The ringing of the gunshot reverberated violently for a long while after Jess’ body had hit the wall and crumpled to the ground. It still rang as the trickle of water that ran through the cave’s floor diluted the blood that began pumping from the hole in Jess’ face, giving the water a slightly pink tinge for a time. Cal retched slightly, bile burning the back of his throat as a clump of grey brain-matter detached itself from the cave’s far wall and made a hideous plopping sound on the damp stone floor. He regained some composure, straightened up, turning from what he’d done and placed the barrel of the gun to the side of his own temple. Now remember he thought, his own voice loud in his head over the deafening whine of the aftermath of the blast. Silence reined, save for the faint drilling of the rain from outside and the rush of water. Before you pull this trigger, Cal’s voice was stern with his own mind which you will do; which you swore you would do. Remember for the last time why…
He saw the desolate sand flats of a long time ago; the grey sea that spread ruthlessly into the horizon and the white vapour mist of a childhood Febraury. He saw the gaping blackness of the caves in the base of the cliffs and smelled the heavy stench of salt water and warm rubber from his cagoule and boots; somewhere his father was talking about the cold months being the best time for visiting the beach and his mother’s high laugh. This could have been a different time, but he associated it with his excursions into the gaping mouths of the caves. Pressing the gun barrel harder into his temple, he remembered the fear that had quaked inside him as he had stepped further and further into the grinning black mouth of that sea cave; the reek of rotten seaweed that had nearly turned him back, the squelch of his wellingtons in the sodden sand and the vivid green slime that hung from the walls. Remember. Cal was kneeling now, just like back then, when the darkness of the cave had, like the smell, almost forced him back, conjuring a primeval, instinctive trepidation where the waves’ echoes roared. Remember. He thought he had reached the back of the cave, the furthest he’d ever dared in those salt-crusted rock jaws and what was it he had seen? An arch, a semi-circular gap in the base of the rock that would have been missed ninety nine times out of a hundred visits to the back of this reeking darkness. The arch crowned a hole in the black stone, the size of a boy’s fist and the stench from the cave said turn back, turn back because holes like this were the perfect size for inquisitive hands to reach through; inquisitive hands that would have missed a hole like this ninety nine times out of a hundred visits but who now would reach through, with no regard for what might reach back. Remember, the anticipation and strange excitement as he had pushed his hand into that gap in the rock; almost feeling the leathery claws that were sure to grasp him clammily and hold him there till the unrelenting tide came surging into the cave and ground his bones against the stone. There was a humming in his ears, born from the adrenaline that roared in his ears as his hand reached through that hole and closed around the cool, smooth angles of something that felt ancient, but that definitely reached back and held him tight, its fist closing around his mind.
Deep in the cave beneath the forest, next to jess’ crumpled body, Cal remembered for the last time, what he had seen when he had held that crystal, when his mind had dissolved away from the dank dark of that sea cave and spun, neither up nor down, neither one side nor another, neither in nor out but hummed with suck breakneck speed. He remembered, before he pulled the trigger what he had seen…and what had come back with him. With an audible cry of a mixture between fear and hopeless, frustrated agony, Cal pulled the trigger, the sound of the shot echoing madly once more through the cave.
* * *
Erik and Louis stood together, beneath the high, rocky knoll that had been risen in the midst of the forest, as if someone had squeezed that land around it, trying to burst a pimple. They had both ascended the slippery metal surface that was the intact end of the ruptured saucer-shaped craft that still lay, smoking where it had collided with the ground upon impact, a trail of smashed and uprooted trees bore a trail of destruction in its wake. Standing still, on the roof of the craft, beneath the perfect dark of the night sky, they looked at each other but neither had the words to express the desire that had drawn them as they carefully descended into the ragged rip in the craft’s top. They both felt the end coming now, it perched between them, a tattered, silent bird.
Inside the ship, it was warm and smelled almost sweet, fresh plastic instead of the toxic, burning smell that was thick in the night air outside. The walls and floor were smooth silver that felt disconcertingly solid beneath their feet, like stone. It was disconcertingly dark, compared to the eerie illumination outside, with long shadows that ran from the circular proportions of the craft’s edges. There were no hard angles anywhere and nothing that could be described as a door. A gaping archway led from the circular room they had glimpsed from outside but through which was only pitch black shadow. On the other side, where the craft had buckled against the rock, was just torn and folded petrol-coloured metal. Despite the hole in the roof, the air inside the craft was tight and thin, like the air at altitude. Moving slowly, automatically, both Louis and Erik drifted toward an inverted tripod of silver stools that faced a quartet of black, oval screens, breaking up the solid silver of the craft’s innards. If either Erik or Louis was in full control of their own wonderment at what was happening, neither was capable of showing it. Both their gate was the heavy, bemused trudge of the somnambulist, and they did not speak, only breathe, slow and heavily.
The sudden sight of another one of the undersized panthers they had glimpsed in the trees outside, slapped at Erik’s consciousness. This one, however was clearly severely crippled, if not dead and was slumped in the corner of the room beneath a larger black screen, legs tucked beneath its body, its jaws open and tongue lolling out. With a leaden hand, Erik rubbed his eyes and grasped at Louis’ shoulder. Louis gave a gruff grunt and shook him off, but Erik was determined.
“Louis!” His voice sounded muffled in the heavy, sweet-tinged darkness of the craft. “Get with it…look!”
Louis grunted again and turned. As soon as his heavy eyes alighted on the cat, he gave a strangled cry and grabbed at Erik’s arm.
“What’s it doing in here, Erik? What is it?”
As if answering, the cat moved, both Erik and Louis gave a cry and stepped back; but the cat hadn’t moved…it had…flickered…the heavy, thin air was sapping at Erik and despite his fear, he felt tiredness heaving at his consciousness….this felt like a dream. The cat flickered again and its entire form changed shape, dissolving instantly into a plethora of tiny square blocks and swiftly back again like a bad television signal.
“I need to sit down….” Louis murmured, his eyes heavy.
The cat flickered again, this time neither Louis nor Erik could jump; it became a mishmash of squares before reforming into a repulsive, white coil of legs and antennae, the closest he could conceive was a hideously oversized, albino centipede. Louis covered his face and began to cry, his sobs interspersed with girlish, terrified shrieks that raised the hair on Erik’s arms. Erik could hear a faint trail of insanity creeping into his voice, the sound of it terrified him.
“Make it stop, Erik…please…I can’t take it any more.”
The sight of the hideous insect-like thing caused a final surge of adrenaline to beat through Erik and he took a step forward, his mind lurching horribly.
“Stop it!” he screamed at the flickering, pale coils of the creature, “What the fuck are you? What do you want?”
Another flicker and the centipede became a blur; the blocks raced, deleting and rebuilding themselves madly and then beginning to form a crumpled, pale human. Dressed in a skin-tight silver suit that covered its feet and hands, it was hard to tell whether it was a man or a woman. It was curled at a horrible angle into the corner of the craft, straggling blonde hair that was soaked in blood covered its face and both legs were useless beneath it. With one working arm, it propped itself up from its heap on the floor and stared at Louis and Erik. It did not open its mouth, but both heard a gasping, fluid-soaked voice, loud inside their heads.
Blood was trickling down its chin and the silver-clad human kept flickering like that cat and the centipede had done. Its eyes were black and they bored malevolently into Louis and Erik. Both felt the maliciousness pouring from the dying form in front of them. Neither wanted to look. The voice spoke again.
“The screens…look…before you’re too late…”
The end fluttered between them again and with a final glance at each other, Louis and Erik turned from the flickering creature and into the screens of the crumpled craft.
What Cal had seen when he was a boy, what Jess had seen when she too, had held the smooth, purple crystal on both hands, now appeared to Erik and Louis. Louis and Erik were not children; they saw everything.
First of all, they were filled with a strange pain, a steady ache in the front of their heads; the screens in front of them were blank but neither could turn their gaze from the blackness that stared hard, deep inside them. When the pain nearly became too much to handle, the darkness dissolved to a new reality that held them steady in its cruel embrace.
A pale light over a rocky, barren landscape; no flora grows under the dim skies, only the rock that holds deep and strong for miles into the earth. The rock of this world, like a relentless fortress of twisted battlements hides the entry and exit points for that which dwells beneath the stone. Deep beneath the rock, in the blackness of the centre of this world, the coloured crystals form. Like a bloated mass of writhing light, something floats over the grim face of this world, it shines a hideous deadlight, all colours, it knows nothing but hate, greed, it desires nothing but power. Beneath the rock, at the bidding of the swollen light, burrows the life of this world; white coiled ones with legs and antennae; armour-plated foot soldiers that burrow and build to stretch the hand of their hatred to the furthest reaches of the sky. Under the command of their swollen god, they shape the crystals with their hungry mouths; the crystals bring others to them; the crystals bring them to others. The crystals form from their millennia of hatred, from the remains of their dead and the excrement filled with those they have devoured. They build the silent craft that hang in the skies above the worlds they have conquered. This is what they know, this is all they will ever know. They will wait silent and patient above the worlds they covet, they will use their crystals to pitch life against life until everything is destroyed and they will feast upon the dead. They will not relent, they will not be stopped, they will feed the festering deadlight of their master until the universe is consumed and fades into an eternal darkness.
There is no mercy, no profound reasoning that is so common to your species; your world was just another world that got in their way. That is all, that is all it will ever be.
Louis and Erik sat together in the final light of planet earth before that too, faded to darkness and was no more.
The Fringe is open to submissions of poetry, flash fiction and short stories of any genre. Stories accepted will be published online in our Ezine and also in the monthly pdf magazine.
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We are open to unpublished and previously published stories up to 40,000 words in length.
About The Fringe Magazine
Here at The Fringe Magazine we publish Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Poetry in all genres and reviews of books, roleplay games, music and movies.
Our variety seems to be hiting the mark with over 100,000 views of our Online Magazine with a good spread across all articles.
Our variety seems to be hiting the mark with over 100,000 views of our Online Magazine with a good spread across all articles.?xml:namespace>From surveys we've conducted, our readers are like most people and enjoy reading all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction.
With over 350 readers visiting our site each day, we listen to the voice of the masses and try and procure books in all genres to review. To date, we have reviewed over 600 books, including; non-fiction reference, music, art, photography, gardening, cooking, Self Help, architecture, design, biographies and roleplay games.
We also review fiction in all genres; Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance, Horror, Crime, Thriller, Comedy, Western. We also publish Author Interviews, Paintings, Sketches, Art Work, Art Work by Susie Wilson, and non-fiction articles. The only thing you won't find at The Fringe Magazine is a bad review, if we don't like something, we won't put up a review at all.
You will also find music and dvd reviews and the occasional interview with musicians and actors.
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