01 Feb I Know Why the U.S. is Creating the Space Force
In 1910, the United States military discovered an extradimensional rift in the California desert. At the time, they didn’t understand what it was, and naturally launched expeditions. Few of the explorers survived. Those that did returned as violent men incapable of speech. Each one attacked fellow servicemen and doctors before dying. Dying is perhaps too kind of a word: their tissues lost structural integrity, leaving these men boneless, grotesque parodies of humanity.
Autopsies showed that none of the men had skeletal structures. Rather than bone, they had a rough formation of what turned out to be calcified fungus. When inhaled, this fungus turned formerly brilliant men into mute, violent husks who quickly died. Autopsies once again showed a hardened fungal structure in place of the human skeleton.
In 1914, a being of unknown origin peered out of the now heavily-guarded Rift. We weren’t able to stop it; not only was it utterly immune to human weaponry, the sight of it caused strokes, heart attacks, and in some cases, spontaneous physical mutations in the guards.
Fortunately, it didn’t stay long.
Unfortunately, it returned several times to peek out into our world. Each time had devastating consequences.
I don’t know how or why the government came to this conclusion, but the document I accessed states that the intruder was a young being that was, effectively, peeking through a keyhole. When other, greater beings discovered the rift, humanity would be in dire danger.
Over the next four years, military physicists conducted rounds of experiments with the intent of closing the rift.
Instead, they tore another hole in our dimension in 1923.
Pretend the walls that separate dimensions are reinforced steel. For about thirty seconds, this physicist transformed the steel wall into a mesh screen: permeable, unsecured, and easily destroyed.
Something burst through that screen: an electric tornado covered in stars.
The moment it broke through the screen, the rules of our reality forced the being a physical body. Beautiful and hideous at once, the creature somehow defied natural laws while still being beholden to them: it shrank to the size of a rat and grew to the size of an elephant in the span of five seconds. It bled white fire and vomited diamonds, but was allergic to milk and silver. Its sweat left verdant greenery in its wake, even on steel walls. Its waste consisted of a fungus that dissolved and replaced the internal structures of a living host, converting mammals to sentient puppets that seemed to function as the eyes and ears of the Being.
Most spectacularly of all, it physically manipulated the universe.
One early account tells of a handler who entered the being’s compound and promptly had a stroke, which was not unusual; early on, the Being exerted a range of effects on personnel, ranging from clairvoyance to abrupt physical mutation to injury such as heart attack and stroke.
Surveillance footage shows the handler drifting between infancy and old age like a sped-up film. Suddenly the handler screams: “They’ve already come! This is what will come! This is what has come!”
The air behind the handler ripples into a morass of glimmering darkness. Something emerges from it: something bright and starry, hideously beautiful in the way of gods and angels. Those of us who have seen this footage catch only a glimpse of this divine monstrosity before the image cuts to strange, sparkling black.
According to the time stamp, it resumes precisely fourteen seconds later. All that remains of the handler is a raw, human-shaped pile of bone viscera. Behind him, the being grapples with that glimmering dark slit, pulling it closed the way we might close a pair of curtains.
The being succeeds, then collapses beside the handler’s remains and grieves.
The grieving proved that the Being bonded closely with its captors. Though highly intelligent – in fact, immeasurably intelligent by human standards – it bonded to people in a manner similar to that of companion animals.
In stark contrast to the Being’s gentle loyalty, the intruders – the godlike monstrosities even our cameras can’t comprehend – were hostile. That incident was the first sighting, but it was far from the last. From that day forward, the monsters – eventually codenamed Sed – attempted to cross into our world on a frequent basis.
Our only recourse was the Being, who bravely knit the openings closed and, in some cases, injured or even killed the intruding Sed.
Before long, too many attempts were being made too frequently for one Being to handle indefinitely. The military’s solution was a breeding program. After five years and hundreds of experiments, the military discovered that the Being’s offspring had to be carried in human males. They siphoned nutrition using an array of tentacles they inserted into the intestines and stomach.
In several early cases, the hybrid fetus triggered a metamorphosis wherein the father and fetus combined into a single entity. These hybrids were uniformly male. While they inherited most of the Being’s more interesting properties, none could knit the universe together. They could, however, accurately predict future events. They were weak, however; prone to fits of grieving over horrible events, and joyous celebration over events that made them happy, some of which were as inconsequential as the birth of kittens. We referred to them as Roeh.
In other cases, the fetuses ate their way out of the fathers. The cases of cannibalism unerringly resulted in violent offspring. We called these cannibalistic offspring Charam to differentiate them from the Roeh, and euthanized them all.
Until 1994, when a second Being was finally born.
She tore out of her human father and knit him back together immediately. He still died – after all, closing a wound isn’t enough to heal the damage within – but the fact remains that her very first act was an attempt to heal her father.
Shortly after her attempt to save her father, the world split open.
I’ve seen the footage from two dozen angles: a stark black line cracks the air and grows, morphing into a glimmering obelisk that spans floor to ceiling. A Sed emerges. We see a glimpse of it – a titan made of stars and teeth and reptilian eyes -before the cameras goes dark.
We waited for the inevitable breakout of the Sed, but it never came.
When we finally received permission to investigate, we found the Sed, paralyzed and half-concealed, in its portal.
The Being and its daughter stood before it, feverishly attempting to knit the portal closed. This was the first indication we had that the Being couldn’t actually be trapped; it had deigned to let us imprison it, but could escape whenever it wanted.
I didn’t have time to ponder this for long, however; I caught a glimpse of the Sed. Its skin pulsated under the lights, blinding snakes of mercury writhing around rivers of oil-slick black and banner-like undulations that reminded me of the Aurora Borealis. Eyes blinked at me, alien and fearless and full of a blank, impersonal rage.
Nauseous vertigo overtook me I spun around and faced the wall, struggling to ignore the maddening harmonic chime of the universe closing up again. The sound echoed through me, making my bones vibrate and my blood cells sing. . “What happened?” I asked.
The Being can speak, but it cannot speak to us. Only a few have heard the voice of the Being. The few that didn’t die of stroke ended up unable to hear anything but echoes of the Being’s voice, which drove them to suicide.
So, for several decades, the Being communicated by manipulating matter in a way I can only describe as puppet shows: rough approximations of people, places, and things that told a story the Being thought we would understand.
This particular puppet show showed a cannibalistic fetus – a Charam – eating its way out of its father’s back. It crawled out and grew until it was a man with starry skin and eyes like the sun. A rocket came and bore it away to another planet. It looked up, roaring, as the air around it shuddered and exploded into a thousand glimmering holes. Seds flooded from these holes. The starry man killed them, rending these incomprehensible gods limb from limb. Then he fell to his knees and consumed them all.
The image evaporated into smoke, which writhed until it formed the first written message ever delivered by the being:
Charam kill the Sed. But you kill the Charam
At that moment, the Sed shuddered and its mouth opened. A hallucinatory, multicolored darkness flooded from its jaws and spilled throughout the room like a tsunami.
I found myself hurtling through that darkness like a scrap of paper in a riptide. Like paper in water, I was dissolving. I could feel it: my bones rubberizing and my tissues stretching thin, pulling apart into thin, inconsequential tatters.
Then hands plunged into my ruined form, warm and small and terribly painful. The next thing I knew, I was on my back in the birthing chamber. That pain intensified, overtaking all of my senses.
I sat up, looking for the source, and screamed.
My legs were flayed piles of viscera in which greyish, hole-filled bone gleamed.
That is the last image I have – my bare bones, coated in gore –before waking in a hospital.
I will be honest: I didn’t expect to wake up. The kind of knowledge with which I’ve been entrusted exacts a terrible price.
I wasn’t entirely wrong. They only kept me alive because the Being had bonded so closely to me, and they felt like I might be able to coax it back to U.S. territory.
You see, after rescuing me and knitting the Rift, the Being and its daughter – who researchers named Asherah – fled. Remember, we weren’t actually capable of imprisoning the Being; it just allowed us to do it out of its boundless, incomprehensible devotion to its handlers.
We don’t know why it fled, although researchers believe it’s because the Being somehow realized we were killing the Charam. Perhaps the Being had parental feelings toward them. Perhaps it was simply heartbroken that we were slaughtering our own protectors. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the Being left us.
It came back two years later without Asherah and immediately asked for me. I was brought in immediately. Military specialists told me to obtain the following information: what the Sed were, and how to stop them. If I failed, I would be killed.
I expected to die; hundreds of personnel over several decades had failed to extract this information from the Being. Why would I be the one to succeed?
Even though I was terrified, my reunion with the Being was strangely wonderful. It grieved over my injuries and our sustained separation, then lay at my side. We luxuriated in each other’s presence for many hours.
Then smoky tendrils shimmered into being and formed the words:
The Sed finally understand they cannot open your earth while my children live. Instead they will open your sky.
“Where do they come from?” I asked. “What are they?”
You will not understand.
I believed this, but understanding wasn’t my prerogative; survival was. “Tell me anyway.”
The Being hid its face and began to tremble.
You will hate me.
“I could never hate you.”
I did not come to love you. I am not meant to love you. I only love you because your reality makes it so.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
They are the rest of me.
The Being was right: I didn’t understand. Neither did anyone else. No one ever would; the Being never communicated again.
In December 2015, U.S. intelligence confirmed that Asherah was at a secure compound in Russia’s far north. Russia quickly developed its own, rather more successful, breeding program. They keep Charam but euthanize Roeh. Funny how that worked out.
Six weeks ago, the Roeh all broke into hysteria. They wept and screamed for hours, throwing themselves against the walls. Several perished. Finally, we obtained the information that was distressing them so:
We have opened the stars
The next day, a Sed attacked a Russian nursery full of Charam. As the Being predicted, it came from the sky – from outer space.
The Being immediately portaled to the Charam and fought to the death. Its sacrifice was not in vain; it immobilized the Sed long enough for the Charam to eat and kill it.
The Being quickly decomposed into a small mountain of flowers and fungus.
Over the following days, Roeh became even more hysterical, throwing a sustained fit of maddened despair centered around one piece of information:
We are one we have come we are one we have come
The Roeh then killed each other: they suffocated, strangled, and beat one another to death in the course of two minutes.
According to our intelligence, all of the Russian Charam died last week following an episode of mass psychosis. Autopsies revealed that all of their skeletons had been replaced with a hardened, calcified fungus. The people who performed the autopsy died in similar circumstances: mindlessly violent, with fungus in place of bones.
As of yesterday, the Russian compound appears abandoned: a dark, fungal mass choked with flowers, a curiously beautiful blight on the Siberian tundra.
We found Asherah. She is prepared to die for us. She’s half human, after all; this is her world. She’ll close rifts on earth and in space until it kills her.
She doesn’t know what the Being truly was. No one does. If it was meant to be our enemy, why did it give us Charam to kill it, Roeh to reveal it, and Asherah to save us?
No one even knows what the Sed are. We only know that they are opening our skies.
Contrary to released information, the government’s been in space for quite a long time. Naturally we’re launching attacks against the Sed. Without Charam, I don’t think we have a chance. But Asherah is willing to try. The government is willing to send her into space to close the rifts, and it is willing to put soldiers in spacecraft to bomb the Sed to death. It sounds ridiculous, putting a demigod on a rocket ship. The worst part is even if it works, there’s nothing to do about the fungus.
The Being was right. I don’t understand.
I don’t think anybody ever will.