Black Sun: The Orphaned 1

November 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

Everywhere was fire and screaming. Elizabeth huddled in the dark, clutching the old shotgun her stepfather had used for hunting and felt the dirt under her cheek. Laying on her side she could hear the screaming. It would stop in once place, somwhere out there in the dark, and then start somewhere else.

The black bugs that were not bugs, at least not bugs like she had ever seen, had chittered their way into the trailer and killed Dave. She had not loved Dave, really, but he’d tried awfully hard to deal fairly with her and it wasn’t impossible that in another year or two she might have accepted him. Her mother Sioban was down to the mine. Dave had been making dinner for the two of them, grilled cheese because it was all he knew how to make. She didn’t mind, exactly, but he wasn’t her father and the man hadn’t been dead long enough for her to have forgotten him. At least not enough to forgive Dave, or her mother for bringing him into their lives.

The door had simply curved and then burst right off the hinges, and they came in. Bugs, as big as a dog with a huge spine running down the middle of their segments, black as anthracite. Huge eyes like carved lumps of quartz, and terribly silent. Four of them poured into the trailer. Dave had bellowed something to her, and she ran while he bashed at the closest one with the cast iron skillet. The sandwich had twirled end over end, burned on one side.

She didn’t remember how she got out of the trailer, or where she’d found the twelve gauge in the rear bedroom. It was warm, clutched up to her chest. In the dark, she hid under old man Eastlin’s porch and watched fires flicker into the sky, heard gunfire. She remembered firing the shotgun as suddenly as the act itself, remembered coming out of the bedroom shrieking, pulling the trigger and pumping over and over and over again. It took all the deer slugs the gun held to crack those things open. Nothing, no blood, no guts, nothing but dust came out of them. Dave had smashed two apart, and lay dead and torn open while she pulled the trigger again and again even after the gun was empty. Then she had run, and she had hid.

She had not loved Dave, but she realized as she lay crying in the dirt that he had died for her. There was more screaming, somewhere far off, and an explosion. A loud whoosh followed by a thud, and several metal tanks rained down in her line of site towards the old Mathers’ Store. Propane, she thought. The things were still out there, some as small as an oriole, others as big as the ones that killed Dave. They had eyes, but kept swarming towards whatever light sources they could find. Eventually they would run out of lights, she realized.

Then they would kill her too.

She needed to get away. Her mother had been down to the mine, which at this time of day was covered with electric lights. Could anyone still be alive down there? She wanted to run away and hide, but she had to find her mother.

She listened for the screaming,. When it got more distant, she would crawl out. Go down to the mine. Get her mother and get out. They had to get out.

Two miles away from the rapidly disappearing town of Edgersall, West Virginia wings of fire descended from the sky. They were dull orange-red, and they belonged to a being with ashen skin, two arms and two legs, yellow and red swirling flames in orbs she would have considered eyes, no hair and clothing that would not have looked out of place a thousand years ago on the islands her ancestors had left to come settle in the mountains. His large head was covered in wiry grey hair.

Looking at him, Elizabeth would have known he wasn’t normal, but she might not have known why. As his feet settled down onto the ground, the wings of flame became twisted shapes in the air, and all writhing coiled themselves around his body like writing, or pictures. They smoked and even seemed to move pressed against his flesh. He sucked in air and considered a long moment before exhaling it.

His fingers were long, three knuckles each, four on each hand with a thumb opposing them. He flexed his right hand and a series of floating golden images popped into view. He studied them, his face almost ruddy in the light the globe he’d called into existent, looking at lines and circles as they swirled and moved across it.

The tunic of his clothing had a hood that he pulled up over his face, shuddering at what seemed to him a cold dusk heading into night. His breath was visible, as were the faint trails of smoke from under his clothing. He walked until he could find no downward path, and then he floated up into the air (glowing as if standing in front of a banked fire) and drifted downhill. It took him two minutes to come to the terraced, obviously artificially carved opening with the huge lighted towers surrounding it.

There were bodies everywhere.

He was surprised to see how the bodies were of bipeds with similar arms and even heads like his own people. They looked strange to him, but not alien, just foreign. They had hair on their faces and heads and even covered themselves, which suggested they lacked pelts. There were fragments of black stone, and even whole smashed in bodies of far more aggressively unusual beings with wide, oval body plans and a three lobed construction.

He landed next to one and kicked it off of one of the more familiar bodies with a booted foot. It was split down the middle from a great blow, most likely from the hammer the corpse was holding. A huge grey metal head on a handle made of a material he didn’t recognize, with lines and whorls along the surface. Even after taking a blow that split the thing in half the black stone oval had torn the man (he couldn’t stop himself from thinking of them as men) open from belly to throat. The man’s eyes were open, staring, with dark brown irises much as his own fathers’ eyes had been the night he died.

Such thoughts could not last when the chittering came.

The ash grey man closed the eyes of the dead one and stood, turning to face the hole ripped in the soil and rocky ground of the former hillside. As he watched, ovals barely the size of his hand and ones nearly as large as his entire body came forth, at first a trickle, then a rolling carpet of black stone that seemed to hate light itself. Even looking at them made his eyes hurt. More and more they came, and all around him he could see the evidence for yet more having already made their way past him.

The flood waved hundreds of antennae at him.


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