Posts tagged short story
Posts tagged short story
An immaterial train eases into the station. Often times, you take it.
The train takes you to a safe place, but not always. Some times it takes you to an uncomfortable one, an introspective one or an overwhelming one. Through the journey, you see expansive vistas, surreal ones or embracing ones. But you can never really choose your destination, even if at times it seems like you can control the trajectory. But it is the uncertain journey that makes you keep taking the train.
Every so often, though, you miss it. You stand absentmindedly at the platform, the steam making it hard to see anything. And you wonder what it could have been. But sometimes, rarer times, you simply decide to let it go. You become content with seeing its silhouette disappearing in the distance.
And you know it won’t be long until the next one.
Night at the rim was a cold one. Sometimes, it was like a good drink. It started cold and thought-provoking until it filled you up inside, it warmed you, it made you aware of what was home. Other times, it went down clawing its way through, leaving a sour taste, deep remorse and dirtying the sidewalk. Life in the rim was as simple as it was dangerous, just like the best beverages.
The raggedy cloth was made to spread the filth, not clean it. I grab the nearest glass, the dim light of the bar can just about read the dirty inscription on its bottom. No self-respecting bar in the rim was actually clean. It would intimidate the good customers. And the best customers were the ones that no one else would welcome, the outcasts. Those like me.
You hear a lot of stories when you are a barkeep, and you quickly learn to stay out of other’s businesses. It’s a survival thing. In the rim, you keep your head down and you spread the filth out of those glasses. But sometimes, hearing the tales of woe of clients is your only source of entertainment. You can barely understand the phrases, but the tale therein lives on. Life in the rim is diverse and all stories find their way sooner or later to my bar. Their stories help me forget just like the alcohol inebriates these fools. It’s a reciprocal relationship.
I know, though, as soon as the man enters the bar, that my introspection would be tested. He comes purposefully to the bar, making more eye contact than any other customer would care to make. His clothes were odd and you must understand the severity of that statement. My bar welcomes people from all over the rim, that means a bunch of different fashions, several of which I can’t even begin to understand. But this is a bar, no one cares what you wear as long as you wear something. News travels fast these days, even all the way out here, but in varying speeds. I see people wearing what I imagine is the latest trend sharing a drink with someone that dresses like my grandfather used to. But as soon as that man showed up, I realized a sudden change of atmosphere on the place. No one stopped talking and the music didn’t stop playing, but there was something different. The conversations were more hushed now, the music didn’t seem to have the same flair. The man wore spurs and a black hat, two silver bullets attached to it by a ribbon. I kept wondering how he could have found such old apparel. Bullets? Who even had those anymore? The trench coat was a bit much, I thought. But the noise of his spurs kept everyone on edge. Nothing like an obvious bounty hunter to bring a room down. I hate it when they are sober.
“What can I get you, sir?” My voice was certain. I returned the cold look with a warm one. Two can play this game.
“Information. I hear you have a regular by the name of Tryles.”
“No one here says their real name.”
“I know you know him and I need to talk to him. You’ll tell me where he is.”
I tried to suppress the chuckle, I did. But kids nowadays are too arrogant. The signal was for Zack, the muscle I keep around for rainy days and hustling barrels. We don’t need to make this into something it isn’t. Overeager bounty hunters are as easy to come by as they are to be dealt with.
“I keep the habit of only talking to customers, you see. Can’t have the pleasure of my company for free. Or you think people come down here for the liquor?” Arrogant, I know. But in my experience, most of these in-your-face outsiders can only be met with an arrogant counterattack.
“I’m done with your games, old man”
The cold metal of the pistol reflects the liquid in my glass.
“You’re an outer rim boy, aren’t you?” He can barely contain his widening eyes.
“What makes you say that?” Bad actor.
“Outer rim bars are outdated. You can’t shoot in here. Dampeners.” It works. The man ponders and visibly gives up. He’s making it too easy.
“Alright. Give me something.”
“Haha. I’ll not hold that responsibility. Choose something.”
“How about a Blue Wahl?”
“Sure thing.” The douche drink was already half-way done when he finally said it. Good. He couldn’t read the bottom of the glass. Would’ve been odd, out of context.
“Now tell me about Tryles.”
“You’re his brother, right?”
The silence is answer enough.
“You look like him, down to the same drink.”
“So you do know him. God damn it, old man! Is he gone?” The drink spills while his wide-eyes survey the bar.
“Don’t worry, he’s not been here today.”
“Tell me where he is!”
“None of my business really, but I have been where you are.”
“Old-timer, I don’t care about your story. Where’s my brother?”
“He’ll be here later. But are you really thinking about killing him?”
His poker face could use a little work.
“Don’t worry, I don’t know that. I can read it in you. Used to be a ‘hunter myself, lifetime ago.”
“Uh… really? Why did you quit?”
“Hah! Come back in a few years and ask me that again.”
“Whatever. You said you’ve been in my shoes…”
“Hired to hunt a relative that made too many wrong choices… It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s not simply pulling the trigger.”
He had become silent now, way too focused on his drink. He wasn’t going anywhere.
“The Galaxy was another place back then, you either smuggled or hunted. Otherwise, you’d starve. Law enforcement only really worked for the big guys. And sometimes not even for them, with the right kind of money. Everyone’s a bounty hunter, one way or the other. It is just a matter of price. My price didn’t have zeroes in it, though.
Back then, life in the Core could get harder than in the farthest planets of the Outer Rim. Politics took precedence over everything, even people. Even my wife. And it is simple, too easy, to break a person, to make him resort to the worst, to realize the worst in him. And once he realizes vengeance won’t bring her back, won’t numb the pain, he’ll keep on hunting. Because by then, it’s all he knows how to do, isn’t it? And each job numbs you more, makes life bearable a little more. Until comes a contract for another relative of yours, and the relationship between you two feels so far away, stored beneath years of painkillers. And you tell yourself you have to do it, it’s a job, and he probably deserves it. But you know you’re no different than him. Your brother took to drinking and ended up from drug to drug, looking for something to fill the void left by your mother’s death, your father’s absence. Your drug was different, but just as addictive.
People today often think that Bounty Hunting is a glamorous profession. They force themselves to not think about the blood and the lies and the awful cleaning up. They see in movies and think that bounty hunting is about looking cool and spewing cliches. But after every job, when all the flair and imposingness of the profession wears thin and you realize there’s nothing really attractive about it… that’s when you realize that one day it will all catch up to you and whatever you did, you’ll have to live with it.”
At that point, leaving him to ponder with his drink seemed the best move. He was in his last drops, after all, and there’s nothing more thought-provoking than an empty glass. I’m sure it will help that he’ll read beneath the glass the words “You’ll have to live with it”.
Another old one while I make sense of some things. This was yet another story developed to try and flesh out a science fiction setting with my cousin. I don’t really like how this one came out, maybe someday I’ll revisit it.
There’s a breaking point, when waiting for a bus. We don’t like to admit it, but it’s there. In my experience, that point of no return happens after 45 minutes of patience, but let me elaborate by painting the situation, as it were.
The scene happens in a bus stop. That much is a given. There is one bus that you can take that will get you home directly, and one that will take you to a station where you can get that former bus. Here is your conundrum, then: do you wait for your bus or do you take the other and pay two trips? It depends on your haste to get home and your financial availability, of course, but let’s say you take the obvious decision, and just like that, you grab firmly the metaphorical shovel and start digging. You wait.
The first minutes are a novel game of glancing into the horizon, the idiotic hope of seeing your transport in the distance, but never quite standing up from the bench, because deep down you know it is not the one you want. The first ones pass in a blur or, when signaled to stop by your fellow patients, stop in front of you, beckoning with a contemptuous look. And then comes your second option, the one that could take you to the station. You look at it doubtfully, trading the sight of it with an expectant glance at the horizon, unsure about what’s the smart move here. After a moment’s dilemma, you decide to hold tight to your precepts. You wait.
The next few minutes are a build up of frustration and stolen glances. After a while, the horizon becomes an unattainable beautiful girl. You glance at her from afar, and just as you realise she will return the look, you feel the impulse to look away. There’s no hope there, but as soon as your peripheral vision senses her change, you glance again, guilt washing over you because you know there’s nothing new to see, but you have to look anyway. After a few minutes, the idea of the bus you wait becomes ephemeral, abstract. You diminish it to a colour, a number, a shape. You scan the horizon for that characteristic. You wait.
Then it comes, a ray of hope clutches at your chest and it shines in the horizon. You can’t read the letters, nor see the numbers, but the colour is right. It has to be your bus. You take every victory you can take by now. There’s a bus in front of it, so you stand up and walk a little bit to account for the other bus’ area of parking. You are not new at this. You see, much to your dismay, a hand thrust upward in front of you, signaling the first bus to stop. It’s the reason you stood up in the first place, yes, but you are not new to this, you know what this means. Your heart starts racing, you are unsure if the driver of the other, potentially your, bus will see you if you give it a sign. And the bus that is now stopping obscures the other’s placard, you can’t see what bus it is and you know you’re only going to see it when it is too late. You panic, running further away from the bus stop to get a better look at it, but never getting out of the sidewalk because the first bus still hasn’t stopped. You can see the last few letters, and it can be half a dozen different buses. The first bus is now in front of you, and it infuriates you. But you’re not new to this. You try to look at your bus through the windows of the one in front of you to ascertain property. Half letters and meaningless lines. You can’t know if it really is your bus. The envy swells up inside of you when you see the people entering the first bus. What do they have that you don’t? Are they better than you? Why? Your bus, never proven as in fact yours, runs swiftly by the bus stop, never looking back, the behemoth of twisted metal plows through the traffic and your broken psyche. You wait.
By now, the fifth bus to the station has left the bus stop. It dawns on you that by this time, if you had took the first bus, you would already be home. It is a scary realization, more than a frustrating one. You catch yourself thinking about what would have happened had you taken the first bus, what different decisions you would have made, what different people you would have met, what new things you would have done. The horizon burns your eyes now, looking at it feels like looking at the sun. Nothing good can come from it and you can never get too close, but you look anyway, because without it, there’s no hope. The sixth bus to the station climbs the horizon and appears before you. You wait.
By then, the asphalt turns into quicksilver and the cars turn into a violent sea of molten metal. In the horizon, a new bus appears. The way the light strikes it and ricochets off of it makes it look like a great white whale, coming up for air for the first time in a day. You can scarcely believe it, but this could be it. You thrust your five fingered harpoon outwards to the violent sea. You rationalize that if it ends up not being your bus, you can always apologize to the driver. For a second, you are afraid that the light will blind you to the bus’ destination, or that the hours of patience could have made you forget how to interpret the almost hieroglyphic markings on the metal beast. But the way is clear and you can read clearly. It is indeed the bus you have been waiting. You begin to tell yourself that the wait was worth it, that you don’t mind having seen the people that shared the bus stop with you change at least three times. It was all worth it. You’re going home. Your smile comes unheeded. Your hand feels as numb as your legs and mind. But the wrath of the beast seems impossible to halt. Without believing it, you realize the bus is not stopping. The tears well up. Your arm feels leaden. You run backwards. Your legs begin to burn. Your eyes meet the driver’s. There’s nothing there. He speeds past you.
I live in Brasilia, capital city of Brazil. I imagine this story won’t resonate as well with people from places with good public transportation systems. Good for you. Really. I once got out of class at 10pm, on my first semester of university, and waited until 1am for a way home. So, have some sympathy.
Around me, the city lies in shambles. The blast knocked out a few buildings, cars are just piles of molten metal tossed around the street. There’s no sound but a high-pitched noise that pierces my brain. There’s movement on the edge of my vision, but all is blurred. The sky seems to be made of lava.
The academy taught us how to proceed in a situation like this, how to assess the situation. To look for the probable point of origin of the blast, to realize if anyone else was hit, to shake off the trauma and shock and worry about getting the civilians out of danger all the while trying to look for suspicious people and being prepared for a second hit.
But no amount of VR training could prepare anyone for the real deal. The high-pitch subsides slowly. Charred concrete and entire sections of buildings block the street. It takes a while for me to hear the screams and the crying, someone is sobbing near me as my vision starts to fade.
Looking into the ashen sky stretches my senses, I feel like I see all of creation. The stupidity of ants afraid of life itself, lashing out on whatever they think invades their turf. Inconsequential brats insensitive to the sacrifices made to keep what we now have. In times like these, while patrolling above the streets of New Fakhar, it feels so long ago, I used to wonder if trying to protect this decay was worth it, if things like these weren’t inevitable. I feel like I’m freezing, as much physically as emotionally. It seems ironic when I look at the red reflections in the towers of smoke. I feel the tears further blurring my vision, my eyes contemplating firmament. Somehow, the burning sky reminds me of the sunrises of old.
I’m trying to keep a weekly update and I had idealized an update plan of alternating random short stories I have lying around with the ones I’m working on for the 100-theme challenge. But this week I ended up not finishing the story I’m working on for the challenge, so I’ve decided to bin the whole notion. Enjoy another quick story.
The dim-lighted walls of my room reflect my disgust. Through the window, my city seems broken, as a long forgotten dream. I can no longer go out there; it’s become oppressive, more than I can take. The dead pile up the streets. The cars emit their foul vapors and run through the corpses like they were mere bumps in the road. Pulsing truth into my eyes. The dust from the wreckage mingles with the exhaust fans far above the ground, a swirling dance of filth above my dead city. The window shows me the shining upon the destruction I have wrought. Flashing regret through my heart. It was once a lively city, a reasonable city, before the genocide and the stupidity. The world died and my window doesn’t hold it back, it lets the apocalypse seethe through to my haven. Assaulting the grit and the gore of the last century in my head. The blood drenches the bed, crimson patterns crisscrossing my being. And as my world turns darker, as the streets of my city enshroud the dead in utter blindness, the window lets the world sleep one last time.
I promised shorter stuff. Here it is.