The Sentinel

Rae is an illustrator, world builder, and storyteller who loves archaeology, retro science fiction, and haunted tales. You can follow her artwork on Instagram @rae.allen.everett.

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
Hours have passed. I still haven’t reached the ground. The creaking of these ancient, rusted scaffolds echoes in the endless expanse, pressing in on me as I climb ever downward. The haunted light beneath me grows ever brighter, and in my fear I wish for darkness to save me from whatever horrors I may soon see. Legend says that when the world fell, the people’s spirits were trapped beneath its surface, and their walking skeletons now stand as sentinels, guarding the world below.

My heart pounds. What ghastly horrors await me? My arms shake as I climb down, down, down...I sweat, and my fingers fail to grip the next hold—I slip, I scream, I fall—

“Oof!” I groan. I lay in a bruised heap on the cold floor, the sound of my impact still echoing throughout the chamber. I peer about in the dim light, watching the dust plume and settle with each puff of shaking breath that escapes my mouth. Suddenly, I hear a loud “click” followed by a low whirring sound. I am blinded as bright white beams ignite in sections, illuminating the vast space around me.

And is that... music?

I stand up. Strange writing and symbols glow on the walls. Empty chairs and tables surround me. The music grows louder, and I hear voices, singing in a foreign tongue.

A bead of sweat falls from my face. “The Sentinels,” I whisper.

And there, from a dark corner, emerges a bony, armored figure. It glides toward me, cool light glinting off its chromatic frame. My heart races, but I ball my fists and stand my ground.

The figure stops three feet in front of me. With its steel, motionless mouth, it speaks in an inhuman tone, “Welcome to HappyDale Mall, the place to suit all your wildest consumer fantasies!" It pauses, staring at me with glowing red eyes. "How may I direct your purchases today, miss?”