The headlamp – a Radiant 475 – was the best money could buy. The light disappeared into the abyss, the tight beam turning fuzzy, before it was swallowed by nothingness.

Damn primitive tech.

Balanced on the edge, Qell was certain that this time it would be her. He’d climbed above the clouds hoping that he’d be there for her Wakening. She’d be confused and would need him. It had taken him four days to reach the pinnacle, and he prayed he hadn’t missed it.

It must be her. There’s no one left to Wake.

Qell’s fingers were raw from the climb, and his breath came in ragged pants. The air was too thin. This body wasn’t as strong as the last one. His foot slid on the slick rock, and he shifted quickly to keep balance.

At least it’s agile.

Something in the chasm stirred. The hairs on the back of Qell’s neck prickled. After so long, would this finally be it? He had cycled through three – or was it four – bodies waiting for her. As he peered into the darkness, his stomach roiled. An odd sensation.

The headlamp flickered and went out. Qell’s borrowed body was blinded, but he let his consciousness expand. He reached out, tentacles of awareness cataloging the thoughts around him. The mountain was ancient and sleepy, barely aware of his presence. The wind flittered, scattered and unfocused. A restless eagle perched in a nearby nest. Her mind tasted sharp and bright – angry at his intrusion.

Come on, Apala. Where are you?

Somewhere, far below, a familiar spark blazed. Qell laughed. It came out in a rough, deep baritone. The timber startled him; it was at odds with his skinny legs and arms. He laughed harder. Tears froze on his cheeks as he pulled the spark toward him, up out of the crevasse.

It was slow, difficult work dragging the glimmer up, inch by agonizing inch. The vacuum was peaceful, and souls fought against the uncomfortable process of Awakening. Sweat trickled down Qell’s back as he stripped away layers of oblivion.

After an eternity, a tiny sparkle of light hovered in front of him. It circled in a lopsided orbit over the gorge, as if uncertain of its own trajectory. Qell silently coaxed it closer.

You can do it, baby.

Qell froze as the wayward firefly zipped towards his head. The light grazed his face, wriggled through his hair. He could feel her curiosity.

Good. You know me.

Faster than a viper, the spark flashed past him. On the rock shelf, it found the shell. The tiny light explored the vessel. Stiff arms, at odd angles. A straight nose, dark hair. Lips a delicate, frozen blue. The lightening bug wavered for a moment, and Qell nodded. He shielded his eyes.

For an instant, night became day. Light pierced the chest, sinking into the corpse.

Then the body shuddered and gasped.

“Breathe, sweetheart, just breathe.” Qell gathered Apala to his chest. “This frozen body is temporary. We’ll cycle you into something better soon.” He rubbed her limbs, forcing the sluggish blood to move.

She opened her eyes, recognition sparking, and reached up to trail a finger along his jawline. “Very…” she coughed and tried again. “…handsome.”

Qell smiled down at his wife. “Stop flirting with me, Captain. The others have already Awakened. We have work to do.”

Photo by Isaac Davis on Unsplash


Edited to add: prompts for this piece were the above picture, and must include the words: radiant, expand, & orbit

5 thoughts on “Invasion

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  1. Maggie, this was really well crafted. I especially appreciated the way you separated the main character’s internal dialogue from the narration (by the same character). Your pacing was good, and you maintained tension through Qell’s climb and quest. The gradual unfolding of backstory, and the relationship between the characters worked to ensure that I was invested in his success, and her re-animation. Adding dialogue between the characters at the end was a great way to cement their connection for the reader, and to give us even more details of their backstory.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another submittable piece, MM. Loved the eagle, and the moment the light entered the frozen body. I wanted to know how Qell knew she would be at this place after cycling through three bodies, which gave me the impression that he had Awoken a while ago. I was okay with not knowing what work there was to be done.

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  3. I was thrown a bit by the reference to the new body being blind because I kept wondering how he’d see everything. So I read again, and saw that it was “seeing” and not seeing. I was so hooked in and wanting to know more and your reveals were spaced so well and…anyway. I can get overeager and read too fast when I get really invested in something. Once again, I’m in awe that you built such a complete, vivid world in such a contained space.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I couldn’t tell if they were humans or not-humans, but Qell’s relatable internal dialogue and the way Apala welcomes him made me want to know more about their story. The process of Awakening and cycling through bodies is interesting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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