“A Monster Story: What Once Was” | Novella | Written by Scott Moore | 2 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“A Monster Story: What Once Was” | Novella | Written by Scott Moore | 2

Jennifer Daily sat crossed legged upon a flat pillow. She had practiced meditation for fifteen years. She still practiced because she could never quite get it down. She sighed and flicked her hand to the near table, grabbing a long cylinder before lighting it between her lips. Her next sigh was of pleasure. Who needed meditation when you had a cigarette? She inhaled again, letting out a puff of smoke.

“Does that mean we are done already?”

Across from Jennifer sat the biggest man she had ever seen. Though saying he was a gentle giant would not do his docile side justice. With hands like a regular man’s head, he refused to kill a bug. Jennifer let the smoke swirl around her. It soothed her like nothing else. She knew it was bad, but so were a lot of other things. ‘Enjoy things while you are alive’, she always said. Though she always tried those healthy things first; they just never worked.

“Sash, we are finished forever with this junk.” His eyes belayed the hurt. She hated how easily he fell to emotion. She was supposed to be the woman. “Oh, come off it. I will be ready again tomorrow.”

He quickly found his smile. What a lumbering wreck. She took another quick drag and snuffed out the end on the table beside her. She was supposed to be working right now, but she hated this planet. The sun here was too hot. It made her skin sticky and her clothes heavy.

Want to hear a poem?” The joy on his voice was like a child.

Did this man really exist? She could not imagine being such a pansy. If she was that big, she would have ruled this ship. Turned the thing around and gone home. Home, she thought. She wouldn’t even have a home if it wasn’t for this place. She refrained from lashing out. She knew he meant no harm.

Not right now, Sash. I have to get back to work.”

He tried to hide the sorrow, but she could see right through him.

The knock on her door saved her. She always caved to the cries. She stood and stretched the sleep from her legs. There was still plenty of youth left in her at only thirty-five but traveling in the ship had worn her down. When she opened the door, sliding it by the knob on the side, Paper stood eagerly on the other side. He was a tiny young man with a boyish frame; she envied his hopeful disposition.

What?” She was usually more polite, but right now she didn’t feel like it.

His face didn’t shift. He didn’t care how polite she was. She liked that. She knew he hated this place just about as much as her deep down, even if he failed to show it.

General Garman has requested your presence in the mining pits. Neil has found something of interest.”

Neil Thompson, she thought. Thoughts of shaggy brown hair, corded muscles filling our long arms, and those light brown eyes. She bit her lip in concentration.

Did you hear me, Jennifer?”

Her thoughts came rushing back to her room. She had a husband and two kids. No matter how much the flirting turned her on.

Yes, I will gather my things.”

Lintel nodded. He then turned and made his way down the hall. Jennifer cringed. She hated the mining pits. What had those idiots found?

***

One more, then I’m done.” This was the fifth or sixth time he repeated that same sentence. The man across from him looked frustrated but complied. He had to comply. Had to keep the captain happy. Who else could fly him off this heat bubble? He jerked forward. He wasn’t tired. It was the damn alcohol eating at him again. He pounded the small shot glass full of amber whiskey. It tasted horrible. He spat on the floor next to him. The man in front of him ground his teeth. Never would he say a word. Captain Jones Clifton smiled. “One more.” His hand shook as he reached across the bar. Maybe that was his vision that shook. He wasn’t sure. His hand found the small glass and his head tilted back. The contents burned all the way down. Why did he drink this crap? It tasted like death.

Again, his head swooned. Throat muscles swallowed tightly. Was he going to puke? Trying to prevent a disaster, he held his breath. The feeling slowly passed. A loud burp came instead.

One more.”

Someone sat down next to him. The bar was made for the mining workers, but the captain spent more time here than anyone else. The alcohol was proposed to keep the miners placated, but Clifton drowned his sorrows just as well. His arm felt heavy, but he grabbed another glass and sloshed the contents down his throat. He turned to the man sitting next to him.

That is horrible!” He let his breath wash across the man’s face. The smell of whiskey was strong.

 “Maybe you have had enough?”

Clifton stopped grinning. He had to stop to focus his eyes. He couldn’t do both at once anymore. The swimming image of the man before him slowed. He knew the face. Adam Harvey. The men called him Rawhide. He was older than the hills, but still looked like a young man. Crazy what that space air could do for a person.

 “I think I will have another.” The captain tried to place his hand on the counter, but it thudded with weight behind it. He chuckled. He could barely control his own body.

Have you heard, Captain?”

Rawhide grabbed his attention. He tossed the drink down his chin. Spilling it all down the front of his shirt; he didn’t bother to wipe it away. He couldn’t feel it anyhow.

Hear what?” What kind of ploy did old Rawhide have?

Staring at him with disgust and contempt, Rawhide maintained a casual tone. “Neil Thompson may have found a new species. Something big they are saying.”

That was the news?

I will have another.” Adam looked away. “

I hope it eats the whole shitty lot of them,” said the captain.

Adam redirected his attention back to Clifton. He let a smile cross his face. “Let’s hope not, captain. Then who would you have to drink with?”

 Clifton grabbed the shot glass and downed the liquid. He thought to himself, hopefully nobody.

***

Clawing and scraping he rose to his feet. These were his feet, right? They had to be. They looked so different, but different from what? The dirt still showered the enclosure. It was impossible to go back the way he had come. The pain in his head added to the pain in his stomach. He lurched forward, sticking his grotesque hand into the dirt wall. His claws dug deep into the sodden texture. He used the wall to hold himself straight. It took a minute, or what he thought was a minute. What was a minute? He seemed to forget more and more. His head cleared. He could stand on his own again. His claws loosened from the wall. Four deep crevices remained. They filled with dripping water. His hand reached up, cupping the substance. It burned to touch. He moved retracted in pain. What was it? His mouth felt dry, so he put his lips to the dripping liquid. His stomach lurched. He let out a yelp. It sounded like a growl. The surrounding dirt shook. When had he become so loud?

     His hands cupped his ears. The sound of his own grunting hurt them. He didn’t like sound. Something whispered down the tunnel. He looked. It was pitch black, but he could see. Far down the tunnel were lights. They crept across his vision. He froze. Was it some kind of monster? He slipped behind another wall. This tunnel was narrow. His shoulders scraped and stuck against the rough walls.

  He was almost running. The lights faded. He slowed. Turning his head, he watched the opening. What was down here with him? Where was he? He hadn’t always been here, or maybe he had. It was too hard to remember. He closed his eyes and his chest shuttered. A growl emitted from him again. More noises, and then the light reappeared. He turned again, slipping between dirt walls. His legs carried him until the noise and light could no longer be seen.

***

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