This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post:
Today's picture prompt was created by Norwegian artist Erlend Monk. He has a few of these, and many images I find intriguing. I might just have to return to use more.
Here's a link to the prompt photo.
Another sci-fi tale (with a touch of horror) this week. It may have even borrowed the germ of an idea from Miranda's own Slipping Through.
Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine has 544 words for those who are counting (not including the title and byline).
There is a link to a downloadable PDF version of the story at the bottom of the page.
by K. R. Smith
We were just being silly, letting our imaginations run wild. That's what they told us. Whatever we were seeing couldn't be real. Even if it was understandable, being isolated in a remote star system, working long hours and often alone. Of course, that sort of concern had no place in the corps. We needed to get on with our jobs. After all, not a single person had been harmed and there was no proof of any other large indigenous life forms on the planet. It was all in our minds, like some childish ghost story.
The higher-level technical types, the engineers and such, scoffed at our concerns. They didn't believe in spirits or phantoms, but then again, they were always safe and sound within the ship orbiting above. We were on the ground. They never experienced the fleeting, nebulous blur that seemed to follow along as we set up the sensors. Or the dark, wispy swirl of smoke that appeared from time to time out of the corner of an eye. Perhaps, they suggested, it was the low oxygen levels, or maybe the higher levels of cosmic radiation, that cause these visual aberrations. Without evidence, what could be done? Never so much as a footprint or bent twig had been found.
Still, at the insistence of the forward landing party, it was agreed they would look into the matter, if only to appease our concerns. Or humor us, I suppose. Despite their own opinions, they appeared to be professional, and quite deliberate, during the investigation. Yet neither the instruments, nor any of the surveillance cameras, detected anything. There were anomalies, of course, but there always are, aren't there?
Yes, it was all in our minds, they assured us. And they were right.
It was only by accident, while scanning for background radiation, that we began to understand. The instrument had been improperly set to detect frequencies far lower than intended, below ten hertz, the range covering theta brainwaves. Whenever an apparition appeared, there was a spike in this spectrum. It took us a while to figure out. As they slipped in or out of their interdimensional hiding places, this jump induced a vision, a dark, blurry dream as it were, directly into our brain. Once they knew we had a way of detecting them, they no longer concerned themselves with hiding. That made it all the worse. They were quick to turn this ability of mental induction into endless torment.
And now we were trapped. The ship had departed orbit to resupply. It would be three months before it returned, three months of fighting an enemy both around us, and within, too. We had come to colonize this planet. Unfortunately, they had, too.
So, there were no ghosts, no specters, no lost, wandering spirits. That would have been far easier to deal with than a never-ending nightmare that comes after you even when you're awake. The drugs help a little, I suppose, but you can't turn your mind off completely. Well, you can, and it's a dark thought, one that's has been whispered among a few on the team. I'm not sure if it's courage that allows a person do that—or desperation that would drive one there.
Three months is a long time.
While you're here...