The Pyramids Of Mars

Our ship finally docked after a two-year journey. We left our cryogenic pods, muscles sore after a nearly endless hibernation. An attendant took us from the ship to the station where we would be staying. Through the glass tube, they called this the red planet as everything that covered it was a shade of rust; the blood-iron soil joined the scarlet sky.

They brought me here to study the channels. A vast tunnel network on the surface of Mars a result of melting ice. I glanced at the landscape in the distance, towering triangular structures. Supposedly they were natural phenomena, but the channels fed to them.

He led me back to my corridor and gave me a prepared meal along with some purified water. It was simple and freeze-dried, but the most I had eaten in months. They would give me twenty-four hours to acclimate, but my first mission was tomorrow. I would study the channels near the network of pyramids.

Sick of sleep, I went to the gymnasium at the station. It feltgreat to exercise and move the stiffness out of my body, even if a freezing two-minute shower followed.

I left refreshed and mingled with the crew of the space station. The station held people from all nations. I had advanced knowledge of geology was preparing to take soil and mineral samples. Perhaps I would be lucky enough to find a source of water in this place.

When I told people I was going through the channels later that day, they fell silent. Some told me to be careful and warned me of hazards. One of the chief scientists pulled me aside and said the last geologist at the channels had met an untimely demise. He went into gruesome detail about how he removed his helmet and his eyes removed. The medical staff believed he had a mental break, that he couldn’t adjust to the new environment.

The chief said I could have an extra day to adjust and see a therapist if needed. I told him I had spent two years cramped on a shuttle and did not care to spend my time on a cramped Martian station. I told him I would let him know if anything unusual happened on the channels. I shirked this off; I felt perfectly fine and needed to get outside.

We left only a few hours later. The rover would take over an hour to reach the channels. I left with a fellow geologist in a passenger rover that steadily made its way toward the pyramids.

The sky gleamed overhead in shades of orange, vermillion, and scarlet, shot with millions of stars. Immense mountains loomed in the distance, shadows stretching for eternity. Despite the fiery colors, the air was freezing enough to sense through my spacesuit. I wiggled my fingers and toes, activating the thermal device that warmed them instantly.

After an hour, the rover stopped, and we got out and went to our work. I took small, glass vials and filled them with the red soil. I was so immersed in my work that I did not hear the panicked screams of my partner. I didn’t notice the massive dust storm until it was too late.

Lightning coursed through the dust as silt pelted me. I leaned against the howling wind until I came to the base of the pyramid. Hunkering down, I hoped I would have enough shelter to survive.

Something tapped my shoulder and turned around, thinking it was my partner. Instead, a pale creature with huge indigo eyes stood in front of me. It spoke to me and I listened to its words. They reverberated through me and I was at one with everything.
I understood the meaning of the universe and of God. Mars, Earth, the entire universe seemed so tiny. I understood greatness beyond measure spoken through the words of this being. It solved hunger, ended violence, greed, brought peace to all of humanity. I listened to its words. The storm ended, leaving a vast array of stars in a crimson sky, all aligned perfectly.

The creature walked away and stopped speaking, vanishing into the red earth. Sickly human flesh surrounded me, its animal smell filling my nose. I tried to remember the greatness that is bestowed on me, but it left my mind like water flowing out of a stream.

My body was slowly rotting, and I smelled nothing but death and decay, the weakness of humanity, and my own crippling ignorance. I wanted to tear off my helmet and gulp in the helium air until I no longer existed, to gouge my eyes out to not see the muted colors. Oh, how I wish I had listened.

But now I’m here in this room of white padded walls until the next ship comes to fetch me. They are no longer sending people to the channels as it causes mental instability I just wish I remembered what the being told me. I could fix us all if I remembered what it told me. The stars will come right and I will remember everything it showed me and I will be God.

Enter The Void

“Come on in and sit down next to the fire. It must be freezing out in the void. Here, I’ll make us a nice cup of tea to ward off the chill.

You must be wondering where you are and how you got here. Do you remember tending to the garden with your youngest grandchild in the hot sun? The glass of iced tea in front of you before the sun turned frigid?

I know you’re in shock. Heatstroke is a sudden way to get here, but not the worst way, mind you. Your family loves you very much and is thinking of you now, but you have lived a long and full life, and it’s time to move on from this one.

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but there is no heaven, no hell either, mind you, at least not in the way they taught you. When you are ready, you will move on to the next life. I hope you are as kind in the next life as you were in this one.

Ah, what of evil people? Evil, or rather, misguided people, take far longer to move onto the next life. They spend eons wandering the cold and the dark before they ever find me. Some never do. You return to the world, and if you work to make it a beautiful place, eventually it will become a heaven or nirvana. However, if you fail to love each other or stop the evil of your world, I can see everything burning in the fire.

It is a journey that never ends. Me, I’m only the caretaker of this void, tending the spirit until you return. So take your time, say goodbye to your family, you can return when you’re ready to move on.

I wish you the best of luck when you do.”

Cruelty

Cruelty

Sarah J. Herbison

Cruelty was created when we turned our backs. We gave the monster anything it wanted to stop its cries, so we could enjoy the silence. When the little girl came to us with a scraped knee and a black eye, we rolled our eyes. Children will be children, after all. The creature screamed at a homeless man to get a job, not knowing he had lost his the previous month. It found a home on the web and twisted the truth for the common man.

Cruelty is the beast we create to keep us distant and ignorant, safe even. It has been with us since the dawn of nature. But beware, this monster can turn on any one of us in the blink of an eye.

Imagine yourself sleeping on the cold pavement as a stranger kicks you. Is your job so secure? Or the person in a war-torn country, walls being ripped from you as another bomb falls, dodging bullets on a daily basis. As the woman who hears disgusting things screamed on the street, just for walking home at night. You can either be part of this beast or you can defeat the monster.

First, it appears subtly, in-jokes or passing comments, this is the best time to kill the beast before cruelty grows and takes over.

Kindness can always fight cruelty, but when defeated, the beast always returns for another bite.

The Holder of Media

In any city or any town, go to the area of the strongest internet connection.  On the internet search for the most popular site and in its search bar type in The Holder Of Media. 

If you are in a rural area with no internet connection, go to the nearest radio or television station. Speak to the broadcaster and ask for the Holder of Media. The broadcaster will lead you to a room stacked floor to ceiling with cathode ray television sets. 

You will hear millions of people screaming at the same volume. You must not listen to these screams. Millions of websites will overwhelm you at once, you must not pay attention.

Buzzing static will replace the cacophony and the stream with fade to television static. Glare into the snow of television and a being made from static will emerge. 

You must not take your eyes off of the creature, if you do, your eardrums will burst and sharp needles will stab out your eyes. It will cut your tongue out and you will be sightless, voiceless, and deaf for eternity.

The creature will give you a modem if you used the internet, and an antenna if not. Item 539 and 540. You may use these devices , they will connect with speed to any site and every channel. However, it will occasionally direct to scenes of torture, death, and unspeakable horror. 

The Box

Jennifer Clary worked at Regan National Airport as a security guard.  One of the many airports in the D.C. and Baltimore area.  It was a year after the 9/11 attacks, and like all other airports, it was on tight security.

Jennifer found a huge wooden box in the waiting area while on her daily patrol. A large suitcase in an airport is usually no cause for alarm, but this was a hulking, ornate trunk with odd symbols carved into the wood.

Jennifer asked the TSA agents if they saw anyone who checked in with the chest and if any of them cleared it through security. None of them remembered the trunk or anyone checking in with it.

The box beamed with a scarlet light, making the carved sigils glow, black tendrils snaked out the lid, and a low voice whispered from the box:

They summoned me a year ago, with fear and blood. I will feed upon ruin and use man’s hatred to turn this nation to ash.

“Clary, I’m going to need to call the bomb squad over to take the box.”

She nearly jumped out of her skin and grabbed her taser. She turned, and Officer Mullins stood behind her. A serious old man with a tight buzz-cut.

“Yes, Sir,” nodded Jennifer.

She glanced behind her. The inky shadows and crimson light had disappeared.

“You need to cordon off the area. I’ll clear the rest of the building,” said Mullins.

Jennifer went to work clearing the few people in the waiting area. She put yellow security tape and waited for the bomb squad to come and take the box out.

Once again,  the box glowed scarlet and dark vines came back and snaked over the box. Something in the trunk pounded to get out as black flies buzzed around the trunk. A scream caught in her throat as one of the black tendrils curled around her ankle.

Security cleared out the rest of the airport when the bomb squad came. Sweat had soaked through Jennifer’s uniform, and her heart pounded.

As a technician examined the trunk as the inky tendrils wrapped around him, pulling him to the ground.  Coughing violently, he fell to the floor, writhing in pain. The rest of the squad backed off, and an EMT ushered Jennifer out of the building.

They went outside into the crisp October air. Police and emergency vehicles surrounded the airport. Media vans with news anchors were outside reading statements about a bioweapon left at Regan National Airport.

A hazmat crew from Fort Detrick rushed towards the box and quickly ran it out of the building. The creature inside laughed maniacally.

A young EMT hurried Jennifer to an ambulance, where they checked her for poisoning and signs of illness. The doctor was cold and exacting. He told her to stay home in quarantine for the next week. He told her to call immediately on the onset of symptoms.

Jennifer went to her small Nissan and waited in the traffic, ready to leave the airport. She dialed the knob through static and found a news station. The lead technician of the bomb squad had died of some mysterious poisoning or bioweapon. There were reports of another biological attack with Anthrax, though Anthrax didn’t kill that quickly. A hazmat crew came to clean out the entire airport and closed Regan National to the public for the rest of the month. News anchors reported the incident as a terrorist attack.  The National Gaurd would take over airport security until everything calmed down.

Jennifer clicked off the radio, her car clearing through the gridlock. Relieved she was finally going home. She still felt the tendrils around her ankle, writhing around and reaching into her veins. She would call the Doctor tomorrow. All she wanted to do was to leave the chaos and rest.

I live in the hatred of humanity. I am the beast that feeds on darkness and hatred. You can not rid me so easily once I have touched you.

Jennifer’s skin chilled to gooseflesh as the words echoed in her head. She pulled into a local Shell Station to collect herself. After a few deep breaths, she went to the register to buy gas and some hot cinnamon coffee to chase away the chill.

Chimes on the door played pleasantly as she left the station. As she walked to her car, tremendous pressure knocked her off her feet. Her blue blouse became deep crimson with blood, and her breath turned into labored, whistling gasps for air.

The bullet had hit her out of nowhere. The scarlet light returned, and vines enveloped her body, pulling her underneath the ground.  Everything faded away to a dull, throbbing red and then to black.