It had been three years since Jordan had moved into his new town on the outskirts of the city. His ex wife’s infidelity and the resulting divorce left him with nothing but a bag of clothes, a car and some music gear he used when he played bass in bands back in the day but to his good luck his friends Mike and Brittany allowed him to move in rent free to get back on his feet. Things were alright for Jordan who was actually relieved to have a new start in life and had started a new job that paid alright. With the first two weeks wages he was able to fix his junker car to working order and things seemed to be looking up in general. The months passed on quickly and the cold grasp of winter fell on the old steel mill town.
The sun had just crested the hills as Jordan’s alarm sounded, big red numbers blinking displaying the time 6:15am into the darkened room that he slept in. Groggy, he stands up dropping his comforter rubbing his eyes. Going about his morning routine he quickly dresses for his job and collects his things arranging them into their various pockets on his person and grabs his bus fare off the headboard of his bed. Exiting the big red door of the duplex he is greeted by the morning frost. With a shiver he removes a pack of Marlboros from his coat and lights one up exhaling a giant cloud as the smoke mixes with his warm breath in the cold air. Barely just on the peripherals of his senses Jordan feels something strange in the air. Almost like a static charge and the high pitch whine of a 80’s tv left on ringing in his ears. Taking it as a sign of little sleep he walks down his block to the bus stop he waited at every morning.
After an hour of waiting Jordan and the other would-be bus passengers grew angry. Pulling his phone out to check the time Jordan notices the screen is frozen and unresponsive. The trend quickly grows as one by one the other passengers check their respective devices and their annoyance grows. After a short wait everyone with the exception of Jordan admits defeat and returns home. Frustrated at the loss of a days wages Jordan lights up another cigarette and stands up from the bench. The ringing in his ears gets louder and the air seemed to drop in temperature as he made his way back to his front porch. Sitting on the stairs leading to his front door Jordan looks up and freezes. Over the hills the thickest clouds he had ever seen had begun to engulf the horizon their all consuming darkness blotting out the sun.
The clouds rolled forward, turning and tossing as they crested the hills with surprising speed but just before they reached the town the winds slowed and the clouds did too. They paused there for a moment until Jordan saw a large black mass creep forward across the open sky until it reached the center of town. The mass was stationary for a moment then began to thin, finally rolling its self outward in the shape of a black halo growing ever wider as it retreated back to the edges of town. It stopped widening about three quarters of the way back to the edges and just hung there making a kind of a bullseye formation over the town. Jordan stood in awe watching the events unfold then another shiver crept up his spine as the sky grew darker and what looked like black snow started pouring down from the below the halo.
The static in the air increased to a stomach turning, tangible heaviness as Jordan flew down the porch steps to his lemon of a car. Jumping in his driver seat and jamming his keys in the ignition. Turning the car over only for the radio to emit a deafening screech causing him to throw his hands over his ears. Immediately the car stalled out and the radio sparked then it died all at once. Throwing open his car door he ran to the big red door of the duplex throwing it open as well. He ran to the first light switch he could and flipped it back and forth as fast as he could. No response came from it or any other electric appliances in the house. The power was completely out. Panicked Jordan returned outside to gaze at the sky again.
The black snow had already coated the entire town but showed no sign of stopping. Actually it had increased in density being joined by large shapes descending with what looked like open wings gliding to the streets and rooftops. Then the screaming started. From every corner of the town it echoed accompanied by breaking glass and the splintering of doors. The confusion was too much for Jordan who withdrew back into his duplex and slammed the door shut, locking it behind him. Running to his safe in his room he unlocked it and loaded his Smith & Weston handgun, grabbing his spare magazine and crept into a corner of the room. The surroundings grew almost silent interrupted only by a gunshot here and there. Just as Jordan started to gather up the courage to move from his corner he heard a loud thud from the roof.
In fear Jordan’s eyes trace the path being walked on the roof. The completely alien footsteps fell in awkward four counts to the edge of the roof but then continued. Jordan’s eyes locked on the window and saw a shadow from above it get larger with each new step. Before he had time to prepare the monstrosity threw itself through the window screeching like a wounded animal and Jordan unloaded ten shots center mass into its chest making the intruder drop to the floor.
Fearfully getting up Jordan struck his lighter to see his surroundings quickly finding and igniting a nearby candle. Holding the flame up in the darkness he slowly crept toward the figure laying slouched in the corner. Lifting up his light source he studied the creature. It’s body segmented into two parts similar to an insect in ways with two stumpy legs holding up a winged torso distantly reminiscent of a man with a few key differences. Its extended arms ending in backward facing claws and a large fleshy lump where it’s head would have been. Jordan inched closer and to his surprise the fleshy lump split open revealing a large, piercing red eye. It threw its arms open about to strike as Jordan raised his gun and unloaded the four remaining bullets straight into it’s eye putting it down for good.
After a few moments Jordan stepped back replacing his empty magazine with his spare. His rapid breathing echoing back at him in the empty house giving him a small reprieve from the fears of what was going on outside. He quickly assessed the situation and decided to leave his once safe home because of the commotion the fight for his life had caused. Slowly creeping out past the front door to see the town he had once called home in ruin. Fires lit up the black horizon which seemed to end at the edge the town and the only light that could be seen not caused by the burning buildings came from the eye of the halo. The black snow that continued to fall clung to everything. It was inches deep now and smelled putrid, like death and rot. Reaching to the railing of his porch steps Jordan immediately cried out in pain withdrawing his hand back to his body. As he opens his clenched fist he sees blood and an open blister. Amazed he realized he had just incurred a chemical burn.
Jordan then noticed something important. The snow had burnt his skin but not his coat. After a few tests he was confident in his findings. the black snow dissolved living matter but inorganic things such as clothes, metal and plastic were unaffected. One final test remained. To find a way to protect his skin. After some searching, a few failed tries and a couple more burns to his fingers he found the answer he was looking for. Vaseline seemed nullify the black snow so he used the whole container and covered his entire body with the substance. Putting back on his clothes he hesitantly stepped off the porch and into the streets.
Minutes into his trudging Jordan decided to head away from the screams and gunshots that still could be heard off and on from the most populated parts of town. Pushing through to the edge he realized his mistake. The sky overhead let loose a loud sound reminiscent of thunder. Looking up Jordan saw familiar winged shapes fall from the center of the halo. They were coming for him. Quickly he ducked into an alley and searched for a way out coming across a manhole leading to the town’s sewers. Freeing it loose he dove into the tunnel pulling the cover back over top just in time as the troop of creatures landed growling and snarling at one another displeased at the loss of their prey.
Attempting to leave the town caused the halo to call an attack squad. It was clear that no one was allowed to leave the area so Jordan searched through the sewers for another way out finding a small exit ladder after a few hours of searching. Climbing it he reaches the top pushing free the manhole cover and realizing to his horror that he had wondered back into town. Looking around he quickly found the local gas station and decided to hide in there. Approaching the front of the store he saw movement within. Ducking down he peered into the station and finally learned the function of the black snow.
Within the gas station Jordan saw the three creatures who had come after him, one of them now holding a woman. Fear turned in his gut as he watched the first creature hold the woman against the wall while the other two started to cover her with the black snow. As the snow touched the bare skin on her face she let out one final agonized scream causing the creature holding her to reach up and violently snap her neck. After their prey was dead all three creatures worked diligently pressing and packing the snow into something resembling an ice cocoon. Then after a few moments all three creatures held open their claws revealing proboscis slowly rising from their palms. With one loud screech the three slammed their open claws into the ice statue they had created. In only moments the woman and all the snow were gone leaving only her tattered clothing behind.
Jordan threw up. Heaving loudly he ran from the gruesome scene behind a nearby dumpster. Reaching cover he finished puking and cowered, sliding down into the corner behind him until he made it to the cold asphalt below. Losing hope he fell into despair. Taking his gun and with a shaking hand put it in his mouth. He was about to squeeze the trigger but was interrupted by a deafening fog horn type of sound. Jarred by the sound Jordan removed the barrel from his mouth and cautiously stepped back into the open street to see a sight that left him again in awe.
The creatures took flight, hundreds flying back to the halo that spawned them. One more fog horn and the wind picked up to hurricane force lifting the black snow back into the sky in what looked like a tornado flipped opposite of their normal shape. The sheer insanity of it all ended as suddenly as it began as the wind died leaving no sign of the invaders. The sun pierced the clouds and the halo dissipated allowing the sun to drench the ruined town in its warm light. The few survivors crawled from the wreckage of their homes and businesses. Over time radios began working again. Jordan finally heard the world news. Every nation on earth had lost almost a quarter of its total population. the halos had formed almost in unison and left the same way taking mostly small towns and cities. unprepared the earth and it’s people were nothing more than a quick food stop on the way to somewhere else in the infinite abyss of space. The question “are we alone in the universe?” Was finally answered and we were not prepared to know the truth.
Credit: David Keys