LEGION

Tim Tucker

We live in fire. We live like the flames amidst the raging fires. We are the passengers of a terrible calamity from the skies and we have journeyed a great distance, across the cold stars and vast nothingness of space in search of our new home. In the distance we see the pale blue orb and we are compelled, compelled to our destination, our new home. Through mist and vapor we fall, we plummet towards a barren, icy wasteland. There is a flash, a brief momentous flare that is brighter than the still nubile sun, and then...

The shattering of worlds.

The settling of ice and dust.

Silence.

We are isolated and we are ancient and we carry the racial memory of abstract creatures and conquered worlds within us. We are one. We are legion.

And now we must simply wait.

An indeterminable amount of time later...

Morning. There is a great thunder of noise as metallic birds fill the air above the crater and then the frantic commotion of feet. Bodies everywhere. We wait and we listen.

A crunching of crystal ice overhead. Voices in an unknown alien tongue.

"Oh my God, it's massive, one of the biggest impact craters I've ever seen!"

"How old you reckon it is?"

"Oh it's old, that's for sure."

"Alright people I want those carbon spectrometers up and calibrated within the hour. Hudson make sure those cameras are rigged to go!"

"Yes sir!"

The sun is high on the clear horizon and its golden rays penetrate into the crater. We cling to the air like dew droplets upon an invisible spider web, misting in the frigid air.

More voices.

"Think of all the microbial life that could be hidden in the compacted ice, this could make Lake Vostok look like a grade school science experiment!"

Three warm bodies bent over the lip of the crater.

"Sure is a long way down."

"Reminds me of that hole the Russians drilled in Siberia, they say it goes all the way to Hell."

"Oh please, if it was in Russia that's about as close to Hell as you're gonna get!"

We listen. We wait.

"Lower 'em down gently Hudson, damn things cost more than your salary!"

Twin CCTV descend into the crater. We rise and shimmer against the darkness and through the cameras reflective oscillation we could see ourselves, and we know exactly who we are.

We are Robert Daniel Hudson and we are thirty one years of age and we are here on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and we are married with two children.

"Jesus Christ Hudson, hold the cameras steady, what's the matter with you!?"

We look down at our gloved hand, flexed the skeletal digits.

"Nothing," we worked the mouth, the word steaming and vanishing in the air. "It's nothing."

"Well it sure as hell don't feel like nothing, if you're not careful you'll crash the damn thing at the bottom!"

"It is a very deep crater."

"Which don't mean squat if you don't know the depth. BE-CAREFUL!"

We ignore him. "The object that crashed here was very old, so old there is no direct translation to say what it truly is, but the closest word to describe it would be...a Traveler." And we say this in his face and by the time the words coalesced into the cold air we are staring out from the eyes of the field captain Bishop Waylon.

Bishop smiles at Hudson. Hudson smiles back.

"Carry on then."

We began to walk away from Hudson and stop in our tracks. We can hear it coming from deep within us, faint and afraid. A voice.

Who are you!? Let me go! Let me go!

And then there is a great pounding in our head like the slamming of labyrinthine doors, the manic foot falls of a trapped animal echoing through dark passageways. We doubled over in pain, the struggle too much to take.

"All of you get out of here, this place ain't safe!"

The pounding becomes an earthquake and we fall to our knees with an inhuman shriek and like a switch the host is cut off face first in the snow.

"Jesus what the hell happened to him?"

"Probably a heart attack." Says a voice. He kneels next to Bishop's body and we rise from the still warm flesh into the waiting orifices of security officer Raymond Vasquez who is armed with a fully automatic M4 carbine rifle. We rise from our stoop and watch the men gather around, nine in total.

"What did he mean by this place ain't safe?"

"Hudson? Where's Hudson?"

Our muscles twitch and the guns safety is switched off. There is another voice deep down inside us weeping and pleading but his cries go unanswered as we raise our weapon.

"Vasquez what the -"

We squeeze the trigger and our friends and colleagues convulse and twitch like bloody marionettes puppets before falling dead to the ground. When the red mist dissipated in the Arctic wind and the last bullet casing was spent a blanket like silence settled on the tundra like a sheet of ice.

A crunch of ice behind us.

We whip around to find Robert Hudson near the edge of the crater. We look at each other and he is not really Robert Hudson but we join him at the edge and in his eyes we can see ourselves for what we truly are.

We turn as one and look at the crater.

Like falling stones we drop hand and hand with Robert Hudson into the maw and down through festering darkness.

We live in fire. We live like the flames amidst the raging fires. We are one. We are legion.

We are home.

THE END