“And NASA reports that the asteroid scheduled to make contact with the Atlantic Ocean today is still on course to land safely away from civilization. It was only a week ago that the United States sent ten guided missiles to redirect the asteroid’s course to land at least 50 miles from the nearest coast. When asked why they hadn’t simply positioned it to not hit the planet Earth at all, a NASA spokesman quoted, ‘That would require spending a lot more money, an asset we can’t abuse at this moment. This is the best that we can do, though rest assured, barring a natural disaster, there will be no natural disaster.'”
Jimmy Bronson happily played with the Tonka truck that had been his favorite birthday present three days past. He sat on the front porch with the rest of his family and all their friends, waiting for this big asteroid that everyone was talking about to hurry up and come already. Big deal. So a huge rock was flying in the sky. Whoopdie-doo. The things adults got excited about confounded him. He was content just to play with his trucks.
One of the grown-ups walked past and patted his head in the process. Jimmy was used to this treatment, being only seven. Heck, most people hardly noticed him at all. Everyone might have paid Jimmy more attention that day had they known he wouldn’t live to see eight.
Randy Prunell stood on the steps of the city building with the rest of the volunteer firefighters. None of them knew their services would be desperately needed within the next few minutes. Until that time came, they would watch the asteroid descend to Earth with everyone else. How amazing, Randy thought, his mind drowned out by the rowdy civilians around him. The same thing that killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago, and we’re sitting here cheering it on, thinking it won’t cause any damage whatsoever. He looked up and down the main street, knowing that more than half of Vermillion’s population was going to be there, not even counting all the others that would be watching from their own porches, or homebodies content to watch the event on TV.
He looked toward the fire department, and sure enough, the garage doors that would need raised for the fire engines to depart were blocked by dozens of onlookers, all of their heads raised to the sky. A religious man, Randy began praying that the asteroid would pass over safely and that no one would be hurt.
His prayer fell on deaf ears.
The Channel 17 helicopter flew above Vermillion, ready to capture the best shots of the asteroid available. They were one of dozens of choppers airborne, but Lindsay Whitaker was ready to get the best footage and commentary. She hadn’t truthfully liked the transition from intern to helicopter anchor. She was hesitant about heights to begin with, and the pilot wasn’t helping matters, trying to get as close to the sun as he could. She couldn’t argue his logic, however; get as close to witnessing this once in a lifetime event as possible, do it well, and make big bucks as a result. No harm in that.
She was checking her makeup when the pilot uttered a string of words unsuitable for TV. Turning both to see what the problem was and to scold her co-worker for his foul language, she saw what made him use such vulgarity. Holy mother of God, she thought. The cameraman, Todd, made sure to keep his camera steady, because from the looks of it, he thought they were about to witness the worst American tragedy since 9/11.
And he was right.
Larry Yeager sat at the local bar, watching coverage of the asteroid’s voyage on the wide-screen TV with the rest of the town’s denizens who deemed it acceptable to drink at 11 AM. To think it was just about to be right over the town amazed him, let alone the fact that it was going to make impact in broad daylight. Larry wondered how much more it would have cost the government to make sure it didn’t hit their planet at all. And if they had the means to redirect it, surely they could have just destroyed it? Larry thought that would be for the best, but what did he know?
He was right. Eradicating it would have been the best option. A hushed whisper fell over the crowd and a large grating noise emanated from the TV. With everyone else in the bar, he watched as Channel 17 broadcast their doom.
When the asteroid fell through Earth’s atmosphere, a rock that measured to about an eighteenth of a mile in diameter, it began showing signs of cracking under the pressure. For the millions of years it had floated devotedly through space, it quartered an evil common in the deeper, darker reaches of the universe. Whether it was from the sudden change of gravity, or the speed at which it crashed towards its end, or just the right place at the right time, the asteroid began breaking into two pieces, nearly equal in size. What started as a minuscule hairline thousands of miles away transformed into a full-scale fault line spanning its entirety. It finally violently tore open, twenty miles high, though no real danger was exhibited, as both chunks of asteroid would eventually land in the ocean as planned.
But from the breach, life crept. From a prison built by one of the most ancient civilizations light years away from the Earth, a monster awoke, ready to redeem the eons it had lost drifting aimlessly through space.
Those in the Channel 17 News chopper were the first to notice the change, being the closest to it. A loud crack punctuated the asteroid splitting, though neither of the two bowl-shaped rocks threatened to land anywhere but the sector of the ocean the United States military had designated for it. Guess those guys planned for everything, Lindsay thought happily. Being the first to capture the big break would promise big money, even if no death or disaster followed it. The other choppers were flying to and fro, their pilots still trying to figure out what that sound was.
Todd kept both chunks in the shot until he noticed an abnormality growing from inside one of them. He honed in on it, and upon first glance, he thought a boulder was slowly rising over the precipice of one as it shot through the air. This was followed, however, by a long neck and a pair of broad, black shoulders. Gray wings sprouted, reaching far into the sky, wings that should have been rendered useless at such speeds. What Todd thought was a boulder turned to face the dozens of helicopters littering the air beneath it, and he saw that it was an enormous head. It craned its neck and yawned, set free for the first time in millions of years, back when humanity had yet to exist. Todd had to zoom out quickly to get the monster’s entire body in the shot as it began beating its hideous wings against the sky.
“Todd, what the fuck is that?!” Lindsay screamed, suddenly not caring that the entire country could hear her.
“I don’t know!” he yelled back. “It looks like a goddamn dra-” The feed to the rest of the world was cut short as every helicopter in the sky was obliterated beyond belief.
Randy Prunell squinted at his camera phone as he tried to record the asteroid’s descent. He liked the idea of one day showing the footage to his children, and even grandchildren. He was even able to capture the moment the thing broke in half amidst the cheering and the terrified screams of those around him. When it became clear to all that this small diversion meant nothing, as both stayed on the crash course toward the Atlantic Ocean, cheering and relieved chatter took over once again.
“Say, Randy, what’s that?” Don Frost asked from behind him. He looked at Don to see what his friend was talking about. Don’s eyes never left the sky, and when the helicopters simultaneously exploded in a cloud of purple flames, Randy’s snapped back as well. The screaming resumed and people jostled him back and forth as they ran for shelter to avoid the raining shrapnel. He searched hopelessly for the cause of the helicopters’ demise in the smoke-filled sky before the sun disappeared entirely behind a massive flying object.
Jimmy Bronson didn’t care how entertained the adults were; he refused to take his eyes off of his trucks, even if only to spite their excitement. When a sound like a huge egg breaking interrupted his thoughts and the adults all screamed in excitement, he didn’t care. Even after the explosions in the sky, when it took all of his willpower to remain focused, he didn’t give in to temptation. And the awful screaming that surrounded him afterward. That was the worst part.
Then there was no more light to see his toys by, and this was more of an annoyance than anything else. Even more crying followed this, though this time all of the adults began running away in fear, quite a few of them coming close to trampling Jimmy in their careless stampede. His mother, joining in on the riot, scooped him up and ran away with the rest of them, dividing him from his beloved Tonka truck. She ran in the sudden blackness, navigating only by means of memories of the streets she’d grown up on.
The sound that came next was the last sound Jimmy heard for the rest of his short life. His eardrums burst and his hearing had left him for good, same as everyone else in a ten mile vicinity. Not just a roar, but a screech, a sound unheard of in the world until that moment, a sound only before uttered in the deepest parts of darkest space. Everyone surrounding Jimmy and his mother fell to the ground crying, holding their hands to their suddenly useless ears, trying hopelessly to cup the blood pouring from them as if that would fix their new impairment. Very few people retained the will to keep running for their lives, but those that didn’t became the easiest prey the beast had ever laid eyes on.
The monster saw an opening to attack the easy targets, and flew closer to the Earth to collect the feast it so desperately hungered for. No one dared stare at it long enough to form a description or even a name for it as it flew at them with amazing grace and speed. Those that did stare did so because they were too immobilized by fear to divert their attention elsewhere, and they were split on whether it was a dragon, something unheard of outside of fantastical books and video games, or the largest bat to ever exist. To the collective majority, the monster was simply indescribable, albeit a demon that exuded a terror too great to ignore.
The city of Vermillion, the cities surrounding it, nor any of their citizens stood a chance of survival in the presence of the beast. Fire that shone with hues of purple, blue, and black spouted forth from a mouth 20 feet wide, lined with hundreds of obsidian teeth. With its 200 feet wingspan, the creature flew above the puny civilization, much smaller and less defensed than the alien communities it was used to ravaging before its imprisonment. It screeched once more as it landed, creating a small earthquake in the process.
It sat, beating its wings patiently against the black backdrop as the smoke from its destruction thus far filled the sky surrounding it. Most fled, shrieking, while some could only stare at the god-like creature with horror and awe before being pulled by someone of a more survivalist mindset. Dozens glanced out of the windows of their home to see what the fuss was about only to commit suicide immediately afterward, unable to cope with a life in which they had to share their world with such an abomination. The military was stationed close by on account of the asteroid that everyone had suddenly forgotten about. They awaited orders from a very confused and disorganized commander in chief, who thought that this was going to be as easy a procedure as there could be.
The beast took to the skies once more, flying low to the ground. With long, bulky arms, it grabbed at the ground with clawed, humanoid hands, taking at least a dozen humans in each handful before throwing them into its waiting, gore-filled mouth. It broke them down easily, quickly sending them through to the digestive tract before repeating the process with another group of unfortunate souls. It flew expertly over the city, clearing the sidewalks, streets, and alleyways of all life, unleashing hellfire onto the surrounding homes and buildings to ensure that none survived the assault. When the military finally gained clearance to open fire on the monster, tens of thousands of people had already perished, the entirety of Clamrock county had burned to the ground, and all hope by those very few survivors was gone.
Freddy Ullington hadn’t been with the Air Force very long when they asked him to join the Offensive Counter Air Unit at United States Air Forces Central. He’d accepted immediately, because opportunities like those didn’t come along often, and when they did, you had better take advantage of them. But as he stared out of his fighter jet’s window at that thing flying above Vermillion 300 yards ahead of him, he wished he’d have declined the honor immediately.
Larger than any creature walking the planet, the monster was said to have broken free from the asteroid. He hadn’t believed the premature reports that the demon was 200 feet tall with the wingspan to match, nor that it possessed three stubby legs with razor-sharp talons attached to a black, scaly torso, four arms half as long as its body, each of them ending in great hands that could have swatted the fighter jets from the air as if they were no more than troublesome flies. Its wings were rimmed with more black scales but composed mainly of a veined gray membrane that let the scant sunlight through like dirty glass. Its ears stood upright from its enormous head like those of a bat, and its black eyes were lost among its thousands scales. Its dog-like snout emitted smoke with every breath, and the beast made it clear that it was ready to kill the next thing that got in its path.
Freddy breathed deep and took aim at the monster, remembering his training. The colonel gave the order for the fighter jets to unleash hell, though Freddy silently argued that hell had obviously already been to Vermillion.
The alien creature barely noticed the missiles that were fired into its backside. It was like a faint scratch that needn’t be immediately worried about. The jets flew overhead, and the monster attacked them with its demonic breath. It wasn’t because they posed a serious threat, but because they meant to harm it regardless. With a sweep of its long neck, all ten jets disintegrated to ash, the explosions from their engines and missiles on board creating an almost nuclear blast, the final blow to Clamrock County.
Bored with the place he’d taken dominion over, the creature perched on the ground in the midst of the destruction. It lamented on battles of old when death seemed like a real possibility, even for one as virtually immortal as itself. The ancient alien civilizations its brethren had gone to war against, the other creatures lurking deep within the universe it’d battled before its imprisonment, most times larger than even it. Death used to wait behind every corner. The Earth, however, was unprepared for such a foe. It had been much too easy for the monster, who wanted only a challenge from his rivals, to eviscerate their kind. With no effort on its part, it had killed thousands of them in just five minutes. Most didn’t even fight back. The monster stared longingly at the sky, reminiscing on its past glories. The colonel called to arms another air strike with five times as many fighter jets, but it proved unnecessary. Spreading its great wings, the beast leapt into the blackened sky and flew towards home.
Craig’s been writing since he was old enough to pick up a pen and do so. Though his interests lie mainly in horror, he never shies away from writing a good fantasy or mystery story. His fiction has been published in Sanitarium Magazine, Under The Bed Magazine, and assorted anthologies from Horrified Press. When he’s not writing, at the gym, or spending time with his wife, he’s also the editor for Beyond Imagination Magazine and Beyond Science Fiction Magazine. You can connect with Craig easily at http://www.writercraig.com.
Image by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero