So ya, kind of have been inattentive. In case you don't check out my social media (I have three accounts) I've been taking a bit of focus and placing it toward a radio show and potential business. If you are interested in that, check @tytyscifi on Instagram, other than that, I have done a few other things since my last post. First of all: my two amazon exclusives are coming to this site's bookstore. Both are short horror/thriller/drama story collections, and I am currently working on a 3rd. There is an endgame here: both already published and this current unfinished one are strictly e-books (the 1st was supposed to be an audiobook but who knows when that'll happen? Certainly not amazon's audiobook program, that's for sure) all 3 will be combined into a physical book, with an added back story that will connect everything in those 3 books.
The 1st horror collection ("The Shadow Dies Loudly But No One Hears Its Cries" found on my amazon page and was just reviewed by the fantastic podcast 'Arbitrary Advice') is mostly just pure messed up horror and thriller stories. The 2nd ("The Shadow Sits In The Darkness And Weeps For Its Life") still has a good chunk of creepiness but I wanted to focus on the mind, psychological dramas and pitfalls aplenty in that one. The 3rd (Ridiculously Long And Bizarre Title Not Created Yet) will have a significant focus of science fiction, my first love, and my introduction to literature. So without further ado, here is the 1st story in the collection, presented free and open to criticism. Enjoy.
“All The Young Dudes”
Hotep wasn’t even out of his last year of education when he joined The Empire’s Army. The recruiters were known to be predatory, targeting Last Years to go die on some distant planet ‘for the good of the species’.
Hotep knew this.
Hotep knew about all of the horrors that happened forever ago when humanity first started spreading out.
Hotep knew about the slaughter of indigenous races, flora, and fauna to make a whole planet another city-state or an Eclipse Factory Planet or just convert the whole fucking thing to a Hard Wax Production Site.
Hotep knew all of this and decided it was worth it just to get off of Earth.
So at age 73, with little less than a decade before he would become a citizen, Hotep signed away his life to go die in the grasslands on some planet whose people were barely sapient.
“You’re a fucking idiot, Hotep”.
“What would you like me to do, mom? Sit in this apartment till I die? Theo’s 400 years old and he’s literally never left the Building.”
“So? Theo’s also had everything taken care of for him during those 400 years. Not many people do leave their Buildings, Hotep. It’s life, it’s not always fair.”
“I just want more”.
“You’re just greedy is what it is. What? Do you think you were owed something? This is how it’s always been”.
“No. No, it’s not. There’s more to life than...whatever the hell this is.”
“You know what it is? This is all that bullshit fiction you read. It’s gone to your fucking head, Hotep.”
“It’s not fiction! It was life a long time ago and it seemed like a goddamn paradise compared to this bullshit.”
“None of that shit is real! This is how it's always been.”
“You honestly believe that? How does that even make sense, mom? The whole planet was just always a massive city? There wasn’t anything like flora or fauna here before all this metal and plastic? Use your fucking head.”
“Fuck you! If you’re going to talk to your own mother like that, then why don’t you just get the fuck out right now!”
So he did. Hotep packed what little stuff he had, ignoring the incoherent screams and crying, and left Building 587TX. From the Sky Hook that took him to the LaGrange Station, he saw Building 588TX and 586TX and realized he never saw either one in his entire life. They must’ve been a few hundred meters away, with millions of people inside. He wondered if there was a young man or woman in Building 586TX having the same argument he just had. He also wondered if the same conversation happens every day, in Building 9876AG and Building 342LP and so on, and so on. Was there even an end to the Buildings? Was there a Building 1? Were there any new Buildings being made? Hotep thought about what his mother said: ‘this is how it’s always been’. Doesn’t even make sense, but maybe it did? Hotep realized he was a man who didn’t know anything about mankind. He smirked, he remembered his Education Time when he learned about ‘irony’, he must’ve been like 50 when he learned that. The world was so much simpler back then when he knew nothing. Perhaps that is the greatest form of irony, learning about the world just makes you regret living in it.
Hotep was inside the LaGrange Station, waiting to hear someone tell him where he was going. He knew he’d never see Earth again, but he never really did when he was there.
LaGrange Station was frequently called ‘The Twilight Zone’ by veterans. Time disappeared there or was added to one’s life. Things didn’t make sense, but spending 100 years in a battle simulation tends to screw with you. Hotep completed his training in the simulator. He stumbled out, and then vomited out of confusion and fear.
“How you holding up?” said a young woman.
“I...I know you. I know you?” said a mentally drained Hotep.
“Ava. Was part of your platoon for the past imaginary 110 years.”
“Ya...ya I’m starting to remember”.
“Yep. Fucking hell is this always so hard?”
“You get used to it. You were what, 73? Let me ask you, Mr. Hotep if we spent 110 years in the simulation, and only 11 months passed in the ‘real’ world, how old are you? 74 or 183? How do you know this was your first simulation? How do you know you’re in the real world right now?”
“Jesus dude I was just kidding. You’re 73 and this is real. Goddamn, hold your shit.”
Ava walked away, and Hotep slumped into the smallest pile of shame on the whole station.
Hotep spent the night to get ready for Day 2. He laid there on his cot, it had been a hell of a day. He lived and died countless times inside a computer program, feeling all the pains as if they were real, both physical and mental. He knew how to survive on a battlefield, and the drugs were erasing the PTSD from pretending to die for over a century. The memories flooded back from the collection of programs. He remembered storming the icy cliffs of Shklas and crippling the rouge A.I, he remembered providing aide to some nameless Factory Planet Colony whose natives didn’t care for the human workers, clearing out the primitives of Raho, clearing out the primitives of Nu, clearing out the primitives of Calispid. All of those atrocities occurred on those planets, all those natives actually were slaughtered, recorded by various grunts and analyzed by an Eclipse Computer, then made into a glorified game for new cannon fodder to play with. Hotep thought back at the argument with this mother, maybe she was right, maybe he was a fucking idiot.
Day 2 came along, which veterans called School 2.0. It only lasted about 5 hours, but School 2.0 was, according to some, worse than 1000 years in the Calispid Simulation.
Hotep sat in his pod and put on the helmet. Everybody talks about how painful School 2.0 is but they never say why. They never mention the 3-inch spike that enters your spinal cord and how they upload the expertise of countless forms of how to kill a thing. Data on every single form of martial art conceived by humanity, data on how to master every weapon known; both human and the countless conquered races, data on how to deal with every medical issue that has been reported on any battlefield, data on hacking, crafting, every biological and chemical process of every documented species in the known universe.
The data stream ended.
Hotep puked again.
Hotep laid in his cot, Day 3 was a few hours away, and that was the last Day before they sent you off into the big beautiful ocean of stars and darkness.
Day 3 was a 12-hour test. That was it. The ‘Victory Lap’ where they determined which planet you’ll die on.
It was determined from the test that Hotep would die in the grasslands of Nohest, which was a small rocky planet with large and diverse ecosystems. Eclipse and the U.N (which were practically the same entity) thought it would make an excellent Hard Wax Production Site. Hotep was treated to a nice video after receiving the results that Hard Wax is a vital resource to the Human Empire, being the key ingredient in the fuel for faster-than-light engines. Nohest had godless primitives, genetically having high testosterone and low I.Q, meaning if they ever got to humanity’s level, they would be aggressive. It was for the good of the species to wipe them out, to slaughter them in their cradle before they took their first steps out into the universe.
Day 4 was departure day in the Human Empire’s military-industrial complex. Churning out soldiers in 4 days tops. Sending them on their way to aid in the ever-hungry expansion.
Hotep boarded the ship, a great Charon delivering him to Hell itself, and secured himself inside the protection pod. The heat generated from faster-than-light travel claimed the entire crew when the very first ship tried it out. Now, eons later, people knew the proper way to travel was both cryosleep and high speed, whereas fiction of the past usually had one or the other. Cryosleep was more so to prevent you from becoming paste mid-trip. This was all explained by Ava in a matter of minutes to a frightened Hotep, who felt he would vomit again.
Hotep was secured in the pod, it closed and he was encased in darkness. The ship’s engine whirred, and for about 5 minutes Hotep experienced the most intense pain he had ever felt. His whole body, his mind, his whole being was just off. Every time you engaged in faster-than-light travel, it would always take about 5 minutes more or less, no matter the distance. It was one of those mysteries no one cared enough about to solve. Either way, those 5 minutes were always enough to ruin a person forever if they didn’t have the mental strength. The sheer memory of that pain, or pains if traveling multiple times, will last for however a person was allowed to live.
After the travel ordeal, the ship landed, granting Hotep with a glance of a completely different world. Nohest wasn’t developed like Earth was, living plants, not in pods or containers, covered the landscape. Off in the distance, Hotep witnessed the side of a cliff, and it was the most beautiful thing he had laid his eyes on. The red and white strata mixing together to paint a picture of billions of years of geographic art. The sheer size of it, it dwarfed any building that he lived in or saw, and yet it was untouched. The colors of the rock were not artificially sprayed on to boost morale. The size was not built for a positive economic output. It was just there. It just was.
Hotep, still in awe, began the trek to base camp. He unpacked for his personal quarters, and sat there on his cot, not overthinking or analyzing, just there in a state of pure being.
The platoon, all 500 strong, got ready to meet the natives, to carry on the facade of helping them. The 500 were split into teams of 50, each going to a different tribe of Nohestians. There were different ways to convert a primitive. Sometimes it was with their currency, that humans would research and then mass produce, sometimes it was with science, or any faith they would buy, or help with a construction project, and sometimes for the fun of it, they would just walk in guns blazing. No matter what the price was, the Human Empire would pay to get it, for the ever-increasing need for more. All the young dudes, aged 70 to 300, would die for the rest of humanity to have more. More processed but tasty food, more space for living, more precious metals that would be used to make more mindless entertainment devices, more things to kill and fuck as slaves or hunting stock, or sometimes both at the same time. All the young dudes were sent to die, so old men could play. Ava went on and on to Hotep and any who were listening. She was making sense, a little radical, but the logic was there.
The troop met with the Nohestians, and Hotep was in awe at the sight of them. They were humanoid, about 7 feet tall, with dazzling feathers and a unique evolutionary trait: four arms, with two being far larger and deadlier than the other two. The Nohestians had a myth that the gods made them this way to be fighters and creators, with the larger hands being used for battle and the smaller hand being used for crafting, feeling, helping, lovemaking.
The communication device could translate any language presented to it: first, it would sent recon drones, millimeters in size, to spy and gather linguistic data. Then, after abducting an unlucky member of the target species, various brain scans, and tests associated different neurological patterns with different noises, essentially creating a map of linguistics that could be copied, shared, and used to communicate with the rest of the species.
The chief of the Nohestian tribe interrupted the head of the troop: “You claim to help. What good can you give us? We have food, we have a working society, we have understanding, more than you think we do. What could you offer us that we need?”
“Well” stated the troop leader. “I suppose you are right. Which leaves us the hard way.”
48 of the troops readied their weapons. A few Nohestians were injured, but 7 foot, 4 armed Raptors are not to be underestimated.
Ava and Hotep were spared for defying their orders. Ava, Hotep, and the strongest Nohestians trekked toward the landing zone. There were more Nohestians there with a few other human defectors.
It had been 200 years since the human defectors destroyed the communications relay and helped assist the Nohestians in their culture. The Human Empire must have assumed it was a glitch or the natives just weren’t the trouble. Either way, attending to this planet would mean resources were being wasted, so for whatever reason, the natives and new immigrants weren’t bothered. The Nohestians taught them everything they needed to know. They were once a large and powerful empire, bloodthirsty and ready to conquer the universe, but their Sun had other ideas. A tremendous solar flare set them back to the stone age, where they chose to remain to repent for their sins.
Hotep watched his children play with Ava’s children. There had been about 80 defectors, and since Nohest was their new home, basic human nature took over. He remembered the torture he went through to get here. The 7 decades of Earth life and being treated as a pawn in a game that he would never even see the rules of let alone the end, the century of killing and dying in the contorted memories of dead men, the time he spent here on his new home learning and living like his species was meant to live, all of this taught him one thing: this moment of watching his children play while he tended his garden, this was in a way he could not really explain, the true destiny of humanity.