Ghosts of the First Era

A fog rolled in between the sheer face of the cliff and the jagged limestone columns that towered over the valley, riding a sulfur breeze that tickled the nose. She hadn’t understood what all the fuss was about, but now that she was here, Elise was spooked. She wiped her sweaty palms on her pants, but there was something else there that wouldn’t wipe away.

Death. It’s specter was in the air and under the ground and all over her body. This was Earth: humankind’s largest mass grave.

Elise stood in the shadow of a two hundred meter statue carved from the rock. The valley was littered with them. Female forms in robes, some covering their hearts, some weeping, some pointing mighty swords high enough into the sky to split the bellies of passing clouds. For some reason they all had wings. Some sort of first-era religious iconography, no doubt.

Tucker was rapt. She wasn’t sure how long he’d been speaking. “…about the statues is that they date to three hundred years after the Dying. To this day, no one knows who built them.”

Elise sidled up next to him and grabbed his arm with both hands. “Let’s go. We shouldn’t be here.” Her voice rasped like she had a throat full of sand. The fog was swallowing statues, and she had a feeling in her gut that told her she’d be swallowed too.

“What are you talking about? We came all this way—”

“Tucker, I want to leave. We have to leave.”

He scowled, his annoyance evident. “Look, the shuttle’s just over there. Why don’t you go wait for me there? We just got here and I’m not leaving yet.” He stalked off away from the shuttle without giving her the opportunity to protest.

Feeling embarrassed, Elise jogged double-time back to the shuttle. She wasn’t superstitious or skittish; what had gotten into her? She sat on the ramp, contemplating whether to go looking for Tucker. Yes, she’d overreacted, but there was something about this place—

And that’s when she heard Tucker’s wretched, terrified scream.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page.

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