The Signal – Prompt Inspired

I undertook this prompt to try out writing something other than “swords and sorcery” fantasy and reality-based fiction. The prompt was:

A Sci-Fi story where humans are strong, smart, and feared in comparison to the other intelligent races.

Found, naturally, on reddit.


The tense silence stretched onwards as we stood, pike-staffs at the ready, and faced the intruders. Three of them were lined up before us, and my Pod and I looked straight upon the one furthest to the left. I could feel the panic welling up inside our bodies and I could not stop shifting my weight from my forelegs to my hindlegs, unable to decide upon the best stance to take. We had never been combat trained for a being such as this.

Its long, bulky body soared well beyond the height of even the tallest of our rank, and we had already discovered the toughness of its white skin when we launched our first test assault. None of the beings had made a sound since exiting their shiny rock, nor had they made any obvious communication gestures. How they coordinated their exploration, I had no idea.

There was another Pod of these beings in the background, wobbling slightly as they walked towards us in their strange two-legged way. Their difficulty in controlling their movements reminded me of a youngling taking its first steps, and whenever they moved their limbs it was like they were partially splinted and only able to move in certain directions. We hoped this impairment would be advantageous for us, should battle become necessary.

For now, though, battle was not our greatest desire. We we were content to just watch and wait to see how events unfolded, so we stared patiently into the black voids of their featureless faces as we tried to establish their intentions.

A crackling infiltrated the air, barely audible. The body before us turned its head slightly to look at a member of the rear Pod that was slowly waving an object around itself. The huge, perfectly spherical head in front of us bobbed slightly, and the three leaders reached up to their necks with their awkward top-limbs. I felt every member of my Pod tense with me, and adjusted my grip on my staff. There were several clicks and the sound of hissing air, and then being grabbed hold of its head and pulled. We chittered in shock and disgust as the being began to remove its own head.

The intruders reacted to our reaction, taking several clumsy steps backwards. It soon became clear that what had appeared to be a head was actually just some sort of carapace, although why they wanted or needed to remove this protection I have never understood. But what lay beneath that carapace proved to be even more disgusting than the apparent self-decapitation.

Huge, white, boggling eyes sat forwards in the being’s pudgy face, flicking around constantly. A strange trunk stretched from head to body, seeming to quiver and stretch due to some internal process. As it used one bulky white hand to rub what I began to understand as some sort of sub-scale head, the skin squished and bulged around it. The flexible skin seemed to move completely freely, except for the bizarre triangle stuck firmly in the centre.

In some ways I felt this being resembled us – it had many similar body parts, even if they looked all wrong and were in very strange places – but it’s delicate-looking skin was pink and swollen like a youngling born scaleless or an adult suffering from Scalewaste. The more we looked, the more disgusting it became, and our anxious chittering did not cease.

A hole opened up in the face of the first intruder, and I felt my Pod’s confusion and wariness. Moments later we discovered that this hole was their voicer, as a sound more terrible than any other I have ever heard emerged from its depths.

It was so deep and contained such vibrations that I felt my ears begin to swell and bleed, and we all ran backwards to get away from the source of the pain. Some of us fell to the ground, dropping our pike-staffs to clutch at our ears as we screeched in agony. The intruder stammered and stopped voicing, its eyes becoming even more boggled than before. Its companions looked at one another with an expression I simply could not read.

They began to voice as quietly as they could between one another, but the horrible noise carried and we backed further and further away. As we cried out again they turned back to us with the same strange expression.

But then they held their top-limbs up in front of them, ends pointed upwards with the flat bit facing us, and the red puffy flesh around their voicers turned up at the corners.

Every single one of their voicers had moved to that position so we knew it meant something, but what? Joy at causing us pain? Unlikely, as they tried to prevent it. They were strange indeed, but they did not seem evil. Sadness for causing us pain? Certainly more likely, but why just stand there like that? Do those puffy bits of flesh aid communication for them – was it just like voicing? Was this a belated greeting? The lack of understanding was infuriating.

One of the beings at the front moved one top-limb so that it made a straight line away from its body. Whatever this meant, its companions seemed to understand it, and they all turned to stumble back to the strange shiny rock in which they had arrived.

Much time passed, but still we waited in position to see these events to their conclusion. After a time, a hole opened up in the rock and one of the beings exited once more. It looked to us and began waving its top-limbs around in front of it. Back and forth, they went, from it’s body to us, back and forth. We backed away in fear, stumbling over one another as we rapidly retreated, recognising the beginnings of magic and wanting to get as far away from it as possible. The being disappeared inside the rock again.

For a time nothing happened, but we stayed away from these strange, strange things. A deafening roar suddenly filled the air, and we turned and ran away in a panic. I felt the sticky blood ooze past my feelers that were clamped over my ears, and I began to feel dizzy and faint. That horrible sound echoes in my head to this day, and all other sounds seem muffled in comparison.

A blast of heat hit my back and I felt my scales melt and fuse together. The hills to which we ran as we fled to the safety of our underground burrows were suddenly lit up in a fantastic light that flickered and danced. I could not resist the urge to see what magic these beings had finally wrought, and turned to see a magnificent fountain of colour emanating from the bottom of the rock. It was so bright, brighter than both of our suns combined, and oh did it burn my eyes. But I thought the magic of seeing that rock lift up and away from our land to dive into the lilac heavens was absolutely worth it.

That was five suns ago now, and since then we have lost a thousand. Thousands and thousands more are sick, and unlikely to recover. I have taken back all that I said about the memories of that day being worth the after-effects. They are definitely not worth this.

The Elders have decided that the upturning of the red voicer-flesh was a signal, a code, a subtle piece of outlander magic that triggered whatever destructive force has been unleashed upon us. We do not know why they came, and we do not know why they wanted to hurt us. All we know is that they will surely be back to finish the job, and we will be destroyed.


So this one was interesting for me. As I said, I have never attempted something like this before and it was actually quite a challenge to break out of the fantasy mindset and into the “aliens” mindset.

I view this as good practice for creating fantasy creatures, which I would like to do in The Novel (as I have taken to calling my dream-work). I know reptilian aliens/monsters are probably quite cliche, but it’s a start!

It was quite fun having total freedom to make things up in whatever crazy way I wanted, because there didn’t really have to be any basis in reality at all.

Overall, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this piece. I think it’s alright – it does the job and it works to the prompt quite well, in my opinions – but it’s not my best work.


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