Usually, when I write a story there is more story than is written. My recent piece entitled “Cracks” featured a phenomenon where people were sucked into invisible but solid “cracks” where they were squeezed to the point of terrible pain. They would then disappear with just a nearly imperceptible flash of light heading upwards. No one escaped once they were taken and anyone who tried to help would be caught as the original victim was zipped away. The Cracks were everywhere on earth, inside of aircraft and down below in submarines. Far from blind or random events, they seemed to be guided by some sinister force which was bent of taking humans beings for reasons unknown.
The back story that was far too long to write as a short story was some alien race had arrived in space, cloaked by their technology, and they were taking humans as food. The sport in which they took in hunting humans consisted of having a teleportation device that created twin gravity walls of a certain size which would slowly squeeze a person into the device before teleporting them up into the hold of the ship. Knowing that humans would come to the aid of one another they calibrated the devices to pull a rescuer in after the victim. Like hunters with telescopic sights in helicopters, the aliens could also go after individuals who ran, therefore creating a sense that running was a poor way to escape. The surviving humans would also be slower.
The devices could be of various sizes depending on the physical location, but the aliens were more or less individual hunters playing against one another in trying to collect the most humans using a very rigid set of rules. Of course, the devices could have been opened wide enough to capture thousands at a time, just as we humans could drops bombs to hunt deer, but where’s the sport in that? The aliens’ rules were to set up in a location and try to either herd the humans into the devices, or to track down those running the fastest. Part of the rules stated if a human avoided capture during the initial attack, that person was given a sort of reprieve. Humans who avoided capture were like negative points in a game, and they were targeted during future attacks, not for capture, but accidental deaths. Stampede was the best and favorite tool to get rid of such humans.
The devices could be small enough to be teleported into an elevator, or an airplane, or a mine shaft. It took some skill for an alien to place one in a moving aircraft, and of course, there were accidents which resulted in the loss of the craft without capturing any humans. But a hunter with real skill could put a device in a jet liner and slowly capture each human in turn, and leave the pilot alive but terrified. I seriously though about beginning the story there, but it didn’t seem to be the right place or the right time for that level of horror.
I started out with one person’s viewpoint in a thus far unexplained event where clearly something had gone incredibly wrong. The flashback memory of what had happened is an old trick but there is a reason it is an old trick is that it works very well. The vantage point is not one of a hero but that of a survivor. Humanity is doomed, it seems, and the last scene plays to this with the bottled water and bag of rice as props.
If I was to expand this one, I think the man running towards the crack would get there right as the woman was taken, and he was left panting and wondering what had happened to all the people. There are several paths to take at this point, and each of them has its own merit. The first would be the aliens versus humans with the last desperate vestiges of humans somehow finding a way to fight back, like in the movie, “Independence Day”. Another path to take would be for people to be driven to the edge of extinction and the aliens leaving the ruined world behind them to recover. Still another would be for the aliens to offer the survivors a deal where a certain number of humans are hunted for sport while a protected group lives is peace, much as we do cattle or game preserves. Still another path and this is one I haven’t seen done before, features some alien sociologist who comes down to interview a species that is being driven into extinction. The information is being collected to see how races see themselves in the end, and what is important and what is not.
The extinction being recorded idea would look a lot like people trapped in burning building and there being someone walking around asking them how they felt about dying in a fire. This premise would include someone who desperately tries to show the alien there was some value to human life, and why they should be spared.
The hunting preserve idea would pit countries against one another, but instead of war being waged with weapons each country would instead try to gain some favor with the aliens so to reduce the number of humans taken from that region. Criminals, malcontents, rebels who think the aliens should be fought, and those thought of as “expendable” would be dropped off with the others sentenced to die, and they would be hunted down by the aliens for sport. But instead of a dozen or a hundred, think about the “Hunger Games” with a quarter of a million people.
Anyway, these are a few attachments to the story before I wrote it. Imagine looking into a slow cooker and seeing tasty things to eat, and picking out some, leaving some for later, and allowing others to sink back down into the heat, to simmer and perhaps, to be eaten later.
That’s how I write.