Monday, April 22, 2013

Quo Vadis

By Jeff C. Carter

Kwame wandered aimlessly through the tangled corridors of Avenir, lost in his thoughts.  He hadn’t eaten in days.  He hadn’t slept in weeks.  He haunted the endless hallways, always moving, trying to find his way back to where it all began and figure out where it had all gone wrong.

He remembered his grandfather’s stories from the faiths and traditions that had melted together during the long voyage across the stars.  Stories of wanderers.  Epic journeys, exiles, quests and redemption.  Kwame had foolishly believed himself beyond those tired and inbred superstitions.  He was a scientist and a pioneer.  Eclectia was a new world, free from the chains of the past.  He was going to discover mankind’s new beliefs and witness firsthand the evolution of the spirit.

He had glimpsed it on the borders, in the eyes of people who lived on the sea of lava or chased meteors tumbling through empty space.  He observed the children of the undersea cities who pressed their faces to the portholes, desperate to connect with the shimmering phantoms of the deep.  None of it had been enough. 

Others were charting the same developments and spinning their own theologies.  Kwame wanted his name alone studied and remembered.  He had to get there first.  He had to go deeper than anyone else dared.

Finally, in the depths of the ocean, it found him.  The monster outside his ship had touched his mind.  He had experienced raw revelation.  It hadn’t been easy.  The visions of catastrophic chaos had deeply disturbed him.  He tried to parse them, or place them in the context of an alien culture and history he couldn’t fathom.  When the visions finally overwhelmed him, he broke down and confided in his peers.  The more he shared them the better he felt until he came to believe that it was his purpose.  He had been chosen to deliver the alien’s dire message of imminent disaster.

Most of his peers turned him away and shunned him, but Dr. Lev had embraced him.  He encouraged Kwame to speak to the poor lost souls at his clinic.  They eagerly drank in his words and took them deeply to heart.  Kwame had felt fulfilled.

The next day he saw the news reports of the riot.  The inmates had put his warnings of chaos entropy and doom into practice or made them reality in a bloodthirsty nihilistic rampage.  Kwame felt the stain of all that blood on his hands and the ashes on his tongue. 

He had been a vainglorious fool, blindly furthering his own reputation.  He hadn’t cared what people believed as long as he got the credit for its discovery.  He had failed to proceed with caution and objectivity, to put the mental impressions from the aliens in the context of their own history or culture.  He had been so impressed with himself that he had convinced himself that he was some chosen messenger. 

He had wandered from his path a long time ago and there was only one way to arrive at a little redemption.  He had to repudiate the warnings he had preached so mindlessly and take the blame for the misguided souls who had acted without hope.  He turned down a dark intersection of tunnels and tried to get his bearings. 

The shadows shifted, swelling and reaching out to towards him.  Kwame stared in shock as the lengths of shadow bent at strange angles and pulled eight gleaming eyes out of the darkness.  Kwame’s mind desperately refused to accept the giant black spider stalking towards him.  Mandibles locked down onto his shoulders and an indescribable stench filled his senses.  He looked up into the malevolent eyes pressing down on him and felt an overwhelming sense of familiar horror.

He thought of the monstrous alien squid that had appeared outside his ship beneath the ocean.  He felt that same smoldering heat of its awful intelligence inside his head.   The lightning flashes of promised agony and destruction flickered once more before his eyes.  A sinister voice dripped like acid across his brain.

Where are you going?

And then Kwame knew that it was all real.  The ruination of flesh.  The annihilation of worlds.  Death incarnate.  Chaos surging on rivers of blood.

The spider dropped Kwame and he hit the ground running.  He screamed as he ran, hysterical warnings of doom.

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