The ones that came before.


I did not understand it, and frankly, no one did.

What caused the Soviets to keep their victory a mystery? They claimed Mars years before we even placed men upon the surface. Something frightened them so much that they’d rather swallow their pride, than speak about the events that proceeded.

They had won the space race. The greatest achievement in recent decades and yet, they do not speak about it.

The Soviet flag sits upon the surface of Mars, in solitude from everything, even from those that placed it within the dusty furnace of the planet’s soil.

The American crew that arrived, alongside me, touched the surface a few days ago. Ever since we arrived, something has not been right. I feel on edge, cold shivers dance upon my neck, and I have trouble sleeping. I do not know what causes me to feel the way I do, but I know that something is not right.

The only trouble we are having since arriving is interference from the storm, limiting communication with the ISS, the International Space Station, and our headquarters in New York City.

Perhaps that is why I feel uneasy, knowing that we are isolated from the rest of humanity.

Yes, that is it.

We are currently staying inside the ship, due to the storm. Just watching the crackle of the lights outside within the multicoloured sky is breathtaking. Nothing in the books I’ve read have ever captured a scene quite like this. I was in awe.

The red soil was reminiscent of the Texan soil I was so familiar with. Growing up on a farm in a small county often left me wondering about the greater world and the sky I often gazed up, I had now explored.

The other astronauts were quiet, with the interaction between us all being limited. It was unusual; we were often quite talkative on the trip here, between rest periods.

I spent the first few days just documenting data, checking various parts of the ship for operational information and staring through the window wondering why we were alone, with a flag in the distance beckoning us with its mysteries.

Between reading various novels, I brought along on the journey (Charles Dickens novels make the majority) and drinking lots of coffee due to my insomnia and nerves due to the current situation, I decided to dedicate my time to researching Soviet flight records within the reports we brought with us from headquarters.


It seems the Soviets spent the decade of the 1970’s dedicated to research of Mars and the technology needed to achieve the long distance to the planet’s surface. From 1980-1985 Soviet Union data is missing, perhaps removed from various records.

Within this period I believe the Soviets launched a shuttle into space. With the events of the Cold War escalating after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it would be the perfect time to confirm a shuttle launch due to the arisen tension being on that of military actions I theorised.

The question is, however, how were the Soviets able to place the first man-made object on the moon in 1959, but were unable to win the race to put the first man on the moon? Within 20 years it seemed they improved their technology drastically and were able to correct their loss by placing men on Mars instead. That is quite impressive but more so disturbing. If they triumphed over previous odds and advanced their technology so quickly, would they not brag? That is what frightens me.

Something terrified the Soviets incredibly that they remain silent.

I was worried I’d find out.


Another sleepless night just like the nights before. I was gripped by nightmares of strange voices calling my name and the firm feeling of being watched, followed by dark corridors and cool stones surrounding me.

I was much too tired to dedicate more research into the Soviet records. Insomnia was taking a large toll on my physical and mental well-being. I decided to try sleeping again. This time I switched the light off and placed a rag over my eyes, hoping to dim any lights that were made apparent within the room.


A high temperature, that was what I awoke with. Sweat stained my sheets, and I shivered relentlessly, unable to calm my body spasms.

I grasped the bottle next to my bed and gulped the water, feeling the cold crawl down my throat.

More nightmares.

I saw shadows of strange folk inching through the halls of the old building in which I traipsed through. They were toying with me, whispering lines in languages unknown. The house groaned, the beams on the roof creaking with every step I took. It sounded as if the very house was alive and angry at my presence.


The other astronauts mentioned nightmares as well. They all looked terrible, their eyes sunken in and often I caught them gazing through the window. Their eyes looked distant as if they were physically next to me, but mentally somewhere else. I wondered where that somewhere else was.

I was granted a few hours of sleep last night and thus felt more rejuvenated. It is a miracle the effect that sleep can have on the body. I did, however, have a dream of the groaning house again, but for reasons unknown, the house began to change into Mars. I was curious as to where these dreams were arriving from. I did not have much of a creative mind, rather that was more my brother than myself. I preferred data. It was succinct and applicable, the way I approached situations.

I, however, could not come up with a theory for this predicament.

Perhaps science could not answer all problems.


My hand was bleeding. Crimson painted my sheets, and my skin burned as if on fire. I could not rationalise this situation; something had attacked me in my sleep. Either that or I’m going batshit crazy and broke my knuckles.

I did not know what theory was better.


The Soviet flag stared at me. It intimidated me. I was angry, and I did not know why.

They told me they were upset in my dream. I wished I could stop their suffering, but alas I was forbidden to lay sight upon them.


I hadn’t seen the others in a few days. It seemed more quiet than usual. The storm began to worsen outside, the howling of the winds remained etched in my mind even in sleep.

I could barely hear myself think over the crackle of the thunder. We were running dry on food supply. I was going to write a ration table I thought, perhaps to show the others that my position was just as needed as theirs was.


Mum told me when I was little that I had to quit my small town mindset and accept others who were different to me. She said that we were all similar and aliens didn’t exist because the only aliens were folk we did not know and if we spoke to others who were different, we’d be better off.

I took her advice last night.


We spoke again. They said we would never understand them.

The ones that came before didn’t understand either.


I need to go. If I stay they will take me.

They told me they took the others.


I found God, and there are many of him.

If you are reading this, burn down your places of religion immediately.

They are coming for you. They are not happy.

This short story was influenced by a writing prompt on Reddit, in the Sub-Reddit “Writing Prompts”.

Winters Breath – Part 4


“This him eh?”

I could not see out of my left eye nor talk. Generalis made sure of that. Blood was everywhere, even in my goddamn mouth. Lost some teeth as well and gained a bruised eye in action.

“Yeah, I know he’s not much to look at, but he’s the one whose been causing you so much trouble,” Generalis stated. From what I could see, he was talking to a group of the Hunters inside the courtyard. It was a terrifying sight.

“Why should we buy him and not just take him from you?” One of the Hunters said, his deep voice a combination of grunts followed by a snarl.

Muttering could be heard all around, with agreeance being the frequent sound.

“Better friends than enemies I do dare say. Would it not be better to be trade partners rather than enemies? Imagine the benefit that could be had. I could supply you with stock—”

“But we could just take your “stock” if we so wanted to,” another of the Hunters said, interrupting Generalis. From what I could see, he was pale as the snow surrounding us and wore dark wolf pelts as clothing. He held a spear.

“As I said, allies are better than enemies. Our true value lies in loyalty.”

I scoffed without meaning it. Beautiful lie I thought. I received a backhand by the nearest guard, my ears began ringing in response.

I knew my humour would land me in trouble one day.

“And why here did your little pet have a chuckle? Did he catch you in a lie?” The leader of the Hunters spoke in a sarcastic tone. It was intimidating.

“No, this “pet” is just mentally deranged.” He emphasised the word pet and spat on the floor as he said it.

“We knocked him around too much, and now he’s gone loony. Our bad,” Generalis continued.

All I could taste was the strong flavour of iron mixed with bile within my mouth. It was freezing, and I felt myself shivering, perhaps from a fever or from fears, I was unsure.

With the limited vision I had, I could see individuals facing each other in deathly stances, trying to intimidate the other, a sad image. Before the Change, we were ordinary folk, and now we have become things we were not. Perhaps these beasts were always inside of us, but societies rules kept us in check.

It was a sad sight. Even writers would have a hard time romanticising this scene, I thought.

Now we are abominations, fighting the very last humans for no reason other than want and desires. We could have cooperated with the others and helped one another to rebuild the world, but instead, we chose destruction and death. I know the world will never be the same, it will never heal. Even if the sun slowly becomes stronger again, it will be no use. Our fates are sealed.

I often wondered if it would be a better choice for the world to just die. Maybe it’d save humanity, leaving us a legacy that we could not dampen anymore than we already have.

As I watched these folk continue to argue, with weapons brandished and curses flying sharp at one another, I hoped for an end to the suffering I endured.

I am tired of this all.

Gunfire woke me. My ears were pierced by the echo of the bullets ricocheting off nearby steel. The suffering will not end, but maybe I can outrun it I wishfully thought. Without a second glance, I heaved myself forward between the nearby buildings as my stomach shuttered from losing blood, leaving the conflict in the courtyard behind.

Barking followed me as I dived through the window closest to me, shattering the glass and slicing my arm. I looked up and gasped, my eyes in shock.

A girl sat in the corner.

That girl was Martha.

To read part 3 of Winters Breath, click here!


Winters Breath – Part 3


My stomach dropped at the question, and an instant feeling of nausea filled my body. I had only a few moments to answer before they realised something was not right.

“Thomas, how did she die? Where’s her brother?”

I took a deep breath and proceeded to lie through my teeth.

“We were attacked by hunters along a wooded path a few hours from town. We tried to hold our own, but with only one gun, we were soon outnumbered.”

I faked a few tears just to be sure it was believable.

“Drew got impaled by a spear and soon after, out of anger or sadness or maybe both, Martha sacrificed herself and told me to run to tell the tale. They were both heroes, especially Martha.”

Sweat ran down the back of my neck, a warm entity opposing the cold outside. The wind outside rattled against the walls of the building, shrieking at the inhabitants inside, myself included. The fire inside continued to burn, using the pages of books and rubbish as kindle.

“We will remember them and their stories. Do not forget Thomas, you were meant to survive. Their sacrifice will not be in vain.”

He continued,” But I have a question for you. Did you shake the hunters off your trail on the way here?”


“And why not?”

“I don’t know. I was scared.”

I fidgeted, playing with my clothes. Perhaps to distract my mind from wandering thoughts. If it’s not one thing, its another. I wish things went my way at least once but alas, that would be called luck and that is something I lack dearly.

I knew I was a piece of shit, but you could not blame me. Survival is key and the state of the world in which it is, only the smart and liars survive. All the others are just awaiting their time to meet their fate. A sad truth.

The man smiled in front of me. It was colder than the ice outside.

“Thomas, what is my name?”

I thought intently. I do not recall him ever telling me his name. He just found me one day sick and knocking on his door, covered in bile and blood. From that day forward I was a member of the town.

“I do not recall. Maybe watching Martha and Drew die has caused me to forget.”

“Generalis. That’s my name. I plan to do what my name intends and protect this town.”

I was now confused and did not understand which direction he wished this conversation to continue to.

Generalis continued,” And due to my job, I have to do what is right. Sometimes even if its hard and I know will weigh upon my conscious.”

In the distance, chanting could be heard, along with the occasional sound of gunfire perpetrating the stillness.

He glanced at the two men standing near him faces covered by rags and goggles, hands upon their rifles, and nodded at each.

“He’s a murderer and a fucking liar. Bring him outside. We have some trading to do.”

To read Part 2 of Winters Breath, click here!