Here is a little warning before you are plunged into the story below:
- These flash fictions are developed during our They Come From Within workshops and their many permutations.
- They are a hive mind effort, developed and written by a number of individuals in tandem – not all of our writers are mind readers so sometimes the stories come out a little Frankenstein but are no worse for being a little disjointed.
- We will be uploading these stories one at a time, once a week during November-December 2017 – to fill in the gap that our hiatus has inadvertently created in your life. After December updates will be more or less in synch with our workshops.
Now to the story –
Days in the greendomes were good, nights even better. With the lights low, to replicate the solar rythms of a sun nobody remembered, you couldn’t see Yellowstone billowing around in its new home in the sky. Just weak LEDs along the walkways, the white of the apple blossoms glowing sweetly as J went along pollenating by hand, bit by bit, one by one, one to the other – doing the work of animals, because this was what happened when people only saved themselves.
The first whispers of the spawncall tickled the back of J’s mind, a distraction in the first days building to a babble that teased their thoughts apart. Work became difficult, distracted, and J found themselves spending unthinking hours standing in the dome’s vestibule, staring at the doors and waiting for the blinking red lights to flick to constant green. Once the doors opened then the hot, organic pressure building in their body would be released. J shuddered at the thought.
As ever, the signal came at a painfully inopportune moment; this time, when J was hunched over the centrifuge, eyes focused on the tiny gauge. The work was sensitive and vital, but there was no question of continuing once the light glowed fertile green. J shut down the equipment, their shaking hands fumbling over the sharp-edged switches. Out in the corridor, a thrumming echo of feet started to swell.
J was compelled, by a force that outweighed their reason and one that overpowered even their most basic instinct, to join the growing shoal of humans slowly gathering outside the greendomes. First, however, they were to equip themselves in gear that protected their fragile lungs and eyes. The air outside was nippy but the shoal was safe and retained much of the tepid heat of the greendomes as it progressed, at an unrelenting pace, towards a pulsating, lilac light in the distance. Eventually, J saw the familiar pyramid outline of the Temple with its smooth surfaces perpetually covered in ash and airborne debris.
Hunger pangs of every kind pinged in each of them, identical by design and irresistible. J could feel it stacking, accelerating and synchronizing through the shoal – their steps falling in ripples through the ash and blasts on the ground – leaving a pattern of waves that’d only last a minute in the world outside.
It’ll only last a minute, J told themselves.
To the moment, the airlock door was whipping open and shut, admitting them in uniform waves to the Temple. To home, technically. Though as the door zipped shut behind J, the only feeling was of stepping into a trap.
Saliva flooded J’s mouth, turning quickly to drool as sane, rational thought decayed into pure, unthinking action. The warm, humid air of the Temple crackled with a static that made clothing confining, stifling. Strips of rent fabric, partially recognizable as shirts or trousers, lined the hallway that led to the Spawnpit. J barely realized that their own clothes had fallen away, lost at whatever point their hurried walk had turned to a frenzied run.
Down the hall, through an archway, hardly aware of the jostling masses. Then weightlessness and falling and a euphoric loss of self that went beyond pain, beyond death.
Until the impact, where they and countless others were momentarily swallowed by the elastic, slightly slippery membrane of the pit. Silence pervaded. There was a brief moment of confusion, as always, where bodies struggled to render themselves apart in order to fall back together, fitted, like pieces of a massive jigsaw puzzle.
A grip was taken. Limb slid along limb. J yielded to their place in the knot, and let their gaze drift to the pyramid’s apex, where the lights dimmed for comfort, as they were programmed to. The less that could be seen, the better. In slick increments, the process advanced. Step by step, like the pollination of the apples. Because this – this – was what happened in order for people to save themselves.
Written by many, typed by Eris Young
25/11/2017 at Woodland Creatures, Leith
Hell Panel from “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch