Now that it has come, our doom hasn’t arrived from outer space, but inner space. No death star pulsing gamma rays or behemoth killer asteroid spells our demise; the Earth itself will see to that. Something stirs within the heart of this abused sphere, making all man-made disasters look like child’s play. Gaea is finally having her revenge.
According to what I gathered watching the news, when there was still news to watch, those drilling deep wells and working mines miles below the surface noticed it first. Black ooze seeped from the pores of the rocks, dripping from the spaces between the grains of this planet’s fabric as if the Earth bled. Once it bubbled up bore holes and well shafts, corrosive sludge ate away steel rigs and derricks. The merest touch meant an agonizing death for any soul unlucky enough to come in contact with it. For us residents of higher elevations, this seemed a distant problem at first.
From what I’ve been told by wayfarers and refugees, that dreadful effluent then spread to subways and cellars. Ever rising, it turned low-lying towns into poisonous mires. Whole cities were abandoned as urbanites fled to higher terrain. Order eroded as governments collapsed. Riots and fires broke out across the globe. New York, London, and other cities burned for days. Billowing clouds of noxious smoke made more toxic by smouldering sludge poisoned tens of thousands. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere, I weathered society’s breakdown the best I could, but now I’m running out of food.
According to what I gleaned from the few sources remaining after things went to hell, scientists brave enough to investigate the malignant material found that the stuff is mineral and yet alive. Strange silica-based cells somehow germinate from the rocks themselves, and concentrate all the worst corrosives and toxins the Earth can muster as they grow and multiply. This was the final bit of information I got before the airwaves went completely silent. It doesn’t matter; the generator used up the last drops of gas two days ago.
From what I see out my window, the valley below my mountainside home now lays beneath a heaving black lake. Dead firs stand naked in a vast expanse of lethal muck. Are those ebony tendrils snaking up the trunks? Do I see swaying appendages rising from the ooze in a bitter mockery of the blasted forest? Has this living nightmare evolved into something even more hideous? Although there is no hope, I sit at my dining room table and pray for deliverance while tears roll down my cheeks.
My heart races; I hear gurgling coming from the basement. Black ooze bubbles up through cracks in the floorboards. Creeping feelers crawl toward my legs. I leap atop the table. Tentacles stretch out, reaching up toward my table-top perch.
No! One brushed across my left foot. My shoe has already begun to dissolve. My flesh is on fire! The pain! I feel faint…I mustn’t fall…falling…blackness…
(Originally published in MicroHorror, November 1, 2010.)