Into the Silence – Chapter 52

How does a human describe the Dark?

Back home, growing up, we used to tell stories about things that go bump in the night. Make fun of kids for being “afraid of the dark.” Huddle together when the power went out in a local storm. We raised each other on horror stories alongside tales of adventure and heroism. Champions who rose to face the darkness and dispel shadows with the light they carried.

All very poetic and inspiring to a child living on a backwater homestead, dreaming of unseen worlds and the adventure to be had there. Fame, fortune, and glory.

But once you get out there, into the rest of the galaxy, and start to really meet the people and see the places that exist out there, well, you start to realize that the stories had it wrong. Instead of looming darkness, overshadowing freedom and humanity – pardon the xenophobia for a moment – you find a mire of stagnation. Suffering didn’t come from a wellspring of evil, but from the muck that weighed people down, causing them to grow inert in their complacency. There’s no great demon working behind the scenes to bring about death and suffering. Just people. Making mistakes.

But I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel like that little kid again, staring in wide-eyed horror at the images of shadowy monstrosities conjured up in my mind around the campfire. Except, these weren’t just in my mind. They were pouring out, in full reality, from the rift in space. A great gash across the stars. A wound in space and time.

We felt the break more than saw it. Like a deep, basso thrum in our bones, or a tinny whine in our ears. Something familiar, yet out of place all the same. Something inexplicable and wrong.

Guhle and I both rushed toward the viewport. My heart hammered in my chest, both from fear of the shadow I thought might still be in the room and from fear of the unknown that the shadow had summoned.

Outside the viewport, we saw it. A jagged line of black stretching wider and wider with every passing second. As the gap grew, the ship began to shudder from the wrongness of its presence. My hairs stood on end and found myself wanting an extra layer, though all meters indicated the temperature had not changed.

At first, I thought that was it. That the gap had opened and the shadow had returned home. Or maybe had called to the wrong source. Nothing seemed to be happening.

But as Guhle and I stared at the schism, small shadows began to flit out. Slowly at first, so much so that we didn’t notice their movements blocking out the stars, but then a stream of them poured forth in such a flurry that it was like looking at the sky through a cloud of gnats on a summer’s day. But they were shadows in the night. Obscuring star clusters and clouds of nebulae instead of crystal blue skies and white clouds.

As the swarm intensified, there soon came an apex to there density. A bulge in their shape, movement, and behavior. And accompanying this bulge…

“My God, Jesus Christ, and all the Saints,” I whispered. “Is that…?”

Guhle nodded. No words. Just the inclining of his head.

The swarm of shadows emerged crawling over a Farseer battlecruiser like flies or ants on a carcass. The ship was identical in design to the derelict one we encountered drifting in open space following the ion storm. And it slid out of the tear in space and time like a splinter from a finger. Tiny by comparison.

But even this massive warship was dwarfed by what came next.

First, there were mandibles like an ant or beetle. Each one of these on its own was at least as large as the warship. Together, they could have plucked a small planet from its orbit. Following them, a narrow, elongated head with a small, beaked mouth – like an octopus – at its end in the center. Shadowy domes bulging from the head betrayed multifaceted eyes as they began to reflect the starlight beyond in a thousand brilliant surfaces. Segmented portions followed, giving the impression of a worm – massive beyond comprehension and looking to be made all of shadows – emerging from a tunnel. But then the creature that we would mistakenly name the Dark abruptly ceased its emergence, as though there was even more bulk to this horror that was too much for it to fully escape the rift it had opened and to cross over into our galaxy.

This is all I can do when describing the coming of the Dark.

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