Skip to content


Posted on:March 14, 2024 at 12:06 AM

 Snow fell silently, covering discarded junk and bits of trash until Solsbury almost looked like a nice place. Gavin shoved his hands deeper into his pockets in an attempt to warm them. A puff of white breath in the air beside him caught his attention. Mithra’s scarf had slipped down and dragged along the snow behind her.

 “Wait.” He yanked the end off the ground. His sister turned her brown eyes on him calmly as he wrapped it back around her carefully. Despite passing her thirteenth birthday last week, she was a strangely helpless girl. She’d have gone outside barefoot, but uncomplaining as always, if he hadn’t stopped her. The girl nodded a silent thanks.

 The neon of a McDoodles sign caught Gavin’s eye and the savory aroma of fried food filled the cold air. Mithra’s stomach growled audibly, but she looked blankly ahead toward the town gates.

 “Two for one deal!” The red-faced man behind the counter bellowed out on meeting Gavin’s gaze. Smoke billowed out from the window and the snow under the neon lights shone pink, green and purple.

 “Two then.” Gavin thrust a fistful of faded bills toward the shopkeeper.

 The two kids walked away with hot salty fries, boots crunching in the dry snow. They tossed the thin paper boxes to the ground once empty, and snow quickly covered it up.

 Outside of town, the trash heaps grew larger and fog settled around them. Gavin knew the way and didn’t falter. The old man Per lived in a broken-down shack not far outside of town. Everyone said that kids who go there disappeared, never to be seen again, and that Per was a retired pirate, or a renegade perhaps.

 Gavin knew better. Just because someone had a cybertronic eye didn’t mean they were a pirate. He’d seen Per shuffling about the general store, a standard issue UDR-Army blaster peeking out from beneath a raggedy overcoat. Maybe the old man was ex-army, or a deserter. It didn’t matter. Per was their only lead to finding Dad.

 Still, this was the first time Gavin had been so close to the shack. It creaked ominously in the wind that spun through the valley of trash, and somewhere on the roof a loose metal plate banged. He jumped, shamefaced, in contrast to Mithra, who didn’t seem to notice. She never reacted to things around her. Adults said something was wrong with her. Gavin squeezed her hand and they approached the door.

 It creaked open before he could reach out to strike it.

 “Who’s that?” A gruff voice came through, and the grizzled beard and beady eyes of the old man became visible in the dark gap.

 “I’m Gavin. This is my sister Mithra.” He swallowed. “We need help. Our dad’s in trouble.”


 “Come in then if you want to talk.”

 Gavin hesitated. Did you just think you’d stand outside and talk to him? He walked forward as the door opened a bit more, but pulled his backpack down onto one arm. Inside, his father’s machete lay sheathed, the only weapon he had to protect Mithra with.

 The interior of the shack was barely warmer, and dark, but Gavin’s eyes adjusted quickly. A dingy sofa leaned against one wall. Dishes piled high in a filthy kitchenette. The buzz of a distant light from a backroom, maybe the toilet, could be heard. The table in the center of the room held several empty Biru bottles and a dim hourglass. Per grabbed the hourglass, gave it a shake, and flipped it over. Glow-sand crackled with energy and the room brightened as the sand sparked and slowly streamed downward.

 “What’s the trouble then? And why am I the one to deal with it? Don’t have time for kids.” The old man shuffled away to the far wall. A 3D display briefly popped up with streaming letters and numbers and he typed something quickly but it went dark before Gavin could lean over and get a clear look.

 “Our dad disappeared. Like the others.”

 “Ha.” Per coldly threw himself down onto the sofa. “Lots of orphans around here lately.”

 “He said your name before he left,” Gavin blurted out. “Did you know him?”

 Per sat silent, staring at the children.

 “Mom’s gone now.” Gavin clenched his fist. She’d wanted to throw Mithra out. Like trash. He glanced at his sister but the girl’s eyes were pinned onto the old man. “We’re going to look for Dad. But if you know anything about him or where he went… Please. Tell me.”

 The last of the glow-sand dropped to the bottom of the hourglass and the shack grew dark. Only the heavy breathing of the old man broke the silence. Metal banged again outside, but it sounded different and came from the front of the house. Gavin stiffened. The doorknob rattled.

Gavin ripped open his backpack and pulled out the machete just as the door flung open and two men burst inside. They were dressed in dark leather, and two of four eyes gleamed with strange light. Pirates.

 “Mithra get down!” He commanded and the thud of her body dropping to the floor reassured him that she had obeyed.

 Gavin lashed out into the dark with the sharp blade, and a yelp from one of the men sent a shiver of determination through him. A gleaming metal disc swooped downward and he blocked it before jumping to the side and swinging back in retaliation.

 The old man’s breath was suddenly audible in his right ear, and he felt its touch against his neck. Pain exploded in the back of his head and his body collapsed into darkness.

 Wind streamed by Gavin’s ears as loud as a drone train. He stirred and tried to open his eyes. Blurry figures moved by in a sea of red and silver. He couldn’t move.

 “You’ve got some spirit kid.” A gravelly voice spoke. “We’ll give you a choice. What’ll it be: join the crew? Or the slaves down below?”

 Gavin struggled and spat at the voice.

 A chorus of harsh laughter met his ears, but it faded into the noise of the wind and he sank back into unconsciousness.

Lately, I have become quite interested in dipping my toes into the cyberpunk vs. my usual medieval fantasy genre. This was supposed to be a comic piece but it quickly became a bit darker, oops.

I was given these prompts:

I have quite a few ideas for continuing this actually into a fullblown space pirates adventure story, but we’ll see! I’m still busy working on my novel. For now, this is just a rough short story.