Two days left, Apocalypse Hunters! Two days remain to tell your story of what happens the day before the end of the world! Today’s entries are brought to you by T.C. Sinclair and Afsaneh Khetrapal.
It started as a star. High above the northern ridge it appeared, brighter than the others and growing faster every night till one morning he woke up to find it shining still against the morning light.
But what did a star matter really when there was wars to fight? Star or no star, life went on.
Maybe old Jake was the only one left to really ponder such things as stars and skies. As he latched the gate he would pause to watch the unwavering light that moved to neither side, only forward, ever forward to meet his gaze.
“What could it be?” reporters blared on incessant screens. Scientists gave meaningful pauses as pastel suited coifs nodded knowingly on couches. Something was coming for sure, but what? The end of the world? Satellites watched from sweeping orbits, blinking back the first confirmed images of the others.
But what could it matter? Jake thought to himself when he gave himself the time. Cows need milking, wars need killing, day’s got to dawn.
Some went mad, some just cried. Still life kept on with stoplights and sirens, birthing and dying.
An empty ship of lead and steel hurls through space as circuits click to life. An unblinking eye begins to see.
Old Jake wasn’t really old. He wasn’t really even Jake. After he got back from fighting he just decided to up and slip away. Only time would know him now.
Polly was someone else now too but since she stopped talking three years back it wasn’t like anyone would even notice.
Every morning Jake would lead her by the hand haltingly each step to the front porch and set her down in the broken rocker where she would slowly creak back and forth on the cracked wooden rails, silently staring ever northwards to the rising peaks. If he was late her mute anger would fill the house with a thick animal fury.
Somewhere inside Polly was still there, he thought, but what cage held her? It had been so long since he had heard her voice but sometimes he would wake in the night from dreams he could not quite recall, the last notes of a strange lonely song still ringing on the night air as she softly stirred beside him.
In the darkness beyond a shutter opens on the golden lens with a low whir and hum. Ahead the sphere of blue glows slowly larger as the transmission begins.
Soon they would know. It was time.
Jake absently switched on the television and flipped through a few stations but the only thing happening was the war he had left behind and that damn light in the sky so he turned it off again. He had started drawing the blinds again even though there hadn’t been any neighbors for years. It seemed to be watching him, a golden eye that never blinked, hanging fixed in the broken upper pane.
Polly’s blank eyes gleamed through the darkened doorway. It was time.
The lab guards’ bullets had slowed in the intruder’s liquid armour, freezing on the malleable surface and studding him like stars.
“Such a primitive race,” he’d barked, brushing them off like dust. “But it’s to be expected from humans.”
He’d approached her then and vowed peace with his curious eyes; green and red, like Christmas. Only he hadn’t known what Christmas was, and when she’d commented upon it, he’d demanded to see the ‘specimen named Jesus’.
Many stories later, they’d become oddly dependent on each other. She’d helped him adjust to Earth and he’d given her honest, albeit strange, company. It suited her well; no friends had ever much liked that her talks frequently took an intellectual bent, but this foreign male took interest in her words. And she did in his, particularly when the fellow scientist had divulged his reason for journeying here; that Earth was to stand as the location for his L-14V5 virus trials.
Humans were immune but as the only of his species to be, it was his responsibility to rectify. He’d withheld the account of the Hague planet’s attempt to extract his gene and weaponise it. His traumas concerned no-one and yet, she tried to engage him in personal talk as if she sensed his secrecy.
She straightened behind the microscope. “We’ve done it.”
They’d struggled for months with his uncooperative DNA. Outwardly, he was entirely human but delving further than his 46 chromosomes, he was a genetic conundrum with the structure of his inherent material so complex, it resembled a mesh of nucleotides with an incomprehensible base-pairing system. To further add to this, the Hydrogen bonds seemed to govern them into an unusual nebulous shape. Needless to say, isolation, then splicing for the recombinant DNA had not been without its challenges.
He snatched the vial and studied the fluid inside. “With this we can establish and eradicate the immunity?”
“You can protect your race now,” she smiled.
He replaced the anecdote and tipped her chin up.
Her breathing shallowed. “You haven’t done that in a while.”
“I was studying you then… I’d never seen a human before.”
“You have now.”
He braced her shoulders with sudden grip and crushed his lips to hers. She was forced backwards as one of his hands trailed down her waist, and tried to disengage herself but the wall gave way behind her. She gained her footing just as the transparent lab door sliced between them, and searched her coat pocket…he’d taken her access card.
“Don’t you dare!” she screamed, banging her fists on the glass in frustration.
But he downed a vial and stole his long-overdue death from its bottom. He’d not told her that his race was dead or that he’d extinguished the responsible planet, but he’d still felt a truthful bond with this woman before the end of the world.
When she was finally inside, she sat with his still body and stroked along his faint smile. Her bleary mind did not register the missing vials.
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