The Quiet World

The Quiet World

A Story by J.L Hunter

 

     The two men sat in the cockpit, staring at the monitor in front of them with perplexed anticipation. Controls beeped continuously all around them, displays flashing an array of rainbow colors across the walls and floor. The room was cramped, with no more space to move than about two feet in either direction.

     Stephen couldn't wait to get back to the cabin, perhaps get some sleep and wait for this mess to be over with. There wasn't going to be any rest for a while though and he knew that. He looked over at Ben, staring keenly at the screen, waiting for it to do something, his thick, round glasses reflecting the spectrum of lights from the controls.

     “What happens when we get the alert?” Stephen said, turning his attention back to the blank screen.

     Ben didn't flinch, not offering so much as a twitch of his eyes in Stephen's direction, “Permission to land?”

     “Yeah”

     “We wait.”

     “For what?”

     That got Ben's attention. They were both trained for months for the mission at hand, and knew perfectly well what it entailed before they left home in the very ship they were now sitting in. It was just the two of them, like it usually was; project head never so much as let another soul into the vicinity, in fear that too many people would get sucked up and flung out into some outer region of space during the opening of the worm-hole. It had always been two, at the beginning of the program. For some reason the even number didn't tip the mathematical scale. Everything had to be precise to the very molecules that entered through the continuum.

     “You know what,” Ben said, glaring at Stephen.

     “Permission to land.” Stephen admitted.

     The landings had been going on for centuries, since the old ones had found the planet nearly ten millinia ago and children grew up hoping that one day they would be chosen as part of a pair (usually a sibling), to travel across the galaxy and visit the alien planet. Only this time, the landing wasn't going to be like the others. There was something different about the briefing, and the general looked grave, his inset eyes sallow and full of remorse.

     Finally something flashed across the screen. Both Stephen and Ben straightened up in their seats. Stephen lifted his hand up automatically, just as he was trained and pulled out one of the numerous levers that jutted out above him. Ben did the same, and punched in a series of commands into the control panel.

     “Here we go.” He looked at the screen. They were coordinates, running from the top of the monitor to the bottom with unrelenting speed. Ben's eyes could hardly keep up with the sequences of numbers and symbols. He was looking for one particular set and he would have to pause the feed. Stephen flicked another switch and turned his head to watch Ben. They were both tense, their hands gripping the sides of the seat like clamps bolted on, except for Ben, whose right hand hovered above a switch, ready to flip it as soon as he saw the specific combination.

     Stephen's heart pounded wildly in his chest. It was almost there, what he had been waiting for almost his entire life, all of his childhood dreams of visiting the aliens that they had all heard of but never seen before were going to come true.

     Then, with blinding speed, Ben flicked the switch. The screen paused.

     The two men both looked at each other, anticipating whatever might happen when they keyed in the combination.

     “Good luck, captain.” Stephen said to Ben as he began typing the sequence into another computer module.

     I/)7-78I)0

     “Luck has nothing to do with it. This password doesn't really mean anything. It's just an encryption that leads to a name.”

     “What name?”

     “Not really sure. General Sun never really explained that to me. I don't suspect he told you?”

     “Not at all, brother.”

     Ben smirked and raised his eyebrows in a comical arch that creased his broad forehead, “I guess were about to find out, huh?”

     “I guess so.”

     He inserted the code.

     Suddenly the lights in the cockpit dimmed. The only thing that shone was the dull amber emergency LED's near the ceiling. The beeping from the control panel stopped and all they could hear was a low whirring deep within the ships interior. The gyro, Ben thought, that's what is keeping the ship running. Had we stopped already? All of the screens were blank, the navigation system had shut off along with everything else. Both of the men had the sinking feeling of falling through space, an odd mix of exhilaration and overwhelming terror.

     “You strapped in?” Stephen asked. His voice was strained as his body was pressed against the restraints.

     “If I wasn't, I'd be stuck to the ceiling about now. How's the gravitational node?”

     “Off. We're completely off the radar, Captain.”

     Ben tried to smile. This was no time for ranks, and he knew his brother was being sarcastic. Stephen had received higher ranks in the academy than Ben ever would, despite what his suit declared. They were just two knuckleheads in a ship on the verge of coasting out into an eternity of space.

     “Try the circuits. The processors might have been fried. Just keep flipping those breakers near your feet there.”

     Stephen tried, reaching his foot over to the large black switches. He kicked one, but nothing happened.

     “Keeping trying.” Ben cried. Eventually the pressure of his suit would suffocate both of them and it was trying to now. He clung to his collar, pulling, trying to release some of the strain, while sipping breaths of air (which would also go away very soon, without a computer system to regulate the oxygen).

     Stephen continued to kick the breakers. Nothing.

     Damn, they both thought simultaneously.

     What would it be like, to float into space, without a navigation system to pull them in the right direction? They both knew the answer to that. The ship had been equipped with a fail-safe option that would pull the power from the gyro to open up a worm hole, the automatic back up systems would take them to the nearest land-mass. Or, rather, it would take the ship to the nearest land-mass. They would be crushed upon re-entry. Their bodies would be disintegrated into trillions of invisible atoms while the ship would remain intact.

     It's all good business, Stephen thought to himself, because the cost of the ship was much more than the price paid for the two of them. There were millions of people back home, anticipating the mission, regardless of the circumstances, and there were only a handful of those ships. Those people would be standing in line, blinded by the hope of seeing the aliens. People like Ben and Stephen, who would surely die, and nobody would even have a body to grieve over when it was all done.

     Then, suddenly, something flashed across the screen in front of them. One single word. A name.

     “What is it?!” Stephen nearly yelled. His vision was blurred and he could barely see two inches in front of his face.

     “It's … it's the name of the planet. I can't believe this.” Ben whispered faintly.

     “What?”

     Without warning, the amber glow of the LED's went out and the other lights came on. The monitors started up and the controls were once again illuminated. Their weight steadily shifted back towards the floor as gravity reverted back to normal.

     Stephen breathed with relief, as did Ben. They were both staring at the screen with the single word on it, just as they had before. As soon as Stephen's vision cleared, he saw what it was and offered an involuntary gasp. It was nothing, really, because they knew what it was, and had suspected something like this for a long time. Both words meant the same thing, but it also meant that what they had been told all their lives had been a lie and that they would not be returning home.

     The word was, Earth.

     It was the same as the planet both Ben and Stephen were from, which was called Enos, meaning literally, the ground below the sky. Which meant that those people were human as well.

     Stephen looked at Ben, his eyes wide with astonished anger, tinged with fear, “Did you know this?”

     “No.” Ben replied. He reached numbly over to one of the controls and pressed the key lightly. An image came up on the display, a feed from the camera mounted to the ship's hull.

     The planet on the screen was full of blue ocean. White clouds swirled around, showing glimpses of dark green landmasses, continents full of people. A golden light shimmered around the curvature of the planet, cascading its brilliance across the ovular surface.

     Earth.

     “That looks just like Enos. Home. What the hell, Ben?”

     “It doesn't look dead, or dangerous does it?” Ben said, reverence filling his voice like he thought it would when he saw the barbarous creatures scuttling along the diseased planet. They had been told that the aliens were highly sophisticated, much more than their own quaint civilization. They had been told that they were awful noisy things that had weapons that could disrupt the continuation of the entire universe.

     And that they had to be killed. All of them.

     “No.” Stephen replied. “It doesn't.”

     “What do we do?” Ben said, the question was mainly to himself. He knew that his brother had the same answer as he had playing over and over in his own mind.

     Ben closed his eyes and then opened them again. He pressed the button below the screen that still shown the one little word, the name that meant everything.

     “File the report. Ask the computer what we are here for. We can do that, right? Before we initiate?”

     There was silence between them for a while, and then, Ben said, “It doesn't really matter does it?”

     “I suppose not.” Stephen said. “Just one thing.”

     “Yeah?”

     “Did you ever read the history of the aliens? In the academy?”

     Ben tried to smile, but couldn't, his face was grave, “No. You were always the bookworm.”

     “Well, it said the aliens came into being from a sophisticated genetic computer that had been lost on a asteroid, hidden from those who might use it to create something really bad, and it had accidentally found it's way on the planet. This planet.”

     “Okay.” Ben said, waiting for this to go somewhere, and knowing his brother, it would.

     “Do you think, we created those humans down there?”

     “Yes. I believe we did.”

     “And were going to destroy them?”

     Ben paused for a moment, his mind turning over all the possible scenarios, finding only one that would lead to them going back home safely, beginning a new life where they would both try to forget what they had learned, and what they had ultimately caused.

     A bead of sweat dripped from Stephen's forehead and landed on the sleeve of his suit. He looked at the controls once more and nodded.

     “It'll be quick.” Ben said.

     “I hope.” Stephen replied, and closed his eyes.

     Ben reached over and with slow determination, not wanting to do what he knew he had to, engaged the sequence by pressing down hard on the node that beeped.

     When he released it, the beeping stopped, and the word had gone away, yet in their mind it was still there, the white lettering pasted against the black screen.

      The ship all of a sudden began to turn. They both could feel it spinning, gaining momentum, gaining speed. Before it went blank, Stephen watched the little blue planet with the wisps of clouds swirling around one another.

      It was beautiful, he thought to himself as it disappeared like a marble being flung out into the depths of the darkness, surrounding it like a blanket.

     Then it was gone.



                                     -J.L hunter

© 2012 J.L Hunter


My Review

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Featured Review

I wanted to give your some constructive feedback, but I really can't find a way to fault your piece. Beautifully written, very clear descriptions and use of imagery - you have painted a vivid and almost haunting image, both creating tone and bringing the work to life.

The twist was excellent, particularly as the audience would most likely assume that Ben and Stephen were from our own planet. It answered a lot of questions and was very thought provoking. This is actually the kind of short story I could read to my Year 11 class and have them sitting on the edge of their seats. It also creates so many more questions and discussions after the close of the story. Just really fantastic stuff.

Actually, the only thing that did make this a little hard to read was the lack of defined line breaks. I lost my place a few times, but also I wasn't wearing my glasses anyway, so that could just be me. I would have liked more character description in regards to their appearance. I feel this might make the ending even more shocking. However, a really really well-written piece full of adventure and action. No grammatical errors that I could see either!

I'll definitely be reading more of your work!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.L Hunter

3 Years Ago

Hey! Thank you. Sorry I haven't gotten to comment on this review, since I haven't been around to oft.. read more



Reviews

Vert interesting concept, and masterfully written. Although not from Earth, they were the aliens even though they're human. I hope that you continued with this story, because it would be an editor's dream: not too much to do. Are there anymore exerts?

Posted 2 Years Ago


I wanted to give your some constructive feedback, but I really can't find a way to fault your piece. Beautifully written, very clear descriptions and use of imagery - you have painted a vivid and almost haunting image, both creating tone and bringing the work to life.

The twist was excellent, particularly as the audience would most likely assume that Ben and Stephen were from our own planet. It answered a lot of questions and was very thought provoking. This is actually the kind of short story I could read to my Year 11 class and have them sitting on the edge of their seats. It also creates so many more questions and discussions after the close of the story. Just really fantastic stuff.

Actually, the only thing that did make this a little hard to read was the lack of defined line breaks. I lost my place a few times, but also I wasn't wearing my glasses anyway, so that could just be me. I would have liked more character description in regards to their appearance. I feel this might make the ending even more shocking. However, a really really well-written piece full of adventure and action. No grammatical errors that I could see either!

I'll definitely be reading more of your work!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.L Hunter

3 Years Ago

Hey! Thank you. Sorry I haven't gotten to comment on this review, since I haven't been around to oft.. read more
Really enjoyed this J.L. Nice idea and original realisation of it.

Would love to know more of the backstory now - why are they destroying planets and who are they/why are they allowed to do so exactly?

Look forward to reading more of your work.

Best,

Seb

Posted 5 Years Ago


What a great idea! Well, several great ideas!
I especially liked the detailed actions and interactions between the brothers in the ship. You've clearly put some thought into the technology and it's operation which really made me feel like I was there with them.

I am curious as to who's head we are in most of the time. A points it feels like both, but mainly it feels like stephen even though you slip out of them both periodically to give some history. I feel that choosing one particular point of view and sticking with it may make it easier to follow, but hey, it's your choice.

I would recommend a thorough proof-read, paying special attention to clarity. Some of your sentences ramble a little.
(eg. "They were both tense, their hands gripping the sides of the seat like clamps bolted on, except for Ben, whose right hand hovered above a switch, ready to flip it as soon as he saw the specific combination.")

Also in this sentence, you say that they are both doing something, except for Ben. In that case, they aren't both doing the same thing. A few small things like this hampered the progression of the story, and if the story itself hadn't been as interesting or captivating as it is (good job there) I may not have finished it. These things force me to re-read what I have read to make sure I read it right.

But, as I've said, a VERY interesting story. If tidied up a it, it could be a GREAT story.

Posted 6 Years Ago


Well, you did it again JL, another masterpiece of a story with that ironic little "twist" that you always manage to sneak in somewhere. I've come to expect as much from you.

I'm not usually a big science fiction fan, not unless it incorporates within the story elements of horror, terror and lots of action. ALIEN, ALIENS, PREDATOR and THE TERMINATOR movies all come instantly to mind. Love those flicks. I watch them over and over again to this very day.

This had a PLANET OF THE APES sort of flair to it, and that's not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. The main reason I read this (well, there were two actually) is because out of 89 read requests that I received from other writers on this site, yours was the ONLY story submitted. THE---ONLY---ONE! I like reading a good poem now and again, but Jesus Christ, are you kidding me? I also have become familiar with your excellent prose and storytelling, and this was no exception.

You raise some interesting and thought provoking questions in this. Can we really expect that we are alone in the vastness of the universe? Or, is someone out there watching us, waiting for us to screw up and simply snuff out our existence with the mere flick of a switch. That's something to think about...
As usual, great write!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

'The ship all of a sudden began to turn', I reached that point, wanted it worded differently! 'Suddenly the ship began to turn'? I don't usually read stories like this but was swept along by its flow, plus, the dialogue's good, generally unforced. However. in places you use words that rumble; by that i mean they're maybe used to show good vocabulary but somehow spoil the movement of thought or action. I liked the ending: was as real as the bulk of the tale is fiction .. can see it as the end of a movie.

Posted 7 Years Ago


J.L Hunter

7 Years Ago

Okay... will remember that for the revision. Thank you very much for reviewing this.
This is excellent! I love your style of writing, although I feel at some points a certain amount of refining wouldn't go amiss. Great concept too, shame about the ending though ;)

Posted 7 Years Ago


J.L Hunter

7 Years Ago

Refine I will, absolutely. I want to change the beginning a bit though, because it is similar to an.. read more
You have an interesting idea. Parallel worlds are always interesting and this evoked them as well as the recent Battlestar Galactica series.
I actually was prepared for them to crash land on the planet, so you surprised me.
Negatives: Wordiness, you could tighten your sentences, use fewer words to say the same thing. I think English majors especially tend to have that problem, (I know I did) probably because we spend years writing papers with mininmum word counts. What helped me was interning for my local paper. The city editor was ruthless about brevity. Also I saw some misspellings: “I guess were about to find out, huh?” I assume you meant we're. Also millinia I presume you meant millenia.
Non sequiturs: reverence filling his voice like he thought it would when he saw the barbarous creatures scuttling along the diseased planet. - I can't imagine that reverence is the emotion one feels when imagining barbarous creatures scuttling anywhere. The image evoked was cockroaches and I can't see being reverent about them.
Hyperbole: Did Ben really use blinding speed just to flick a switch? I know you want action in your story but I don't see blinding speed working here.
I really did enjoy your story. Please be brutally honest with my story Pit Stop which I'm preparing for a literary contest in one week.

Posted 7 Years Ago


J.L Hunter

7 Years Ago

Wow! Thank you very much for this review. Seldom do I get one with such in-depth honesty and concent.. read more
JGIII

7 Years Ago

Hey unpubs gotta stick together. Thanks for reviewing. Like I said I'd rather get picked apart here .. read more

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Added on September 7, 2012
Last Updated on September 9, 2012
Tags: space, aliens, deceit, gods

Author

J.L Hunter
J.L Hunter

Pensacola, FL



About
Writer. Father. Lover of cheese. Umbrella salesman. Badger enthusiast. Doorknob. Cup. Also, cigarettes. Lots and lots of cigarettes. And beer. Smoke. Sizzurp drinker. Lemon flavor, never grape. more..

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