Challenge: Write space-themed Sci-Fi without spaceship, star, and galaxy.
We landed on the far side of the planet where the sun never shone. Whenever this side faced the sunlight, the planet fell into the shadow of its moon. This is why the natives called this part of the woods the Hidden, in the local language. Michael had learned a few words from his time with the indigenous civilization of PS.X-3197.
I shut the plug door behind me and heard the swooshing sound of cabin pressurization inside the Valhalla. I just had to climb down a few steps until, for the very first time, I touched the ground of the planet our branch had been researching for months now.
It was my first time on this grey, purplish terrain. I had to turn on the light of my helmet to see the intricate hues of the soil. Proton Saga described the coloring to be due to the large amounts of cobalt present in the grains. Silver, purple, and some hints of blue here and there.
Over there in the distance, I spotted Michael, who waved at me, Jerry and Linda next to him. All four of us—scientists. An astronomer, a geologist, an anthropologist, and me, Freya, the linguist.
Michael was so proud to share his new words with me.
“Gl’kma!” You had to click your tongue there, like in Xhosa.
“Bvmala!” You had to speak as if you swallowed your tongue.
All greeting words.
The people of PS.X-3197 had five greeting words, which we haven’t been able to associate with any part of the day. It was as if these greetings depended on their mood. If they were happy, it was “Tvma!” If they were afraid, it was “Maalo…”
If you heard, “Gr’la tvma!” You knew they were more than thrilled, and they rolled the R like everything depended on it.
Michael seemed in a hurry. He had the look of worry on his face I hadn’t yet noticed. He seemed more concerned than the two others. I picked up the pace and followed them as they walked.
Michael was first to talk. “There’s something wrong with the Lizies”—that’s how we called the natives because they looked like lizards—”They’ve been staring at the sky for hours now. We believe it might have something to do with this…”
Michael pointed at the entire reason why Proton Saga had an interest in this planet.
A stone—no—a menhir. One that looked exactly like those we have on Earth. It had writings we couldn’t explain. Glyphs that almost resembled Norse ruins. This is why I was here, to decipher them. See if there was any connection. Because if there was, that would mean—
“The stone has been acting like this for hours now,” Michael said, interrupting my thoughts, pointing at the stone.
The menhir was…buzzing? A low and regular hum that you could almost not discern. And the inscriptions were gleaming, releasing their own light. Something Michael could not explain. Something physically impossible.
“Has it done this before?” I asked.
All three shook their heads.
“It could be some kind of fluorescent matter,” Jerry began. “Or radiation.”
I must have looked concerned when Jerry said radiation.
“Don’t worry,” he reassured me. “Our sensors show no sign of danger at all. That’s the weird part.”
I turned around to check on Michael. “What about the Lizies?” I asked. “What did you mean by staring at the sky?”
“I was on the other side with the Tribe Chieftain when all of them started acting weird,” he replied. “Like they were in some sort of trance. That’s when Linda opened comms and told us about the stone.”
I looked a little closer at the intricate glyphs that sparkled. Not thinking, I touched them, brushed my gloved fingers along the curves and angles of the letters I all too well recognized. Because I did recognize them. Their sound rang through my mind as I touched them.
It was not before everything else around me fell silent that I heard Michael’s screams as remnant music in my head. He and the others had called for me as I’d stretched my arm out to touch the stone.
I was alone now. I looked around me—I wasn’t on PS.X-3197 anymore. I was inside a dark and damp room that smelled of volcanic air. I turned around, cocking my head left and right to scan my surroundings. It was nothing I recognized. It was nothing anyone had ever seen. I knew that, because as I gazed further than the hallway before me, I saw a tall figure in the distance, looking at me. It had thin legs and long crooked arms. It wasn’t a Lizie, far from it. It was no Bog, no Xorn, no Scummix. It was a species I had never seen before. It stared at me with its big black eyes, delving into my soul. I wanted to inhale but realized I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the floor, knees first. My palms followed. Within minutes, I felt my consciousness slip away from my fingers, like a helium balloon that untied from my wrist and drifted off in the wind. The creature approached me. The last thing I saw was its hand and claws reaching out to me.