Gravity bombs sent ripples ripping through the battlefield, decimating friend and foe alike. Zoe pressed forward, unwavering and ever ready. Her battle armor’s powered joints did most of the running for her, but it would stop if she faltered in her courage. The shallow hydrocarbon stream defaced beneath her boot tread boiled from the ambient heat of quench rifle fire and pulse laser beams, and the skies above Paricia B were the color of blood where it was still visible through the smoke.
An invisible enemy fought back with invisible machines and invisible weapons and unknowable intentions. They were simply known as the Ghosts.
Humanity had been fighting a war of attrition with the Ghosts for more than two centuries, and they were losing. The Ghosts had pushed them back from the Norma Arm to the Auriga Line. Tens of billions were lost. Entire constellations, obliterated.
The Ghosts were unlike any lifeform humans had yet encountered, and not just for the fact that they fought back. They were dark creatures, made of dark matter and manipulators of dark energy. They inhabited a dark world that didn’t naturally interact with ours. But somehow we had garnered their attention and inspired their wrath, and we’d had to develop unnatural methods of combat and survival.
Now, on Paricia B, Zoe charged a breach with so many other soldiers raised in a universe that knew only war, and she thought not of herself or even glory, but of an end to it all. Someday.
A flash of light. A color she had never seen before that tasted of mint and smelled of lemon. The world vanished. She was alone in a silent blackness that was so heavy with its emptiness it might crush her. She must be dead.
For some reason, she remembered the last time she was home. Not her family, or the breeze through the tall grasses, or the scent of warm food, but a butterfly that had rested on a window pane. She saw it before her now, in the blackness, and it was a billion bright colors. It fluttered its wings, and from them fell motes of dust through unseen sunbeams, and the dust became swirling nebulae and molecular compounds and flowering supernovae. Her mind raced, and in a symphony of neon lights her thoughts manifested before and around her. Zoe raised her goggles and battle visor, and through her own eyes the impossible, beautiful lightshow was only more brilliant.
Zoe wasn’t dead. Something else had happened. Something that had never happened before, to her or anyone else. Something new and strange appeared before her, and Zoe knew where she was.
She was on the other side. The dark side. Zoe stood face to face with a Ghost.
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 or Deviant Art page. Image by Estelle Chomienne, used with permission.