There is no sound, almost pure nothingness, just a mild ringing in my ears. It has always been there, or at least I think it has, assuming it is there at all and not just a figment of my imagination.
Maybe what I believe is a ringing is actually what silence sounds like. Maybe I’m losing it. Entirely possible.
The lack of sound is one thing. However, wherever I am it’s extremely dark – can’t see the hand in front of my face, dark. The only exception being the dull red glow coming from a digital clock nearby.
It’s 10:47. Let’s assume pm based on the apparent lack of light…
The shock wave rippled through their camp site, and several hours earlier than they were anticipating. The plan had always been to be further from the impact site, but communication delays had hindered them before their egress had even begun.
By the time they got out they knew they were unlikely to get as much distance as desired, still they had pushed on long enough to ensure they’d be safe, and they were.
While they were all now awake, it would still be hours before they would know if it had worked, and to what extent. Only then could they return.
He stood in the centre of his 37th floor apartment gazing out at the Japanese city. Surrounded by a small crowd of faceless bodies, he had no idea why or how he had gotten to be there.
What appeared to be a nuclear power plant in the distance was spewing purple lightning into the sky. It was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Something clearly was not right.
The building began to quiver as the light show intensified, slowly but steadily building to a violent shake. The tone and pitch of the buildings rumble suddenly changed, dramatic, like cutting into a harp with a chainsaw.
Floor to ceiling plate glass windows exploded outwards as the ceiling began to crumble. The tower collapsing in on itself, debris enveloping a final pulse of the distant light show. No pain was felt, just darkness.
He awoke in a cold sweat. 3:21am. Wednesday.
You think you know someone. We had left dinner early, not even lingering long enough to consider dessert. Eve seemed in a particular rush but wouldn’t say why. Maybe it was something she ate.
We were headed towards the station when her phone rang. Barely removing it from her inner jacket pocket she glanced at it and dismissed the call. I couldn’t see who it was, but I do the same with work calls all the time so I wasn’t concerned.
As the lights of our train came into view Eve casually turned, looking half at me, half through me – just as she had done a thousand times before – and smiled.
“None of this is what it seems. Jasper will explain.” she said softly with an oddly apologetic tone. The words had stunned me, was that her intention? Turning further to face me, she took two quick steps backwards, my outstretched hands clutched at the air.
She was gone.
EMBARGOED – DO NOT PUBLISH
For release 30 January, NOON
INFINITE HORIZONS MISSION PARAMETERS UPDATE
Command operations centre, Tx – A target system, LS25-8/6, containing viable destination planets has been confirmed. The system was initially detected 6 weeks ago during the systematic re-evaluation of existing data by the recently upgraded ‘Planetoid Identification Network’.
The news of the discovery has been transmitted to the crew, and will be received in time for the next routine system check on day 9,500.
In a change from the original mission plan, the full crew will remain in suspension until a yet to be determined time, and the minor course corrections will be left to Atkins while she undertakes the system checks.
We will not be fielding any additional questions at this time.
Their nightly routine was always the same.
“Sam, it’s time to go to sleep, lights out…”,
“But Mum,” he protested, “I don’t like the darkness, I’m afraid of the monster in the closet”,
It was always the same reason, like a recording being played back repetitively for comedic effect. The response of Sam’s mother too was always the same.
“Sam, we’ve been over this, there are no monsters in your closet, I promise. You’re perfectly safe in bed.”
Sitting bolt upright, arms crossed, Sam would never back down. The resulting compromise was always to leave the night light on.
The soft yellow glow of the night light was just right, and as always its presence ended the nightly battle peacefully.
Even better yet, it perfectly masked the pair of glowing yellow eyes that belonged to the creature Sam’s parents kept under his bed.
Their living room wall was now mostly string, push-pins and post-it notes. The TV sits unplugged in a corner, all non-essential furniture piled up on the other side of the room.
The only concrete piece of information he has to work with is a name. Jasper. Ok, ‘concrete’, is probably overstating it, but that is how it feels compared to everything else.
But still, who is Jasper?
The, now mostly ransacked, contents of their apartment has turned up nothing, no further clue as to who Jasper is and how – or why – he can explain why Eve had stepped into the path of a train that evening.
It has been three weeks and he knows no more now than he did then. The authorities have been of no use, her death ruled a suicide in the absence of anything to prove otherwise.
The police don’t believe that this Jasper character exists, and as he rifles through yet another closet even Jake is beginning to question it. Then he notices something behind what seems like the 47th box of shoes.
It’s been a little over 12 weeks since we undocked and were flung into the vast blackness of space, we’ve got 2 weeks left until we enter the suspended state that will allow us to carry out the mission.
What’s the mission? Good question. When we left they hadn’t exactly worked that out. They’ve pointed us at a distant star, but it will be years, or decades, until we’re told what we’re looking for. Hence the suspended state.
Once in suspension they’ll wake one of us every 500 days or so for routine systems checks. Sam’s up first, so that should be fun for her, running diagnostics solo while everyone else ’sleeps’.
Until then we’re preparing everything for the journey, most importantly the bio-rings which will become our primary food source – but don’t worry we’ve also got a stack of pre-packed meals just in case something goes wrong.
And failing that we’ll just have to start sacrificing crew members to satisfy our protein needs. Kidding. Or am I.
I’m the only one up, everyone else is still tucked away in ‘bed’. It’s my turn to run the system checks. We only have to do this every 500 days, unless word comes through that they’ve found it — if that happens we all get up.
Because all our communications are pre-recorded we don’t really have to worry about any lengthy lag, the messages are just there ready for us when we get up. The sunlight though, it has diminished entirely. ‘Our’ Sun is now just a star like all others, including the one we are headed for.
Ok, technically, we aren’t headed for a star, but a planet. The catch being that they haven’t actually discovered the planet yet, the technology required for that wasn’t around when we launched, and apparently — 4000 days later — it still isn’t around.
All systems are functional. Back to ‘bed’. Onward to wherever we are headed.
“The green cylinder. On the other side of the room.”
There was significant static on the intercom, however, the instruction was crystal clear.
“Break it open.”
That didn’t seem like the most brilliant idea, especially given the past events at this particular facility.
However, this was no mere suggestion, it was a demand.
They landed on April 7, just before dawn. There had been no warning, no hint at all that this was coming. We weren’t prepared, but they were. Coming in from the south-east was the last thing any of us were anticipating.
Since then they’ve moved swiftly along the coast as far west as Texas, and north towards Georgia. They’ve seized control of 5 states, with their efforts currently concentrated on making it to the makeshift capital in Chicago.
When the first pod of whales beached themselves no one really thought much of it. When, two weeks later, a second pod beached themselves several hundred miles south, again, no one thought much of it.
That was 8 months ago. Now, not only are the beachings a daily – world-wide – occurrence, they aren’t limited just to whales.
There have been several reports of dolphins, sharks, and in some instances giant squid.
Initially scientists had suspected that it was the result of climate change or rising pollution. However, after months of testing and analysis on the deceased sea creatures they found no evidence supporting that theory.
They had come to one conclusion – they weren’t simply beaching themselves they were trying to escape from something…
As the elevator ground to a halt the doors slid open behind them. It had been so dark when they entered they hadn’t noticed the alternate set of doors.
Stepping out into a barely lit corridor the doors swiftly shut behind them, about 20 metres ahead of them a corner that hid an occasional flicker.
The corridor was completely empty – at least leading up the corner – they set off in single file. Those with weapons had them drawn. Just in case.
Reaching the corner Miles, the self designated leader, went first. What he found was a whole lot of nothing, he motioned for the rest to follow him.
They had no other choice, the elevator had closed and there were no controls to call it back again.
Rounding the corner they were greeted by more corridor, devoid of all features aside from a pair of flickering fluorescent lights about half way down that provided intermittent illumination.
We both know that you know where they are.
Where can I find Zenith?
“I know what you said, but this is not over. We need you back at the bunker. Now.”
Upon entering, Oliver immediately sees an imposing – unknown – figure standing at the centre console.
“Where is she?!”, bow drawn, and aimed.
“Felicity is fine, she doesn’t even know you’re here. Nor do the others.“
“I am not your enemy Mr Queen,” raising his hand, but still facing away, “believe it or not, we’re a lot alike, you and I.”
“Enough with the riddles! Who are you!”, Oliver lets fly an arrow, striking the screen to the man’s left.
“They said you had trust issues,” the man replies, casually reaching down, plucking the arrow from the screen to examine it. “They also said you don’t miss… You make these yourself?”
“I don’t miss. WHO ARE YOU!“
The figure slowly turning to face Oliver,
“My name is Bruce, and I need your help.”
Before them stood a wall of screens with a single command console located off to the left hand side of the room. They appeared to be displaying surveillance feeds. The video quality was grainy and monochrome, this room had been here for years. A hundred windows into a hundred different worlds.
“254,” Miles bluntly observed, “It’s a grid, A1 through P16. 256 screens, but C7 and G13 seem to be off.”
From the entry the source of the feeds wasn’t immediately clear, nor was it obvious who was being monitored. Were these commercial security feeds? Finance? Government?
Moving closer to see that each had a counter increasing rapidly in the top right hand corner. But counting up from what? It wasn’t counting seconds, maybe milliseconds? With no other dates or times visible, the group initially assumed the feeds were live.
That assumption was wrong, well, half wrong. To this point David hadn’t said anything to anyone aside from the brief – forced – introductions when they’d entered the tunnels a few hours earlier.
From towards the back of the group David finally spoke up, slowly gesturing to the screens in the upper right hand corner.
“That… I. I think that’s me…”
A sunlit afternoon, my younger self chasing a familiar yet distant face through the tall grass overlooking the sea. This feels like a memory, but I know that it’s not. I dream so rarely that it’s usually easy to tell when my mind has escaped reality.
Right now in this moment I’m about 12. I haven’t actually been 12 for decades. And possibly I haven’t felt this free for just as long.
Nothing seems to matter, no consequences, no expectations, no judgement. There are other people around, they don’t see us or simply don’t care, it doesn’t matter which. Relaxed, free, comfortable, all the things missing from everyday life.
Upon arrival they sat, impatiently, in the van as the gates to the compound slowly opened. The journey had been slow, in the same way a long afternoon at work is slow, although in reality it had only taken a little over an hour.
There was still an uncomfortable feeling lingering within the group, unsure if they had been successful. Sure, they heard – and felt – the blast, but the haste with which they had left meant that the charge hadn’t been set in the location that had originally been planned.
It would likely be a couple of days before they knew for certain if it had worked.
Charles, only five-nine, but built like a tree and dressed head-to-toe in black tactical gear.
Handguns holstered on each leg, a small knife strapped to one ankle, and two of the biggest machetes I’d ever seen – one hanging over each shoulder.
Honestly, given the stories I’d heard, I was expecting more guns, but I had a reasonably strong feeling that the machetes weren’t just for decoration.
We hadn’t been told her first name, and none of us were particularly eager – or game – to ask… so ’Charles’ it was, and Charles meant business.
I’d tell you how all this started if I actually knew. All I have are rumours and tall tales. Everything from a bad business deal, to the assassination of some high ranking official.
Whatever it was resulted in all communications from the government ceasing, it’s as though they no longer exist. However we know that’s probably not the case, as someone had to have given the order for the national guard to step in.
Even with this in mind, and knowing they only had about a hundred metres between themselves and relative safety, the next few minutes would not be without obstacles.
Thus far they’d been sticking to the side-streets to avoid drawing the attention of the guard posts that had been set up along the main strip.
This itself wasn’t as simple as it sounds, as most of these side streets had been cut or blocked off in some way – and moving or getting around these blocks quietly wasn’t the easiest thing to do.
Beyond the flickering a red, softly pulsating, light. Below the light a door. Even from this distance it looked heavy, and very locked, but it was still a door.
Above the door an understated sign.