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New Worlds

The Screaming

By Tawn KrakowskiPublished 6 months ago 5 min read
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Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. But if that is true, what in the name of Gaia is that noise?

It started a few hours ago, a horrible shrieking that would crescendo and then fall silent for a time before repeating, each time building in intensity until I could almost feel it vibrating the marrow in my bones. Yet there was nothing here. I was alone in my privateer-class cargo ship with an empty hold. There were no other vessels in the vicinity according to my sensors, and I had been out of communications range of the facility on Ganymede where I made my last drop for some time when I first heard it.

I attempted to have the internal sensors locate the source, without any success. I didn't expect any, really, but if it wasn't coming from outside the ship, then perhaps I had a stowaway? But somehow, it was as if only I could hear it—the computers could detect no audible anomalies on any frequency within or without, and trust me, I checked them all.

Worse, the interval between bouts of screaming was decreasing. It was now repeating every ten minutes and lasting at least a minute and a half. At this rate, it would be a constant ear-shattering wail well before I reached Mars.

Out of desperation, I pressed the broadcast button on my center console. "This is the cargo ship Selene en-route from Ganymede to Mars. Does anyone copy?" I felt silly, calling out into the Void like a lunatic. I knew I was alone. After all, I had purposely avoided the standard shipping lanes on this leg of my route. I had nothing to deliver to Mars and I could not bear to listen to more bored space jockey prattle over the common frequency.

But someone had to be making that unholy noise. Maybe one of the Corporations had finally figured out cloaking tech and was testing in the area?

No response.

I adjusted the controls and tried again, this time broadcasting on all frequencies. "This is the cargo ship Selene. Does anyone read me?" I listened intently for even the slightest hint of static as a reply, but unsurprisingly, received no response.

I checked my timer. By my calculations, the screaming was due to begin again in two minutes, more or less. I needed to discover the source for my own sanity. The hideous sound had already severely damaged my calm and enduring even another hour would surely drive me over the edge.

I adjusted all of my sensors to maximum and programmed the computers to search for any variations in the electromagnetic spectrum within range. I then set up the communications system to record all radio bandwidths detectable. I even pulled out the antique gold-plated compass my mother had given me when I first earned my wings and placed it on the console next to me, more for luck than anything else. It only really worked properly on Earth before The Exodus.

"All right, let's do this," I whispered to myself, bracing for the inevitable.

The screaming began as it always did, a low moan saturated with pain and fear which slowly gathered in strength and pitch until it became a shrieking vortex, battering against all my senses without mercy. The sound pierced right through me, causing me to become physically ill, and I barely had time to grab a bag before my stomach involuntarily surrendered its contents. I squeezed my eyes closed in an Athenian effort to stop the reverberation of my eyeballs within my skull and clapped my hands over my ears to dampen the sound, even as it drew forth and melded with my own screams.

Then abruptly, silence.

I hunched over in my seat, panting and sweating, trying to regain my composure. I reached up and blindly punched a few buttons to program the computer to analyze the sensor reports and communications record. My ship was as familiar to me as my own body, and I didn't need to visually confirm the input of my commands while I recovered. Moments later, a tone alerted me that the analysis was complete.

"Are you kidding me?!" I slammed my fist against the display in irritation. "Nothing? There's not one tiny deviation to anything? No gamma interference, no rogue cosmic waves, not even a fluctuation in temperature? What is going on?"

"Privateer-class cargo vessel Selene, please respond." A voice suddenly emerged from the overhead speaker, startling me.

I thumbed the broadcast button and said, "This is Selene, over."

The relief in the voice was palpable, "Selene, what is your condition? We've been trying to reach you for hours."

"My condition?" I asked dumbly. "Other than the screaming, everything's fine. What do you mean you've been trying to hail me? What's going on?"

"You tell me," came the reply. "This is Ganymede Research Station Zeta. You've been... well, just sitting there ever since you entered orbit. You've been cleared to dock to unload your shipment of phytoplankton for hours now. Frankly, we were concerned you had some kind of catastrophic structural failure and were no longer with us. What happened?"

I shook my head, disoriented. I couldn't be back at Ganymede. It didn't make sense. I swiftly input the command to verify my position, and telemetry instantly confirmed that I was, in fact, exactly where Zeta Control insisted I was.

A moment later, another voice asked, "Selene, did you say something about 'screaming'?"

The question was like a splash of cold water to the face, refocusing me. "Yes, Zeta Control. Did you pick it up? The screaming? What is that? None of my sensors can detect it."

A long pause.

"Zeta Control? You still there?" My heartbeat thumped in my ears, drowning out my shallow breathing. Was there something wrong with me? Was I hallucinating right now?

"Yes, Selene, we're still here," came the slow response from the second voice. "We think it's your cargo."

"My cargo?" I repeated, confused. "I don't understand."

"We've had reports from other pilots of lost time, hallucinations, and something they all describe as 'screaming.' The only commonality in these reports is a shipment of phytoplankton."

Suddenly, the screaming began anew. Only now, a new message was woven into the whirlwind of cries: help!

My eyes fell on my mother's compass, spinning erratically in response to the magnetism of Jupiter and Ganymede, and I impulsively reprogrammed my navigation system and engaged thrusters. The screeching in my head abruptly stopped, as if in response to my actions.

"Selene! Where are you going?" Zeta Control demanded.

I powered down my communications systems in order to more easily hear my passengers.

"Where to?" I whispered.

Sci Fi
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About the Creator

Tawn Krakowski

TAWN is a jet-rated Airline Transport Pilot, serial entrepreneur, fantasy author, audiobook narrator, and Dragon Empress of Tawnlandia, an empire forged of dreams, magic, and of course, dragons. Follow #EmpressTawn on Instagram or Facebook.

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