In Poe’s Shadow
Ed. A.W. Gifford and Jennifer L. Gifford
Publisher & Category:
Dark Opus Press
A deafening chorus of high pitched chirping echoed through the blackness and gave way to a frantic fluttering of wings as if a great host of sparrows took flight. The chirping mingled with the beating of wings became a savage rhythmic music that became a haunting unearthly music accompanied by a sensual feminine voice that penetrated the soul with an incalculable sadness. The music grew louder and louder…
Oscar Bailey’s eyes snapped open; an involuntary shudder ran through him as the music faded. He sat up in the oversized, cushioned conference table chair and rubbed his forehead.
“Sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well lately.”
“None of us have,” replied his analytical Assistant Director Dr. Anatoli Sokolov, as he clasped his hands together as if about to pray, above the folders spread before him.
“Amen to that,” added Dr. Matthew Peters, Information Technology & Communications Director.
“So,” Oscar summed up the hours long meeting in his richly decorated office, “we are alone.”
“Very much so,” Anatoli said. “The last supply ships will enter orbit in three days time. They will be the last for the foreseeable future.”
“How about forever?” Matthew responded in a barely controlled voice. “Shanghai has fallen silent. Mumbai, Moscow, Mexico City, New York City, London, and Cairo, have all gone silent.”
“We are alone,” Oscar repeated. He still heard the frantic fluttering of the sparrows; if God knew of the death of even one sparrow, maybe He was overwhelmed by the death of an entire world of sparrows. How else to explain his disappearance? “How is everyone responding?”
“Depression,” Anatoli shrugged.
“An overwhelming sense of doom and gloom among some, denial among others,” said Matthew as he gave his detached, analytical colleague an irritated look. “I wouldn’t rule out suicides in the near future.”
“Possible,” Anatoli said, “however please leave that analysis to me. Your forte is Information Technology and Communications.”
“And you’re an astronomer!”
“Gentlemen,” Oscar held up a weary hand. We cannot escape reality. Our self-imposed quarantine is in place. It’s unnecessary because there are no more visitors, nonetheless… We have contingency plans that include food and supply rationing. We’ll expand the hydroponic gardens. Waste recycling and water and oxygen mining will keep us going indefinitely. As long as the sun doesn’t go nova…”
The Mumbai Malaise