Their world was nearly been devoured a century ago. When the Yellow Thing From Outer Space first arrived in their dimension, there was little they could do. YTFROS, as it came to be known, existed solely to devour flesh and consume life. It could not think or feel, at least as far as any of the scientists of Endless Horizons knew. Their planet being so far from the rest of civilised space, there was no hope for a distress call and little chance of a happenstance discovery. In all of its 112-year reign above the firmament, not a single ship would pass by. This was viewed as ironic by some; separation from the galactic community is what they always wanted.
The colonists of Endless Horizons were never any strangers to danger; they came to this world to escape the persecution of their homeland. On one end of the system, a black hole. Closer to their small red star, a dense ring of asteroids and planetary debris orbited around the system in a small circle just beyond their world, still visible from the planet with even a low-power telescope. Their own world’s own orbit was once empty, strangely free of any natural satellites. For decades, they looked upon the clear skies with vain hope for the future. For the later generations, every night sky served as a grim reminder of their lonely place amongst the stars. It was the constant threat of death hanging above us all, multiplied to a planetary level. For the Horizonists, it represented an existential calamity thought by as most to be implacable.
When it first arrived, some hailed it as the saviour of the universe made manifest. To most, it meant death. Upon its advent, YTFROS immediately devoured all matter in its path. As the asteroids collided with its fleshy body, they were instantly assimilated into its mass. Most of the Endless Horizons Defense Fleet was sucked into its pull, but in their final moments, the remaining ships sacrificed themselves in one final act of valor. Using the gravity tethers equipped to all vessels of their fleet, they managed to attach themselves to the great yellow ball that arrived in their star system. Though it pulled and swayed, the Yellow Thing From Outer Space was trapped between the orbit of Endless Horizons and the several ships just out of reach. Seemingly confused, the nightmare sphere attempted to pull in both directions simultaneously, eventually leaving it trapped between the two.
It since became a permanent fixture of the sky of Endless Horizons. As the generations passed, it ceased to become a thing of horror and instead an everyday facet of their lives, not unlike how the moon Luna is viewed by Earthlings. Regardless, most on the planet knew of their sobering fate, for every time they looked upon the night sky, there was the yellow moon threatening them with instant death. Unable to leave the gravitational trap, it intensified its suction. Those who attempted to flee met a quick end inside of the great globule in the sky.
The exact mechanics of it are not known, for it is not believed to be of our universe. Perhaps it is that unfamiliarity with the laws of our plane that allowed it to be so easily trapped. However, one thing remained certain to the colonists. Though designed to last a lifetime or more, the gravity tethers would not last forever. Eventually, they would give out. And when that time came….
“Yeet-fros,” said the Station Commander.
“No, no, no. It is simply Y-T-F-R-O-S,” replied his assistant.
“That’s far too long. Yeetfros is easier to say.”
“Well, I don’t think we should be giving a pet name to an apocalyptic evil! I will say its name in full.”
The commander spun a pen around his fingers. They were going back and forth about the proper pronunciation of the Yellow Thing From Outer Space for the past half hour. It was all they could do as they waited. When the small talk ceased, the sombre conversation began.
“It isn’t too late, you know….”
“No. I stay here with you,” the assistant insisted.
“There’s nothing to gain from it. We’ll both die here and that’ll be it.”
“No, it will not. They intend to leave, but where do they go? Back to Earth, back to the oppressors of our forefathers! No, I will not have it. Not for me. My great-great-grandfather was one of the original Scandinavian Separatists. Fought in both wars to secede from the Russians. Left Earth for this planet first chance he got. His son was stabbed to death over a single meal ration on the defence fleet. Though it all, they stayed. This is where they wanted to be. So I stay with them. I will be like the cosmonauts.”
The commander smiled and nodded. He looked up at the mural on the wall depicting the seventy-six cosmonauts who tethered the Yellow Thing in orbit at the cost of their lives. When they did, they were left stranded outside the planet. Their escape pods were just that: pods. They wouldn’t survive the return trip back to Earth. Those that attempted to flee the ships in their pods were intercepted by YTFROS’ pull and were subsequently devoured by its fleshy bioluminescent body. After the first wave of doomed escape attempts, those that remained knew their fate. In the coming weeks, they all perished from starvation and mutiny. The denizens of Endless Horizons, they are remembered as heroes.
A long pause.
“How much longer, commander?”
“Still waiting on the word. Shouldn’t be much longer now. They’re trying to fill that ship up to capacity, you know. And it’s not like we don’t have at least another year or two before it comes crashing down on its own, anyway.”
“You’d think more people would want in.”
“Yeah well, they did lie, if you consider omission to be lying. If they told everyone what we were planning on doing before launch, everyone would want to board. This way, they can convince just enough people without having a crisis on their hands. It’s so damn polarising that we ended up having to worry more about filling empty spots on the ship than turning people down.”
“Hah! But we’re not much smarter, are we? We know the world is ending and yet we are. Sitting on our asses like fools.”
“Yeah well, we didn’t have any kids. Or spouses. Or… living relatives for that matter. Sure, there were a few others, but we volunteered, didn’t we? And besides… the world’s been ending for a long time now. Armageddon’s been floating around in the sky for years. I’ll just get to be the one who brings it to us. And if I can take someone’s place in the process, all the better.”
His comrade said nothing, only smiled. In their own weird way, they had their lives all figured out.
Four hours passed before the crew of Horizons’ Hope radioed in. It was a voice as grim and sobering as the yellow ball of death above them.
“Still here, Hope.”
“We’re ready to launch.”
“Right…” he whispered, the dread of death slowly catching up to him. “On our mark.”
On the other side of Endless Horizons, the escape team finished their preparations. The massive ark they spent the last decade building and destroyed their entire economy to make was finally ready for its maiden voyage. Within its thick steel walls, millions huddled in fear. Outside, another half billion lived their lives obliviously.
The idea of trying to escape the world and thus, YTFROS, was not entirely foreign to them. Youthful upstarts and hopeful explorers all tried their might against the extradimensional beast, and all failed. They became known as the “suicides”, and more than a dozen of them died every year. This particular attempt was viewed as mass suicide, the death throes of a failing government under pressure. They didn’t know why this attempt would be different.
Having pooled all of their resources, less than half the final remnants of the colony prepared for one final suicide mission. It was going to be an all-or-nothing gamble.
Back in the command centre, the remaining two sat in in long intervals of tense silence. At last, the cosmonauts’ son woke up.
“You know, it’s never too late….”
“No. I’m just waiting for the right moment.”
His words hung in the air like a wind chine on a windless night. Then, the assistant, the only other man remaining in their subterranean command centre, spoke.
“Would you like me to?”
“No!” He snapped, a vicious smile wrapping around his face. “If anyone will be the one to do this, it will be me. It’s just that… I can’t go about taking the lives of a few million so lightly, y’know?”
He sighed. “I understand. But the end is now, friend.”
The friend nodded and raised communications to the escape ark. “Horizons’ Hope, you’re time is now. Prepare to make takoff… good luck, and godspeed.”
With those words, he entered the final string of passcodes on the terminal before him. A siren sounded off as hundreds of missiles soared through the sky and escaped the atmosphere all at once. It was the last thing most ever saw on their world. The sight of rockets soaring into the air bewildered many but doomed all.
The final two members of the now-defunct space exploration programme would not live to witness the fates of the five hundred million aboard the vessel, and the commander preferred it that way.
“You sure he won’t be joining me?” The commander asked with a morbid grin upon his face.
“No, I will stay. I want to see this thing up close and personal. I’ll join you soon enough, friend.”
The commander placed a single capsule in his mouth.
“For the cosmonauts,” he whispered half a moment before biting down.
“For the cosmonauts.” A solitary voice in the dark whispered.
Just as the rockets hit the derelict vessels in orbit, Horizons’ Hope thrust itself into action. By the time YTFROS was freed, they were halfway to space on the opposite end of the globe. Perhaps it took note of the millions of morsels flying away from it, but it could not be bothered to give chase, not when an entire planet-sized all-you-can-eat buffet was directly in front of it.
As the YTFROS descended, the oceans were sent into flux. Typhoons and floods raged, but not for long. It eventually crashed into the world, not far from the source of the rockets and directly in the centre of their capital city. Its presence caused the skyscrapers to be uprooted like weak trees in a strong storm. The mountains themselves crumbled as the surrounding terrain surrendered to the uplifting force of the impending doom above. Finally, the ground itself and the roof above those few underground gave way and were seemingly annihilated as they made contact with the great mass.
Climbing atop a pillar of ruined rock, the cosmonauts’ son looked upon it and laughed. On the other end of the world, he knew a small dot was getting smaller. Endless Horizons was finally free. He was free.
When the thing arrived and touched terra firma, the last thing he felt was the flesh being torn from his bones as his body hurdled into the great yellow ball, now bloodred from the half billion it had taken. Well past the destroyed fleet and nearly to the asteroid belt, the crew of Horizons’ Hope looked back and could have sworn that it was growing larger despite the distance between them growing. The captain commanded them to increase speed at the cost of long-term resources. They were many million miles away from the land of their forbearers, and the only home any of them ever knew just became a dinner plate for an unthinking orb of endless hunger.
It became bigger and bigger as Endless Horizons was laid to waste. And no matter how far they flew, they were sure that YTFROS continued to grow in scale. Now they were sure it was as big as a planet.