Featured fiction from the mind of sci-fi writer Margaret Stratton.
We crawled for ages, climbing when we could. The rains had fallen hard and fast, and countless of us had drowned, washed away by the rushing torrents. Food supplies went too, leaving those of us who’d survived starving. Scouts foraged and the little they were able to bring back gave us some strength to take on this foolhardy mission. Some warned us we had no choice, a few warned us it would be the death of us all. The some outweighed the few, so off we went.
The climb led to deep darkness, cut off from fresh air. The sky was blocked out, and soon even the ground below was lost to us. We moved on relentlessly until at last a sliver of light appeared ahead. The first of our group disappeared into the light, but I hesitated. What was out there? Behind me, grumbles and shouts. “Move on! You’re blocking the way! Get off the path if you have no courage.” I began to climb again as a cry reverberated down the line.
“It’s safe!! Come up, hurry! You won’t believe it!” Excitement, even elation shivered through the group and we all sped toward the light. I emerged soon, blinded for a few seconds after such darkness. A smooth white plain greeted us, dotted here and there with enormous shapes. Sweet smells overwhelmed our senses. We’d been so hungry, for so long. I staggered, overwhelmed.
Two of the scouts ran toward us. “Come this way! There’s a stockpile you won’t believe!” I followed as quickly as I could, toward a large, flat, black structure. The delicious fragrance of perfectly seasoned food drifted toward us. Several of our group stumbled out of the black edifice. “It’s amazing!” one shouted. “There’s so much food just laying there. I’ll take as much back as I can, so the others can eat, too.” He wobbled unsteadily toward the gash we’d just climbed out of.
“Old Andy, ate too much to walk properly!” We laughed at our old friend. He raised a hand in good natured acknowledgment.
We rushed into the structure which, on closer inspection, seemed to resemble a flattened disc with near transparent black walls. It was as they’d said: food in abundance, seasoned to perfection. I fell to eating. Soon the room was quiet but for noisy chewing, slurping and an occasional burp.
“I’ll take some back. The weaker ones need it.” said our chief scout. “Let me lay down for a minute. I must have eaten too much too quickly.” He lay down on his side and soon it seemed he was fast asleep.
I left the food hall and walked toward the large crack we’d come up through. I, too, had eaten too much too quickly. The world seemed to spin a bit so I stopped and sat down. The spinning wouldn’t stop, and my legs felt numb. Maybe if I lay down, that might help. That felt a bit better; at least the spinning stopped. Then, as I lay on the white plain, I noticed all the others doing the same. They would stagger a little, then one by one, they sank to their knees or sides.
I couldn’t move and light was growing dim. More and more of my friends were lying down. One or two twitched a bit, then stopped moving altogether. I couldn’t catch my breath. A friend struggled by. “It’s poisoned! The food, it’s poison.”
More will come, no doubt, no way to warn them.
An obscenely large head rose, antennae twitching. Clawed legs, holding a hot cloth, wiped the counter clean.