A series of letters from a medical officer while undergoing a rescue mission on a strange and hypnotic world.
The field hasn’t been a kind to us. Though our ship has safely landed on Bedlam, a crystalline planet in the Faud’ey system, our welcome has been anything but warm. We knew the planet was only host to the single expeditionary team, and we figured they would have tried to reach us at the landing coordinates we had sent ahead of time. But, alas, we landed on a flat plane (a remarkably rare sight on a planet such as this, let me tell you) to find no sign of the expeditionary force at all. We tried scanning for them, but their tracking beacons must have been damaged, or perhaps the signal can’t penetrate the densely packed fields of crystals that extend in every direction.
Oh, my love, as much as the prospect of a missing team worries me, I must describe this planet for you. I’ll send images, of course, but they won’t do it justice. Almost the entire landscape is made up of enormous crystalline structures. Gigantic, smooth, angular skyscrapers, the color of pearls, reach up into the atmosphere, each one studded by smaller, more jagged crystals, like limbs on a tree. There aren’t just the giant ones, though, as the landscape itself is a maze of crystal obelisks, jagged outcroppings, tiny crystalline pebbles, and even entire geode clusters seemingly eroding into the sides of shimmering rock walls.
Obviously, it isn’t all crystals, and the ground seems to be a solid kind of rock, though with a faint pink hue to it. The same rock occasionally can be found in the form of large, flat, wall-like structures that extend for miles, large plateaus, and openings in the earth that seem to indicate a complex cave system. Our lab will run tests on all the crystals to ascertain their composition and function, and perhaps determine how they grew to be so prolific and tall on a planet with limited water.
I do worry for the lost team. But the way the lights from the two suns shine and refract off these crystals, sending rainbows of color streaming through the landscape, has a way of putting my cares to rest. Perhaps I have an affinity for shiny things. Though, if our trip to Carus a few years ago is any indication, I think that’s a certainty. I miss you. The light of the six moons that orbit the planet reflect off the crystals and render the planet a deep blue color at night, perfect accents to the resplendent sky. And yet, it still cannot compare to the lights in your eyes, my dear. I crave the end to this journey – yet I feel a deep responsibility to those lost souls. Being lost on an unregistered world is a fear I remember well, and do not wish upon others.
For tonight, we have made an encampment near the spot where our ship landed and have begun early tests on the various geological structures within the landscape. I hope this message finds you well, and I patiently await your response.
Yours, always. ~Agke
These past two weeks have been eventful, that much I can say with utter certainty. Everything else, on the other hand…well let’s just say I’m in a little over my head. In the few days after we landed, all seemed well. The data we were gathering seemed promising, and we were learning a lot about the landscape. But then, things took a turn for the worse when we lost two members of our cartography team. They had ventured slightly out of eyesight, and we didn’t hear from them for days. Luckily…or, perhaps, unluckily, we were able to locate and retrieve them. We had slowly been expanding our landing site in those first few days, setting up smaller campsites in a ring around the initial ship’s landing zone. Standard procedure to cover as much ground as possible without losing our way. It seems like the group before us failed to implement this strategy, as we have still found no evidence of their presence.
Regardless, when we found the two missing cartographers, they had…changed…somewhat. It seemed like they managed to become infected by some kind of virus, or perhaps infested by some sort of parasite. We found them idly sitting next to a grouping of small crystal structures that had formed a sort of spiky ball shape. They were completely nude; but all over their bodies, small crystalline lesions had somehow spread like a rash. Bright red, with flecks of orange and pink, the crystals appeared in some spots as singular dots, and in other spots as large clumps overtaking huge swathes of their bodies. The strangest part was that the lesions had fused to the skin, or perhaps the skin had been transformed into the crystals. Either way, it proved to be impossible to remove the lesions without causing serious tissue damage and pain to the two afflicted.
I’ve seen many rashes in my day, Seph, you know that. Everything from natural toxins, artificial poisons, bioweapons, carnivorous flowers, sentient weeds, pollen that can erase memory, all of it. But this rash, these crystal structures…this was something completely different. It behaved like a virus, using these bodies as its host while it multiplied and propagated. That much we could tell by looking at their blood. It seemed the crystal rash continued to spread regardless of any treatment we tried, their bodies becoming increasingly rock-like after each day. What was strange, however, was that neither of them seemed particularly bothered by the fact that this was completely overriding their molecular structure.
In fact. I’ll be honest, Seph, this bothers me, this is what frightens me the most and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this before. The fact is that these two seem to enjoy their condition, stating over and over how happy and overjoyed they were to become a part of something greater. They referred to their condition as “she” and “The All-Seeing Aurora,” constantly muttering about some vision for the world, all while their bodies continued to change. Even when they were on the brink of death, their organs slowly crystallizing and hardening, they continued to ask us if we wished to partake, if we wished to “Join the Aurora that will Illuminate the New World.” Whatever insanity that was.
The fact that both of them are saying the same things, having the same ideas – at times, even speaking in unison – bothers me. There’s something uncertain about all of this. Just yesterday, we believe the crystal infection reached their brains. Their eyes lit up from the back with bright orange and pink lights, wisping out of every opening on their faces like a fog. Their internal temperatures broke 100 degrees Celsius, yet neither of them moved a muscle in pain or fear. Their blood boiled and evaporated, their flesh and insides melted away, yet their forms did not move. Their skeletons were now hardened rock, and the only bits of form they had left were the splotches of crystal that clung to the bones like muscle and skin. While their true faces were gone, the wisps of light drifted all through the hollow vessel and seemed to maintain an image of their formerly physical form. Their voices, now broken and hollow, sounding like music from an untuned flute, could still be heard, carried softly on the wisps around them.
I’m unsure if this virus is contagious. I’m unsure if their rash will continue to spread, transforming them wholly into crystals. I’m unsure of a lot of things. I am sure that I miss you dearly and cannot wait to be with you once more. While this event has put us behind, I promise I will get to look you in your eyes again soon, my love.
Yours, always. ~Agke
Something evil lives on this planet, I can feel it. This is no mere virus, no simple parasite. If you’ll recall, in my last letter, I mentioned that the two individuals who had become overwhelmed by this virus had somehow maintained corporeality through their skeleton and parts of their skin being petrified. Well, just two weeks ago, we located the remains of the old team. In a relatively open ravine, all seventeen researchers were just standing in a tight circle. Or, rather, their bodies were. Naked, and emaciated, with their arms reaching toward the sky above them, all standing in a tightly packed circle, their eyes locked dead ahead. The strange thing with them, however, was that the entirety of their bodies had been turned to crystal-studded stone. They stood before us as hollow statues. Yet, the bright wisps of light shared by the two at our base danced and flowed around their bodies as well.
This could mean, of course, that they’re still alive and simply unable to ever move. More likely, however, perhaps they were the virus’s first test. We ran some tests on these statues, examining them inside and out using tech from our geologists. Just as we thought, their insides had been entirely melted away, with the exception of their skeleton, their nerves, and their brain, which all had been turned to stone and crystal. Curiously, our two cartographers’ bodies did have minor differences to these statues we found. For the long-lost expeditionary team, their brains had been completely petrified, along with their nervous system. With the two we lost, their brains are still very much intact, but are instead encased in crystals, and the nervous system has been completely melted away. Perhaps the virus is learning how best to keep itself alive.
I do not like the area anymore. Where once I saw beauty in the landscape, how I see only horror. My mind is kept awake at night worrying over the nature of this virus, of where it came from and what it wants. Almost every day now, someone goes missing. We’ve stopped looking. Of our original party of sixty individuals, we are now down to thirty. The more we seem to expand, venture out and graph the landscape, the less, it would seem, we grow to understand it. Large crystal obelisks act as mirrors, reflecting us and the other mirror-like surfaces across the landscape. And being lost in a sea of your own face has had…an effect…on some of those we’ve found.
Anyone who gets lost either never returns or comes back muttering to themselves about fire and chaos. The rhetoric is honestly quite concerning. One man, Dr. Kiwait, wandered slowly back into the encampment, his eyes bursting with the virus’s strange glow, shouting about how he had “seen everything,” how some strange woman had “shown me [him] the heart of the void,” and how “the only solution was dissolution, the cleansing chaos that will reforge the world.” Everyone who gets infected with this thing has said something similar, and yet we have no idea what it could mean. At night, sometimes I feel like I can hear a woman’s voice calling out to me from beyond the blue mists that coat the stone ground. I feel a strong pull toward something I cannot see. I’m resisting, but it frightens me, nonetheless.
Those of us who are left are terrified. We’ve taken a few of the infected and are treating them on the ship. We refuse to spend any more time on this nightmare of a planet and are preparing for a journey to a nearby outpost. We were sent to find the lost team and we have, along with several important discoveries about the planet. The only issue…is figuring out whether or not we leave with those affected by what we’ve been calling the Crystal Consumption. These are trying times, my love.
Yours, always. ~Agke.
I almost didn’t write this letter. Unfortunately for me, it would seem as though our mission is doomed. We decided to take the infected with us, in an attempt to bring them somewhere where they could be better treated. This was, perhaps, a grave mistake, as their infection has not only spread to others but has, in fact, evolved.
Some noticed it right away, but I was slow to catch on. The virus, in each new host, took over less and less of the body with its crystalline rash, eventually only taking what was necessary to seize control over the host. Two nurses were infected last week, the rash festering and overtaking open wounds that they both had, yet not completely destroying their bodies. Even when the infestation eventually reached their brains, they maintained their flesh and blood. The strange light poured from their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth for a day or so, but then eventually receded into only a faint light behind their skin. Their brains were encased in these crystals, and the wounds through which the virus entered became crusted in them, like a scab. They still walked around, though, able to talk and discuss personal memories, everything that a sentient life form would do. Yet, small crystal structures grew within their cells, and their brains became overtaken by the will of the disease.
They plead, argue, and proselytize some grand universal rebirth brought about by an entity they call “The Crystal Aurora, Mother of Chaos.” They promise an end to pain, an existence where presence, time, and corporeality are pushed aside, and humanity can exist among the stars, held aloft by her divine light. She asks only for us to relinquish our vessels to her, succumb to her loving embrace by letting her in. It seems as though this virus has mutated to specifically go after human victims, forcing the host to say whatever will help it spread the fastest. Perhaps this is a parasite after all…some sort of being that renders the afflicted a part of some horrific hive mind. The implications are…troublesome.
Which brings me to the final point of this letter. I cut my palm in the lab the other day. The wound has since been sealed and coated by a dense collection of crystals. I fear the worst, as I believe the virus is rapidly approaching my brainstem. I have, nonetheless, left my professional descriptions of this virus within these letters and within my personal archives, should our bodies be insufficient studying materials when our ship arrives in Darnsmouth. The course is set to autopilot. Perhaps relinquishing control wasn’t the best course of action, but my mind is becoming fuzzy, and decisiveness has since left me.
In any case, my love, this may be the last you hear from me for some time. Perhaps when we arrive, the cure will be simple and straightforward. But, then again, perhaps not. Should I lose my senses, I wish for you to know that no matter what, I will hold on to the memories that we shared. This is frightening, and painful, and a nightmarish way for my story to end, but I’m glad that the rest of my story is a shining light of love and happiness and the most joy any being has ever felt. Because I got to share it with you. Do weep for me, just a little. And, if this virus takes my mind, know that I am gone, but that the time we spent together will never be lost. I love you, Seph. Goodbye.
Yours, always. ~Agke.
Her words have flooded my senses. I am awash with theories and knowledge that lies far beyond the conception of man. I have a strange sense that my eyes are seeing farther than they ought to. My skin feels tingly, and warm, as I write this. My vision is obscured slightly by the glow of her light, but it serves to make reality seem more beautiful. Sephira, it’s so warm. So comfortable. Cozy. I feel as if I were snuggled in front of a raging fire on a cool midsummer’s eve back on Torgh-6, where we should have stayed. I am experiencing the most euphoric of blisses.
I know it’s been long since my last message. And you likely thought me dead, or worse. But, as it happens, the light of the Mother was no virus after all. It is a blessing. With her eyes, we can see to the ends of the cosmos, with her mouth we can breathe her vision into existence, with her grasp we can clutch oblivion and ascend to the realm of godhood.
She doesn’t ask for much, merely a vessel, through which she can act, and grow, gestating the new world. The Mother doesn’t control me, mind you, I can still do that for myself. But she guides me. Tells me what to do, where to be, how quickly my feet should wander. It’s peaceful. Aside from the pain.
My head aches constantly, my eyelids have long since burnt off, pinning my eyes open. Yet, somehow, my eyes do not dry. They are, nevertheless, pinned open to eternally watch the entirety of the universe slide by. It’s maddening. Places I should never be able to see. Thoughts that I could never presume to know. Knowledge that cannot be true. All of it swirls within my head and I cannot look away, I cannot simply ignore. This is knowledge that cannot be hidden, truths that must be spoken into being. The pain is worth it for the life I wish to lead. She tells me the pain is temporary, that we will all know love and pleasure when she brings about the remaking. Sometimes, I try to resist her demands, but I am weak, and she is strength.
I’ve killed fourteen people today. Or perhaps I was made to, but it felt like my decision. In the name of chaos, I suppose. In the name of forging the new world with the fires of the old. No regret lives in my soul. I don’t think I’m capable of it anymore, not with her divine light constantly present. I’m not sure I still even have a soul. My mind rings with crystalline melodies, my voice no longer speaks alone.
I’m afraid, however, that this is my final goodbye. I cannot maintain my sense of self for much longer, as even now I feel my consciousness being burned away. This light is beyond mortality, it was not designed for those as weak as we.
I suspect I’ll be a mere puppet soon, another failed case that our Mother could not save. No matter. I’m sure this message will find you, somehow.
Have a good life, my love, and please do not search for me, for I promise you, I’ll be gone. And fear not the coming of the new world, for what is used to melt may also be used to temper. Destruction before creation, this is the way of the world she will create. Let the old world burn, and she will perfect existence for the beings to come.
Hers. Eternally. ~Agke.
About the author
Are you a lore junkie? Do you enjoy diving into cool and exciting universes?
Then come join me, as I will use this site to build a massive, interconnected universe of stories.
The genre? Science Fiction. The rules? Nonexistent.