It was just a little over one-hundred and two days before our leaders used the nukes. I still remember the time before they rained fire and destruction upon the Earth. None of us thought it would come to this. How could we?
We’d all seen the same footage, ever increasing in frequency over time. Our best thinkers blamed climate change. They weren’t wrong, but there was more to it. The higher sea levels coupled with increasingly extreme conditions resulted in our shores being battered by monstrous waves. This in turn accelerated erosion. Huge fragments of rock face broke from their union with the land, shook, and plummeted into the savage waters below. Some of our more privileged watched from a distance as the crumbling edges of our nations dragged their affluent homes with them into the view they had held so dear. Disturbing as all that was we grumbled on social media, called on the political elite to take climate change more seriously and generally went about our day-to-day activities. Suffice it to say nothing really changed.
With a rapidly altering coastline a subculture of what they liked to call, rather grandiosely, Climate Coastal Cartographers, or Carters for short, formed around the globe. The internet was their natural home where they exchanged the newly captured face of their local cliffs, after each collapse. Some started highlighting interesting patterns being revealed in the newly exposed rock. Clear cases of pareidolia. There was one Carter in Australia who upon photographing the most recent collapse noticed something peculiar. Where there had been rock strata before, there was now none. This sparked debate and scepticism among the Carter community. That is until it started to happen elsewhere. It wasn’t long before it made it into the news. Creationists lapped it up and saw it as evidence to refute the fossil record. People of science worked hard at explaining what we were seeing. They needn’t have bothered. The explanation soon presented itself.
The Carters continued in their task of documentation. Their numbers swelled. As the strata mystery deepened it was noted that the patterns revealed by collapses were increasingly detailed. Some began to take the shape of fragmented hieroglyphics. Some wild claims were being made that they were some ancient carvings but no one was sure how they could have come to be. As the collapses continued it became clear that there were larger rock structures that ran deep into the land. The cliffs at lands edge were crumbling around them as though slowly peeling back. The hieroglyphics only appeared on these protruding structures. When the majority of observations began to distinctly look like anatomy it was speculated that groups were taking advantage of unstable cliffs and were, somehow, carving into them. Extreme natural vandalism some called it. Even a few people attempted to cash in on it claiming to be the ‘extreme artist’ behind the cliff features. As the designs accumulated a truly magnificent formation was discovered on a cliff on the coast of Ireland. The local tourist industry made noises about trying to preserve it. To stop any further collapses. There was nothing quite like it anywhere in the natural world. Protruding from the cliff were the full features of what could only be described as a face. Not human exactly, but unmistakably a face. Across its rock cheeks and sleeping eyes were examples of the fragmented hieroglyphics. It was as much a work of art as any most had seen. Early on some took to calling it the Irish Rushmore. People flocked to see it in person before the expected impending collapse. Boats at a safe distance, weather permitting, ferried people to take photos. For a nominal fee. There was a miniature tourist explosion in the region. T-shirts. Tacky trinkets. All emblazoned with ‘Aegeus of Eire’, as it had become known, and its image.
It was a tourist who captured the moment the strata mystery was solved. It was reported there had been a collapse. A boat had gotten too close to the cliff and was caught in the landslide. Air to sea rescue were dispatched. There was presumed to be no survivors, even with the ominous absence of bodies. Debris rode the waves that lapped at the foot of the cliff. Pieces of the wooden boat. Victims’ belongings. On one of the recovered cameras held the final moments of the people on that boat. When digital forensic experts extracted the file they didn’t quite understand what they were looking at. The owner of the camera was filming Aegeus with the babble of her fellow tourists around her. She zoomed in on one of the distinct eye shapes when there was a slip of some debris from it. The captain had noticed it as it splashed innocuously into the water. He decided to pull further away for safety sake. She continued to film. A warm magma coloured glow began to emanate from the hieroglyphics. More debris fell. The eye cracked open and a moving pupil scanned the retreating tourists. There was a gasp from the camera owner. She valiantly continued to film. The cliff began to violently shake. The remaining rock and clay was shed from the face and its true form was revealed. As Ireland itself appeared to crack an arched back breached further inland sending debris hurtling in all directions. The screaming began. The sound of the boat engine revving was heard. The great rock giant rose to its full might and stretched its arms. It had finally awoken. Debris was seen to strike the boat and cause enormous ripples on the water. When the violent rocking of the boat began to settle there was a distinct shake in the camera holders hand. She must have known it was her time. The creature moved quickly. Too quickly for its size. Its hand blocked out the sun and swooped toward the boat. The footage cut to white static.
I still dream about the night I first encountered one. Cowering with my family on the cold tile floor as it peeled back our roof revealing a brilliant starry night sky. I only saw its hand. I ran from the screams and didn’t look back.
Perhaps if they discovered the footage sooner we might have found a way to stop the others before they woke from their slumber. Perhaps we could have avoided using the nukes. I was more than a safe distance from the cities that the missiles struck. I came close to a blast zone once. I hadn’t realised I’d strayed that far. A small town, about fifty miles outside of the ruined city. It was in the third house in that particular ghost town I was stealthily ransacking, scavenging for food, that it finally struck me. Every analogue clock I’d seen, in this house and the previous two, were frozen in time at approximately 12:25. I quickly figured out that was around the time the bomb detonated. I hastily made my escape. Radiation was just another fear in this new world.
They’re still out there. Searching. Hunting. Devouring. The ravenous Ancients that now roam the Earth are driven by our destruction. They feed on us. Perhaps they’re Gaia’s footsoldiers taking her world back. Purging herself of humanity. Speculation at best. All I know for certain is I am alone. I am hunted. And I am afraid.