The shipper was just beginning it’s ascent. The doors were sealed, the docking ramps pulled back and stored out of the way. The pilot and necessary crew ran about locking up loose cargo and checking the flight instruments. Once everything was in order they could relax. There were a few passengers, but it wasn’t a long trip. Las Tumbas didn’t have the supplies necessary to stock the ship for a straight shot into the center of the empire. Las Tumbas didn’t have much of anything.
It was a nothing town. A miner’s hellhole where only desperate people came, trying to carve a few credits out of rock and stone. The miners were the only import. Their dust and gravel were the only exports. The residents spent their whole lives scraping together what they could to get by. The couldn’t rely on the empire sending any resources. The empire never sent anything to Las Tumbas.
The empire never thought about Las Tumbas. It had no strategic value. It was on the wrong side of the system to build even so much as an outpost. The only thing nearby was the black, and not even the empress wanted to deal with the evil that lived out there.
That didn’t mean that the evil didn’t want anything to do with the empire. The black was a wasteland, to be sure. It was harsher than harsh and meaner still. It breed monsters. It crept closer, waiting for that one moment.
The residents of Las Tumbas used to know this. They were on the edge of the darkness, too close for comfort. They were watchdogs, of a sort; sent out to keep an eye on what no one dared to fight. They were the only thing keeping the black at bay, the darkness restrained. They were the wall between the empire and the evil that waited beyond. It was why no one ever left. No one had left for generations.
No one except Charlene Navarro.
When the shipper had cleared the town’s airspace, headed inward, they weren’t thinking of the black. They weren’t consciously afraid of it anymore. The black had become just another force of nature. Just another reality of life, another way to lose your mind, to die, to disappear.
The everyday horror of it all was muted; the creeping sensations of an eye watching from the shadows, normal. The silence of a predator hunched and waiting to pounce, drowned out by the sounds of progress.
The black had been waiting, but now was it’s chance.
The shipper’s engines stuttered. The pilot checked the instruments. He looked again when their forward momentum slowed. The crew abandoned strapping down their cargo when the alarms blared to life. The alarms had never sounded before. The crew didn’t have the experience. They weren’t ready in time.
The pilot watched in silent horror as a crack appeared in the glass. It was a stupid design. An old design. No one flew by sight; the nothingness of space lacked guideposts. The idea of a window was simply for aesthetics. The pilot hadn’t cared one way or the other when he’d joined the crew and no one else spared a thought for the glass dome the pilot sat in.
But now the pilot cursed every turn of fate that landed him in that particular shipper, in that particular chair, as the crack grew and grew. There was a moment, a sliver of time, when everything stopped. The pilot held his breath, the crack froze, the crew was lost somewhere below him with their alarms and screams. The pilot looked up into the darkness and something looked back.
They studied each other. The pilot’s eyes wide in fear, his face pale, his pulse loud in his ears. The thing crouched on the outside of the glass was sleek and dark. The space around it fuzzy, like the thing didn’t even belong in the nothingness around it. It raised a single claw, a slow motion, careful and controlled. It looked into the pilot’s eyes and it slammed the sharp point into the glass and time returned.
The glass exploded inward. The engines died. More alarms blared. The passengers shouted at the crew, who ignored them. The ship began to drift, slowly back towards the rock Las Tumbas was built on.
The pilot was alone with the thing.
The shipper began to pick up speed as gravity took over. The metal hull heated as it re-entered the artificial atmosphere and they crashed, hard, on the barren plains outside of Las Tumbas.