Friday, 26 April 2019

City of Shadow and Smoke

Here's a (very) short story I wrote in response to a title created by one of those simple 'creation tools.' Actually, this one wasn't a tool as such, just a list of suggestions. Anyway, it's on this forum post. And here's the story:

City of Shadow and Smoke

Sunset was what they had been waiting for, the moment of safety. Throughout the day, they’d been hiding in little pockets in the earth, clawing their way down as far as possible. They’d been hiding under rocks and inside trees like common criminals. Anything to get away from the devastating scorching sunlight; artificial, yet just as damaging as the real thing.

But now their time had come.

Careful to stay under the horizon, they quietly formed in large groups. Not a word was spoken. There was no need. Every one of them knew their role and would strive to fulfill their duty, to the very end.

Violetta, their leader for now, looked down at the city with shuttered eyes. For too long the humans had hunted her and her kind. Since her untimely discovery on their 'ship' centuries ago, they’d seen her as a threat and total eradication of her kind was their cure. She’d tolerated the occasional loss but the final straw had come when she’d discovered her mate, chained to a post and left to burn slowly in the rising sun.

She had suppressed her fury at the time but they all knew that they would never have peace while humankind was nearby. She was well aware of their overwhelming numbers and superior technology, and those 'special' ones that had mysterious powers exceeding even hers. But she had one very important factor on her side, something that the humans understood all too well; you cannot kill what’s already dead.

When she was ready, her gaze shifted to the city gates and her scarlet eyes, dark and brooding, flashed briefly. Within seconds, a strange menacing darkness began to spread through the city. Barely perceptible at first, it soon smothered the artificial lights, leaving the streets in total darkness. It seeped into the homes of the humans with a chill that touched their very souls. She could feel the bewilderment coming from those she despised, she could hear their thoughts and she could sense their fear. Why weren't their computers helping them? What of the heroes? Where were they?

She glanced behind her. Hundreds of large catapults had been pulled all the way by huge tame animals of various kinds, avoiding detection by smothering themselves with the same stygian darkness that now enveloped the city way below. At her unspoken signal, the cauldrons on the catapults were lit, each one burning with an eerie blue flame.

She looked back down into the basin as she raised her arm. The city was already in shadow, now it was time for the smoke.