“THE DISTRESS CALL: PART 1 of 3” by Scott Donnelly #MicroTerrors
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“Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids”™ 2023
Welcome to Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids, where it’s always the spooky season – full of chills, thrills, and spine-tingling spooks! Micro Terrors are family-friendly frights for those ages 8 and up. And while our stories are for younger ears, we are still talking about things that go bump in the night, and some children may not be able to handle what others can. Parental consent is recommended. Now… for tonight’s MICRO TERROR!!!!
THE DISTRESS CALL
Space. The final frontier.
I had heard that somewhere. Maybe a school textbook? Perhaps from one of
those old cheesy sci-fi things that my dad used to obsess over (and eventually paved the way for his future career)? Either way, it was true. It was the only place unexplored to its fullest that humankind has not completely explored.
According to the ancient history books, it all started with explorers crossing the sea to discover (or at least become aware of) other places to settle and build. The next logical place was the moon which people first went to over a century ago. Then, infection and disease started to spread across the planet.
There were two options: the vastness of space or the depths of the ocean. If humanity was going to survive to the next century, we needed to conquer, one or the other, to guarantee humanity’s continuance. While space was tinkered with, plans to build an under-the-ocean oasis were set forth. Unfortunately, hidden deep within the ocean, fiction became reality when giant, leviathan-like creatures began to emerge from a long slumber.
Humanity was now left with only one choice: space. And time was running out before the leviathan’s started to adapt to land, which they eventually did, but humans were able to kick it into gear, focus and work together for once. Born from that was Humanity’s Promise, a truly massive exploration vessel for the cosmos with a long-term course set for Proxima Centauri – the closest star to Earth which astronomers believed to have habitable planets orbiting it.
The goal was to send Humanity’s Promise, crammed full of experts, military personnel, scientists and hundreds of families, in hopes that one day they (or their future descendants) would reach the set coordinates and be able to start terraforming one of the new habitable worlds believed to be there.
But several years after Humanity’s Promise launched, all contact was lost. There was nothing; no transmissions, no energy pulses, not even a blip on the radar. I always thought it collided with one of Earth’s several thousand satellites that were out there because, well, wouldn’t that be ironic; we would have doomed ourselves by sending so many things out there to begin with. But the government had a plan already in place. A second, identical ship, appropriately called Humanity’s Last Hope, had also been built at the same time as the first one. It’s identical mission was International Priority #1. And just as the leviathans made landfall and consumed people, animals and decimated cities, Humanity’s Last Hope was launched. It was captained by Elson Olsen, the prized astronomer and industrialist that spearheaded the creation and intent of ‘Last Hope. He was also my father.
And being my father meant that he put my safety first above everyone else’s on board the ship. So when things started to go awry several years into the journey, just as it had for Humanity’s Promise, he decided to put me in a cryogenic chamber until things settled. Being so young, I didn’t know what the trouble was; I remembered a lot of chaos, alarms blaring and chatter about a mysterious distress call coming from somewhere out in space.
That was all I could dream about. Until the beeping and de-pressurizing of the cryogenic chamber woke me.
I slowly woke from my slumber, just as those leviathan’s did all those years ago. I exited the chamber, rubbing my eyes from the deep sleep. The room I exited the chamber into was cold and dark; the metal floor felt like ice against my feet. As my eyes tried to adjust, I felt around for one of the control panels that each room on the ship was equipped with. They controlled the lights, temperature, door locks and even had a communications system built in. And if I remembered correctly, it was located near the door.
I shuffled across the cold floor until I felt the wall. I felt around and finally grazed the touch screen panel with my finger tips. I tapped it a few times and was blinded by its LED glow as it powered up. It made a comforting chime as it fully came to life. I squinted, fighting off the brightness until my eyes finally adjusted to the screen. The first thing I saw was the time and date ticking across the bottom:
2:24 AM. Wednesday, January 10th, 2145.
My stomach immediately knotted up. “Well that’s not good,” I said out loud to myself. My last memories were from the year 2095. By math standards, I had been cryogenically frozen for, like, fifty years.
“I better not have a mustache!” I shouted in a panic, spinning around to look for a mirror. I settled for my reflection in the window. My young, preteen face was still in prime condition and appeared transparent, like a ghost, against the backdrop of deep space outside.
I then thought of the alarms that were blaring fifty years ago. I remembered the chaos, the mysterious distress call that seemed to confuse and rattle everyone. I remembered my dad frantically trying to keep me safe by shoving me into the, well, time capsule. “You’ll be safe here,” he said, “I’ll get you out in a few minutes.”
Yeah, good job, Dad, I thought. A few minutes, fifty years, what’s the difference? And what did I need to stay safe from exactly? What was happening to cause such mass panic on the ship? I needed answers. Surely someone was around to help me understand. Possibly even my dad, but if fifty years had gone by and he didn’t let me out, I was sure something must have happened to him. I tried not to let my imagination run too wild until I got some answers. Maybe there was a perfectly plausible explanation for everything.
After a moment with the control panel, I had light in the room. I put on some socks and shoes that I found in a cache box against the wall. I grabbed a flashlight and a granola bar. One bite in and I was already dropping crumbs on the floor. I went back to the control panel and unlocked the door. It beeped, unlatched and slid open.
I was surprised by how quiet the ship was. Where there was once a chaotic scene of panic and mass confusion, was now nothing but a labyrinth of cold, silent, empty corridors.
“Hello?” I called out, but my small voice only echoed. There was no response from anyone.
Suddenly, the ship vibrated as the air recycling system kicked on. Warm air started to blow from vents high on the ceiling, making dust webs flutter between their steel grates. I walked from hall to hall, calling out for anyone. “Dad? Charlotte?”
Charlotte was a friend of mine. She was Tillman’s daughter. Tillman was the head mechanic on the ship. We used to run around and play hide and seek together. And in a ship the size of a small city, complete with teleportation booths that could take you from one end of it to the other, the hiding places seemed endless.
I approached a storage room. The door sensed my body in front of it and it slid open. The room wasn’t as brightly lit as the rest of the ship, so I aimed my flashlight and guided the beam around inside of it. There were metal crates, barrels and more cache boxes with supplies. The vent above me blew more warm air. It smelled hot; it was adjusting to not having been on in a long time.
I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I was starting to accept the fact that I may have been the only one on board. If I could make it to a teleportation booth and get to the control room, I would be able to access diagnostics and details on the ship’s log. That would hopefully supply me with some answers. And I had my fingers crossed that maybe some of the crew was over that way.
I located the closed booth, it was only a few minutes walk from the storage room. I tapped the control panel and plugged in my end coordinates; Sector 1, Command Center Block.
The door slid shut and the machine turned on. A white light filled the booth and I was broken down into billions of microscopic parts. I was rebuilt to perfection seconds later in another booth on the opposite side of Humanity’s Last Hope. I was in Sector 1, a block of control rooms, command centers and the pilots operations area (basically the cockpit, but much larger).
The door to the main command center slid open, and as soon as it did so, I could hear an alert beeping on one of the 72 inch display screens. I rushed over to it and read the alert out loud to myself.
“System Status: Locked. Multiple systems on the server. Release foreign system from main server.”
Foreign system? What did that mean? I glanced over my options on the screen and there was one that said ‘Detach Second System’. My finger hovered over the option for a moment, but I was unsure if I should do it. I was well-read in computer sciences, most people were these days since “technology was the future”. That was a phrase our teachers and mentors would repeat irritatingly often. It got to the point where it seemed like humanity was afraid of technology and wanted to try to stay one step ahead of it. The leviathans, though, are what they should have been afraid of. Not technology. Our technology was sound. We had always been ahead of it. Even when artificial intelligence was in its infancy, there was concern that it would learn and grow on its own. But, our sciences got ahead of that worry and put it to rest. There was no way our technology could backfire.
I tapped the screen and the red box that “Detach Second System” was in turned green. Humanity’s Last Hope shook slightly like something had physically detached. Whatever I had done had brought more of the ship back to life. More screens and monitors lit up. The HLH Chronicle appeared on the screen next to me. The Chronicle was developed by my dad as a way to digitally detail events on the ship through audio and visual technology. The top event on the list had already been updated to include my long-awaited emergence from cryogenic sleep. I tapped it and watched a night vision video of me coming out of the chamber, rubbing my eyes and stumbling around in the dark.
I went back to the Chronicle. The second one down had the date and year from when I was put in the chamber. That was the last event prior to me waking up. I tapped it and watched a video on the screen of people running and screaming around the ship. I swiped to the next video and my heart started to pick up speed. The scene was in the docking bay. Soldiers filled the room, all with their weapons aimed at the octagon-shaped airlock. I knew from being kicked out of the docking bay during hide and seek sessions with Charlotte that beyond the airlock doors were where other ships would dock with ours. The ships would be separated by a short tunnel for decompression.
A second system, I thought. Could a second ship still have been attached all these years later? And whatever that system was connected to, could it have been the same source that sent out the distress call?
I watched my dad enter the screen and put his hands up as if he were in control of the entire operation that was going down. This all must have occurred after he put me in the cryogenic chamber. I flipped on the audio and heard his voice echo through the docking bay.
“Be sure to hold your fire! We need to be sure first!” my dad shouted to his crew of soldiers.
Suddenly, the airlock whooshed open, splitting straight down the middle. I leaned in to see what was coming from the other side of it. A series of laser blasts from the soldiers’ guns erupted, and then—
—the monitor glitched and shut off. The lights in the command room started to flicker. I looked around and my heart rate increased. All of the monitors and screens were glitching with static and horizontal lines; some shut off completely. I felt as if I was being watched and my instinct told me to turn around.
Perfectly framed within the threshold of the command room doorway was a figure shrouded in the shadows created by the strobing glow of the glitching screens and flickering lights. It was a man, I could tell, tall and brooding. He stepped into the room, the glinting lights now giving him a face.
It was my dad.
“Dad!” I exclaimed, running to him with open arms. However, he put his arms up to stop me. I did as he motioned.
“Please,” he said in an odd tone, “Don’t. Touch. Me.”
Tune in next time for part 2 of our story!
Thank you for listening to Micro Terrors!!! Join us each Saturday for another scary story! For more fun, visit our website at MicroTerrors.com where we also have spooky games you can print out and play — like wicked word searches, mysterious mazes, and more! MicroTerrors.com is also where you can find us on your favorite social media and even send in your own scary story for us to tell! Plus, you’ll learn more about our author, Scott Donnelly, who has other horrors for both young and old! I hope you’ll join me again soon for Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids!