“Fourteen sixty-three B has just inhabited.”
Kayal looked up from the data stream he had been studying. It had been a slow night and he had spent it rereading Miasma’s early history. He knew it by heart now, despite having to learn it, rather than just owning the knowledge as everyone else did.
Thirty-seven hundred years ago the colony ship Fulfillment, on route to an approved, class M planet, had somehow been forced to abandon its trajectory and take orbit about this inhospitable world. Miasma’s atmosphere was poisonous and there was little land mass on which to settle. With no other choice, Fulfillment’s AI woke the settlement team from stasis.
Andy laughed as the eight week old pup licked his face. This was the dog he would take home. Ginger, he would call her. He beamed with pride as she sailed through obedience, raised an accidental litter of pups of her own, and saved both Andy and his wife when their home caught fire. She sat at his side, old and arthritic as he worked in his study, and he held her and wept as she died at fifteen. Fifteen years relived in minutes- it was frustrating to Andy that although he could remember every detail of his life, it played out so quickly. How many times had he relived Ginger’s life, his wife, Carol’s? How many libraries had he read and reread?
When Death Comes Calling
He arrived at the instant the boy Deathspoke. Too late to stop it. The entire audience and staff in Wembley Stadium, more than ninety thousand people, died between one breath and the next. Every rodent, insect, bird, anything that had been breathing the moment before lay dead. Even the grass was brown.
The boy, focused on what he had wrought, didn’t notice him at first. A small smile played across cherry red lips, grey eyes shining with a joy that sent chills up his spine. Normally he was imperturbable, immune to the horrors he saw daily. This boy terrified him.
Daniel remembered them all, the ghosts from his past. His mother, his father. The siblings he hadn’t spoken to in decades when he had heard of their deaths. Worse were the comrades who had fallen in battle while he had survived. Especially one.
Why had he survived? He wasn’t stronger or braver. He hadn’t been a better shot. He remembered lying on his stomach behind piled sandbags, firing blindly at an enemy he couldn’t see, shells and bullets whistling all around him.
On the edge. Burnt out. Nowhere to go. Why bother? Feeling lower than I’ve ever felt, I force myself to look up from the bitter, black coffee I hold in my shaking hands. Black because I can’t afford cream or sugar. Still drinking it, because it’s the last. After this, there’s only water.
I look up, not wanting to see the recrimination in Joel’s eyes. I know I’m imagining it. Joel is three. He has no idea Mommy has lost her job. Again. No idea we’re about to be evicted. No idea that I have no idea how I’m going to feed him or myself.