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Author Topic: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread  (Read 8872 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« on: December 01, 2017, 09:51:06 PM »
Alien or Eldritch Artifact


by Arenir

A massive artifact appears all of a sudden and (violently) disrupts the everyday life (of a tribe, a city, a country, the world, ...). It can either be an alien artifact (science fiction) or an eldritch artifact (fantasy). This month, we want you to think big. Something huge happens and humanity (or whoever else) barely (if at all) has time to react. Disruption is the key word and nothing will ever be like it was again.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Disruption through an artifact must play a big role in the story.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close Dec 31th, 2017/Jan 1st, 2018 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
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Offline RobertS

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2017, 02:04:38 AM »
Monkey Bars, 1,374 words.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Five minutes to recess. If only I were magic and could change time. It would be Saturday every single day. Dad wouldn’t have to work and I wouldn’t have to go to school. No that’s a stupid fantasy, I like the enchiladas Mom makes on Saturday, but I would get tired of them.

Mrs. Martin is giving me that look. My smile is innocent. Her eyebrows lower. Kids start making noise and she looks at them. I keep my eyes forward so she doesn’t get angry. Unlike half the class, I read the assignments so she should leave me alone. I know what a gerund is. This is wasting my time.

Mrs. Martin rushes to the window. The other kids are out of their seats and rushing to the window.

Randy shouts, “He’s flying. Danny’s flying.”

June yells, “Rascal Haskell, get down before you fall.”

There are bars outside the window. Monkey bars. Randy is climbing monkey bars. Great, other classes have been let out and we are still stuck in here. There are two other kids on the monkey bars. Teachers are yelling at them. Maybe they aren’t supposed to be on the monkey bars till everyone gets out at recess. That would be fair.

The clock shows no mercy, four and a half minutes till recess. I have got to get out and play on the new monkey bars.

I am going to be in big trouble, maybe, but everyone else is at the window. Slowly I stand up. Slowly back out and back towards the door.

I shout, Da--” as I am blocked.

Looking up, Mr. Dale is blocking the doorway. I just backed into Bushy Brows himself.

Mr. Dale pushes me into the room and says, “Mrs. Martin, don’t let any of the children out until we know what is going on.”

He closes the door to our classroom. I hate Bushy Brows. He ruins everything. Always and every single time. At the window kids are shouting. Running to the window the new monkey bars are better than better. They go way up. Danny is still climbing.

Jennifer says to me, “He’s flying weird.”

I say, “He’s climbing.”

Jennifer yells out, “He’s climbing.”

Everyone starts yelling, “He’s climbing, he’s climbing.”

June yells, “Your right Jennifer, he’s climbing.”

Once again someone else gets credit and I get ignored. It’s probably going to be like that till the day I die.

There are sirens going off in the distance. Recess is started and we are missing it. Danny is still way up there. The principal and a couple of coaches are walking by the window. Coach Greer goes right through one of the bars.

I say, “That’s crazy, Coach Greer just--”
Cindy is pinching me. Her eyes are big as she whispers, “No one else sees them. I have been watching everyone. Only you and I.”

Recess is over. Mrs. Randal is at the door. Two coaches are with her.

Mrs. Randal says, “Excuse me Mrs. Martin, I need to interrupt class for a bit.

“That was quite some excitement. Did anyone see monkey bars?”

I glance out the window at the monkey bars. If I didn’t know I would get in trouble, I would slide out the window. These have to be the most amazing monkey bars ever. Cindy gives me a hard stare and kind of quivers her head in a short “No!” gesture.

I shake my head “No,” and Cindy smiles as she shakes her head “No.”

I never noticed that she was pretty, but she kind of is.

Mrs. Randal says, “If you see anyone flying or climbing, please report it to the office.”

Mrs. Martin asks, “What is going on?”

Mrs. Randal says, “We had a few children that left the ground today. We don’t want anyone to fall and get hurt. Children, if you hear anyone talking about monkey bars, we would love to know about it.”

She leaves and one of the coaches closes the door.

School is almost over when Brenda comes back from the bathroom. “Shhh, I could hear everyone out in the hall. If Mrs. Martin comes back in and we are not quiet, she will probably keep us after school.”

Then Brenda lowers her voice, “I heard the teachers talking. They have nine fliers and they are keeping them after school.”

Cindy exchanges glances with me. We haven’t talked but we have both had hours to think about what happens when adults start deciding things.

#

Outside Cindy and I are walking our bicycles. Our bicycles can go through the bars but we can’t. We may not be able to ride bicycles anymore.

Cindy says, “The sirens haven’t stopped all day. Cars may be dangerous. If we look this up on the internet they might find us.”

She takes out her cell phone and turns the sound back on.
I’m jealous. My grandmother offered to get me a cell phone and my parents refused to let me have one.

I say, “Nice phone.”

She reads a bit and says, “My mother and dad are okay. They want me to be extra careful going home.”

She stops and says, “What happens when they find out that we see the bars?”

I say, “We get found out tomorrow anyway. When they find out we can’t go through the bars, they will know how to test us.”

Cindy says, “If it is just two of us from class, then maybe it is one kid in ten. With one kid in ten, that would mean fifty kids in school can see the bars.”

Mom is waiting at the front of the school. She smiles and waves at me. Cindy and I dodge bars as we make our way to her. There are not a lot of low bars but there are enough to make you have to walk around or duck them on occasion.

Mother hugs me and whispers, “Your Dad came home early. He walked home from work.”

I look up at my Mothers face and see the fear she is holding back.

Cindy asks, “Mrs. Hoskins, “How bad is it?”

Mom says, “Charlie, you should introduce me to your friend.”

I say, “Mom, This is Cindy, how bad is it?”

Mom says, “We can talk later. Let’s walk. Cindy, Charlie, I want you to look ahead of you and try to come up with paths that you are not dodging and ducking while you walk. That makes it obvious.”

Cindy whispers, “You can see them too?”

Mother says, “No, I go through them.”

We have to separate to walk without making it obvious. When we get to my house Dad is packing his backpack.

He takes me in his arms and and says, “Both of you then.”

He stands and offers his hand to Cindy.

I say, “Dad, this is Cindy.”

Dad asks, “Are you the Pullman's little girl?”

Cindy says, “Yes, Mr. Hoskins. My parents are both okay and I don’t have any siblings. How bad is it?”

Dad says, “I am still not sure how much I should say.”

Cindy and he look at each other for a moment.

He says, “Cars, trains and planes have it bad. Boats are safe and they say that it is normal near the coast.”

Cindy says, “I should probably go home and let my parents know. I won’t be able to hide it long.”

Mom asks, “How far do you live?”

Cindy says, “It’s only three blocks.”

Mom says, “Charlie, stay and pack, you and your dad are going camping. I will escort Cindy home.”

While packing, Dad says, “We are taking a canoe to the river and down to the coast. Then I can rent a car. As long as we stay within seventy miles of the coast, we can get to your grandparents house. They have been planning for us to move back and take care of them anyway.”

I am really looking forward to this. This is like Saturday ever single day. We will be camping and canoeing and living at Grandpaw’s house. Then I think about it. There is a huge downside. If we are living on the coast, I may never get to climb the monkey bars.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 12:47:31 AM by RobertS »
I would rather look stupid today than be stupid tomorrow.

Offline MattWillis

Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2017, 12:11:35 AM »
The Invisible Elephant (1,500 words inc title)

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was the phone call Alice had been waiting for. The one she had half-hoped never to receive.

“Thanks. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she told the nurse.

“Be careful,” the nurse said. “The roads are pretty bad today. I’m sure he’ll understand if you can’t make it.”

I’m his Mum, Alice wanted to scream. Instead, she said “I’ll be there.” And then, “does he know? Has anyone talked to him...about?”

The line was silent for a good ten seconds. It felt longer. “The elephant in the room? Not...not exactly. He knows things... That it’s different now.”

The elephant in the room. The invisible elephant steadily trampling them all.

“We haven’t put his contacts back in. We thought it best...”

Best he hears it properly from me. Only three nights home out of the last six weeks and he had to wake up when she wasn’t there. Alice rang off, fought with herself for a moment, then grabbed the spare set of smart glass she kept for emergencies, synced it with Tom’s account, loaded LUXview, and walked out of the house.

The roads were bad. It should have been a 45 minute drive, but it took nearly three hours. At first it was just the usual. Abandoned or crashed vehicles half-blocking the lanes. A gang of kids outside a toy shop throwing the stuff they’d just stolen at anyone passing. A couple of people wandering across the road without looking. Well, they were looking, all around them – just not at their own surroundings.

Despite all, that there wasn’t much actual traffic until she got onto the dual carriageway, and then both lanes her side were blocked by a pile-up. She could see a tanker up ahead and wondered if someone had jacked it. Fuel was getting harder to come by, especially with the power going off six hours a day and those who still cared enough running generators. People in the cars in front were getting out. She blinked up 2x then 5x magnification in her glass. A fight. A crowd of people swinging at each other with fists and implements. And nearby on the verge, another crowd, what might have been another fight but for the scattered clothing, the occasional flash of sun on pale expanses of flesh.

Angrily she looked away, and blinked back to standard-corrected. But not before her eyes had caught something it took her brain a second to catch up with. Part of the barrier in the central reservation had been knocked aside and not put back properly – no bolts. She swung the car round the one in front, accelerated as much as she dared, and swerved into the barrier. A shriek of warning signals in her ear and red icons flaring, but the barrier gave way with a clang, and she overrode the warnings. Mercifully, she found another gap in the central reservation before driving down the wrong carriageway for too long. It wasn’t likely anyone was monitoring, these days, but the last thing she needed was some jobsworth freezing her out of the car’s controls. Thank goodness it was an older model, or it might’ve locked down automatically.

Free. Only then did she let herself consider how close she’d come to not getting to Tom at all. If something had happened...! Her heart boomed against her ribs, and for a moment no air would enter her lungs. No, Alice, no, don’t lose it now.

The sun was almost down before she got to the Hospital. The car park was full but the barrier was up and she found a corner where she hoped the car wouldn’t be blocking anyone. She stormed to reception, forcing one foot in front of the other, not letting herself stop to gather her resolve, because she might find she didn’t have enough.

The place looked half empty, unless you counted the security guards. Tom had been moved from ICU when he regained consciousness, she was told when she finally tracked down someone who would help.

“Hi Mum.” Tom tried to smile for her almost as hard as she tried to smile for him. “I’m sorry I...” They wept and clung onto each other. He sobbed apologies, she sobbed comfort.

Eventually the tears ran out. Tom frowned. “So what’s up? Everyone’s being really weird. Is it the zombie apocalypse or something?” Still smiling, but there was worry in his eyes. “The accident was six weeks ago, right? Was it only six...?” He looked at his hands, fingers spread, as though looking for wrinkles appearing. “Everything feels...off. What’s happening? I don’t understand...”

“They said they’d told you some of it.”

He shrugged. “One of the nurses said something about massive particles? And space birds...? Couldn’t make much sense of it. I was still out of it, I guess. They haven’t put my contacts back. Can’t get any notifications!”

Poor Tom. Must be like losing a sense for someone his age. She went to sit in the chair, then thought screw it, and sat on the bed, taking his hand.

“It’s. They found. There’s.” She pursed her lips. Preparing this half the way here, and now nothing. “We’re not alone,” she said finally. “Not even slightly. There are other universes stacked over ours. There’s life. Alien life. Loads of it.”

“How did they find out?”

“Gravity.” She breathed in and reached for the well-worn explanation. “It’s like an invisible elephant. You can tell it’s there from the dents in the ground. They thought...” It was still fresh. The news reports from LHC and 2LHC almost daily. “They called it a ‘hidden valley’. Like another world of dark matter tucked away, that we couldn’t see?”

“Yeah, I know the theory. So...what?”

Alice smiled tightly, ignoring the stinging in her eyes. He’d always had a better grip on dark matter than she had. All the kids did, she supposed. “They thought they’d found...like an artefact. This thing in space. A dark matter artefact, moving through the solar system.” Invisible but there. Inexplicable but as a thing, detectable only by the things it minutely pushed around. Massive, in the sense that it had mass. “They called it the Elephant in the Room. And then, because they knew what to look for, how to look for it, they kept finding more and more, tucked under the surface.”

She was blinking back tears again now. Tom was wearing that expression of confusion that everyone had for days after the first images. He asked the same question. “But what does it mean?”

“It turned out that the other world wasn’t the valley. We’re the valley. We’re not even the valley.” Not even a crease in the back of the elephant. We could no more engage with these new worlds than the microbes on the fleas on the back of a dog could engage with the dog’s owner, as one talking head had put it. “We’re just a wrinkle in the fabric of the universe. Like the foam on the tips of the waves of the ocean. And the ocean’s alive. Oh, heavens above, it’s so alive.”

And there was a touch of the fear in his eyes, but he still didn’t get it. She pulled the smart glass out of her pocket. “Best you see. It was apps like this one that did it.” she went on, as he looked through the glass into another world. The apps they’d tried to pull when it was clear how people were reacting, when it was too late. “CERN, LUX, they all wanted people to care. I suppose they wanted people to be excited, so they showed us what was around us. And then when people really got it, really understood...” At first just people not turning up to work. Then the crime, the riots, and worst of all, the apathy.

She connected her glass with his and took his hand. The floor of the hospital room faded until it was barely visible, like a soap bubble in the world of violent colour they now floated in, hand in hand. A cluster of planets hovered around them, the ones NASA was naming, fiddling while Rome burned. And the Neutralino Moths were in full display, swooping in their complex dance that had reduced some people to zombies, unable to do anything but stare until they died of dehydration or wandered in front of a car while following a display. The view switched to the next layer, which somehow existed in tandem with the first but separate. There were those filigree structures spanning worlds, as energy poured along them and the creatures someone had called hypersalmon breasted the stream. Universe layered on universe. The colour. The brightness. The intelligence.

And they called it Dark Matter. Alice laughed inwardly, not for the first time. We’re the dark matter. Drab, dull, simple.

“We don’t matter any more, do we?” Tom whispered.

She held him, and told him he mattered to her, over and over until he fell asleep.

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Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2017, 11:20:38 AM »
Forever

Twitter @HormannAlex

1438 words


Spoiler for Hiden:
Hanyin screamed his way out of oblivion. Pain lanced through his lungs as he breathed the air of the living once again. The memory of a sword-cut flashed across his throat. He’d died. How could he even know that? Had he somehow survived? No. No, he was dead. He had to be. And yet, here he was.
   He rose from the ground, shaking off a thin layer of beach sand. There were bodies everywhere, the aftermath of some great battle. It took him a second to remember that he had been there for it. That he too had died storming the beach at Galhath. The shattered and burned remnants of a longboat loomed over him, the fires long since dead.
   A scream rang through the still air. Hanyin staggered to his feet, falling twice before steadying himself. That had been a man’s scream, he reckoned. Someone like him perhaps. Another miraculous survivor. It had come from somewhere along the beach, and he shambled in that direction. But first, he picked a sword from the carnage around him. A good soldier never travelled unarmed.
   Everywhere he looked was death. Bodies stacked high in pyres. No more to them now than ash and bone. Not all the dead had been treated with such reverence however. The wet sand underfoot was churned red with spilled blood, and all but buried under a carpet of the fallen. Each step Hanyin took brought him into contact with the dead. Fingerbones crunched underfoot. Once he slipped on innards, stretched between a man’s open abdomen and a woman’s sword. The reek of it threatened to overpower him, but the screaming did not stop, and neither did he.
   The other survivor was a man not too dissimilar from Hanyin himself. Squat, thinly-bearded, clad in the pale grey of the Shah’s army. He too was caked in the blood and gore of so many men. He stopped screaming when he saw Hanyin approach. But then his cries began anew. This time it was fear, not agony, that echoed across the dead beach.
   “Don’t worry,” said Hanyin, the words rasping out through a worn throat. He extended a hand to the man. “We are brothers. Family under the Shah.”
   The survivor screamed. His head lolled back to reveal a widening slit across his throat. It looked like it should have killed him. The poor man was probably delirious. Hanyin backed away, knowing well the danger of approaching a man in such a state. As he did so, he stumbled over a corpse and fell.
   The corpse screamed. A woman’s scream, high pitched and in agony.
Hanyin backpedalled, using his hands to drive himself away from the obscenity. Surely this woman could not be alive. There was almost nothing left of her. Raw patches where skin had been torn away by carrion beasts, aggravated by salt water. Jagged bone stumps broke through her ragged skin, and there was nothing left of her right leg. Her face, if you could even call it that anymore, was a labyrinth of lacerations, most still bleeding. One eye was lost, either sunken into the blood and pus of her injuries or carried off by scavengers. The orb that remained flashed left and right incessantly, searching for something, yet never finding it.
   “I’m sorry,” Hanyin mumbled, as that dreadful eye passed over him. “I can’t help you.” He pushed himself upright and fled from the scene of the battle. More screams pursued him, coming from a dozen different mouths.
   West of the beach the ground rose in a sandy hill, sparsely coated in marram grass. Hanyin clambered up this rise in his attempt to escape. His hands scrabbled for purchase, his feet kicking up plumes of dust. He grabbed a sturdy tussock and used it to haul himself over the lip at the top of the hill. Free, he thought at last. Free from the nightmare. He lay on his back and gasped for breath. Something warm and wet pressed against his chest. His undershirt, he realised, slick with his own blood. When he found civilisation, or at the very least shelter, he would have to examine his wound more closely. There was no real pain. More a dull throbbing that had settled deep into the fibre of his being. He was, he supposed, one of the lucky ones.
    A dull hum came into focus, like the droning of a thousand wasps. High above, even the clouds had parted. As if they too wished for no part in the horrors around them. They left a ragged hole, which Hanyin had time only to glimpse as he rolled onto all fours. Where was the hum coming from? That was his main concern.
   Rising to his feet, he followed his ear, tracking the sound to its source. The more he focused, he came to realise there was a rhythm to it. A tune. More than that, a familiar one. He hummed along to it, but could not quite place where he had heard it before.
   His pursuit led him far from the beach, up a second hill. He walked for hours, maybe longer. Time no longer seemed to matter. Only the hum. He crested the hill, and stared.
   A vast cube, dull grey and pitted like time-worn iron, its corner embedded in the earth, leaving the remainder suspended like a precious jewel on display. It must have been the size of the Shah’s palace in Kezzared, if not larger. How had it come to be here? It looked to have fallen, like an acorn from an oak. But surely that could not be. Had some god in a fit of pique hurled this wonder from the heavens?
   Part of Hanyin, that part which had driven him to pledge his life to service in the Shah’s grand army, demanded that he return to Kezzared to inform his liege of this wondrous discovery. He ignored it, driving the urge away. He could not return without investigating. Not just for his own curiosity, but for the Shah also. They had to know what this mystery was.
   Nervously he approached the cube. As he drew near, he noticed another man, coming to greet him it seemed. He had not been there a few minutes previously, Hanyin was sure.
   The new man beckoned Hanyin to come closer, which he did. There was something strange about him. A stillness, as though he were the calmest man in all the world. His hair did not shift in the breeze, though his grey robes did. His eyes never broke away from Hanyin, and his limbs were locked in place, aside from that welcoming arm. The man’s face slowly cracked open in a wide smile.
   “Hello,” he said. “You are the first. No doubt you have questions.”
   Hanyin halted. “What?” he asked. “I don’t –”
   “No doubt you’re disoriented. Don’t worry. It’s quite common, given your circumstances.”
   “Circumstances?”
   “Your return,” the still man said. “From your injuries.”
   Hanyin placed a hand over the bloody patch on his shirt. For the first time, he truly noticed the pain it was causing him, spilling into his lungs.
   “Ah,” said the still man. “I see we have company.”
   Hanyin turned and saw a group approaching. Some limped, some staggered. All were injured in some way. As they drew closer, he recognised one of them. A man. The survivor with the torn throat. Hanyin turned back to the strangely still man.
   “There will be more,” the man said. “So many more.”
   There were so many questions Hanyin had to ask, he found himself unable to ask any of them.
   The still man seemed to understand his inner turmoil. “My name is Turyat. I am an ambassador, of sorts. But it is not a message I bring you. It is a gift. To show you, and your friends, and your Shah, of our intentions.”
   “I am not the one you should be speaking to,” Hanyin began.
   Turyat shook his head. “You are exactly who I sought. You and all the others like you.”
   “Like me?”
   “The fallen. The forgotten. The left behind and abandoned.” He reached forward and grasped Hanyin’s shirt. He pulled it up to his chest, ignoring his half-attempt at protest. The act revealed his wound. A large gash, dripping with vital fluids.
   “The dead,” Turyat finished.
   For a long moment, Hanyin did not breathe. “You mean . . ?”
   “Yes,” said Turyat. “My people bring a change to your world. A release from your pains. No longer shall you die. No longer must you kill to get your desires. We have brought an end to death. Forever.”
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Offline NightWrite

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2017, 03:01:40 PM »
When Swords Fall - 916 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Aun 17th, 178 A.E.
This morning as dawn broke, as I danced away the end of the midsummer's festival, strange ethereal lights filled the sky. Thunder shattered the cloudless heavens above.

As quick as it came, the phenomena had ended. Though not without devastation. Large masses had hurtled from the sky to crash around the village. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. People panicked and cried out for loved ones.

I was one of the few brave enough to investigate the cause of such damage at one of the sites.

At the bottom of a large crater, which had dug itself into Suri's fields, sat a chest piece. The intricate white piece of armor, however, was larger than any had seen. Larger than Suri's biggest cow, it must have been meant for gods or giants.

It would reach me an hour later, the news of my parent's death. A sword taller than two men stacked together had plunged through our house into the earth.

Their bodies crushed.

I couldn't bring myself to look upon them. To look upon the ruins of our lives.

I can't help but think, if I hadn't argued with them, if I hadn't left to celebrate in defiance, I would be dead with them. It brings me little comfort, how close death came to greeting me. Nor do memories of our last conversation, the anger, the heated words. I can't even remember what we fought over, despite being the night before.

They died with my parting words being ones of hatred.

Aun 18th, 178 A.E.
I'm glad I chose not to return last night, to what little remains of my home.

This morning people awoke to find everything within a certain range of the sword dead. My mother's garden, the grass and weeds, even the old oak tree out back. The one I spent my childhood climbing, imagining it older than time itself with how big and unmoving it was. All of it, dead and broken. The life and color leeched away.

No one has been willing to check on my neighbors. None have seen them since yesterday evening. But their hens lay dead in the crumbling, dead grass of their yard.

I can only hope their deaths were painless in the end.

The sword embedded into my house now glows with ominous, dark red runes which none can read. Not that any would try, staring at them for more than a few moments causes a chill up the spine and a fear of death to seep into the bones.

Aniva vomited after staring too long, though she denies it.

Whispers of how the runes seem to grow brighter with each passing hour float about the village. What was once an annoyance, for none know how to remove it, is now a deadly threat. The various armor pieces and the massive mace, discovered in the river upstream last night, show no signs of anything similar or malicious. Yet none are willing to approach them now.

People are leaving today, some without anything in their haste. They claim the land is spoiled, the gods cursing us to damnation.

There is no talk of rebuilding the village now and the elders do little to stop those who flee. I assume many of them want to leave themselves, but are too proud.

I may join the fleeing refugees. Aniva is the only person holding me to the village now.

My parents are dead, my little sibling dying within my mother. Most of my friends are dead or gone already. My father's forge is shattered, its broken tools scattered like tombstones around the sword in its crater. I dare not get too close to collect any of the supplies salvaged by yesterday's work.

The horses are missing, as is our cat. But Old Tam has always been a wandered, so there is a chance she'll return.

I just don't know if I'll be there to greet her.

Aun 19th, 178 A.E.
The sword's hunger grows. To sate itself, more have died or suffer. Most of the village is barren now, of both life and hope.

Buildings have begun to collapse, decay and rot spreads through them like poison. The grain in the fields wither, no birdsong fills the air. The forest to the east begins to die, trees collapsing under their own weight into piles of rotted splinters.

Only the western most edge of the village remains untouched.

Aniva and her family, what's left of it, are leaving. Long before the sun reaches its peak in the heavens if possible. I plan to go with them and write this as the others pack, for I have little of concern left to my name.

I don't know what to do with Old Tam. She found me this morning, though she looks so skinny now. Skin stretched tight over revealed bone. Fur matte tangles in some places, fallen out and missing in others.

The sword hasn't killed her despite its best attempts, the old girl is too stubborn. I want to take her with me, but I'm unsure if she'll survive on the road with her age and the lingering affects of the sword.

All I know is I won't leave her here to die. She deserves a better death than one from a sword which can't stop killing.

With luck, the gods will reclaim the sword before it devours the world. Otherwise, we may spend the rest of our lives running from its ever-growing hunger.

We can only hope....

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2017, 06:57:30 PM »
The Shrivall
798 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
It came from the Void on a mission its makers called Shrivall-nur-Culn, The Self-Culling Sword – the final test of mediocre peoples.  In form, they varied as widely as the unwashed savages they destroyed, but the Shrivall that thundered across the skies above the kingdom of Corelle lived up to its name: a vast scimitar of gleaming metal that glowed white hot at its tip and red-orange along the five furlongs of its length. Aimed by design, the Shrivall crashed into the earth in the heart of Corelle, laying waste to a county and igniting fires and panic. Unmarked by the violence of its arrival, it stood gleaming from the heaved-up earth like a spire. The fires died in a day; the panic did not. The Shrivall’s first purpose was achieved.

By the time the river Granche, choked with broken trees and corpses, chose a new course and drowned two towns, the lords of the surrounding lands were hemmed in by screaming throngs of incensed ignorants who were convinced the Shrivall was a divine mandate to destroy Corelle for crimes too terrible to imagine. Of course, they were wholly and easily imagined, but the noblemen couldn’t stop it, though some tried. But in they end they chose life, as noblemen so often do. Rather than being torn to shreds by gap-toothed fanatics, they opened their armories and molded the seething masses into army-shaped mobs and set them loose. Corelle’s remaining towns were razed in less than a week.

First to rise in dim antiquity, the capital was the last to fall. The king and his household hung banners and screamed the same pleas as had been screamed from a thousand-thousand besieged citadels doomed by a Shrivall: that the gleaming monolith had not been sent to mark any wickedness of theirs. But the naked hordes painted themselves in the blood of the dead, their own and their victims’, threw themselves on the pikes of their god-marked foes, and stormed the walls from ramps of corpse-heaps.

Of course, it did not end there. For as quick as the peasantry was to misinterpret great events, nations are far quicker at interpreting advantage. Corelle was no more, and its four neighbors were imbalanced, scattered, and already turning on each other when the first wave of riders from the steppe came careening over the hills. They swept south and west, driving their ancestral foes to the coast before them – only to find armies of iron-hearted heathens from the north piling out of their great longboats that formed a forest in every bay. Fools that they were, the horsemen thought their superiority in numbers and mobility made this threat irrelevant and turned to sack the realms they had overrun. Their advantage held for the week it took disease and malnutrition to begin decimating their mounts and their men.

The sea-raiders were wiser and cleansed the land with fires whenever the wind was at their back. The riders of the steppe fled the raiders from the sea, bearing the treasure of kingdoms with them. A poor decision. They stumbled through walls of smoky haze into shield walls of north-men armies that had sailed far inland to cut them off. Caught between fire and sword and burdened with gold, the plainsmen fell in great numbers. Few lived to carry word home, but it was enough. The horse lords, incensed by the shame of their kinsmen’s route and the tantalizing treasures left behind, went beyond summoning more armies; they set their whole nations on the march westward.

They were not alone. Vast armies, whole peoples and small tribes, all came to fight and die in what was at first called the Sword-Lit Lands. But by the following winter, its name had changed, and the Land of Unnumbered Graves had devoured the promise of scores of nations. Glittering bits of gold littered the landscape here and there among the corpses and rusting armor. Sickness and death radiated outward from the Shrivall across the world, and one by one, kingdoms fell beneath the swords of foes, perished in wave after wave of oozing plagues, or starved, dwindling to a few chattering, emaciated skeletons who did not survive the winter.

The Shrivall-nur-Culn bore silent witness to it all, unmoved by the strife, the fiery sacrifices made early on, or the deranged throngs that knelt gibbering in its shadow later. They soon fell silent and were gone, the last witnesses of an adolescent world undone by the weight of its own immaturity. And when the Shrivall's makers came, they found green and growing lands, a boundless refuge from the blackness and silence of the Void. As always, they kissed the Shrivall, the weapon-that-is-not-a-weapon, and took up residence in a world cleansed of the unworthy, by the unworthy, and rejoiced.
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"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Venandiaer

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2017, 03:47:05 AM »
Just Like Clockwork- 1,467 words.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Just like clockwork
Where am I? These words appeared in my head, but they are not what I am really thinking. I know the answer to where. But I actually think who. Who am I? I have nothing, no food or water to quench my hunger and thirst. No place to lay my head, or clothes of my own to keep me warm. I am wandering, pointlessly. Am I waiting to die perhaps?

For that was the problem you see, I did not remember. It’s not like I was looking back into a fog, catching shrouded glimpses of what is lost, nor did I feel any need to seek a past. There was just nothing, and I felt as if I have not lived, no, not existed at all. And that idea was horribly unnerving. But of course, that was impossible. Looking at myself, I must have lived for at least two dozen years.

Yes, those were my thoughts for many days and nights, the number which I lost count. Until one night, when a passer-by found me. He cared for me for two days until I was taken to a city in the shade of the great mountain, where I came to join the soldiers. Yet, the man who cared for me, he said something very strange. He warned me to tell no one of this, but when he searched he could find no heartbeat. 

And that is where I come to properly answer my first question. Where am I? Well, I am in the soldier’s quarters, in the city that I now live. I also am intensely unnerved by the great mountain above, almost as much as I am by my lack of memories.  Yet, I try to forget the encroaching discomfort. I find some comforts, one being the kindness of my commander and his men. They told me tales of their exploits, unquestionably exaggerated, and they each spoke excitedly of the future. They seem to me not to care for the past, holding hope in the future. Perhaps I too can be like them. The other comfort I find stranger, a calmness I gain from gripping a well-worn blade. This sense of comfort I could provide no explanation for, neither to myself nor to those I slowly grow to care for.

And then that day came.

It came forth from the great mountain, the most ancient of citadels. A mighty grumbling and a groaning, we all heard it, under the mountain shadow. As it shook the earth, the people of that city were filled with trepidation. The southern face of the mountain-cliff collapsed upon itself, turning to dust. And from that dust it came.

Everyone stared wide-eyed, confused, awed, horrified, as it came.

A woeful machine, twice as large as the Imperial Palace itself, its shape too intricate to describe in its true detail. Never-the-less, it was as if the great projects of men had all been combined together. Its base was like some galleon, only many components jarred this vision, as arms jutted out like extensions of a house. Great towers, observatories, and countless other things rose from the base, and amongst all these: gears, lights, jewels and rune-letters beyond my own or anyone else’s comprehension.
 
So there I was, blind to my fate, a sword my only comfort and possession in the world. Something beckoned. Click, Rrrr. I gasped, a great pain ripping through my chest. Like a dagger wound, I wanted to scream, or writhe, but I could not. I was pulled, compelled, to where I did not know.  A voice entered my head, and I perceived its wish.

The heart-pain now slowly fading. But a pain of another kind lingered. A message, turned into twisted desire. It ripped at my mind, blurring any thought. Faces before me, some known, some not, and the single word. Kill.

I feel something in my chest, something not felt for a long time. Is it life? Click, Rrrr. It hurts. 

And as all this transpired, it came forward. That thing, the dastardly machine. It forded the rushing river with ease, and moved to the city. It did not stop, not one bit, as the wall crumbled before it. The people were in uproar, but not only because of the great machine. There were… other things. People, but they were not, as an unfortunate soldier found out, protecting a pair of civilians. He soldier swung his sword at the man-thing, hitting it hard, but the blade did little more than fall to the side as a clang rang out.

A patch of skin hung from the man-thing, the creature. He turned, his pupils turning and twisting. The skin hung ragged, but what held the soldier’s horrified gaze was the infinite gears and springs, whirring, buzzing, and humming from where skin had been. “You must be removed. You must be stopped.” The creature’s voice seemed to tick, an almost soothing cadence to its rhythm. The soldier was struck dumb, as these clock-men brought death to the town.

I was lost in the confusion. That implanted ideal, that alien desire still lingered, but I had so far suppressed it. As I fell to the ground, sharp rocks ripped at my skin, and the sun shone on metal. Indeed, at this time, I truly sensed the truth of my existence. Yet I refused to believe it. I was not some contraption of gears and springs. I didn’t know who I once was, but I didn’t care. Everyone in this town had wanted to be something, to have a future. So did I. 

“Do not fear the slaughter that heralds the future of mankind!” A mighty voice rang out, resonating through the city. One of the towers of the great machine began to bend and twist, like some serpent, facing the city square. Twelve great spires were its teeth, and two mighty windows of stained glass were its eyes. The machine shook, and seemed to gasp a strange air. “I am the Wayfinder, here to open a way for all, to the power of the new world. Others would lead you otherwise, wishing to take this power from you, but do not fear!” The great machine roared, the head rising proudly. The fearsome machine raised a single arm, high above a clock-man, and with a whirr that resonated through the city, came down upon one of the clock-men, crushing him. Two other clock-men stood nearby, and with a slow but mighty groan the house-sized arm collided into the clockwork pair, crushing them also.

“You see, I come to offer you protection and to lead you on the path of knowledge. Come, do not fear what you do not understand, for I will teach you. The clock is ticking!” The murderous machine roared once more.

The clock-men by this time were turning, turning to run, fear on their faces. Click, Rrrr. Again, that pain in my chest, that desire in my mind, but different this time, not violent but fearful. Run. Harder to suppress, for it was more logical, and closer to what I truly wished.

No. I would not give in to this madness.

Click, Rrr. The voice in my head returns.  The voice of the wretched machine. You were never weak. Suddenly faint shadows clawed at my mind, were they memories? A man of vast intelligence, desperate, working endlessly, hiding his work. A keeper of knowledge. Ancient knowledge. They do not deserve it, they must not have it, he says.  He prepares a twisted spectacle, a calamitous show for the future of man. Preparation for a revival of his own design. Many hollow clock-shells he creates, in the likeness of his greatest work. Endless data he hides within this great work. This great construct he reared like his own, till it spoke and thought as men. Forgive me for testing you child.

Click Rrr. My chest screams with a pain above all others. Return to me Cartra, my child.  Ah! I scream as my body begins to buckle, yet my legs move toward the great machine. They cannot resist its call. His call. Join me, as we lead these people to the true dawn!

The words of the machine, the words of the father ring in my head as I lose control of my body, and my gears sings a dreadful song. I remember now. That machine. That man. He wanted to start again, reset. And I couldn’t stop him. It went just as he planned. Just like clockwork.

Part of me still tries to fight. But that part is buried, deep beneath gears and springs, magic runes and circuits of forgotten origin. Part of me still wants to be free, but that thought is chained hand and foot. Gears grind, as the present me says good bye.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 08:55:59 AM by ScarletBea »

Offline JMack

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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2017, 12:22:25 PM »
Maybe my shortest ever story submission here: something under 1,000 words.

PASCAL’S WAGER

Spoiler for Hiden:

Pascal’s Wager

It was New Years Eve, so of course Sarah and I drove out to the mesa to make love under the stars. Sex is never like they show in the movies. We brought an old mattress, wool blankets, and tried to keep the sand to a minimum. We still froze and wondered why we kept to the tradition.

I fell asleep on her breast. I dreamt of a stampede though I'd never seen one and woke to a rumble that shook the cliffs. Sarah pointed up, her white hair swirling in an eerie breeze. A dark mass blotted out the Milky Way. It shook the skies, passing away east.

***

There’s no cable out here, and we all agreed to get rid of our satellite dishes a few years back when the national election threatened to make us all unpleasant to each other. A few folks still used cell phones; there was a tower up on Devil Ridge, God knows why. The rest of us stuck to landlines, though we didn’t know how much longer the phone companies would actually keep them up and humming.

So, we got a little news - enough to know things were going nuts out there in the Great Big Everywhere Else. But what else was new?

One day, the earth rocked from something a long, long way away. Then it rocked again. And again.

***

“I can’t get a signal at all. I mean, this is like it was twenty years ago. I might as well throw the damned thing away for all the good it does me.” Nate was on the subject of cell phones for the fiftieth time.

“You could drive up over Devil Ridge. Sure to get a connection up there.” Boyce made the same suggestion every time. We all knew no one was driving out of our valley for any reason.

I poured more coffee, and poked at the log in the wood stove. Sarah and I ran the Dirtbag Saloon & Cafe, and had done since we’d run away from city life twenty years before. A hundred miles from nowhere in every direction. For all that we valley folk craved isolation, we gathered together plenty often to swap gossip, argue metaphysics, and tell lame jokes. In the winter months, the Dirtbag was the center of the whole township.

Sarah lowered her voice. “Think anyone’s alive out there?”

***

The consensus became that aliens had come like in those old movies but for real. Folks in the high desert find it easy to believe the unbelievable. I was partial to UFOs myself. But we couldn't agree whether they’d taken out all the governments with their advanced weaponry or whether all us humans had killed each other with nukes in some crazy overreaction to the invasion.

A man walked down from the Ridge wearing a gas mask and brushing red dust from a high-tech hazmat suit and told us we’d got it wrong most ways, but right about the nukes.

There must have been twenty of us jammed into the Dirtbag.

“When that mountain-sized cross came in out of the west and stopped over Pennsylvania, the media went nuts, right? You can imagine. The Second Coming, Armageddon, all that. And it's not like anyone could ignore it. The thing was two miles long and half a mile wide. I saw the fly-by pictures on CNN. Overnight, the whole country went religious. And why Lancaster, right? Well there’s a bible college and a bible theater and a bible theme park, and a whole bunch of Amish farmers with their horse and buggies. Must have been fifteen people raised their hands and declared themselves to be Jesus Christ.”

Over to my left, I heard Nate whisper, “I knew it,” like he was in church. I glanced over at Sarah. She had tears in her eyes, and this look I remembered seeing in her mother’s face when she did her rosary.

The man took a long pull on his beer. I still had a few cases in the cellar, but they were going fast. We were going to have to rig up something with cactus juice soon.

“Well. Then a Star of David appears over Jerusalem. You can bet that went over great. A day later, it’s letters the size of the Empire State Building spelling out ‘Allah’ in Arabic and floating over Mohammed’s birthplace.”

Nate snorted, and said out loud, “I knew it!” No one paid him any attention.

“I don’t even know who threw the first bomb,” said the man.

***

“What do you think showed up over Europe? You know, like Amsterdam or Paris. Those people stopped believing in much of anything years ago.” Boyce was eating the last Twinkie in the Dirtbag, maybe the last Twinkie on earth. He’d even said grace over it before ripping the thin plastic wrapper apart.

“Probably another of them ‘Allah’ signs.” A sun farmer named Billy Brick was clearing me out of my fishing gear. Ever since the bitcoin stopped biting, he’d traded me electricity for what he needed. Now I just gave stuff away.

We turned to the outsider. “I never heard. Maybe nothing.”

“Who was it that said we have a god-shaped hole inside of us?”

“Vacuum,” said Sarah.

“Really?” Billy puzzled over which fly-fishing lures to take. I shoved them all into his bag.

“Maybe it’s just how you translate Pascal’s Latin,” said the outsider.

“Well, I'd say we’ve got a god-shaped hole right in the middle of the planet,” said Boyce, and stuck his tongue through one end of the Twinkie.

***

Sarah and I climbed up to the mesa again on the day the red cloud shoved its way over Devil’s Ridge and into the valley. We watched it smother the town, watched the Dirtbag disappear. Then it gathered around the base of the cliffs and started to work it's way up.

Sarah said another rosary.

I’d saved the last beer.

We had a bet going.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2018, 02:40:53 PM by Jmack »
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