Blackout

This fan fiction is written for a competition entry on The Classic Gamers Guild.
Competition Link (please note that The Classic Gamers Guild Facebook group is a closed group): https://www.facebook.com/groups/ClassicGamersGuild/permalink/978440892280734/

 

John had no idea what had happened. His hands had just pressed on the open button on the laboratory door when all electricity seemed to get cut off. The lights went out and the computers shut down. The door did not open. After the last droning sound of the machines faded, an eerie silence filled the room. This was very odd because John knew that the base always had auxiliary power. The machines powering down were most certainly not a result of a power cut, but simply a malfunction all at once.

If it had not been the obvious shutting down of the machines, John would have thought that he was probably blinded. He felt my hands around. John knocked over a pen from the console, and heard it fall onto the floor. The sound confirmed that he had not turned deaf either. John felt his way to where he remembered the door and its switch to be. The door would not open as it needed power. He was now trapped alone in the laboratory.

Although supposedly sound proofed, John could usually hear from beyond the door if a noise was loud enough. He thought he heard some running in the distance down the corridor. If the footsteps were this loud, it must have been made by one of the soldiers in their heavy boots. They would have had a flashlight with them to move about in the darkness. Then he heard a shout not too far from the door. It sounded like, “Hey. Anybody here?”

John pounded on the door and called out. He knew he needed to be loud and had to pound hard to get any noise beyond the thick metallic door and wall. And this was why his ears hurt because all the noise he was making echoed on the wall of this relatively small room. John put my mouth in an almost non-existing gap between the door and the wall and continued calling out.

“John?” seemed to say the voice on the other side.

“Yea. Adrian?” John asked.

“No, it’s Tom.”

“Hey, what happened, Tom?”

“I don’t know. All lights went off. The machines went off. Even my flashlight wouldn’t turn on.”

“Doesn’t sound like a power cut, but rather a complete shutdown of all things electronic.”

“Yea, sounds like it. And I am guessing that therefore you can’t get out of the lab too?”

“Yea. Bummer.”

John could not have helped thinking about how dependent they were on technology. When technology decided not to work for them, the doors would not open, their lights did not turn on, their flashlights don’t work. If they had anticipated such things happening, they probably would not have built complexes like this without windows. If they needed their weapons right there and then, which largely consisted of state-of-the-art high-tech rifles on this not so well understood deserted planet, they would probably only be able to use their rifle butts. John stopped short of imagining what would happen if technology instead decided to not only not work for them, but to work against them.

“You hear anyone else out there?”

“Nope,” Tom replied. “I did hear and follow footsteps of some soldiers earlier but when I felt my way around the corner of the corridor to this door, the footsteps were gone. They probably headed off another way.”

Tom continued, “I was just on my way back to Lab 22 from the canteen after another round of coffee. Currently, most of the team are already back in their bunks. They are probably asleep and didn’t realize the power cut.”

“Oh they will when they realize the heater’s out.”

John felt a chill which he thought was unusual as the power was only cut less than five minutes ago. Surely, it would have taken a while before the heat in the rooms and hallways have escaped out of the building. But the chill felt as though it was added in, more seemingly than heat being sucked out.

John took out his transceiver out from his lab jacket. There was no light coming out from it. He felt for the power button to try to turn it on, but it slipped off his fingers. The transceiver hit on something then bounced off away from him. John got down to feel around for it but could not find it.

“Hey, you got a transceiver with you?” Tom called out.

“Argh. I did. But I just dropped it and can’t find it now. Anyway, I got to look at it for a bit. It wasn’t working.”

Tom must have sighed. “Yea, mine too.”

Then John heard Tom call out down the corridor to see if anyone happened to be around. There did not seem to be a reply.
John’s mind drifted into writing up a proposal on modifying our doors to have a physical override in the event of technology failure. That way, people can get out where needed if these doors fail. Then a strange thought descended on me. If John would be able to manually open the doors to get out, danger can also manually open the doors to get in.

What was the cause of this outage? Was it merely a machine failure, or was it an attack? If it was an attack, he may be in a much safer place than Tom was.

John could not help thinking about such thoughts from the moment he questioned the safety of doors that could not be opened without a manual override. When he signed up for the job to operate in a largely unexplored planet in a largely unexplored galaxy, working on a largely unexplored technology of harnessing new power sources, he knew there were a lot of things that could not have been expected. Thus far for the months before, there had not been any signs of life forms on the planet. What if there were indeed life forms that were not detected? What if there were incidences that were not reported? What if there were discoveries that we deliberately not told him and his colleagues? If there were indeed life forms, what were they? Were they potentially friendly or hostile? Were they harmless or dangerous?

The sudden thought that he had not a shred of an idea to his questions made John feel extremely nervous. The couple of uneventful weeks on the planet suddenly felt like it was a build up for a horror that was to come.

“Hey,” John called out to Tom through the door, “Do you think you want to find someplace else instead of sitting there in the open?”

There was a brief silence on the other side before Tom called back, though a little softer, “Why do you ask that?”

John did not know how to respond without freaking Tom out.

“I… I don’t know. It’s just starting to get chilly and I’m imagining that it might be a bit colder for you out there than it is for me here.”

Immediately, John regretted even bringing this up. He realized that he must have frightened Tom.

“I…” Tom started, and nervousness was evident in his voice. “Never mind.”

John started thinking about the soldiers. He did not recall any unusual behavior from them. He started to think hard whether they had spoken of any worrying observations on this planet, or whether they had conducted any unusual drills. Nothing came to mind. John started wondering if there were any strong reasons why the soldiers had heavy duty rifles along with the standard military-grade rifles and pistols. It all made sense that although there were no reports of alien or hostile life forms, no one really knew if there were any dangers on not, so the presence of weapons like plasma rifles would not have been unusual.

It then dawned on John that if an unknown hostile threat indeed occurred at that moment, the soldiers may be unprepared. This was not a good realization at all.

“Oh hey. HEY!” Tom called out.

“Yea?” John replied.

“HEY! Over here!”

“What’s going on, Tom? You hear something?”

“No, but I see something,” Tom replied.

See something?”

“Yea, a light down the corridor. I thought I was imagin—HEY! Over here! HERE!”

John heard Tom laughing.

“Just brilliant,” Tom called out to John. “When the electric lights don’t work, just use good ol’ fashioned fire. Someone must have made a torch. I can see the lights of a flame from far down the corridor at Lab 56.”

It was getting colder.

John froze. He felt his blood turn cold. He did not know why.

“Hey where did you get the fire from?” John heard Tom call out.

“Tom…” John called out.

There did not seem to be any reply echoing even faintly from down the corridor.

“Tom…” John called again. The hair on his arms started to rise for reasons not known to him, “I don’t know why but… I think you’d better run—”

John could hear Tom shuffle his feet heavily.

“Hello?” Tom called out, with evidence of near panic in his voice. “OH SHI–!!!”

Tom’s scream was blood curdling. John felt air sucked out of his lungs as fear gripped him. His legs gave way and he fell onto the floor. Tom’s screams became fainter as he seemed to have run away up the corridor. John deduced that he was running away from that fiery light which Tom described he had seen. The light was not likely from one of the crew.

John found himself belly down on the floor. His fingers are clawed and desperately trying to clutch on something but found nothing. He breathed very hard and loudly, shivering in complete terror. What had Tom seen that had sent him running into the darkness? Did whatever Tom see give chase? If it had not, was it right then outside the room now?

Just then, a beep sounded not far from where John lay. John noticed a faint blue light appear on the floor. It was his transceiver. It had come back to life. A few clunks suddenly sounded, followed by a whir of machinery. The monitors on the console began lighting up. The fluorescent light on the ceiling also began lighting up, with its sudden brightness blinding John temporarily. The machines were working again.

The door open light flashed on. It must have previously registered John trying to open it just before it ceased to function. The sound of the lock sliding out of the door frame filled John’s ears with dread. The door started sliding upwards with a mechanic sound.

John was already immobilized with fear. He could not find any strength at all to move, or shout, or breathe, let alone to get back to his feet to hide, pick up a chair, or to fight his way out of the door should that unknown object be waiting for him right outside.

It usually took less than a second for the door to fully open. This time, it felt like eternity to John. As John laid on the floor, he watched helplessly as the metallic door slide up in slow motion. His already cloudy vision registered slowly the familiar corridor now filled with light. Everything looked the same, except that something felt very different. It felt like he was now in another world. However, it was unlike a sense that he had been transported to this new place, but it was as though this new place had been transported to where he was.

The door finally disappeared into the frame above. John was not sure if his mind was making sense of what he thought he saw. A pair of frightening burning eyes stared down at him. The face had a resemblance of what probably used to be human but now with the flesh burned off and revealing a skull with a frightening pair of horns. There was no body attached to it. The flames that wrapped around this floating sight may have been the very same flames that heat and light up hell itself.

What had John’s team done in their search of a new power source? Were they directly responsible for this horrible apparition that now stood before him? Was this the only demonic being that had now infiltrated the base? It was funny how that although it was probably only a space of a second had so many questions already filled John’s mind. However, there was not enough time for John to have pondered on what the answers could be as the flaming skull open its fanged mouth and descended onto him with a dreadful shriek.

 

2,107 words
3rd July 2018
Cedric Tan