Sunday, January 3, 2016
io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt: 12/31/15
No one knew why they died out. The Croatoans. All they knew was the great beasts weren't native to Roanoke, that they had tried to colonize the planet some centuries earlier. They left their cities behind, a snarl of abandoned colony forts left to molder in the intervening years. Some bacterial apocalypse was thought to be the culprit: a microorganism in Roanoke's atmosphere that did them in, War of the Worlds-style. It had happened on human colonies before, too. Otherwise hospitable planets whose microbial life held some kind of time bomb interaction with the flora human travelers brought with them. Typically a population could inoculate itself in time, but one or two ghost towns did exist, places like this left abandoned to be found by some luckier generation.
There were twenty-seven viable Earthtype planets, and Sandoval had been to half of them. He collected the bones of the native creatures living at each planet. Right now he only had an acoustic guitar, but back on his ship, the Badiniere, Sandoval had hundreds of intricate flutes and harps and drums made from the remains of a dozen worlds' worth of alien life. Mirabel thought it was ghoulish. She thought, too, he spent too much time listening to himself talk. Though he carried a guitar, he was listening to the wind pass through the bones of the lost Croatoan, trying to imagine what sound he would fashion from them.
Sandoval carried the notes to the Bone Concerto in his head, a lengthy and complicated string of verse and counterpoint. Mirabel had been enlisted to show him to skeleton beach, and in the dying hours of sunslight on the planet, she listened to the plaintive strums of his searching melody. Not many people came to Roanoke. She reminded herself this was an experience she would feel lousing having missed.
No one knew where the Croatoans came from. They must have been born on a world much like Earth, but no other colony planets of theirs had ever been found, viable or otherwise. Their writing was impossible to decipher so far, and they left precious little behind that would indicate a point of origin. Sandoval didn't seem to care about this mystery, and truth told, most of Roanoke's human populace didn't care much either. You can only live with a mystery for so long before giving up on it. She wondered, if he went out far enough, if Sandoval would in fact be the one to find them.