Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Demon On The Hill

I retired from London soon after the fatal accident that took them from me, as I needed time to be on my own, come to terms with my grief and to bury myself in my writing. I do not remember the journey to the mansion where I used to spend long, hot summers with my wife and child, so deep I was in internal reflection.  Yet I found myself one dreary early December noon standing alone outside on the wet gravel drive that lead up to its grey stone facade. 

The wind had an early winter chill in the air, so I pulled my great coat close-to and hurried up to the front door. Finding myself standing in the entrance hall, I found it cold and uninviting, with a lingering smell of damp. The house appeared to be in quite the abysmal state. The staff had clearly not given the house the cleaning it had required in some weeks, if not months.

Had it been that long? It struck me that I had forgotten my own affairs, perhaps even forgetting to pay them. I made a mental note to rectify the situation, as it was too late to raise attention to it, then went to the drawing room to set about lighting a fire.

After this was done, I sat down in a dusty leather chair, still wearing my outdoor attire which seemed to offer no avail against my frozen abode, and watched the flames dance in the hearth. My writing arm throbbed with a dull ache that I recalled had been unremittingly persistent on my journey, so I rubbed it keenly, my thoughts turning to trivial matters.

It occurred to me that I had not brought any luggage with me, mistakenly believing that I had clothing in the house for just an occasion. Of course, this was a summer house, so anything I'd had left previously would be woefully inadequate for the weather. There should be plenty of food in the storage area, but the general upkeep of the place gave me some cause for concern as to what I would find.

That said, if I had to live with what was in the cupboards, however meagre, then so be it - I wasn't hungry. The village shop would be open the next day if needs be.

I spent a short time watching the fire die down, allowing myself to doze a while. My dreams were full of imagery I'd hoped to forget. Her face, her scent, the sound of my daughters voice. It always comes back. Then my mind would roll over into darkness once again and all I could recall was the screaming of horses, the clatter of wood, pale faces and the metallic taste of blood.

I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and turned my mind to plans for the night ahead. Before I had set out, I had elected to spend my evenings writing. There were things, important things, that I had to write down and with each passing day they ebbed away. So I trudged to the back of the house and walked into my study, which was in the same state as I'd left it some months prior only now coated with a thick layer of dust. 

Wandering over to my desk, I removed my coat and slung it around the back of my chair before sitting down. The leather rests were chilled and uncomfortable, but it would soon warm up. Opening a drawer, I found it contained enough ink and paper to keep me happy, or at least approximately so, for a good long while.

So, I sat down and set to making my preparations, the physical pain of my arm and the cold put aside to allow for the anaesthesia of creation, and as I began my scribbling I allowed all mortal concerns to fade away. Hunger and cold be damned. The pain in my arm be damned.

At least two hours passed before I allowed myself to look up. I had fervently written several thousand words by this point, my nib scratching at the paper as it raced across each page. I could not say for certain if each sentence was particularly satisfying, as pleasing my more finicky creative side was not my intent. Usually I did not want to look back, but to progress, move on, then do the editing when the final story is laid bare on the page. Only in this case, I wasn't writing a story. More... a confession. I leant back and allowed the pain in my arm to rush back, put my pen down and took a breath.

Looking up, my eyes wandered to the window and the wild darkness outside. A gust of wind rattled the glass squares in their wooden frame and I gave a shiver, my attention settling on the hill that rose beyond the garden. It cut through the horizon; a curved knife edge, ragged soil rent asunder by the farmers heavy plough. The sky still held some light, clouds glowing a dark blue as they gusted quickly over the ridge. And there, a figure.

I sat up, startled. I hadn't expected to see anyone braving the weather on a night like this. It struck me as odd, as it was hardly the sort of evening to take a walk - if anything, it was the sort of evening that would mean you would catch the most damnable chill, if not even death.

I stood and slung my greatcoat back on, as my consciousness had returned from its internal fantasy and the chill of the mansion now clung to me. Putting on my eye glasses I paced around the desk toward the window to take a closer look at the silhouette beyond.

The glass was not perfect in my country retreat. Each square had an imperfection that flung the world beyond into a distorted spasm like a defective lens. I leant to one, my nose pressed up against the pane, to take a closer look at the lonely figure above. Scrunching up my eyes, I nearly came to the conclusion that I was mistaken and I had taken a gnarled, weather-worn tree for a person. But as the image swam before me, in and out of focus as my vision danced across the warped glass, I made out a tall figure wrapped in ragged cloth, with what appeared to be deer horns jutting sharply out of its head.

Startled, I jumped away from the window. Glancing about in distraction, putting my hand to my mouth, my mind whirled as a cold pit dropped in my stomach. Disbelieving, I looked again. The figure stood on the curve of churned black soil, clouds swirling about it, the very image of something from Dante's darkest poetry. And worse...

... I swore I could feel it looking at me.

I stumbled back into the edge of my desk. The feeling was almost indescribable. The terrible apparition had reached its alien will toward me, and an overwhelming urge struck me like a wave to step out into the dark and join it up on that cold, lonely ridge.

Resisting, I left my drawing room and hurried downstairs to the other side of the mansion, away from the creature to the front of the house where I had arrived that afternoon. The corridor was dark and barely illuminated through the small window above the entrance. Clutching the catch at the door, I stood at the exit, ready to throw it open and run down to the village for aid.

But instead, I held myself in check and turned to look back, past the stairs to the back door. My body was racked with a revulsion to the entity but my mind could not remove itself from it. My muscles were taut, willing me to open the door and flee as fast as I could muster back down to my neighbours beyond. But I could not shake the feeling that destiny was calling me to take my chances and confront the demonic presence, whatever the outcome.

I thought hard. Around me the house shifted and creaked. Cold air crawled through the gaps in around the door. The corridor was wreathed in shadow and I felt the entire house retracting from the chill wind outside. The rear exit stood at the end of the corridor, a blank grey rectangle, pulling me towards it. Releasing the catch, I took several faltering steps; then relented, speeding to the rear door and flinging it wide. Wind rushed against my face and through my hair, the garden, devoid of life, stretching out before me, brought to life by the rush of the last dead leaves torn from the complaining autumn trees.

And there the sentinel stood, high up on its cruel mountain, horns piercing the sky, ruined cloak streaming in the gale.

I pushed against the wind and down the stone steps to the garden, pulling up the lapels of my coat, hand shielding my eyes from the weather. The smooth soles of my leather shoes slipped on the wet grass, once vibrant in the summer and now a sickly green-grey. I pressed on to the bushes between the garden and the field, forcing my way through them, cursing as my coat tore across the grasping twigs that clawed against it. Then up and over the fence, my right arm complaining once again, and onto the rocky, jagged earth behind, being careful not to lose my footing in fear of breaking an ankle.

Then began the climb. The hill stretched before me, reaching up into the tempestuous, roiling clouds. The figure was closer now and although I could see no detail, I started to gain an impression of its size. It was tall, taller than any gentleman or soldier I had ever known, and stood proud against the winds that lashed at it mercilessly. I gathered an impression of a figure of great physical power and strength.

I continued my climb, pulling my thick woollen coat closer-to. My glasses were now flecked with  rain and wore down heavy and cold on my nose, my beard only just affording me some warmth. One would have seemed quite a sight to an observer, my unkempt red hair streaming behind me, my trousers stained from the dark earth as I awkwardly made my way up the ever-increasing aspect of the hill, occasionally failing to stop myself stumbling to my knees.

I looked up. Closer now, my fears were confirmed. The creature was certainly no man. I could see now that the dirty rags were in fact a heavy, torn cloak swathed around a slender yet powerful frame. It appeared to be wearing some form of ornate, black leather armour, a figure torn from some surreal historical battleground. Its arms and hands were covered in sinewy, metallic gauntlets and its feet were wrapped in similarly adorned greaves. A long helmet elongated its head into a bullet-shape, itself finely patterned. From that the antlers sprouted through it, as if grown from temples of the beast itself. It was huge, at least fifteen feet tall, and a terrible apparition to behold. Fear clutched at my breast.

I drew near and balanced myself. The creature turned its head and gazed down at me. I could not see eyes, but I could feel its attention.


The voice boomed inside my skull, as weathered and old as the rocks the hill was built on, the sound of the plates of the earth grinding together in the back of my mind. The impact of it nearly knocked me off my feet and my head ached from a great stress. My eyesight briefly spotted black with the shock of a sudden migraine, for the beast had not spoken to me, but into me.

I croaked a greeting in return, but whether I actually spoke a coherent word I could not say. I was completely frozen in fear, a fawn facing a hunters rifle, legs shaking and body racked with cold. I was scared I was going to faint there and then onto the hard earth, possibly to never wake up again. My arm ached again with a dull throb, a painful reminder that what I was witnessing was all too real.

The creature shifted its weight and I could feel the black metal boots grind down into the mass of earth and stone below it. It didn't so much stand on the hill as inhabit it as part of nature itself. 

I coughed, looked up, then was surprised to hear my own reedy voice.

"Are you... are you a demon?"

It was all I could muster. It seemed so weak, so obvious, but I felt lucky to be able to command any sort of speech at all. The creature stood silent. It struck me that it was thinking. Then, again, it spoke, and I felt the sick feeling at the back of my skull once more as the low, granite tones racked slowly through my brain.

Demon. I have been called that.

I allowed myself a second of composure.

"Wh... why have you... come f-for me?"

The demon threw its head back and laughed. The force of it in my mind pushed me to my knees, hands falling down into the mud and grit, my head weighed by internal pressure. As suddenly as it began, it stopped and I looked up to see the figure once more regarding me in stony silence. 

After a moment, it lifted its head and appeared to be looking down into the valley. I traced its gaze and twisted myself back to see what it was regarding. Beyond my mansion, back across the gravel drive, through a copse and to the cluster of grey slate rooves that huddled together against the elements. Soft orange light from the windows betrayed the life within, as did the tall chimneys that streamed thin smudges of smoke that were pulled thin with the wind.

I watch the village. 

The voice still rattled the inside of my skull but had now turned gentle. I turned back to look at it over my shoulder.

Understand I am not the judge, nor the executioner. I am the collector.


The beast raised a hand and pointed down into the valley.

When they are ready, I will lead them to where they must go. 

It turned its gaze back to me.

I am not the only one.

I struggled back up to my feet and balanced myself, sick and weary, head pounding. The demon looked down from on high, the wind whistling across its armour, the ribboned cloak waving against the clouds.

I am yours.

"M... mine."

You remember.

I steadied myself as my mind raced in confusion.  Then, looking down at my hands that were thick with black soil, something released itself from the darkest recess of my consciousness. Raising them to my face, I leant to them and breathed in deeply. The damp, warm, almost metallic smell of earth. I recalled the taste of it, mixed in with blood. Gravel against my face, ground into my top lip. My arm bent back. Immediately I was struck with a sharp pain where the dull throb haunted me.

Staggering, I held my forearm and steadied myself.

You remember.

I looked once more at the implacable, featureless mask of the demon. It nodded. Turning back to my sleeve, I took a breath and pulled it back. There was no blood, but my arm looked as if something had taken a bite out of it. An arc of grey flesh had been torn up to the bone.


I heard myself as if I were at the other end of a vast tunnel. My wife, pulling me from the wreckage, my daughter clinging to my breast. I screwed up my face and began to sob, dropping again to my knees, clutching the distorted ruin of my arm.

The anguish wracked my body as the reality of my situation hit me. The storm clouds above raced ever fast, the rain drove harder, the creature itself seemed to grow taller, to dominate all around it. Never in my life had I felt such misery and as I sunk further in, the more oppressive the beast and landscape became.

But what could I do, outside of accept the situation? What's done is done, in the eyes of God.

Resolve returned to me, slowly. My breath slowed and I could feel my brow knit as I attempted to regain myself. 

I raised my head back to the creature.

"How long has it been?"

It is not for me to know.

Slowly I stood once more. My fear began to ebb away and as it did, I realised that the sky had begun to lighten. I looked again at the valley below. The storm clouds had gone and it was morning. The sun streamed down from behind me, casting my shadow long across the tilled earth.

Holding my arm up, I saw that the terrible injury had disappeared. I couldn't do anything but bring myself to smile. Then I felt something step to my side, and I turned.

It was the creature, still standing tall, the same pointed helmet, the same antlers reaching out into the sky, but now without its ferocious aspect. Instead it looked elegant, beautiful. I could see the ornate detail in its leather armour, the horns were covered with a green moss and through the slits in the helm golden eyes regarded me with a gentle concern. The robe wasn't torn, but ribboned. A slender arm reached out, hand open.

We leave when you are ready.

The voice no longer hurt me.

I turned back to the mansion. At the study window I could see a pale face staring back.

It was her.

*  *  *

As she gazed up at the grave on the hill, she thought she could see two figures. The light from the morning sun made it difficult to see, so she raised a hand against it and squinted. The tall gravestone stood against the light, yet there was no-one standing on the ridge. Despite herself, she felt someone looking back at her. Yet it wasn't an unpleasant feeling; rather, she felt at ease, at peace. Possibly for the first time since...

The sound of her daughter playing in the corridor called to her attention. She called out to her, then  peered once more through the square panes of glass. All she could see was his grave. The feeling of peace remained yet the presence had disappeared. Her thoughts were always with him. Always. Yet until now she'd always felt as if he'd left this earth without the opportunity to bid her farewell.

Now, she felt something akin to release.

The thought made her giddy, so she sat back down into his old leather armchair holding her head. As she did so, her other hand fell to the table and onto a set of papers. Regaining her senses, she looked at them puzzled. Were they there when she moved back for the summer? She couldn't say...

Taking them up, she began to read. She smiled forlornly, and as she did so, she began to cry.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Beginning

Despite being hunted, he decided to take some rest before they eventually caught up with him.

There wasn't much use in continuing further, they were fast and he didn't have much time. His heart thumped, bones clicked, muscles were tight and painful to move, and his sight was rendered a blur by the throbbing in his temple. Taking off his backpack, purple bruises across his shoulders revealed the toll the weight of his burden inflicted on his body. It hurt even to sit, let alone think about gathering kindle for a fire to burn. Fine... the only fire tonight will be one last cigarette.

He was certain it was only a matter of time before they finally caught up, and he was certain that his death would be long and drawn-out if he was to die by their hands. It wasn't his smoking that was going to kill him.

The air was cold and the dew on the grass had started to freeze, but that didn't stop it from seeping into his jeans as he sat.

God, I've never been this tired.

The dark was illuminated briefly by the flash of his lighter. The glowing orange dot of the burning end of his cigarette would surely give him away, but he was kind of past caring by now. He'd chosen a spot high up on a rocky outcrop, looking down over a sheer drop over the pine forest that stretched down into a valley before him. Jagged mountains beyond clawed at the sky, the small, pale blue moon flickering in and out of sight as heavy cloud raced across it.

Funny, I could swear I was still on Earth.

Their obsession with his home was as amusing as it was now frightening. He'd been stupid.

It hurt to take in the cigarette, his lungs still burning from the last twelve-or-so mile run, but the kick from the nicotine and the familiar taste made him feel just a little better.

The warmth of the smoke made him acutely aware of how cold he actually was, and he gave a shiver. His vest clung to his body as sweat seeped through. Much as the rest was needed, it certainly wasn't going to do him any good to catch a cold, so he leant over his backpack to grab his hoodie. As he unclicked the plastic clips and threw it over, his eyes cast over the plastic-wrapped package that had got him into all this trouble. He lay a hand on it. Still slightly warm. But no movement.

The hoodie was at least some comfort and he gave himself an internal pat-on-the-back for being well-prepared. He pulled the zip up to his neck, picked up his cigarette and lay against a rock to wait.
It's funny, I figured when I knew my death was coming I'd reminisce more. Make mental notes on where I went wrong, what I could've changed. Something. Instead, here I am thinking about how sodding hungry I am.

Is it possible to be too tired for regrets?

He wasn't sure how long he'd been lying there before they finally arrived. He couldn't even recall what he'd been thinking about for that time. He felt mentally prepared, however, and as far as he could see, that was pretty much all that mattered at this juncture.

A snapping noise in the undergrowth behind caught his attention, and as he turned his pursuers revealed themselves. Small, yet lithe bodies with figure-hugging black catsuits. Those strange, moulded helmets with the luminous wires. The dangling threads where a mouth should be. Their gentle movements reminded them of cats, all grace and tightly-wound tension.

He made a start to get up, and the lead put up a hand for the others to stop.

"I'm suprised you didn't catch up with me hours ago."

He stood and gave a stretch. The cigarette was basically a stub now and had gone out a while ago, but he kept it in his mouth. A funny thought about how impure it must seem to them crossed his mind, how it must seem like some kind of insult. The lead spoke. Or rather, it hissed. The helmet spoke for it.

"We are suprised at how fast you could move, considering..."

"... considering I'm a human? C'mon, give me more credit than that."

He gave a little dismissive wave and turned his back to them. Maybe his nonchalence unnerved them. He half-expected to be lept at there and then, but he figured he knew he was cornered and maybe ready to do something desperate. If that's what they were thinking, they were at least half-right. Truth was he wasn't even sure what he was going to do. In the mad rush to steal the package from right under them, the instant decision to do so, forward-planning hadn't figured into it.

"Why did you do it, Hartman?"

He tensed visibly and half-turned back to them.

"I'm pretty sure you know why."

"Do you feel that your kind have to know?"

Hartman put a hand to a shoulder and rotated it, grimacing as it clicked. In the corner of his eye he noticed that despite the order to stop, the other two had moved slowly to either side of him, trapping him on the edge of the drop.

"Strange question."

He spat the stub out and reached into his pocket for another cigarette. The leader gestured.

"I will never understand your need for those things."

"What doesn't kill you... you know, that old human adage."

"Is it giving you strength now, Hartman?"

"It's certainly helping me forget a few things, that's for sure."

He reached down for the backpack. Behind him, his pursuer tensed and looked to the others.

"Have you... done anything to it, Hartman?"

He hefted the backpack up onto one shoulder. Christ, it hurt to do so. The two beings to either side of him affected a crouched stance. Not long now before they make their move. He smiled and patted his charge.

"Don't worry, I'm taking good care of your baby."


Hartman took another drag, and eyed the lead. Those damn helmets. You couldn't tell what they were thinking, ever. For us, everything was there. You could lie, but they always knew. They'd studied us intensely for centuries. But their understanding of emotion was somewhat... autistic, in a sense. They didn't really know, all they were doing was reading. They would react to, say, a joke, but the laughter was always hollow.

"Good to see this little run's kept you sharp, Rith."

He backed up to the edge.

"We are going to kill you, Hartman. It's not going to be pleasant."

"Hm. No shit."

He let go of a long breath of smoke into the cold air. He was lucky that they weren't carrying any weapons. He couldn't take them, though. Short as they were, they were powerful. One? Maybe. Three? Suicide.


"The only way your people will learn by your mistake, is by making an example of you. I hope you won't take it personally."

He sensed the figure to his left tense up.

"Well, you'll have to catch me first, Rith."

And with that, he fell back, over the drop and into uncertainty. He felt a glancing blow as his vision rolled up towards the heavens as the one on his left lept for him, but he knew it had missed. As his eyes rolled back down, he saw the screaming figure flailing beside him, the rocky incline filling his vision as it raced up into the sky as they both fell. The black-clad creature smashed against a rock, its body breaking, arms crooked and contorted. Its head thudded with a dull crack and the screaming stopped, the mask ripped off its face. He could just about see its orange eyes and ridged face before the world went black.

In his dream, he continued to fall. Invisible shapes rushed by in the darkness. He could hear nothing but the roar of the wind.

Then, cold.

No... wet.

Cold and wet.

He blinked. Still dark. Then spluttered. The agony racked at him as he lurched onto his side and vomited water from his lungs. His fingers scrabbled at his face, wiping away sand and grit. His vision cleared and through the pain he could see he was next to a river. The backpack lay a few meters away.

He twisted himself onto his back again then fumbled for his pocket.

Shit. My cigarettes.

He let out a mad, uncontrolled burst of laughter at the absurdity of it all, then rolled back onto his side and pulled himself up. If it was painful before, it was nearly impossible now. His arms were lashed and he was bleeding. It looked bad but it seemed superficial. His ankle hurt with a mild sprain. He gave it a test, found it could bear weight, then hobbled over to the backpack, falling to his knees before it. Without opening it, he reached in.

Warmth. Then, movement. Almost imperceptible. Good... it wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway. But it wasn't going to live long on sheer luck. And neither was he. He was still being tracked, had no idea how long he was out, nor knew where he was.

He reached into the backpack and pulled out a smushed, but still edible, chocolate bar, stuck it between his teeth and hauled the backpack up. A sickening jolt of pain shot up from his bad ankle, but it was just about managable. He was pretty sure his body was starting to get used to the abuse.

He glanced up and about at the pine tree's lining the silted shore, picked a direction which, as far as he could figure, would lead as far the hell away from the facility as possible, and slowly, painfully, began to walk.


Monday, 31 January 2011


When the portals came, the world changed.

In their millions, barely visible to the eye, they appeared simultaneously across every border. Some were in the air, some were on land, some were underwater. Many were found stuck halfway in the ground, some were even underneath it. All had roughly the same shape and appearance, a spherical tear forming a transparent rupture in the air, and each portal linked to another somewhere on the planet, seemingly at random. One on the ground might lead to the edge of the atmosphere, another in a street during the day could take you to the top of a skyscraper at night in another part of the world.

Millions of people were killed and injured on the 15/3/2019. Firstly, despite not visibly leading anywhere, the pressure difference on either side of the portals when they popped into existence meant anything nearby was either violently sucked through as if into a vaccuum or exploded outwards. A bus in London and several vehicles, whilst not immediately destroyed, were pulled through a twenty-meter rupture that opened up on a busy junction. The portal lead to another a few meters off of a peak in the Andes, where the UK residents were shot out with force over a glacier. Only one survived, who days later somehow managed to make it down to a village below, miraculously contending not only with the below-zero conditions and rough terrain but also other holes that had opened up around the side of the mountain.

Busy cities found themselves brought to an immediate standstill. Thousands of American citizens were killed by a large portal that opened up in central New York, bringing with it a massive explosion of deep ocean water. Several buildings were toppled by the force and many survivors found themselves in the swirling waters of the bay, where several smaller fissures had formed whirlpools.

Some were lucky to escape, most were drowned or sucked under to either die or find themselves coughing up water on a lonely pacific reef island.

Airline pilots suddenly found themselves struggling to control planes as portals opened up in the sky. The gulf stream was broken up in several places, forming massive eddies across the globe. Whilst many died as planes fell out of the sky or were sucked literally into the oceans and rocks below, one Airbus A30 pilot managed to land despite flying immediate into a portal in Argentina on its arrival and being flung into the upper atmosphere somewhere above Canada. That he didn't manage to collide with further portals, which fortunately for many pilots had a physical presence on radar, was considered a miracle.

The immediate change was geographic. Different climates, pressures, and atmospheres all being slammed together, without rhyme or reason. lead to biblical flooding and chaotic weather patterns. This wasn't to settle for many years to come. Towns and villages disappeared or were destroyed and all major cities were left in disarray. In some parts of the globe, even topography was changed. One rural area in China was completely wiped out as Saharan sand poured through in vast quantities, leaving a hole in eastern Morocco. Whereas a vast swathe of Australian desert was covered in snow overnight from a portal in a remote part of Alaska.

Some countries were fortunate enough to initially survive with some form of governence intact. Usually these were in places where the infrastructure was still running, where power stations were still working and communication lines miraculously not cut off. The portals only existed in the bounds of the earths atmosphere, so satellites were still working. However despite this, global telecommunications was for a period of weeks brought to a near-standstill as huge electromagnetic storms washed over both hemispheres.

By some outrageous fortune, the internet managed to stay functional for many places. Initially some thought that it was saved by undersea cables being laid below a line where the portals seemed to cease. It was also pure luck that the American servers keeping it running hadn't been affected by a blackout.

However, national, let alone international governance, was proving near enough impossible. Many cities descended into chaos as humans fought for survival beyond the initial impact of the portals. Smaller, regional governance was hanging by a thread in areas across the globe where communcations were intact and through this many pulled together. Some were lucky enough to have contact with central government. Several South American countries reliant on less high-tech forms of communication and more prepared for natural disasters were the first. The Chinese were the first superpower to manage to put together some kind of order, closely followed by the States.

Yet on top of the immediate impact on locals, there was also the problem of disparate communities suddenly being thrown together. As an example, a group of indiginous Philipino tribesmen found themselves wandering around the chaos streets of Krakow. Fortunately they were taken in by the withered local authorities before they came to any harm. Elsewhere a regiment of North Korean troops on an armed exercise outside of Pyonyang were collectively dumped outside a central Tokyo police station resulting in a standoff where many were killed.

Yet even as people were being brought together, the atmospheric changes the portals brought began to wreak further havoc. Massive storms and tornadoes came down globally as pressure fronts changed and many millions more were killed. The weather couldn't normalise, wind patterns irrevocably changed, bringing north and south together. It would eventually settle into pattern but global temperatures rose for several years before reaching a plateau. As the ice caps shrunk further and glaciers formed elsewhere, there was more flooding.

But as if nature working against humanity wasn't enough, there were further clashes as ideologies came together. China, Russia and the US, even though many areas within each were quickly developing stable social structures, couldn't stop bloody battles for resources that broke out around various interconnected portals. It was considered fortunate that all-out war was near-enough impossible and doubly so that many countries weren't as nuclear capable as had been previously made out. The worst hit were areas where religious ideologies came crashing head to head.
The portals, it must be noted, didn't bring about the apocalypse. Many areas of the globe were brought underwater and some places became a general no-go, but life on earth somehow clung on, even if many species of plant and animal life were to be made extinct.

After the decades of disease and death, those societies that had organised themselves through the years globally finally managed to cope with the initial catastrophic changes. Efforts were made by groups of organised scientists in the more functional areas of human society to figure out solutions to the continuing crisis. A back-to-basics approach was figured out and self-sustenance was one of them. Portals started to be mapped. To begin with this itself brought problems of organisation and, again, violent confrontation. Some parts of humanity started to block portals off from others, in others new alliances were forged. A great population movement began into areas less affected by the ruptures. Humanity begun anew its battle with itself, only now the borders were less invisible lines on a map and more invisible shapes in the sky.

As you would expect, eventually there came the question of what brought the portals. The question of whether it was a cruel intelligence, or a natural occurence - or maybe final proof of the existence of some spiritual entity. The portals became the subject of intense scientific and theological scrutiny. Whilst their cause was never categorically discovered, eventually a portal in the Causcaus was settled on as a clue.

Like many other fissures, there were local tales told of people and animals that had wandered in and had never come out, so it had been avoided on the assumption that death had awaited in some form on the other side. However, one day a man, driven to suicide by the death of his wife, somehow managed to get past the men guarding it and run into the portal. As he disappeared, a guard pulled his hand and forced him back down to the ground.

Before he died, skin red raw and gasping for air, his last word was - "...beautiful."

A team of scientists, arriving days later, sent through a robotic exploration vehicle similar to those used many years ago prior on Mars, bringing back pictures of an alien vista beyond. There lay a flat, rocky plane, massive organic forms silhouetted on a twisted horizon reached into a swirling green sky that crackled with lightning. When they turned the device back to view the portal itself, it was shown to be held in place by a black device, that on testing was revealed to be made out of some forged metal alloy. It stood against thousands of others that spread out to either side for what seemed like miles.

Further tests showed that the device was keeping the poisoned atmosphere of the world beyond out from ours. Yet before anything else could be deduced, the robot seemed to short something on the mysterious creation and the portal blinked out, along with every other portal on the planet.

In the years of ensuing chaos caused as they snapped shut, the alien portal was forgotten. But the portals themselves became forever embedded in the Earth's history, changing what we knew and understood about the universe forever.