The Pale Horse

Header_ThePaleHorse

Three months ago a man got on a plane in India thinking he had a cold. What he carried inside of him was a disease that was highly infectious and resistant to most known forms of medication. Within weeks, the disease has spread across the globe and there is no cure.

The world calls it The Pale Horse.

For twenty year-old Meda Ahachik, her vacation should have been spent worrying about upcoming finals. Instead, the pandemic reaches the city of Baltimore, and Meda finds herself relying on the teachings of a family she’d left far behind.

Continue reading

Icarus: Epilogue – August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

AFTER ACTION REPORT #452
SYSTEM REPORTING: ALPHA CENTAURI; PRIMARY ALPHA
COMMAND: CSS PERSHING, 4TH FLEET
CO: 06 CPT KILLIAN, JAMES

The wreck discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri’s dwarf planet EISIN B is confirmed to be the North American Expeditionary Science Vessel Icarus. Presumed lost over fifty years ago, rediscovering the wreck will shed some light on the NAEF’s Time-Vortex technology. Following the Collapse, much of it was lost.

It appears that the ship collided with an asteroid approximately the size of a human fist at roughly one-third the speed of light. A good chunk of the forward hull was ripped away by the force of the collision. My tech officer also reports that the ship was outfitted with a type of ablative armor, though most of it seems to have been burned away.

Three crew members were recovered from the wreck, all three remarkably well preserved. They all appeared to have died of exposure, though tests will be run once we return to Earth. We simply do not have the facilities aboard the Pershing to examine them here. In the meantime they’ll be put in cryo freeze for the return trip.

We also recovered a portable computer terminal. It was found on one of the less preserved bodies and exposure has all but destroyed it. Perhaps something will be recoverable, though the technology is rather ancient. Our IT department will have a field day with it I’m sure.

For now the Pershing will be returning to Earth immediately. Once she hears about this, we’ll be made to come straight home anyway. I hope they can discover what made the Icarus operation such a failure. From what I hear, they fell off the grid the moment they went into the Vortex. Poor bastards.

Well, at least now their families might get some closure after all these years. Most have forgotten perhaps but if I know Sarah… well she won’t. Fifty years and she finally convinced the Council to send a ship here.

I’d love to hear her story some day. Seventy and can still boss around a Confed Council, no wonder she never married.

THE END

Icarus – May 1st, 2099

May 1st, 2099

How do you say goodbye to life? As it turns out, you do it as quickly as possible. My computer’s power is all but gone and I have just enough to seal away one last entry. It will be encoded and preserved as best I can, though it won’t matter. This is for me, for both of us for there are two of us: the man I was and the creature I will be.

I am hours away from the radiation kill zone around Alpha Centauri’s primary star. There is a technical name for it but I don’t remember what it is. Once the Icarus crosses that line, I will die. The ablative armor on the ship’s hull will burn away like paper thrust into a bonfire. There is the possibility of being struck by a meteorite, there’s a couple million out there, circling the planets. I didn’t aim the ship to avoid them.

Five minutes. Jesus this isn’t even going to be read. Mom, dad, you won’t even know what happened to me. Sarah? Christ you haven’t talked to me in years, a decade. It’s been a decade since I left Earth, it just doesn’t feel that way.

I came out here to get away from everything, to leave all my pain and my regrets behind. They were beasts, raging at the doors of my sanity. Out here, I thought I’d change. I was too afraid to be happy, to be the man I wanted to be so desperately. Sarah wanted me to be that man, helped and urged me to change but I wouldn’t listen.

I hear her voice, calling me. Finally. I’ve waited so long to come back. It’s the madness, the creature inside me that’s talking but I don’t care. I see a door ahead of me and it leads back to our old apartment. Inside, she’s waiting for me, looking young and beautiful. She’s beckoning and sunlight is turning her short hair to gold and white. Oh, God, if you could only see what I see.

Icarus – April 30th, 2099

April 30th, 2099

What have I done? Sarah will not come to me! She stands on the other side of the sealed doors and turns her back on me! Sarah, oh Sarah, why? I… what have I done to the controls? Why are they broken? What have I done?

The colors are all wrong in here. I must write it down, that’s it. If I write it down, it will be right again. It must be why there are so many locked entries before this. Why are they locked? Why can’t I read my own entries?

She’s looking at me, frowning, pointing. Why? What is she so upset? No! No… please, no…

Icarus – April 27th, 2099

April 27th, 2099

Sarah stands before me, her hands on my cheeks. I look into her eyes, feel her breath on my chin as she smiles. She hasn’t done that in so long. It’s a dream, the past, a past that is replacing the present.

Reaching out, I can feel her. I touch her short hair, my fingertips sliding through silky strands to the warm scalp below. She closes her eyes, sighing in contentment. Her body presses against mine and the scent of vanilla comes to me, faint but intoxicating. If I press my lips to hers, I know the taste of the gloss she wears will be strawberry. Strawberry and vanilla. I can’t smell, see or taste either without thinking of her.

It’s a fever dream but I can’t wake up. I follow her through the engine rooms, tap out numbers on keys that she tells me. Her whisper is in my ear, telling me we shouldn’t be alone. We should go home, go home and find others to be with.

I am at peace in those moments, when the dreams are at their most vivid. I could stay here forever and be all right, but I won’t. There is something in me that fights this perfection, this living dream. I won’t reach out to kiss her, to draw her to me forever, because that dream scared me then and I can’t accept it now.

And so I have these moments where I know I am becoming one of them. I wake from the dream and see my hand poised over the ship’s consoles and snatch it back. Sarah always said I was too afraid to reach out and embrace my dreams, but if she only knew the dreams I have now.

Icarus – April 26th (approximate), 2099

April 26th (approximate), 2099

Oh Jesus. Oh my God, what have I done? I let them in while they were asleep and then I… I just left. Went to the engine rooms and sealed myself in. Why am I not dead? Why did the others leave me alone?

I can’t get that song out of my head. It’s louder, pounding inside like a migraine. I hear it in the walls, feel it through the floor and it comes with each beat of my pulse. Is that blood? I’m bleeding from somewhere, my fingernails, my ears… where is it all coming from?

They’re banging on the door, screaming my name. Is that my name? Is that how it sounds? Sarah, you never called me that. You always called me Will, not traitor. Is that what I am? Did I do this? I can’t hear myself think anymore, all I hear is that song. One of the words makes sense to me now.

Brother.

Icarus – April 25th (approximate), 2099

April 25th (approximate), 2099

It’s been fourteen hours since they left. That is a very long time to be gone. The sounds have gotten louder, more insistent. I can’t sleep. How long has it been since I slept? I’m too afraid to close my eyes, too afraid to keep them open too. What is that? No one else seems to hear it? Some kind of… song.

It’s very faint, like a note carried on a breeze. If I turn to hear it better, it’s gone. I hear it clearly when I try not to think and shut the world away. There are no words, just a consistent low melody. Is it an instrument or is someone humming? I can almost make it out. It seems so familiar.

I’ve asked Bree and Rich but they don’t hear it. How can they not hear that? There it is again. The same notes. It’s a song, I know it is. Who’s playing it? Has Kate and Alex gotten cut off? Is this how they’re trying to communicate?

We need to do something. They’ve been gone too long. The others are banging on the walls now, screeching so loud I can hardly hear myself think. There’s something else too, a kind of rattling in the floor. Are they coming through? Oh God, what is that sound?

It’s that song, playing loud and clear.