A few days ago, I posted a call for song suggestions. The idea was like my Open Prompts stories, except that I would use quotes from song lyrics in my story. Thank you to the people who gave me suggestions. They are, in the order they commented:
starlight: Patrick Park’s “Blackbird through the Dark”
I have linked the quotations from the songs to the place in the Youtube videos where they appear. The story is about 2500 words, so I split it into two parts. The second part will be posted tomorrow.
The Killing Type: Part 1
He finally found her, dancing alone in the stardust dawn underneath the crystal roof of the power station. She was twirling and pirouetting with utter abandon, her eyes closed and her feet splashing through the oil and waste water on the floor.
“Cassandra,” he said at last, hating to break the spell of her dancing.
Cassandra stopped and looked up, then her eyes widened. “Doug? Is that really you?” She flitted up to the steel ladder and gave him a hug. “Stars, you got tall in a hurry. When did you get here?”
“An hour ago, maybe,” he said, grinning. “It took me most of that time to find you. What are you doing here, in this filth?”
“It’s the only place I can be alone and still see the stars,” Cassandra said. “I don’t want to dance where people can see me. I was born in Coventry Outpost but still, the close quarters, always being near everyone else—it gets to me.”
“But at what price?” Doug asked. He indicated her bare feet that were covered with tar balls and scars.
“It’s worth it,” she said and suddenly laughed. “Tell me what’s happening with you. I haven’t seen you in four years.”
“It’s a great life out there on the frontier. I’m working with my father to expand Camellia Outpost. We just built the smelter and factory.” He paused. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” she said. She took his hand. “Hey, do you want to dance with me?”
“I’m not really the dancing type. I’ve got no rhythm.”
“Bah! I remember you. You’re slow and graceful, like a jellyfish. When you move like a jellyfish, rhythm don’t mean nothing.”
“Jellyfish are deadly too, though,” Doug said. “Hey, I know what we can do. Have you ever killed a squig-squill before?”
“I’ve gotten really good at it—you gotta be out where I live. I can hit one with an air rifle at 50 meters. You wanna try?”
Cassandra looked up into his eager, expectant face and let go of his hand. “I’m really not the killing type,” she said.
He nodded. “Okay, okay. But let’s go find some anyway, just to look at. Have you ever seen one?”
“Only in pictures.” Cassandra had seen lots of pictures of squig-squill bodies that had been killed back when she was a baby. They looked like limp bags of fur with claws sticking out of them. Her father was head of patrols and boasted about killing hundreds of them. These days, though, the outpost commander forbade them from hunting squig-squills unless they passed the outer perimeter of the outpost.
“You gotta see one up close,” Doug said. “I’ve gotten really good at finding their nests. So, you wanna?”
“Isn’t it dangerous? What about the Magnolia?” The very first manned mission to Asteria had been attacked and annihilated by squig-squills, back when Cassandra’s parents were children on Earth. The legend lived on, though, and every child in Coventry had to memorize the names of the ten astronauts killed.
“That was back when we didn’t know how to deal with them. Trust me; there’s no danger at all.” Doug gave her a reassuring smile.
“It’s pretty far to walk, though,” she persisted. “The outer perimeter is 5 km out and there aren’t any squig-squills within that.”
“Listen,” Doug said, as if he were imparting a secret, “I’ve got a rover.” His eyes were shining. “It’s the first one we’ve built at the factory. That’s how I got here; I drove it and my dad drove a transport.” He caught up her hand and squeezed it. “I know that before I left, we used to be just good friends—”
“More than just friends,” Cassandra said, smiling.
“We would have been, if I hadn’t had to leave.” He suddenly leaned in and kissed her. It felt good and she would have kept kissing him, but he straightened up with an impish grin.
“Fine, go show me a squig-squill,” she said and he hugged her again. Cassandra wiped off her feet, put her boots back on and then led the way out to the vehicle dock.
The commander of Coventry Outpost was hosting a banquet in honor of Doug’s father, Commander Frederick Rankin, and almost the entire population of Coventry Outpost was squeezed into the main dome. The only person Cassandra and Doug met on the way out was Akash, the guard at the airlock gate.
“I just heard over the com that they’re looking for you two, you know,” he said, giving them a knowing smile.
“They can’t be looking very hard,” Doug said.
“No, they’re not,” Akash said, “and they probably think you’re off somewhere, catching up. Which I guess you are.” He pushed the button to open the airlock. “Don’t go far, and stay on the com.”
“Yessir,” Doug said with a salute. He gunned the engine and the rover sped out over barren plain.
For Cassandra—sitting behind Doug with her arms around his waist—the feeling of speed and openness was heavenly. She was only able to leave the outpost every 20 days or so, and that was just to walk around the perimeter and check the instruments. Red dirt and sand covered all the land as far as she could see. Asteria’s blazing sun was just over the horizon and the light sparkled and flashed in the upper atmosphere. Above them, tethered lightdomes hung in the upper atmosphere, gathering energy and providing the outpost with its communications. Through the lightdomes shining in the sky, the last of the night’s stars burned in the midnight blue expanse.
Doug drove them out past the perimeter and up into the foothills of the rocky spine that led from Coventry to Camellia, 200 km away. Small, scrubby plants began to appear among the rocks, interspersed with icy pools.
They came to a ravine cut in the rocks and Doug stopped the rover. “This is the kind of place you’d find them in,” he said.
Cassandra heard his voice through the speaker in her helmet. He pointed to a white smear on the rocks, about a foot off the ground. “Look there. They leave those around a lot too. To mark their territory or something.”
Doug took Cassandra’s hand and led her towards the ravine. The light of the sun was blocked by the rocks and the ravine was in deep gloom.
“Is this safe?” she asked. “How will we know where they are?” She noticed that he had drawn a long knife and was holding it in front of him. “What’s that for?”
“The males are aggressive. Best not to take chances.”
Before they could take another step, Cassandra heard a high-pitched roar. It sounded faint and far-off in the thin air. A squig-squill burst out of the bushes, blocking their path. This looked nothing like the limps bundles of fur she had seen in pictures. Its small, misshapen head was stretched out on a thin neck and flicked back and forth, mouth open and menacing. It moved its clawed limbs in circles in front of it, but did not attack.
(to be concluded, here)