The ground shook under Carlos’ boots as he pounded down the rocky obsidian path.
His teenage daughter raced him past the first house-sized monster, her eyes wild with fear as she fled its shiny pink bulk.
He peered over his shoulder, back at the terrible golden light dawning from the ancient chest they’d found. The treasure of a lifetime. No, the treasure of legend, hidden in a secret cave, under a mountain at the bottom of the world.
Then the mountain had exploded, a shockwave of terror spreading outward at the speed of sound.
“Ashley, what did you do?” he gasped, the heat and ash in the air robbing his throat of all moisture. “What was in your mind when you gazed into the light?”
She turned to answer. Her eyes grew wide. “Look out!” Ashley pushed her father to the ground as an enormous orange mouth slammed to earth nearby. Mad, unseeing eyes glared above the minivan-sized muzzle.
“I should have known, the Ark’s power is in our vices,” he said, hauling himself to his feet, dragging Ashley after him.
“What are you talking about, Dad? Oh no! Yellow incoming! Run!”
The scent of brimstone filled the air, along with the chemical tang of fried plastic. As quick as it chomped the path ahead, the yellow maw rose again and shot toward them.
Carlos tackled his daughter this time, and rolled with her under the open mouth. Teeth surrounded them, falling, but the momentum of their roll carried them out from underneath the monster with no room to spare.
Ashley screamed, her souvenir chamanto poncho caught in its teeth.
Carlos dragged at her feet until she pulled free of the garment. Together, they hurtled down the path, surrounded on both sides by streams of oozing lava.
“That was close!” cried Ashley.
“When you opened the box, what were you thinking of?”
She shook her head. “What? I dunno! Can’t we talk after we get out of here?”
Despite the mortal danger, Carlos persisted. “It had to be the Ark’s doing, but it needed a catalyst.”
“Well,” she said, dodging a small alabaster boulder, “we skipped lunch today, and–“
“That’s it! It all makes sense now. Gluttony!”
Ashley screamed as a new horror burst from the ground in the path ahead, its shiny green bulk blocked their way to salvation. The staring headlight eyes fixed upon the two of them. The creature’s mouth rose into the air, its neck extending, overtaking them even as they backpedaled.
Yellow reared up behind them, trapping them. The air filled with the unearthly roar of the behemoths, now in all four directions.
Carlos could no longer shield his daughter, so he picked up the pearly rock and held it over his head with both hands and hurled it to one side. A ghastly crash followed as massive plastic mouths warred over the stone morsel.
“You did it, Dad! The hippos went for it! But why?”
“They’re hungry. Too hungry. It was their doom.”
I walk following the American up the path toward the summit.
He stops, and reaching into his pocket pulls out another candy bar, ripping open the end of the packet with his teeth and spitting it onto the warm lava rock at the side of the path.
“This is the way she came?” He asks between huge mouthfuls. Fine flecks of spittle fly from between his teeth as he talks. “The night she…you know.”
I nod. For a moment I stand there remembering Sarah. The way the light of the fire danced across her pale skin in the night. Her intoxicating laugh. The flirtatious way she looked across the camp fire at me after she’d had one too many drinks. I couldn’t think what she saw in him.
“I have done this six times before,” I reply, “It is the way she came.”
The American finishes his candy bar, the sixth one he’s had so far. The journey had been quicker with her. He drops the wrapper at the side of the path, desecrating the Earth beneath his feet. Gluttonous fool.
“Why do they come here?” He asks.
“Mostly they are thrill seekers,” I reply. “Some believe they are walking a fiery path to the Ark of the Covenant. They walk to the crater’s very edge and stare into the abyss.”
“Is it safe?”
I yaw my hand side to side at the American. “There have been six tourists go missing in recent months, including your girlfriend Senor. Some say its bandits, stealing their foreign money. Some in my village say we shouldn’t be encouraging the tourists, it disrespects our gods and makes the mountain angry. They fear the volcano, but for me, it is what I must do. This is my path to salvation.”
“Is that what Sarah was seeking?”
My memory returns to Sarah. Placing the necklace of wild flowers over her shoulders. The lust that shone in her eyes underneath the stars, her soft naked breasts smelling of the wild Inca Lilies.
“No”, I reply. “She sought something else.”
After several hours we each the crater’s edge. The American removes his pack and sits down. I reminisce over Sarah. The way her eyes burned as she stared into the wrath of the fire below. The memory is as intense as the smell of wildflowers against her soft skin. Those same eyes widening into dark craters themselves, burning with fear and betrayal back at me. I look down at the fading scratches on my forearm where she had tried to cling on, but hadn’t realized what was happening until too late.
The American mops his fat sweaty brow with a handkerchief. For a long time he is silent. I wonder if he is going to cry, but even now he soils her memory by reaching into his pack and pulling out another candy bar.
In a way mine too.
Finally he stands again, in front of me, and takes step forward to peer over the edge.
Creeds and Oaths
Mathew W. Weaver
We were five, now.
The flames danced, molten lava on either side of the narrow chasm. Ahead was the stairway, salvation. Behind us the floor crumbed, walls collapsed, ceilings crashing over the bodies of our fallen.
Brothers, we had been. Thirty knights in arms, ready to offer our lives for duty. Honor. Sacrifice.
Those words once had meaning.
Markus and Ahab still stood, bleeding but not broken. Alastar kept them from joining me, holding them at bay with his halberd as the precious minutes waned.
Rhyon’s broad-axe whined, chipping my shield with each shuddering impact, knocking me backwards with every swing. His eyes were no longer his; his teeth bared in a feral snarl.
“They were our BROTHERS!” I roared.
“They WERE my brothers!” he bellowed. My shield shattered, throwing me to the ground. My sword was drawn, but I would not stain it with the blood of my Order. Not even now.
“You would see God’s wrath rain down on us?” I cried, “You would have the earth erupt in fire, mankind punished for YOUR sins?”
Sparks flew as the axe blade met stone inches from my head.
“The Ark is MINE! Its riches are MY right!”
“You KILLED for it!”
“And I WILL KILL AGAIN!”
I ducked as the axe passed over my head. Markus cried out, and I saw crimson run down his side. He staggered, losing his grip on the mace as Alastar swung again.
Ahab screamed, and his voice joined with the one in my head as I watched his sister’s son fall into the abyss. A gout of flame rose to greet him, and Alastar had already begun to finish what he started.
“Hubris, Rhyon!” I cried, “You’ve fallen prey to your Greed!”
His axe met my sword, nearly wrenching it out of my grasp. I saw his mailed fist come, and I dodged, spun, and drove the hilt of my sword into the side of his head. The blow hit true, and he stumbled away.
“You will not kill me,” he snarled, “Even now, when all Creeds and Oaths have no meaning. At the cusp of immortality, at the dawn of the Final Age, you, Elethor Farstrider, dare not do what has to be done. That is why I will win.”
Ahab missed his parry, and Alastar drove the halberd into him. I watched the light leave his eyes, and Alastar released the handle, letting him fall.
Beneath the mountains of Gel Duror, thirty Knights had become three. And as I let my sword fall, as the axe took me across the chest and threw me down, I watched the sky lighten through the crater far, far above us.
“You shall not have the Ark, brother,” I whispered as he stood over me, axe dripping my blood, “You forgot how little time there was till sunrise.”
Understanding dawned, and he left me, running to the bridge even as it began to crumble, the sunlight beaming down into the cavern.
It was too late. The ground collapsed, and we fell, their screams in my ears.
A time clock
Told from POV of an alien on the planet Nibiru, as the Nibiru enters our solar system.
Nibiru technology is no greater or worse than Earth’s.
Alis Van Doorn
Never, ever, in the history of the solar system, has a creature been more tried and bedeviled than I, Percy Hazelwood Lieder. And really, do I look like I want to be training a young snapper whip in the delicate intricacies of confusing and obfuscating the very fact of us, do I, do I, do I?
No, in fact, I do not. Really at a time when I should be resting on my distinguished antlers, contemplating my glorious retirement, basking in the admiration of all and now this, now this, now this!
“Uh, Commander Lieder…”
“Don’t call me Commander! I am not a Commander, I am CEO of a private arms firm! Far more important than a measly Commander!”
“Now, what is it?”
“Uh, Sir, it’s just that I was wondering if you could tell me what the Sapiens are eating in this satellite imaging view. It looks so good.”
“Oh good God! Really, Really, Really?”
“It’s ice cream, you cretin wannabe!”
“Now get back to your obscuring channel, and make damn sure they can’t see us until I say so! Which will be just shy of ten minutes too late for them, for them, for them!”
“Uh, Sir…Lieder, I was wondering when we get there, do you think I’ll get a chance to try some of that ice cream stuff? Its looks so tasty, I bet I could eat about a gallon!”
I took a deep sigh, reminded myself that the end goal was all that mattered; that and the fact that my entire retirement, my ‘Golden Parachute’ was conditional on the successful completion of that goal. Patience, that’s what I needed.
“Look young Leonis, if you don’t want to be punching a time clock in solitary splendor, all by yourself on Outpost Wastespace, till the end of your days, you’ll immediately return to your station and do your job. Which, I repeat, is to obscure Nibiru’s presence until the exact moment I give you the order to clarify. Too early, and we land there with no destruction of the sapiens. Too late and we destroy the whole planet. Which, again, I remind you, we must have intact with no sapiens in order to colonize. We clearly don’t have time to start over with an entire new infrastructure. And in order for my company to profit, with the penal colony we intend to export, by arming them to the teeth, we can’t have any sapiens there interfering with all that compassion crap. And this is what my beloved, lusted after, waited for, Golden Parachute rests on. Capiche?”
“Uh yes, Sir Percy. Clear. But, I was just wondering, have you ever had ice cream?”
Naturally, I screamed at the idiot: You can certainly see why, no, no, no?
15 minutes to go, go, go….and What the Feather of an Alien’s Ass……?
“Leonis”, I roared…
“I’m sorry Sir, I mean Percy Hazelwood Lieder….but I really, really wanted some ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!”
I am transmitting this while our planet is on a merging pattern with the planet earth. Although we have made all logical contingency plans, it is not certain how much of our technology will survive in the event of a direct impact; postponed telepathy is our chosen method of communication for the benefit of all. Telepathy has been the main contact with earth; a lot of them have the ability, and have agreed Nibiru is the more likely planet to survive.
We have made use of the large crater at our Southern pole, and have filled it with ice-cream, which, mixed with the salts in the sand, should fulfill their nutritional needs.
Our first guest has arrived: A comet-dwelling being, named Philae. It was a successful landing, despite his immense size. Philae was equipped with a parachute to slow the fall. We don’t recognise his exact species, but he has been helping us with the preparations to accept the remaining nine billion evacuees. Philae thinks the Earth-dwellers are fairly robust, and we have communicated the details they need to time the main leap.
Philae informed us the mammals on Earth spend 33% of their time in a horizontal torpor and 66% vertically inclined; punching a time-clock takes up the remaining 1%, and he believes this facilitates the transition between the two states. He is not certain how many of them realize what is about to happen. They sound similar to the mammals we used to have on Niburu, and are already running out of food. Their crops are already starting to fail, and the pollen is getting a strange taste, similar to what we experienced here. Philae claims that the mammals built his exoskeleton, but we still haven’t confirmed this. A movable hive seems like a sensible solution, but further investigation is required.
Impact has been announced, confirmed to be at the south pole as anticipated. Transferal is in progress, and seems to be successful. The vanilla flavour was a good choice.
Transferal is complete, casualties are minimal. The crater is full and they are forming a huddle, slowly rolling North towards the temperate zones.
The Earth is suffering severely with tectonic compressions and the resulting volcanic activity. The mammals are perishing as predicted. Despite our persistent warnings, they don’t seem to have reacted in any numbers; hopefully enough will survive to re-grow their swarm. The transfer is now complete and we can continue.
Philae has relayed a message of condolence to Earth; the mammals’ technology is very slow, compared to us. He is a good lander; we will try to find him a suitable comet to continue his research.
E. Chris Garrison
The clock kerchunked holes in Rhalf’s timedisk as he started his shift at the Great Telepascope. He passed Saim going the other way. The two exchanged a knowing nod, and Rhalf knew he’d have bags under several of his own eyes before this thirdday was over. Rhalf grabbed a tube of chilled kelp paste, looking forward to its stimulating effects on his skin.
Rhalf made his careful way across the strandwalk, four appendages gripping the cables, never letting go more than two at a time. It wouldn’t do to plunge to his death in the Telepascope’s vast parabolic bowl below. Would it break the budget to supply a safety net or even a parachute? He double-wound a free appendage around the kelp paste, because even a rare telempath like Rhalf could be replaced if he made a mess.
At the center, he greeted Jhain, the medical technician. As he, no, she helped him into the telempathic amplification harness, her touch-taste gave him chills. Jhain had just undergone her second metamorphosis, so Rhalf struggled to use the right pronouns. He’d have to adjust to the new sexual dynamic, too.
“Running outta time, slick stuff,” said Jhain.
“I’ll do my best to warn them, gloweyes!”
Her skin flushed a sweet shade of deep purple, and she left him without another word.
Rhalf closed all but one of his eyes and opened his mind. The Telepascope amplified thoughts and emotions from the inhabited planet ahead. Chaos filled his being. Stress settled into his limbs. His planet, Nibiru, hurtled inward toward the Earthlings’ star, and a catastrophic encounter with their blue world. The tidal forces on all that surface water alone—
Rhalf’s mind connected with one of the aliens’, and he was overwhelmed with its sensations. He touch-tasted the sweet flavor of a cold, highly viscous substance the immature being licked with her tiny olfactory organ. The creature’s mind supplied words: Strawberry ice cream.
Rhalf concentrated on sending a rapid-fire set of images to the Earthling. The creature’s pretty blue world. His char-black world of Nibiru, a rogue planet with no star of its own. The nested orbital ellipses of the other planets in her solar system. The eccentric path Nibiru would take, its perihelion only a few distances greater than Earth’s enormous rocky satellite. Rhalf gave off a sense of alarm, escalating to terror, and filled her head with the putrid touch-scent of the dead.
Then, he sent another thought: Do you understand?
The girl nodded. She demonstrated by hurling her amorphous treat into the face of her maternal parent. Splat!
The larger Earthling slapped one of its appendages against the girl’s posterior. “You know better than that!”
Waves of remorse overwhelmed Rhalf, and he had to break contact. The girl’s wail, through his voice, echoed in the Telepascope’s hollow.
Shaking, Rhalf smeared the cool, stimulating kelp onto his skin. After, his mind returned to scanning the distant thoughts and feelings of Earth. I wonder if kelp could be made in strawberry?
When the Worlds Ended
Mathew W. Weaver
“We’re going to DIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
Not the most encouraging words to hear your president scream out on the podium in front of the United Nations. But you couldn’t blame him, really. Not after the huge sphere ballooned up in the sky and then hurling down in a hail of blazing debris.
Then came the screaming chaos, and the literally world shattering crunch.
I should have been dead; but for some reason, I was dangling uncomfortably on twisted ropes. Above me was an open cloth balloon, and right beside me hung a pink skinned creature with yellow hair and the most offensive body odor I’d had the misfortune of sampling.
My first alien encounter.
We’d screamed for a while; first at each other, then at the endless clouds beneath us, and then for no general reason in particular.
Now that we’d grown tired of screaming, we stared down at the vast blue emptiness beneath us.
It was illogical; maybe I was dead and dreaming. It was hard to accept that the tinfoil wearing Terra Conspiracy activists were right; that Urle really was on a crash collision with a planet they dubbed Terra.
But here I was, sharing a parachute with a Terran who was now clearing his throat uncomfortably.
“Hello,” I ventured.
“Hey,” he swallowed, “I’ve never seen… blue skin… before. I guess you’re from Niburu?”
“Niburu?” I frowned.
“The planet that crashed into ours,” he pointed up.
“Urle,” I corrected, “Yeah. I… I’m from Urle. So, um… you’re Terran?”
“I think you mean human?”
“I suppose so, maybe.”
We both looked away.
“Do you… would you happen to know how we got here?” he asked.
“Last thing I knew, the president ordered a warp drive factor on all available flight capable crafts,” I said, “I think they were plotted to a moon somewhere in the Zebu cluster. I was in my minivan, shifting up.”
I twisted my tentacles nervously.
The Terran reached up to pop his jaw back in.
“Well, the last thing I knew, I was jumping out of a plane,” he said, “That’s when… boom.”
“Maybe my warp drive malfunctioned,” I suggested, “Sent me here instead of… there.”
“That would make sense,” he agreed, “I guess.”
“Why were you jumping out of a plane?”
“Dunno. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
He sniffed, “So this is the end of the world.”
“Worlds,” I corrected.
“Gonna miss it, though,” he sighed, “Booze. Ice cream. Drugs.”
I wiped the corner of my fifth eye.
“I wish I had Dad’s lucky time clock just about now,” I murmured, “Never left home without it.”
“It’s alright. Nothing you could do.”
We lapsed into silence, drifting some more.
“Where d’ you reckon we are?” he wondered.
“Was my first guess.”
“Maybe we warped to some close by planet,”
“Was close to my second guess.”
I looked at him, pale and ugly as he was.
“Well, we’re in this together,” I said.
“For better or worse,” he agreed.
There had to be something beneath those clouds, and my antenna trembled as we descended.