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by Rachel S. Ross
We are not dying, but Planet now openly seeks to destroy us. Our immortality grants each of us utter responsibility for the creation. Our creation of Earth now controls our fate. We only wanted to create, only wishing to nurture. Our imitations destroy us.
Planet existed as a stillness in the universe. A central point. Lifeless for Age, upon Age. Nothing stirred in the darkness.
Until, there was One. There was existence.
One came into being, alone in the void. A source of light within the universe. Emulating the Life-energy. She was a part of Planet, connected to it’s soil. Yet One was also alive, apart, aware. As She grew, Planet’s once dead soil began to grow in life around her. Her shape was a model of the Beings yet to come: a graceful tallness, length of limbs and wide, crimson eyes. The Original Human form of Being.
Slowly, each of Them came into existence, each looking to One for answers. One did not know. One had just appeared like the rest of Them. Slowly, in turn, Two, Five, Twenty-Two, and Two Thousand Fifty-Three came into life. They lived, scattered across Planet, individual, but always connected to one another. Each time a new Being was born, They were an extension of Planet’s nature and an individual, independent Being. They lived simply by existing, roaming the chasms and peaks of Planet, not needing to sleep, or eat, or reproduce. They were Immortals, content with just being. Nourishment came from Their connectivity to each other and to Planet. Their strength of feeling was enough.
However, not all of them were content with this endless life.
Nine couldn’t accept the unknowing. Her thoughts boiled and tore at the questions of her genesis. By the ruby ocean, she allowed the black grains of sand to fall through her hands. For an Era, Nine blocked the thoughts of the Others, claiming the Red Isles as her own. Nine looked from the sand to the blank vastness of space above. An existence passed. Beings materialised, Planet had continued it’s slow maturity, nobody passed by the Red Isles. Nine was a constant, she was unmoving. The sand poured through her fingers, as she gazed upwards.
Until, she let fly seven grains of sand out of her hands, into the void, crying out for creation. Into these grains, she had given her Life-energy. As her presence flickered, the grains gained a Life-energy of their own. Nine had become less, giving the skies what she could not take back. Far into the void, far from Planet, an explosion burned through the atmosphere, emptying the vacuum of it’s deathful silence and blinding Planet with fiery illuminations. The skies had, at once, become full of deafening colour.
They waited, listening for life. And so finally, they sensed an Earth beginning to stir. And Earth flourished. They could not perceive Earth within the bright colours of Nine’s cosmos, but they could feel her. They each felt the beginnings of each new life with bliss. But They also felt the pangs of Earth’s death and sadness. Very cautiously, They began to love Earth for it’s existence. It had provided Them with a purpose: to listen, to feel it’s beauty and cry with it’s pain. They praised and cared for Nine, the half-form that she had become, and loved her for the beauty and grounding They now felt because of her creation.
As Earth swiftly flourished, Planet blossomed correspondingly. Planet itself became an oasis of new life and discovery, echoing Earth’s evolution. Planet had it’s own wonders; life grew immortal like Them but echoed Earth’s nature.
Growth. Life. Joy. Death. Life. Joy. Life. Growth.
Joyfully, They felt a life-form on Earth so very similar to Their own. Listening and feeling felt more severe, more lucid.
But rapidly, for the first time, They began to feel the pangs of destruction more, and more, and more.
Through an Age, the creatures and environment of Planet began to fall into darkness. The Great Forests became dark, labyrinths of twisted limbs. The glittering pools of Planet spiralled downwards into blackness. The very nature of Planet detached itself from Them, and began to prey on Them. Planet had become a Hunter. Beings began to disappear. One by one.
In desperation, the surviving First Ten sacrificed Themselves, pouring Their Life-energy into the creation of the Great Barriers. The Barriers protected the remaining Beings from destruction and sheltered the last safe haven from decaying. They begged Nine to join Them in the final safety of beauty and abundance, a Garden of colour and joy. The Last Garden became the last corner of the world.
In her anguish and guilt, the broken Nine refused. She left The Last Garden and was never seen again.
There are barely six hundred of Us left. But, We materialise, rarely, cautiously. We are still coming to exist: a sign that Planet and Earth are indeed continuous. Life continues to struggle in spite of everything. We are all together, the surviving Beings, trapped within the Great Barriers. Access to the Barren Lands is death, or disappearance. We don’t know. And so We wander The Last Garden. We lie and listen to the beauty. That is all We do. It is all We can do.
Again, again, again. I always used to go a little past the Barriers, as far as I dare. As close to the Barriers I can feel the Life-energy of the first Ten, minus Nine. I always pick a place away from any Others and lie, and listen to Earth. Immersing myself in this place between worlds I begin to descend into the blissful connection, a—
Euphoria. A barrage of beauty,
feelings of flying and
a somersaulting through the skies.
A first flight in a drenching downpour
and I drink. And grow.
Finally, water after the drought, the warmth
in my fur, their fur. Our warmth. Protection.
My babes are safe,
and relief blossoms within my chest,
as the drone just passes
The rush ripples through me, radiating joy. And I let these beings of Earth, Our children, fill me, nourishing me. Most of my kind spend each moment doing this, greedily feeding only a tainted splendour in this tiny corner of Planet. Closing Our minds to the destruction of Earth and of the desolation of Our planet, just beyond the Great Barriers. The Barren Land. Ignore the pain, if We don’t feel it, it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist.
I don’t know why I didn’t tell anybody about The Grove, and the barely visible path that brought me to it. On one of my trips past the Barriers, within the mists, I found what I had been searching for. What I hadn’t even known I was looking for. I had never ventured far from the Barriers, always keeping them within my sights. The brightness of them radiated even through the storms of the Barren Lands. I kept a safe distance, always near enough to safety. Until, one day I found beauty in the Barren Lands. Glowing with Life-energy, a trail of tiny saplings grew in the dust. I followed them without a second glance, away, away, away from the Great Barriers. Through a rocky passage and past dark waters, the pathway of saplings, gently shining in the murky dimness, lead me into The Grove. And I cried. I cried for it’s resilience and vulnerability. A tiny valley, tucked away, had survived. Thriving, fighting, rising against the pollution.
I daren’t stay for long each visit; the journey back cannot be too late. The brightness of the night-sky would betrays me. Day-time provides invisibility in the gloom of the Barren Lands. This time, I cried and listened for too long. I am coming back too late. I should have stayed.
The vast planes of the sky burn through my eyelids. Ocean carmines crawled across the vaulted openness alongside poison greens and earthy golds; they painted the sky into a garish tapestry. Not for the first time, I wondered. This heavy, lingering thought. That there may be somebody, somewhere now, who dared to raise their eyes to find their eyes reflecting a void. As We once did. A peace. A freedom. For a moment, I felt a feeling of safety, invulnerability, trickling through every vein and rising up. It caresses carefully around my throat, like soft whispers. Threatening to choke.
Cold. At the side of all the trees. The freezing wind bites, and brings scents. Unfamiliar. The big, bright light far away and up above is blinding. Different smells are near. But so hungry. Hungry. Mouths to feed. Wrong.
I had been out in the open too long, too late. The paralysing colours had already danced their way out of my eyes, sending fiery signals scattering across the darkening hills. The beams shine bright tonight; even through the smoky gloom of the evening. An unknown, yet familiar heat sears into the back of my neck as I try to turn towards the sounds of rumbling in the distance. A rolling beat carries through the air, reverberating within my chest. The reflections, the tantalising lights, that ricocheted out from my eyes, reflect off of figures in the distance. An alarm of Planet, sensing me. They’ve caught my scent.
I know what this is, I know what hunts the stray Beings beyond the Barriers. Finally, I had been caught out, caught in a moment. A moment in Earth. A moment of fear. A very real danger.
The Last Garden is too far. The Grove is nearer. But I can’t move. I can’t.
Dum, dum, dum. The noise. The noise that brings the cries. The cries of others. Hiding, in the safe brush. The same as leaves. Stay still. Flatten down. Hills of running land. Animals, running animals. Different animals. Running down the hills. Two hills, Five red coats, Twenty-two tan tails.
I’m fighting the paralysis; each antagonising, miniscule movement is an attempt to pry away the dread that jams each bone of my body together.
Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum. The ground is shaking. The green hills shake. A blaring warning. Running towards the forest. Closer, closer. Scared. The animals are danger.
A drumbeat. I feel it within my chest. In the air. As I look up, just one last time, the arching colours in the sky start to fall; they are accelerating toward me in a hail of blinding noise. The roaring of the heavens collapsing awakes every instinct to survive, to move. My body fights, one foot slowly becomes unstuck from the earth. One step forward. The other foot tries to move. The beating of my heart alone surely is giving me away.
A shudder runs through my body, and paralysis melts into adrenaline, Fear takes over. I look down, now the pounding in my chest matches the pounding of each foot that hammers down; one, and then the other, again, again, again. My feet, the ground; they become a rushing blur. I’m leaping over the drops, snares, snaking vines. Seeking to trip me. The world spins, speeding alongside me. Speed is with me, the shooting colours in the sky ahead urging me forward. I knows where I’m going, where I’ll be safe; it’s distant, unseen, but it’s not too far. Just a little further. I’m ahead. Drumbeats and footfalls, there is only the pounding.
The smells. All around. Familiar, unfamiliar. Unsafe. Branches: dip. Stumps: jump. Around is blurry green. Snapping of the floor under your paws. Shouts. Running. Pushing through the hedges. Up above, the birds startle, they leave the trees and escape. Escape.
Looking behind, just for a moment. I feel a horror descend open me as I see a dense wall of vapour and indistinguishable shadows racing just behind. It is them. It is the Planet’s Hunters. They are real. They are smudging greys with dancing, advancing shapes, converging upon my stumbling trail. Each imprint I leave in the earth is rapidly swallowed by the oncoming Hunter’s tendrils. The mist rises higher, enveloping the surroundings; the blinding colours above filters into dusky shades, casting shadows.
Another glance behind reveals their gaping mouths, dripping with fever. Clashing shapes flash, lightning strikes behind them. A snarling orchestra begins to build up around me. The walls start to close in on every side. I glimpse a withered, infected bark as a tree darts past on my right. I begin to dodge, the seemingly lifeless vegetation hinders my every step. I’m leaping, jumping, stumbling over corpse plant-life, their usual golden leaves navy in disease.
I keep on going, the Hunters are too close now, but I’m almost at The Grove. Any moment, any time, I’ll be there. I run. Any moment. Over endless rolling hills, I run. Something familiar starts to focus, a shining of Life-energy. The Grove. Thundering, weakened footsteps slam down again, again, again. The ancient shining vision of Life grows in my vision, grows until it fills my eyes and it’s the only thing left in this world.
Less snarling. Almost to the burrow. Scent of the cubs. The cubs! Your babies are here. Hungry.
The pace quickens; mine, theirs. As I comes closer to The Grove, it feels wrong: her whole body twinges and jerks. Fire runs through my body as I collapse to the ground. Twitching; every nerve is ablaze. Horrified, I realises what has been done.
Heat. Red heat all around. The hole is blocked with heat and fog. A scent. A lone animal, the hound, snarls. Bites. Bite back, whimpering. Cries. from the hound. Other howls join. More are near.
The Grove is burning. It is destroyed. I can’t move. I can’t cry. They are almost upon me. I have nowhere to go. The smell of burning reaches the back of my throat. The Grove is infected with death. It’s diseased.
I need to get up. My body shakes. I must get up. I need to move. I lead them here and they did this. They destroyed everything. I need to move.
Smoke in the throat. Suffocating, stinging. Burning eyes. Burning heat. One leg can’t run, ripped apart. The smell of blood.
I begin to run, again. I try to run: darting through the closing gaps in the cage around me. The only way clear is forward. A bright path is laid, lit in front of me; the Earth reflecting the stars. It goes far past The Grove, away from The Last Garden, into the unknown. Gliding through plague-ridden thickets and emaciated stumps I dash into the open, unfamiliar space. There is space for me here; space to run, fast. Glancing down at my battered body, my Life-energy flickers. I know, deep down, that now I will never be fast enough.
Blood. A body isn’t working. Cries of the animals. Cries.
I scream as lightning strikes, the heat of it tears across my back.
Hounds, more than one. So many. Lunging. The tip of a tail is ripped off.
The flashes throw my terrifying Hunters into sharp relief.
An endless plain, an endless run. I run, refusing to look back.
They’re close. Deep hungry breaths. The panting, screaming, panting and dum, dum, dum.
The skies are at battle; streaks of colour attempt to cut through the arms of obscurity. The Hunters reach out to silence the blinding flashes. As each flash screams a war cry across the night, my limbs scream with them. The pain. My legs are beginning to falter; they’ve ran too far. Unfamiliar colours dance before my eyes. I’m unsure of whether they’re worldly or in my own mind’s last, flickering attempts at vision.
Hot breath on a neck.
The beating of the drums urge my breaking body forwards.
Where to go. Unfamiliar scents. Run.
I’m on an infinite journey around the world. This daydream becomes everything. Tendons snap, panic bubbles up in my throat and envelopes my vision. The world is a blur.
Biting legs. Tearing, blood.
The cacophony grows, enclosing me within its bounds. Up ahead, the shadowy ghosts inch toward me, there’s no escape.
In blindness I almost fall from the edge of the land. I’ve hit the boundary.
The edge of the land.
Standing on the edge of all things, I turn to face the shadows. My life-energy casting a flickering pool of light, still in stark beauty to the withered darkness of the ghosts of Earth’s, Planet’s, Hunters.
Survive. Not death, not death.
The deep red ocean waves split the worlds in two; the surf gently laps the charcoal sands.
The jaws, snapping All around. Teeth. Wild breathing.
The ocean breeze kisses away each hurt.
Eyes close. Bury in the leaves.
Images become defined; half-real horrors take form around me. And in the shadows, I see Nine’s face emerging from within the shadows, contorted and broken. Screaming. I Scream. Nine suffers, and tortures, and suffers.
Terror. Hot breath.
I turn, and take just one step into the cool water. A peace, a safety, spreads through and frees my chest. This is the only way. Taking one last look right into the depths of Nine’s diseased, flickering image, I submerge myself. The orchestra deafens; Nine screeches. Escape.
A tearing. A rabid hound’s jaws clamp down and the shaking. Screams. A body slams and breaks again, and again. Writhing. Limbs twist, bones snap. Warm bubbles in boil upwards in the throat. Can’t breath. Warmth. Drowning. It’s slow. Agony. The animals howl, the animals are happy. It’s over.
Lying on my back, I drift with the slow, ebbing current. Slowly, as I’m slowly pulled further and further from the shore, the clash of musical notes and screaming fades. Ocean meets sky in a warmth of red. Heat blossoms within each and every muscle.
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