Black Moon

A short story inspired by this image chosen as the prompt by Diana Wallace Peach for her spec fic writing challenge.

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Sand crabs chitter as the boy runs. His bare feet make no sound in the dry sand. He runs down the middle of the avenue in the light that is slipping from red to blue, keeping away from the shadows cast by the empty buildings—empty of human habitation, but who knows what else may be lurking there? Who knows anything any more?

He runs at a steady desperate trot, as he has since he entered the city and found that there was no one there to turn to. How long since he last ate or drank, he doesn’t remember, and although hunger and thirst are slow killers, what he has seen terrifies him more.

Sand is everywhere, in dunes and flats, ridged by the wind in some places, in others smoothed like a dull mirror. They had been learning to cultivate it, the people who lived around the lagoon. There had been fish too, once the sand settled. If only there had been nothing worse. Images crowd behind the boy’s eyes and he sobs. Tears blur his vision and he stumbles, utterly weary but he dare not stop, dare not look back.

The city seems endless. He had hoped to find people there, people he could tell about what happened. He wanted someone else to take the decisions for him, find him a place to sleep, a safe place. But the city is silent as only dead stone can be silent. There is no one to help him, and no one to tell what is coming out of the sea. He runs. Runs.

Houm. Houm.

Faint, but terrifyingly familiar, the booming rolls through the empty city, funnelled down the narrow streets, swelling louder to fill the avenues. He sobs again but still refuses to look back. He runs.

At either side the buildings have dwindled from eight stories and more to a mere three, then two. The majestic avenue wavers and gives out. Gaps appear between the houses; sheds replace stone. Suddenly, beyond a dune of compacted sand, the city ends, and beyond he sees hills, real hills not dunes. He gives a gasp of relief; hills mean safety.

He decides to scavenge for food and water in these last derelict dwellings before attempting the trackless plain that spreads at their feet. He has not much idea of judging distances, but he thinks the hills look closer than the city looked from the lagoon. He peers about the poverty-stricken neighbourhood and chooses a place less dilapidated than the rest. He is about to try the door, when he notices the light on the hills. The gentle red is dying, and blue is swelling up from the plain.

Houm houm houm houm.

The sound is louder, louder than the pounding of the blood in his ears, and he turns slowly, reluctantly, and looks back in the direction of its source. Blue light creeps down the sandy street with his footprints speckling its untroubled surface. He raises his eyes, and fear forms cold, knotted coils in his stomach. The eclipse.

The Black Moon has risen and has almost obscured the dying sun. The Black Moon will draw up the Great Tide, the greatest tide of all, even greater than the tide that washed over the world to leave the lagoon when it withdrew. Since the Black Moon began to rise, each successive tide has been wilder, higher.

He remembers the waves of the last high tide that flooded the lagoon and the thin fields around it. He rode out the flood, hanging onto a broken door, miles across the plain. He had hoped there would be help or at least comfort in the city, because he had seen what came out of the lagoon on the flood tide, but the Black Moon also brought the Black Plague.

The chittering of the sand crabs sounds like mocking laughter; there is no help to be found in the city, or anywhere. The boy looks to the hills, but his eyes are dead, dead as his hope. When the blue light vanquishes the red, and the Black Moon vanquishes the sun, they will leave the ocean depths and reclaim the world—the Behemoths.


A better place

Strange image calls for strange story. This is D. Wallace Peach’s February speculative fiction prompt.

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How long she had stood in the falling cold, the baby couldn’t say, but her back wore a white blanket now, and her toes were covered in it. It was longer again before she realised she didn’t feel cold anymore, that her thoughts were unfreezing and she could remember. There had been so much sorrow, crying and death. Tears filled the baby’s eyes, but the image of the woman with fiery hair smiled at her, and the tears dried.

She remembered the fiery woman who had swept down from the hill where all the others were lying dead or dying, and how the woman screamed in anger and threw bolts of flame from her hands until the sadness became a forest of flames. The flames swirled and twisted and carried the baby in strong fiery arms and left her in this strange, quiet place where cold white fell from the sky.

She shook her head and found that her forehead was butted up against a tree, and in the tree was a tiny human house and on the roof of the tiny house was a family of mice, white as the falling cold. She pushed. The house lurched, and from inside came the shrill miniscule shrieks of humans. She pushed again and the tree cracked. The mice twittered and leapt to the ground. Instead of running away they watched, intrigued. The baby’s unfrozen thoughts grew clear as spring water, and suddenly she knew. The mouse family knew too. The fiery woman smiled inside the baby’s head from within the flames of her hair and the baby smiled back.

The baby nudged a third time and the tree trunk broke. The tiny house slipped and fell to the ground, splitting open like a coconut. The tiny people rushed out then back, in and out, in and out of the wreckage unable to resign themselves to leaving behind this or that piece of useless junk. Then one pointed. Their movements froze just for a second, before they screamed in unison and ran. The baby stretched out her trunk and trumpeted a baby war cry. The mice squeaked, the baby stomped on the matchwood human house, and the cold stopped falling. The fiery woman spoke inside the baby’s head.

No more. Never again.

No more, agreed the mice.

Never again, agreed the baby, and started off into the great forest where the white cold had never fallen, to look for others like herself.