The viaduct terrified me.
Sure, the hostile natives scared me too. Their potbelly bodies, their raggedy clothes and their strange beliefs were uncouth, but they could not touch us outside their boundaries. Even in their lands, their primitive weapons were no match for our superior technology and intellect. My hands never rested far from my pistol.
The creature sloshed around in the gargantuan carriage. We could feel it, we could hear it; even above the rumbling vibrations and industrial harmonics of our transport. The steam engine was brutish, slow but incredibly powerful, its plumes of exhaust puffed into the night sky and flowed around the carriage like cascading surf on this moonlit night.
I felt something else too. My skin felt itchy and my head pressured. I had all the decorum and poise of a drunken child on ether.
It was caught from the great dark seas. The native folk worship it as their god. We had been stalking it for decades; the great academics of our homeland believed it could help us solve unfathomable questions. They would cut it open and study it, they said, but first they must get it over the viaduct and through the hostile city. If nothing else, we could use it as a hostage.
I had heard the tales…it is a demon from hell itself. Others talk of a whale older than time…a living rock with poisonous spines…of a thousand jelly-fish that act as a single mind, of a…It might be none of these things; it might be all of these things. I saw it, but I saw nothing.
As the train lumbered towards the viaduct, I witnessed the drop. Beneath the elegant arches, there was nothing but the long decent into the deep serpentine river, which looked as dark, empty and cold as death itself. We were at the mercy of providence.
We could see across the viaduct and into the citadel. The colourful gas-lamps spilled into the mists like fabric dye in water, they almost looked beautiful and inviting, but then I smelt the foreboding and narrow ammonia-soaked streets. I knew that beyond the arterial roads and rails lay the pistons and pumps that provided the power to the great moving statues in the city square: the living monuments to the seagod. The seagod we carried.
The train rocked. Then it stopped on the viaduct, above the river. The creature opened the carriage like it was nothing more than paper. I could not see much; tendrils, shadows, pulsing shapes, lights and colours. It dropped into the water.
I remember feeling with great clarity that it wanted to be caught. It wanted to come home. It had drawn us to it, so we could bring it here as supreme protector for our enemy. Our technology is insignificant. We are the primitive ones.
It saved me as the messenger. It told me do not go back to the city. Do not go back to the viaduct. War would come and we would be obliterated.
via Summer of Super Short Stories Week Eight | Luminous Creatures Press.
I didn’t win, or get placed. However, this is a story that I was incredibly happy with, maybe the first one in many years. So that meant everything to me.