Roger Jackson returns to VampireNomad with a delicious original short story. We are thrilled to have him back and normally I'd just let his work stand sans introduction. But this particular piece is special because Roger accepted a ten word challenge from me just as Nathan did to splendid effect last week. The words I gave Roger were: armour, divine, extinguish, gaze, interrogate, aardvark, ructious, saboteur, cajole, and tweed. And my god, he rose to the challenge and then some! It's glorious.
THE LAST WAR
This is the story of the last war on Earth. It started with a blade of strange crimson lightning that streaked down from a cloudless sky. The lightning cleaved the arid ground, turned trees and wildlife to ash on the wind. When the smoke and the dust unravelled, the largest beast to have touched the surface of the Earth stood on the African plain. Its shadow eclipsed countless villages, miles apart.
Six silvery eyes, the size of swimming pools, regarded the world with a gaze content in the knowledge that the beast's very presence made this land a conquered territory. A thrash of its serpentine tail killed thousands. The jaws of its three snarling, canine heads killed thousands more.
The orbiting satellites took snapshot after snapshot of the creature with programmed efficiency, but the software had been hacked, and instead of the discreet, protected stream of data to certain military installations, the target destination for the images became billions of social networking accounts, billions of phones, the news networks, every TV on the planet. The human race looked on in shock and awe.
Professors of Greek and Roman mythology, resplendent in tweed and pipe-smoke, immediately identified the incursion as Cerberus, the hellhound at the gates of Hades. The less-informed in such matters took the visitation as a hoax, or a viral publicity drive for a sequel to Cloverfield - the mention of Cerberus even caused a brief rush of confusion among the online comic-book community, who for a time believed that Africa had been invaded by a sword- wielding aardvark.
Some interpreted it, with some justification, as the Apocalypse that mankind deserved, a divine retribution for an infinity of sins. The secular thought it a ruse by the Church, a bid to cajole belief from their hearts, but there were no atheists when that sweeping, global satellite signal broadcast the inhuman legions swarming from the fiery craters that were opening up in the centre of Paris, and London, and Washington, and Moscow. They opened in every place on Earth.
To it's credit, the military forces of the planet reacted with an impressive, dizzying speed, almost as if they'd been expecting such an invasion. Every nation deployed its defenders, armies of blessed armour and sanctified bullets, all to no avail. The tanks rolled in, and were swept aside like toys, like the playthings of a ructious poltergeist. The fighter planes never got off the ground, their systems infiltrated by the same virus that had been summoned to retool the satellites. The saboteur, a minor devil with dreams of glory, had poured his black heart into the infernal infection, the demonic download.
But the missiles ... the thermonuclear warheads ... their boards were green, their arming codes still viable, their launch buttons still temptingly lit. And, as is well recorded, temptation has always been one of the strongest cards in the Devil's deck.
World Leaders frantically questioned their military advisers while never pausing to interrogate their own conscience, and when the silos suddenly unlocked and the countdowns reached zero, the accusations about who finally pushed the button flew from nation to nation as fast as the missiles.
In the end, there was no-one left to care. The firestorms consumed everything, and the demons danced amid flames that nothing could extinguish, rejoicing as mankind courteously terraformed the surface of the planet for them.
Now a new civilisation rules that surface, a civilisation of cities sculpted from blackened glass and the music of tortured souls, of canyons filled with lava and a mountain carved into a throne. A civilisation that looks with cold reptilian eyes to the clouds of sulphur and ash, to the stars and worlds beyond, and knows that Hell on Earth was just the beginning.
- Roger Jackson
Roger Jackson can be found on Twitter as @jabe842 and in his online home An Ark Hive.