Two Weeks and Other Periods of Decay #Excerpt

From the short story Archangel

No one was coming for them.

Lola realized that hard truth right about the time she carved the thirty-sixth notch into the metal plating of her left boot. One hundred and twenty-four days passed. 17.7142857143 weeks. She never liked math, but she didn’t need to be a statistician to know a rescue effort would have found them at least twelve weeks ago.

She smoothed her finger over the ding in the metal, a small burr digging into the skin and drawing blood. She watched the bright red bead drip into the sand, soaking it up until nothing remained but a small spot that would bake in the morning sun and blow away with the next swift wind.

“We’ve been here almost eighteen weeks.”

“Yes,” the assassin said.

Not looking up from the edge of her boot, the pilled metal would wear away on its own. Twenty-six days earlier, she dinged it much the same, though she hadn’t cut herself that time. Twenty-six days of walking, and mark number ninety-eight was little more than a thin, dust-encrusted notch. Most of the others weren’t even visible anymore. They were the thinnest of lines detailing unexpected survival, and sometimes she let herself believe she would expire when she could no longer see them.

“Eighteen weeks,” she sighed.

“And your point?”

“No one is coming.”

“I am inclined to agree, Captain.”

“Please stop calling me that.”

“You are the last in the line of the chain of command. You are the captain, whether you wish it, or not.”

“We weren’t a military ship. There was no chain of command.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“We don’t even have a ship.”

“Untrue, Captain.”

He was only calling her that to get under her skin. She didn’t need to see the sharp curl of his strange lips to confirm it. The taviar assassin hadn’t liked her from day one. It figured the universe’s twisted sense of humor would see the two of them stranded on a dead planet together.

Gesturing over his shoulder, she followed the long line of his arm, staring at the half-buried remnants of the crash site.

Forty yards beyond the site, the charred mounds where they’d given last rites to the crew loomed like something out of the old stories her father used to tell her when he tucked her into bed at night. His ancestors had been warriors, conquerors. When they fell in battle, the survivors buried them beneath mounds, doused the earth and set it aflame. They believed the fire carried their spirits to the gods, but sometimes their souls didn’t leave. The taviar’s beliefs were similar, so that was what they’d done, but every time her gaze fell on the barrows it gave her chills. Eleven mounds under the rusted remnants of looming Sol; they looked ominous and foreboding.

Sometimes she thought she heard them moaning in their graves. She would shift where she tried to sleep, eyes wide and heart thumping so loud she swore the assassin heard it. On those nights, even he was restless. Part of her wanted to forget how much they hated each other, crawl across the space between them and wrap his arms around her. She wanted to quietly beg him to reassure her everything was going to be okay, even though she knew, even though they both knew, nothing was going to be okay.

No one was coming for them.

“It’s not a ship anymore,” she told him, snapping her gaze away to stare down at her boot again. The light of their small fire glowed amber, reflected in the metal like something liquid and molten. The acrid smoke left a bitter taste in her mouth, melted plastic and useless circuitry. Sometimes beneath the ozone, she swore she could still smell burning flesh and hair. She drew in breath through her mouth, stroked her fingertip over the ding in her boot again and said, “And I am not the captain.”

“Whatever you say,” he shrugged, quietly adding, “Captain.”

Two Weeks and Other Periods of Decay is available now for just $1.49 or to borrow from the Kindle Unlimited Lending Library on Amazon

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One thought on “Two Weeks and Other Periods of Decay #Excerpt

  1. Love this excerpt, Jenny! I’ve got this on my Kindle, and I need to start plugging in a short story here and there, when I’m taking breaks. THIS one, first! Great concept. And I have to wonder…because that’s the kind gal I am…just how strange are the taviar assassin’s lips, anyway??? 😀 Might be just curious enough to start THIS one tonight!

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