Called by dreams, and warned to avoid the warp gates, a young man and woman in love set out on a relativistic interstellar spaceflight. Struck upon their arrival by the absence of anything there but clouds of vapor and debris where there once was a paradisaical civilization, they follow a signal to the only remaining human habitation in the system: an airborne wooded reef ensconced in ice fog, home only to an oracle. Yule is tonight, and the ghosts on the Wild Hunt will tell them tales and show them visions of what really happened on doomsday, knowledge that will change the course of the wayfarers’ lives and human civilization forever.
The story didn’t change significantly from my earlier blog post on the topic, so I’ll repost excerpts from that here:
The underlying story concept is a romantic tragedy where everyone (and the population a whole planetary system!) dies at the end, triggered by the keeper of a warp gate going back on his word to his users and using that transportation choke point to enforce tyrannical dictates, would underscore the horror of the warp gate era in a way nothing else could. […]
Underscoring the tragedy, all the space habitats in the system were beautiful, paradisaical places before the antimatter missiles fly and they turned into a cloud of vapor, leaving as the only survivor the oracle living on the nearby stormy ocean planet.
This all takes place in a couple months leading up to Yule, the beginning of their new year and (like today) the most important holiday, with Yule itself being that solar system’s doomsday.
Before it all even happens, the ghosts of the two tragic lovers, who I might name Rethesthane and Tisiphone (the names get more and more exotic with each passing story, don’t they? ) appear in a dream to a girl in a nearby solar system, specifically telling her to come to them in their solar system with her man, her husband-to-be, on a ship that can make the interstellar journey completely independently, and to avoid the warp gates.
Both of the lovers (I’m thinking they might be named Wulfric and Holiday) [N.B.: i changed their names to Rothric and Thanata] feel a calling from the gods and spirits to go there, and they hold off their wedding until after their voyage. They travel on a ship, presumably some kind of antimatter rocketship, that can accelerate at a constant 100g, up to a maximum speed of over 99.99% the speed of light in order to make the journey of 4 light-years or so. For the travelers the trip will take six weeks, but for everyone else the trip will take over 4 years. […]
When they are revived they find the thriving civilization that once spanned the system has been destroyed, only clouds of vapor and the odd piece of debris or two left standing. They detect a strong signal being broadcast from the planet upon their arrival; taking their shuttle down to investigate, they find the oracle in her temple atop an airborne coral reef, floating between the stormy skies above and the dark wavy sea below, the reef itself dominated by dead (or perhaps dormant?) woods.
She tells them of how they are the first visitors since doomsday struck, and how it was the day before Yule, the anniversary (first anniversary?) of the end of her world, how she knew the spectres of the Wild Hunt would come tonight. They indeed do come, heralded by a great storm coming off the ocean and ball lightning, so much ball lightning as to seem unnatural.
On the night of Yule, they behold the Hunt in all its ghostly glory as it forms an apparition, as they all perform some kind of ritual, ecstatic for the oracle, contemplative for the lovers, calling the ghosts of doomsday to them. At last the ghosts of Rethesthane and Tisiphone appear to them right in front of them on the reef, and they are all introduced to each other by the oracle.
During the ghost’s apparitions they conjure visions surrounding the couple of what they went through in their story, so they could see, hear, and sense what they did in life, telling their story so posterity may remember and learn from their experience.
After the ghosts tell their story, the boy and girl are wed right there on the planet with the ghosts being the officiants. They tell the new couple to tell their story, their whole story, and to continue their noble cause, feeling at last released from the obligation to ever appear again at the place that was once their home. They rejoin the Wild Hunt and set out for stars unknown.
Making love as husband and wife for the first time right there on the reef, they share the night, and the next day set off on their journey home, taking the oracle with them, settling in for the six weeks’ slumber, the lovers determined to realize their destinies as the ghosts’ successors, giving the final creepy touch in a long line of such flourishes to the story.
Also, my short story for Halloween, “Black Sky Hallows”, is available on Amazon. Yes, it’s also available for free at my blog, but it’s a story of mine, and it felt kinda wrong to not let people buy a book version of it if they want it. If that’s you, then buy it as an ebook or as a paperback.
Enjoy the new stories, and have a very merry Christmas!