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“And We Found It in a Dark Place” is a sci-fi story about need. The more I think about this story, the more I see how it parallels my experiences with addiction — the main character faces a need, a desperation beyond reasoning, and she has no choice by to commit unspeakable violence to get what her people require.
This is a very short story — really just a snapshot at the end of something much longer, as I think sci-fi stories in the flash fiction arena often need to be. Sci-fi requires background that’s wholly unnecessary in literary fiction. You can get away with literary flash fiction leaving the background out, but sci-fi doesn’t really allow that.
This story was originally published on 365 Tomorrows — You can read it in full here.
And We Found It in a Dark Place — A Sci-Fi Story
“All of it.”
The creature’s look is quizzical.
My helmet inhibits no sounds; I feel that my words are quite clear.
My hands shake. My gloved fist smashes the surface of his table.
“I need all of it. Not some. Not a bit. Not most. All. Is this a problem?”
I had looked for so long. Its existence here was impossible.
And yet, here it was.
My heart throttles my throat.
Fear is a vice.
The creature must give it to me.
Underneath my cape, my gloved fingers caress a dagger of diamonds.
My breath comes in tiny streams.
My pupils envelope my eyes.
The creature shakes his head, mutters “No, no, no, n-n-no problem, no problem.”
My fingers relax. He twitches and scurries, wrapping, questions in his eyes. He hands me the package, paws nervously brushing whiskers.
“W-w-what will you d-d-do with it?”
I do not bother to answer. I give him payment beyond what he might make in five years time.
And I run.
I run out the crumbling door from the crumbling shop to the crumbling streets of this crumbling city. The bones of this dying country drip gas, remnants of ancient poisons injected into black stone. The twists and turns coil up and up, through darkness and disease, the streets tilting crazily to lead out of this wretched planet.
I burst upon the surface, and the gas lingers under a sky of ash and blood, and my helmet burns crimson as it tries desperately to filter the thick clouds of chlorine before they reached my lungs.
And I catch my breath.
And I look into the package.
And I weep.
For here, in this decaying place, in this infested fenestration into the bowels of a wretched, bloody world, this venomous hole bored into ebony rocks bleeding miasma from unhealing wounds, in the dark light of a fading star, here, in this most unlikely place, from this most unlikely creature, here was something that my people had sought for ten thousand years.
And the light from the package sweeps across my face, and my priceless cape flies from my suit, blasted by the violence of the light, and my helmet and breather and gloves and suit and boots and tools disappear into the ether, and a stream of particles dives deep into the sleeping parts of my mind, infuses my cells, twists my essence, penetrates an essential part of me.
Wrenches that part.
Until it cracks.
And the light breaks me.
And my body is destroyed.
And my ship cries out at my death.
And I rise.
And I whisper nothings into her mind.
“Do not be afraid, my love.
“I am with you.
And my ship smiles.
And I ascend on wings of light, and my body is energy and brilliance, and I ride particle beams across the black seas of emptiness, and my ship races around, over, and through me, her joy blasting through the universe on laser and radio, and I scream, and a message flies forth from my crystalline lungs, heralding my coming, and it rides to my brothers and sisters through the relays, and it contains three words.
And my joy repeats the words.
“We are saved.”
“We are saved.”
“We are saved.”
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