Friday 22 December 2017

Dark Fiction - Burrow


By Casey Douglass

International Space Station Log Entry #82256 : 27-12-17:

This is Commander Mills, one year into what should have been a six month stint on the I.S.S. I am writing this so that there is some record of what has happened, in case there is no-one left to tell the tale. I will be ejecting the log cluster before the station’s orbit degrades enough to drag it down with us. Hopefully the cluster will stay in orbit indefinitely for future generations to find, if there are any that is. With this in mind, I will give a brief recap of events.

A nuclear power station in Asia went into meltdown eight months ago. As it was later discovered, this power station was particularly near a fault in the Earth’s crust. Once the radiation levels spiked sufficiently to penetrate this area, Burrowing Syndrome began to manifest in the human population nearby. This then gradually spread until it was global, a pandemic that brought about the downfall of humanity.

Someone afflicted with Burrowing Syndrome would, without a moment’s hesitation, drop to their knees and begin to claw at the ground. It didn’t matter what type of ground or surface, when it struck someone, they fell to their knees and began to dig. People in cities and towns fared the worst, scraping at the ground until finger nails broke, fingers cracked and flesh began to be grated away by the friction. Early victims were restrained for their own good, but as the outbreak hit critical mass, there was nothing that could be done. The souls who were lucky enough to find themselves on soil or soft ground would dig and dig until they burrowed out of site, reacting violently if anyone tried to drag them from their hole. It took only a few weeks for the world below to fall silent, leaving us adrift and staring open-mouthed at the blue planet in our view ports.

We watched on from up here waiting for fresh news, monitoring ourselves for the syndrome in case someone got it into their head to puncture the station in some misguided frenzy to get out. I am happy to report that all crew seemed to be unaffected by the condition, which was about the only good thing we held onto as we rationed ourselves and floated around in a state of zombie-like starvation. Marlow died just over a month ago, his body seeming to shut down due to malnutrition. I thought we were all going to slowly follow suit, until the quiet planet below started to broadcast again.

We were orbiting above the Himalayas when the weak signal reached us. It was fuzzy and racked with interference, but we were able to clean things up. It was them, the people who had burrowed. We weren’t sure whether to believe them or not but they were people, which was enough for us at the time. They explained that they had been drawn to an inner zone of the planet, some oasis of advanced technology, the biome from which humanity literally sprouted. They sent us co-ordinates and invited us to join them. They chose a landing spot that the station would pass over, the ground there soft and easy to push through. Yes, apparently when we are nearer the surface, we will be afflicted with B.S too. Ha! B.S! It sounds it doesn’t it. They told us to keep our spacesuits on as it would stop us suffocating in the ground, a fate that apparently claimed 95% of all those who did burrow into softer stuff. We tried to ask questions, such as what had caused all of this, but beyond confirmation that the nuclear meltdown triggered it, they would say little else. Apparently they were using the mountain range below as a giant antenna, and we would be leaving it’s range in mere minutes. It sounds incredibly fanciful but what else could we do but take the chance.

Here we are, out of options. The station is decaying as much as the crew. We took the decision to degrade its orbit, using the one capsule we have to try to achieve the landing area our ‘friends’ below have chosen. I’ve never been more scared in my life, but I’d rather die doing something than waste away floating in a tin can so close to home. The I.S.S just shuddered so I am guessing we are beginning to hit the atmosphere. I need to get this finished and ejected. If you read this, whoever you are, I hope history will show what happened to us, and if it all ends now, in this way, who’d have seen that coming!

Commander Mills. Crew Number #15-653