Like so many things, it started with a bright spot in the night sky. As I watched, it grew brighter. Closer. Before long, I could hear it. It was loud and constant; a freight train riding a persistent thunderclap. Birds were roused from their sleep and they took to the sky, soaring away from the threatening light and sound. I didn’t move, though. I had to see.
It struck the ground in the woods outside my property, perhaps a quarter mile away. A second later, a searing blast of heat and pressure singed my eyebrows and threw me to the ground. My daze, while not insubstantial, was pushed to the side by excitement and wonder.
I scrambled to my feet and ran toward the impact site. The woods were alive with fire; orange plasma licking the evergreens as the sap within boiled and hissed. I passed the charred bodies of squirrels and deer as I darted around the hottest spots of quickly-dying flames. Before long, I was there.
The crater was about as wide and as deep as a backyard swimming pool. At its center was a red rock. Bright red. Fire-engine red. Its color wasn’t from heat, I noticed with some surprise, as feathery rime crept with fractalic persistence over its exposed surface.
For a moment, there was no sound.
I peered into the crater and watched the rime crawl up the rock, wondering how ice could form so close to the still-smoldering brush and dirt alongside it. On the other side of the object, out of my view, a sliver of yellow light flashed. Before I could go around to investigate, a crack spread on the surface of the rock. Dazzling, hypnotic sparkles of yellow and green filled my eyes.
I woke up on the forest floor at some point in the morning. The fires were out. Whatever had been in the crater had crumbled to dust. Without any knowledge of how I’d lost consciousness, I felt fear tickle the back of my neck. Almost as quickly as it started, though, the feeling evaporated. All my concern evaporated. For the first time in my 40 years of life, I felt wonderful. At peace.
I followed the trail that had been left for me. It led to my garage. Impelled to write something to let the world know what had and would be happening to me, I took my phone from my pocket and started to type.
And here I am.
Here we are.
I hadn’t noticed the gossamer-thin tendril stretching from my forehead to the pilot until we’d officially met. Its eyestalks perked up upon seeing me enter the garage, and it extruded newer, thicker filaments from its bulk to greet me. They stopped at my clothes, slapping weakly and wetly against the fabric until I got the message and stripped them off. Unhindered, the finger-thick filaments, now perhaps tendrils, pushed into me.
I tasted the cosmos with my skin, and every exposed surface of my body sang in an electric choir of caressed nerves.
“Let them know how it feels,” the Pilot whispered in me.
The sensation was that of being licked by ten thousand tongues, if ten thousand tongues were the emissaries of ten billion galaxies. I felt stars blink into existence on my chest and detonate in supernovae chaos upon my hands and feet. Pulsars fondled my shoulders while civilizations discovered fire and tamed the atom on my cheeks and under my scalp.
“Have them come to us so we can let them feel,” the Pilot breathed throughout me.
I dialed 911 and sighed the words, “officer down at 133 Rural Route 5.”
It didn’t take long.
The Pilot kissed each one with its tendrils the moment they arrived. The stellar choir of skin and taste grew by nine.
The Pilot, too, had grown. It filled the entirety of the garage; its filaments and tendrils and tentacles poking and pouring out of windows and doorways. The ground grew slick with its excretions. We stood – we stand – inside, all connected. All consumed and all consuming. All feeling.
More calls have been made and our network of flesh will only increase. The Pilot is gifting us with poetry to swallow; concepts that can only be understood once they’ve been tasted. Once they’ve been digested. Once they’ve been incorporated.
It is with a fleeting sense of loss that I recall the man who I’d once been. A man who, just last night, succumbed to his fervid curiosity and ran toward the fire. Never once did he care about being burnt; never once did he worry about what may happen. And now he is here. Now I am here. Now we are here. It was his desire to learn – and now he knows everything.
The Pilot has broken through the roof of the garage and is towering above the forest. It tells me if I were to measure, it would be a mile. One mile of the Pilot stretching like a gray-green obelisk toward the cosmos which birthed it.
More sirens puncture the tranquility of our home on the outskirts of the forest. Soon, they will stop. The Pilot can now reach aircraft with its tendrils, which have grown strong enough to break through. And those bodies inside are now with us. We all taste stars – we all bathe in radiation and fling ourselves toward the expanding borders of the universe in simultaneous o****m.
The Pilot whispers he is 20 miles tall now. Depending where you are, if you look outside, you might see it. If you do, don’t be afraid. Don’t be anxious. Just feel the one, final moment of your loneliness. Of your solitude. Then open your windows, smile, and wait.
It’s time for you to meet the universe.
Unsettling Stories is on Facebook.