“Do it here,” Haimon said, waving at a spongy patch of moorland. His assistants established and prepped the core sampler on the flattened part of the hill. Once the core was taken and transported back to the science academy, they would be able to study the soil layers in microscopic detail. They hoped to discover why the planet’s biosphere had collapsed, taking major forms of life with it. All that was left on Riseden were blooms of phytoplankton in the chilly seas, a massive bone here and there, and damp, low-lying club mosses and weeds. Haimon’s boots sank partway into the muck.
Specifically, they were looking for signs that some animals, or at least their eggs, had gone into diapause or some other form of dormancy when things went south (but why?). They also needed to find some means of helping the planet recover at least part of its ravaged diversity, or they risked revocation of grant funds and public outcry from an already indignant, poverty-stricken populace. At least, out here, he was safe from them and could work in peace for what little time they had left to prove the usefulness of their research.
He nodded to the assistant manning the core sampler. But rather than meeting the expected resistance of rock, the mouth of the sampler sank too easily into the ground, causing the assistant to slip and yelp in surprise. Haimon flinched as warm liquid sprayed across his face from the wounded earth. As he wiped the crimson streaks out of his eyes, the ground rumbled, then shifted–tearing the scrubland like ripping cloth. A long, angry moaning echoed through the empty air, joined by the screams of his team as they were swallowed by collapsing soil and rock.
Haimon’s last thought was: The hills are alive, but not with the sound of music.
Charlotte was born and raised in Alaska. She moved to Philadelphia to finish a BA in English and an MS in Library and Information Science at Drexel University. In her spare time, she is a chaotic gardener and struggling fisherman. Her work has appeared (or will appear) in “Danse Macabre,” “Flashshot,” “Subtle Fiction,” “The Criterion,” and “365tomorrows.”