The rain was heavy with purpose, landing with resounding thuds all around them; Taks thought it might be trying to cleanse the ground of battle, to remove old sins from the soil and soak the earth with hope instead. Maybe it was sick of the old world’s scars and wanted to wipe the slate clean.
With what had happened here, that was a losing battle in itself.
“Taks, damnit!” Marta bellowed as the tarp Taks had been holding slipped and flapped in the wind. “Hold it steady! Hog’s teeth, I don’t want to spend all night at it!”
Their mind was wandering again. Taks half-yelled an apology that was eaten by the storm and groped in the dim light for the tarp’s edge. Their fingers connected with the Orb’s eerie metallic surface, centuries of detail exposed to the brutal elements; it still felt hot even after so much time. They helped Marta stake down the rest of the tarp in embarrassed silence, covering the gaping hole in the Orb’s top; of the field’s choices, this one had the most intact structure, which wasn’t saying much.
This is a story I submitted to Glitter + Ashes, “an anthology of queer joy and queer community in the face of disaster”, published by Neon Hemlock Press. It made the shortlist but not the final cut, so now I get to share it with you. I’m honoured to have made the shortlist, and if you enjoy this kind of thing (or the above description whets your appetite for less sad post-apocalyptic stories), please do check out the zine as it’s still available for pre-order! Info here, and pre-orders are here! Support small press!
“What do you mean, ‘your bones are no good here’?” Festree said, confused. “These are third-age roach skeletons, they’re worth at least a few old wyrds.” She picked up the bones to emphasize her point, showing their intricate branching structures. It had taken her nearly three days to prepare them, and these were the good ones; the rest had been thrown into a lackluster stew as spice. Her stomach still roiled when she thought of it.
“I’ll tell you what, little witch-” The hag hacked horribly, her misshapen, furred body wracked by the effort, “-you cure me of this wretched cough, and I’ll give you what you want.” She rubbed at her throat for effect.
Festree rolled her eyes, then scooped the bones back into a pouch. “Fine.” She drew herself level with the stooped woman’s eyes. “But if I find out these wyrds are bunk, I’ll hex you with my period cramps for three moons, you old blister.”
Carlisle wrinkled their nose, but said nothing as Festree cleared a spot on the ground.
The station wheeled through the void carelessly, metal carapace groaning and creaking against the sheer vacuum that surrounded it. The Jovian moon of Callisto swirled in the darkness below, framed by the gigantic sphere of gas and storms that was Jupiter. The rings glinted in sparkling sunlight, sunlight that had careened through space at such unimaginable speeds just to shine against all these tumbling, hurtling rocks. Even the other moons twinkled in the distance, hot white sparks against the deep black canvas behind.
It all looked so fake.
Niké stared hard out of the viewport, trying to convince their brain that what they saw was reality. Those huge, unimaginably strange bodies outside, so alien compared to the cool Martian sand they grew up on. So cold and barren, devoid of life or shelter. Niké squinted their eyes. Still doesn’t look right, they conceded.
“Niké!” The old caretaker bot shouted down the connector.
“Yeah,” Niké responded distractedly, eyes glued to the surreality of such an immense spectacle. The unfathomable vastness was just wrong-
“Nee-Kay.” Came the synthesized voice again, stressing the syllables. It always got their attention, and not for good reason.
“What, Tink.” Their reply was flat.