The Cloud Eaters
They came out of the oceans, out of the rivers and lakes, emerged onto the coasts of every continent, the banks of every sea. These were not items washed ashore by the tide, these were sentient beings consciously choosing to abandon the hidden depths of the water. It was an organized arrival, they appeared quite suddenly and at the same time of the day in whatever part of the world they were in. The previous night had progressed without incident across the globe, but as the sun rose on every beach and seaside, along every riverbank and bay, they surfaced and waited. No one approached them, not out of deference but to an inhuman threat that surrounded each creature. Warning signs were obvious. The closer one got, the more severe the complications. At first, a slight ringing in one's ears, closer still and the ears began to hum, like the brain was immolating itself. Some managed to get a bit closer and experienced ragged shots of pain down their spines, had loss of vision, buckled over in agony. Distant observers noted that with the close presence of these daring people the entity’s bodies pulsed, produced a massive display of bioluminescence so powerful it could be seen in broad daylight. No one knew what to do, but all stayed clear. They exuded an abstract intellect, these aquatic fiends, an awareness that transcended their hideousness.
Such strange creatures they were. Composed of a central body, like a transparent ball six feet across, each had eighteen equidistant thin appendages rotated around it’s equator. These legs bent upwards about five feet, reached a joint, then bent back to the ground. It appeared as though some horrific sidereal spider had arrived from the depths of the cosmos, multi-legged and translucent. Even more disturbing was what lay contained within the central mass. With an outer skin like thick, liquid glass, inside could be seen what appeared to be a huge brain. Throughout, the flesh throbbed a subtle light-show, colors gradually changed into one another. Within, a biological mass of something, large and powerful, like the mind of a forgotten god. For two days they did not move. By some estimates there were thought to be near one million of the creatures across the planet’s surface. Then things began to change.
At dawn on the westernmost coast the first ones began their song. It had been a cloudy morning and the sun barely made an appearance, but the beings rose upon their legs, rose to over ten feet in height, and began emitting a sound. It was immense, it was illogical, and it seemed to dissolve the clouds. The sky cleared as if a giant dial had been turned. The blue vastness consumed any and all haze, swallowed the clouds into mysterious, invisible holes, allowed the sun to burn unhindered. Their song increased in magnitude, it could be heard for miles, it would be heard the world over by everyone. Imagine the sound of a distant train echoing off canyon walls, imagine the sound of a thousand airplanes passing one mile overhead, imagine an Aeolian harp made of telephone wires stretched between a valley playing in a hurricane. Now imagine all of this combined and conducted by an idiot god. The ground vibrated, or more likely it danced in tune with it. The entire planet sang the song. With the coming of the sun came the aria of these beings, and nowhere in the world was a cloud to be found by the end of the day. The sky had been drained of everything and still they sang.
Nightfall came but the singers continued into the darkness. For exactly twenty four hours they intoned. The break of dawn arrived the next day and they stopped. The silence was almost overwhelming. These silent monsters then were the first to leave. Carried into the waters with amazing precision and control, their eighteen legs propelled them from wherever they came, back to wherever they headed, to the mysterious protection of liquid earth. As each one disappeared from view another would follow. And so it went around the planet for the duration of the day. Finally, all had returned to their origins, and still the entire sky was cloudless. The planet had a barren blue skin; she was naked and rainless.
Dawn came again to the western coast, a brilliant dawn, followed by a pure, dry azure morning sky. When the rays of the sun finally reached their zenith a miracle occurred. Out in the distance could be seen the creatures. They had risen again. Each surfaced and sat on the cresting waves. Along the entire horizon floated the sea spiders; a strange system of huge buoys. In total silence and one by one, the beings flew straight up into the sky, launched themselves like missiles and exploded thousands of feet up. Brilliant flashes of incredible force ensued, each monster erupted into gigantic outwardly foaming masses that, when dispersed, reformed the cloudless sky to a clouded one. As another after another filled the sky with itself, the world began to retake it’s former shape. Huge billowing cumuli floated, the result of some bizarre transformation of these unknown creatures from the waters. Slowly it became apparent that there was a distinct difference in these new clouds. Faintly, and with a strange sense of comfort, could be heard a sound. Raining down from the sky was not water, but the alien melody of the clouds, the nadir of the terrible scherzo the beach creatures had sung the day before. It was now the delicate drift of the new sky people, barely audible but apparent if sought. Perhaps the time spent on the surface had been that of an ancient race reaching it’s pupal stage, only to be reborn into our atmosphere. Perhaps this strange race had come from the waters to be transmuted to a purer form. Perhaps we shall never know and someday become deaf to their song, like we were deaf to the songs of the clouds before we knew them capable of singing. I hope not.