John’s SciFi Space Short Story
Gabriel had no time to spare. Goodness knows where the demon went. She had no leads about its trail after it left the space station or of the demon’s purpose. So her only choice was tracing its path back to the source, where she might figure out its agenda. She rushed to Samson’s Revenge and fired up the drives. After getting takeoff clearance, she powered the ship through the atmosphere and headed for Gehenna.
The trip took 3 days. Once she landed, the archeological site wasn’t hard to find, but it lay deserted when she arrived. Gabriel frowned, disconcerted by the unusual quietness. They were obviously excavating the diggings with the picks and shovels still scattered on the ground. She kicked a pick as she wandered over the disturbed soil, a puff of dust stirring up into the breeze and drifting away. Not a worker in sight. A plasto-crete hut stood a short distance away. She presumed the project management used it as their base, so she headed toward it. No one occupied that either. Why was the site abandoned?
Various articles of documentation and the odd trinket from the excavation lay scattered over the desks assembled within the shed. She skimmed through the papers searching for clues of what may have happened to everyone, but discovered no further information. She sighed.
With nothing left for her to continue, Gabriel returned outside and circumnavigated the perimeter on the off chance of finding a clue. Just as she made to leave, she noticed movement beyond a far rise; a head ducking for cover.
“Hey, you!” she said as she rushed to the spot.
The landscape past the location was bare and devoid of hiding places, so the spy had nowhere to run without Gabriel seeing them. The person remained out of sight until she crested the apex. A small boy cowered on the ground, covering his head with his arms and flattening against the soil, hoping to camouflage himself from discovery.
She towered above him as she waited for him to discontinue his useless hiding. After several moments, the boy’s arms moved and fearfully bulging eyes turned to look at her.
“Are you part of the archeological team?” Gabriel asked.
The boy shook his head. Dirt covered him as if he had been lying in wait for some time, grit penetrating throughout his brown curly hair and smearing his face. Maybe loitering to steal a trinket to sell on the black market, she thought.
“Do you know what happened to everyone?”
She stared at him, waiting for him to say something.
The boy opened his mouth several times, but no words eventuated.
“I won’t hurt you.”
“They ran away.”
“A monster chased them. It killed many before it left.”
“Killed?” Gabriel took another scan of the site. “Where are the bodies, then?”
“Relatives came and removed them. Buried them.”
She nodded. That explains a lot. “Where did this monster come from?”
“What ground? Can you show me?”
The boy sat and stared at her, but gave no reply.
He remained speechless, gaping at her with wide, innocent eyes.
The little imp, Gabriel thought as she realized he was waiting for a recompense to surrender the information. She rarely carried cash, but she had the foresight to collect some when she landed, given the primitive technological status of the planet. Rummaging through her pocket, she pulled out a wad of money, displaying it to the gawking boy, who instantly became cooperative. He stood and held out his hand for his reward.
“Show me first.”
The beaming smile vanished while he considered her trustworthiness. It reappeared. “This way.” He started walking toward the center of the dig, traversing the top of the hill and descending the other side. Gabriel followed him. As they traveled lower, the sandy soil disappeared, replaced by sandstone. Excavation workers had chiseled pits in the ground, including a staircase in the pit’s side where they could descend to the diggings lowest layer. Relics lay scattered over the floor of the site; broken ceramic pots, utensils and other long buried belongings. When she studied the surroundings more, she realized she stood in a temple of some description. The boy stooped walking and pointed to a chamber in the far wall.
“Is that where the monster appeared?” Gabriel asked.
He nodded before extending his hand again.
“What did the monster look like?”
He shrugged his shoulders and looked away.
She smiled. He wasn’t relinquishing any further information before his payment. She pulled the wad from her pocket and peeled off several notes, giving it to him. He grabbed it but continued staring at the money in her hand.
“What?” She stared at him, at the cash, and back at him. “I didn’t say I’d give you all of it. You should have clarified your price beforehand.”
He clenched his fists and stamped his feet in a tantrum before running off, up the stairs and out of sight. Nonplussed, Gabriel stared after him.
She sighed and ambled toward the chamber from which the boy said the monster had emerged. When she entered the enclosure, she noticed the walls had hieroglyphs carved into them. She faced them and studied them, trying to decipher their meaning. Dirt still clung to the wall in places, so Gabriel wiped it off where it covered part of the ancient writings. The language was well familiar to her, so she started reading it. After a few lines, she understood the nature of the text. A terrible demon lay imprisoned there, contained while the population worshiped it with admiration. She dusted off more of the surface to continue reading, but it divulged nothing new.
She navigated the rest of the room and discovered an alcove. It was in the wall facing the main assembly space for the temple. When she checked the other side, Gabriel noticed a projection above a raised dais. The priest’s holy place where he performed the rituals. She venture to the platform, looked at the protrusion and froze, an icy shiver seeping through her.
To be continued…