Move away Humans
Well into an eerie evening, as twin suns withdrew light from hills appearing to encroach air whispered, here comes night, beware! Someone should switch lights on.
Sitting on verandahs, mesmerized by views off into thick trees, unhindered by walls of scrubs were hikers and their leader. Close together, enforcing one another against a sense of isolation dusky surroundings evoked. Flickering lights came over the verandahs, dulled views.
The National Parks, established to preserve first nation’s lands, even on this planet, circled settlement fringes, only a short distance from their hostel now serving as a beginning point and accommodation facilities within a ghoul’s spit from their upcoming walk.
Group leader, Alan, sucked on his cigarette, holding smoke for several moments before releasing it into cool evening air. Bluish smoke hung about, almost clinging to a slightly spread group. As to cling amongst people negated anxiety about dispersal into surrounds for fear of meeting an intensity already hovering. Smoke, capable of initiating cancer, prohibited on earth. Yet what greater forces existed beyond feeble outside lighting?
Except for swishing out of smoke this group sat silent. No one wanted to remind cigarettes were almost outlawed back on earth. Dark green shadows grew deeper, obliterating bubble-like features of treetops, planted by pioneer intergalactic travelers. Thus, ridge surfaces looked as if covered by a dark satin. Clouds already closed in across hill tops. Pushing their cotton fluff closer into crests. Roosting close to gain security. Now twin nebulous sun’s gold dressing faded, and only smoky whiteness hung, kindred to smoke wafting out from Alan’s lips.
For some time both moons and twin suns existed together, finally moon’s light grew in intensity as her lonely night vigil began. She would keep watch faithfully, not unlike since the time of Greek myths which evoked beasts.
A dinner bell shouted away heaviness. Movement inside happened as limbs forming one joined body, rather than a handful of potential walkers.
As fires were lit, air warmed; both with conversation and shared meal. Outside stillness lurked looking in windows, one by one. Not a Mopoke hooted, nor any other night-bird screaked any warnings. Impossible to relocate birds, due to mass extinctions. Humans culled so many life forms from their planet. Stillness, so unlike earth- bound nights filled with creatures bent on hunting prey.
Smoke from fireplaces rose straight up knifing blue blackness with flimsy spears. Solid fuel heating, so readily available, added to smoky environs. Dampening air, thickening atmosphere so all sorts of things could lurk. Distinct burnt log aroma further cloaked scenic ambience.
Contained in secure walls walkers swapped tales; past treks, interplanetary travels, and mountain climbs. How they’d shared sleeping space with a rampant snorer, kept awake long hours with a sound like crunching rusty gear boxes or someone tugging a buried chain. Limited chances to snuggle in others bunks and bedding. Nights so close everyone circulated wet-sock fumes, muddy clothing, coagulated sweat, aroma of scratched knees and rehydrated food methane. Dawn choruses of zips, plastic bags and coughing recalled overpowering being woken by sinister nature noises.
Talk concluded on benefits of escape, especially now available visitations to new planets. Thorough plans for tomorrows trek, drawn from combined expertise. Checking and rechecking gear, boots lined up like troopers about to face down a cavalry charge. Soon to shuck deep in mud built up by introduction if trees, leaf litter and increased ground liquid. Would clouds clear and make brochure-like views visible? Visitors appreciated scenery in total immersion experience rather than as printed two-dimensional pictures on websites. Together a shared love of wild, untrodden by human feet places, where risks might be shoulder high. Long into darkness they nestled together. Much to be shared, how challenged you’d be when pitted against this new planet. Knowledge of by tomorrow’s darkness they would again be filled with kindred invested in stinging muscles, perhaps a few new blisters, ruined toenails and multiple scratches from twigs and sticks endured like love-bites inflicted by aggressive environs.
Many humorous events were recalled; one time someone brought bongos on an interplanetary-trek; or another occasion and an encounter, this time on earth, with a mountain biker with a flat tire miles from assistance. As if some force countered bike mechanics and struck out at weak rubber. A walker fixed the problem with a few extra strong Band-aids. Or a recount of lost hiker’s boot worth several hundred dollars in thick, black mud and how this trekker spent three more days walking in socks, mesmerized by watching his feet sink to different levels on sodden tracks. Someone began another tale of starting a serious four-day hike and encountering two Israeli boys approaching. A pair who survived, for two days, with only one chocolate bar and a rare can of tuna. Oceans now empty of fish. Another retelling of chance encounters with a running group in training for one of those ultra-marathons; stick thin; pack-less appeared like aliens and seeming to fly down roughest incline with mountain goat-like grace. Everyone squeezes into opposite rock faces for them to pass, leaving behind a sweaty residue and bevy of thank-you. Conclusive proof of humanities insanity and pandering for novel interests.
A warning hung about, perhaps these hikers ought to make more time for happenings outside these timber walls, other than memories.
As hikers unrolled sleeping bags, hung up vary-colored, multi-zippered pocket pants, vests and jackets so bunk beds resembled a village washing day. Selected partners for dreaming waltzes, their trek leader took his leave. Retired to his rooms, an original building joined to main house only by a timber walkway, as fragile as an umbilical cord.
Alan drew out more tobacco and again sort solace in a cigarette. Art evident in how he spent moments withdrawing a cupped handful of aromatic strands with long practiced routine aimed at joining paper and filling. Paper attached itself to his lip while he pushed tobacco into appropriate cylindrical shape. On such an evening, he wished for a few leaves from his ‘plants’, to give smokes just a twinge of fire, put some spark into stillness. Strange how he’d always used ‘good stuff’ to escape from pressures no longer part of daily routine. Even so he still craved weed.
While his job mainly concerned making sure walkers kept to appropriate trails, doing a head count and no matter how much a group appeared tiny in these huge vistas, strung out like beads on a vast décolletage, he must ensure the same number reached next nights’ shelter hut. No one should wander off alone; take a wrong turn, not on Alan’s shift, anyway. He ensured no rubbish, and kept tabs on potential rare local inhabitants. Sometimes, rarely, he missed elements of an old life, no regrets, but oddest reminders triggered wistfulness. Like whispering voices now stomping in his brain.
Leaning on walls, listening, Alan concluded nothing sinister in night murmurs. Imagination; watch out for voices inside your head, mate; first sign of madness. Not a hush from wind flicking leaves, not a cricket’s twitter, not a scurry of any animals, not on this planet. Then dirt around him groaned, or perhaps his noisy stomach?
Staring long and hard mud about nearby building foundations, Alan searched causes to feelings of movement. Since yesterday’s heavy rain, now mostly absorbed, dirt retained viscosity. An earlier quagmire appeared settled. Surrounding air embedded with freshness recent rain brings. Were climate disasters beginning here too? A toughness battled out here. Evolution harsh on a final landfall before great frozen continent similar to Antarctica. Boundaries established by planted trees, continued as battle of wills. Each layer defined by an ability to confront elements. A drop of wind savored as precious time before another storm front passed through.
Alan hoped tomorrow’s track wouldn’t be too affected. Nothing worse than trying to encourage tired hikers to keep putting feet down and stepping forward when mud squelched, stuck between boot ridges. Walking in mud also damaged tracks, meaning before long Alan and other walk leaders needed to be responsible for another work party of those nasty school dropouts. Flat out attempting to teach them basic handyman skills. Afterwards cleaning up rubbish and trying to fix a bevy of complaints.
Alan put sensation of movement and any grumbling sounds down to imagination. Yes, he only pictured a low, deep moan; creeping up from his mind’s depths. Reminiscing about Tracey again too, wondering if her arms were warmed by another or if she too spending lonely nights clasping her pillow? Never know those answers. Alan turned his back on looming darkness. Little chance their paths will cross when he finished his placement on this planet.
Inside, a few scattered books, a wooden bunk wore brightly colored coat of a patchwork rug, legacy of a doting grandmother. Additional furniture limited to a chair and wardrobe. Atop a shelf Alan kept his memorabilia, some beer mugs, ashtrays and his grandfather’s pipe and stand, looking down as if on sentry duty. All good, no threat to watch over here.
About midnight Alan’s eyes popped open and he sat bold upright. A soft noise disturbed; just as deep sleep finally came. It started lightly. Rain, heavy now, tumbled earthwards from dark heavens. Tears, perhaps, huge hurtful tears, or juices of life, waters broken preceding birth, or mourning potential deaths. Convulsions formed waves out there, somewhere. Wouldn’t be long.
Lightening split skies, illuminating inside his room with a phosphorous intruder. Thunder crashed following these lights. Skies asserted their macabre power, beyond how humans attempted to make this planet livable.
It’s raining pick handles, coming down in streamers; roof noise deafening. Only rain, so Alan sort sleep again. Going to put a dampener on tomorrow’s walk, ha ha! But from depth of consciousness thoughts still needled. Some sort of link with animal instinct re-ignited. Alan tossed and flopped. His senses tuned in with earth’s uneasiness. While eyes were closed and body functions resting, ears, nostrils and nerve endings alert and issuing warnings. Up and down they paced, like caged things.
Rivulets of water rushed down slopes, moving mud; firstly, only surface, then gradually wetness soaked into already wet ground moving whole chunks of terrain. In darkest pre-dawn hours movement reached a building, by which time a contorted creep. Forces akin to labor pains, not birthing but cleansing, rolled forward with a mantra… ‘Crush, destroy, demolish.’
Things inside began to rattle and shake from wall pushing forces. Alan instantly awake. Aware of his room’s distortion. As if dirt attempted to pull up skirts and move away from evil convulsions. Trying to gain a self-protective quality.
Alan’s response almost without contemplation, shorts, clothes, dark outside, torch. His mind paraphrased actions. Door won’t open. A building not ready to evict its resident. More to be done, some revenge. But why? He’d done nothing wrong.
Walls began to crash and twist under pressure. Something alien, powerful, uncontrollable slammed shut his exit. Holding his door with mud-rock limbs, breathing loamy fumes, sticks, even full trees, formed hairs on these arms, forcing any egress tight. Alan pictured his body being found, swallowed by earth – a before death burial. If I gave up, who would care? Stuck in a magnetic pull; superhuman efforts needed to reverse poles. Staring at an uncooperative door he spared a few seconds to think about what to try next. Window. Break glass! And quickly before this force negated options. As he wriggled through Alan heard a cold, unsympathetic giggle from grumbling rock-strewn earth. Freedom at last, gained by pushing himself through an almost too small space. But his legs were now stifled, moving mud, cold, clinging newborn mud, entrapped. Alan looked about for a landmark, feeling like ground morphed into an ant-lion’s trap with him a victim repetitively tumbling down. A view he’d last seen over a leisurely cigarette gone. Nothing appeared in correct positions, angles, or dimensions. He’d fallen in reverse out of Alice’s rabbit hole! Finally, on one of those trips, everyone talked about.
Grasping at timbers which used to be had a walkway Alan’s arms grabbed a downpipe. It leaked icy water, but he clung desperately as if such pipes might stand as a symbol of steadfastness. He tried to cling to a surety a building is stronger than gyrating dirt, but conviction faded fast. Issuing forth his first noise, insignificant compared to a marauding planet , a yell, more of relief than calling for help.
Hikers gathered Alan up, collected him, shaken but not hurt. Together they watched a smaller building fall to its death pushed along by birth of a new hillside in a mud deluge.
Reports and website information later listed possibilities the ground was alive with some alien force equivalent to those who moved Valles Marineris in Tharsis region on Mars.