The Insanity Sirens of Alpha Delta 5
by Adam Gaylord
I can’t escape the sound.
No matter which way I turn, no matter how far I run, the noise is incessant. It never fades. It never wanes. It is constant, deafening, maddening.
Even as panic threatens to overtake me, I marvel at the creature’s hunting strategy.
Their songs, at first, were pleasant, almost musical. Some were more pleasant than others and I naturally gravitated in their general direction. Quickly the songs I walked toward became less pleasant than the ones I’d just left. I adjusted my course only to have the calls change as quickly as my path. Before long, less pleasant devolved into annoying, degraded into deranging.
I never see the creatures, the impossibly tall trees of the impossibly vast forests of Alpha Delta 5 hiding them from view. It’s the trees that brought us here in the first place. A single wooden giant provides the timber company with enough board feet to make the long trip profitable. Three trees will fill the ship.
Of course logging is just a means to an end. I’m a biologist by heart but good luck getting a job in that field. Space travel isn’t cheap and loggers tend to stick to the trees (which happens to be where the critters are). I’d heard the stories of AD-5 and the tree sirens, but only stories. No pictures. No documentation. The creatures were unknown to science.
The loggers, the actual loggers, warned me but I couldn’t resist. I had to explore. I’d walked for hours without a sign. Not so much as a stray feather or paw print. So I’d given up and laid down for a nap. It was their songs that woke me.
Now I stumble along, my pants wrapped around my head in a vain attempt to block out the noise. Their songs penetrate my skull, threatening to split it open. I flee, sometimes sprinting, sometimes staggering, for what might be hours. I have no idea. Time means so little in the perpetual twilight of the never-ending forest. I can feel myself slip toward insanity. The sound takes on a life of its own, crashing upon me in waves, physically battering me, smothering me. I’m drowning.
Then a lifeline. In the tempest of noise there’s a break, a small sliver of calm. I move instinctively toward the quiet, reveling in the relief it brings. As soon as I reach it the gap moves. I follow and it shifts. Soon I’m chasing the silence, always close but never catching. The creature’s songs pursue me, driving me, until I see it—sunlight.
I barrel toward the break in the forest, blinding light silhouetting the trees. I’ve found the end. What lies beyond I care not. My only goal is to escape these trees and the calls of the creatures. I plunge into the light.
It’s a cliff.
As I plunge over the edge the sound stops. A stab of joy penetrates my terror. I seem to hover in beautiful horrifying silence for a moment, but only a moment. Then I plummet. Hundreds of feet below, bones litter the canyon floor and I know, now painfully aware, that I will never see the insanity sirens of Alpha Delta 5.
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Adam Gaylord has stories published in Penumbra eMag, Dark Futures Magazine, Silver Blade Magazine, and Plasma Frequency Magazine, among others. My gladiatorial fantasy novel “Sol of the Coliseum” was recently released Mirror World Publishing.