The Star Bridge

TClow

Eric shot himself in the head on April 24th, 2016. I was standing beside him. I still have the bloodstained clothes. And the bloodstained memories.

“You need to understand, Elena,” he explained, holding the gun to his temple. “There’s a bridge. It’s right here.”

He shook the gun, as if to signify its new status – not as a weapon, but as a means of traversal.

“Don’t, Eric.” My voice was slow and calm but flickers of panic were doubtless present in its timbre.

“I see it now. In flashes. Whenever I imagine pulling the trigger, I get a glimpse of the bridge ahead. It’s not black. It’s not empty. It’s bright and full and warm with everything I’d imagined.”

Machinery whirred around us. An omnipresent hum of energy filled the room as countless megajoules of electricity filled capacitating cylinders, all ready to discharge at a specific time.

“What if you’re wrong?” I asked. “What then? You’re just dead. And you’re worthless when you’re dead. All that potential is gone.”

“The continuation of life affirms worthlessness. My worth is in what I’ve seen. My worth is in what happens next. Because if I’m right, and I know I’m right, everyone will learn that what we are in right now is just the first stage. Once that gets out, we can all go through. And on.”

“But by that, you mean that everyone can just die? Are you listening to yourself?”

He gripped the gun tighter and grinned.

“Maybe it sounds crazy. But I see it. And I think you’re about to.” Continue reading “The Star Bridge”

Beach Bodies

Beachjpg

(A scary story about the ocean.)

“What is it?” Charlie asked. He was ten or eleven at that point.

“Not sure,” I replied. I turned my hat forward, hoping the brim would block out some of the glare on that sunny August afternoon.

Something was floating in the water about a couple hundred feet offshore. It looked big. Long, too. I assumed it was the carcass of a whale. They’d been known to wash up every now and again.

“Maybe a whale,” I remarked.

“Gross.”

“Yeah. You think it’s gross now, wait until it reaches land and stinks up the beach for a couple miles in every direction.”

Charlie made a face. “I kinda want to poke it,” he said. I grinned. That’s my boy. Continue reading “Beach Bodies”

Of Malevolence; Of Misanthropy

LMCSmall

(A scary story about humanity.)

“Mankind is the true God,” I’d proclaim. “The universe is our laboratory. Our playground. If something exists, we will learn of it. We will study it. And, through our strength and resolve, we will dominate it.”

My voice, at the time still young and powerful, echoed, day after day, throughout the lecture hall: “We are the third of the three paradigms. The early cosmos was the first; shapeless, protostellar dust, which, through the hardcoded mechanisms of this universe’s physics, yielded pattern coalescence. Stars. Galaxies. Planets.”

“Patterns increased in complexity over billions of years. Physics begat chemistry. Chemistry begat biology. And so began the second paradigm: biological evolution. The complexity seen in evolution dwarfed that of the previous paradigm. Eukaryotes. Fish. Mammals.”

“And finally, hundreds of millions of years later, as all the interwoven complexities reached a critical point, a singularity formed. It was the birth of the third paradigm: human intelligence. A force powerful enough to allow the willful direction of aspects of the other two paradigms, as well as its own destiny. It is a force seen nowhere else in the universe. It commands nature. It imposes its will on nature.”

Continue reading “Of Malevolence; Of Misanthropy”

Fallenfield Mountain

Our company had been tasked with a geological survey of Fallenfield Mountain in southwestern Kentucky. Situated at the intersection of the Cumberland and Allegheny Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau, it stands at the center of a depression in the terrain entirely uncharacteristic of the surrounding area.

Having recently acquired a permit from the state for a fracking exploration, the petroleum company that hired us was anxious to see what they could exploit in this new area. We were to set out as soon as possible.

We began our hike on a Monday morning. The weather was predicted to be favorable and the four of us were excited to cover some ground. We stopped at a small store near the edge of the forest to purchase last-minute supplies and anything else we thought we might need. It wasn’t a particularly difficult journey ahead of us, but we wanted to be prepared.

While we were browsing, an employee began a conversation with Jake Lemont, one of our geologists. Jake was forthcoming, as we were under no obligation to keep our work secret. I walked the aisles and drifted in and out of their conversation, which grew noticeably more animated as time went by. The employee was not keen on the mountain being used for petroleum exploration. It turned out he wasn’t speaking from an environmental standpoint.

Continue reading “Fallenfield Mountain”

The Shores of Pluto

pluto

Late last month, just before Christmas, a strange, prickly feeling crept up my spine and made a patch of my neck feel cold, as if someone had left a window open. I looked around at the familiar setting. Nothing seemed amiss. The windows were shut. The doors were closed. I realized my heart was pounding and I couldn’t figure out why I was so anxious. After a moment, the feeling passed.

I had lunch alone at my desk. My sandwich was good – ham and cheese and butter with a little dijon mustard. The rest of the office had gone out, taking advantage of a break in the snowy weather. I ate mindlessly, relishing the peace and quiet, until I felt the cold again. This time, it was physical and penetrating. A frigid wave of thick air wafted into my cubicle and chilled me to the bone. Goosebumps rose in a wave over my back, neck, and arms. The feeling of uneasiness returned. Something flickered in the periphery of my vision.

I whirled around, my swivel chair nearly toppling over.

Continue reading “The Shores of Pluto”

To Travel

Bodies in bodies.

Bodies of bodies.

True knowledge requires self destruction. I’d always preached it, but I’d never practiced it. Never, until this morning, when the red wire slipped into the black module and I moved while going nowhere. My consciousness – my essence – erupted from my body and left me standing in that busy room of machines and batteries and magic.

(Magic is nothing without machines and batteries.)

I left my body without looking back. The air was smoky and shimmering. The walls were porous. No sound met my earless nothingness. There was only sight. My third eye; my soul; my angel: my guide. My everything.

I traversed the room and slipped through the wall. Continue reading “To Travel”

The Pilot

meteor

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.

More.
Unsettling Stories is on Facebook.