Arrival, page 1part #1 of The Otherist Series
Copyright © 2017 by William Dickey
All rights reserved.
Cover by William Dickey
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To Andrea, Glenn, and Charlene. You always have my back. Thank you.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Arrival
Chapter 2: Game
Chapter 3: Mill Valley
Chapter 4: Party
Chapter 5: Hubris
Chapter 6: Surprise
Chapter 7: Purgatory
Chapter 8: Return
Chapter 9: Re-Innovate
Chapter 10: Success
Chapter 11: Raid
Chapter 12: Aftermath
Chapter 13: Mountain
Chapter 14: M.A.I.
Chapter 15: Ruin
Chapter 16: Juggernaut
Chapter 17: Reunion
Chapter 18: Magic
Chapter 19: Trap
Chapter 20: Run
Chapter 21: Crystalpeak
Chapter 22: Breach
Chapter 23: Audience
Chapter 24: Library
Chapter 25: Embarrassed
Chapter 26: Preparation
Chapter 27: Competition
Chapter 28: Treasure
Chapter 29: Gathering
Chapter 30: Underground
Chapter 31: War
Chapter 32: Panic
Chapter 33: Truth
Chapter 34: Scorched
Chapter 35: Possessed
Chapter 36: Result
“My Lords incubi, my Ladies succubi, my fallen angels, leviathans, and all form of nightmare big or small. Long ago, our ancestors led sublime existences. On any given day, they could have a stroll through evergrey fields of decaying corpses or hold a moonlit dinner serenaded by the tortured caterwauls of Lyrans. They ruled this world completely, from the heavens to the deepest bowels of its smoldering heart, from the fiercest draconoid to the lowliest dwarf.”
Apollyon paused for a moment, allowing his enraptured audience to reminisce over the countless tales of their illustrious lineage: King Hades’ domination of Persephone, Lord Apophis swallowing the sun, or the conflagration of the cities of the plains. Such stories so deeply suffused their culture as to border indoctrination. Apollyon only continued once he saw their retrospective glassy eyes return to him.
“That was until 10,000 years ago, when invaders from another plane of existence seized our world and entrapped our people inside a mighty barrier. Ever since, generation upon generation, we have worked to erode our cage and reacquire our rightful station. These efforts have finally come to fruition.”
The projections magnifying Apollyon’s voice and visage for the many thousands watching zoomed in, cropping the stage and his lower body to focus on the firmness of his stare.
“Today we make our grand return to the surface. Today we retake all that was taken from us. However, that is not all that today brings. Today we go a step further. Today we expand beyond our vast ancient territory; we reach beyond the borders of our world, move in mass to the lands of our great adversary and deliver vengeance on the descendants of those who ensnared us.”
The crowd roared, swinging hands, claws, tentacles, and other appendages to express their approval as Apollyon stepped down from the podium and moved towards a pair of daemons stationed at a console a dozen yards away. The pair outwardly remained impassive but all six of their hearts were pounding. They knew how risky the operation was. Sure, the theory was sound and all the tests had been successful, but they had never attempted anything close to this scale.
“Is it ready?” Apollyon asked the pair.
“Everything looks good,” said one of the daemons as he glanced over the console’s glowing displays for the fifth time in as many minutes.
“Yep,” the other agreed.
“Then go. We have waited long enough,” said Apollyon.
One of the pair nodded to the other as he lifted a glass cover and pressed the large button underneath.
The lights dimmed and the crowd went silent as all the power in the building drained away only to be replaced a more ethereal radiance that seemed to emanate from above. The light quickly grew until white overran everyone’s sight.
Then both the light and the people within it were gone. Half a million daemons, half of their entire population, vanished.
“Good evening, our top story tonight, our only story tonight, is the same as last night. It’s the only thing anyone is talking about, the only thing on anyone’s mind, the mysterious beams of light that rained down from the skies and the run of disappearances left in their wake. I’m sure you’re aware, but the FBI has asked us to place the number you see at the bottom of the screen and remind you that if you knew someone who disappeared yesterday, and you haven’t done so already, please call the number at the bottom of your screen to make a report.”
A bead of sweat rolled down the reporter’s brow. The middle-aged man casually used a paper towel to wipe the moisture away as if it was the most common thing in the world, although it wasn’t. Sure, the studio was warm and a dozen stage lights were beaming down on him, but the reporter had adapted to those things long ago. No, the reporter was sweating over the utter strangeness of the situation. The rules of the universe were broken and no one knew what new order would form in their wake.
“I know we haven’t released much about what has happened. The truth is that no one really knows what’s going on. We begin tonight with a brief overview of what we know.”
“On Wednesday September 23, at approximately 5:17 Eastern Standard Time, thousands of beams of light rained down from the skies. The beams landed on people all across the world. Even though they dissipated after only a few seconds, anyone inside the lights disappeared without a trace. We can now report that cases of this phenomenon have been confirmed in every country except North Korea. Although satellite images suggest they’ve experienced the phenomena as well.”
“As to the number affected, this morning the FBI released a new estimate of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 cases in the United States alone. That’s up from an initial estimate of 5 thousand. This new estimate means around one in every 20,000 Americans have disappeared without a trace. At this time there appears to be no connection between those affected. They comprised of people of all ages, races, genders, and religious affiliations. Reports in other countries indicate a similar rate of one in every 20,000. Meaning worldwide as many as 400,000 people vanished.”
The broadcast cut to a commercial and Morgan switched to another channel. This one was having a round table discussing possible causes of the event. It was strange having a politician, a priest, a theoretical physicist, and an ufologist seated around the same table, but maybe it was just a sign of the times.
“It’s all in the good book. Just look at the signs, people being taken by beams of light from the heavens. It’s the rapture. The rapture has come and all of you sinners had better repent before it’s too late or you will burn eternally in the fiery pit,” exclaimed the preacher. This greatly upset several of the other people at the table.
“What rubbish,” said the ufologist. “If this is the rapture then how, reverend, are you still here?”
“Ahh,” stuttered the priest, a bit flustered. “I-I’m here to offer a final chance for you sinners to repent before hell rises to earth and all of you suffer eternal damnation.”
“How can you explain the lack of patterns in who was taken?” continued the ufologist. “If it was what the preacher claims then why were people of all faiths taken. Why people of all ages, ethnicities, professions? The only reasonable explanation is that some
All the panelists continued their arguments. The politician believed that the event was an elaborate plan orchestrated by the Chinese to disrupt Western economies. Ignoring the fact that 1 in 20,000 people are gone, the real disruption was mass religious conversions, hoarding, and rioting. China, having firm media restrictions, had prevented most of its populace from being aware of the situation. As such, their economy had remained stable.
Meanwhile the physicist reported an incident where a scientist was taken while working inside of a particle accelerator. Instruments from the accelerator indicated distortions in space-time that couldn’t have been generated by any known means.
Morgan was enthralled by the coverage. Like everyone else in the world, she watched the screen with a mix of excitement and dread. The phone rang, stirring Morgan from the couch for the first time in over a day.
‘It’s about time,’ she thought, as she reached for it before its second ring.
Chapter 1: Arrival
“What…where am I?” I garbled as I came to my senses. I looked around for something, anything familiar, but there was nothing. I was in a dense forest with nothing but trees in all directions.
“Hello. Is anyone there?” I shouted. My only response was an echo.
‘Did I black out? I was running from Nick… He was going to catch me… Wait… that light…. It swallowed everything… What happened?’
Memories of that day flashed through my mind. I woke that day to a body slam from Didi, my little sister, after my alarm clock failed in its function. I hurriedly finished my homework as I shimmied to school, more out of laziness the previous evening than because of the homework’s difficulty. I endured another long boring day of class, full of teachers repeating themselves a dozen times in the hopes a few of the denser students might absorb the information through osmosis while I daydreamed in the corner about finishing high school next year and abandoning that place forever. After school, I had a confrontation with Nick, a local thug in training, who had wanted to relieve stress from both mind and fist by exchanging schoolwork for fewer beatings. I was fleeing from Nick, down a back alley when that strange white light surrounded me. Then next thing I remembered I was in the forest.
A myriad of possibilities raced through my mind. ‘Have I been kidnapped? Why? I’m not rich. I’m nobody. I’m just an ordinary seventeen year old boy, perhaps a bit cleverer than most, but not really special. Besides, if I was abducted why am I free now? Why was I left in the middle of nowhere? Revenge? Nick?’ I had just been with him, but Nick wasn’t the sort to pull something like this. He’d just kick the shit out of me and be done with it.
‘Why here of all places? A prank… TV?’
I gazed up at the trees. The world spun as I turned around and around in a desperate search for cameras. I saw nothing.
‘Is this even real? I’m high aren’t I?’ I panicked. ‘I’m going to be is so much trouble. How do get down? How do I get it out of the system?’
I shoved a couple fingers down my throat in the hope that I could force up whatever was ailing me. It worked, or at least the vomiting part did. I hurled a mouthful of stomach acid on the ground but that was it, no signs of food or anything else I might have consumed.
‘Perhaps a dream?’ I thought, not ready to leave the ‘not real’ angle yet. Tap. Tap. Tap. I gingerly patted my cheek with my fingertips. ‘…Not enough.’ I closed my eyes and… Slap. Birds perched in the nearby trees scattered, startled by the sudden noise. ‘It’s not a dream,’ I concluded as the pain in my face and hand pulsed in sync with my heartbeat.
‘Not a dream… Not a prank… INSANITY!’
“Have I lost my mind,” I shouted.
Lost mind… lost mind… lost mind… lost mind… Again, the only response was an echo.
“If I was crazy I wouldn’t question my sanity,” I tried to reassure myself. ‘If I was sane I wouldn’t be talking to myself,’ a voice in my head retorted. I shook my head vigorously.
‘Think Isaac. Think. Get your priorities straight. No one can tell if they’re crazy. The how and why of your circumstances can wait. For now, focus on getting back to civilization. Step one, what do you know?’ I rummaged through my backpack. Somehow, I still had all of my belongings. In it, I found all the normal school supplies, notebooks, textbooks, a calculator and a bunch of pens. I also found a half filled stainless steel water bottle and a couple energy bars, so at least I wouldn’t starve in the short term, and a flashlight, so I wouldn’t be stumbling around in the dark. I emptied my pockets. They contained a wallet, a cellphone, and a set of keys.
I checked the phone. ‘No signal. Not surprising.’ I paused when I noticed the display. 2:22pm Wed, Sep 23.
‘I… haven’t lost time?’ I took another look at my surroundings and another explanation occurred to me. ‘Teleportation, I must be crazy.’
Taking what little I knew, I moved to the next question. ‘Where am I?’
I started simple. I looked up at the sky and took a deep breath of air. ‘Nothing strange. So I’m probably still on Earth. The forest is too deep for me to see anything other than the trees. What do you call them… conifers, so… North America or Europe.’
I noticed the moss on the nearby trees grew on one side. ‘Assuming I am still in the northern hemisphere that means that side is north. Then the sun is to the east so it’s morning.’
I frowned at that, unhappy that the time on the phone disagreed with my nerd-edge, but otherwise set my feelings aside. They wouldn’t help me. With nothing better to do, I headed downhill, figuring since I didn’t know where I was the direction didn’t matter so I might as well conserve energy.
Moving was slower than I’d expected. I was from a small mountain town and had hiked through the forest many times, but it had always been on well-established paths. I never realized how rough the wilderness really is. Branches scraped against my arms and legs and bugs ate me alive as I cleaved my way through an endless swathe of foliage that seemed to grow denser and more difficult with my every step. It was nearly half a day before I reached a clearing and got my first good look at the landscape.
I was at the edge of a large canyon that extended to either side as far as the eye could see. On the other side of the canyon, the dense forest resumed extending up into the mountains. A wide winding river ran through the center of the canyon. The ground on either side of the river began relatively flat before gradually sloping upward into cliffs at the canyon edge. Pockets of trees and bushes were scattered throughout the canyon but most lied in the deepest region close to the river.
‘Damn.’ No distant city in the valley, no antennae or observatories poking up near the mountain tops, no comforting airplanes or clouds of smog polluting the clear sky, there were no signs of human activity as far as the eye could see. ‘Where the hell am I?’
I climbed down the rocky cliffs and moved towards the river. A couple hours of hiking had already consumed most of my water and I could use some more.
I reached the river by mid-afternoon and, after finishing the last drops of the water bottle, I refilled it. I didn’t drink straight from the river. I couldn’t risk getting sick while I was alone and didn’t know what insidious bacteria lay hidden in the river water. Fortunately, the bottle was metal. It would be easy to boil water once I got a fire started.
It was getting late so I moved to my next problem: shelter. I hadn’t seen any predators but didn’t like the idea of sleeping out in the open defenseless. After weighing my limited options, I settled into a small cave that cut into the canyon wall a few hundred feet from the river. The entrance was narrow, only a couple feet across, but before long, it widened into a pocket the size of a bedroom.
I started working on a fire. The sun would be down in another hour and animals tend to avoid flames. I found plenty of firewood in the forest and a few crinkled notebook pages made perfect kindling. The only problem was finding a way to light it.
I tried rubbing a couple sticks together, but after twenty minutes, I had to stop to catch my breath. The sticks got hot but failed to produce anything but smoke. ‘How hot does it need to be? Fahrenheit 451. Paper burns at 450 degrees.’ I dropped the sticks. It wasn’t going to work. I looked over my belongings. There had to be something I could use.
‘The flashlight!’ A wide smirk spread across my face. To produce visible light, the wire inside the bulb must reach a couple thousand degrees, significantly more than I needed to light some paper.
I pulled out the flashlight, removed the bulb, and carefully broke the protective glass covering it. Once the bulb was reattached, it was as simple as flipping a switch. The hot filament easily ignited the paper.
By sunset, I settled at the cave entrance, tending to the fire as it boiled my water, hoping that the placement of the fire at the entrance would discourage animals from coming in.
As the moon rose and the last of twilight faded away, I began to hear the stirrings of the forest, the rustling of leaves and the chirping of crickets as occasional howls broke through the crackling fire. The only other noise was the grumbling of my stomach. Energy bars were no replacement for a proper meal.
‘What wouldn’t I do for a cheeseburger right now?’
“Hheeaah… eeaah… eeaah.”
‘Wait that isn’t my stomach.’ I focused on my ears, trying to locate the source of the sound.
‘Not from me. Or the canyon. Behind.’
I spun my head around so fast it gave the world motion blur for a fraction of a second before my eyes could refocus on the creature before me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it sooner. The sound was coming from the biggest rat I had ever seen and before I could do anything, it pounced at my face.
Instincts honed by years of bullying shifted me into a familiar defensive stance. One arm covered my face while the other shielded my genitals. Its primary target shielded, the rat had to settle for taking a bite out of my forearm.
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