The earthquake trembled through the bones of the prairie. Jack pumps shivered, and to the east the wind towers swayed almost too far.
The moon was pale and half-formed, silently drifting behind long streamers of silver cloud. A coyote leaped back from her dinner of jackrabbit, teeth bared at the ground, which had not stopped shaking. She stood on a humped ridge of limestone that jutted out of the field. Soft stones began to slide down the exposed side of the ridge, and cracks appeared in the layered rock. She yelped as the small cliff began to collapse, and leapt away, landing hard on the flat ground and bruising a paw.
The coyote turned back, briefly remembering the fresh killed rabbit. The limestone ridge was gone.
A pile of rubble was crumbled loosely around the mouth of a long hidden cave. The pale moonlight showed only that the cavern was deep.
The ground was still now, but the sounds of shifting rock and earth echoed out of the cave’s mouth, and then, something grunting. The coyote turned and ran, meal forgotten now.
The light faded as the clouds thickened across the moon, and the air chilled slightly. There was a scrabbling sound at the mouth of the cave. Something breathed and gasped and mumbled something like language.
The clouds thinned again. Just beyond the cavern’s edge sprawled something with six limbs that were moving weakly. It was wrapped in a casing that glinted metallic, and had a faint pattern of light glowing weakly on the exposed part of its body. It slowly pulled itself up and leaned against a large boulder. There was a sound of breathing, a shallow, whistling noise that seemed to struggle.
The creature began to tap the pattern of lights along its body, and began broadcasting its thoughts.
…ocean is gone, where is it now? Where am I? How long? How long?
The creature pointed a limb towards the sky, extending four thin fingers until they were tendrils that drifted with the wind. The fingers began to glow blue and curled back inwards until they formed a sphere of the blue light. The creature shifted the sphere across the sky, staring through it at the moon and the clouds. Then the clouds opened up, and the creature had a clear view of the stars.
Shining down were the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters now faded to six.
The creature stopped breathing for a few moments.
This is wrong. The stars are wrong. Asleep too long, buried too long. Can’t calibrate where I am, all the signal stars are faded or gone entirely. I’ve been in stasis so long that this planet is in a different part of the Galaxy.
The creature tapped again at the lights on its abdomen, and then its voice was very loud.
Is anyone here? Did anyone else wake up? Did any of you survive? I’m broadcasting on every frequency I can with what power I have. I need to find the ocean, I don’t know how much breathable liquid my suit has left.
Bracing against the boulder, the creature stood up slowly, putting its weight on the four lower limbs. It gazed all around at the still darkness of the prairie. There was a soft orange glow hugging the northern horizon; something out there was generating the light. Possibly an industrial civilization, although it might be organic, or worse, silicate. Perhaps the People still had an outpost here.
There was a low rumbling sound to the east. The creature turned towards it. Two small dots of light were approaching; they seemed to be the source of the sound. A vehicle of some kind. There was something… primitive… about the noise.
The creature picked up one of the pale rocks and stared at it. It was full of sea shells, colors and life force all faded into stone. The ground was dry. The cave had become dryer and dryer as the creature pulled itself up out of the stasis chamber. The stone around the chamber had been damp, but it had also been deep in the bedrock.
The ocean where they had built a new home had faded away, a long time ago. The stars they’d used to find this world had also faded away. The liquid in the creature’s suit would soon fade into nothing as well.
The lights were getting closer. There was no sense of water nearby, nowhere to slip away into. And still, no one had answered the distress calls.
The creature lowered itself down onto the boulder, and folded its limbs in a placating gesture, and waited to meet the world that had replaced what had faded away.