Sometimes (and by that, I mean all the time) I wonder what I’m doing all this for. It’s not like people really care about what I write–and that’s okay… no one cares about what most people write. There’s a reason for that. Two, really. One is time. Most people these days just don’t have enough of it. The second is due to Sturgeon’s Law–80% of everything is crap. People know this instinctively, and budget their time accordingly. They stick to the writers they know and like and are often unwilling to take a chance on anyone new. Hence the reason most sales of new writers go to friends and family, and usually only the one time. Even your friends figure out quickly enough whether or not you’re someone they’re willing to add to their list of “writers”.
With that in mind, I offer a little story here for you to dip your toes into the icy river of my words…
An Illusion of Night
by Clancy Weeks
Everything leaked—the window, three bulkheads, seals, and the port reaction chamber; the worst were Will’s head and Paul’s own abdomen, and the second he plugged with two quick squirts of Heal-It. There was nothing he could do for Will, and Lena had trapped herself in the airlock. Next up was the port engine before their universe went boom, but unless he got into an EVA suit soon, it wouldn’t matter. Paul’s trachea burned with every icy breath, and the ship’s alarm faded with every second; in moments, hard vacuum would reduce it to a vibration he could sense only through his boots.
He ran to the nearest locker and shrugged on the suit, ignoring pre-check protocols. The collar on the helmet clicked home when he gave it a quarter turn, and air flowed instantly to his aching lungs. Before he could descend the ladder to the port engine, a fierce rumble vibrated up his boots, through his legs, and into his brain.
“I’m not goin’ in there.” Will shook his head violently, the white-knuckled grip on his weapon never wavering. “Why me, anyway?”
Paul eyed him with a frown, then pasted a smile on his face. “Because you’re the better shot.” Without waiting for further argument, he opened the hatch and shoved the boy through, dogging it closed behind him. The kid stared through the porthole with wide eyes, then spun at a sound from the darkened depths of the hold.
One, two, three shots rang out, vibrating the floor plates under Paul’s boots. There was a short, high-pitched scream, and a bucket of blood splashed over the porthole. The beast that had once been Lena had just pureed Will, then pressed a leathery snout against the glass and licked it clean. Paul pointed his weapon, hands shaking, and blew the glass out with a single blast, accomplishing nothing more than enraging the creature. She bashed the door, and Paul retreated.
Not fast enough.
The metal screamed, and the door popped open like a can of biscuit dough. She gripped the ragged metal and pushed the door wide; head and body revealed an inch at a time. Paul fired into her abdomen and head with no effect, and she lunged and seized him around his chest. She tore the rifle away, taking most of his right arm with it. He cried out in agony, his vision blurry from pain and rapid blood loss, but clear enough to see her mouth open wide. Rows and rows of glistening teeth awaited, and he smelled Will’s blood on her hot breath as she—
The upper half of Will’s body exploded in a fountain of gore, bits of bone and brain raining over Paul’s head. The creature lifted Lena high into the air, its roar of rage shaking the ground, and he shouldered the weapon and prayed this time his aim was true. He took a deep breath and pulled the—
Dr. Jackson lifted his hand from the control panel and rubbed his temple. The power of the machine humming through every surface faded, then stopped.
“Why did you do that?” Inspector Janet Hardison stood on the other side of Paul’s body, studying the holo-field over his head. “We’re close.”
“He’s spiraling, Detective.” He shifted from rubbing his temple to scratching the five o’clock shadow on his cheek. “The longer he’s inside, the greater the chance of trapping him in a loop.”
Janet rubbed the side of her nose with a forefinger. “I think we were close a few iterations back.” She frowned and furrowed her brow. “Can you re-run from there?”
“Do it.” Her tone left no room for argument.
“How long do you plan to continue?”
She sneered. “The man murdered his wife and son, Doctor. I want that confession.”
Janet straightened. “As long as it takes.”
Will’s body lay splayed on the ground, his head a mess of red oatmeal, while Lena screamed under the weight of the bald man with all the tattoos. A wave of déjà vu washed over Paul as the other bikers struck him over and over with their lead pipes. How many times had he been here? A thousand? Two?
Blood poured from a deep cut on his forehead into his eyes. They burned and blurred, but he refused to close them. One leather-faced animal wound up like a major leaguer and—