Once upon a time, two artists decided to leave their hectic life on an overcrowded world and search for quiet isolation among the silent, shining stars overhead. They packed up all their belongings into their tin can spaceship and set out as far as they could go to begin a brand new life for themselves. They travelled through the dark depths of space until they eventually settled on a little known planet at the very edge of the galaxy. They found that the planet offered up the peace and tranquility that allowed them to work on their craft. Most importantly, they were the only people on it.
They settled on the edge of a small forest more beautiful than they could possibly imagine. Over the coming year he built a small wood cabin while she dug deep into the soil planting seeds that they had brought with them from Earth. Due to the alien soil their garden grew tall and colorful, rapidly producing everything they needed in abundance. One day, after much discussion, they decided to shut down their spaceship and begin living off the land.
Many years passed and they remained in peaceful bliss working on their art. They sent no messages and responded to no communications, which eventually ceased. He spent his days in the forest painting its beauty while she tended the garden, then at night by the fire wrote beautiful and intricate tales of their days spent. Their art built up, but they had no one to show it to. Book after book filled the shelves, painting after painting filled the walls and were soon piled thick against the dark corners of their ever shrinking house.
One day she walked deep into the forest and hugged her husband as he painted. Embraced in her arms he knew that they would soon be bringing a new life into the world. Several months later they were fussing over a beautiful little girl they called Rosemary. They never left her side and pretty soon all those old pencils and paintbrushes lay gathering dust in the dark shadows of the cabin.
On the day of Rosemary’s birth a nearby star exploded. As if in celebration, Its debris rained down over their planet in the most beautiful way imaginable. Blues, reds, oranges and yellows moved out across the night sky and hung in the air forever like frozen fireworks. Inspiration took root and he began painting the forest again and she began writing. Rosemary giggled at the sky, oblivious to it all.
That season the garden began to fail while the forest shed its leaves early and all at once. They couldn’t understand why and tried to deny that something was happening around them. More weeks passed and they knew they were right to suspect that something was terribly wrong. The crops slowly changed into frightful versions of themselves while the forest grew darker and meaner.
After much discussion they decided to return to their technology for answers. They turned their ship back on and asked the computer what to do. Inbound communications and warnings told them about the star collapsing and suggested that the change in the crops and local forest was due to an unusually high dose of cosmic particles raining down over the planet. It explained that a planet’s atmosphere usually filters out such intrusions, but at such close range and high concentration the particles were penetrating through to the planet below. These particles sliced through all matter, tearing, changing and morphing it as it did.
It was only a matter of time before the effects on a human would soon mirror the growing horror in the once bountiful garden and the now frightful forest.
They turned on their emergency beacon and tried to start the ship until realizing that the particles had rendered it inactive. Frantically they checked the ship for a particle shield but found only a limited amount. They cut their hands as they grasped, clutched and tugged desperately to salvage as much of the shielding as possible. Tired, hurt and bleeding they brought what they could back to the cabin.
No matter how they bent, folded or twisted the metal, they realised it could protect only one. They formed what shielding they had into a small cage-like crib for Rosemary to sleep and play in, protected from the raining particles.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Slowly they began to change like the garden and the forest. First came tiredness, then pain, then the physical changes. Their arms twisted, then their legs, and eventually their minds. As the particles passed unmercifully through them from the heavens their bodies continued to mutate as their unshielded cells shattered and rearranged themselves. Their muscles realigned causing their features to hang and sag until neither was recognisable to the other.
The only thing that remained unchanged was their devotion to Rosemary.
Every day they fed and changed her and for a limited time she was taken from her shielded crib to play in the garden. Even though their faces were mangled, their arms withered and palsied, Rosemary loved them more and more each day. Happiness soon returned. They began to feel the joy they felt upon their first day on the planet.
She started writing again and he would walk out to the dead ashen forest and paint his pictures with the same devotion as before. This time he painted the withered forest as it once was. He kept it all alive on his canvas.
One day a light appeared in the sky and dropped to the ground just beyond the forest. Two figures emerged. In their heavy shielded spacesuits they trekked over the landscape and approached the dark forest.
It was more terrifying than anything they had ever seen before. The dark dry wood splintered free and created a dense dust fog that hung in the air. It formed ghosts and spirits with any slight breeze brave enough to pass through it.
They checked their scanner for the location of the last emergency beacon signal before it had died. It was somewhere on the other side of the forest and they both entered, checking their readings as they slipped into the darkness.
He was painting when he noticed a light winking through the forest. Not sure what it was at first he let it approach. Humans? It had to be. He stood up and shuffled forward dragging his body as best he could. He choked out his greetings as he waved his twisted limbs in the air. Through the empty space where his face once was he gasped for their attention.
The visitors could hear the wailing and trashing, but could not see much in the darkness. Out of the dense brush came a creature as far from human as could be. They raised their weapons and shot him dead. The blast shook dust from the dead trees and ghosts rained down over the whole forest.
When she heard the shot ring out she was putting Rosemary into her crib. She closed the crib, locked the door and then carried herself as fast as she could from the house deep into the woods.
They heard her calling out for him in her mangled tongue and hid as she approached. When she passed they continued on their way to the emergency beacon.
It was not long before they found the house and heard a baby crying inside. Breaking the lock they found Rosemary in her protective cage-crib. With no sign of her parents they took her and investigated the house, grabbing as many journals as they could carry, desperate for answers.
Upon finding her husband dead she collapsed in grief and cried out all of the sorrow she had in her. The shrill scream alerted the Visitors and they left the house and continued in search of the beacon. Conquering her grief she made her way back to the house and found that Rosemary had been taken. What creatures would do such a thing?
When the visitors found the old ship, they discovered that humans had sent the signal a long time ago. It had been ripped apart and dried blood stained its insides. Something tragic had happened but they were still no closer to the answers they were looking for. All this time Rosemary continued to cry no matter what they did to pacify her. They tried the computer but it had long been rendered inactive. Their scanner failed soon after detecting the particles and they realised that they had to get back to their own ship before it failed too. There were still so many questions but they knew they had to get back to their ship, while they still had one.
Outside they again heard the mangled wailing. It was getting closer. Soon they saw her approaching in all her twisted and mutated horror, unshielded by the darkness of the forest.
The visitors shot at her, but missed. On the the second attempt their weapons failed. They ran as fast as they could, carrying Rosemary back into the woods. She followed and soon she was gaining on them. In the panic they stripped themselves of their equipment. The scanner, weapons, gloves and eventually their helmets. They were human, a man and a woman. They were putting distance between them and the creature and it looked like they’d make it back to the ship. As they ran past the first creature they noticed for the first time a painting of the forest as it once was, beautiful. Something wasn’t right.
They made it to the ship with seconds to spare. Undeterred, she banged on the outside of the hull as the engines ignited around her. As the ship peeled off the ground they saw through the window that the creature was frozen, staring back at them as if they had somehow removed all life from it.
They both looked at Rosemary, then each other and chose to ignore whatever echoed in their heads. The ship slowly ascended to the frozen fireworks above and disappeared. She remained crumpled at the edge of the forest more alone than she had ever wished for.
Alone in space they fell in love with Rosemary a little more each day. On their journey home they read the journals they had taken from the house. They found all answers they had been looking for, but still they continued home and paraded her as the abandoned child they rescued from the most horrendous creatures imaginable.
They could never truly justify what awful thing they had done. The memory of it twisted them over time. Rosemary grew up to be just like them.
She buried her husband, packed away his art and tended the garden as best she could from that day forward. She even wrote when she found strength.
But there were those nights, alone in the house when she'd walk out into the garden and look up into the frozen firework sky knowing that her girl would be raised by monsters.
And they all lived happily never after.