The Ping

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write a story about someone feeling powerless.... view prompt


Thriller Science Fiction Mystery

First Log entry: February 29th, 2121

Space. It is a heartless Hell. One Nautilus Expeditions intends on conquering. Earth is dying; humans are killing the world we were carved from. No longer are we molded from innocent clay, but now trash and enmity. That horrible obsession to destroy only expanded when we saw the moon as our next savior, and then every planet beyond it. Eventually they all succumb to our great famine. Plague, decay, rot… everything took what was beautiful to us. What was necessary.

They think coming to the stars might cure us--radiation will strip the desire from our flesh. What they promise as a calculated choice, we -- the first to step into the abyss -- know is little more than a guess. A hope. But we don’t really have a choice, do we?

I am among them, the ones forced to spread our seed into the cosmos. Each of us are masters of our profession, hoping we can bring our knowledge from a now dead Earth somewhere new. We are scientists, engineers, botanists, future writers and physicists. Everything needed for a future to begin.   

Before our leaving, we had sent probes out into the deepest realms of creation. They were soulless constructs, designed to die so that we may live. They scoured through stardust and asteroid fields until they found it, a possible haven so far away. 

A new beginning.

Now we prepare for our leaving. Our ships are almost ready to disperse. The first test will be conducted tomorrow with a full crew. If it works, then we can leave our rotting home. If it doesn’t, the human race ends here.

Second Log entry: February 30th, 2121

Space fights us even at our first attempt, annihilating any hope of escape. Algorithms couldn’t predict its wrath; prayer didn’t alleviate the pain of loss and failure. The first vessel made it beyond Pluto. It was armed with an experimental wormhole generator -- a device capable of creating a hole between two distances, drastically shortening the journey. But when the wormhole was activated, it collapsed mid-way through.

There were no survivors.

Third Log entry: June 1st, 2121

More ships had to be sent. Months of eggheaded tests determined one thing: we were ready. It was during the fourth attempt that The Orion broke past our solar system; the knots in my stomach finally loosened. Perhaps it was possible to escape? Perhaps we did have a chance.

We wasted no time. Soon more vessels began to depart -- titans of last-ditch ideas and auspicious sciences -- for their journeys. Thankfully, I was assigned to what felt like the most fortuitous vessel of the fleet: The Annabel Lee. Something about her felt hand-picked for greatness. Years of shit luck and I finally understood where all of my luck was going. 

She breached the barricades space built for us with little trouble. She was a fighter with a crew of resolute spirits.

Fourth Log entry: June 25th, 2121

We’ve been away from our solar system for nearly a month, and I can’t shake the feeling that we were aided by something, as if the clouds had been parted by an invisible hand. 

One thing is apparent, however. We’ve begun to lose communications with our brother and sister vessels. The wormholes have spat us out, back into the hands of space, and she is wrathful. Rogue asteroid fields, stray comets, gravity wells, and unforeseen storms… countless lives all lost in our great journey. 

But it wasn’t all her fault. Others were taken by worse fates. Food shortages and the constant of human error which followed us, even here. Even in space, surrounded by the best minds science has to offer, all that’s needed is the cracking of one person’s fear for greed and desire for power to show its face, and then the whole ship sinks.

I fear one of these may be our deep-seeded fate.

Fifth Log entry: August, 2121

The Annabel Lee is traveling well. We are careful, constantly, always nervous of a mutiny or sudden outbreak of madness. Random recordings sent by members of our fleet who’ve failed instills horror in us and relays our greatest fear: Even the greatest minds can crumble given the push.

Talk of such things has become forbidden. We do our best to make The Annabel Lee feel like less of a ship aimlessly wandering, and more of a home. A place where families can be made and the idea of chaos erased; no one is a stranger inside of her steel walls. I traveled here alone, but on The Annabel Lee I don’t feel like I am anymore.

We are a family -- the last collection of humanity. All of our stories are the same, now. We share the same hopes and goals; we are together until the end now.

Sixth Log entry: October, 2121 

Over time, our sensors indicate to us just how many vessels are lost to this perilous journey. The number is too stomach churning to think of. We are like fish gliding through an endless sea, while greater things below us watch and wait for their moments to strike. I do my best to not think of how many children float in that damned cold, or how many souls have been turned to stardust. 

We’ve made the decision to turn off our transmissions. Nobody needs the murmur of tragedy eating away at our resolve.

We will continue, resolute.

Seventh Log entry: December 25th, 2121

Our journey is interrupted with a stomach churning realization, and to think, it’s Christmas back home. We are running out of fuel. The scientists thought we could have made it, but detour after detour thanks to hostile systems and suddenly we aren’t so sure anymore. Whispers have started, as did panic.

What are we going to do?

Eight Log entry: January 1st, 2122

On Earth, it is the beginning of a new year. Our captain has assured us we will make the journey, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that we won’t. At this rate, we will be stranded. Adrift, all of us endings to a family tree. The roots will have nowhere left to grow.  

For days we float, saving what little fuel we have left. Gravity aids us, but eventually we will slow down. And then will come the great pause. We all know what comes next; everyone can read that fear in our trembling, silent eyes.

That’s when it appeared on the horizon -- a signal on our radar. A ping that calls us to come closer. After traveling the sea of nothing for so long, we nearly collapsed to learn there is something ahead of us. Our metaphorical port for resupply, if you will.

It is on no calculated courses. Even with our technology, no one knew of this pocket’s existence. It’s as if God had plucked it from his garden and placed it before us. Our initial scans promise it is a copy of Earth -- a sibling born from a rib.

And it appears identical as we approach it. Seas azure blue, and mountains tipped with pearl-white snow. Forests so thick, we wonder how anything could move through them.

It is paradise.

But there is something else beside it. A nebulous, black tear. A watcher in the distance. It is unlike anything ever seen before. At first there were rumors that it was a black hole -- an eater of light and time. A strange ping emits from its core, one we all hear no matter where we are aboard the Annabel Lee. We’ve named it the Stygian Veil.

It observes. Swirling with arms outstretched for us. Its voice begs us to join it -- to end this aimless fleeing of fate. The ping begs for our attention.

Ninth Log entry: January 3rd, 2122

After some study, we have learned the Veil does not eat light. On the contrary, it produces it. Warped, exotic particles like amethyst dust spreads out from its eye-like orifice.

The dust, upon being collected, proved more than ample for our fuel necessities. In fact, one gallon of the material was enough to run our ship for months, while below us we reave the planet’s bounty for our city of steel and glass. We had no interest in changing our nature, it seems.

The planet we came for, a perfect replacement for our own home, has fallen out of favor with the scientists and crew, myself included. There is something about its presence we find invigorating. 

Suddenly, we have no desire to travel further. Why would we? We didn’t wish to be away from it, the ping.

Our journey was wrong. We never should have left.

Tenth Log entry: January 8th 2122

Our thoughts are quelled; our souls pacified. The ping brings a wonderful calm. A sense of serenity never before known. Everything terrible dissipates in our minds thanks to it.

It blares over our ship's speakers; everyone in the station can hear it. It has become a daily occurrence. We’ve already arrived at the ping’s destination and yet somehow it feels as if we’re being called somewhere different. Closer.

We have become obsessed with our enamoring, elegant watcher. We eat dinner in front of our windows to watch it -- we embrace our lovers where it can watch. It is perfect. 

We have stopped venturing to the planet below us. We are looked after.

Eleventh Log entry: February 3rd 2122222

The ping is wonderful to hear. It wakes us; it drifts us to sleep. It does everything in between for us.

We must all join it. We must surrender ourselves to it. To finally be free. This is our duty. This is our being, to let it in.

I don’t want to be around these people anymore. Their faces are alien to me; their presence is null. What do they want?

It wants to be found. It called to us, screeching through the microcosms for ears to listen. It desires to be seen. To be let in, ingested by the mind. There is something beyond it… something beyond the ping. 

Our nature has finally caught up to us. We are the disease. 

The ping. It echoes through the dead halls. We can all hear it in our ears--the wonderful hum. It’s everywhere; it is inside of us. It comes from out there, from the void of space. It followed us here to the edge of the abyss. It was waiting

Black. Sightless black. Wails at first, then whimpers. Clot and plasma paint our mechanical mistake red. Empty minds flee to join it -- to be eradicated by its grace. It, the hungry dark.

It wants us to let it in. Open the doors; welcome the chill. Welcome it. Let it in.

Eleventh Log entry: ?02q4

Who am I? What was my name? Let it in...

The ping… it owns me… I let it in… it is…


September 11, 2020 16:30

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C Davis
23:28 Sep 17, 2020

Wow! This is amazing! I really like your descriptive writing, when they are lost in space it brought a true feeling of emptiness and powerlessness. I love how you wrote it in logs to show the time passing and help the story evolve but also to show the effect of the ping towards the end. Great job!


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☆ Ariadne ☆
00:56 Sep 25, 2020

Wow. I never thought of people out in space feeling lonely and powerless. Your descriptions are great - I felt immersed in your story. Well done! ~Ria


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