The Goat (Part 91)

I’m too busy for a coherent preamble this week, so I’ll just post some random things that come to mind:

Anyway, here’s some more story:

It stood at the cusp.

Its masterpiece was ready.

The endeavour that remained almost defied conception, yet seemed as nothing to the creature after all it had suffered. To travel the blackest void of space, to consume a galaxy and break time itself… all was in its grasp. All would begin with this single event: this reaping of the harvest…

At once it commenced its final act upon the world: a scheme prepared through long study of the beasts, designed to take them with such force and speed that there could be no interference, yet slow enough that each would understand its fate; an act of ultimate shock and awe, of escalating terror, crafted to flay every mind of its defences—to open them for draining every vital drop of power…

And thus the creature made a brief excursion of two hundred and sixty million kilometres. It pulled a mountain from the asteroid belt, and tossed it back towards the planet.

Returning to its prison it waited in orbit, watching the approaching fist of Armageddon; watching as the beasts continued their lives, so assured of themselves, so ignorant of danger. Filled with love, it reached down and gave them pleasure: a day of peace, of perfect contentment; the last caress of a proud farmer bidding farewell as the herd was packed for slaughter.

And slowly the beasts began to feel unease: reports from scientists of some strange anomaly; stories in the media, humorously frightening, then ridiculed, redacted; silence, then articles from amateur astronomers; a growing body of independent work confirming trajectories and drawing bleak conclusion.

For a month the news was a passing concern. For the second month it was a national obsession. Beasts listened to the daily announcements first with a sense of angered denial, then nauseating tension, reducing at last to the numb and helpless sentiment that someone in authority should be doing something…

But as the prospects worsened, as society paused in philosophical reflection, across the world rose a new solidarity: the barriers of culture, race and country falling aside, old conflict abandoned, as leaders united to rally their people. The greatest minds were enlisted and endowed with unlimited resources, given carte blanche to invent a solution—bombs and engines, elaborate strategies to deflect or destroy. Industry redoubled as drafted technicians laboured relentless, accomplishing more in sixty days than in the last twenty years of their civilisation. The populace cheered each piece of propaganda, caught in the zeal of mounting belief: that their kind was the strongest, the brightest, the best that had ever set foot upon the planet; that for the first time in history a species existed that could counter a global extinction event.

But the scientists knew it was a fiction. They were too late. The threat had come from nowhere, at too close a distance. Engines would need years to divert its course. Nuclear explosions would only fragment it, spreading the collisions but not reducing damage. And nor did any project even reach completion: launch after launch ending in disaster, collapse or detonation as the creature’s sabotage crushed all hope.

Society ended. Government, utilities, finance, transport, food supply… everything stopped as the world accepted that nothing could be done. Many grew insane. Many turned to violence. Many sought solace in their vacuous gods. Most simply waited in shock, in depression, crippled with the overwhelming sickness of fear as a new star emerged in the sky…

And on the last day, the creature watched as the scaled beasts stepped dully from their homes, silent, trance-like: the wealthy retreating to useless bunkers; a handful boarding experimental spacecraft; but almost the entire population remaining to gather in the streets, chittering softly as they nuzzled their mates, their bodies unkempt yet gleaming in the sunlight, the keratin plates shining like jewels…

And together they stood to face their destruction: hard, muscled, their tails lashing in instinctive defence, their talons flexed, feigning defiance… then shrieking with terror as the sky fell in…

The asteroid impacted, punching a hole in the atmosphere, blasting supersonic winds for thousands of kilometres… then hitting the earth with the force of a hundred million megaton explosion. Striking at the shoreline, it hurled into space ten trillion tons of rock and water, smashing through the crust, the sea boiling in eruptions of steam as it flooded the crater of exposed mantle. Megatsunamis upended the ocean—first from the collision, then from steam, then from the shifting of tectonic plates—sweeping the coasts and drowning half the planet. Ground shocks ripped across the surface of the world, heaving every loose object—every living beast—three metres in the air. Global firestorms razed the land as orbiting ejecta plunged back down to earth, heating by friction the entire atmosphere and baking the planet like an oven.

And the beasts died.

In agony, in horror, they died by the billion: the bulk of them killed in the hours after impact; the rest, the survivors, trembling in the cold of a dust-blackened sky, wounded and burnt, gasping at air depleted of oxygen… freezing to death, starving to death as they succumbed to acid rain…

And the creature fed.

Oh, how it fed…

Through countless channels of severed consciousness, the fires of creation roared into its mind: energies greater than any it had known; more than the share it had drawn from the stranger… and with no family to buffer the absorption, it stood naked at the focus of the tempest: pinned and screaming as unchecked power ruptured its essence.

Unprepared for the onslaught it drank in desperation, convulsing and vomiting the tissues of its body as it reached saturation—then knowing this was all it had, taking even more: bursting itself, its entrails bleeding out into space as it teetered on oblivion, struggling to contain itself by raw strength of will.

But even through the pain, the sudden fear that all might fail, the creature began to feel a change come upon it: a second metamorphosis; the real and incorporeal fabrics of its being at last responding—growing, fusing, condensing with power…

Cries of agony turned into groans of masochistic pleasure as the cleansing flame refashioned its anatomy. Long-dead extremities of body and mind, wasted by hunger, throbbed to life then exploded with vitality. The creature bellowed in pure exhilaration as it felt again the strength of its youth, the breadth of its consciousness spanning all dimensions…

Now with ease it held fast in the deluge, blazing with the light of a second sun as it harnessed impossible magnitudes of energy. Beasts vaporised with the force of extraction, snuffing from the earth as it drank them dry. The creature fed until bloated, sickened, its body dilating in the wrong planes of existence… and still it gorged as the power dwindled, the last rich minds fizzing into darkness…

And then there were none.

With senses distorted by its own strength, its density of matter, the creature gazed a final time upon its planet. A place it once had hated…

It thought of its arrival, long and long ago; the privations it had suffered; the doubt, the lamentation, the ceaseless exertion; the strange satisfaction; the overwhelming pride in all it had accomplished…

It saw there was life still crawling on the surface. Oddments. Fragments. But the creature wanted no more from this world. This unassuming rock that had given so much…

And thus it turned away, consigning it to memory, thinking instead of the great task that awaited. Sighting on the galaxy in which rested all its hope, it began the longest journey—with joy, excitement, yet almost with sorrow. It left behind the trifling star and misty gas giants, speeding onwards through vast clouds of ice, then fields of hot plasma, out into the blackness of the interstellar void… coasting near the speed of light for hundreds of years…

Yet slowly inside it grew a curious anxiety. All was well… but something felt wrong: its body, now altered, burning too much energy; the power within surely ample for the labour, but somehow at odds with its calculations.

Again it reviewed the distance, the time, the strength it would need to maintain survival…

And in utter dismay it realised the mistake.

It had been too weak.

None of its plans had accounted for weakness.

Never once had it considered that the first flow of power would be too much to contain. Never had it thought that so much would be exhausted replenishing the atrophied substance of its body…

It had captured but a fraction of its target. The energies stored would barely take it halfway. Even if it aimed itself and entered hibernation—chancing that nothing would deviate its course—still it would die nowhere near its destination.

In dazed refusal of the logic that condemned it, the creature tried to reason some extension of its power, some means to reduce itself and limit consumption. Then it looked in frenzy for another source of life: a nearer galaxy that it somehow must have missed. Finally, hysterical, it tortured itself re-gauging estimations, counting and recounting the lives it had raised, screaming as it understood how close it had been: if only it had let them breed for another thousand years…

It had lost everything for a moment’s impatience. Mindless with grief, with hideous self-loathing, it howled and clawed at the fabric of the vacuum. Then turning, it fled—running back to its planet, retreating to its only refuge in the universe.

And gaining sight of the precious orb—blue and green once again, recovered from the impact—the creature scoured every micron of its surface, hoping in vain that there could be some trace, some living remnant of the beasts it had made. But all were gone. It had known they were gone. All its work, its tireless achievement rendered unto nothing, and in its place…

Without its guidance, the worst and most foetid genetic material had risen like scum: small, soft things of minuscule sentience, rank with stench and matted fur, grubbing in cracks and holes in the dirt; eaters of detritus…

The creature stared at the thriving rubbish: these strains it had laboured so hard to repress…

It looked at the lands on which its beasts had roamed, and built their titan cities. It saw the ruins jutting through foliage, broken and weathered yet in places still remaining: the tallest towers of quartz-infused concrete, of reinforced glass, standing as a monument to its hopeless, crushing failure.

Before the creature even knew what it did, in frustrated anger it smashed the buildings down. It could not bear the sight of them: these objects of ridicule; this mockery of all it had done on this world…

The rage, once kindled, threw it into madness. It swept across the planet, uprooting and destroying every relic of its beasts: the cities, machines, the tunnels underground. Unleashed forces racked the world with thunder as it pounded and pounded and shattered the rubble, splitting it to atoms, grinding every article to base elements and driving them down into the ground from whence they came.

At last spent, the creature gazed at the swathes of desolation. As thought returned, it choked on the insanity of what it had done: the horrendous and futile waste of its power—burning in seconds the energy amassed through a hundred million years…

This final insult cracked its heart. It had reached the end, of hope, of life. It looked once more at the sky, the stars, what might have been… then it turned away. Unable to face the pain of defeat it sunk itself into the hollows of the earth, its mind growing numb with darkness and depression as it waited to die… yet even in sleep it fed on life above, enduring the ceaseless passage of time…

© 2015 - J. D. G. Leaver

To be continued…