Running Dark


Genre: SciFi

Word Count: 999

Origin: I wrote this for my Seminar in Fiction class. We were instructed to take a work in progress, and twist it in style and point of view. I was glad to do it, because it gave me wonderful insight into this character, who I’ve been struggling with.

Premise: A man adrift in a spaceship writes a confession, of sorts.

My name is Justar Blaylock. I go by the name Lock these days. Times past, I went by other names. I’m not sure if anyone will find this record–or even if it will survive me by long–but I trust that if someone is reading this, I’m dead. Hopefully I didn’t leave a messy corpse, because I’d be horrified if you had to clean up after me. If there’s one thing I want to leave the universe with, it’s a clean conscience.

I guess if you know anything about me, you might laugh at that sentiment. I am, after all, a conman. However, I never took from anyone who couldn’t spare it, and in most cases the people I swindled were deserving of much worse than I inflicted on them. I make a habit of preying on the unworthy, on the greedy. There’s an old Earth story about a man who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Perhaps that’s where this convoluted path I ended up on began, with the romantic stories from humanity’s past my mother told me as I sat on her lap.

I didn’t realize it then, of course, but I was one of only a handful who would ever hear that story. Most of the folktales and nursery rhymes my mother taught me are forgotten amid the centuries and light-years we wandered. She said they were important to who we were as a race and that they shouldn’t ever be lost. She’s been dead for a long while now, and so is everyone else who might have known the precious words she shared with me. She would be so disappointed that I would let the stories and the songs die here, alone in the dark. Believe it or not, that is not my biggest regret in this mess.

If you’re expecting some maudlin ranting about how it’s not my time and how all of this is so unfair, you’ve come to the wrong deathbed journal. For the last few turns, I’ve been waiting for this; I think, almost hoping for it.

I don’t want you to think I’m self-loathing, because I’m certainly not that. On the contrary, I’m sure I have an exaggerated opinion of myself and my worth. It probably goes back to the stories once again. In much of old Earth’s lore the flawed hero is lauded, so when I compare myself to them I am all the more special because of my faults.

Which brings me to why I am here, dying alone in a derelict ship floating through the most desolate area of the galaxy with no hope of rescue. I’ve always maintained I fall in love too easily. I’m sure that has to do with my mother and her stories, too. What is any story without love and a happy ending?

Gaining the trust of a mark depends, at least partially, on love. They must look into my face, into my eyes, and utterly believe the words I say are true, and that is not something that can be completely faked. This is where most novices fail. There has to be something real behind the façade on which to anchor your game. I often wonder what it says about me that the most depraved of mankind can look into my eyes and fall in love.

While it might be said I become infatuated with any sufficiently attractive being that crosses my path–as I’ve been accused of by more than one paramour–I do not trust easily. You may be expecting me to write, just now, that my lack of trust has proven my downfall. On the contrary, if I had trusted less, I might not be facing a slow, freezing death with this cramped shuttle as my tomb.

Constance. I should have known to stay away by the name alone. The reality of anyone with so trustworthy a name can only be a disappointment. I whispered to her in the dark of her quarters, after the sounds of our passion had faded, of my plans to take her away from the captain that had virtually enslaved her. Indentured servitude has a long, terrible history among our race that continues despite all of the advances we’ve made and the light-years we’ve traveled.

I overheard the plotting of my demise while I hid behind a crate in a corner of the cargo hold, and I could not believe my sweet Connie had betrayed me. According to the vile first mate the captain had only threatened violence, and not even struck the girl before she gave up my entire plan. I imagine her, flushed with her unseemly eagerness to please, telling him every word I’d spoken to her in confidence.

You might think me callous and unchivalrous for the disdain I feel for her now, but surely you will excuse me for that. I was in love with the idea of rescuing the damsel in distress and living out my happily ever after. She turned me over to those that debased her at the first opportunity. Imagine my disappointment.

I escaped before the captain could find me and put me out into space. I thought myself quite clever to get away with nearly the entire fortune I’d planned to steal and my skin intact. That is, at least until I calculated that the shuttle I’d taken didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the nearest outpost. This far out, human settlements are widely spaced and interplanetary travel is sparse, I fear no one will happen across my path until long after I’m dead. I don’t dare send a distress call, because if the crew of the Twisted Fate hears me, I’ll meet my death even faster.

Right now I’m drifting, hoping my momentum carries me into a populated system before there’s no more power for the air cycler and heating unit. Running dark, that’s what the smugglers call it. I call it a lonely, cold death.

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Running Dark by Coral Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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