rocks below.
Ah well, I guess I'll just wait.
I rummaged around in my pockets. Keys, comb, a stick of gum, two hundred and sixty dollars plus change. Ha! Maybe I could buy my way out of this mess?
I unwrapped the gum and stuck it in my mouth, chewed on it slowly as I put the wrapper back into my pocket. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. I suppressed a hysterical giggle. Yeah, leave nothing but footprints, and bloodstains, and friends.
I felt my stomach lurch slightly as the sugary spearmint worked its way down. I was gonna need to take a crap soon. Jeez, could this night possibly get any worse?
I know one thing for sure, whatever happens I won't coming back here for another holiday.
Continued in:- On the ledge (Part 2)
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 20 June 2014
“She's not the only pebble on the beach. Once we're married I'll be rolling in it, then I'll have my choice of any pebble that takes my fancy.”
Rachel had slipped back out of the bathroom to grab the forgotten towel and overheard David on the phone. She froze in shock. Her mind refusing to believe what she had just heard.
She returned to the bathroom and climbed into the hot foamy water, tears of grief rolling down her cheeks. How could he? Why would he treat her this way? He loved her. Her money didn't matter, he would love her just the same if she had been penniless, that's what he had always said.
As the water cooled, so did her feelings for David, she felt hollow, empty inside. A seething anger boiled up within her, filling the void.
By the time she had finished bathing and dressed she had retained her usual composure. She walked into the lounge smiling as if nothing had changed between them. Her voice betrayed no trace of the rage she was holding inside.
“I want to go down to the beach this evening and watch the sunset, it's so romantic, don't you think?”
“What? Uh... oh yeah.” David pasted an interested expression on his face that didn't quite reach his eyes.
And so before long they were strolling side by side, their shoes crunching deeply into the shingle.
After only a few minutes Rachel stopped suddenly, and fixed David with an icy stare that would have frozen lava.
“What's wrong?” Said David.
Rachel didn't reply, she bent down and selected a pebble from the beach, she placed it in the flat of her hand, holding it out so David could see it clearly. Pushing it up right under his nose.
“Take a good look at it David. Don't you think it's beautiful? Do you see the patterns? The way the different shades of grey follow each other? They look so much like a heart within a heart within a heart. Do you see it David? Do you?”
“Yes, yes I can see it. What of it? It's just a goddam pebble.”
“Oh, this isn't just any old pebble David, this is a special pebble, a very special pebble. Look at it.”
David stifled a yawn. “ I am looki...”
“LOOK AT IT!”
David started, alarmed at Rachel's sudden temper, and the snarl of her lips. He had never seen her behave this way before.
David stared into her eyes as Rachel drew her arm back and threw the pebble as far as she could along the beach. He heard the faint chink-skitter as it landed somewhere far behind him.
Rachel turned her back on David and began to walk away, the last rays of the setting sun pinkening her ivory blouse, she called over her shoulder.
“Bring it back to me before dawn, or the wedding is off.”
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 13 June 2014
Even though he was under heavy sedation Richard was still vaguely aware of the sensors and probes working their way through his subconscious mind.
He felt his imagination being stretched ever so slightly. The occasional frisson as a stray negative thought was terminated. A slight tickling here and there as some of his emotions were enhanced and others dulled. From time to time he experienced a prolonged cerebral itchiness as major re-routing or rewiring work was in progress.
Richard awoke to the beaming smiles of the doctor, and technician. He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes.
“How did it go Doc?”
“Oh, extremely well.” Replied the doctor. “You see, happiness has absolutely nothing to do with possessions or achievements, it is purely a state of mind. Now, if you would just sign these papers, here... here... here... and here. And then you can be on your way. The new, happier you.”
The doctor's grin grew even wider as he passed the pen to Richard.
Richard scanned the main points on the document. It would mean selling almost every possession he owned to pay the initial medical costs. House, car, electrical equipment and such. Forty percent of his wages would be deducted at source until he reached state retirement age too, but Richard did feel deliriously happy as he scribbled his signature.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.