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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Transdimensional Blues

Raymond Coulombe
A Felony of Birds

Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

Harris Tobias

Red Clouds

by Harry J. Bentham

(Please do NOT edit this text. Leave criticisms in reviews only. I never tweak or resubmit anything.)

Madeleine was sure there had not been a single cloud present in the sky. Yet, somehow, there was now a pinkish vapour above the vessel with no recognisable origin. It was a dense, thick cloud. Its hue changed to a bright crimson colour, and it even seemed to radiate its own glow. The waves became violent around the carrier, as the cloud migrated and rested overhead. The vapour of the cloud descended closer, the mists swirling and expanding until a bright arc of rosy-hued lightning shot against the protruding communication aerial at the crown of the vessel’s command centre.

The defence system failed to come online, against all evidence that it should be functional, and the bridge issued a call to "battle stations" via the ship-wide alert system. Madeleine’s first frantic thought was that she had made a clerical error during the upgrade, but the senior officers were convinced that the carrier had suffered a hostile electromagnetic pulse, or “EMP.”

When Madeleine expected a disciplined response from the crew, instead everything turned to chaos. Men ran erratically on the decks, and she witnessed no organised reaction to the threat of the enigma descending on them. As she wandered down the decks in the tower, searching for clarification from any of the staff, she saw only one or two ensigns cowering at their stations. Next, there was a chorus of confusion and terror, with agitated shouting and frenzied discharges of handguns on the decks above. Before she could attempt to make sense of the fog of chaos surely overwhelming the minds of the crew, Madeleine began to succumb to her own vision of the cloud and all that it represented.

Taking to the open deck, Madeleine felt the winds die down and be replaced by a warm and gentle breeze. She gazed into the reddish cloud, hypnotised by the enigma it posed, and for a moment it seemed tranquil or even cordial. But a blurred shape was descending, and she would not angle her eyes to look at it. Part of her was screaming out with the warning that she would lose her mind like the rest of the crew, if she still refused to look away and purge the cloud from her thoughts. Everything seemed to slow down as she stared, and she felt as though she was already being plucked from the deck and pulled up into the red mist of the cloud.

Now, the dark thing coming down from the cloud assumed a form, and she saw that it had membranous wings outstretched. Madeleine had seen one of them before, and she knew it was a prehistoric monster, but she had forgotten the names of such things. Defying all her instincts to flee the descending creature, Madeleine was instead transfixed and awed by it. Fascinated, she continued to gaze even as the animal’s beak opened to feed on her, because she still did not believe such things existed. Soon, Madeleine had already allowed the vast beak to envelop her before she could recognise what would happen. The bone of the beak had closed around her, cutting off all light.

What she encountered next was the interior of a formless sphere, of no relation to the pterosaur that had swallowed her, and no exit was evident for her at present. Trapped, Madeleine felt challenged to seek a way out, so she immediately applied foot and elbow against the bubble in which she had been enclosed. Her violence was in vain, and now she bordered on tears at the futility of her situation. Madeleine turned, noticing that an exit had formed on the opposite side of the container and would be sufficient to let her body pass through it. Investigating the hole cautiously, she observed a shaft beyond it, like a slide into darkness. She was drawn to the hole, believing it would only allow her to escape.

Uncritically, Madeleine placed her body in the slide and passed through into the next sphere, where she instantly began to feel numb. Her limbs already refused to respond, but her state of agitation was also gone. Her mind was purged of all hostility, and filled with a tranquil promise of blissful abandon. Turning on her side, she was faced with the living smile of her deceased little boy, whose face she had not seen for many years. Her mixed feeling of joy and confusion melted into the most overwhelming euphoria she had ever felt, but her limbs were becoming prey to the acid dispensed in the sphere.

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Quantum Musings

Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette

Harris Tobias

Timothy O. Goyette
Against a Diamond

Michele Dutcher

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