500 word story: Apocalypse Soon

As promised/threatened, here is an expanded story on the theme of yesterday’s photo.

A hush fell on the city as flames licked the night sky, a sheet of burning light rising in the east. The two watchers shielded their eyes, peering into the glare to glimpse the next sign, the host of giant locusts, human-featured, vengeance streaming like comet tails in their hair.

That was what it said in the book anyway, and what the loud speakers had been shrieking all day across the city. There was no safety, nowhere to hide. Nothing would be beyond the reach of the creatures of the Apocalypse. Scorpion-tailed horses and leather-winged Harpies would pour from the skies in a torrent of poison and blood. Pale, monstrous worms would burrow up from the bowels of the earth, eating through rock, concrete and steel. Behemoths, forgotten by all but the Earth, would wade in from the ocean depths. All would be flesh eaters, and their pasture would be humanity.

The end is nigh! Screamed the message. The vengeance of the Earth is upon us!

Only the righteous will be saved!

Pleas for misericord wailed from the churches, the mosques and the synagogues. Thousands flocked into every religious edifice, and there was such a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that the worms heard in their subterranean galleries. The sound rose from steeples and minarets, calling down the riders from the sky with their mouths full of pointed teeth and scorpion poison in their scimitar tails. The air vibrated with lamentations, shuddering in the river waves that carried the plaintive, desolate sound into the ocean. The behemoths heard in the deep ocean rifts, the rocky clefts full fathom five and two thousand times five, where no pearls shone. And they slid their bulk, encrusted with living fossils, into the light for the first and last time.

The two watchers saw all this because they had eyes to see. Their heads were not bowed to the dusty ground in terror, they asked for no mercy because there was no one to give it. They stood on a hill, high above the city, raised their eyes to the skies, and in the livid light of midnight, they saw the first stars fall.

“It has begun,” the older watcher said sadly and cast a last lingering glance across the once majestic city that hunched now in a cringing, quivering mass around the hot-blooded fodder.

“How long before they finish the task?” his companion asked.

“If they take their pleasure slowly, we may have months. Perhaps only weeks if their fury is blind and blood red.”

“And then…?”

“We are next.”

They turned their thoughts from the stricken world and fixed them on home. Both watchers raised their ash staffs and opened a portal in the night. The kindling air spun and whirred, turning gradually from the colours of the apocalypse to the blues and greens of a gentler place. With heavy hearts full of dread, they strode into the vortex, bringers of terrible news to the next world that lay beyond.


This short story could also serve as a prelude to my story, Wormholes, to be published by Finch Books this autumn. More info to follow.