The CallSubmitted by DaBeast at 2015-03-25 19:22:33 EDT
Rating: 0.5 on 7 ratings (15 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Communications had been down for a week.
Fine tremors passed through his hands and his fingers spasmed. The microdrill skittered across the tiny desk and flew toward the cockpit. He didn't curse this time; merely compressed his lips together as he jerked on a string tied to his wrist with a crumpled, bulky knot. The other end was affixed around the microdrill not tied but taped in place around the shaft. It jerked, spun, and came zipping back.
He fumbled with it and lost it five more times before he could get the screws out and remove the metal housing around one of the control panels. The wires were burnt but there wasn't an active fire. The fire systems had worked as they were supposed to and there was a thin film of flame retardant covering most of the innards.
His control wasn't the best so it took much longer than it should have but, eventually, he had the insides cleaned out and ready for testing. Testing took even longer and he had to stop and work on each wire or board or circuit that showed damage.
Many times, he got so tired that he nodded off and, when he woke, he would work his way back to the sleeping pod, strap himself in, and set the release timer before passing out again. He dreamed constantly of the smell of burnt circuitry, snapping and popping sounds, and a tightness in his chest. Always, when he woke, his tongue tasted of copper and metal. When he drank, the straw turned red.
He was lost in a circuit board, one of the new ones, and had just inserted the last connection from the faulty board it would replace when one of the screens above his head suddenly burst into static.
"John, are you there?" It was his wife's voice. Christine.
The sound was so familiar and it had been so long since he'd heard it... he burst into tears and scrambled toward it.
Through the snowfall of static, he could see her face. Her eyes were wide and her brows here high and her hair was loose and even through the distortion, he could see that something was wrong.
"John! Please! If you can hear me, please respond!"
He looked down at the control panel and searched out the right knobs and buttons. Frantic, he worked them and shouted at the screen.
After an hour, he went back to work on the circuitry and wiring, determination and fear making his hands steadier.
Static squealed through the speakers and the picture changed.
His heart stopped. Lisa. He looked up and caught one clear image of his daughter's tiny face. She sat in Christine's lap and he could see his wife's jawline, her head turned away.
"Daddy, they said that I'm s'posed to say g'bye to you. They say you're in Heaven with Grammy and Uncle Bill." She moved and her hand pressed firmly against the camera lens, tiny fingers without lines smushed against the glass. "Please, come back Daddy. Me and Mommy need you more than Grammy does. I love you."
The static flared like an exploding snow machine and the speakers squealed like nails on a chalkboard. He dropped the microdrill and grabbed at his ears.
"Daddy?" The voice was still Lisa's but it was deeper now.
He looked at the screen. Her cheeks had slimmed, her eyes were narrower, her brows darker and more defined but her lips still puffed like a cherub's and there was still some baby fat around her jawline. Her hair was longer and gravity had pulled the curls into long winding spirals.
"I found your wiring schematics and your diaries and I recreated the control panel that you designed for the company. Can you hear me, Daddy? I know you can't be dead, Daddy. I know you can hear me. Please, Daddy. Respond?"
No. She wasn't supposed to turn six years old until next month. He looked over at another control panel across the cockpit from him. It had caught fire as well but he had not yet the chance to work on it. Those systems weren't as critical.
There was no burst of static between screen changes. One moment, she sat there pre-pubescent and the next, she stared into the screen with a much more well defined set of features, even longer hair, and the furniture behind her had vanished.
"Daddy, this is stupid. You have to be dead by now because there's no way that you could have survived this long out there, all alone. But I can't..." she turned her head and said something unintelligible, gestured with one hand, and looked back at the screen, "...if there's a chance that you are still alive, I have to warn you. Stay out there, Daddy. Don't come home. The plague's out of control. People are dying in the streets and rotting there. Mom died last week. She was smiling when she died, Daddy. She was sure that she was going to see you soon. But me..."
She reached out and placed her hand on the camera. Her palm eclipsed a good quarter of the screen and her fingers stretched up and beyond it. She leaned closer to the screen. "She loves you, Daddy. So do I. Stay out there, Daddy. Where it's safe. I don't know how I hope that you're alive at the same time that I'm hoping Mom is with you now, but I do. Good-bye, Daddy."
The screen blanked and an -END TRANSMISSION- flashed into place.
Desperate, he pulled himself back toward the sleeping pod. He had to be dreaming. Had to be dreaming. Had to be dreaming. He slammed into the pod and started ripping at the control panel. Blood flew into the air before he managed to rip the metal housing free and expose the wiring and circuitry.
Burnt wires, flame retardant... "NO!" He dug into the panel and pulled free the chronometer.
The dials were burnt, the numbers frozen. He had no recollection of the fire reaching this far into the ship. Slowly, he worked it apart until he could get to the box inside. He pulled it out and took it back to the cockpit and plugged it into a diagnostic unit.
It was a confirmed dead unit but he couldn't tell more than that. He threw the tools away and dove toward the chronometer panel.
"There is no need for that, human."
He jumped and, startled, flew backwards until he hit the pilot's seat. A patch of deepest darkness moved in the shadowed place between cockpit and living area. The voice was rough and whispered, "Long have you slumbered until we could reclaim you. That time has come."
The thing moved and he flinched from it. The shadow was... wrong. He didn't know how, he just knew it was wrong, and a part of him instinctively recoiled from it. Fear gibbered in his hind brain and he started looking around, desperate for some sort of defensive weapon.
"No." The shadow moved.
Suddenly, he had no control over his own movement. His suit stiffened and locked him into a standing position, stiff as a board, trapped inside the bulky protective material.
He looked at the shadow and he couldn't stop the tears. "Where is my daughter?"
"Gone," the figure whispered, "the Earth has been cleansed of the Impure and prepared and the Ways stand open. Come, human. It is time. You will help us rebuild the slave population. My Master has need of many slaves."
He closed his eyes and despair ate into his brain. "Master?"
"Yes, human. The stars are right and the mighty city R'lyeh has risen and the great priest, Cthulu, calls. Come. There is work to be done." The figure moved closer.
A writhing tentacle whipped out and wrapped around his leg.
He screamed, passed out, and knew no more.