The Longest Night
My watch stopped. It was December 21, 2072 and I am the oldest human alive.
I have had this watch for over sixty years, sixteen separate skirmishes and one catastrophic comet event which turned the world upside down.
They gave me three days of food. Wrapped up against the weather, in a leather pouch, some strips of the puny deer seen less and less these days. Deer was their way of showing reverence for my age. More often than not, we ate dogs too slow to escape our feeble bows.
They have laid my finest leathers, something I have spent a good portion of my life creating. My gear includes a good pair of boots, a bow and thirty arrows. A present from the tribal chief is a long wolf-fur cloak. My son and his wife gave me one of their best steel knives, a good handle and very fine blade.They once called them Bowie knives but I can no longer remember why.
I don’t remember much these days. We can’t really tell what the month or year is. The only reason I knew was because of my watch. Something from before the Comet, it was a kinetic timepiece. As long as I moved it would recharge its battery. Built to last, it was a godsend after the Comet.
Its impact changed the angle of the Earth, destroyed the moon devastated humanity. A few survivors roam the planet scavenging from the dead. You would think there would be plenty left with six billion humans gone, but so many places became inaccessible to us.
You see, we could only live on the terminator between the light and the dark sides of the planet. Head into the light side and bake, head into the dark side and freeze. Ride the terminator as it moves and maybe you have a chance.
Weather, rain, extremes, and disease, all took their toll on the survivors. Instead of pulling us together, it drove us apart. Humanity splintered and for nearly thirty years, fought tooth and nail for the scraps of our world.
Then we learned we were no longer alone. Creatures who had destroyed the ecosystem of Earth, had done so intentionally. This was no accident, they wanted it this way, they craved the cold and the dark. Now when the darkness falls, they come to the terminator and harry us until we move, or until they finish feasting on us.
I’m dressed now. I take up my staff as I leave the hut with the others. We head toward the darkness. I am given a gun and fourteen bullets. The others are similarly armed.
A few are armed with primitive, makeshift explosives. We don’t expect to win. We don’t even expect to survive, we expect to buy time. And maybe inconvenience our alien overlords.
Children cry for us. Adults look on stoically, hoping to delay this for themselves.
A three day walk toward the darkness reveals the enemy. Sitting on the cliff walls, they sidle down toward us. Exhausted as we are, we are past fear. We run, toward them, into the darkness, away from our people.
Bones aching with cold, we fire every arrow we possessed. A few are killed but they were relentless. We run for three more days making every bullet count. The five of us kill thirty of them. Slick with their oily blood, I save the last round. I use my knife until I am the only one left.
The last two stand, their insect-like bodies reveal nothing of their intelligence, watching me.
I see more of them appearing at the forest edge. The two rush me and grab me, their pincers cutting into my flesh, their hot breath stinking of offal but they do not kill me. They look at my wrist, at my non-functional watch, their antenna clicking together indecipherably.
They clip my watch from my wrist and drop me to the forest floor. They leave, taking the bodies of my fellows. The cold of the eternal night swallowed me up, but I follow them.
My rage sustained me. As far as I knew, none had ever survived a meeting with Them. I knew I should run away, but to my tribe, I was as dead. So I decided to assuage my curiosity before I died. I pick up a few of the scraps and supplies left by my fallen brethren.
Hours of walking led me into the darkness. They didn’t rush. Almost as if they wanted me to follow them.
Their buildings glowed with a faerie phosphorescence and stretched out of sight into the heavens. My fear returned. But only for a moment. I fumble with an oilskin wrapper and pull out an ever-lighting match. The explosives are heavy in my hand.
I stood up and walked toward my destiny.
The Longest Night © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Thaddeus Howze is a California-based technologist and author who has worked with computer technology since the 1980's doing graphic design, computer science, programming, network administration and IT leadership.
His non-fiction work has appeared in numerous magazines: Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, Examiner.com, and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale. He is a contributor at The Enemy, a nonfiction literary publication out of Los Angeles.
He is a contributor to the Scifi.Stackexchange.com with over a thousand articles in a three year period. He is now an author and contributor at Scifiideas.com. His science fiction and fantasy has appeared in blogs such as Medium.com, the Magill Review, ScifiIdeas.com, and the Au Courant Press Journal. He has a wide collection of his work on his website, Hub City Blues. His recently published works can be found here.
His speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies: Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short (2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (2012), and Possibilities (2012).
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For what you spend on your daily cup of coffee: once per month, you can assist him in creating new stories, new graphics, new articles and new novels. Creating the new takes a little support: http://patreon.com/ebonstorm