“No Escape from the Planet of the Damned” Fiction by Sondi March

Ivy had never heard of Robert Stanley Narr until she snuck into his apartment to steal some books.

“This Narr guy was famous for writing sci fi in the 50s,” said her brother Gabe. “He hoarded all these old trash magazines and paperbacks you’ll love for that blog you’re writing. What’d you call it, the Gutter something?”

The Gutter Archivist.”

“Yeah, that one. You little genius.” He gave her a one-arm squeeze. “Just wear the t-shirt and lay low. You can take whatever you want as long as nobody sees you put it in your car.”

The t-shirt was a vivid lime green jersey with the words Haul-Ur-Junk Crew Member printed across the chest in gigantic black letters. It was so big on her she could have slept in it. That day, Gabe’s boss was allowing her to hang out with the crew as “temporary help,” but with her skinny white-girl arms and scuffed glasses she doubted she’d be much of that. Narr’s apartment was two thousand square feet of junk packed nearly to the ceiling, and to reach it she had to follow Gabe up five flights of stairs.

She was out of breath by the time they reached the door. The scholarly life she’d chosen didn’t leave much time for the gym, she thought.

When the building manager opened the apartment, the stink inside released in a burst, like from an airlock on a space capsule: stale old sweat and moldering cardboard, underlaid with a sweet-toxic hint of cockroach droppings and something worse, something sweet and wrong that made the back of her neck prickle.

But Gabe and his coworkers barreled right in without even a single pinched nose. This was what they did every day: cleared out rancid old hoards from people who’d died or who were about to be sued by the city. They slapped on their work gloves and started grabbing the boxes and bags and heaps of clothes crammed up by the door.

Ivy stole a glance into one box before a crew member whisked it away. Just like Gabe promised, Narr had filled it to the brim with vintage magazines.

The magazines were pocket-sized with titles like Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantastic Tales. Their covers depicted busty blond women with laser pistols and conical bras, burly blond men and monsters with lizard heads snarling over vast, alien landscapes. Underneath them were more magazines and paperbacks with five and ten cents stamped on the cover. Tomorrow the Stars, Rogue Queen, Rocket to the Morgue. As Ivy scanned the room, she realized the hoard of vintage pulp filled the apartment, interspersed with stacks of notebooks and yellowed typewriter paper thrown in heaps.

Her heart hammered excitedly. This place was an archeological find, the strata near the door being the most colorful, moving into the deeper caverns of stranger artifacts, packed so tightly together it was difficult for her to make her way through.

“Some of this looks valuable,” Ivy whispered to Gabe as he hoisted up a box.“Shouldn’t this be going to a museum or collection?” By collection she meant the sort of things she’d seen on display at the local university library. Glass cases of antique papers and letters, secrets kept under lock and key. She couldn’t actually get into the archives to read any of it, of course. To do that, she’d have to enroll in classes, which were way out of her price range, and the community member card program cost too much. Still, the time she spent lurking there helped Ivy recognize rare texts when she saw them.

But Gabe said, “Nah,” and then coughed. The cockroach fog and mold spores couldn’t be getting to him, already, she thought. He unloaded hoards like this six days a week. “The dude is super dead, he won’t care. The order says his family wants it all burned. No one’s going to miss any of this.”

 When she still didn’t seem convinced, Gabe said, “Repeat after me: this is not a steal. We are allowed to be here.”

Ivy nodded, but she stayed quiet. She liked to think of it as a steal. Or a tomb-robbing. When muscling her way through the narrow pathways of the hoard, she imagined herself as a pulp hero, an adventurous scholar headed into a temple to plunder treasures beyond comprehensi

Still, her ‘97 Corolla was small, so she had to be discerning about what she took. The Haul-Ur-Junk crew streamed around her, focusing on dismantling the strata near the front door, and didn’t notice as she disappeared deeper into the hoard. She found her way through to the back rooms, past a kitchen full of rotting food and heaps of take-out containers, where she noticed Narr had covered the windows in plastic tarps. That explained the stale air, Ivy thought. Weird that the man had entombed himself in his own stink.

The reek was most intense in one bedroom, a converted office full of sour body odor and the sweet-wrong smell. He’d probably died sitting right here, and the body remained there for too long before anyone noticed. His black leather office chair was mottled with stains. Ivy imagined Robert Stanley Narr in that chair, slumped back, turning purple for days or weeks, leaking fluids over whatever writing he’d died in the middle of. A single typewriter sat on the desk, one of the fancy manual ones with glass keys. A piece of paper still remained in the machine, with only two words typed on it.

                burn me

Ivy examined the paper. Was it Narr’s demand that his family burn all his works and belongings? Was it an Alice-in-Wonderland style comment written from the perspective of the object, like “eat me” or “drink me”? Or was it a short will and testament, just to say, “go ahead and cremate my corpse, I don’t care”? In any case, it was too short a textual artifact to make for an interesting post on her blog, so she kept moving.

Ivy checked the rest of the room for other items of interest. She saw behind the stacks of junk were multitudes of framed prints: what looked like vintage book cover art without the titles, which she figured were the original publishing mockups. There were even more busty and burly blonds in oil paints, thrashing dramatically along their alien landscapes, struggling with skull-faced aliens and gigantic snakes. (A lot of snakes, actually. Ivy skimmed over the phallic green boa constrictors with growing discomfort.) But as works of art they were vivid, well-executed, in bright oranges and greens and red. Kid-colored visions of space rendered in a capable hand with a dose of adult sexual desperation. Beautiful and ridiculous, Ivy thought.

One print stood out from the others, though. It hung next to the desk, positioned in a strangely clean area, like some sacred object painted in dark, moody oils. No snakes. She maneuvered herself around the heaps of junk to get a closer look.

The scene depicted a rocky alien horizon with the ruins of a city in silhouette. Narrow figures peeked out from between the pillars and slumping towers of the ruins, but the artist had painted them in such shadow that it was unclear if they were staring at the viewer or looking up at the starry sky behind them. Taking up most of the sky was a large purple sphere. It didn’t sparkle, but it had a soft glow around it, like an enormous moon squatting in the atmosphere. To Ivy, it seemed like a good cover for a book called Attack of the Spooky Moon or Death Star Strikes Back. Certainly, a departure from the overall sexy Caucasian astronaut theme. And Narr had actually kept it dusted.

For that reason, she guessed it might be something worth having.

Ivy eased her fingers under the edges of the frame and wriggled it off its hooks. With a bit of wrestling, the print came off, and a chunk of the wall with it. Bits of plaster tumbled down to dust her shoes.

Ivy winced and froze, turning an ear to the other room to see if she’d been caught, but the sounds from the crew indicated they were working on excavating a couch. (How the shit are we going to get this thing down those narrow-ass stairs? Jamal said.)

After a relieved breath, Ivy set the frame carefully down on the floor, near a waist-high stack of boxes full of Space Adventures for Men issues, and then she straightened up to examine the damage. She found a deep hole cut into the plaster, about the size of a safe but without a safe in it. She assumed Narr must have meant to put a safe there at some point, but either nobody would go through the apartment to install it or the general disorder of the writer’s mind had kept him from finalizing the project.

She stood on her tip-toes to peer inside the hole. In the darkness sat a cardboard manuscript box that looked decades old. The cardboard was deeply yellowed, reminiscent of the university archives and their antique secrets under glass. She navigated the box out of its hiding hole and set it down on the cleanest nearby stack she could find.

On top of the box, in a shaky hand, the writer had scribbled, No Escape.

“No escape from your cleaning skills,” she muttered.

Something clattered and hit the floor in the other room, and she heard Jamal laughing that this damn couch was going to take them all day. The noise inspired a neighbor to bang on the walls, and Ivy remembered she did not have authorized entry, no matter what Gabe said, and she didn’t want Gabe or anyone else getting heat for her being there. Better to get out of their way quickly so they could finish.

Ivy scooped up the contents of the half-finished safe and set it down into a Space Adventures for Men box. No time to read the manuscript now, and it would be so much better if she saved it for later when she was at home, nestled among her other salvaged books and artifacts. She tucked the print under one elbow, hoisted up the box, and started inching her way out.

Knowing she’d be too exhausted to make more than a few trips, Ivy made one last check to see if there was anything else she could toss on her load that wouldn’t take up much room in her car. It was then she noticed the plastic on the windows in here, too: heavy dust-covered tarps sealed with duct tape. Several sections of walls had caulking stuck to it, in zig-zag patterns that indicated breaks in the plaster that Narr had gone to weird lengths to seal up. Narr had even covered the central air vents the same way, closing himself into a vacuum of his own fetid body smells. Such germaphobe behavior didn’t quite match the mess.

Ivy wondered if, before dying, the writer had gone insane. Maybe he thought something would come sneaking in through the cracks.

#

At home and now freshly showered after her excursion into Narr’s hoarder tomb, Ivy rushed to get ready for her shift at the call center, taking only a few minutes to sit and shove a quick ramen in her face.

She sat on the edge of her bed in her tiny studio apartment, surrounded by her library. Four cheap plywood bookshelves were filled with her artifacts: books and magazines and journals salvaged from thrift stores and dumpsters. The majority of her collection was comprised of out of print paperbacks and small-press zines that hadn’t been in print for long at all, but the best pieces in the collection were her “one-of-a-kind discoveries” that never had a real audience. Desktop published recipe books from defunct church groups, handwritten journals and diaries that snuck into the “donation” box, typewritten manifestos from angry recluses, love letters from stalkers thrown in the trash. She even had a few found-footage vhs tapes for a category on her blog labeled “visual rhetoric from the gutter,” but overall she preferred things with words. Strange, lonely, poorly spelled words. Outcasts.

As she’d said in her most popular post, in which she cataloged the scraps of a Last Will and Testament unearthed from the bottom of an alley shopping cart, outcast words held a special truth, without varnish and without concern for who was looking at them. Real authenticity, to her mind, was always hidden.

Her new boxes were crowded in a place of honor next to the Narr print, which was propped up against her writing desk née foldable plastic TV tray. As soon as she got off work that day and slept a few hours, she would read and catalog Narr’s salvaged secrets. The Narr artifacts would be among her best posts on Gutter Archivist, as they were the most outcast and strange of all her finds so far. Ivy could hardly wait.

But she was forced to wait, for the day job called. In the fifteen minutes left before she had to head out, Ivy glanced at her news feed, hoping to see an update about the universal basic income bill introduced a week before. All the news talked about was some astrological event. A meteor or unidentified comet thing she couldn’t bring herself to care about. (Space was a rich man’s game. She just wanted to self-actualize a little. How amazing would it be if she had enough money to spend time on her archive and write about all these strange old things she’d collected?) When she found no news of a better future, she turned back to the articles on Narr in hopes of getting enough for an introduction to a post.

Her research turned up enough for a whole month of posts, and she got so absorbed she was almost late to work. She stopped reading only to drive and clock in, and throughout her shift she stole glances at her smartphone under her cubicle desk.

Narr, she discovered, wrote hundreds of pulp paperbacks with titles like Queen of Space and Doctor Galaxy, all shoved out in a matter of weeks to pack bookshelves with thin editions that cost five cents. The photos of him depicted a glowering old white dude, bearded and wearing a captain’s hat while smoking a pipe shaped into a naked lady. Gross, Ivy thought. When he died, he was wealthy enough to leave behind an “estate,” or at least a daughter and a few lawyers still concerned about his works. But the articles about him were more intriguing than his actual writing: they focused less on his books and more on the late-life mental break from reality that ruined his career.

“Hah,” Ivy whispered, slumped down in her cubicle. “I knew he was nuts.”

His madness started with a bad tooth. Narr was prescribed Sodium Pentothal to dull the pain after surgery (doctors gave out weird drugs in the 60s, Ivy thought), and suddenly one afternoon Narr heard voices in his head. It had nothing to do with the drugs, he said, except that they “opened his consciousness.” He thought these voices were actually a galactic hive-mind he called the Large Mass Trans-Neptunian Inorganic Multi-Intelligence 4921 (LMTNIMI 4921). The hive-mind told him secrets and future predictions, but when the “noise of their genius” got too much for him to bear, the intelligences found another way to send him their wisdom.

In a 1992 interview, Narr described the communication as a “hide-and-seek one-way radio game.” He would “enter a fugue state” (which was code for doing more drugs, in her interpretation) and then after waking up the next day, Narr would hunt through his home for secret messages left by the intelligences. The messages came in the form of typed letters stashed in strange places: behind the toilet, in holes dug into the floorboards, under reams of blank paper. They looked typed from his own machine. When asked if this meant he was writing the letters himself, he insisted no. It had to be “idea-particles” from space beamed down and re-assembled into forms he could recognize. The man would not entertain any notion that perhaps he’d just gotten blitzed out of his mind and forgot what he’d written.

The man was so nuts that Ivy started to like him a little. The craziest of all were the articles that talked about his last book, Escape from the Planet of the Damned, which his critics said was “a deranged experiment in self-insertion and new age malarkey.” An image search turned up the same art as the print she’d stolen from Narr’s apartment, only the spooky moon was covered up entirely by huge yellow letters. Supposedly the book included ideas about an impending apocalypse that Narr believed were true.

The novel’s main characterwas Howard William Barr, a “writer-psychic” who talked to interstellar intelligent beings via dreams. Barr helped the local government forces identify a rogue planet as it sailed closer to earth’s destruction. At the end of the book, the government destroyed the planet with an “anti-gamma hyper-oscillation ray” and Barr was given a “ticker-tape parade” for his heroism. Ivy was not surprised to learn that the main character was also tremendously handsome, a genius with five doctorate degrees, and popular with women. What fascinating junk, she thought.

She wanted more. Ivy skimmed what chapters of the book she could find online in between calls, and sometimes during them.

One passage she found matched the artwork she’d pried off of Narr’s wall:

They walk now, ceaselessly between the ruins, shells of their former selves,” said the psychic Barr. “The mad sorcerer-king of the Za’hyiil has overtaken their minds and souls with his transmigration of control particles. Damn it, man, can’t you see?” With his masculine fist, he pounded the president’s table. “Those loyal to the Za’hyill still seek out bodies to inhabit and control, as their very aura eradicates any civilization they come near. They are a lurking evil floating dark through space. They are Planet X. They will infect every red-blooded American man, woman, and child to transform us into their zombie slaves.

“Xenophobe much?” Ivy said with a snort. The sound made the team supervisor glare at her from across the isle, so she shoved her phone in her pocket. More for later.

But later was much later than she expected. After nine and a half hours of mind-numbing data entry and talking enraged customers off their self-entitled cliffs, Ivy’s head was dulled with exhaustion. Work had defeated her for the day: no energy for research or posts now.

When she got back home, she couldn’t bring herself to even lift the lid of the manuscript box. All day she’d begun to hope the box contained the unpublished sequel to Narr’s Escape novel. Such an artifactwould be a stellar contribution to her blog. It might even go viral. His estate might sue her! Ivy giggled when she thought about it. But despite her eagerness to get started, she was so tired when she walked through the door that she could do little but peel off her thrift-store khakis and fall face-forward into bed.

Once asleep, Ivy fell immediately into dreams. In them, she walked around a cold, dark lunar landscape between the remnants of a demolished city. Above her was a sky full of stars and a dimly glowing sphere that could have been a moon or a sun or another planet. Whatever it was, it was so gigantic that she could see the craters and outcroppings on its surface. On it, shapes moved, tiny shadows like a swarm of bugs.

She shuffled towards the sphere for a while before she realized she could never reach it, and she couldn’t stop herself. Even when a heap of stone got in her way, she climbed over it awkwardly and kept walking, as if her body had gone numb and stupid. She yelled at herself to stay still, but her body didn’t obey. Around her, narrow, humanoid-shaped figures moved within the ruins, keeping pace with her shambling steps. The sphere above them glowed softly with a deep purple halo.

#

Late afternoon the next day, Gabe called her, coughing something fierce and asking her to bring him a can of chicken soup and some cough drops. He was, as he said, “too near death” to go to the store himself. Ivy fought between supreme disappointment and concern; she figured Gabe’s hauling job had put him at risk for some weird bronchitis, with all the roach and rat infestations he had to walk through every day, but she also hated to think that she couldn’t spend her only day off reading and cataloging like she wanted to.

Ivy hopped in her car right away, toting Narr’s manuscript box and notes with her to read while helping Gabe convalesce. She hoped she could use his laptop to get a post started.

At the pharmacy, all the other shoppers were staring at their phones and asking each other “have you seen it?” Ivy figured it was the meteor or comet or whatever. She’d been too tired to remember to charge her phone before passing out the night before, and her dreams had been so vivid that she now ached like she’d run a marathon. She bought Gabe two cans of soup and a bag of cough drops, because that was about what she had for money left in her account. She wished she could get him more, but he’d have to give her cash if he wanted anything else.

When she got into her Corolla to head out to Gabe’s a few people stood in the pharmacy parking lot, looking up at the flat purple-blue sky, squinting at the approach of twilight.

She found her brother standing at the patio door of his apartment living room, coughing and wrapped up in a blanket like it was a robe. The lime green collar of his Haul-Ur-Junk t-shirt stuck out from the blanket’s edge, and she realized he hadn’t changed clothes since the day before. He looked thin, as if in the last 24 hours he’d shrank a little, collapsing in on himself. Sweat covered his face; Ivy didn’t like his grayish pallor.

She gave him the drops, and he took them with a limp hand. “Thanks,” he muttered. “This cold is killing me.”

“Shouldn’t you go lay down? You look awful.”

He shook his head. “I need to see the sky.”

Ivy shrugged. Gabe was always the outdoor type, and if the sky was making him feel better, she figured that was just as well. He’d crawl into bed soon. “You cool if I hang out for a while and read? I’ll be nearby if you need anything.”

“Sounds great,” Gabe muttered.

After heating up the soup can’s brackish yellow contents, she set it at the kitchen table for Gabe, insisting that he shouldn’t eat while tangled up in a blanket and standing. He laughed, saying he’d probably dump it in his lap. His arms felt like they didn’t work. Her plan was to stay near him just so she could take him to the hospital if things got bad (forget ambulances with their price tag). His coughing was loud, though, so she took Narr’s manuscript box to the empty bedroom, the one that Gabe was trying to find a roommate to occupy. There, she could still hear him; the walls in his complex were thin enough the neighbors’ voices snuck through. (Were they coughing, too? After listening for a second, she realized yes, they were. She thought, maybe something’s going around.) At least the closed door muffled Gabe’s sick noises enough for her to dig deep into Narr’s manuscript.

She sat down cross-legged on the beige high pile carpet and set before her the artifacts of a dead madman.

When Ivy opened the cardboard box, a roach skittered out. She didn’t jump; it wasn’t the first time a box or a book she found came with lives inhabiting it. The roach made its escape, and Ivy turned her attention back to Narr’s artifact, feeling a blossoming thrill of discovery. This must have been how real archeologists felt when getting to open a crypt.

Under the lid of the box, she expected to see a title page of the sequel to Narr’s novel, maybe Return from the Planet of the Damned or something, but the first page was blank. The second one was, too. Her disappointment mounting, Ivy pulled out the four-inch high stack of paper and found that almost every single page was blank. There was nothing to read. No words at all. The sight of it nearly pushed her to tears.

Suddenly, she felt betrayed, duped. Worse, excluded. The more she stared at the blank papers, the more she wanted to throw them against the wall.

Eventually, she did just that. In a swell of frustration, she gave the ream of blank paper a table-flip and sent the pages sailing across the carpet, well into the territory the roach had already traversed. For a moment they filled the air. A slight thump sounded underneath the fluttering as all the papers settled down, and in the scatter she caught the edge of a small square, about the size of a card. An envelope.

Crawling over on her hands and knees, she tugged the envelope out from under the papers. The aged glue on the flap gave up easily; all she had to do was pry one finger under the corner and the seal released. A bit of the paper crumbled away with it.

Inside was one typewritten page, single-spaced.

I was wrong. They’re not out to get you. They’ve already been destroyed. It’s the planet itself. It drew them to it. Something in the soil is poison. It leaks out even in the vacuum of space. An alien virus that can live in nothing. It *is* the nothing. The void. You will look for it. It takes over bodies. It compels you to move long after you’re dead. In a handful of decades, it will reach you. You will be ever moving forward.

I’m sorry.

LMTNIMI 4921

Ivy read the letter over and over, struggling between feelings of disappointment and delight. Not a full novel of mad, rambling nonsense, but possibly a communication from Narr’s intelligences, so that was interesting. Narr, in a drug-induced “fugue state” must have typed this up, dug a hole in the wall, and forgotten about it, the next-day blackout erasing any memory of what he’d written. If so, Ivy thought, it seemed too coherent for someone blitzed out on Sodium Pentothal. She was almost convinced a rational mind wrote it.

Then she wondered, how many other messages had he hidden in that wreck of an apartment. How many more would never be read? Her heartrate kicked up when she realized Narr himself might have never seen these words. How authentic their secrets would be then!

For a second, she was so full of joy it made her sick. Her system just wasn’t used to it.

Her pulse hammered in her ears, a thumping noise, soft and irregular. Too irregular. After a moment she realized the sound wasn’t coming from inside her head. It was coming from the living room.

Ivy looked up, and the letter drifted from her fingers. “Gabe?”

When she checked on him, she found him standing near the patio door where she’d left him, only now the blanket was pooled at his feet. His arms hung at his sides, and he leaned his forehead against the glass. Outside, it was dark, and the lamps around the apartment complex had buzzed to life, spilling a pale blue light over the courtyard. The sky was dark purple, a heavy twilight the moment before hard night fell. Something bothered her about the plate glass. She stared at it for a second until she realized what it was.

Under Gabe’s forehead, the glass was clear. No fogging. Surely her brother had a fever, and he was trying to cool himself down by pressing against a smooth substance chilled by the air outside. Then she noticed the bowl of soup at the kitchen table was untouched. Even though he was just standing there, the position turned her stomach. It was like his body was drooping, numb. But he was active enough to step forward, thumping against the door. He didn’t reach for the handle to get out. He looked broken. A surge of panic flooded her veins. Maybe he’d had a stroke, or something else terrible had happened.

Ivy came up behind him and plucked the blanket off the floor. “You okay, Gabe? You want a different soup?” She placed the blanket around his shoulders, and it slid right off again. He was so limp he’d gotten narrow, even the muscular square of his shoulders had drooped. “Hey, Gabe? Answer me, okay? Should we go to the hospital?”

She leaned in to examine his face as he pounded himself at the plate glass door. His expression was wide-eyed, his mouth hung open, slack at the corners. His eyes turned upwards, almost rolled back into his head.

“Gabe?!” she cried. “Answer me! Can you answer me?” Ivy grabbed his shoulders and shook him. The feel of his body unnerved her; underneath the fabric of his lime green t-shirt, there was no warmth. He felt like a dead rubber dummy.

Ivy struggled to keep her tears in check. All this time, she was playing archivist while her brother was very, very ill. She should have been paying better attention. But now she was, and Gabe most certainly had to go to the hospital. She ran to the door to get her shoes and keys, and to grab his shoes to wrestle onto his feet, but her panic grew to such a degree that she contemplated actually calling an ambulance. Her eyes stung like she was about to ugly cry, but she pinched her face up and told herself she had to make the right decision, do the right thing for Gabe, so she didn’t lose him—

Behind her, glass shattered. The explosion jolted her out of her thoughts, and she spun around. Jagged fragments of the plate glass door hung from its frame as a narrow smear of blood trailed out into the patio. Gabe shuffled out into the courtyard.

She raced over. “Gabe?! What did you do, dude…?” He didn’t turn or acknowledge her. He kept shuffling forward, his head wrenched back so his face was turned up to the sky.

In the blue lamp light, she saw black smears over his cheeks and forehead where the glass had cut him. It had shredded his shirt, and a few dark spots marred the fabric. Ivy told herself it would be okay, there wasn’t that much blood, but then she wondered why. His blood wasn’t dripping. It was thick, congealed. Gabe put one foot in front of the other, staring upwards, but he was otherwise limp, like a puppet pulled by invisible strings. And, Ivy realized slowly, he wasn’t alone. Other figures moved in the courtyard around him.

Ivy scanned the complex to see several open apartment patios, at least ten people in various stages of pajamas or sick-robes stumbling out into the night. The cries of their families and roommates followed them. Where are you going, honey? What are you looking at? They all moved like drones.

Terror spiked through Ivy’s chest. They were all staring at the sky.

She told herself, don’t look up. She had the urge to rush back inside and block the doors and windows with plastic tarps, cover the sills and ventilation ducts with tape so no air could get through.

But Narr had been wrong. It wasn’t air the virus traveled through. It was the void. And it had already gotten to Gabe, so it must be thick in the room she’d just been sitting in. How could she avoid it?

Outside the neighbors were screaming and crying as their loved ones shuffled off. Limp, hypnotized zombies. The light on the grass flickered a little, and Ivy realized it had turned a deep purple color and now moved like flames from above. Sirens howled in the distance. Many of them. If she called an ambulance, would there be any available? Ivy watched her brother shuffle away, mindlessly towards the thing he saw in the sky. The hospitals and doctors couldn’t do a thing. They’d all be moving forward soon.

Her tears drying, Ivy stopped on the lawn, the full terror of it making her numb.

No escape, she thought.

At that point, Ivy stopped fighting it. She looked up at the sky and saw the dark sphere. Around it flickered a deep purple halo, like a smoky eclipse. It was so close, she could see tiny figures swarming along its rocky surface, moving in and out of the ruins. It was so close. As Ivy wrenched her neck to stare up at it, she felt a tickle in her throat. Then she coughed.


Sondi March occasionally summons demons, but in most cases it doesn’t turn out very well. She has a BA in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and she lives in Omaha, NE. 


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