The Broken Planet


Grant Hinders

      I hummed a soft tune to myself as I traversed through the collapsing cobblestone hall. I bounded along with utmost ease while I continued to jot down notes in my tattered notebook; my long and knobby fingers were kept busy as they scrawled meaningless pictures and observations in the journals’ yellowed pages. Twisting my way around the winding tunnels and darkened rooms made it seem impossible to find a way out, or even a way back to where I started. Nevertheless, I continued; hopping over piles of rubble and pacing through familiar halls of stone whose smooth faces had decayed and rotted to time. Cutting through the darkness of the surroundings, cracks and crevices scattered soft blue light onto the barren floor making my terrorous trek a little more bearable. I did not need it though, I had made this place my own, or maybe it had always been my home; in any case it does not matter now. Tonight I was hopeful, even more than usual, that they would come. They should be here any day now, I just knew it.

        The wind had picked up by the time I made it to my patchy meadow. Circling all around me, tall grass bellowed and waved, scratching at my exposed ankles and tattered trousers. But, I didn’t mind. Softly, I made my way to the matted clearing, the bioluminescent flowers greeting me as I sat down in my familiar clearing. They sprouted wildly, blossoming in the blackened ruins, their glowing white petals dotting the otherwise barren landscape with blotches of light. Looking below to the familiar sights, I ran my calloused fingers through my matted black hair before looking up to the sky. Up above, far up in the space, sat the only real source of light I had ever known.

        It was a singular planet,  sitting alone and resting in the heavens. It gave off a bright orange hue that supplied my little planet with light and graced its surface with patches of dark blue and white. Long ago, after another uneventful night in the castle, I discovered the ancient library sealed behind a crumbling wall. Inside were weathered books and prophecies whose pages wove a story of war and conquering whose outcome I have yet to learn. All I knew was that there were people living on that lonely planet in the sky; and someday they were going to find me.

        After that, it had become my tradition to sit upon the hill, staring up at the stars. It had become a habit; if not only for the slim chance that I would be rescued, but because it was something to do when the air grows cold. Close behind, nestled in the hill stood the once grand castle now deteriorated by the ages. Within the broken walls and leaning spires, I had made a home where my time was spent wasting away. As the days turned to months, and months to a year, I kept myself busy tending to the dilapidated garden beds and exploring the multitude of tunnels and sealed off rooms. In my precious notebook I catalogued and mapped my humble abode; updating it whenever a new floor or entrance was revealed by decay. This kept me busy for most of the daylight hours, but at night, when the air became cool and the sky became dark, I would always return to my spot on the hill.

       The scritch-scratch of my pencil kept me awake as the night dragged on; It had probably been a few hours, but I did not mind. With a sigh, I sat up and looked into the darkened valley below. Standing silently, as if in a weary calm, the bluish hue from the planet above cast the ancient structures into obscurity. Dotted in walls and mosaiced throughout the city, bushels of wildflowers and tall grass grew sporadically; giving the cursed city a false sense of security. I had only journeyed to the city once before, many months ago. I haven’t gone back since.

        The thought of that day made me shiver before I laid back down on the soft matted grass, notebook in hand. The sky was pitch black, and the wind whistled through the tall grass. Everything was at peace. That’s when I saw it, far off in the sky a speck of light passing through my peripheral view. I sprang to my feet as I began to scan the void; praying that what I saw wasn’t just a piece of dust or figment of my imagination. But, sure enough…. there it was. It started off small at first but it grew brighter and brighter as it flew closer and closer to my lonely planet, creating an iridescent white trail along the way. 

        For an instant, it passed in front of the huge planet in the sky, hiding it from view. I waited with bated breath, praying that it wouldn’t somehow disappear or dematerialize before my eyes. A few shaky minutes passed by, but it finally appeared again, closer than ever. During its time in the planets orange haze the object had picked up speed and was now moments away from touching down. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the object entered the atmosphere; its shadowy trail of white now accompanied by an ear piercing shriek the likes of which I had never heard before. The whole planet seemed alive with electricity as it came hurtling past my quiet hill on a seemingly one-way trip to the city below.

        That’s when it happened; a flash of light engulfed the otherwise black sky as the ground began to shake and quiver under my feet. The sounds of collapsing walls and tumbling stones consumed the valley as the last of the castle’s remaining structures collapsed to dust. I could only stand and stare as I watched my world  destroyed, and then in an instant it stopped; as if nothing ever happened. With wavering breath and buckled knees I slowly looked around, taking in the scale of destruction and ruin. Behind me, the once towering spires and grand walls of my home now lay in shambles scattered throughout the grass. What had once been my one solace from this lonely world had vanished in the blink of an eye.  A deep and troubling sigh escaped my lips as I brought my attention back to the object that fell from the sky. It had landed on the outskirts of the ruined city, much farther than I had ever explored from that day many months ago. My heart pounded in my chest, this was it. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

        With a heavy heart and a troubled mind, I started the trek to the city below. The trail was overgrown with  prickly bushes unknown to me, catching on my battered white shirt sleeves and ragged black coat. After nearly tripping down the hill, I made it down to the broken city. It had become even more overgrown and ruinous wild since I last visited, vines and roots entangling the remaining structures in a twisted web sprawling throughout the whole city. A soft red glow drifted in from the outskirts of town, leading me to the crash site as if inviting me to find it.

        Slowly, I traversed my way through the newly demolished rubble till I saw it. It had stood about six foot tall and was constructed out of a brilliant white material, the likes of which I had ever seen; etched upon its exterior, intricate symbols and designs graced its surface surrounding a rectangular patch of black. I was standing right next to it now, its bright red light and otherworldly white figure becoming all that I could see, all that I could focus on. As if in a trance, I approached the vessel, treading lightly on tangled roots and rocks as I inched closer and closer. My cold, warped reflection greeted me as I made it nearer to the object. A lifetime of sleepless nights had prepared me for this moment, but even so, I was still intimidated and frightened of the unknown. Either way, it did not matter now. I touched my battered hands to its surface and prayed.