The hours between day and night
by Ashley Hibbert
forum: The hours between day and night
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The hours between day and night



“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

Statement as reminder of the ANZAC soldiers

“There it is again.” I whispered quietly to myself as I involuntarily shivered in the cold night air. I drew my warm cloak around me tighter like a bat enclosing itself in its own wings. “What could be causing it?” I wondered for the umpteenth time. I stood upon the precipice of a large cliff, looking out over the valley that made up a substantial percentage of the small, isolated town known as Churchill. I gazed up at the night sky, unadulterated by the moon, cloud cover, and hardly affected by civilisation’s constant pollution: light. From habit, I picked out the stars that made up Orion’s belt, and Scorpio’s lethal tail.

         A good night for stargazing, I noted. I knew I should use my telescope on of these nights, but my refractor remained boxed away and pushed in some vacant corner the day I had moved to this town. Why? I asked myself. Life in Sale was satisfying - an occupation as a free-lance reporter and author, membership to the local Astronomical Club, friends and colleges in profession and hobby. All left behind because of some stupid sense that what I had lacked all those years lay here, in a backwater town where the possessive smell of cow shit and coal dust saccharates your clothes and skin. Yet I knew there was no turning back now; I had to scratch this decade-old itch. I had to delve into this heart of darkness, which had been looming just outside the light of my conscience, nagging me to discover it. So why had my journey led me here?

          Rubbing my hands together, I lowered my sight to come even with that strange glow that had haunted me every night since I had arrived. An object, perhaps a car (well, what else could it be?) was just beyond the horizon on the other side of the valley, radiating a strange greenish glow that resembled the Blue Green Algae blooms in a nearby pondage because of the water-side nursery.

          The sounds of a conversation with one of the town folk not long ago still echoed in my mind. Sitting on a stool in a local pub, I attempted to spark up a form of communication with a mad sitting beside me. All went well for several minutes, but as soon as I mentioned the strange glow that had troubled me, he gave me a strange, indistinguishable expression, stood up, and left. Several others in ear’s length from me followed suit and I found myself alone to wonder what the hell I had done wrong. Later that day, a car seemed to have swerved to hit me, yet when a stranger on the side-walk jolted me backwards at the last moment, it missed by a few inches. Breathlessly I’d thanked her, but she merely smiled and walked on.

          It was as if this entire town held a secret, so well kept that no one other than a set six thousand knew about it, yet so dangerous that any outsider that attempted to reveal it would be the targe for a murder! My reporter’s instinct had caught the scent of conspiracy.

         Yet now everything’s going to be finally resolved I thought to myself for confidence. Pulling my back-bag tight, I lent down to pick up my torch and began my journey to unravel they mystery of the glow. 

          The hike was easy in the beginning, with the walking warming up my body and soul as adrenalin pumped through my veins. 

          Travelling due-east up a steep incline, I reached a semi-peak that offered me another glimpse of the unearthly glow emanating from the unknown source. I was nearer - much nearer.

          Yet then it turned to a trek: the terrain becoming progressively harder and harder to manage. My feet had already tripped in several holes already, yet my determination was great, and I boldly continued. Just a few hundred meters more to go, I told myself. I continued walking, forced to leave the dirt track I had walked across, and continue through a plantation of pines. 

          Collapsing onto a tree in exhaustion, I took a long swig of chicken soup from my thermostat, caught my breath, and looked up. It’s close. Yes, I can feel it. For a moment, I felt as if the anomaly was beckoning me, but I quickly disposed of the idea along with the gum wrapper. Wiping the excess soup off my face with the back of my hand and replacing the warm canister in my bag, I continued walking.

          In no time at all I found myself at the edge of a clearing. The transition from bush to grass was a relief, so I boldly stepped out of the protection of the forest and into the clearing. Yet unexpectedly I fell head first onto the ground. Rolling with the fall, I quickly jumped up with the assistance of momentum, and turned back to look at the bulky mass that had startled me. I quickly turned away, squeezing my eyes shut to block out the ingrained remains of a cow. No, it couldn’t be a cow. So deformed, mutilated almost beyond recognition, the twisted bloody flesh looked somewhat as if it had been part of a science experiment by some mad, inhumane college student.

          Yes. The glow consumed my whole vision, and I became blinded momentarily, yet my eyes quickly adjusted to the brightness. There it was - the object I had been pursuing for my entire life. A massive hemispherical object lay in the centre of the fairly wide clearing, emitting the greenish glow that I had stood and watched several hours ago on the other side of Churchill. In a sudden surge of eagerness, I began to run.

          “Over here!” I yelled to the strange, beautiful figures that stood on the platform that extended out from the structure and down to the ground.

          A sudden surge of blinding light forced me to cower with my arms held up. When I was able to lower them, I realised in amazement that the structure was rising from the ground! As soon as it cleared the tree line, it sped at an unbelievable speed towards the sky. Then the night was dark, with no sign that the ship had ever been there or that it had even existed! Or so I thought...

          What’s this? I asked myself in wonder, as I approached the position the ship had sat when I’d entered the grove. The charred ground was black, forming a perfect circle. Then a sound from the distance, approaching rapidly, and I realised it was the rotating blades of a helicopter, and as I looked up, it exploded into sight, aiming a massive torch that encircled me.

          In a panicked confusion, I turned to run, yet a sting suddenly began radiating from my shoulder, and I turned to discover a dart-like projectile. Then the ground rushed up to meet me, and I entered oblivion.

I had the sensation of being moved at high speed as I lay down. Several people were around me, talking urgently, and after several seconds I realised the topic of conversation was me! When I decided to open my eyes, the first sight was the mask covering the face of a surgeon. Then, with no warning at all, he reached down and placed a large breathing mask over my mouth, and my head went dizzy.

          I tried to move my hand so to remove the mask that was doing something to my head, yet my hands seemed to have turned to lead.

          The edges of my vision blurred, and my awareness began slipping through my mental hands as though soaked with soapy water. The gas was taking effect on my body and mind. One of the doctors uttered a command to a nearby nurse, and a hypodermic syringe appeared over my body.

         Don’t do this to me! I screamed madly in frustration of being violated, yet he ignored the twisted look on my face, and the needle dipped into my left arm.

          My conscience slipped out from my grip, and out of reach.

“I am going to count from one to three, and when I reach the number three, you will awaken. One ... two ... three...”

          I awoke from yet another hypnosis session, remembering nothing. I looked about to reaffirm my loose hold on reality, and up from the couch at the doctor who sat behind his wooden desk.

          “Now Tim - how are you feeling? Would you like to take some pills to ease the pain?”

          “No more pills please,” I pleaded desperately.

          “OK Tim. No more pills than. So do you still believe in the visitors you say you met on the hill top last year?”

          “Err, yes,” I replied, and a surge of pain shot through my body.

          “That’s the wrong answer, Timothy. You know how much I dislike it when you make up such fantasies. Now I’ll ask you again - do you believe in the stubby-little men, and the tall-thin ones?”

          “No,” I surrendered.

          “Good, Timothy,” he cooed. “Now I want you to-.”

          “But they seemed so real.” I interrupted.

          “Timothy,” he warned, and his hand crept closer towards the button that I had discovered over time meant pain. “We have been through this many times, and even showed you the place you say “the glow” originated from, yet still you don’t believe me. Are you calling me a liar, Timothy?”

          “No, of course not. You’re right - it was just my imagination!” I answered desperately.

          “Very good, Tim. That will be all for today. You may leave.”

          I slowly disconnected the wires he made me wear, and walked out of the room with my head stooped low.

          That night, as I lay in bed, I looked out of the solo window of the room, lined with bars yet allowing a thin shaft of light to enter the cold room. And as twilight slowly set in, I peered to the side, catching a faint glimpse of the belt of Orion, and the tail of Scorpio.




copyright 2004 Ashley Hibbert.