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. This is Part 2 of the story, so you can read Part 1 here.
The Killing Type: Part 2
Cassandra looked over at Doug and saw the fierce delight in his eyes. He was staring at the squig-squill, like a gladiator staring down his doomed opponent in the ring.
“Come on, let’s just go,” Cassandra said, reaching out for his hand. He shook it away.
“Hold on, you gotta watch this.” Doug darted forward and held the knife in front of the squig-squill. The creature lashed out at the blade. A small splash of pale pink blood landed on the ground and it pulled back with a roar of pain.
“Hilarious, isn’t it?” Doug said, with a laugh. “It’ll keep attacking and hurting itself, it’s so stupid.”
“Doug, come on. Let’s go,” Cassandra said. She tugged on his arm, trying again to pull him back to the rover.
“Fine, let’s go,” he said at last. He darted forward again and stabbed the long knife through the squig-squill’s throat. The creature fell back and Doug stepped on its chest. Even with the thin atmosphere, Cassandra heard the crunch of breaking bones.
“What are you doing? Are you crazy?” she cried.
“What do you care? They’re just pests. I’m not going to leave it alive after I’ve found it.”
“But it didn’t attack us. It was just defending its home. How did you get in this condition, Doug? You weren’t like this four years ago.”
“It’s easy for you to say, Cassandra, living in Coventry in the middle of an empty plain. We fight these things every day up in the mountains. They hide in the mines, they ambush the transports. We wiped out a lot of them before we started digging, but still they keep coming back, again and again. We need to wipe this planet clean, and then there will be peace. Stay here a minute.” Doug stepped over the body of the squig-squill and disappeared behind the bushes.
“Where are you going?” she asked. He didn’t answer.
Cassandra followed him through the bushes. In front of them, the ravine came to an abrupt end and was covered with a screen of woven plants. Doug ripped it aside, revealing what looked like a pile of fur, until a head raised out of it, hissing and snarling.
Doug kicked the pile apart and a handful of scrawny younglings tumbled out of it. A female had been covering them with her body. The female attacked Doug’s legs with its teeth, but they had no effect against the metal shin guards built into his suit. He kicked it off and stepped on one of the younglings, slowly crushing it into the ground.
“Stop it!” Cassandra screamed. “Let’s just go. Please, Doug!”
“This is a mercy killing, Cassandra,” he said. “These ones are dead anyway. If the female goes to get them food, they’ll freeze and if she doesn’t, they’ll starve. She won’t go, so they’ll all die slowly together. It’s a foregone conclusion anyway, so might as well get into it, right?” He gave her a grin as he moved from youngling to youngling. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch-crunch-crunch. “My jellyfish dance, Cassandra. No rhythm, so but I’ve got some deadly moves. Come dance.”
“You monster!” she shouted. It wasn’t just the killing; it was the look of joy on his face as he crushed the little creatures under his heavy boots.
He stopped smiling and looked hurt. “Geez, it was just a joke. Sorry.” Crunch. “It’s got to be done—I was just putting a good face on it.” Crunch.
“Would you just stop!” she shouted, so loud he put his hand up to his ear in pain. The female was crawling back towards him and he stepped away from it.
“What do you want, Cassandra? We can’t live on this planet in peace with these things, and if they’re going to attack us, someone has to stop them. And I’m good at it. I saw you when you were dancing, with that look of joy on your face, oblivious to the rest of the world. You know that desire that burns a hole you’ll never fill with anything else. You have dancing and I have hunting. You’re the dancing type; I guess I’m the killing type.”
She looked into his face and saw with horror that he was right. He had become a killer, and he loved it. He turned around. “Go back and wait at the rover. I’m just going to take care of this last one.” He held up the knife and took a step towards the female squig-squill.
Cassandra ran at him and shoved him to the side. Doug tried to step to the side to maintain his balance, but he tripped on a rock and fell face down. His scream of pain reverberated inside her helmet. She ran to him and pulled him over and gasped when she saw the knife sticking out of his chest.
“Doug, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
“Killer,” he whispered, and for a moment, she saw his familiar, teasing grin touch the corners of his mouth before the life went out of his eyes.
Cassandra stayed kneeling for a moment until she remembered the squig-squill behind her. She jumped up, but it was nowhere near her. It was picking up the crushed little bodies that were scattered around the dell and arranging them by the rock wall. Then, as she watched, it made its way out through the bushes and lay down, covering the body of the dead squig-squill with its own.
Cassandra pushed the button on the com, trying to keep the tears out of her voice. Still, her voice quavered when she spoke. “Akash, come get me. There’s been an accident.”
* * *
Coventry Outpost was a storm of rumors, but all anyone knew for sure was that Doug Rankin, the son of Camellia Outpost’s commander, was dead. Cassandra sat in her room, confined there by her father while they sorted things out. After an hour, her parents came in. Her mother sat down and hugged her tightly.
“This is a horrible tragedy,” her father said, “but I think we’ve found a way for some good to come from it. Here is what you are going to tell everyone: you were walking with Doug when you were attacked by a group of squig-squills. He tried to defend you and killed a lot of them, but then several hit him from behind and he fell, accidentally stabbing himself with his knife. Akash is willing to testify that he was worried about you and came to find you, arriving just in time to scare them off.”
“What good could come from that?” Cassandra asked softly. She felt as if all the energy was drained out of her. The world was a more confusing place than it had been, just hours before.
“You pushed him and he died,” her mother said. “Some people might consider that manslaughter, and that could even carry the death penalty if Rankin pushes for it. He is inconsolable. But there were no witnesses; there’s no reason we should even go through that.”
“Plus, now I’ll have a pretext to start hunting them again,” her father said. “The commander seems to think that since they’re not attacking us at the moment, we have to maintain some sort of truce with them. But their numbers are just increasing and some day there may be enough to attack Coventry itself. Remember the Magnolia.”
“No, I’m not going to tell them that,” Cassandra said. “I’m not going to let you hunt them. I saw them, Dad. They’re intelligent, and it would be wrong.”
“You would throw away everything because of them?” Her father’s voice was full of disgust and disbelief. “You would possibly even die for those things—our mortal enemy?”
“I’m not a killer, Dad,” Cassandra said. “I’m sorry. I guess I broke the family tradition.”