"The Long Night" by Jess. E. Hadden



© 2009 Jess E. Hadden


He awoke with a start; suddenly, kicking in response to the sensation of falling backwards through his bed. His arms and legs spasmed in response to the familiar weightlessness that often accompanies arousal from sleep. Groggily, he kept his eyes closed. He had the disorientation of a man who did not realize that he had fallen asleep. It was several more moments before he even became aware that he still felt like he was falling backwards.

A few moments passed. Then, a few more. Somewhere within his mind, an alarm began to sound. The nascent scent of fresh air was in his sinuses.

"Who am I?" he questioned himself. That internal beacon of identity - that portion at the core of self  - had been replaced by a pervading sense that something was terribly wrong. "What - what is my name?" he asked himself again, futilely.

He suddenly became very much aware that he was breathing; that his heart was beating. Had he ever stopped, he wondered?

Carefully, he controlled his breathing -- in through the nose, out through the mouth. He counted backwards from ten, finding that he paused tentatively after every other number. "10, 9... 8, 7... 6, 5...4, 3...2...1..." He drew out the last two digits with a sense of impending dread, as he prepared to open an eye.

He opened his right eye.

"I'm still asleep," he thought, as he immediately shut his eye. His heart began to thump in his chest, and he found that he was losing his careful control over his breathing.

Swallowing hard, he mustered the courage to open both eyes, to verify what he had seen.

Above him, where he had expected to see the comfortably boring pattern of his ceiling, he instead saw a vista of stars. They shone more brightly, more clearly than he had ever before seen.

He became aware that he was cold. Wind was rushing past his body, upwards, from beneath him. It was then that he realized that nothing was beneath him.

In astonishment and shock, he felt his mind simply switching off. For what could have been minutes or hours, as if frozen, he stared upwards at the starry night.


With a sense of urgency, he forced open his eyes and inhaled sharply. Somehow, beyond his comprehension, he had drifted back to sleep. He had tilted forward; his feet were pointed downward, and wind whispered up across his face, and through his hair.

As before, he saw stars ahead of him.

Slowly, trying to make sense of what was taking place, he turned his head to his left, and then to his right.

"I must be dreaming," he said out loud, somewhat insistently. Even as he said it, he knew it wasn't true. Yet, there was no way for him to make sense of what he saw, other than to cling to the conceit of that belief.

He was falling. And, as far as he could see, all around him, other human beings were falling, too.

They were all falling together through a perfectly clear night sky. And none of them, not a single one, appeared the slightest bit concerned about what was happening.


He took in a sudden deep breath, opening his eyes and flailing his limbs. Somehow, he had once again drifted off to sleep.

After a moment's pause, he registered that there was a young girl, no more than 13 years of age, directly in front of him. She was staring at him, unflinchingly, with a smile playing across her lips. Like he himself, and everyone else within his field of vision, she was falling.

"Do you see them?" she asked. A horrifying tingle crept up his spine, as she spoke. She spoke with the raspy, sarcophagal voice of a very old man.

"They're like vultures," she continued in her ancient intonations. "They circle above."

Following her gaze, he looked upward.

Above the two of them, and all the rest, far in the distance, he saw lights. They were moving, swarming around the sky. More than this he could not discern.

As the lights circled above, he saw that they were dropping something. What appeared to be small pieces of tissue paper, burning brightly, were falling from the lights.

As one such ordinance passed closely enough for him to feel its heat, he saw that what they were dropping was much larger than pieces of tissue. These towers of fire were large as city skyscrapers.

waiting for us," she said cryptically, with her deep inflection.

A pillaring blaze was now falling towards her. Sensing its heat, she looked upwards, directly into it. She hugged herself. As the inferno engulfed her, she smiled broadly. Her clothes burst into flames. She relaxed every muscle, and crossed her legs. He watched as he saw her flesh melting. With sinew and bone, she giggled, until nothing of her remained.

As strangely as she had appeared, she was now gone.

He began to hear her words, echoing again and again. "
They're waiting for us," he heard in the ancient voice, growing louder and louder, until his ears began to bleed. He cried out in pain.


He yelped, and opened his eyes again. He heard the echo of his shout, dying off in the distance.

He had tilted forward a bit more. He had no sense of how much time might have passed.

At the bottom of his field of vision, he saw a glow. He bent his neck to look downward. Beneath him, he saw a planet that he knew to be his own. Staring for moments, slack-jawed, he noted that it was not quite the world that he knew.

The entire northern continent was beneath him, and it was engulfed in flames. Squinting, he saw that the fire possessed the distinct shape of an eagle.

And it was towards this blazing shape that he, and everyone crowded around him, was falling.


As if from a nightmare, he awoke again from a dreamless sleep, into his strange reality. The inferno beneath him was now much closer. "I'm still alive," he noted to himself, with an odd sense of satisfaction. He smiled to himself.

He looked to his left, and to his right, and saw men and women of all ages and walks of life. He called out to many of them, but none -- not a single one -- even looked back at him. They had looks of utter peace and contentment on their faces. The heat from below was now causing him to sweat.

"I worry too much," he thought to himself, as tongues of flame began to lick at his feet. An expression of tranquility, of worrilessness, overcame him; the same look possessed by all those around him. He relaxed his body, and slowed his breathing. His slippers melted, and his sweat pants caught fire. He paid no mind to this, as he continued to plummet, and it was no longer possible to distinguish him from those all around him.









All work is copyrighted property of Jess. E Hadden.





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