Author note: It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story in just one sitting, so I challenged myself to write a story over the duration of one album. So I sat down, put on a pair of headphones and started up World of Sleepers by Carbon Based Lifeforms, which is perhaps one of the best psybient albums ever composed. Below is the loosely edits first draft of the story I wrote in the one hour, eighteen minutes and thirty nine seconds it takes to listen to that masterpiece.
Back before we had excavated the catacombs we call out home now. Back before we could venture into the night and look at the stars so high above. Back before the feeders descended upon us, their tendrils dragging within the night across the surface wrecking everything in their paths. I had gone camping.
I had set up camp at the Greenwood Saddle. My favorite weekend getaway spot, a place I would go to calm my mind an escape the monotony of daily life and brew up story ideas. Not twenty miles from the city my camp sat nestled between Mount Katherine and Mount Wayne within the Greenwood Saddle. Beneath the gray full moon the mountains themselves had an eerie yet peaceful presence about them. I sat at my camp huddled in a chair beneath a propane lantern chair beneath a propane lantern scribbling away into my notebook fleeting thoughts while other campers murmured in the dark around their camp fires.
When my eyes needed rest my gaze would shift to the city, far on the horizon. Its lights glimmering like golden glow worms. I would watch the twinkling city and wonder what stories unfolded within each speck of light. How many people were having the best night of their lives as they took on Sixteenth Street hoping from bar to bar. How many families were enjoying a quiet movie night? How many couples were getting engaged? How many were going through a rough break up? So many lights, so many stories. I would return to my notes and jot down the stories as they came to me, filling my notes with more ideas for stories than I would ever write.
The night grew colder, and the mummers around my more silent. Gentle hisses periodically whispered in the night air as the campers extinguished their flames. By the time the moon had ascended to the apex of the sky only a single camp fire remained lit. I wasn’t tired but I knew I must sleep. Tomorrow would be hikes aplenty. I looked towards the city one last time to soak it in. The suburban neighborhoods around it had grown dimmer, but the urban core still glowed magnificently. I watched it for who knows how long, soaking it all in for what would become my last time.
I thought it was just a trick of the eye, a hallucinating from staring too long. A dozen of them must have fallen from above. Trails of blue lights descended from the sky, wiggling like worms at the end of a lure. They slithered through the sky in a serpentine like fashion, at the ends a bulbous blue alien mass that had to be at least ten blocks wide. The ends of the tendrils smashed themselves into the ground, smoldering the golden lights of the city. A thud like a distant firework show followed. My mouth hung loose my breath gone. What had I just witnessed?
I watched as the glowing blobs rested upon the surface of the city, the blue bioluminescence pulsing from the ends of the tendrils up high above into the sky above. Only a void in the night sky betrayed the creature, stars that were there a moment ago were no more. And then they retreated.
The tendrils lifted themselves one by one into the air towards the void, and then slithered back down at the same terrifying speed they had arrived before. Each time pulverizing the ground beneath it into a crater, smashing the lights below into darkness, only to curl itself back towards the void like an squid feeding, accompanied by the erratic sounds of the beast as its tendrils played the surface of the Earth like a drum. Campers around my began waking up, wondering what in God’s green Earth was going on.
A woman screamed, a man whimpered, children cried. We watched long into the night as the city became obliterated into darkness. Once the beast had done its job and the an abyss lied where the city stood the tendrils stopped their beating. They sagged towards the ground, resting upon it, and blue veins pulsed towards the void high above. We stood there speechless, within just a few hours whatever this thing was had obliterated the very city we called home, and just when we thought it was over it began dragging.
The void drifted eastward and the tendrils curled beneath it like string dragged across the ground. They began combing the surface, beating and skipping across it in erratic patterns. A low rumble filled the air as the void drifted towards the horizon, its dull blue limbs dragging lazily across the surface. Little did I know that that would be only the first instance of such an event, forty years ago. Not a single urban center survived the decade of feeding, and then the rural lands went next as the feeders dragged their tendrils across the country side feeling for signs of human life.
That is why we do not venture towards the surface any more especially after dark. If you ever find yourself surface side, and the sun has long set, if you hear the faintest sound of a deep rumble start running.