The Sliver

This story was inspired by this picture.

The stone ring structure stands about 10-storeys above its foundation on this rocky planet. It is clearly a constructed machine and not a natural formation. I walk back from it a few dozen meters and close an eye so I can align it with the other rings built across this planet. Those other rings run down into the red rock gulley below where I stand and out under a sky of blue with feathering pink that is cut through by cosmic Saturn-esque planetary rings. 

“What do you figure they do?” I ask the science officer.

“I don’t guess—it prompts bias,” He answers curtly but maybe detecting a flicker of anxiety in my eyes, he adds, “Uh, I know they distort spacetime. How that will manifest we shall discover together, yes? Perhaps it will find us a home.”

I nod and sit down—my legs are still weak from the cryosleep. I distract myself with the views. It is a dry and lifeless planet yet still the most hospitable I have seen since we fled earth so many centuries ago. The rings remind me of earth, too. These strange structural rings casting shadows on us—seemingly aligned across the surface of the planet—were the largest intentional structure I had seen since a skyscraper on earth. Everything was reminding me of home today.

The Science officer tugs the generator to life. The upright rings suddenly fill their void with a thick distortion like cut glass. It cracks then shifts constantly as a melting cathedral window.

Most skyscrapers were squashed flat by the disaster. An unfathomably large black monster came through a rift in earth’s sky, stirred our oceans to tsunamis, killed a billion in seconds, and, finally, formed into a ball that pounded entire continents to rubble. We few who remained fled into the stars with what technology was left. There was no point in staying to rebuild. With such a random and uncontrollable monstrosity revealed, we could only run.  

I don’t miss skyscrapers really—most were ugly anyways. Though, I did like the Eiffel tower in Paris, but it was more art than skyscraper. Actually no, it’s not even that now, because it wasn’t even there when I left—the monstrosity had torn it away. There is no Eiffel tower just as there is no home for use and there hasn’t been for 400 years.

“Okay,” The science officer said, “When it is activated, you shall place a hand in and describe what you feel, yes?”

I nod, again. If I’m being honest, I think this test will kill me but that’s okay. My family never woke up from their last cryosleep cycle. They aren’t the first to die to the experimental cryotech, but I am the first to be orphaned by it. I have little to lose and anger has consumed my hope. I rage against a cruel universe that does not notice. I suffocate in my desire to hold everyone left in a tight grip that will wrench them away from suffering—protect them if I can just squeeze tight enough. I can’t do that, though. So, I have volunteered to leave this universe while dreaming of home.

“At most, you will lose a hand, I think,” The science officer says, “But I can’t guarantee that. So, I warn you that it may kill, distort your size, stretch you into the future or the-“

“Let’s do it,” I interrupt. I pull off my sweaty glove-my hand stained black by it.

“Okay, then put your hand in and describe what you feel,” he says.

I plunge my hand through the melting window of gemstone distortions strung up by the constructed ring. I close my eyes, think of home, and expect to die. Instead, though, my hand runs through cool water. My heart clenches on itself-the feeling of water calls forth memories of a lake from my childhood and I hate it.

Before I can withdraw, something joins my thoughts. It speaks, in a sense, but I cannot understand it. My heart beats harder in response. All at once, I feel powerful and massive like a god. My rage at the curse of memory curls my hand into a fist clenched so tight. I slam and slam and slam it down onto something beyond the distortion and don’t stop until a splinter of metal drives into my palm. The pain startles me from my trance. I yank my hand out of the melting portal.

A drop of blood is forming around a sliver. The Science Officer is excited I have brought a sample of something back. He plucks it from my palm to examine under the microscope.

He gasps. There is horror in his expression.

He is trying to keep me back, but I shove him away. I look in the eyepiece and I know. The lattice work was unmistakable. The sliver, pulled from my fist, was the twisted remains of the Eiffel tower—just now stained with my blood.

Written by Rory

This story was drafted in this livestream.

A Sci-Fi style Postcard with the story. Same text below.

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