forgebench - STRANDED [There are a hundred pages before this particular one in the well-worn diary.] Day 376: I’m growing ever more weary of my existence here. I contemplated again today the thought of suicide. It’s appealing in it’s release, yet something urges me to continue on. Day 377: The sky was beautiful today, although my mind remained clouded. Something in me feels however this may pass. Day 378: I seem to have pulled out of my depression, and perhaps a new hope will dawn for me yet. Day 379: Today was rough. The seas refused to give up any fish. I had to mend the pole after a sharp wave caught it and split it at the end. I’m going to go look for some more of those tasty coconuts. Day 380: I found some more of the coconuts on the eastern side of the island. They’re very tasty; they remind me of home. The sky is clear today. I caught a fish as well. Day 380 at night: I heard a noise near the beach a little while ago. I looked over the edge of the cliff shelter and I can see a soft glowing, perhaps something metallic reflecting light. I’ll need to wait until morning to investigate. It’s bright from the full moon, but I’d rather wait for the sun. Day 381: The object that landed on the beach is a giant rock of some kind! It’s extraordinary. I dare say it was some sort of meteor, although I can’t be sure. Its texture is rather like that of coral, and it’s covered in small sea barnacles. The barnacles themselves are of a type I haven’t seen before; they’re very oddly shaped. It’s obviously been underwater for some time. How long I can’t be sure.. It was glowing slightly last night, and while it was too faint to see in the daytime I did notice it was warm to the touch. Warm as though it had heat emanating from inside of it. I felt slightly feverish while I was around it examining it. I decided to take a break and collect some rainwater. As soon as I’d taken a drink I threw up, and since then I’ve felt nauseous. The heat, glow and nausea all lead me to believe the rock may be radioactive. I’ve decided to stay away from it for the time being. Day 381 at night: I heard an odd noise in the bushes near the beach. At first a cracking sound then a rustle in the bushes. This happened a few hours ago. I looked down towards the beach and the glowing was dimmer and seemed to be in two places now. I’m hoping it wasn’t another one of the strange rocks arriving. Since I’ve been stranded here I’ve had no need for weapons as there are few native animals, however I’ve been up for hours now sharpening sticks and gathering large stones in case I should need them. The noises have me spooked. Not so much the cracking sound, but the rustling in the bushes. It sounded like a big animal of some sort. Day 382: Should anyone find my diary, let it be known that something has emerged from the rock. I went down to the beach this morning intending to investigate the noises I heard last night. To my surprise I discovered the rock broken in two pieces, split cleanly down the middle. As I approached it I noticed tracks in the ground. They were about the size of my feet, except they looked closer to that of a duck. There was obvious webbing inside them. I was hoping this was the egg of some sort of seal. I came near the rock and there was a noise hadn’t been present before. It was a slight humming, but not an audible one. It was only detectable to my ears when I cocked my head towards the rock and listened for what wasn’t there. By that I mean, it drowned out the sound of the ocean slightly, but it wasn’t audible itself. Very odd, must have something to do with the radiation. The inside of the rock was dry, and nearly completely hollow. It seemed to be covered in some sort of a gooey substance. Other than that it was simply what you would expect the inside of a large rock to look like. I retreated from the beach and headed to my original shelter at the top of the mountain. I detailed this in the first days of my exile here. It’s high at the top of the mountain in the middle of the island, I made it incase there were predators here before I’d searched the island. I’ve currently barricaded myself here, with all the heavy stones, sticks and food I could find. It will rain tonight, and be cloudy. Visibility will be poor. My mind is again in a shadowy place of it’s own, obscured with fever and fear. Day 383: Last night was uneventful except for the rain. I slept on and off, fearing something dangerous had emerged from that wretched rock. I’m sweating all the time, I have a fever. My hands where I touched the rock have developed small warts. I feel sick. I may have contracted radiation sickness. It’s still morning; I’m going to collect some water from last night. Day 384: I’ve spent the last day running from the monstrosity that came from the rock. It came yesterday while I was collecting rainwater near the shelter. I heard it climbing up the side of the mountain. I managed to escape down a small path that the rain had created. It chased me down the north side of the island, through the trees. I felt sick at many points and had to rest. I could hear it moving less than a half a mile behind me. With my sickness growing and this monster seeming unrelentless in our chase yesterday I’m going to put a note and this diary in the last waterproof container I have. With any luck it will reach society. [The following page is ripped from the diary.] ------------------------------------------------------- The sun was going down and twilight would be seen very soon. The brightest stars in the sky were just barely visible. As the sun began it’s quick descent into darkness, a sound was heard on the beach. The clinking noise of metal tapping rock was unmistakable. It was near the edge of the beach where ocean met land. There was a large rock there, with a shiny steel box gently being pushed against it by the waves. A faint clicking sound could be heard coming from the top of the beach. Following it were barely distinguishable voices, muttering in some guttural alien tongue. The tone of their conversation was, to their species, the sound of surprise and curiosity. The reptilian creatures moved toward the edge of the beach and looked down. Their feet were swift, and although they originally stood on the back two they quickly shifted to all four to move to the edge of the sand. Their tongues flipped out, looking down at the rock where the tapping was coming from. One of them muttered something to the other in their gutter-speak. The other concurred. They both began an ambling gate down towards the rock and the tapping. They sped up as they got closer, their clawed and scaly feet shifting quickly. They came to the rock and sat at rest for a moment, looking at the shiny box. On the top of the box was printed in big, black letters: “United States Department of Corrections.” One of the reptile-men looked at the other and said in their speech: “This box is old. Very old.” The other nodded, and standing again on two feet, pulled the box from the water. He pushed open the latches at the sides, covered in barnacles and sea filth. They cracked open, and the reptile-man opened the lid. Inside was a diary, and a note. He looked at the note and it had no meaning to him, and its native speakers had long vacated this part of the world. To one that spoke the language the note was written in, it would read thusly: “To whomever should find this box: I am currently a prisoner held on the US penal islands in the south pacific. On my island I’ve been the only prisoner for six months, since the others died during a severe storm. My companions and I were put here for releasing classified information about the government that implicated them in atrocities around the globe. They thought it fitting that we should die on an island somewhere, instead of giving us a proper death. I write this message as my last breath to mankind. In life I was a computer engineer who stumbled onto something that needed to be told. In death, I’ve been hunted until I can go no further by some sort of amphibious creature I’ve never seen the likes of. My strength is failing, and I seem to have contracted radiation sickness that saps at my constitution every moment. Several days ago a large rock about the size of a sub-compact car washed up on my beach during high tide. After examination the first day I became sick. The second day the rock had split in two. I’d heard the sharp cracking sound that night of it breaking. I investigated and found tracks of some sort leading from it. They appeared to be reptile. I at first hoped it was a seal or something. The next day the creature came for me. I heard it making noise coming up the side of the mountain. It drew near as I escaped, and I caught a short glimpse. It was some sort of a reptile; with scales covering it’s body. It had claws and seemed to run on all fours, but was dexterous enough that it wouldn’t surprise me to see it walk like we do. It looked positively evil. I narrowly escaped down the side towards the north beach but it followed. I had had the foresight to include a small trap on my escape route, but it bought me only a fifteen minute lead. I’ve been running since then. I’ve heard it off and on but I think I’ve lost it for awhile. I’ll try to hold out and maybe kill whatever it is that’s chasing me. I will surely succumb to the radiation poisoning however. Please take my diary and share it with the world. - James Morrison. Unknown date, day 384 since we started counting. P.S. If you get this note, my coordinates are as follows: [Scribbled coordinates based on navigation via the stars are located at the bottom of the page.]” The reptile-men looked at each other, doing what would be the equivalent of a shrug. One spoke to the other: “That’s the language of the humans. This box surely must be a hundred years old.” “Yeah. My father told me stories of those days when I was a hatchling, which his father had told him. My grandfather was one of the Survivors.” The first nodded, “Mine as well. My father used to tell me stories of the Homeworld before it was invaded.” The second looked back, “Yes. It’s a shame that our race had to repeat that cycle of violence to stay alive.” They returned to the top of the beach with the box in hand. They could find a translator somewhere. At the top of the road was a truck, the interior reworked to fit their bodies. When they got in, a screen on the dash automatically lit up. One of them pressed it and it flashed to the news channel before he had a chance to turn it off. The news channel was showing a new report on the last human stronghold, Australia, and how the reptilian forces had repelled another counter attack by the humans. Pesky little humans. Just give us the planet already, he thought as the screen switched off.