Bewildering Stories

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The Dark

by Craig Snyder

I am a burning point of light plunging through a black void lightly dusted with a few glowing stars.

Every sensation is pain. My fragile body tumbles, scorched and frozen by competing forces — the deathly cold of space and the strange molten energy inside me, an energy that is slowly consuming me.

I am a weapon, I remind myself, remembering.

A prisoner condemned to die; I’d accepted a singular parole. They’d promised immortality, whispering soothing words to me as I lay naked on a steel slab feeling the bass vibrations of the vast network of machinery that surrounded me. My flesh crawled as it was transformed, the power filling me as water fills an empty glass.

I lost consciousness.

Later: I sat at a table, clothed in metallic blue, my arms trembling branches. On the tabletop a photograph lay in a pool of white light cast by a shaded lamp. A trio of grim faces stared at me from the surrounding gloom. They seemed uncomfortable, hands seeking pockets, booted feet shifting restlessly on the plain stone floor.

“Study it,” they said.

My eyes focused on a rectangle of starfield. Within it, a patch of shadow, irregular, menacing, it seemed to reach out for me, calling to my mind every nightmare I’d ever had.

“A shadow of evil,” they replied to my unasked question, “born of the heart of darkness.”

And yet it was just a shadow.

“It is coming,” they told me, “and when it reaches us millions on this planet will die.”

“Is there no defense?” I asked. “Surely the fleet...”

The eldest, a tall man with snow-white hair, hung his head. “We sent the fleet weeks ago,” he replied. “It sensed the energy fields created by our starship’s hyperdrives from a great distance. Waves of anti-matter lashed out, overwhelming them — all were destroyed.” He straightened and turned away, clenching his fists. “I am truly sorry. This is the only way.”

I sensed sorrow, regret.

Then I understood.

All at once I screamed, struggling as the stone-faced guards came to take me. The launch was blurred snapshots: a featureless cube, rippling bands of multi-colored force, a bland voice invoking the countdown, my muscles straining against invisible chains. There was intense pressure, irresistible movement, and then I was streaking through space, the stars streams of brilliant light, the dark thing growing ever closer...

I pushed the bitter memories aside. Struggling to control my fear, I thought of the faceless millions who would perish — and felt nothing for them. The black shadow loomed above me now, filling my vision. Killing all light it reached out, dark fingers curling around me with surprising speed.

Contact. A clinging mist, then revulsion as my mind was searched and all my petty weaknesses laid bare, my soul revealed as a small and dirty thing. I wept freely, loathing the darkness within, hating the darkness without. Seeking redemption I struggled, spending the last of my strength to break free of the entity’s mental grasp. With icy lips I spoke the word they’d given me. Raw destruction leapt suddenly from the vessel of my body.

Light ate the dark. I grew swiftly, drawing mass from the destroyer, enveloping it, purifying it through the agony that tore me apart and renewed me in a flash of un-time.


The new star shone. It lit the clean night of space with pure light, guarding the void, a powerful warning to the bringer of night. Its thoughts were flame and curious. Messages of welcome soon reached it, broadcast through the swirling currents of solar winds. It replied slowly, sensing the living stars as a dazzling web, eons passing as it formed the voiceless words — newest sentinel of the oldest war.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 by Craig Snyder

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