His first mistake had been coming to this anonymous warehouse on the outskirts of the city alone and at night, without telling anyone where he was going or what he was doing. Novo was simply too caught up in the investigation. His need for justice and order, to right what he saw as wrong, had always been his greatest strength and his fatal flaw. It had led him to reveal things that those in power might wish stayed hidden. But it blinded him to many inconvenient practicalities as well. Such as, how he was going to get out of this mess of his own creation.
That was the matter at hand now, and it left him cursing his own shortsightedness. If he had texted Mary Sue before donning his full length leather jacket and heading out for the night. Or after. Or really, at any point along the continuum of events that had led him to here.
But Mary Sue, being a practical sort, would have phoned the police, who would have arrived here before he had a chance to confront this master of villainy and reveal his true plans. And that would have denied Novo his moment of triumph. A triumph that now tasted like bitter chalk at the back of his throat.
For the warehouse, empty but for the odd pieces of equipment at one end, and the flagrantly dangerous vat of acid at the center of the room, was a distraction. It was a feint by a criminal mastermind, to hide his true intentions. That was why Novo had come. He needed to know the truth. He was going to do battle with the darkness. Continue reading
This week’s reading soundtrack is What’s He Building?, by Tom Waits. It tells a story of a strange man and sinister events in an innocuous neighborhood, just like this week’s In A Flash story Crazy Eddie.
Crazy Eddie, the neighborhood kids called him, though no one knew his name. He moved into the Caldwell’s house that summer, after it had sat empty over the winter, following their move to Arizona. No one knew anything about him, though some said he was a family relation of Melissa Caldwell’s. He did not appear to have a job, at least not one that required him to leave the house, which he did rarely.
When he did, it was to drive up and down the streets of the neighborhood in his dull and rusted Dodge Dart. The engine rumbled oddly and the exhaust it spewed was dark and heavy. There seemed no purpose to these ventures, except to stare at passersby as they stared at him. He did not stop anywhere. No one could recall him ever going into a store, not even to buy food, though surely he must have. He became an object of fascination as a result, children telling each other more and more outlandish stories of his provenance and the unspeakable things he did in the Caldwell’s place.
As the months went by and summer turned to autumn, even the parents living on the same street began to suspect that something was amiss with Crazy Eddie. All but those suspicious of any newcomer had just assumed he was a harmless oddity. An eccentric, not worthy of much notice. But his strangeness began to seem sinister, for reasons no one could quite put into words. Continue reading
This week’s reading soundtrack is Down in the Flood, performed by Flatt and Scruggs. It tells a similar tale of rural calamity and hardship as this week’s In A Flash story The Woman Who Didn’t Speak.
The sky was grey with cloud that promised rain. Marjiana eyed it with distrust as she set off down the road. She had learned to prepare for the worst. The universe was rarely kind and beneficent and one had to fight for the scraps of happiness that could be found, lest someone else steal them away.
Her side ached as she walked. It was a dull pain, one that she had grown used to over the last weeks since her injury. There was nothing else to do but become accustomed to it, for there was nothing to be done about it. The community doctor had succumbed to the rhesus virus two seasons ago. Now they made do with what little those who were left knew.
The hetman had promised a new doctor would arrive with the next ship, but everyone knew it was just something he felt he had to say. Of all of them he had to remain optimistic. Why else was he the hetman, if not for that? To lead was to believe. The rest of them, including Marjiana, focused on surviving. They knew that there was little likelihood of another ship arriving anytime soon—the greater probability by far was that none would arrive in what remained of their lifetimes—let alone one carrying a doctor.
Marjiana walked past the other five homesteads nearest her own home, each of them on its own carefully delineated half acre of terraformed land. Danjesh saw her from the field where he was busy at work and stood to give her a quick wave, before returning to the painstaking work of drawing sustenance from the poor soil. No one else was about in the fields and the surrounding houses were dark and filled with shadows. Two of them were uninhabited, the families there having passed from the rhesus fever along with the doctor. The remaining two were not empty, but might as well have been, for their inhabitants had fallen into despair and now spent their days indoors awaiting their end. The hetman came once a week, trying to stir them from their melancholy, to no effect.
Marjiana had no time for melancholy, even if her spirit had tended that way. She had mouths to feed—six ,in fact, if one counted her husband Kjessel, which she supposed she had to. Presumably he could fend for himself, but Marjiana had her doubts, based on their first five years here following the terraforming. He was an engineer and used to problems having solutions, an inner logic, and there had been little of that here so far. There had been little of anything beyond mistakes and their ill consequences, which they all had lived with as best they could. Some better than others. Continue reading