Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
The comms room was not where the sound they heard earlier had been coming from, but that didn’t stop Yarmar from having the neural devastator gun at the ready when the door slid fully open. It was quickly apparent that there would be no need for it here. There was a body on the other side of the door, the trapped arm twisted at an odd angle. It lay in a pool of dried blood, though it was not immediately clear where it came from. Further inside there were two others, also both Thorian. They lay close to each other, one on their back, the other bent forward with the side of their face pressed into the floor. Both corpses had significant bruising and bleeding on their foreheads, their Thorian cranial bumps smashed to almost beyond recognition. Sickened to his stomach at even being able to draw such a conclusion, Hilosh thought that it looked like the body that was lying on its back had died days after the one with its face on the floor.
“What in the green divinities happened here?” Charosar whispered, but with the three of them connected by their mics, the chill of her voice was loud and clear in Hilosh’s ear.
“They certainly didn’t go as peacefully as the one in the cargo hold,” Yarmar said, a cold distance in her voice, the muzzle of the neural devastator she was holding still pointed towards the bodies. She was right, if the one down in cargo looked like they passed quietly into the beyond, these were sent there abruptly, and possibly by each other’s hands. Hilosh remembered the voices in the background of the message they received from the ship. In all likelihood, they had come from these grotesque distorted faces when they still ranked among the living, or from whatever or whomever had done this to them.
The flashlight beam found another corpse in the far right corner of the room, crumpled unnaturally against the wall, its head displaying a similar kind of damage as the others, the front of its shirt soaked in blood from the head wound and a wound on his neck. Hilosh was reaching his limits. His breath shallow, and a tightening discomfort around the flesh in the back of his head, he had to stop, arms braced against the communications console, and looked at the floor to escape from the carnage, only to find a bloody footprint. He closed his eyes, taking a few breaths, while the other two paid him no heed, continuing to survey the room.
The Anthar Kai, whenever they come to learn of this, would be all over them. Normally they took little interest in small outposts like theirs. Flung so far out into Dead Space, the administration of something so small hardly made it worth it and there were other ways they could exploit them. But this, just being here on this ship, leaving their own footprints in Thorian blood and with Charosar formerly posted on Rosha Chot’hagh. Throwing up inside his helmet was not an option, taking it off to throw up in the comms room was similarly off the table. Hilosh opened his eyes to ground himself again, and peered over the console he was leaning on. There, he spotted the top of another head.
“Come take a look at this,” he said, and waited for the other two to come by before he walked around to have a look himself.
This body was similar to the one they found in the cargo hold, sitting against the console with its knees up against its chest and its head resting on them. The visible skin on their hands and forehead was similarly wrinkled and dry-looking and there were no signs of severe physical trauma that could have contributed to the death.
“I wonder if he’s the one who sent the message,” Yarmar echoed Hilosh’s thoughts. Were these words, spoken across the coldness of space to a tiny mining operation of mostly Vaparozh, where only one person even understood their meaning, the final words of this Anthar Kai crewmember? “Why am I?” indeed, Hilosh thought, completing the sentence with “about to drop on you all like an emissary of death?” Hilosh had just about enough of the Raire and its ghosts.
“I think we’ve seen all that we need to here,” Hilosh said, trying to find a spot to focus on in this room without seeing death and not finding any.
“We still don’t know what happened.” Yarmar had knelt down by the corpse behind the comms panel and gently prodded its shoulder with the muzzle of the neural devastator.
“We can leave that to the Anthar Kai. We did what we needed to, which is check for survivors.” Hilosh wished he could whisper this to Yarmar, away from Charosar’s ears, but they were on a shared frequency. “Now’s not the time to satisfy our personal curiosity.”
“It’s not personal curiosity, Hilosh. Something actually brought down a ship full of Thorians. And you know they would sooner burn the Raire down than let anyone else know how or why.”
From the corner of his eye, Hilosh could see Charosar straighten-up at this suggestion.
“I know. I know if the Anthar Kai takes over, we’ll never know what happened here. But do you really want to know? What do you think they’ll do if they suspect we might have this knowledge? We’re a small group of Vaparozh out in Dead Space and they’ll have no problem making sure that no one will ever miss us. Is that want you want for our crew?”
For a while, Yarmar didn’t move, communing silently with the dead Thorian she’d been studying.
“We might have already seen too much,” Hilosh added.
“You’re right, you’re right,” Yarmar said finally, getting up. “Let’s get off the ship, and pretend we didn’t see anything. Charosar?”
“You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve dreamt of being in a room full of dead Thorians,” the engineer answered, “But now that I’m here, I’m not so sure how much I prefer them to the lives ones.”
They piled out of the communications room, and behind them, Yarmar shut the door over the arm of the body that either never fully made it in or out. It closed on the appendage with a gut-wrenching thump and Hilosh had to remind himself that they weren’t the ones responsible and were just putting everything back in its rightful, or in this case, wrongful, place.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.