Datacide 19Fiction

Distant Sky – New Short Story by Dan Moss

Illustration by Luke Hekate

The rocks and soil above his head rumbled and shook. He looked upwards; shafts of light pierced the darkness. There was nowhere below him, what had been his home was now a pile of debris and death. Above him lay the bright lands, the hairy two legs and their infernal contraptions. His huge arms powered him upwards, there was only forwards.

Blinded by the white light, he pulled himself free from the ground and looked to the heavens. His first view of the distant sky was a brooding mass of heavy storm clouds that squatted on the horizon, waiting to join arms with the ensuing dusk atop the broads. It was damp but there was no rain just the pressure of a building storm. He set off down the hill away from the cacophony, loud voices and clanking, emanating from the valley some way to the left of him.

In the valley, William Bernard Reynolds looked on as Harold Sanders and his men tightened bolts on the casing around the main metal trunk. Yet, another day gone and still not a drop of oil. His dreams of becoming England and King George’s savior melting away as his project became the failure many had predicted. It wasn’t Harold’s fault, he was the best engineer Nottinghamshire had to offer and William couldn’t rightly blame the Americans who had given him the technical drawings, numerous experts had rectified the plans for the derrick. Maybe there was no black gold to be found in Britain.

The sharp crack of rock splintering pulled William out of his revere as the derrick crumbled under unstable foundations, sending the drill careering towards the crew of five men. The group jumped back on mass, managing to elude the mechanical collapse as it came crashing down. William ran over and pulled Harold out from a small pile of debris.

Harold brushed himself down. He perched on an empty barrel, drew breath and stuffed a pinch of brown gum into his mouth.
He half smiled at William, his mouth full, his last remaining teeth struggling to masticate the tobacco. He offered William the packet but his boss declined. After a few minutes pondering and observing, Harold pulled himself together, spat a lump of gunk onto the floor and limped back over to where his team was already working to right the contorted machinery.

Dan Moss reads the story Distant Sky on our YouTube channel

The fall of night brought an end to the work. William bid his crew farewell and strolled over to his Ford. He fired her up; as the engine spluttered then purred into life, he could not help but marvel for the millionth time at the ingenuity and intelligence of man. These automated harbingers of the future would be fundamental in the effort. The fascists were growing ever more powerful as the months went by and war was inevitable. If there was one thing, they needed to beat Hitler; it was an army of machines. And machines needed oil; it was their lifeblood. It was this very argument that had enabled the funding for the project, got him up here in the Midlands and the project off the ground. However he and his crew had been toiling for months without success.

William parked the car and pulled his coat close to him as he walked over to the small-disheveled cottage, crooked and ridden with damp, but the only one available to him and Nancy when they had moved up to Eakring from London. He wound his way towards his smoking chimney, set back from the other abodes at the end of the lane, like a black sheep waiting to be granted admittance to the barn.

He entered to find his house empty but welcoming. His wife, Nancy, had left his dinner on the table and the fireplace still flickered as some lumps of coal simmered in the hearth. William slowly masticated his grub, an awful lot of his mind.

After dinner he rooted around in the hamper; digging deep he found some hard black rocks, fed the fire and leant back in his chair. Absently he ran his hands over his face as he watched the flames lick at the air. He slumped his head and noted his body was covered in a smear of soot; looking down at his two hands they were almost completely covered in dark powder. He took up the whiskey bottle, feasting on its sour syrup. The world fuzzed in and out of focus, disparate colours yelled incoherent words.

The clattering of droplets as they met the corrugated iron roof brought William back from the Sandman’s lair, but despite the aggressive sound of hammering globules there was a feeling of palpable release in the air that morning. From the stove Nancy smiled at him and waved a steaming mug of tea. William pulled himself up from the settee, kissed his wife on the forehead and checked the fire; the last embers glowed red.

William trundled down the path towards the low-slung coal shed and cranked open the ill-fitting door. Inside, it took his eyes a moment to become accustomed to the dank light. As he did, he was able to make out the shape of what he could only describe as a thing. Its pale skin was covered with bulbous mucus ridden boils. The eyes were covered in small flaps that narrowed the eyes to slits. At the end of humongous arms there were not fingers but paws and long sharp claws. It was broader and shorter than the average man. Huge muscles collected around its massive shoulders. Parts of its anatomy were similar to that of a human – chest, phallus and neck. Others aspects like the protruding snout were decidedly not.

A thin spindle of black dribble eschewed from its lips; the stink of damp fungi befuddled the air. William slammed the door shut and stood in the rain staring at the shed. He turned and walked back inside to finish his tea.

On the drive to the mine, he resolved to put the incident out of his mind; it was the old noggin playing tricks on him, crystalising his fear of failure. At the mine for once Harold’s somber mood matched his own. His engineer had been on site since daybreak and although the crew had managed to right the derrick there was still nothing coming up but dirty cave water.

Harold sat down beside William on a stump under an awning as the rain continued to cascade from the heavens. The local engineer was about to tender his resignation when one of his men, Clive Hanson came running up his face covered with a black opaque liquid, the only light his shinning eyes and beaming smile.
Success. The whole crew rejoiced. Harold cracked out a bottle of bourbon. The songs of the men echoed out across the moors as the liquids flowed.
Before entering his house, William crept in on the shed and checked inside- nothing. It had been his despair mixing with the uneasy light of the dawn. He let out a sigh as he pushed open the door to his house.

On the settee where he had been resting that very morning sat that pale, disgusting, muscular monster he had seen in the shed. Slurping up tea with its snout from William’s favourite mug, emblazoned with the flag of St. George.

He pulled his wife into the kitchen and verbally unloaded. After stating his case for getting rid of the thing. He underlined his displeasure by smashing a milk jug that stood close to him. He barrelled into the living room, pulled the creature up by its arm and marched it down to the shed. He shoved it inside and fixed the door by leaning a pickaxe up against its handle, blocking it from opening.

When he returned the house was still, Nancy had gone to bed locking the door to their bedroom and banishing him to the living room for the night. William drew himself two fingers of whisky and passed out.

It was pitch black. The sound of creaking bed springs pricked at William’s slumber. He arose and made his way upwards towards the sound. Dripping down the stairs was a thin stream of black viscous liquid, slipping stickily from one step to the next. He clambered up to the top and knocked on the bedroom door that was also smeared in thick stripes of dark goo.

Nancy opened the door and peeked out. Behind her, William could make out the shape of the creature. He tried to push his way through; she slammed the door in his face and bolted it. The rising creaks of the bedsprings soon masked his banging.

He descended the stairs and tried to settle himself into the sofa but all he could do was concentrate on the sound of the springs now joined by his wife’s sighs and gasps. Inexplicably he found his member to be engorged, it drew his hands to it and he grabbed at it, he was soon masturbating furiously, the louder the sounds from the bedroom, the more stimulated he become until her joyous scream rang through the house, causing William to be jolted into orgasm. He sprayed himself with white liquid and promptly passed out, the sticky fluid entangled with his nightmares.

At dawn he awoke with a start to complete silence, outside the rain had abated leaving in its wake a dense fog. William marched up the stairs and pushed against the door, the bedroom was still locked so he turned tail and walked outside, here he strode back and forth in what should have been a prosperous garden but was really nothing more than a thick mud patch. On one of the anxious rounds he made of the small space, his eyes alighted upon the pickaxe that lay perched by the outhouse. He picked it up; it’s heaviness feeling solid in his trembling hands.

The door opened to the house and in just her nightgown Nancy walked down to the shed with the hamper, she did not note her husband lurking behind the shed, murderous intent in his bloodshot eyes. As she opened the door he snuck up behind her and swung the pickaxe with his entire might, piercing her repeatedly with his long hard metal tool.

Marching back upstairs and into the bedroom he found the creature sprawled in his marital bed. For a moment the two fixed each other in a deep stare, then it threw itself up at William, it’s sharp fangs bared, but the man used the force of it’s attack to shove it hard into the dresser and it dropped to the floor. William grabbed at his pickaxe. He was a swift hand with the weapon, and he brought it crunching down into the head of the beast. He repeatedly struck the creature, its black lifeblood sprayed the room until it was covered in an array of dark splotches and the beast lay crumpled at his feet.

William carried the limp corpse of the creature down the stairs and threw it into the car along with that of his wife. He set off; the encroaching light of dawn incrementally pulling back the night to reveal the horror in the back of his automobile.

As he wound his way along the country roads towards the mine it became apparent the monster was not yet dead. Above the din of the engine it was possible to make out the creature’s whimpers and groans; reminiscent of the passionate sounds of his wife. He looked in the back; it spat and warbled but didn’t wriggle or move, it was not dead yet. Instead in the front seat Nancy was most definitely deceased, her cold staring eyes looked out at the thick morning fog, which had descended on the road and coated his makeshift hearse with a blanket of cover.

It was Sunday and the mine was deserted. He pulled the lifeless corpse of his wife and the nearly dead one of the monster and set them up against the derrick as its bird like beak eerily swung up and down. He found the supply of dynamite Harold had amassed in the store cart and proceeded to wrap the detonation coil round his wife and the creature. He would destroy them along with the very hole the creature had crawled up from, erasing even the memory of their toxic love. The black stench that seemed to poison everything would soon be gone forever. This would be the last the world ever saw of such a monster.

William drew the cable out along the ground and set the fuses. He walked back and checked the wires and the explosive bundles, but coming upon the monster he found to his dismay it had worked it’s snout round so that it held the dynamite in it between its jaws. Before William could reach out it proffered what seemed like a smile before biting down on the explosives. A ball of fire engulfed William, his wife and the white monster.

The moor was cloaked in silence and debris of limbs and viscera. The derrick and the three beings along with all the oil that had been mined were gone. In their place was a gaping chasm that dropped down into what seemed like infinity.

For some time nothing moved. Slowly, a hoard of pale creatures, exactly the same as the one that had just perished, pulled themselves free from the huge hole. They wound their way to the top of the hill and down towards what men called civilisation, a smear of black slime leading back to the irreparable crack in the scorched earth.

Dan Moss

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