Monolith 2

FLASH Fiction Challenge 100 — Day 24

The monolith had always stood there. When the heavens and earth formed, it was already there. As soon as there was light, the first thing illuminated was the monolith. When the continents began slowly sliding apart from each other, they slid around the black stone monolith.

It was precisely 13 meters tall. It would appear to sink into the earth at times or sit stoically in a pool of water before the seas receded and the first signs of life arose, but there were always 13 meters of it sticking above the ground or the water or the snow.

No one ever saw the monolith. It had sat idle for millennia, watching, waiting for the conditions that would produce life. And then, millions of years after the smallest multicellular creatures crawled out of the primordial muck, man arrived. The monolith began to awaken, to learn, and plan. No one ever saw it; the monolith had no wish to be seen. It had an overwhelming need to be heard, but never seen.

For a period, the monolith sat in a cornfield. The farmer who owned the field smoothly guided his oxen and til around the shy monolith, gently tapering around the tall, dark stone structure, unaware that he was doing so. If his oxen were skittish as they passed by the softly humming black stone, the farmer never saw or heard any signs of their distress.

Season after season, the stone sat like a giant among children as the corn grew skyward. When the corn grew, the winds blew through the field the closer plants would brush against it. Its leaves would turn black overnight, and the corn became bitter, inedible. The farmer called it cursed corn and wouldn’t even feed it to his hogs.

The soil in the field was rich, loamy, and fertile. For hundreds of years, it was farmland. As the oxen and til were gradually replaced by tractors and combines, first manned, then unmanned, the pattern was always the same. Whether it was a human or some sophisticated artificial intelligence guiding the heavy equipment through the fields, the monolith always stood fast with its invisible buffer around it.

You could look directly at it, but somehow your eye never registered its presence. When your eye pointed towards it, you would become bored, and your eye would quickly scan onto something more visually interesting. So the monolith that had waited millions of years for sentient life to arrive remained unobserved by that life once it turned up.

Unseen, but not inert.

Once two people, young lovers, had picnicked in its shadow. For hours, they sat on their blanket, eating their chicken sandwiches, potato salad, salads, sipping wine, and watching the sunset. The whole time they were there, they sat soaking in the black stone’s inaudible hum, mentally absorbing the subliminal messages radiating from it. For hours, imperceptible stimuli bombarded them. After the sun had set, they made love under the stars, repacked their basket, and returned home.

The following morning, the housekeeper found them dead in their bed, brutally murdered. Police could never make out exactly what had transpired. Amongst all the gore, bloodied linens, one severed arm (hers), five detached fingers (his), and one penis, they also found a hammer and a long butcher’s knife. Outwardly it had looked as though they had murdered each other. Their two families, hysterical in their fresh grief, immediately cried foul. It was undoubtedly a staged murder scene; they had insisted, and the perpetrator was trying to avoid capture. The couple had been in love. They had been high school sweethearts. Later, college sweethearts. Then they married. No one could ever remember them having the smallest of fights. It was a setup. And neither seemed to suffer any of the typical defensive wounds. There was too much wrong with the scene. Every detective assigned to the case knew from the start that this case would quickly find its way to the unsolved file and stay there forever.

The monolith was not invisible, however, merely reluctant to be seen. It reflected light. But the magick surrounding it meant that no intelligence could register its form. Except in the light of a full moon, the monolith never cast a shadow. One young man, a camper that the monolith had drawn to it, woke in the middle of the night, left his tent to pee, but on his way back to his tent, he saw the unholy shadow like some shimmering mirage. He stood captive in the shadow for the entire hour as the moon slowly traversed across the field. When the moon moved far enough away, the shadow just disappeared. The young camper returned to his tent, found his gun, and turned it on himself.

Little by little, it grew stronger. It increased its range. It lured hunters to nap in its invisible shade, absorb its destructive messages. It lured teenagers to throw wild parties, and despite how loud their music was, every one of them heard without awareness, every sick, twisted thing the monolith planted in their young brains. Then the stone would release them. The hunters would wake and return home to their families. The teenagers would tire of the party and head home, but not before picking up a stone or a thick branch, just because it had looked ‘cool.’

The field where the monolith had always sat – as the world orbited around it – was bought by some corporation. The entire area razed and then paved. Then frenetic months of construction. Finally, the amusement park was complete. The monolith sat in the center of a carousel, grinning, ready to speak its message, waiting to feed.

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