The Unknown Fear
by Stan Hampton, Sr.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (H.P. Lovecraft - Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown – Full Movie / Snagfilms.)
Many people enjoy scary stories and movies—and no, I am not referring to those who enjoy a jolt from reading fiction or seeing gruesome and detailed slasher movies. Real life examples abound if someone tends toward that. I am referring to scary stories and movies of the unknown that go bump in the night, of the unknown that you may sense, or think you catch a glimpse of, out of the corner of your eyes.
To set the stage, if you are taken out of your usual environment, you examine everything around you with curious, perhaps cautious eyes.
Imagine leaving your safe and secure apartment or home and, oh, going camping in a rocky, forested area—the daylight fades and the shadows lengthen. The sound of night insects is loud, somehow reassuring. The campsite is lit by moonlight. The wind picks up and the trees rustle loudly. One end of the tent bulges inward from the wind while the other side bulges outward as if the tent is breathing. Perhaps you see the shadow of a tree or brush against the tent wall because of the moonlight. The air becomes colder. An uneasy feeling fills you as you listen to the night. Your eyes go to the sealed opening of the bulging tent door. Maybe you think you hear something, a stealthy movement that disturbs small rocks.
You tell yourself that it is only the wind, perhaps the rustle of bushes.
Besides, if there is something outside of the tent, the insects would lapse into silence, as if afraid of attracting the attention of something.
You think, “Keep making noise. Please, dear God, keep making noise.”
Then you realize that the moon has disappeared into the west and the windy night is even darker. You may even curse yourself for enjoying the delicious fear of reading about or watching movies of something unknown moving through a forest, or a desert, or a deserted street, or lurking outside of your kitchen window. You might even swear off of such reading or watching such stuff—scary stuff is so very different when you are alone, in the middle of windy darkness.
You measure the hours until the night gives way to the warmth and safety of daylight.
You curse the cot for the noise it makes when you shift position.
Did something outside the tent hear you?
You might start to doze off but every unfamiliar noise awakens you. And right away you are reassured, sort of, by the insects still serenading the night.
Finally, you realize the hours have passed, the darkness is not so absolute as before. The birds are singing to the rising sun that is bringing warmth and safety.
You did it! You made it through the night!
Gratefully you get up from your cot and look outside at something in the sudden silence—
Monologue, Melange Books. Forthcoming April 2017.
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS UNEDITED.
TAG LINE: You can run, but what if you find yourself aboard a space faring Flying Dutchman?
BLURB: Luther Raynor is a son of one of the world’s wealthiest and politically influential families. When the Etava Virus appeared and spread across the world, mankind’s very survival was in question. Luther used his family’s wealth to construct a sleeper spacecraft to take the family into space, to orbit in safety around Jupiter for a thousand years while in suspended animation. At the last minute he changes the plan after calculating that upon awakening, survival supplies for one would last far longer than for two dozen or more people. He flees into space alone except for the Mobile Artificial Intelligence Image—May, responsible for operation of the spacecraft. But, Luther had no idea of what awaited him out there.
EXCERPT: The dream was always the same. He was floating alone in an unknown darkness until a pale dot emerged in the distance. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of burning wood and something else, something that smelled like sizzling bacon. His hand opened, fingers spread wide toward the dot that became a blue-green world, blanketed with dirty white clouds that sailed across a starry blackness. Dark, smoky clouds with a flickering yellow heart trailed the world whose colors were fading as if losing their vitality. An unfamiliar low, deep keening sounded from an unexplored deep…
* * * *
“This is the Deep Space Sleeper Spacecraft Hope. Can anyone hear me?” After several moments of silence he closed with the by-now routine, “Hope out.”
In the cramped dimly lit cockpit cabin Luther Raynor covered his mouth with a trembling hand. Beyond the surrounding windows above the numerous instrument panels was a primordial night deeper than that of an unlit cave.
He listened intently. Beyond the dull hiss of circulating air he knew a stealthy creak issued from the narrow corridor through the open hatchway behind him. The sound would have been more at home on a haunted wooden sailing ship drifting aimlessly on a mysterious ocean rather than in a brightly lit spacecraft of which he was the only occupant. He was sure, after several frantic searches, that he was the only one aboard. But still…
Luther swallowed uneasily and ignored a faint groan. He touched the screens set in the control panel before him to activate another sensor and visual scan.
He was lost in the depths of unknown darkness, but knew he was a long way from Jupiter and the four moons discovered by Galileo Galilei - Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io. After a months long journey the Hope was supposed to slide into position behind Europa, the moon with a possible planet wide ocean beneath an icy crust, and thought to have the best possibility for life outside of Earth. From there the gas giant, almost 700,000 kilometers distant with its myriad of misty blue, gray, orange, white and purple pastel bands, would fill the windows of the spacecraft. He would have a bird’s eye view of the mysterious Giant Red Spot, the hurricane-like storm that always was and always would be, as it grew and shrank according to its whim.
For a thousand years the five Galileans would circle that failed sun, after which the automatic flight systems would activate the return sequence and with a flare of rockets the powerful Zama Drive, descendant of the early 21st century Cannae Drive, would fling Hope away from its companions. Because of the speed generated by the Zama Drive, the world of his birth would soon appear in the spacecraft windows again.
At least, that was what was supposed to happen.
* * * *
The darkness was fading before a kaleidoscope of spinning colors. A biting cold made moving difficult and painful.
Luther opened his eyes and after several moments of blinking against dim, yet painful lights, and blurriness, he realized he was still firmly secured within the titanium alloy suspended animation chamber.
Elation filled him—he was alive! The emotion was replaced by confusion—where was he? But then, there was elation again—at least he was alive.
Luther examined the inside of the chamber with its maze of monitoring wires, electrodes, suspension fluid tubes, chemical nutrient tubes and waste tubes—the Personal Environmental Control and Life Support System—all connected to him through a layer of protective clothing by implanted plugs. There was a thick glass window above his face and one to either side of his head. Through the window all he could see was the ceiling of the cargo bay.
Luther frowned at a dim memory of being thrown around violently, but perhaps it was only a dream.
He had no idea how long he lay in the chamber lit by tiny lights from small instrument panels. When no one peeked through the chamber windows, he fumbled with the communication switch and in a hoarse voice painfully whispered, “Hello?”
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint). He is currently studying in a double major in Art and English at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
After over 14 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
Hampton can be found at:
The award winning question, whoever correctly answers first in the comments, for which the winner will receive a free copy of MONOLOGUE, when it is released next year by Melange Books:
"What are the five Galileans?