Hello, there!

I want to share a horror short story I wrote a while ago. I hope you guys enjoy it, have a good read:

The blacked soil was dry and warm. But at the top of the watchtower, the wind howled cold.

The last man waited until dark to make his move. He had felt the warm sand lose its heat, along with the burned remains which accumulated around it. Many tried to run, some from despair, others from opportunity. Both had failed.

“Stand still.” — The piece of paper in his pocket read. For him, the worst of it was the sound. The single-eyed watchtower moved its machinery from one corner to another. The metal in its spine crackled at every turn as if it screamed in unrest, as an ancient, tired force demanding to be left undisturbed, enraged by awakening to perform its duty one final time.

When the all-seeing eye turned again, the man began to crawl through the dirt and dust. –“No longer.” — Thought him. Silence was the key since the watchtower could neither speak nor smell, but it heard, as it had with the ones before the man and the others before them. On his fourth finger, once unrecognizably bright and shiny, the ring hadn’t for many times shone, although, despite the blood and mud, there was still the name “Eleanor.” Like many things in his life, she was long gone, in an era when trees had not fallen, seas had not drought, where days were longer, and the nights were shorter. Thought the man — “No more.”

Two hundred meters passed, and he kept undetected. When the searchlight’s glare unavoidably returned, it faced the man. Immobile, blended among the corpses, he musted to stand his ground, so he stood. He had often performed this shift, to the point of becoming a corpse himself too. Even without peeking, the man could feel the machine’s eye staring, wandering, and wondering. A feeling that chilled his spine, and the light beam burnt the back of his neck. The man could not tell the time elapsed since no time was left to be told. All that remained was the watchtower. And it hated him.

To some, it embodied an otherworldly kind of fright. The fear of the unknown — As a writer once said — was the most primitive yet terrifying of them all. To others, it was a devilish creation, the final result of a society’s war machine, either ours or the ones before us. Hidden in the plain sight of a decaying Earth or brought as a judgment tool from a higher force, the watchtower was there. And it judged us.

It began with our streets, roads, and bridges. Then, our forests, rivers, and the life between. Finally, when none was left of the people’s lands and the world above, it took our sky. They tried to outnumber, outsmart, and even outrun it. But the machine stood unrivaled. As sudden as it began, the age of man was over, and only the watchtower remained.

The man had crawled a few meters more to the bottom of the feet of two trunkless legs, the ruins of masonry work, from a time when men were made only in their own image. Near them, up the hill, a haunting sight: a mother and her daughter, probably the last of their kind as well, who struggled to sneak past the searchlight’s range.

Similar to the man, the watchtower reduced them to the sole instinct of survival. With insides ablaze and bodies undercooked, the women had their names, skin color, voices, and spirits annihilated. The three of them acknowledged and shared each other’s burdens. They were about to be digested after being fed to the underbelly of a dying hollow — humanity’s lost paradise. — part flesh, part machine.

They looked at the man, and he looked at them as if they were his to guard. With nowhere to run or hide, the restless mother refused to bow her head once the watchtower looked upon them. She covered her daughter’s eyes in solace one more time and

offered the burned man her farewell. The last of women faced the watchtower with a wrinkled sneer and frown of sore defiance. They welcomed its embrace: all the chunks of scrap and stone gravitated towards the machinery, little and big ones, pulled by an unidentified power source of a doomsday device.

The man felt the sand below him boil again when the mighty watchtower drained all the remaining matter from the soil perverted by its hatred, as a child who gathers the strength in the air to scream as hard as they can. And it screamed. The machine unveiled an inhumane sound, which sent shivers to the man’s spine, evoking post-traumatic memories from a world-ending war that was never fought. In an unleashed tempest of thunder and light, a radioactive white swallowed the starless night. A mother and her offspring met their demise.

The machine began to resume its routine while the air in flames was extinguished within a maddening calmness that perpetrated the valley along the hills. “Maybe this is what it feels like.” — Thought the man. — To meet an end in a wrongful ruler’s will. No panic, no suffering, nor despair. A painless, tasteless, and meaningless death, no trace to be tracked, no tale to be read, no tear to be shed. The burned man dared to curse the gods, but they either turned a blind eye or blinded themselves.

He remembered the sirens, the smell of melting metal, and the sound of pouring water. People stormed raiders, and storms raided their homes. When the fire consumed their guns and gold, the floods consumed the fire. He remembered an old man who sat far from the tree.

“I told them it was here.” — He said. — “They said it was in the books. They said it was in our heads. I told them it was here, but they did not see it or want to see it. Now it sees us.” — Shortly after, the tree fell, and then the old man. Eventually, they fell too.

At dawn, the burned man’s night started to fade. Up the hill, where his wife and daughter beheld his shade, an unwelcomed

peace invaded his soul. He held the women’s ashes upright and fulfilled his oath. The machine glared at his mane. Unfazed, the man’s terror and sorrow were finally his to tame. At a distance, the last of the boys mourned upright, and the scarf around his neck flew like a cape.

The burned man nodded at him and witnessed the most beautiful sunrise ever ‘fore made.

This story was originally published at: https://medium.com/@dohlerarthur/the-watchtower-242f711c7eb8. Please, consider subscribing if you liked it. Thanks.

submitted by /u/herr_boogeyman


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