The Day of the Shines

First the black clouds came. The never ending black clouds.

They appeared a good day in the middle of the sky, suddenly, without any previous warning, condensing themselves on the deep blue of a clear and cloudless morning summer sky.
At the beginning they were nothing more than an atypical haze, a strange fog coming from nowhere which began to turn slowly the sky into grey, slowly obscuring the bright summer sun. That moisture, soft and fuzzy at first, kept growing and growing as opaque and leaden shreds, always more and more dense, a bunch of tears that crowded, solidified, darkened and got full of blackness until they became a dark and dense sea of ​​compact, twisted and menacing clouds, so black they seemed made of smoke. Those strange clouds did not move, just floated at low altitude, turning and twisting on themselves and endlessly extending over the horizon. People looked up at the sky puzzled, and thought it might be a sudden summer shower, unusually strong, but the media, to general astonishment, said that rare time was the same everywhere around the country. Everyone expected an imminent downpour, but the truth is that not a single drop ever dropped  from that sea of ​​dark clouds. In fact, never again a single drop of rain ever fall since the dark clouds came.
La noche de los resplandores
Then the storm began. The never ending storm. When all the clouds had crowded into the sky, hiding the sun forever, condemning men to live in an eternal darkness, their bellies began to light up rhythmically, bursting and flashing every few seconds with blinding fire and violent shocks, and although the thunders of that storm could barely be heard because their roars reached the earth choked and muted, probably dampened by those thick black clouds, their intense flashes did not stop since then to constantly illuminate the skies. Many inside their houses turned off their electrical appliances and closed their windows, but the truth is that from those dark and stormy clouds no lightning ever hit the ground, never again.

After that absolutely everything stopped working. In the afternoon, just three or four hours after that strange storm began to form in the sky, everything that worked with electricity or had electrical components faded forever. Suddenly, there were no computers, no Internet, no radio, no TV. There was no electricity or water, or appliances that worked. You could not call either by cellular or over the phone line. The car would not start. The elevators were blocked. No lanterns were lit, and the clocks stopped, their hands marking forever the fateful time in which all of them died all together and in unison.

That was the disconnection also for humans. From the moment that men could not make use of those tools they were so tied to, from the moment they could not communicate, nor be informed, or even move, their life collapsed. Then they took to the streets, or peered outside their windows and balconies, and stood looking at that threatening sky, scared, to find, as the only answer, the rays illuminating every few seconds the sinister bellies of those oppressive and dark clouds that had stolen the sun.

Then, of course, came the chaos. People were scared. Some locked themselves inside their homes, together with their loved ones. Others took to the streets in search of their closest friends, and others did the same looking for answers. Very soon some began looting and stealing. Fires almost impossible to control broke out everywhere. Night was falling and no one knew what was happening. Police, firefighters, army, all were deployed trying to take control of the situation, but they did wrong and later, because nothing worked properly, any movement had to be made on foot, and nobody received instructions if not in person. Rumours circulated about cars trapped inside tunnels, catastrophic accidents on motorways and planes crashing, falling from the skies like dead birds. The streets were dark, dirty and full of frightened people wandering here and there. Sometimes groups formed where everyone asked and nobody respond. There was broken glass everywhere, far fumes, abandoned and smashed cars and sometimes small groups around someone who had had an accident or an anxiety or panic attack. There were people trapped in elevators, people locked in vehicles or buildings struggling to get out, and authentic dramas inside the hospitals.

Night fell and it was dark everywhere. Riots were heard in the distance, but in general there was a strange and heavy silence. There was no moon or stars, the storm hid them, and the city was lit only by occasional fires and, of course, by the electricity that kept shaking and constantly illuminating the belly of those ubiquitous black clouds that now were hiding the stars.

That night shines began. They started when people began to light candles in their homes, when they began to stockpile water and to remove the food from the freezer, as they prepared to pass as best as possible a difficult night, when the elderly and the children slept and adults prepared to watch over them. Many people were still wandering on the streets, stealing, or trying to help someone… And then the first shine came: A huge beam of vertical light, a bright column of cold fire that fell right from the sky through the clouds of tar. It arrived unannounced, projecting in a straight line at an angle of 90 degrees to the ground, in an intense and thick central axis surrounded by a large and blur halo. He was accompanied by a strange sound, a conjecture, a grave, guttural, metallic, terrifying roar, as produced by a vast and unknown wind instrument. The whole town saw and heard it. That vast blue light bulb that lit up everyone and everything to several kilometres around, and that was so intense that suddenly seemed that wherever it landed the sun had started to shine again. On reaching the ground remained constant, fixed in one single place, like a gigantic gleaming monolith that suddenly had stuck in the ground, and remained so for a while, roaring and glowing, fixed on the floor. Then, and as suddenly as it had come, the beam of light faded and disappeared at once, and everything was once again plunged into the previous darkness and silence.

After a few minutes, however, another one came, and then another and another, and another, and they will never stop. Falling at anytime, anywhere, shuffle and capriciously, without apparent order or logic, sometimes bluish, greenish, yellowish, reddish. They always lasted just a few minutes, and it did never take too long between them to appear again. They always did the same disturbing noise, always illuminated everything, and could be always seen from dozens of kilometres away. Nobody ever knew what they were, or what did they exactly do. Their energy was bright, but not heat-giving, and the few people who had one of them falling right over their heads became blind but did not die. Dogs and cats, however, went crazy, there was no trace of birds, and myriads of rats came out of sewers and drains, infested streets and low houses and fled into the countryside. Nobody could sleep that night, neither young nor elders, since the shocking spectacle of brilliance, its roar and its strong light prevented them from sleeping. Many people even pursue them, trying to approach the places where those shines had fallen in order to have a better look and examine them, but no one seemed to find anything enlightening.

Near dawn, or near what people guessed it was dawn, when the morning lights glimpsing through those tight and black clouds, the earthquakes began. The first shock followed each other every hour or so, and were just occasional mild and harmless tremors. However, when the sunlight was sensed beyond those ubiquitous glittering clusters, the cataclysm came. An unprecedented earthquake shook the earth for five never ending minutes. Absolutely everything shook. In homes all furniture and fixtures fell to the ground and were shattered. All the windows were broken. All the walls were cracked. All the streets and paved roads quartered and broke away. The pipes burst and large areas were flooded. The buildings that were not fully or partially collapsed were seriously damaged. Fires multiplied. Hundreds of tunnels, subways, parking and undergrounds collapsed, swallowing everything and everyone, and most of the bridges fell. A great cloud of dust rose into the sky, into the dark clouds, floating for a whole day after which they began to fall slowly, for weeks, covering everything. Hundreds of thousands of lives, possibly millions, suddenly went out with that jerk. Since then there were earthquakes every few hours. They were not as destructive as that one, although varied in intensity, but since then they did not stop even for a single day. 
Crow recalls that huge disaster while everyone shakes again. It is another earthquake, but it is weak, it will not be dangerous, no mater how long it lasts. He likes to think that many of those people who died during the first tremor died while sleeping, that they did not realised anything, but the truth is that very few were sleeping after the first night of shines. Who knows if his relatives have also died, he knew nothing of them for two weeks, they lived far away, in another city, and since then he had no way to communicate with the outside. He does not know if the same thing has happened elsewhere or not, just do not know anything, like everyone else there, for there is no news, and no one has yet come to look for them. However, now there is not much time to think, as there has not beensince then. Once the shaking stops they have to cross the street as quickly as possible, and enter into the ruins of the shopping center that stands in front of them. They must stay always alert and ready.

Sara shouts and sobs. She is just seven, and since the first great earthquake every tremor, strong or weak, terrifies her. Her mother embraces her tightly and tries to silence her, but in vain, and eventually has to cover her mouth. Sara and her mother are a small miracle of survival. The girl has become the daughter of everyone, and everyone takes care of her, especially Owl. Raven knows she has a special affection for Sarah, and whenever it is possible, as a relief for her mother, she cuddles her and tells her stories. Like Raven, Owl is named for one night when, sitting around a bonfire made in the courtyard of a building, they gave to each other nicknames as names of forest animals, as if they were their totem. It was the first night they enjoyed some good humor and calm since the cataclysm. At the end of the day each and every one of them got a nickname, because they had decided already to leave the city and go into the woods, so it was better to start getting used, they said. Owl was named that way because of her huge and beautiful blue eyes, a nickname given by Crow himself. She was a very nice girl of twenty, dark-haired and frail physique, but of a tough character, stronger than steel. Crow got his nickname from a guy called Boar, because of his dark hair and because, as everyone said, he seemed to be a very intelligent guy. In the group there were several more, like the so-called Boar, a boy of twenty-four specially skilled at finding food, Bear was a man of thirty big and strong but gentle at the same time,Wolf an equipped soldier who had lost the rest of his platoon, Genet a particularly agile and funny brunette in her twenties, and then there were Sara and her mother, to which all limited themselves to call  “Sarah” and “Mom” for some reason.

The shaking has stopped. The group stands up and prepares to go out and run across the street. The everlasting dust returns to rest slowly on every surface, together with that other greenish powder that, for some reason, has begun to gather everywhere, while nobody knows what it is or where it comes from. For some strange reason insects, as has been happening since the arrival of the glow, drag and move frantically from side to side, crazed, without caution, without hiding, not noticing humans even when they are close enough to crush them with their boots. The motley group makes ready, Sarah on mom’s arms, the rest in a row, the first Wolf. They all wear resistant boots and clothes, even in summer, the result of some previous looting in shops, warehouses and abandoned homes. All of them carry a backpack with food and water, something increasingly hard to find nowadays, apart from spare clothes, sleeping bags, knives, lighters, first-aid kits… Wolf, the best equipped, is the only one who is armed. He carries a gun, although he did not use it since he left the barracks.

Wolf
goes alone, moving like a soldier, crosses over the street and takes cover behind a corner. After him others go out, one by one, and at one point everyone is crossing the street. It is daylight, but not much can be seen, as the dark clouds still cover the sky, shaking every few minutes by their inexhaustible electric shocks. A green glow has fallen far away, maybe about two or three kilometres away, and from the street they can see how it soars skyward above the ruins of buildings, singing with its distinctive and monotone roar. In the street there are three empty cars, and the remains of a collapsed building. Rubble, glass and furniture everywhere, and among the ruins a lump, perhaps a corpse, another one, in which nobody wants or can really fix their eyes.

All run. Crow is the last. He leaves behind Owl, which closely follows Sarah and Mom. Raven has not yet told Owl, but it is no coincidence that he always cross the street behind her. He wants to protect her. Maybe later, when days cease to be that crazy they might sit awhile and talk alone, together. Whatever happens in the future now he follows her closely, with all his senses alert. And suddenly, as he follows her, he suddenly realises how Owl stops, frozen. She is grabbing Mom, and Mom and Sara are looking awestruck to their right, petrified with fear. Owl is shocked too. Crow looks at the same direction. And sees. There they are. They.

Nobody knows who they are or where they come from, or what they want or what they are doing. It is not even clear whether they are the cause of the cataclysm or not. They just appeared right after the first day of earthquakes, they came from the sky heavily covered by black clouds, and began to do their things, whatever those things are.


The first sight that Crow had of them was that of four huge and dark tentacles hovering over the land from the sea of ​​clouds which covered the dusky sky. Those things were moving, twisting and coiling with great agility and flexibility, as if they were animals or were made of rubber or meat, but also produced a dull, reverberating metallic screech, and opened gaps, destroyed buildings and thrown cars and buses everywhere without apparent difficulty. They were black, about two meters wide, its endings always lost in the sky, beyond the everlasting black clouds, all seeming to come from one single source, a single node suspended and hidden, unseen, beyond the overcast sky. Later, Crow could see many other tentacles, sometimes in groups of four or six, sometimes even twenty. They appeared night and day, it did not matter. They came down all at once, always next to each other, and once they reached the ground they moved independently from each other, as if everyone of them has its own life, or maybe all of them stayed quite on the same place, and maybe they touched gently here and there or they just clashed with everything causing a huge destruction. More than once he saw them swallowing things, whether debris, vehicles, trees, water or dead bodies, their surface just opened on one side, in any place where there seemed to be no prior aperture, and whatever it was they rapidly absorbed it into. In the end, sooner or later they ended up again coming back to the sky, disappearing through the clouds from which they had first emerged without notice. Crow never found any logic on it, he just knew he preferred to be as far away from them as possible whenever they appeared.


It was not a sure thing,
there was no way to know it, but most likely those things were the same that the ones that had erected the towers. Those were just a few, very few, and it took several days for them to arrive, but their number increased everyday. They emerged from the dark skies without warning, like all the other phenomena and, like everything else, apparently randomly. Suddenly, among the dark clouds a giant mole appeared, a dark column with a base as wide as a small soccer field, and so high that its top hide beyond the eternal clouds. It was a monstrous elongated structure formed by a myriad of huge pieces which, although loose, held together in a more or less compact shape thanks to some kind of powerful attraction force. Its lower end, weevil, emerged from the storm first, and the whole tower followed it, dropping vertically towards the ground, slowly but inexorably. Eventually it collided with the surface, ruthlessly, crushing everything, houses, vehicles and living beings, and in the midst of a wrenching crunch, a tremendous earthquake, and with terrifying force, buried deep in the ground, digging its lower end on it, penetrating dozens, probably hundreds of meters into the earth, lifting and throwing into the air enormous masses of debris and stones. When the commotion stopped the rest of the structure could be seen vertically and monstrously rising into the sky, its sting already nailed on earth, and its various pieces acting as if they were alive, moving back and forth over and around the main structure. For days squeaks and metal punches came from it, while entire sections of that incredible hulk, huge, elongated pieces, moved floating over its surface, breaking off from it, slowly raising and falling  always glued to their sides, ending up assembling themselves into any another part. Those towers rose up into the clouds that covered the sky, gave off a heat so intense that no one or nothing could approach them and, for some reason, seemed completely immune to the constant earthquakes that shook the earth.

Crow reaches the three women, grabs and pushes them in order to make them run, but when tracking their eyes he sees what they are seeing, and becomes paralyzed too. At the end of the street, between two buildings in ruins, emerges something he had never seen before: some meters above the ground an oval as dark as coal stands, bright, big as a truck, with a grainy surface, as if it had been made of dozens of overlapping spheres. From the oval dozens of tips emerge, very long, thin arms moving frantically in all directions, holding on all surfaces, touching, breaking and shaking everything, like a bunch of angry whips. Impossible to say whether the central body fleets and its legs  are moving around it, or if tips are the ones that support the main body floating. Neither this time he could tell whether it is a machine or a being, it looks too flexible and agile for a mechanism, and too strong and polished for an animal. Creature or device, it does not matters, the thing is moving down the street toward them. Its numerous legs do not stop even for a second, removing all debris and objects around them. The central body floats and moves unnaturally, standing quite at moments, and shaking with quick, nervous movements later. All of them notice how the ground shakes and how everything around vibrates as the monster approaches. A hot wind licks their faces coming from the thing, while it produces a strange sound, like an electronic, deep and artificial gurgle.


The rest of the group looks petrified. Wolf howls, and his cry makes Crow react, pushing the women some meters across the street, but the thing is surprisingly quick and when they want to realize it is very close to them. However, at the very last minute, the overwhelming prodigy unexpectedly changes direction, and twists down another street. Some of its nerve endings crack just five meters from Crow, and one, single whip, loudly shatters the remains of a car. Then, same as it came, the monstrosity goes away. Everyone looks blankly toward the leaving monster. It seems incredible that it did not see them. Surely, did it wanted, It could have killed them. It does not matter. They have to move up. They must find a safe place to spend the night, pray that they do not appear again and collect some supplies.


The group starts moving again. Owl and Mom are so nervous they almost cannot walk. Sara, in a surreal gesture no doubt due to shock, rests her head on her mum´s shoulder and dozes. Crow is also preparing to move again, but he realises he is shaking, and before doing anything else turns one more time to the strange creature that is already far away, moving along another street. He sees it fiddling around with its appendices, crushing a bus with apparently little effort, and turn another corner with a quick and swift gesture. In the distance, a green glow is still roaring and glowing, and farther the ominous profile of a giant tower stands against the lightnings that periodically light the dark clouds.


Raven wonders again what the hell is going on. Like an animal fleeing from humans after they destroy its forest to build a highway, like an anthill is destroyed in a second by a tractor in order to plow a field, or a dog that looks up and observes without discerning anything how factory chimneys are poisoning the air, Crow and human survivors observe, as he is doing right now, those phenomenal and incomprehensible forces that are unleashed over them, without even remotely understand their logic or their intentions. Surely the dinosaur that looked upward and saw the comet that caused its species´ extinction burning through the sky seconds before colliding with the earth must have felt something like that. He’d be stunned with the formidable and fearsome spectacle displayed in front of its eyes, and it would be also scared, for sure, at least if only instinctively, but all that surely without understanding anything.


Crow
leaves aside that depressing thought and, turning his face, perceives that Owl has been standing next to him all the time, looking at him. Her beautiful almond eyes are about to mourn helplessly. Like the dinosaur, they also wonder, amazed and frightened, what is appening. She does not know, and he does not know also, and both of them know the other does not know. However, at that time, Crow feels angry, an anger he does not know where it comes from, that refuses to accept the unacceptable, and that suddenly gives him a strange force that makes him feel calm and, moreover, take Owl´s hand and tighten it hard. She, while receiving the gentle crush, feels better, stares at him and even smiles. Then the two separate and run away. They have to go to the forest as soon as possible, go outside the city. They ignore what is happening there, ignore even if it is a good idea, if things are there better there or not, but they think that, whatever it is, it can not be much worse than how things are in that city in which they had survived like rats for weeks.


Their silhouettes disappear inside the ruins of a large building. A distant thunder roars, and the last green shine turns off, leaving the ruins of the dead city into the dark again. A dark that will last until the next shine comes. There is no way to be sure about anyhting.

 

(Lee el relato en Español aquí)

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