While driving her through the countryside to visit her parents for the holidays, Jacqui realizes there are no stars in the sky.
The lights from the car Jacqui rented barely pierced through the Britain countryside. Delays plagued her flight from the states, and she hadn’t planned on driving at midnight. Regret began to set up a room in her mind for not booking a hotel room for the night, but her parents were eager to see her for the holidays visit, and a free bed is a free bed. While she was exhausted, she knew being in the middle of nowhere shouldn’t be as dark as it was that night. She looked up at the sky.
There were no stars.
The sky was pitch black like someone covered it up. Not even the moon was visible.
“This is some crazy Doctor Who level weirdness,” Jacqui commented.
Jacqui was no stranger to the British sci-fi time-traveling series. Her social media account would reveal photos of her cosplaying as characters from the TV show, usually as Martha Jones, as she bore a similar resemblance. However, she never remotely considered an out of this world experience happening to her.
She reached for her phone stationed in the central dashboard to make sure she didn’t take a wrong turn when a voice from the backseat whispered. “Did you realize the stars are gone, too?”
Jacqui slammed on the breaks. She snapped her head to the backseat where a ghostly being with a human skull shrouded in a crystalline, black-draped hoodie. It waved their four skeletal hands hello. Jacqui screamed and reached for the car door handle.
“Oh, the stars are missing, but I’m what freaks you out?” the being snarked.
Jacqui was halfway out of the car when the snakiness of the being’s tone made her mind say, “hold up…” She decided to reply. “Okay, then, who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“My name is Slayer, and after visiting a parade, I decided to visit a time and place on this planet randomly,” they casually explained as they floated through the car and outside. Slayer looked up at the sky. “From what I know about Earth, there should most definitely be stars here.”
Jacqui stepped out of the car and studied the sky alongside the floating, leg-less being in sympathetic concern. “Yeah, there should be stars here.”
“The stars still exist, though,” Slayer added. “I popped off this planet and checked, but in this time, at this place, they are not visible.”
Jacqui reflected on her sci-fi knowledge. “Could there be some sort of device blocking them from our view?”
“That is a possibility,” Slayed reaffirmed in a monotone. With one hand, they reached through their chest and pulled out a black tablet device through their robe. Slayer tapped around on the screen. “I’m showing a device not from this planet nearby.”
Jacqui grabbed her phone and keys from inside the car. “Let’s go check it out then.”
Slayer took the lead, with Jacqui following behind using her phone’s flashlight. They walked up a short hill before stopping in front of a straw scarecrow dressed in jeans and a button-up red flannel shirt.
“This is it,” Slayer softly spoke.
“That’s a scarecrow,” Jacqui quipped.
Using all four of his arms, Slayer stripped off the shirt and straw from the scarecrow’s chest. Inside was a silver metal box with three black switches and a maxed-out gauge.
“What is that?” Jacqui asked.
“I’m not quite sure,” Slayer mumbled as he reached for the switches. “Let’s kill this machine.”
Slayer flicked all three switches down. The gauge spun down, and the stars and moon flickered back to life, illuminating the countryside.
Jacqui cheered. “And let there be light!”
From further up the hill, an exclamation of pain screeched through the night. With the sky back, Jacqui was able to see a destroyed house further up the hill. The ground rumbled, and the cry got closer, revealing a black six-legged spider the size of a pickup truck with the head of a bison. Steam sizzled off its body like the light was burning it. It grabbed the device inside the scarecrow with one of its two harry tentacle arms while knocking Jacqui away with the other. The arm passed through Slayer, who was unfazed by the attack.
The creature flipped the switches, causing the stars to fade out. The beast was nearly invisible with the lack of light, making the device it held appear as if it was floating. The creature hissed and scurried away.
Slayer floated over to Jacqui and helped her up.
“What was that?” Jacqui forced herself not to scream.
“I do not know,” Slayer answered with a hint of excitement. “We should kill it.”
“Or stop it at least. It looks like any sort of light hurts it. You think a car’s headlights will work?”
“It would stand to reason.”
“Then let’s go.”
Jacqui ran down the hill, with Slayer floating beside her. Jacqui jumped in the driver’s seat while Slayer slipped through the back. The car roared to life with the lights on their brightest setting. Slayer directed Jacqui where to drive, using the tablet to track the extraterrestrial device.
A minute later, down a gravel road, the lights illuminated another demolished house. The creature emerged from the wreckage, hissing at the car. It flung a corpse at the vehicle, which Jacqui narrowly avoided. She spun the car back at the creature, aiming the lights at it. The lights melted away its body, and it retreated down the hill.
“It’s working,” Slayer praised.
“Yeah, but it went off the road, and I can’t get to it.”
“I can fix that.”
Slayer pulled out a shimmering purple box the size of a tennis ball from their chest and attached it to the car’s ceiling. Dozens of veins of purple light wires erupted from the box, expanding in every direction throughout the vehicle before sinking inside.
“What did you do?” Jacqui screamed.
“Modified your car to fly,” Slayer calmly explained.
Jacqui could feel the car lift up from the ground. “Woah.”
She slammed on the gas, and the car flew down the hill. In seconds, the creature was in their sights. She pressed forward, shining more light on the beast until it collapsed from its legs melting. The creature dropped its sky blackening device, causing the stars to return upon impact with the ground. Jacqui kept the car still on the creature as it melted away into a massive pool of black goo.
Slayer floated out of the car and inspected the goo. Jacqui joined.
“Is it dead?” she questioned.
“Yes,” Slayer affirmed.
Slayer returned to the car, pulled out the transformation box, returning the vehicle to normal.
“Well, that was an adventure,” Jacqui declared.
“Indeed it was,” Slayer admitted. “You should get to wherever you were going. I imagine they’ll be here soon enough to clean up this mess.”
From above, a blinding white light blasted down on them. Jacqui felt like a criminal caught in the spotlight.
Slayer slipped down through the ground. “It doesn’t matter. You’ll forget all of this soon enough.”
This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “It’s midnight, and your headlights barely pierce through the darkness settled on the road in front of you. Shaking away your exhaustion, you begin to panic as you realize you’re lost. As you reach for your phone, a voice from the back seat whispers, “Did you realize the stars are gone, too?”
Story Artwork by Chen Kang at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.
Discover more stories following Slayer via the character tag.
Have a safe holiday travel!