The NACA Bell X-7 races out of Earth’s atmosphere to the cheers of every human left behind, “We did it, we reached space!”
The pilot, war vet Bob Capier, thinks he’s died, because how else could a monster? A space squid? A nightmare come to life, be reaching for him from out of the blackness of space. Made of colors that mesmerize, the thing approaches, mouth open for satisfaction.
A thing that stops mattering, after Capier fires a prolonged burst with his afterburners.
Now mostly ash, the thing screams violent tendrils of sound that puncture Capier’s brain. The sound erases his sanity. Soon, he finds it’s himself screaming and simply needs to shut his mouth to stop the sound.
Absent his screaming, an alarm blares. Tapping the fuel gauge he watches the needle sink closer to the E. Houston, doesn’t respond when he radios, and with nothing else to do, he does something stupid on his own.
Getting a good seal on his space helmet, he pops the space-shuttle hatch and floats free, solely to collect the charred and still slightly emberized tentacle and single giant eyeball floating outside.
Once collected, for science, the tentacle feels squishy in his fist, and the eye looks ridiculously surprised without a skull wrapped around it, but he holds both out to get a better look wondering, briefly, where the beast came from- and then he’s there. The smells of rot and briny water, and piss and burning food hit him all at once. Eyes watering, he notes massive pillars of iron reaching for red ashy-clouds above a ramshackle cityscape. Nearby, 12 mules pull a huge iron engine on a two-wheel cart while a man with bouncing muscles and pincers for hands whips the animals as they struggle off a dock filled with oily black-galleys.
Many “people” meander about. It’s a port town, he decides, watching a few of them pop in and out of existence.
“Welcome to Dylath-Leen, do you have anything to declare?” The frog-shaped being confronts him from out of nowhere. He wears a turban and silk robes, both of many clashing colors and tied in bizarre and impossible ways.
Capier decides he does have something to declare and continues the scream he stopped moments before.