Trying my hand at a short sci-fi thriller here... The hope is to have a three to four part series of these stories, so I hope you enjoy it, and will come back when the next story is ready. So read on, and see the origins of another one of our Foundation members.
The war had ended, and the world was still reeling. Families were still trying to cope with the loss of their loved ones. The emotional scars lingered, a constant reminder of the loss of life. Empty chairs surrounded dinner tables around the world. In Denton, Colorado Margaret Ericson's table had three empty chairs. Her two brothers had died at Iwo Jima, a tragedy that hit her whole family hard. However the loss was too much for her mother's heart to bear. Until the day her mother died, she had never thought that anyone could die from a broken heart.
After the funerals were over, and things had settled down, she was now alone with her father, a man whose experiences in the first world war had left him an emotional cripple, unable to show much remorse for the sons and wife that he had lost. He faced each day with a sort of stoic silence that only served to deepen the pain that Margaret was feeling herself. The look in his eyes told her what he would never admit himself. That he was only hiding the pain.
Most nights, they ate in silence. The noises of silverware clattering on the plates, an occasional cup hitting the table, and the sound of the crickets outside were the soundtrack to their meals. When words were spoken, they were generally just short requests like “Pass the salt”. No inquiries into how the day had been at the factory, no small talk at all. Margaret didn't let it bother her too much. She didn't know what to say, and not talking allowed her to hide her own pain, crying in the privacy of her room, rather than out in the open where it would disappoint her father.
Since the night she had found out her brothers were dead, sleep had been an uncommon occurrence. Most nights, she would toss and turn for an hour or tow, and then give up trying. On those nights, when sleep eluded her, and the quiet of the house became too deafening, Margaret would often go on long walks, aimlessly roaming in the night air. Occasionally she would lie down atop one of the many hills, and just stare up into the night sky, counting the stars.
She would often stay out, until the sun rose, her mind drifting in a pleasant state of numbness. The light in the horizon was always a clear indicator that it was time to return home, and another sleepless night had passed. The trek back to her house was always something of a sad stroll. Looking up into the stars, she was able to forget the world, and for the briefest of moments she was free. The walk home brought reality crashing back in, and the weight of it was crushing her slowly.
Denton, Colorado was a small town with a population just shy of 1500 people. Situated about 50 miles east of Trinidad along US-160, there was a whole lot of nothing for miles around, desert as far as the eye can see. The monotonous, landscape only broken by the tightly clumped together buildings, and the somewhat further removed factories. The land was unfit for farming anything other than cacti and tumbleweeds. The towns economy relied solely on the factories, and in that way, the war had been a great boon to the small community.
For Margaret, life in Denton was a repetitive ordeal, an endless cycle of work. Due to her unusual circumstances, the foreman at the factory allowed Margaret to keep her job. While many of her former co-workers went back to their homes, and their husbands returned, Margaret just kept plugging away, despite the stares, the rude comments and the occasional bouts of outright hatred. She continued working on the line, day in and day out. It appeared that it was a routine she was doomed to repeat forever.
On a balmy July evening in ’47, things changed. After the incident in New Mexico, the country was abuzz with talk of aliens. Her nights staring up at the stars took on a new sense of wonder. Every shooting star suddenly became some alien craft. She found herself wondering how many of them were out there. That night as she watched the sky, a shooting star once more caught her eye. Once more the sense of wonder filled her, as she tracked its flight.
The wonder turned to a curious mix of fear and elation, as she saw the craft not arcing across the sky, but rather approaching, getting larger as it fell. Without a second thought, she leapt to her feet and took off, trying to follow the path of the object, as she ran through hills, and fields. Soon she was sprinting, her heart racing as she tried to figure out where this object was going to land.
Soon, it was a bright ball of light, arcing towards the Denton Munitions Plant. Margaret watched in awe as the object slowed down, and finally lightly touched down on the ground. As the light faded, the object was nothing more than a shadow in the distance. Rather than encourage her onward, the lack of an impact actually put a halt to Margaret's headlong dash. Suddenly caution was the order of the day, as she ducked behind some bushes, and watched.
The lack of light made it difficult to discern what was ahead. The object lingered in the shadows, unmoving. Curiosity tugged at Margaret, urging her forward, overpowering the wariness that had rooted her feet in place.
Slowly she approached the munitions plant. In the dead of night, coupled with the strange descending object, it was lent a sort of malevolent air. Ignoring the plant itself, Margaret approached the object, and was shocked to find it hovering a good 6 inches off the ground. It was large, about eight feet tall, and shaped vaguely like an inverted Coke bottle. The outside appeared to be made entirely of a seamless piece of slightly purple metal that she had never seen before.
Her hand slowly reached forward to caress the smooth surface. It tingled ever so slightly, but was cool to the touch. Her fingers traced the contours, never once finding a place where the metal had been fused together. As far as she could tell, it was a single piece of metal, not a single imperfection, perfectly smooth.
A noise from behind her made her whirl around, her inspection of the object forgotten. A yellow pulse of light caught her eye as she whirled around, vanishing into the open door of the factory. She approached the opening cautiously, ignoring the voice in her head that told her to run.
She reached the doorway, and listened. Deep in the building, she could hear a strange clicking noise, and a lot of random clattering. She slipped inside, and was immediately blinded by the darkness. She moved to the side, moving based on her memories of the factory's layout. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. The scant bits of starlight coming in through the high windows did little to illuminate the building, but between that, and her 5 years working in the factory, had given her at least passing knowledge of the layout.
She peeked out around a stack of boxes, looking for the source of the clicking noise. A clattering at the far end of the factory drew her attention, and once more she saw that strange, pulsing yellow light. Reflected against some of the machinery, the light silhouetted a large man shaped creature. It stood at least 7 feet tall, with a body that just wasn't proportioned right. The fingers were too long, and slender, the body was bulky but didn't look fat. It had no hair, and she couldn't see any ears.
She gasped and backed away. The noise drew the attention of the strange creature. It wheeled around, and she saw that the yellow light was not a flashlight or a lantern, but rather some jagged crystal embedded in the creatures chest. The light filled her vision, as the creature sprinted towards her.
Margaret screamed and took off running through the factory, weaving around machinery, and piles of boxes. The weird clicks followed her, and the yellow light bobbed and weaved behind her. The headlong rush through the plant was cut short when she slipped, and slid across the floor.
She recovered quickly, and crawled behind a nearby piece of machinery, her breath coming in ragged gasps, which she tried to control. The clicks approached, suddenly seeming to move slower, the light no longer bobbing. It pulsated, as the creature approached, turning back and forth. Occasionally boxes would be sent crashing to the floor, as the creature apparently pushed them aside. The sound of a piece of machinery being hit was accompanied by a loud keening whistle. To Margaret, it reminded her of a cry of pain that would accompany a stubbed toe.
Suddenly, a piece of machinery came crashing into the wall not far from Margaret. She flinched as it smashed into pieces, raining debris down around her. She scrambled over and grabbed a particularly sturdy looking piece of the jagged wreckage, and clutched this makeshift weapon firmly against her chest. More scrap began to rain down around her, as more pieces of metal and machinery were seemingly hurled against the walls pell-mell. Margaret pressed herself deeper into her hiding place, trying her best to keep her breathing even, and suppressing her overwhelming urge to scream and run.
Suddenly the clicks stopped, the flying debris ceased flying, and an eerie quiet filled the room. The only noise she could hear was her own shallow breath and a slow, deep thrumming sound which seemed to be in sync with the throbbing glow of the strange crystal in the creature’s chest.
A thrumming that grew progressively louder.
Soon, the thrumming was so loud, that she could feel it vibrating deep within her bones. The world seemed consumed by the yellow light, and the accompanying thrum. She bit her lip, her hands holding that piece of metal in a white-knuckled grasp. Time slowed to a crawl.
As if the world had stopped, everything had taken on a surreal sort of slow motion. The machine she had been pressed so firmly against was suddenly ripped up, and tossed almost effortlessly to the other side of the room. She wheeled around, moving as if in a thick pool of molasses, to find herself face to face with the creature.
Looking into its eyes, one could immediately see this thing was not human. It’s eyes were a dark purple, almost black color, and gleamed oddly in the reflected light from the strange crystal in its chest. The skin, was a strange reddish-lavender hue, a color she would consider rather pretty if the situation was different. The majority of the rest of its face was covered by some sort of breathing apparatus.
The way the creature’s eyes narrowed, Margaret knew it was angry. When the hands, with their impossibly long fingers, reached towards her, she freaked out, and acted on instinct, bringing the piece of metal she still clutched up with as much speed as she could muster, and smashing it into the creature’s face. The respirator shattered, and as the creature reared back, and let loose another keening whistle, Margaret saw that it lacked a nose. She backed across the field of debris that was now strewn across the floor, ignoring the feeling of the metal biting into her flesh.
She braced herself against the wall, the jagged edge of her makeshift weapon clutched in her bloody hands. She said a silent prayer, hoping that the creature would fall over, and the nightmare would end. Instead, it crouched low, a furious clicking issuing from its mouth.
In an instant, it leapt practically flying across the distance between it and Margaret. She clenched her eyes shut, and raised the metal piece. She felt the pressure, as the thing crashed into her, but similarly, she once more heard an agonized whistle. Opening her eyes, she was just able to see the metal scrap jabbed directly into the creature’s crystal, before the world dissolved into pure light.
July 25, 1947
Vandals have blown a hole in the side of the Denton Munitions Plant. Sometime early this morning, the trespassing hooligans apparently ran afoul of some live ammunition. The resulting explosion blew the north wall off of the plant, and left a burning mess behind. No word yet on if there were any survivors, but Federal Investigators have taken over , and advised locals to stay far away from the plant while they attempt to get the fire under control.