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A World Gone Silent

by on September 22, 2015

Merrick had two pictures in his mind. One was Margaret, the distant, slightly eccentric woman who lived by herself when most people bunked up to conserve resources, who never formally led the camp but showed up at all the meetings, who quietly volunteered to help whenever anything needed doing but never went on trading expeditions. She wasn’t wildly friendly, but wouldn’t hurt anyone. She had good stories, if you asked nicely, of the way things had been.

The other was the Nameless One, she who had destroyed the world. In Merrick’s mind, and everyone else’s that he knew, she was the wolves at night, the worst of the spring storms, the sickness that you couldn’t quite shake. She was the worst of all possibilities. Now both pictures had been shattered. She was Margaret.

He didn’t know what to say to that. So, he prudently said very little. They didn’t talk much as they walked south. They kept to separate tents. Merrick plodded on behind Margaret, trying to square the two pictures. He hadn’t yet done it when they reached the river. They crossed without incident. Merrick still didn’t say anything, until he realized that she was leaving the trail south, and walking steadily southwest. Southwest was right towards the dead city. “Ah, ma’am?” Merrick ventured. “I don’t think we should-”

“It’s where I’m going,” Margaret said. “You’re free to go somewhere else.”

“But there’s nothing there. No one. It’s dead.”

“Is it?” Margaret asked.

Merrick paused. He focused so much on ways of surviving; everyone did. Any shortcut, any way of saving time or energy, helped with that. And so he’d never questioned the story that everyone knew, that the city ruins to their south were completely dead, abandoned by anything living. Now, for an instant, he wondered. “I’ve never met anyone from there. I’ve been past on trading routes. It’s dead. Everyone says so.”

“When I was young,” Margaret said, “everyone said aliens weren’t real. Everyone. Except fringe types with tinfoil hats who called in to late-night radio shows. Then there were capes, and we had powers, and one of us went way out into space. Turns out there’s a lot of other worlds out there. There’s worlds with sentient shades of paint. Worlds with talking otters. Worlds with beings I can’t even describe. Some of them came here. I spoke to one once. Nice guy, green, bit shy, all over eye-stalks. I told him I would give him a few pointers on Earth culture.”

Merrick had no idea what she was talking about. He knew there were people to the south, and some out west. But he had no idea who might be out beyond the horizon. Talk of other worlds was completely beyond him. The best he could make out, Margaret had once met someone from someplace else who was a little strange. “So…” he said awkwardly. “Did you talk to him again?”

Margaret looked towards the dead city. “No. That next week, I destroyed the world. It’s been fifty-three years since I’ve seen anyone who wasn’t human. They don’t come to our planet anymore.”

This story is part of what I’m tentatively calling the Megverse. It started out as a Hero’s Journey-type serial. Who knows where it’ll end up?

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From → 8. The Megverse

14 Comments
  1. Little darker, little more dystopian than I’m used to from you,(I LIKE IT) but the humor that slipped in (talking otters?? forsooth!) was nicely timed and well placed…now i’ma have to go back and read the others …

    • I decided to let my inner dystopian pessimist loose. 🙂 And wacky hijinks ensued!

  2. I love the opening with the idea of the two pictures. How often does that happen that we think we know someone and then discover an unknown side of their personality or life? I like the way you are using the form to explore a common human experience.

    • Exactly; so often you get used to seeing a person in one setting, but then you see them in a totally different setting, and it’s all different.

  3. Christine permalink

    I really like the tone of this piece – a little darker, as Shannon noted, than some of your other stories. It feels like you’re taking a bit of a risk, which I really like. It’s working for me, anyway! 🙂

    • I’m glad it’s working so far. 🙂 I don’t really know where it’s going to lead yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

  4. Jen permalink

    ooh I like the Megverse!

  5. This sucked me in immediately! I agree with the above. It started out a little different than I normally see from you but then a few lines here and there showed your voice I could recognize anywhere. I am eager to read more!

  6. Natalie DeYoung permalink

    I love the wink-wink moment about alien believers on earth! This was fun to me–a pleasure to read.

    • I’ve seen a lot of shows like “Justice League” and Star Trek where aliens are established; I had to wonder what happened to the fringe groups who, quite suddenly, are proven right. 🙂

  7. I love the nod to your other stories, Michael, and the reversal of common attitude toward aliens.

    • It’s nice to have a broader world to play in. I won’t pretend mine is as consistent or well-plotted as, say, Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere is, but, it’s something. 🙂

  8. Loved the two sides of Margaret. She sounds interesting and kinda scary. Her frank discussion of her experiences with aliens and distant worlds was very cool and classic “hypothetically writing.” Loved it. Congrats on getting the popular vote!

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