Fantasy & Sci-Fi
"... it was like a dark stain set into the liquid glass of
the sea; like the shadow of some unseen creature above, some mammoth bird of
prey... its movement more fluid than the water it haunted, without apparent
thrust, like the movement of light over broken ground... the way waves
disguised its true form: magnifying it by parts, distorting its outline...
"...I have heard it described as unearthly... I know now
that it could never be otherwise; that nothing of the sea is ever really of
"...no, I felt no fear -- in its place I felt a strange
fascination, an... almost an attraction, almost...
"...in truth, that may be its most terrible power... "
Breathless silence gives way to electric hum, whir, click,
echoed hundredfold throughout the belly of the APC, as rifle-barrels' ready
blackness embrace their sister shells: united to a common, waiting goal.
Cold shines phosphor-bright, relieved only by comforting
silhouettes of an hundred waiting soldiers. There is no light: thermo-imaging
goggles tear each man from the darkness that has bound him. This journey has
taken a lifetime for some; for others it is over in the blink of an unseeing
Thunder -- the release of heavy latches -- 10 000 feet of
shrieking sky replaces the floor. Between each man and death, a line as thin as
the micro-laser-guided magnetic cord that will slow his descent. Each man gives
his life to the cord. Total faith. For that brief time it is like a god; the
men pray it will save them from terminal impact -- at least, most do.
Ungreeted. The air sports no buzz of insects, no scent of
death; no grass trampled beneath their heavy boots. A fine carbon dust swirls
in the unfettered breeze -- such is the legacy of sterilization bombing. There
is no terrain, only surface.
Another void -- satellite Damocles glides silently into
geo-sync, its mile-long barrel a needle poised to pierce the heart of the very
earth it circles. A brilliant flash. If there were sound, it would be
To the soldiers, spectacular darkness streaks into the sky;
a falling star. Cacophonous waves of earsplitting sound coincide with a series
dazzling explosions, propelling the projectile deep into the ground.
Several miles below, the sound is a dull thunder to the ears
of anxious Numen: walls shudder, ceilings crack, dust settles. It is the calm
before. A harbinger.
Nestled within the core of the missile, a tiny electronic
mind listens to hear the voice that will call it to oblivion. A signal
transmitted; message received. A bond is broken, a millennia-old trust torn
asunder -- atomic fission.
...a child builds by the sea-side... the others use sand;
stay well back of the waves... she is amidst the surf; hers is not a castle,
rather a monument to the spirit of man... she piles rocks snatched from the
churning sea, defying it... a testament... undaunted... beyond good, evil;
beyond innocence; that naked, human drive to create, to excel... she is the
first to die... the first of many...
Twenty-foot thick ceilings of steel and concrete become
lightning bursts of molten shrapnel. Dead stare vacantly through the crushing
blanket of slag. Vaporized by the heat, or buried in liquid stone, they leave
no scent of death. For a fleeting moment all is quiet, fused in morbid
A flood of shattered rock breaks the stillness. With the
debris comes new air, oxygen rich, and all that is combustible burns. Dense
smoke fills the room -- as tension had, moments before -- to the floor, in
every crevice, and up the sundered walls. Smoke thick with loss pours through
the crater above. It flows like the lifeblood of a planet; like the breath of
some ancient dragon awoke. It is as much a portent of future horrors as
testament to present ones.
Without, halls echo in the thunder of a thousand prayers.
The valiant arm themselves for the coming end; dignity, in its death-throws,
demands a fight. The meek offer atonements to a God they are soon to meet.
Within, a lone man makes his own preparations for the end.
Broken reverie leaves the prophet spent. His mouth is dry;
his forehead slick with sweat. His first breath is drawn as if through sand.
Blind hands grope madly before settling on the cold hardness of a steel cup. He
drinks in rapid, choking gulps. Something has happened, something that reeks of
death. He will know soon enough.
"...is it horror or exertion that so flushes you?..." He
asks, almost before the young acolyte has entered the room. The stark whiteness
of the corridor beyond frames his silhouette in the doorway, casting wide,
luminous beams into the chamber. The prophet stares blankly into the light; no
reflexive blinking or sheltering of the eyes. Huge and vacuous, these are the
eyes of the prophet and they see only inward.
Fragile legs buckle then redouble their efforts, the prophet
stands. Abruptly he folds. Spasmodically shaking, he is racked by coughs. The
acolyte administers water from another steel cup and a thought strays into the
prophet's mind. 'Not all angels have wings'. There is a companionship amid the
tension; a closeness that their position both facilitates and expressly denies.
Immediately he can sense it, the tumult of the child's mind fills the air with
messages that are, to him, readily perceptible, almost palpable.
They have come. They, with their monstrous tools of
annihilation, have ventured forth to look the storm in the eye. They shall see
within it a mirror of their own darkness -- an engine of destruction beyond any
they could devise. The ultimate doomsday device will look back at them through
the hollow globes of the prophet's blind eyes. If it is death they seek, then
they shall find it here.
Carefully he resumes his place atop the small mattress,
bed-sores stitching their agony to his legs and back. What good it will do now
he does not know, only that he must watch --- but the visions of the prophet
come not without their price. There is that within the body that allows it to
do, in times of great stress, that which cannot be done; to push past the
limits of endurance. Such a reserve has the prophet drawn upon for many days,
but now even it is spent. To breach once more the veil of mundane perception
the prophet must burn his very soul. He knows before he starts, perhaps has
always known, that this vision will be his last.
"...there will be more, and then, there will be no more...
stay here, by my bedside, do not go out...
"...you will hear the end of your life as it approaches the
door, stamps it open with a heavy boot... it can not matter...
"...you will record my final words, witness the message...
yours, too, is a sacred mission..."
The wind bends around the thick smoke, unable to disperse
it. Silently it rises, an ashen phoenix, across the reflective polymers of
their visors. In careful disarray the soldiers flow across the barren surface
of the planet, to swarm the newly-formed crater. Ants pouring from an anthill,
but in reverse, the soldiers are soon swallowed up by the giant hole; like so
much water down a drain.
This time it is different; unlike above, down here they can
see the carnage. Nerves of steel are tested, drawn taut like high-tension wires
--- but these men are soldiers. They have no time for pity, nor remorse. By
squad, then by man, they fan out through the vast, gutted complex. What Numen
remain offer feeble opposition. It is more an extermination than a battle. Some
had feared this underground shrine would become their tomb, it is worse, it is
a mass grave. The upper levels saturated with radiation, stalked by predatory
wind; the lower chambers slaked with crimson blood.
... primeval terror takes wing... it is the source of all
nightmares, the undistilled image of horror...
... a red, dark like blood, yet blinding in its luminosity
issues forth from its maw, an incendiary rain... lush green below is scorched a
wicked black... its swathe a laceration, bleeding fire...
The acolyte staggers. His lungs are buffeted within his
chest by the resonant pounding. Dust showers down; the ceiling cracks. Again
and again the rams batter the megalithic door, turning to powder its
once-intricate carvings. It is as the prophet had said, he CAN hear the sounds
of his death approaching --- the slow, heavy, laborious sound of mechanised
slaughter. "Perhaps it's not too late to save myself!" The frantic thought
perishes quickly, much as the acolyte himself is soon to do. He is resigned to
his task. "...yours too, is a sacred mission..." The words of the prophet
cement his purpose, and his fate.
"... they huddle in corners, like bundles of rags... there
is more bone to them than flesh...
"... it was the feeling of being the wind, of scattering the
chaff... they parted as i walked through them... they were insubstantial...
shades of men...
"... they will be remembered as the hoofprints of the black
horse, but they have shown me that they were more..."
Heavy stone grinds on stone, with a sound like the roar of
some great beast --- like the roar of a terrible fire, consuming men. In rush
the soldiers, hurdling broken pieces of door and ceiling alike. Violent flares
of black-hot gunfire spray the thin partition with shells, throwing it from its
hinges. These same shells rend flesh, shatter bone, and shower the room in the
acolyte's blood. In the dim light, the face of the prophet shines --- the light
reflected in thick red.
They have come here to prevent the apocalypse. Great expense
has been paid, pains taken, in order to procure the special knowledge of this
frail shape before them. If they know how it is to come, perhaps the apocalypse
can be stopped...
Seated before them on the blood-soaked bed, the prophet's
white stare turns suddenly to the soldiers. His voice is a death-rattle, a
"... you are too late... " His final words bear the weight
... a curtain of air bubbles turns the water violent... deep
beneath, the ocean rocks and a colossal eye sees --- for the first time in
years beyond number...
...the Leviathan awakes.