The Last Prince of Golgotha

“What’s a god to a non-believer?”



It is often said that boredom is good for creativity; almost a precondition for it. It is said that the tastelessness of a situation or routine which does not excite us will often drive us to think up far more exciting enterprises. This is true for the most part, but what is often excluded, is that the fruits of our creativity may not always be wholesome.

Severe boredom was the catalyst for the first step in the chain reaction leading up to my current predicament. I remember so clearly the day when everything changed. In its progression from sunrise to sunset, I suppose it was a regular day. But in the grand scheme of things, the events which transpired that day served as the fulcrum about which I was catapulted away from regularity of everyday life and downwards into Limbo.

If the days of our lives in Golgotha were like grains of sand in an hourglass, every grain leading up to this day was identical. What made this day distinct was that every grain following it was non-uniform; peculiar, unique, indescribable.

That day, like every other day before, I visited my friend, Xenophilus. When I arrived in his domain, he was in his garden, as I expected him to be.  He was kneeling in the mud, perspiring heavily and beaming at his blooming sunflowers. As I cast a shadow over him, he looked up at me and smiled.

I do not think I can remember a time when Xenophilus’ face was not lined with age, when his mouth did not twitch at the corners of his smile, when his eyes did not twinkle like starlight, when his hair was not streaked with grey.

We began our conversation as we were accustomed to doing.

“You’re getting fat, Constantine,” Xenophilus said.

“You’re getting fatter,” I replied.

This simple exchange was just the build up to something which would become much more intense as it went on. To beings like Xenophilus and me, conversation is the only true escape from ennui. All other possibilities have been exhausted, all other activities are unsatisfactory. True release is obtained only in the heat of an intellectual exchange so rigorous that it borders on violence.




When the activity takes place between two beings of superior intelligence, the act of conversation takes on a new meaning. It ceases to be just a means of communication. It transcends that, to become something much more. Xenophilus and I were always challenging each other, were always pushing each other to the limit. Two entities locked in an eternal battle, like the immovable object and the unstoppable force. As often as our debates were ugly, the products of our debates were beautiful. I often left Xeno’s domain feeling invigorated and energized.

In conversation with Xenophilus that day, something happened. A suggestion was passed from him to me. A suggestion to partake in an activity that changed my life forever. Looking back at it now, I suppose this was the beginning of the end. You would think that with my great intelligence, it should have been apparent to me then. The sad reality is that some things can only be appreciated in retrospect.

I can still hear the words Xenophilus said to me that day as loudly as a crashing waterfall. The words echo about my being, causing my bones to ache, causing my muscles to tremor. I curse Xenophilus and his great intelligence. I curse Xenophilus and his beautiful mind. I curse Xenophilus and his smooth silky voice. I curse the day he said to me, “Constantine, I have something to show you.”




I sat in my chair, staring at my arm for minutes. A crimson tear leaked out of a small incision in my arm and fell towards the ground like a corrupted raindrop. My demeanor was calm, but my mind was a raging sea.

What was this feeling? What was this sensation?

At first glance, the sensation was unpleasant. Any lesser mind would definitely dismiss it as so, but to a being such as myself, I could never be satisfied with such a basic description. In my opinion, displeasure and pleasure are simply polar extremities of the same condition. The sensation I felt then spanned all the lighter shades in the spectrum of displeasure. This simply meant that given the right perspective, the sensation could be perceived as euphoric.

I took my eyes of my bleeding arm to look at Xeno, “What is this?”

Xeno looked back at me, bloodied knife in hand, eyes twinkling, “This, my friend, is pain.”

I was like a scientist, looking out of a telescope for the first time and discovering a whole new universe above him. I was like an amphibian, stepping out of the water for the first time and onto the land. This was a new frontier, and I could have been driven mad by the excitement.




“Cut me again,” I instructed Xeno.

He chuckled. “My dear Constantine, be patient. We have much talking to do.”

I willed myself to take my attention away from my bleeding arm, and the sweet, sweet pain.

“How did you discover this?” I asked Xeno

“Yesterday, while doing my gardening, I accidentally cut myself with one of my implements,” Xeno replied. “It has been eons since I have made such a mistake. The feeling was oddly familiar, and trying to remember it was like trying to hold on to a dream in the moments after waking.”

“A fortunate accident then,” I said with a laugh. “What I feel now is transcendental. Well, what are we waiting for? Cut me again.”

Xeno did not move. I looked at his face to see he had a smug expression on. This was the face he always wore when he was about to counter one of my points in an argument with a better one. I began to feel irritated.

“My dear Constantine, I could cut you again. I could cut you all day, and it would feel good. But what you feel now pales in comparison to the type of pain you could feel.”

“What are you talking about Xeno? There is another level to all this?”

“When I first felt this sensation, I knew it was familiar. So I read Zoroaster’s old journals to find out more about it.”


“Well, you know how dense that old fool was. It took me a while but I eventually got to the bottom of it.

“This feeling is known as pain,” Xenophilus continued, “It is one of the primary emotions experienced by the Humans.”

“The Humans,” I said. “You mean they feel this too?”

“Yes they do! All day, every day, but their minds are so primitive that they can never appreciate it.” He paused, so that I could process the information.


I looked up.

“What I am about to propose now might sound insane,” Xenophilus said. “But I trust that you have the presence of mind to appreciate it. If Zoroaster were here, he would call it an abomination.”

“Go on,” I said.





“I will show you terror in a handful of dust”




The two doctors arrived in the army base on a Sunday. The night before, the transport helicopter had been blown out of the sky by the rebels. This meant the only form of transportation they had available to them was a jeep.  Going by road meant they would have to path through the jungle and into enemy territory. This prospect excited neither of them. They would have preferred to wait for a backup helicopter, but this was a luxury they just couldn’t afford. Their mission was time sensitive.  Reluctantly, they boarded the jeep.

As they moved through the jungle, the junior of the two doctors began to experience an intense type of anxiety. The masochistic part of his personality would not allow him to admit his fear, and he was thankful that he could blame his heavy perspiration on the heat of the sun.

The elder of the two doctors was very passive. It was impossible to tell from his demeanor the nature of his thoughts. He was quiet, pensive. Every now and then, he checked the package he was carrying to make sure there were no malfunctions.

They arrived in the village by nightfall, safely. The villagers wanted them to get to work right away, but they had to set up their laboratory first. The chief was frustrated, but he managed to hold his peace. The government had promised his people relief almost three months ago. Many had died since then, many were still dying. And now that their “saviors” had arrived, his people would still have to wait. More would still have to die.

That night, the chief went to his hut with a heavy heart. He gripped his bedridden daughter by the hand and whispered, “Only a few more moments my sweet. Hold on.”

A day passed, and then another, and still, there was no relief. The villagers were growing increasingly restless. Increasingly impatient. The Chief did his best to placate them, but soon, even he lost his patience. His “saviors” were proving to merely be false gods and his pain and disappointment were turning into rage.

The two doctors were a mess. After setting up their lab, they noticed that the coolants which were carrying the vaccine had malfunctioned. They had travelled all this way for nothing. They contacted the army base about their problem but the general was not sympathetic. The general, in fact, was relieved that the presence of the doctors had created a cushion between him and the unceasing cries of the villagers.

More days passed, and yet the new vaccines did not arrive. As the villagers died by the number, the doctors shut themselves up in the lab in a superior display of apathy. Locked up inside, the doctors were being destroyed by guilt. Their government had decided to use biological weapons in a fight against the rebel forces. Unfortunately for them, the village had been caught in the blast radius and now many of its people were suffering from a highly contagious weaponized virus.

In an act of acknowledgement, and maybe apology, about the state of the village, the doctors had been sent with a vaccine. They had been sent with a vaccine, but arrived with nothing.

One day, while the doctors were wondering how much longer they would have to wait, the door of their lab was broken open. Frightened, the doctors thought the rebels had managed to invade the village. Instead, standing in the doorway with a cutlass in his hand was no one other than the Chief. He charged at them, swinging like a madman. They tried their best to avoid his blows.

He wanted to kill them. He would have killed them, but fortunately for the doctors, some of the villagers charged after the chief and held him back. They did not care much for the doctors; they simply didn’t want to see their chief soil himself with the sin of murder.

The chief broke down in tears, moaning. It was a hurtful, guttural sound. The doctors did not understand the language the chief spoke, but the full depth of his pain was communicated to them. Their shame knew no bounds.

The villagers gave up on the doctors and their government. They resigned themselves fully to their fate. The survivors gathered themselves at the town center and started to pray. The new gods had failed them, and with shame, they went back to their old gods. That day, they sang haunting melodies into the night. They lamented the dead, and their destiny.

The doctors felt relief. The encounter they dreaded so much with the chief had come to pass and they came out unscathed.

Or so they thought. This was just the beginning of their suffering.

The Chief had barged in unannounced, and in doing so, he had compromised the laboratory environment. The doctors were now infected. Their bodies would be subjected to the worst kind of pain. The same condition which had resulted in the death of the chief’s daughter.

It was gruesome. Their cells were being destroyed by a self-replicating microscopic particle. Their torture started with a severe cough, as their respiratory systems were compromised. Next, their cardiovascular systems failed too, leading to intense pains in the chest. Eventually, the virus arrived at their brain, eating away at their neurons and causing them to lose certain functionality; like the ability to talk, or move, or see. Eventually they died, choking on their own mucous.

It was a sad story. One lacking in protagonists but brimming with antagonists, and in the aftermath, no one was shown mercy.





“I am standing here in your poem–unsatisfied”



The first trip was very surreal experience. Throughout the whole episode, there was a duplicity in my psyche. There was the part of me which was “me” and there was this other distinctly human part. It was as If I was a spectator in my own body, watching helplessly as my less developed human self blundered and failed.

Perhaps that was the most uncomfortable aspect of the whole situation; that my supernatural consciousness could not integrate seamlessly with the human mind. It was like trying to inhabit a worm, or even worse, a rock. I was helpless to the impulses and base desires of the human brain, acting on instinct like a common animal.

Regardless of this discomfort, my expectations had been met immeasurably. When Xenophilus first mentioned his plan to me, I must say, I was quite skeptical. After the first episode however, I realized he did not exaggerate about the euphoria I would feel. It was pain and suffering beyond my wildest dreams, and it was oh so very liberating.

In Golgotha, there was no pain. There was no suffering. There was no lack. There were no needs. Everything was so perfect. Everything was so boring. We went about our days challenging each other in conversation, searching for a scrap of stimulation, searching from the tinniest escape from ennui. What Xenophilus introduced me to, was not so much about the pain and suffering as it was about the vulnerability, about the mortality. Being afraid of death for the first time in my life opened up new regions of my consciousness I never knew could exist.

In the years to come, there were many more expeditions. Always the two of us, living, suffering, loving, losing and dying. We were generals, inspiring and leading our men into a battle in which we were outnumbered ten to one. We were children, trapped in an orphanage home with a Matron who was deranged and abusive. We were soldiers, returning after a war to a country which barely recognized us; we would never know the meaning of home again.

At first the trips excited me, but eventually, as my experiences as a human increased in number, so did my disillusionment. I loved feeling pain, but something else about the human condition bothered me. An imperfection which they acknowledged and indulged, an imperfection I could never fully grasp, an imperfection which I could never characterize. In time, the trips began to tire me, immensely.

Xenophilus, on the other hand, was unstinting. He loved being mortal, he loved being vulnerable, he loved being human. He looked forward to the trips with an eagerness that startled me, with an eagerness so vast that it could easily be called a devotion. I always went with him, because no matter how annoying the experience, to live and to die was far better than the great emptiness of mere existence in Golgotha.

I do not know exactly when I reached my threshold. I had been considering for a while the option of taking a break from the trips. The biggest obstacle was Xenophilus. I could foresee no outcome in which he agreed to my proposition. He was too far gone.

I was sitting in my domain, brooding about my situation, when things took a turn for the worse. This time, it was Xenophilus who cast a shadow on me.

I looked up at him, and before I got the chance to speak Xenophilus said, “My dear Constantine, we need to talk.”

An unpleasant taste was forming in my mouth.

“I’ll make this as straightforward as possible,” Xenophilus said. “After our next trip to the human world, I will not be returning to Golgotha.”

I had anticipated that this would happen, I had feared that this would happen, I had denied that this would happen, and now that it had, I felt powerless. “Xenophilus, what are you doing?”

“My friend, I have lived for far too long in this cesspool they call a paradise. The thought of spending even another eon in this place drives me mad. I do not desire to carry on like this. Living as a human has opened my mind to new possibilities, to new frontiers, to new emotions and experiences. A single lifetime as a human has brought me more fulfillment than an eternity in Golgotha. After drinking from the river of human life, even immortality has lost its appeal. Surely you must have experienced this too. Surely you must understand me.”

“Xenophilus, think about what you are saying. You are addicted to the pain. It’s gotten into your head. Don’t forget what you are!”

“Constantine, I assure you, I am quite sane. It really isn’t about the pain. It ceased to be about the pain after the second or third trip.”

“Then why?” I bellowed.

“It appears I may have set my expectations too high again,” Xenophilus said with a sigh. “I was hoping that even in your youth, you would understand me. Maybe someday you will. You always look down on humans, Constantine, but they are more free than you will ever be.”

I buried my head in my palms and tried to hold back the rage, “They are worms Xeno, maggots, writhing about in their filth and muck.”

A moment passed, and then another.

“Come with me,” Xenophilus said.

I looked him in the eye. “You really have gone mad, haven’t you?”

Xenophilus sighed. “I was afraid of this. Goodbye my friend. You always managed to add a little bit of colour to my black and white days in Golgotha, and for that, I will always love you. Unfortunately, my days in Golgotha have come to an end and I simply have to move on to better things, with or without you.”

A part of me wanted to consider the offer, but the arrogance in his tone infuriated me, and in my rage, I kept silent. I heard his footsteps fading as he walked away from me. I wanted to run after him, grab him and shake him back into his senses, but pride held me back. Pride held me back, and I hated myself for it.

After the first day, I told myself that he would return. He too would grow tired of the endless life-death cycle. He too would come to see the humans for what they really were. I would wait for him and his halfhearted apology. I would accept it with a smirk and we would go back to our discussions about Zoroaster’s thirteen doctrines of self-actualization. I would even help him water his daisies and dandelions.

But he did not come. Not after the first day, or the tenth, or the thousandth.

At first there was boredom, but now, Xeno’s absence introduced a new crisis:


I soon learned that much like pain, loneliness was multifaceted. There was always a new level to it; there was always a new depth to which one could sink.  Xeno’s absence had torn a hole through my being.  I was a lighthouse with no ships to guide to the port. I was a work of art with no observer to inspire. I was a utensil with no utility. I had lost a part of my soul. A part, I feared, that would never return.

First there was ennui, and this was a nuanced kind of suffering, but there had always been someone to share it with. I always had a companion to keep me sane. Now, there was no tether. I was a ship without an anchor and my destiny was in the hands of a vacillating and treacherous wind.

The loneliness eventually metastasized into pain. There was nothing pleasant about this kind of pain. Not even vaguely. Its sole purpose was to accentuate and amplify my loneliness.

I was suffering.

There was a tightness in my chest. A tightness which made it difficult to draw breath. I lay on the ground, writhing, agonizing, regretting. It was pathetic.

Suddenly, I broke into laughter. Laughter which was inspired more by insanity than by humor. Wheezing on the floor, I began to grasp the full reality of my situation. Xenophilus had asked me to become human with him and left me when I declined. His absence caused me to suffer, everyday. An agony which was bound so tightly to the soul.

The irony of my situation struck a discordant chord throughout my entire being. Xenophilus had killed me. This perpetual suffering was deicide, and against all odds, I had become, human.



The End



“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: “Go down again – I dwell among the people.”

― John Henry Newman








The last of my co-workers leaves for the day. The humming sound of omnipresent machinery lessens in intensity as the semi-autonomous station switches to low maintenance mode. Outside lights come on in response to the waning sunlight.

I sit comfortably in my cubicle, reclining in my seat with hands behind my head and my feet on my desk. Next to my feet is an empty can of soda. Subconsciously, my tongue licks lingering pieces of candy from the crevices of my dentition as I contemplate my plan.

It is a plan five years in the making; ever since I turned eighteen and became eligible for employment at the ‘almighty’ Allen Corporation.  Well they call it employment but what it really is, is slavery.

I can never complain though. Who would I even complain too? Politically, socially and economically, the Allen Corporation is a complete monopoly. They watch everyone and they track everything. The only sanctuary is my mind. But soon, even that might be compromised. AI programs which can read body language, micro-expressions and detect pheromones will not know our exact thoughts, but they will be able to approximate them.

Everyone knows what the Allen Corporation is doing. Everyone knows their every move is being tracked.  But do they care?  Why would they? It is mutualism in its purest form. People surrender their privacy to the Allen Corporation and the Allen Corporation gives them heaven. Literally.





She lay awake moments before her alarm went off. She had barely gotten any sleep at all. How could she? After all she was brimming with anxiety about the day’s coming events. As she thought about the upcoming meeting with her employer, heaviness set into her chest. She felt nauseous. Paradoxically, It was a day she looked forward to yet one she had been dreading. With a sigh, she got out of bed and started to prepare.





At the turn of the twenty second century, the earth had become vastly overpopulated. Our population growth rate had vastly surpassed the growth rate of our space exploratory industry. Space colonization was to be our escape from the hell hole we had created on earth through our indiscriminate use of finite natural resources, but unfortunately, the technology had not caught up to our expectations.

Every attempted space launch was watched by the public. We would watch hopefully as shaky vessels blasted off from the ground, vessels which contained not only fuel and supplies but also the hopes of the greater human population. More often than not, these spaceflight exploded into oblivion before they could escape the earth’s atmosphere. Such occurrences seemed almost like divine proclamations that we were condemned to stay on earth with the mess we had created. Several people certainly believed that the explosions were caused by divine intervention. Their hopes had been crushed, and wallowing in despair they prayed for a savior.

Well, a savior eventually showed up, but not in the form most were expecting.  Like a butterfly out of a chrysalis, the Allen Corporation rose to prominence backed by the most innovative invention of the century, perhaps of all time.

The invention had been named a ‘hibernation pod’. It was a name which left little to the imagination and didn’t do justice to the incredible piece of machinery. Once inside a hibernation pod, one was certainly not conscious, but they sure as hell didn’t hibernate.

The pod is capable of interfacing with every single part of the human brain, from the Prefrontal cortex to the hypothalamus. One would not be conscious, but a conscious experience could be simulated. Experience of what? That was up to the imagination.

The scientists who developed the tool were only concerned with its usage as a pragmatic way of dealing with the gross overpopulation. Put people in the pods like matches in a box and let them dream their lives away. Helena Iverson, Chief Executive Officer of the Allen Corporation, had better ideas.

With the Hibernation Pods as her weapon, she took on the governments of the world, one by one. Who were they to stand against her? This was god herself, opening up the pearly gates. One by one, they succumbed to her power. None of the villains in all of human history could give Helena Iverson a run for her money. It was a monopoly, it was world domination.

Country by country, eligible people filed into what were officially named ‘Allen Corp Sleeping Centres’ but called ‘farmhouses’ by everyone. They would be put into hibernation pods and their wildest dreams would be realized before their eyes.

Not everyone had the same ideas about paradise. Information collected by the Allen Corp on an individual’s digital footprint would be used to generate a world for them. Most people were typical; Penthouses, parties, drugs, sex and alcohol. Some were atypical; one man lived out a fantasy were he found a cure for cancer deep in the heart of the Amazon forest. Another lived in a world where everyone looked just like him. Regardless of these differences, people were finally the protagonists of their own lives.

Helena Iverson had achieved world domination. Or so she thought.


Not everyone is eligible for the hibernation pods. Some have to stay behind in the real world to take care of the semi-autonomous farmhouses. Among the ineligible crop are the aged, who will never taste the rivers of paradise, and also the young, who have not lived long enough to generate a digital footprint large enough for the hibernation pods to create an authentic experience for them.

It is approximately one month until my twenty fifth birthday. Until the faceless executives of the Allen Corp decide I am finally worthy to enter heaven. Long before I was employed as an Allen Corp employee at the age of eighteen, I started planning to destabilize the entire structure. And I will do so in the most insidious of ways.





Helena Iverson had been described in several ways throughout the years by the press: Billionaire, Philanthropist, Opportunist, and Visionary. From full length exclusives to tabloid exposés. However, no amount of reading could ever prepare you for meeting her in person.

As she took the elevator ride upwards, she wondered what it would be like to finally meet the woman she had been working for after all these years. They had corresponded before, in the past. But that was behind a safety blanket of computer screens.

The knot in her stomach tightened. She began to bite her nails subconsciously. When she realized what she was doing, she found it weird. She hadn’t bitten her nails since middle school. I should probably relax, she thought. Looking out of the glass elevator, she was now so high up that she could see the entire campus of the Allen Corporation Headquarters.

The Campus was no less than 50 acres in size, with twelve main buildings including a sports complex featuring a swimming pool or two. Looking down on all this, she felt now that she was climbing up the tower from which the Queen looked down on all her subjects; watching, judging, deciding.





I crack my knuckles as my computer screen blazes to life. I begin my performance. It is a piano sonata. My instrument, the keyboard. The sounds, lines of code. My audience, nonexistent. In the darkness, I perform. Fueled by the caffeine in my soda and the sugar in my candy. Driven by my own vision of the future.

The mode of life of the twenty second century human is as follows: You are born, you spend your entire childhood trying not to be driven mad by the lack of privacy and continuous exposure to other humans. At the age of eighteen, you enter employment as a slave of the Allen Corporation, working twelve hour shifts sustained by meager rations in the form of canned food and other atrocities. If you manage to make it to the age of twenty five without blowing your brains out, you spend the rest of your life in pseudo-sleep, living out your fantasies.

Most people are happy to live this way, usually because they know no other way to live. They run away from their problems, they look away from the mess they created. They sell their souls to the Allen Corporation. An entire generation of humans, who lack a conscience. Quite frankly, it’s incredible.

As an Allen Corp employee, rather than act as Helena Iverson’s minion, I have been learning as much as I can about the Hibernation Pod and its architecture. Getting behind all the firewalls like a Trojan horse, rewriting the code from the inside. The simplest solution would be to shut down the Hibernation Pods, but to do so will be utterly myopic. Like the seven headed Hydra, the Allen Corporation will just rise again, stronger than before. I have a far better solution. One that makes me cackle with laughter whenever I think about it.





The office was very cold. The marble floor consisted of alternating tiles of black and white, like a chessboard. The room was moderately decorated, no doubt to avoid distractions. Only one picture hung on the wall; an abstract expressionist painting on a framed canvas. At the edge of the large room was a large executive desk. Black, like the tiles on the floor, and glossy. Behind the desk was a large window, taking up the space of the entire wall.

As she walked towards the desk, her footsteps bounced and ricocheted about the empty room. The path seemed to distort in dimensions as she got closer. She felt dizzy. The chair, which had been facing away from the door and towards the window when she entered, swung towards her for the first time. Sitting in it, was Helena Iverson.

“Miss Mandela,” Helena Iverson said.

“Miss Iverson,” Hailey replied.

“I’m sorry you’ve had to come all this way, but I simply cannot grant your request. The board thinks it’s too dangerous.”

Hailey, sensing this would happen, felt tears welling up in her eyes. “But you promised. You promised!” Her voice was but a whisper when she spoke. “Please, it’s been too long.”

Helena Iverson sighed, “Very well.”

The board had not advised against anything. She wanted to see just how desperate the woman was. Well, she was desperate enough.





I have now successfully infiltrated the system. I own the hibernation pods. Within minutes, 78% of the human population has its conscious experience dictated by me, and they aren’t even aware.

I can crash the system. I can wake each and every single one of them. I can drag them back into this hellhole. But why would I? What I have in mind is far more appropriate.

I open up the profile of my first victim. Laika Watney, stepson of the Allen Corp Board Chairman. Pre-hibernation, he had expressed interest in Botany, Herbalism and Astronomy. I take a look at his simulation and scoff.

Through the window of my computer screen, Laika Watney walks around the grounds of his extra-planetary farm. The only crop being farmed is Galega officinalis, the biological source of the panacea, metformin. In his dream the metformin is being farmed in space and taken back to the earth in spaceships where it is used to combat aging and prolong the human lifespan. It is so noble, yet so selfish. If Laika Watney and others like him are running away from the reality they have created on earth, so they may pretend to be heroes, I, with my godlike powers, will send the mess to him.

In a few lines of code, the simulation is altered. The crops begin to die one by one. Supply of metformin begins to dwindle as the plants are attacked by a microscopic enemy; a microbe that makes the plants wilt and waste away. Demand for the drug, however, goes up and up and up. Laika Watney is almost driven to insanity as pressure is put on him and his team of scientist to develop a cure. They search and search and search. None exists.

Lester Gregorovic has just returned from the amazon forest with the cure for cancer. Upon his arrival, there is global fanfare. All the accolades, all the praise, all the attention. In six months, clinical trials demonstrate that the drug has a 100% efficacy. He is poised to become the world’s first trillionaire. On the eve of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he discovers a malignant tumor at the back of his ear. He decides to ignore it for the time being. As he delivers his speech, the cells in the tumor continue to grow, and spread, and grow, and spread.

Jason Todd is the most popular man on the planet. He is rich, handsome, and everybody’s dream. As a matter of fact, everybody looks just like him. The same golden blonde hair, the same cocky grin, the same confident walk. It’s a typical day for Jason Todd. He wakes up in a bed filled with his clones, has breakfast with himself, goes to work for himself by working with himself on himself, and comes home to himself. The next morning he wakes up, looks into the mirror, and screams. Well, he tries to scream. His face is totally blank. Devoid of all features. No eyes, no nose, no mouth. Just a blank template.

Night after night, I alter the code of the Hibernation Pods. Night after night, I take people out of their greatest fantasies and put them in their worst nightmares. If Helena Iverson is playing god, someone has to be the devil.

My fingers move over the keyboard at lightning speed as my sonata reaches a crescendo. I simply cannot help myself and break into a laugh. I would kill to see the look on Helena Iverson’s face, If only she knew what was happening in her company. The sad part is, she will never find out. The farmhouses are scheduled to become fully autonomous in a few years. The vital sign scanners intended to alert personnel when the subjects in the Hibernation Pods become agitated, were the first thing I hacked.

No one can see me laughing. Certainly not the security cameras, as they output a looped recording of an empty office on the monitors in the control room.





The two women walked in silence. They were now underground the Allen Corp campus, walking down a dimly lit tunnel. At the end of the tunnel was a large titanium door, several inches in thickness.

“Retinal Scan has confirmed Identity,” an electronic voice said. “Welcome to sleeping center 001, Helena H. Iverson.”

The large doors slid open, revealing a large chamber. Inside the chamber were rows and rows of Hibernation Pods.

“This way,” Helena said, the silence finally broken. “It sure looks simple, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, Miss Iverson,” Hailey said.

“Well it isn’t. Looking after Hibernation Pods is no small feat. There’s so much to consider. Ideal temperature, nutrition, excretory products. Automation surely is helping with that. With an AI, we can estimate the exact amount of resources that each unique individual needs and adjust the input accordingly. But the one thing we absolutely cannot risk is power failure. If the Hibernation Pods malfunction for too long and an individual’s brain is denied of oxygen for a prolonged period, the tissue may be damaged beyond repair, meaning death.”

“Does that happen often?” Hailey asked.

“Are you worried about your daughter? Don’t be. Aurora is special to me. I would never let anything happen to her. She’s perfectly safe down here.”

“Special? In what way?”

“Her dreams. They…humble me. They remind me to be constantly vigilant.”

“What does she dream of?”

“My downfall,” Helena said, with a smile.

Hailey at once felt extremely uncomfortable. Helena, however, did not elaborate.

“Here she is,” Helena said.

Hailey looked at her daughter’s face for the first time in five years. She was developing into a very beautiful woman, even in a Hibernation Pod.

“Oh my darling,” Hailey said.

Helena Iverson smiled. Aurora was her darling too. Every night, through her computer screen, she watched Aurora Mandela’s dreams. Every night, Helena Iverson looked on as Hailey Mandela’s daughter collapsed her New World Order. Every day she went out into the world with the knowledge that she was still only human, with the knowledge that she was still susceptible to an attack from the most unlikely of people. The collapse of Helena Iverson’s empire from the inside was a sight which humbled her immensely.

Helena’s relationship with Aurora was important. It was mutualism at its best.








The DreadNova

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which, as they kiss, consume”
William Shakespeare


 “To offer it to you would be cruel
When all I want to do is use, use you”

Diplomat’s Son, Vampire Weekend




I am unable to pinpoint the exact moment I awaken. It seems, for a long time, I am trapped in a mental soup of half conscious, half asleep. Eventually, sensation begins to return to me. The first thing I am able to perceive is an overwhelming dryness of the throat. To ease my pain I attempt to swallow, but my muscles do not perform the motions. It seems they are still in the process of re-familiarizing themselves with nervous input.

I try to inhale deeply, and panic, as I realize my lungs do not oblige. I am overcome with the sensation of drowning as my conscious mind battles my subconscious for control of my breathing.

The entire experience puts me in a frenzy. Other body parts begin to respond as they receive a large supply of blood due to my elevated heart rate. In time, my mind begins to respond as well. Facts return to me, like objects surrendered by the sea, washing onto shore.

I remember my name, my identity, my mission and my location. Normalcy returns, and so does my exasperation and disappointment in myself.

I check the date to discover that I have awoken on schedule. This means two things. One, the mission is proceeding exactly as planned and, two; I will be arriving at my destination soon.

My whole body is stiff and I yearn to exercise, however, my present circumstances do not allow that. The interior of my ship is as packed and crammed as I remember. No room to move about.

My employers did not bother themselves with going beyond the bare minimum for this mission. This surprises me greatly. Despite my unfavorable standing with them, one would assume that they would deem the mission important enough to ensure the physical and mental comfort of their envoy. Unfortunately for me, this is not the case. The most they did was to give me this shaky vessel. Capable of superluminal travel, but heavily outdated.

Among the several knobs, buttons and screens that litter the dashboard, I am able to discern that the ship is still functioning at 70% capacity. I look out of the windscreen, into the vast expanse of space. No celestial bodies lie in immediate sight, not even a stray asteroid. The closest star seems to be a dozen light-years away. This must be the right place. I exhale, this time with ease and wonder how much longer I will have to wait, as my stomach starts to rumble.

I receive my answer sooner than I anticipate. It begins with a low growl which climaxes into a deep rumble. The entire vessel begins to vibrate with an intensity I feel in my bones. My heart rate is elevated once more and my breathing quickens. This time my body seems ready to react. The infallible persuasiveness of adrenaline it seems. The tremors continue for a few hundred seconds and then come to an abrupt stop.

I hold my breath and my heart pounds so loudly I can feel it in my brain. A drumming threatening to split my skull apart. Suddenly, every light on the dashboard of my ship lights up red and on each screen an image is rendered: A horned skull, crossed by a pulse rifle and a laser blade. The Jolly Roger.

It is a symbol capable of striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of men. Left at its mercy, I am struck with terror. Utter terror.

I look through the windshield once more and see the ship in all its glory. The DreadNova. It must have been stealthed upon my arrival.

It is a mammoth structure, dwarfing my own vessel by a scale hundred thousand to one. A vessel so massive it has a significant gravitational signature. Fashioned after an earthling 17th century battleship, with solar sails arranged to mirror wind sails. High above the tallest mast, a holographic version of the Jolly Roger dances and sways to a virtual cosmic wind.

It is quite difficult to encapsulate the feeling one gets upon beholding the DreadNova. It is a magnificent piece of machinery, larger than some habitable planets. A marvel of modern engineering, a work of art. I feel like an insignificant speck of dust in its presence. My mind, perhaps disturbed by the difference in scale between myself and the ship, begins to simulate various emotions, as if in a bid to validate its own existence.  As a result, I cannot distinctly outline a single emotion in my own consciousness. Instead, my mind is a tapestry of fear, anger, sorrow, helplessness, regret, wonder, and astonishment.

This vessel is undoubtedly one of the wonders of the galaxy. It seems more grand than the ships which ferry worthy souls into the afterlife. It seems more grand than the largest ship of the richest emperor. It seems like a vessel crafted by the gods themselves.

Without any input from me, my ship begins to move toward the DreadNova. This is all according to plan, but the knowledge does not prevent my innards from squealing. A hatch in the hull of the DreadNova opens up, and my ship flies, surely and unmistakably, towards it.

Once inside the hatch, the airlock shuts with a loud thud and all is silent. All is darkness. It is an experience similar to being swallowed by a behemoth. I could have been moving, I could have been still, there is no way of knowing for sure. Not in this limbo of sensory deprivation.

I close my eyes and begin to contemplate the series of events that brought me to this location. It is a chain reaction, starting, as most things start, with a cell.






Thousands of years ago, in an obscure planet on the fringes of the galaxy, due to a point mutation in their DNA, certain members of an insectoid species began to develop an advanced intelligence. This trait reflected itself in the offspring of those creatures, leading to the development of a whole new species.

Thus there were two distinct species sharing a common ancestor. The super-intelligent insectoids known as the Taken and the less intelligent physically endowed insectoids, known as the Fallen.

These differences in nature led each party to hold the other in contempt. The Taken hated the Fallen for their simple minded and barbaric culture. The Fallen hated the taken because they were lost, because they were cursed.

This disdain eventually led to conflict. A conflict which was held in a stalemate by the threat of mutually assured destruction. The Taken had the advantage of technology; the Fallen had the advantage of numbers. Hence, though relations were strained, things were relatively peaceful, on average. The Fallen had claimed the home planet as their territory and the Taken had claimed its moon as theirs. Things would have been much simpler if each party simply pretended the other did not exist, but it is virtually impossible to ignore something you consider as a perverse aberration of oneself. Hence, over the years, there were various tussles here and there, but nothing which was serious enough to escalate into all out war.

It did not remain this way forever.

One day, a large deposit of Unobtanium was discovered on Fallen territory. The Fallen, who had no true conception of its significance, used the shiny rock to fashion idols they would worship. This did not sit rightly with the Taken, who wanted to trade the Unobtanium on black markets. It is, after all, the most valuable substance in the galaxy.

Thus, tensions between the two species heightened and it appeared all out war was unavoidable. The chances of survival for either party were slim, but the risk was well worth the reward, they judged.

Before the war officially began, a third party joined the conflict. A World Reaver, an interdimensional being that feeds on sources of high energy. Sources like Unobtanium. Approaching the simple minded Fallen, it promised them that it would destroy the Taken, in exchange for the Unobtanium. The Fallen, in awe of its godlike power, obliged.

No one knows the exact details of what happened after that, but the battle between the World Reaver and the Taken was of such epic proportions that the planet and its moon were destroyed. Left in the emptiness of space were the ruins of two ancient civilizations, the corpse of an interdimensional parasite and tons upon tons of Unobtanium.

The Unobtanium did not lie in wait for long. Eventually, a ferocious terrorist who brokered in top secret information and participated in corporate espionage came to learn of this treasure lying in the emptiness of space and waiting to be claimed. Without hesitation, he sent his crew for their greatest bounty ever.

The Unobtanium was moped up and stored in his ship. It is a vessel that strikes dread in the hearts of all who see it. A vessel marked by a horned skull crossed by a rifle and a blade.




The sensory deprivation eventually comes to an end. Another airlock opens up revealing a large docking bay. As my ship parks automatically, I look around and see that the bay is empty. Mine is the only ship in sight. Few maintenance machinery litter the floor here and there. Few enough to betray the fact that this docking bay is seldom used.

I unbuckle myself from my seat and open up the hatch. As I descend, I note the presence of three figures at the door, seemingly waiting for me.

Two of them are in full uniform with helmets covering their heads. Distinctly humanoid, yet too heavily clothed to determine their exact species. The third, and apparent superior of the three, wears no uniform and is human for sure. He is rather short. Just above five feet tall by my estimation and extravagantly dressed. The kind of extravagant which is as the result of money one did not work long to obtain. He isn’t young, yet he isn’t old either.

“I hope you enjoyed your flight,” he says, with a raspy voice.

Having been in a drug induced coma for most of the trip, I reply, “Yes.”

“I apologize that your docking had to be such a…traumatic experience. Fortunately, we realized that your ship was too fragile for the tractor beam and decided to take over its AI instead”. He smiles, revealing several gold teeth. It is smile which is lacking in mirth yet brimming with malice. “Let us not linger, the captain is waiting for you.”

As he leads me towards the elevator, I notice an excess of gold rings adorning his fingers.




I do not meet with the captain immediately I arrive. Instead, I am granted a few hours of respite. The man I met on my arrival, I learn, is the first officer of the ship. Goldfinger, they call him. I barely have to wonder why.

I am led to a room in the living quarters by armed guards. From the interior of the ship, one would never have guessed that it was a pirate vessel. Everything looks so luxurious, like the vacation places of our corporate overlords.

Upon entering my room, I am taken aback by its size. It is a space ten people will comfortably fit into. On the space station I was born in, we are made to believe that space pirates are an unsavory, barbaric lot. But from my own experience, these people live like kings.

I am quite pleased with my living quarters. Partly futuristic, partly vintage. Everything is a deathly white; sheets, furniture, carpet, walls. I lie on my bed and automatically, the lights dim. Sleep takes me.




I do not understand my dream. It seems to be a montage of various past memories, coming together to make no sense. Or rather, coming together to deliver a message I am unwilling to accept. Scenes of my mother’s sullen face, the day my brother runs away. The fight with my husband when I tell him I am unwilling to have children, the blandness of the food when I receive the call to come get his body from the morgue.

Eventually, the montage stops. A high frequency beep penetrates by dreams, and brings me back to the waking world.




I exit my room to see a woman waiting for me. Tall, dressed in black robes and black boots, with a katana at her back and an atmosphere of lethality about her.

“The captain will see you now”, she says, with a thick and exotic accent I cannot quite place.

I know this woman. I recognize her from the data files. Blue Harmony, she is called. The personal bodyguard of the captain. A wanted criminal with ‘kill on sight’ status in several sectors of the galaxy. Her reputation as a skilled assassin precedes her.

We walk in silence towards the captains chambers. On the way, several crew members stop their tasks to acknowledge Blue Harmony. She only nods in response. As we approach our destination, my anxiety returns. A knot is forming in my stomach. Beads of sweat start to appear on my forehead. I clench my fists to prevent them from trembling.

My escort is either oblivious to all these physiological changes or is aware but refuses to address them. I suspect it is the latter and I am grateful.

We come to a halt at a grand door at the end of a long corridor. A door chiseled from what appears to be wood, and painted gold.

“I am not allowed beyond this point”, she says. “The captain awaits you inside. I will wait for you here.”

“Thank you”, I say, with sincere gratitude.

The doors automatically swing open, and I hesitate, exhale and walk in.




If you have heard stories about Captain Horatio Odinson, you know he is a man few people dare to defy. He makes names for himself as easily as others make friends. Names which speak volumes about his character and his deeds. Where I come from, he is known as the Scourge of the Cosmic Seas. Some of the tales told about him are too fictional to be true, but one cannot help but wonder.

As I enter his chambers, stories told to me years ago invade my consciousness like water seeping through the cracks in a safe.  In this moment, the ghost stories of my childhood are as factual as the blackness of space. Was I about to meet the man who had sailed to the edge of the universe and back?

As I enter his chambers, my heart beats faster and faster, climaxing into that skull splitting throb.

The first thing I notice is the smell. It is the sweet fragrance of planet grown flowers. Bringing to my mind experiences I have never had, of an idyllic life in a quiet place. The chamber itself is large, and fitting the theme of the ship, furnished like a room in a 17th century mansion.

My attention is drawn to a candlelit table, full of plates upon plates of exotic dishes. Foods so rare, I do not even have names for. The table is set for two; it appears I am to have dinner with the Captain. A slow, melodic piano tune plays in the background to complete the scene.

“Have a seat my lady, I will be with you soon,” a voice says. The speaker is out of sight. It is a commanding voice, deep, majestic and soothing. I take my seat, and my anxiety begins to fade.

Eventually, from the shadows, he emerges. Captain Horatio Odinson stands before me, in all his glory. A man so elusive he has evaded capture for over three decades, despite being the top priority of the Interplanetary Union and all her allies. A kingpin among kingpins.

He is dressed simply, yet regally, with neatly combed grey hair flowing all the way to his shoulders. The only jewelry he wears is a large ruby ring on the little finger of his left hand.  A deep scar cuts across the bridge of his nose, and his face is lined with age. When he smiles, it is genuine and comforting. My soul is at ease, but my brain knows better.

He sits, just a few feet away from me. For a moment, I am beleaguered with the idea that a whole lot of people will be pleased if I dash across the room and stab him in the chest with my fork. The opportunity certainly exists. What good would that be though? The situation with him is so volatile that his sudden death will be a major inconvenience for many people, even for the Interplanetary Union. Certain things needed to be addressed and discussed, like the tons of Unobtanium he is hoarding or why he destroyed the mines in an asteroid belt in Sector 98 or why he spared a race of flesh eating alien plants.

Bon appétit,” the captain says, as he slices up a sausage with his knife.

We sit in awkward silence, broken intermittently by the clanking of cutlery. Sounds which bounce of the high ceiling of the captain’s grand chamber. Eventually, the silence is broken by speech.

“I hope you will forgive my inability to see you immediately on your arrival,” the captain says. “There was….business to attend to.”

“What kind of business?” I ask, with a voice which is little more than a whisper.

After a sip of wine, the captain replies, “One of my prisoners needed to walk the plank.”

“Walk the plank?” I inquire. This time my voice is bolder, resembling its natural cadence.

“It’s an old term, a very old term. What we colloquially refer to as floating.”

I gag as I realize the captain is talking so casually about throwing someone in deep space, without a space suit, alive. At once, I am reminded about his barbaric nature and will myself not to give into his sociopathic wiles.

“Obviously there are more humane ways of dealing with stowaways,” I say feebly.

“None which convey a sense of strength and intolerance like floating does,” the captain replies.

The conversation begins to take a toll on me, mentally and physiologically. In a bid to end the evening as quick as possible, I bring up my mission. “The Interplanetary Union will expect your surrender as soon as possible-”

“We will discuss that later,” he interrupts. “It’s not a conversation I’d like to have over dinner, my lady. Let’s talk about something that befits the mood more.”

I want to proceed with the negotiations, but the captain is just so subconsciously overbearing. My mouth remains shut.

“How about I tell you the story of my life?” the captain asks.

A part of me desires so desperately to know the tale of Horatio Odinson. Most of his past is an absolute mystery and the parts which are publicly known are adulterated with apocrypha.  Another part of me fears the tale is full of bloodshed and carnage and does not wish to hear it.

The captain does not wait for me to resolve my internal conflict. He begins.

“I was born on a small moon in a sector of the galaxy far, far away. My parents were cricket farmers, and being the first of six children, I was fated to take over the family business. It is something I would have been happy with If I had a simple mind like my father, but alas, my heart was always elsewhere,” he pauses, with a wistful expression on his face.

“I was enamored by the outside world, and for as long as I could remember I looked to the blue skies. Eventually, inundated by the burden of my family, I ran away on a cargo ship. Through a stroke of bad luck, that particular ship was not merely a vessel for cricket cargo, but was a vessel for human cargo as well. When I was discovered by the captain he tossed me into a cell, and just like that, I became a slave.

“I was sold to a nobleman who lived on a planet far away from my own. He treated me as his own in that he fed, clothed and trained me. Trained me to be a gentleman and a soldier. But that was the limit of his parenting. I was never shown any love or affection. Instead, I was hated and despised by my master’s mistress, and her son, who could never live up to his father’s expectations.

“My father’s son hated me because I was everything he hoped to be; strong, brave and talented. I hated him because he was loved, and I was not.

“That life did not go on forever. One night, my master was poisoned by his mistress. Lucky for me, I fled before her son found me and the same fate befell me. Living in hiding, I learned that I was the primary suspect for the murder of my adopted father. Desperately seeking a way off that planet, I begged for passage on a ship I should have known better to be on. The Leviathan, it was called. The captain of that ship told me that I would have to work to pay of my debt to him, since I carried no coin. In my naïveté, in my foolishness, in my desperation I accepted his offer.  Another seven years of slavery for me.

“For seven years I cooked and cleaned and labored as my master stole and killed and plundered. He was a pirate himself, and from him, I learned the trade. I proved that I was trustworthy and capable and soon rose to become his right hand man. Eventually, as old age caught up with him, I began to handle major operations on his behalf.”

Horatio smiles, takes another sip of his wine, and continues, “The day I slit that bastard’s throat was the best day of my life. I can still taste the iron in his blood.”

I choke.

“When that old fool’s strength had faded sufficiently, I led my crewmates on a mutiny and took his ship for my own. Where he was lacking, I was complete. And with that, the Scourge of the Cosmic Seas was born.”

Horatio laughs.

By the time he finishes his tale, the candles have almost burned out.

“That’s a very fascinating story captain,” I manage to say.

“Aye, indeed it is, my lady,” he replies. “It’s a story very few people have heard. You should consider yourself lucky. You best be on your way now. Tomorrow, we begin the negotiations for my surrender.”

I rise, bow and walk out.




I am disoriented for moments after I awake. In time, I sense something is wrong. Very wrong. I look around my room and see that the walls are bathed in a reddish hue. Emergency lights. What’s going on?

I open my door slightly and peer into the corridor. The two guards stationed outside my room are absent. The place is deathly quiet. I close the door.

Putting the facts together, my suspicion is that the captain intends to betray me, and by extension, The Interplanetary Union. There is a protocol for this exact situation, one I have gone over a large number of times due to the high probability of its occurrence.

Remembering my training, I kneel on the floor and tap the nape of my neck. By doing so, I activate the nanochip implanted into my skin. A high tech device whose activation informs my employers that the mission is compromised.

Within moments, I receive a response, heard in the mind like my own thoughts:

Understood. The DreadNova will be dealt with, find a way off the ship. You have twenty four hours.

It appears, until the mission officially ends, I am on my own. The task ahead of me is a daunting one, considering the fact that my information about the schematics of the ship is incomplete and highly unreliable. I was trained for situations like this, but who actually thought that I’d ever require the knowledge? This was supposed to be a diplomatic mission.

As the likelihood of my survival becomes an unknown variable, I strengthen my resolve. I will make it off this ship. I will survive. I exhale, clear my mind, rise and begin walk out.

When I open the door, standing right outside, six feet tall and menacing, is Blue Harmony.

“Come with me,” she says, with a voice lacking warmth. By a quick calculation, I estimate that my chances of beating her in a duel are less than zero. Obediently, I follow.

“What is going on?” I ask.

She does not respond.

Eventually, she brings me to the entrance of the mess hall. It is a large room, with four long tables arranged in a column. Perpendicular to all of them is a high table.

As we enter the room, it is deathly silent. Our footsteps bounce and ricochet about the hall for all to hear. No one says a word, yet the atmosphere is extremely hostile. Everywhere I look, I am gazed upon by piercing eyes. Eyes filled with contempt so thick I can virtually feel their eyeballs scanning my body. I keep my eyes trained on my feet to avoid the scrutinizing looks. As fear takes over, my thoughts can be summarized by a big question mark. It is a scene not unlike that of a lamb walking down a narrow forest path flanked by hungry wolves. The wolves watch the lamb from the shadows, killing its spirit with their intent before they rip its body to shreds with their fangs.

The high table comes into full view, and if I was confused before, there are no words to describe what I feel upon seeing the scene at the table.

Standing on the table, over a body, is Goldfinger, with his signature sardonic smile and gold rings. The body upon which Goldfinger rests his foot is none other than that of Captain Horatio Odinson.

He lies on the table in full regalia. Eyes open, bloodshot and unseeing. His two hands are placed across his chest with his hat immediately below them. The Captain lies on the table, lifeless.

My heart beats with such ferocity that my cardiac muscles threaten to rapture. What feels like a large lump of ice travels down my esophagus and into my stomach. My throat is dry. I fall to my knees as my trembling legs can no longer support the weight of my body.

Goldfinger smiles. “Well, lads,” he pauses to look around. “The captain is dead!”

The room roars into cheer. A deafening roar threatening to rapture my eardrums. I am a lone island surrounded by a raging tempest.

“Now, we all loved the captain,” Goldfinger says. “Didn’t we lads?”

“Yeah,” they all roar.

“But the captain was becoming a too soft,” Goldfinger continues. “A bit too senile in the end if you ask me.”

They laugh. My nausea intensifies.

“He wanted to surrender our Ship and all its treasures, including the Unobtanium to our number one enemy, The Interplanetary Union. They promised him a fancy little prison on a fancy little planet and called it witness protection. Can you imagine that? Captain Horatio Odinson, the scourge of the Cosmic Seas, landlocked? If you ask me, killing him was an act of mercy.”

They laugh. I close my eyes. This can’t be happening.

“Now now, the captain was good to us. Well, to some of us.”


“But now his time has come, and we will give him back to the cosmos as things were always fated to be. As his body floats through space, and he is claimed by the darkness and all her children, we will drink and feast over his memory and carry on his legacy.”

“Hear, Hear,” the pirates below.

“Well,” Goldfinger says as he stoops to pick up the captain’s hat. “He certainly won’t be needing this anymore!”

More laughter

“Now, before the party starts,” Goldfinger says, with a tone lacking all the mirth it was filled with moments before, “One last loose end needs to be tied up.”

And suddenly I feel all two hundred pairs of eyes come to rest on my figure as the spotlight falls on me.

“The Interplanetary Union needs to be sent a message. You don’t fuck with the DreadNova!”

They roar into laughter and bang their tables with their cups. In the chaos, I am shackled and escorted outside the hall by Blue Harmony. I am resigned fully to my inevitable execution.

As I walk down the corridor with my executioner, my mind is far, far away. Caught in a region overlapped by memory, speculation and possibility. Every single decision I have ever made in my life has brought me to this point. And oh, what a pathetic life it has been.

Eventually, we come to a halt.

“Kneel,” Blue Harmony says.

I obey.

She unsheathes her katana and raises it high above her head. The sword shines and glints in the light. A blade so sharp it could cut through my soul. My executioner screams as she swings downward.

Several moments pass by before I realize I am still alive. I open my eyes and see, lying beside me are the pieces of my shattered shackles.


Blue Harmony raises her hand to cut me off before I can even complete my thought.

“I knew the captain, far better than anyone ever has. In his own way, he was a very kind man. His death does not please me. Goldfinger is my enemy, and as he is your enemy, you are my friend. Killing you serves me no purpose.”

Too stunned to speak, I continue to kneel in silence.

“Get up,” Blue Harmony says. “Here, take my keycard. It will give you access to the docking area and to one of the smaller ships. You can escape. You can live.”

As I begin to process and grasp the full significance of the turn of events, my heart melts and I am filled with pure gratitude. My will to live, and my senses, return to me like a boomerang. Remembering the ultimatum given to me by my employers, I say to her, “Come with me. This ship is not safe. I don’t know exactly what, but in less than twenty four hours, something bad will happen.”

Blue Harmony does not move. “I cannot join you for two reasons,” she says. “I have a duty to avenge my master and also, I have to save my twin.”

“Your twin?”

“He is in the mess hall now, and just like the others, brainwashed by Goldfinger’s propaganda. The halls of this ship must run red with Goldfinger’s blood. Only then will we be free. Only then will I be free.”

Touched by her resolve, I understand that there is no way I can change her mind. I thank her once again, and begin to run for my life.




Once inside a small vessel and outside the DreadNova, I contact my employers, seeking help, seeking direction.

The only thing they say is “Stay Put.”

I close my eyes and exhale. I may be out of the ship, but I am not out of danger. The DreadNova still lies in my view and within moments, a number of ships can fly out of its docks in pursuit of me. I begin to think about Blue Harmony. An assassin who showed me more kindness in moments than I had shown to other people in my entire life. She saved me.

Less than an hour now until the time limit for my escape elapses. I am already far enough for the ship to be in any danger.

I wonder what the Interplanetary Union has in mind. I have long since deduced that the chip in the nape of my neck functions as some kind of a tracking device as well and the position of the DreadNova is now accurately known to her enemies. This is an opportunity too juicy for my employers to pass up. What happens next? An ambush? A nuclear bomb? A photon torpedo? Can the DreadNova be destroyed that easily?

I continue to drift farther and farther away from the DreadNova.

Suddenly, the emergency lights in my ship blaze into life. A buzzer goes off. On the dashboard, the following message:


Spontaneous Cosmic Event Detected Nearby.

 High Energy Radiation Emanating From Event.


I look back, towards the DreadNova, and what I see fills me with horror.

The scene is grotesque and my mind struggles to accept the reality before me. Twisted and warped by the fabric of space itself, the DreadNova begins to implode. It is decomposition at the subatomic level. Atoms are ripped from their molecules and electrons are ripped from their atoms. I cannot hear their screams, but I can feel them in my heart as the DreadNova and its crew is spaghettified by a black hole.

I know of this weapon’s existence, but I didn’t think that the Interplanetary Union would be inhumane enough to go so far as to use it. The “T.A.R.G.” they call it. A long range weapon which concentrates gravitational energy so violently at a point that a small spontaneous black hole can be created. Black holes are so massive that even the tiniest of them has a gravitational pull so devastating that nothing can escape its pull. Nothing ever escapes a black hole, nothing ever survives. Not matter, not light, not information. Nothing.  The horrors of every chemical and biological weapon ever invented are no match for the grotesque experience of being destroyed by this weapon, of being spaghettified by a black hole.

In a brilliant flash of light, two hundred people are deleted from existence itself. Two hundred people, die a most gruesome death. With no one to blame but myself, I lose control and begin to vomit violently.

In the middle of my violent sobbing and uncontrollable shaking, in the middle of my self-hatred and negative self-talk, in the middle of my nervous breakdown, I hear a voice in my head:

Good work Kane. Your Presence on the ship was invaluable in allowing us to track it. As Captain Odinson and his crew were all category X criminals, The Interplanetary Union judged that the situation had escalated beyond a diplomatic resolution and that the only solution was to destroy the ship using the Tunneling Anti-Matter Ray Gun. Hurry home now, your rewards await you. You are a hero!”


So this was all a high strategy, high stakes chess game to the Interplanetary Union and I was just another pawn in their eyes. I feel so helpless, so useless, so pathetic. If only they let me do my job, If only they let me negotiate. The Captain was willing to surrender, nobody had to die. If we cannot reason things out and always have to resort to violence, how different are we from our enemies?

This is the fault of the Interplanetary Union. An Organization which preaches utopian propaganda in public, while protecting the interests of her capitalist allies in secret.

No, sensing my defense mechanism kicking in, I will myself to avoid projecting my frustration onto my employers. This is my fault. My incompetence led to the slaughter of those people.

As I drift away from the scene of the massacre, I am utterly disgusted with myself. Moving about in my own skin makes me sick. Everything and everyone who comes close to me meets a violent and wretched end.  My mother, my brother, my husband, the captain and Blue Harmony. I clench my fists as I force back the tears. I try not to think about her, but all I see is her face. Her pale, beautiful face.

In the end it took two black holes to destroy the DreadNova. The first was a rapture in the fabric of space-time. The second one was me.


The End











Prussian Capricorn

“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.”
C.G. Jung




Jake Pink, stardate 135.2341, Entry 1:

Indeed, it has been a very rough landing. Fortunately, no one is dead. And the Hull Integrity systems are all green, meaning no one is dying…yet. The comm. system however, is severely damaged. All our SOS signals are traveling at subluminal speeds. It will take years before they reach any allied forces.

My life as a soldier has been marked primarily with fear. First there was the fear of being drafted to the vanguard. This was before I realized that the attack from the enemy was so devastating that even the rearguard was not safe. Then, there was the fear of being slain in battle. This was before our ship was knocked off course in the heat of battle, by an asteroid, and away from our unit. I realized then that there were far worse things than death in battle. Finally, there came the fear of dying slowly in space. This was before we crash landed on the third moon of the seventh planet of a star system no one had bothered to name. A moon full of creatures and hostiles which can’t be described in any other way than as abominations of evolution.

After the crash, we had all been relieved, temporarily. In time, the existential question, of if this fate was better than any of the previous three, had begun to plague us.

I always assumed that soldiers felt no fear. That the camaraderie, the bravery and the selflessness all acted synergistically to dispel fear. But this is not the case. Fear is omnipresent, even among those who pretend otherwise. In the first human world war, as soldiers marched through trenches and sang at the top of their voices, there was always the fear, deep within, that the homes they had left to protect, would be visited by death, would be visited by dark angels in the form of hydrogen bombs, in their absence.

Four centuries later, not much has changed. Light-years away from my home, I wonder if the place has been overrun by the enemy. If their pestilence has destroyed my family, the cornfields, and the man I love.

Sometimes I read stories of the first world war, stories about soldiers who accidentally wander into minefields. Sometimes I am beleaguered with the idea, that there is nothing accidental about it. Sometimes I wonder what the twenty fourth century equivalent of walking into a minefield is.



Jake Pink, stardate 137.2341, Entry 2:

We are all finding ways of coping with our predicament. Very different ways. The captain has retreated into silence. Words between her and us are always at a bare minimum. I think she blames herself for everything that has happened, but she never apologizes. Perhaps due to some masochistic notion that to apologize is an admission of weakness. Hence, she keeps silent and spends her time alone.

Glory, the systems engineer, has much to do. She is always tinkering with some part of the ship, trying to get things working. It seems she barely has time to contemplate our predicament. Of the five other crew members, Glory appears to be coping the best.

The first officer and botanist, Hawa, has given up altogether on sobriety and its complications. Her alcoholism and recreational drug use is unlike anything I have ever seen. I wonder what happens once her stash runs out. I wonder how large of a stash it is. I wonder what other self destructive tendencies she is likely to indulge in.

Hernandez, the astrobiologist, has perhaps the most regular response to our situation. He cries, almost all the time. He is the only one who seems actively to be panicking.

As for me, my form of escapism usually manifests itself in an obsessive compulsive addiction to high strategy video games. However, this is not the case now. I am quite preoccupied with something else: My great great great grandfather’s journal. Howard Leonard Pink had been a scientist for the American army during world war 2. His team was responsible for developing “unconventional” weapons and strategies for the war effort. Some of the experiments he performed have me absolutely astonished. Being halfway through, I cannot, for the life of me, put down the book until I have read it all.

It seems that no crew member is in the right state of mind. Since the mental assessment and evaluation programs are being ignored, someone has to take on the role of a therapist. That person can’t be me. Though I may be aware of the emotional nuances of my crewmates, I have absolutely no desire to address them.



Jake Pink, stardate 142.2341, Entry 3:

The preliminary scouting reports are in. The drones have brought back useful information. This moon, for the most part has tolerable atmospheric levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The natural atmosphere is not going to kill us; nonetheless, there is still danger. Danger manifested in the form of numerous fauna, flora and microbes.

All the samples collected seem to contain a particularly potent neurotoxin. A chemical capable of altering the human mind in strange ways, seemingly omnipresent in every single species. Initial tests have shown that the neurotoxin is capable of inducing schizophrenia, multiple personality disorders, mania and even death. The atmosphere isn’t going to kill us alright, but virtually every other thing might.

This is useful information, considering the fact that we will have to go out soon. Hernandez is absolutely terrified at this prospect and has made it a point to make himself scarce in order not to be chosen. This strategy is never going to work, considering the fact that as an astrobiologist, he is the only one qualified enough for such a mission. We will have to go out of the ship, in order to collect samples from various plants and prepare fuel. This excites no one.



Excerpt from the journal of Dr.Howard Leonard Pink, February 4, 1943.

Desperation is at an all time high, considering the fact that we seem to be losing the war, and losing quickly. The higher ups have certainly put the pressure on, and many of our most controversial projects are now being given the green light. This means that I will inevitably have the funding to work on the project that has intrigued me since my days as a young undergraduate at Harvard College.

Though the prospects are bleak, I cannot help myself from feeling excited. The only uncertainty I have about the future, manifests itself in the words of my old biology professor, “In the pursuit of scientific achievement, a conscience is as essential as a lab coat.” 

These words have echoed in my consciousness, ever since I heard them. These words have made me contemplate if indeed my research is ethical. Most of the scientific community will undoubtedly frown upon my work, but I cannot be timid. Especially not now. The enemy cannot be allowed to have the upper hand, the war must be won.

If I must lose my conscience, my spirit and my morality that the ideals of my motherland may survive, then so be it. Like the moon, the Prussian Capricorn will eclipse the land of our enemies and cast their future in darkness. So help me God.



Jake Pink, stardate 145.2341, Entry 3:

I don’t know exactly why I did it, but I doubt it was out of compassion. Perhaps I was just fed up of hearing Hernandez whimpering like a beaten dog. I offered to take his place on the field during the mission. I would be his hands, and he would be my eyes and ears.

I don’t know exactly why I did it, but I really shouldn’t have. As far as the captain and crew knew, the mission was a success. We are already in the process of extracting the organic compounds from the plant samples I brought back for our fuel.

What they do not know is that during the mission, my leg was entangled in a vine, and in trying to free myself, a small tear was created in the suit. What they do not know is that my body has been compromised by a neurotoxin and I might be dead in a few hours. They do not know, and they might never find out. I want to tell Glory about it, but I have no guarantee that she won’t tell the captain. I do not know how the captain will respond to such information. Marooning me on this moon is certainly not outside the scope of her imagination.

I have incinerated the hazmat suit, destroying the evidence. For now, I will keep silent, as the neurotoxin alters my brain chemistry. For now, I will keep silent and hope that I do not die. For now, I will keep silent and read about my great great great grandfather’s exploits.



Excerpt from the journal of Dr.Howard Leonard Pink, May 18, 1943

I suppose one could say that my project was a success. The outcome was exactly what I expected, but, was it worth the cost?

My lab partner, Dr.Walter Grey, has said that it is for the greater good. But these words just sound hollow to me. A bland justification of unspeakable horrors.

In my eagerness to save the world, I may have transformed into the very beasts I want to destroy. No matter how hard I try, I can see no significant difference between myself and the enemy.

These soldiers, would undoubtedly give their very lives, in order to win the war. But what I subjected them to, is a fate worse than death.

The five of them are locked up beneath the lab and are kept heavily sedated. The dose of the sedative is five times stronger than what would be given to a regular adult male, yet I wonder if it will be enough. We absolutely cannot risk them gaining consciousness before they are delivered to the frontlines, for the sake of everyone in the lab.  




Excerpt from the journal of Dr.Howard Leonard Pink, May 23, 1943

I have become possessed by the notion, that my creations should never see the light of day. No enemy, no matter how hated, should be left at the hands of my creations. Perhaps, I should destroy them before the General has the opportunity to use them.

I have not been able to sleep in weeks. I lie awake at night in fear of the abominations I have created. Every time I close my eyes, all I can see, is the image of my lab assistant, Florence, being ripped to shreds by the creatures.

This must be the same caliber of regret experienced by Alfred Nobel on invention of dynamite, only, this time, amplified by a thousand fold.

Yes, these abominations must be destroyed. Not for my peace of mind, but in respect to the soldiers who sacrificed their bodies that they may came to life.

I will slip a poison inside the sedative. If that fails to work, I pray for the life of me and my children, that their skin is not too hard for bullets. So help me God.   



Jake Pink, stardate 147.2341, Entry 4:

 It has been 48 hours since exposure. I am not dead yet, but I may be soon. My body, in an attempt to expel the neurotoxin, has subjected me to several bouts of nausea and diarrhea. The crew are starting to notice that I am growing thin. And I know Hernandez is suspicious.

I am changing in other ways too. Lately, I have been experiencing lapses in consciousness. It is as if I become an observer in someone else’s life. It is as if I am here, yet I am not. Like I am alternating between two time frames. Past and present, coalescing into one.

Sometimes I don’t know who I am. Am I a soldier trapped on a hostile moon? Am I a scientist, performing experiments for the war effort?

I know the toxin has potent effects on the brain, but I never expected the effects to be this surreal. Sometimes it seems like I am regressing, to a state ten years younger than I am now. Other times, It seems that my consciousness, is being invaded by a mind which is not mine. By an intelligence which is not mine. By concerns which are not mine. By fears which are not mine.

How much longer will I continue to remain Jake Pink? Moments of clarity are so rare, and I hold tightly onto them, for fear that I am lost in a space which is not.



Howard Leonard Pink, stardate 148.2341, Entry 5:

I have managed to kill 4 of the beasts. The fifth one realized what was happening and fled out of the ship and into the forest before I had my chance. I am preparing now to chase it. As my pulse rifle charges, I think it is prudent to document the exterminations.

I caught two of them unawares. Shots to the head while they slumbered in a drunken stupor. I knocked the third unconscious with the butt of my rifle, and administered a potent poison intravenously. The fourth tried to hide, but his audible whimpers gave away his position. One shot to the head and two to the chest did the job. It is interesting to note his last words: “It’s doing this to you, this place. It’s corrupted your mind.”

I do not know what those words mean. They can be mere nonsense, or they can be useful. But nevertheless, they did not save his life.

My will to complete my mission is even stronger now. Not even a single one of these abominations must not be allowed to escape. I must destroy my creations.

My pulse rifle is ready, my conscience is clearing. The Prussian Capricorn must never see the light of day.



Emergency Transmission #78, Dr.Glory Stewart.

The story of our experiences here on this moon may never reach anyone. They may linger on in the fabric of space time as electromagnetic waves, never reaching an antenna. Never reaching any recipients. But I record now in the hopes that this message reaches someone. This is because I have nothing but hope to hold on to.

I am not recording in the hope of being rescued. I am only recording in order for people to know our names, and to remember us. All six of us, especially Jake Pink.

Though it may seem like there is no logical explanation to Jake’s actions, the Jake I know would never betray his own comrades like this. He was a kind and compassionate man and I loved him deeply.

Even now, I feel nothing but love for Jake. All my anger is instead directed to the governments that ordered us to fight and to die for their interests.

I may be dead before sunrise. It is only a matter of time until he catches me.

To any who receive this message, this moon must be avoided at all costs. Everything about this place breeds death.

To any who receive this message, know that we were committed to the cause and remained loyal to the very last second.

To any who receive this message, remember our names and our legacy.

End of transmission.




Howard Leonard Pink, stardate 149.2341, Entry 6:

My work is complete. All five of the creatures are now dead. Before I shot the last creature, something odd happened. As I looked into her face, it was as if I lost consciousness for an instant. It was as of my consciousness had been overtaken by another. Just for a short while, I questioned my identity.

Though all five of the creatures are now dead, my conscience is still not clear. It seems it will take more than destroying my work to atone for my sins.

Perhaps one more life needs to be taken. It seems only fair, considering the fact that I destroyed so many lives in order to make this project a reality. Perhaps this is the price I must pay for being overly ambitious. For neglecting to be as moral as I was scientific. For neglecting to be as ethical as I was driven. Why should I continue to live, as others died?

What do I have to live for? I have failed my unit, I have failed my country and I have failed my friends.

I may go down in history as an evil man, but, let it not be said that I did not try my utmost to atone for my sins.

This will be my final entry in this journal. My pulse rifle still has one charge.







A Conspiracy of The Sands

I took the stars from your eyes and then,

I made a map

And I knew that somehow, I would find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating and it was in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

-Cosmic Love




It was dark. It was always dark these days for Azir. A consequence of being in a location where the suns rays just could not reach. And no one cared enough to provide illumination by other means. But while vision was being denied, other senses were left perfectly intact.

There was hearing for example: In the dungeon, there was no way for the prisoners to record the motion of the sun as it traversed the sky. Hence the concept of time had changed for them. Time was now a thing measured by the intensity of the screams. Louder and louder and louder, until the door of one’s cell came creaking open.

Odour too was left in perfect condition. The progress of a dead body’s decay, could always be tracked by the worsening of the stench. For many, the rotting of a body was not something they would wish to dwell on, but for Azir, given his previous profession, it was something he was always occupied with. It was how he killed time, when he was not being tortured:

An accumulation of acid in the body, self digestion, the muscles harden.

The body is bloating. Almost twice its size now. The insects are feasting. Insects…and other things.

The internal organs, are collapsing. Collapsing, failing, losing integrity.

In time, just a skeleton will remain. A mere shade of a once glorious creature. A reminder to the living, that all is futile.

Odour had uses beyond tracking the decay of dead bodies though. There was another scent which Azir knew intimately. More intimately that the scents of dead bodies. It was the stench of the dwarf. The jailor, whose name Azir did not know, yet was the only human Azir ever interacted with. Their “relationship”, was very complicated.

Another sense left intact was touch—no, was pain. And since Azir only experienced pain when the imp was present, he had come to perceive the imp as a mediator to the sensation.

The relationship between dominant and submissive is very rarely simple. To the uninitiated, it would seem trivial that the relationship could be anything other than hate-hate. But down here in the dungeon, the rules were different. On most days, the dwarf came in carrying a plethora of torture devices. Tools not too dissimilar from the ones Azir had used in his past life. However where Azir had used his tools to heal, to treat and to cure, the imp used his tools to torture, to desecrate and to kill.  On those days, Azir experienced pain he did not know was possible to bear.

On other days however, the dwarf came in with nothing. He would just lie by Azir all day, stroking his hair, and sobbing. For hours and hours and hours. Initially, Azir was highly suspicious of this behavior. He wondered if this was part of the torture: Sporadically replacing displays of disdain with displays of affection so that there was a psychological edge. What would it be today? The serrated knife or the caressing hand?

Perhaps these random bouts of affection were genuine. If so, did the Jailor behave this way with other prisoners? Was this behavior nothing more than a personality disorder or was Azir unique to him in some way?

Azir himself could not recall if he had met the imp in his previous life. He had treated many people then, and the jailor or a family member of his could easily have been one of them. There was no way of knowing for sure. The dwarf was mute and anytime he opened his toothless mouth, rivulets of saliva run down the corners and often fell on Azir’s face. Holding any kind of conversation was definitely out of the question.

This was Azir’s life now. Once he had been one of the most powerful men in the city. But now he was just an object. The recipient of either excruciating pain or misplaced displays of affection. There was no middle ground.

Most prisoners had given up hope of ever breathing in fresh air, of ever tasting delicious food, of ever feeling the heat of the sun on their face, but Azir still had not reached that breaking point. Whenever the dwarf seared his flesh, Azir’s desire to flee the dungeon was reinforced. Whenever the dwarf gave him a kiss his belief that there was a way, was consolidated.





It was getting warmer and warmer. The sun would be rising soon. Being right in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but stretches of sand around him and the blazing unforgiving sun above him was not a position Azir fancied to be in. He had to move soon, but his strength was fading.

His only garment was a heavily worn rag. He had no footwear to protect the soles of his feet. Months of malnutrition had left his physique in less than perfect condition and carrying his body was a real work out. He was in desperate need of a walking stick, but instead, all he had was a lamp. A lamp stolen during his escape in order to illuminate the way and failing to fulfill that purpose as he could not light it. Though it weighed him down, Azir could not bring himself to throw the lamp away. There was just something about it.

He lay in a supine position. Larger particles of sand dug into his back as he stared at the night sky. Sights he had seen before: Twinkling stars in elaborate configurations, streaks as white as milk. Its beauty was not a thing he could appreciate anymore. Now the sky was merely a point on which he fixated his eyes.

He was deep in thought now…..Had his escape really been worth it? Was it better to die alone in the desert, than alone in the dungeon? Was the cost of his freedom worth the reality?

Eventually he began to think of his previous life. Before he became Azir the slave. When he was Azir the court physician.

Back then, he had been one of the personal advisors of the Sultan. He was rich and powerful and very few people dared to defy him.

Azir had always been cut from a different cloth than his colleagues. While they feasted and drank with the Sultan, he was always away in his sanctum learning and investigating. Of course there were nighttime escapades of the flesh, but not of the carnal kind. Azir was always cutting, dissecting, investigating.

One day, the Sultans daughter and her handmaiden had been involved in a horse riding accident. Though both bodies had been brought to him in critical condition, Azir was only expected to save one. Of course, no one expected him to ask himself “which one?”

Both girls were injured, but quite differently. The Sultan’s daughter, Pharah, had a severe injury in the head. Surely if he saved her, she would be impaired for life. A hollow, lacking the ability to talk, to think and to create. Would he allow her to exist as an empty vessel, abandoned and ignored as she wasted away?  Or would he give her a graceful death?

The other girl was quite treatable; though she was losing blood at an accelerated rate. He had to take action immediately.

Azir believed that it was the duty of a physician to determine not just how a person should be saved but also if a person should be saved. However, Azir’s desire to only give people lives they would want to live, lives that were worth living, was misconstrued as playing god.

The Sultan, overcome with grief, did not understand Azir’s reasoning. He did not want to understand. His pearl, his little princess, was at the door of death and in his eyes, the only man who could save her had chosen not to. His sorrow was the catalyst for Azir’s destruction.

Thus, the royal guard marched into Azir’s sanctorum and put him in chains. They dragged him through the streets as they set his library, containing scrolls upon scrolls of valuable research, on fire. Years of hard work disappearing in seconds. The Sultan’s fury did not end there. Azir’s wife and children were captured, stripped naked and tied up at the town square; denied of food and water and left to bake in the scorching heat. In time, Azir learned that they had been stoned to death by a mob.

Azir the physician died that day with them and Azir the slave was born.  A being born with an intense hatred for the Sultan and his people. He gave them life, he gave them solace, and this was how they decided to repay him. Azir the physician had nothing to live for, but Azir the slave went through every day in that hellhole of a dungeon in the hopes that someday he might escape and the Sultan would feel his wrath.

Let me live, so the Sultan will feel my pain. Let me live, so his people will perish by my hand.

It became some sort of a mantra for him, pushing him through hours of torture, day after day after hateful day.

Hot coals would be pressed against his flesh. Let me live. Splinters would be pushed beneath his fingernails. So the Sultan and his ilk may know my wrath. They were words uttered not just with his mouth, but with his heart. Formed not just with thoughts, but with his soul.

They were words spoken to no one in particular, but what Azir did not know at the time was that some dark god was listening.




Lying in the desert, Azir could not make sense of the trajectory of his life, try as he may. He had gone from street rat, to errand boy, to student, to apprentice, to physician, to court physician, to advisor-in-chief, to slave, to nobody. Was the Sultan really going to get away with his crimes? Would the murders of his wife and little girls go unpunished? Would the people continue to go about their lives unbothered? It was too much to think about.

Hush. No more thoughts. Now I rest.

The sun was rising. Azir did not care.



Chapter 3 – FORTUNE

On the third day of their travels, they found the body. They were returning to the city after their most recent mission in the crypts had been unsuccessful when they saw it. Where most people would see just a body, they saw an opportunity. The dead pharaohs had not been munificent. Was the desert, desolate as it was, being generous instead?

The one called Ahmed was the first to dismount the camel. He tightened his scarf around his head in order to protect his ears from the roaring winds and knelt down by the body partially submerged in the sand. He discovered then that it was not a corpse as he thought. It also didn’t seem to be carrying anything of value. It was fast swinging from being an opportunity to being a liability.

Ahmed was contemplating what to do when his companion, Set, asked, “Anything useful?”

Ahmed hesitated and said, “It’s still alive.”

They had both dismounted now. Kneeling in the sand and examining the body. It was wretched and emaciated and the eyes were milky white. Unseeing eyes. Destroyed by staring into the sun for too long. No one would blame them for assuming it was a corpse. It was all but dead.

“We should leave him,” Set said.

“No. Just because we are grave robbers doesn’t mean we live without honor,” Ahmed replied.

“So what do you want to do? Carry him across the desert and back into the city? You don’t even know this man!”

“To leave him now would be very cruel.”

“But we have very little food Ahmed. Our water is running out.”

“Let me worry about that.”

Set wanted to protest further, but given his position as the younger of the two men, he was unlikely to prevail. Hence he kept his mouth shut.

Thus, they placed him on a mat, strapped it to the camel and dragged him across the desert.




On the fifth day of their travels, it became apparent to Ahmed that being honorable was doing nothing other than hurting him. The stranger they found in the desert was dead weight. Set refused to share any of his rations with him, hence it was up to Ahmed to keep the stranger fed. He deprived himself, so he could sustain the stranger. And for what?

Set was growing increasing vocal about his annoyance. His body language had changed significantly and his words were hostile. Ever since they came across the stranger, He seemed to perpetually be in a state of irritation.

They had stopped so the camel could rest. Set was sitting in the sand, leaning against the kneeling camel. Ahmed was pacing, thinking about his predicament. It was late afternoon, their shadows were growing longer and longer.

The stranger made a sound but Ahmed could not discern what he said. He knelt down and listened more closely.


Ahmed immediately moved for the water pouch. As he reached out to remove it from the saddle, he felt something holding him back.

Set gripped his upper arm and whispered “don’t”.

Ahmed turned to face the boy. His features were firmly set into an expression of determination. Ten years his junior, yet he had the audacity. Ahmed wrested his arm free of Set’s grip and retrieved the water pouch from the saddle. He started towards the stranger but something else blocked his path. This time it was long, curved and shone brilliantly in the sunlight. It was Set’s sword.

“What is the meaning of this, boy?” Ahmed said.

“I’m sick of your nonsense Ahmed,” Set said. “You lead me hundreds of leagues to a tomb in the middle of nowhere with nothing to show for it. Then, you bring this corpse along with us just so it can use up our rations. Why do you care so much? So you can prove to yourself that you are more than just a thief? So you can atone for sins performed ages ago? I will not allow you to kill us slowly. Not anymore.”

Ahmed could tell that from the tone of his voice and the look on his face, that the boy was very serious.

“Move away boy”, Ahmed said. “I will not ask again.”

“Go to hell!”

Set charged at Ahmed, with his sword high above his head, screaming. A sound which was manifested by a desire to kill. A sound so feral that it jolted the camel into wakefulness.

Ahmed stepped to the side, avoiding Set’s blow, and while the momentum of his strike still drove the boy forward, he unsheathed his cutlass with quick movements and drew a crescent in the air, cutting through Sets torso.

The boy fell to the ground, lifeless. The camel let out a scream equally as terrifying as the one made a few moments before. As the boy’s blood soaked the sand, the camel could not be pacified.

Ahmed casually stepped over the boy’s body and delivered the water pouch to the stranger. The stranger sucked at it peacefully, seemingly oblivious to the horrifying incident that had occurred moments before. Pity that it had come to this. I actually liked him a bit, Ahmed thought.

It was dusk and they had to be moving soon. Ahmed did not bother burying the boy. He merely stripped him of his garments and footwear and left him in a pool of his own bile and guts. As he moved to dress the stranger, he noticed, for the first time, the lamp.

Initially, it was visible only as a bulge in the stranger’s cloak. Ahmed investigated closely, and saw it for the first time, in its full glory.

It was gold and silver, adorned with rubies glowing pale red in the waning sunlight. Ahmed was beyond euphoric. The expedition had not been a total failure after all. An antique like this was sure to fetch over a thousand rupees in the black markets back in the city. Who would have thought, that a corpse halfway into the underworld would bring him such good fortune. It probably should have occurred to him then that gifts delivered from the jaws of death were never as they seemed to be.

The lamp felt heavy in Ahmed’s hands. A little too heavy, despite being made of gold and silver. Almost suspiciously heavy. His greed was taking his imagination places now. What could possibly be inside? Some golden coins? A couple of diamonds?

In his impatience, in his excitement, he pried open the lid, and all hell broke loose.

Black smoke shot out of the lamp with such fury that it knocked Ahmed on his back. Growing and growing in size until it filled up his entire vision. The camel was hysterical and surely would have fled but for the bonds fastening it in place. The black smoke was shaping itself into a distinct form now.

A head, eyes, a mouth, a torso, arms, arms adorned with golden bracelets. No, not bracelets. Shackles.

In a voice as loud as thunder, the genie said, “I have one wish to grant. One wish, and I will be free of these bonds. Speak, if you dare.”

Ahmed still lay on the ground, spectacularly in shock and absolutely overwhelmed. His mind was having a very hard time processing everything. While every other aspect of his being was struggling to perceive his current reality, the opportunist in his brain was very alert.

“One wish? I thought genies granted three”, he said. Much to his surprise, his voice was not hoarse, even though his throat felt as dry as the dessert. A dryness so severe, it hurt.

The genie, it seemed to Ahmed, sighed. When he did so, his features became less defined, losing all form and sharpness temporarily. “Two wishes, have already been granted”

“Very well then”, Ahmed said. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. “I wish to come in possession of a treasure larger than the great pyramids.”

“Mmmm….On your next expedition out of the city, your wish will be granted.”

And with that the shackles on the genie’s wrists began to glow. They glowed to a red brightness and exploded, freeing the demon.

“And now, I am free”, it said, as it dissipated into the night.




As he rode back into the city with the stranger, Ahmed kept thinking about his good fortune. It seemed too good to be true, but alas, who was he to question the gods?

He rode quickly, seeking to rid himself of the stranger and prepare himself for his next expedition. Against all odds, the stranger had miraculously survived, growing in strength as he received appropriate nourishment and care. His vision, however, did not return. He would probably live the rest of his life in the streets of the city as a nameless beggar, forever in an eternal midnight.

This was good for Ahmed. He did not want to be found, he did not want to be asked for a share.

As day broke, the great walls of the city came into view. This was the first time that the sight of those walls did not fill Ahmed with depression. For once, they signified hope. For once, they signified opportunity.



Sheik Habib Al Mouktom woke up with a smile on his face. In the Sycamore trees just outside his window, birds tweeted a most melodious tune. Today would be a good day indeed.

For months, preparations had been ongoing, all leading up to this day. Today was the day of his daughter’s wedding. A marriage to none other than the crown prince himself.

The day itself had been carefully selected. Every astronomer and soothsayer in the city had been consulted and all had approved. The cola nuts, the tea leaves and the stars all agreed, this was a day of fortune. This was the day of affluence.

Sheik Habib was fully awake now and was walking around his quarters ensuring that all was in place for the ceremony. He had so many servants that he didn’t even bother to ask their names. They scurried about the premises carrying cutlery, garments and of course, wine. Lots and lots of wine. Wine obtained from vineyards in the most verdant oases.

Sometimes, to the Sheik, it all seemed so surreal. Ten years ago, he never would have believed that he would be standing where he was now. Back then, he went by a different name. They called him Ahmed Al Mouktom and he made his living by doing the most dishonorable work; robbing the graves of the fallen kings.

One day however, his life took a turn for the better. By supernatural means, the site of his greatest bounty ever was revealed to him. He laundered that money by posing as a trader of fine garments and in time he rose to become the wealthiest merchant in the entire city. And it was all thanks to a body in the sand.

He chuckled at his own good fortune.




The guests started to come in one by one. These were no ordinary men and women. They were people with enough influence to make the sun go round. One by one they came and the Sheik greeted each and every one of them by his doorstep. The dining and wining would begin soon.

By noon, the Sheik’s mood had changed significantly. He had been filled with so much happiness in the morning, but now, all he could feel was dysphoria. Even the sound of his daughter’s laughter could not lift his spirits.

He left the guests and the party and stood on the balcony of his bedroom as dark thoughts consumed him. As if to mirror the state of his mind, the sky became engulfed by dark clouds. The streets cleared up as darkness fell over the city. Odd. No rain had been forecast for this day.

He looked beyond the city walls and towards to horizon. In the distance, a dark cloud seemed to be approaching the city at great speed. Like a storm. Like the hand of darkness. The Sheik felt nauseous.

What he did not know was that for the past ten years, a curse had been in gestation and now it was finally mature. A curse forged in darkness and paid by pain, suffering, sorrow and death. A curse intended not just for one man, but for an entire city. A curse forged between a man and a demon.

The first wish had been one pleading for survival. Let me live.

The second wish had been one seeking retribution. So the Sultan and his people may feel my pain.

Both had been granted, and the scientist known as Azir had been delivered from the mouth of the abyss and into the desert. There he came upon the thief known as Ahmed, who made the final wish with a blood sacrifice. A trivial request for blood money. That too had been granted with ease, but had forever implicated him in the cycle of vengeance.

As Ahmed grew in wealth, so did his power. As Ahmed inherited the city, he also inherited the sins of its people.

Now the hour of accountability was nigh and the forces of darkness where upon the city. Forces persuaded by an old blind wizard. A wizard who had once been a kind man. A wizard whose touch was formerly of prosperity and not of blight.

The forces of darkness where upon the city. As part of the cycle of vengeance, a cycle powered by hatred, there would be culling, and there would be reaving.



The End.





If I tried hard enough, I could probably remember the moment of my birth. I never tried hard enough however. It was some sort of unspoken rule governing omnipotent beings. We never looked to far back, or too far forward either. Uncertainty was a coping mechanism for us; it was how we maintained our sanity. For beings like me, it was possible to simultaneously approximate both the momentum and the position of a subatomic particle, but we went about our lives pretending otherwise.

I had been to earth before. I didn’t remember when, or why, but I knew I had been there before. On my return, the constellations in the sky, the fascinating fauna and flora, the beautiful landscape all sang hymns to me, and filled me with nostalgia. This planet was a beautiful product of chaos.

Much had changed since I had been here, and I wanted to experience, with very minimal use of faculties, the state of things now. It was some sort of game I played. Learning the biology and culture of the planets I visited. It didn’t matter that I had visited them before, it didn’t matter that I didn’t even have to visit them. I wasn’t going to let omniscience get in the way of my fun.


The earth was home to many species. They were evolving impressively. With regards to anatomy, I was always interested in seeing how different structures arose from various environmental conditions. The degree of diversity was exciting. Some were upright, others were hunched. Bipedal, tetrapedal. Tentacles, wings, legs. It filled me with ecstasy.

Their brains weren’t doing so badly either. Many were showing signs of intelligence and one particular specie appeared to be self aware. They called themselves Homo sapiens. Wise man. How naïve.

Staying on the macroscopic scale, it was hard to go about the planet while avoiding the humans. They simply dominated everything. I did not wish to meddle in the lives of self-aware species. I found them too predictable. But against my better judgment, I found myself looking too long at humankind.

This was a fatal mistake.


All sentient species believe they are important, but this is nothing more than a self-comforting lie. A lie produced by a mind which is as much a random arrangement of atoms as the nebulae which grace the silent expanses of the cosmos. In my eyes, nebulae and neurons are different configurations of the same thing. One configuration facilitates fluorescence and another facilitates thought. What annoys me so much about sentient beings is their ego. Ego is an unavoidable byproduct of their infantile minds. Minds so underdeveloped that in all theories of cosmic structure, their planet lies at the center of all things. Pathetic.

Human’s had great potential, but watching them…..was frustrating. They were intelligent, yet they still behaved like animals. They were compassionate, yet they were selfish. They were creative, yet they were destructive. They were intelligent, yet they were crude. With base emotions like greed and self-indulgence, they affected not just themselves, but the lives of other organisms. This made me….angry.

Time had no meaning for me, but at this point, I had probably been on the earth for a long period. I had marveled at many things, and I had discovered many things, and I was starting to be consumed with the idea that the whole planet would be better, if humans seized to exist.

I loved the earth and I started to see it as a garden. Humans were nothing more than weeds that stunted the growth of roses and tulips. They were nothing more than rodents that nibbled at vines and roots. To me, life is beautiful when it is young. The more it advances, the more boring it becomes. Humans were at an extremity on the spectrum of evolution, and it was not the part I found favorable. It had to be done, they had to go.

It would be done.

Any day now.

And yet, I continued to hesitate. It wasn’t because I was incompetent. I had the power to make their whole star system disappear in nanoseconds. It was just….it was just……

It was because of Mahansamatma. My human.

I was watching him draw one night, without realizing I had made myself visible. It was only after he stared in my direction for a prolonged period of time that I realized he was staring at me. Perhaps I should have erased his memory at that point, but something held me back. His was immensely creative. The way he combined color and tone to bring the creatures of his imagination to life was astounding.

That night, for the very first time in a long time, I did something I hadn’t done. I made a new friend.

I wasn’t in the habit of making friends with underdeveloped members of an underdeveloped specie, but there was just something about his childlike innocence. The purity, the nascence.

I visited every night for many nights. We talked about all sorts of things. His obsession female counterparts his age. How cool it would be to have a lightsaber. How many different stars there were in the sky. Whether a Tyrannosaurus or Triceratops would win in a fight.

He told me about his religion, about the idols he prayed to every night. Hoping for a better life, hoping that he would get the opportunity at a formal education.

My encounters with him sparked a desire I had never experienced before. I almost wished I was human. Almost.


I have lived long enough to bear testament to the fact that the only constant in the universe is change. One day, things changed, for the worse.

I held his limp body in my arms. I saw blood trickle down his face and onto my palms. His eyes were still open; blue, beautiful and unseeing. His golden blond hair was stained with blood. His bones were broken, crushed. His life had been taken. Beaten to death, by bullies.

It had been a while since I experienced these emotions. It had been so long that I almost forgot their names. Now, kneeling in a pool of blood, they came to me one by one. Pain, anguish, suffering.


Mahansamatma was not just my human, I was his god. And in that moment, I wanted so much, to grip the entire planet in my hand and crush it to bits. I wanted to collapse the very spaces between the subatomic particles. I wanted to delete this planet, not just from space, but from time.

But I didn’t. I was no animal. I was no human. Reacting to events with emotion was beneath me.

I must admit, that I never imagined that the death of a single life form, particularly a human, would affect me in any way. Mahansamatma’s death hurt, like nails scraping on my soul.

The pain was too much to bear, hence I numbed myself. Once again, I allowed my behavior to be governed by logic and rationality. Emotions fizzled from my consciousness, like a blot of ink in a pool of water.

From a deterministic point of view, there was no need to save Mahansamatma. He had been dead long before I met him. Holding him in my arms, as his cells died, one by one, was nothing other than a scathing reminder that human lives were nothing more than infinitesimal flashes in the sea of infinity that was the cosmos.

I no longer felt anger towards humankind, but, I still had to decide their fate. I looked forward into the future, but the view was fuzzy. My uncertainty had created two possible realities. One where the earth was, and another where the earth wasn’t.

From one perspective, there was no difference between the two realities. If I looked forward far enough, both realities would be identical. The earth’s sun would eventually go nova, swallowing the entire star system as it died. Would it really hurt anyone if the earth’s inevitable demise came 5 billion years earlier?

The answer to that question was more complicated than it appeared. My experiences with Mahansamatma had changed me. There was no denying that. Also, I felt for him. There was no denying that. I could not destroy the earth totally, without destroying him as well. And if I did that, was I not as evil as his killers?

To allow him to be erased from history would be an act of violence. Violence was primitive, violence was beneath me. And yet the temptation was there. Lingering, like a resistant strain of microbes upon exposure to an antibiotic. No, Ideas were much more powerful and much more difficult to kill than any single life form.

My thoughts were dominated by a single image; a rock in space exploding into a million tiny pieces. It was an image that began to feel like an obligation. A loose end that needed to be tied up. A rash that needed desperately to be scratched.


I drifted through space once more, going beyond the solar system. An amorphous blob heavy with emotion. Behind me was a pale, blue dot. A dot containing over a billion different lifeforms, a dying ecosystem and fond memories of a human boy. Behind me was a pale blue dot, twinkling, like a pearl in the deep dark blue.


The Reaper’s Conundrum

It was the busiest day of my existence.

On most days, I was everywhere. Almost simultaneously. But things were still generally slow enough that I could feel the weight of every soul, as I carried it to the afterlife. As I soared through the sky with my black wings, I would see, in its entirety, the life lived. The lies told, the prejudices held, the emotion, raw and unrestrained. I would live, as they died.

But that day was different, I really had never been so busy. Everything happened at once, and I am ashamed to admit that I was overwhelmed.

In moments, 99% of the human population was wiped out. And I had to be there, for each and every single one of them, so no one was lost. So every soul found its way to its final destination; hell, heaven and nothingness.


Almost as quickly as it began, it was over, and in the aftermath, there was an emptiness more overwhelming than anything I had ever experienced. The humans had come, the humans had lived, the humans had loved, the humans had destroyed, and now the humans were gone. And with this realization, I experienced a feeling I had never known before. I initially mistook it for boredom, but it was much more nuanced. It was ennui.

I never had this much free time before. There was always some soul to carry. A man, shot dead on his way home, wondering if his wife would ever find his secret stash of porn magazines. A girl, kidnapped while walking down a dark road, deflowered and left for dead, screaming with no voice, wondering why this was such a cruel world, wondering, as nervous impulses collapsed, as neurons died, as her breath left her body. A baby, struggling to survive the first few hours of infancy struggling and failing, letting go. Every death was unique, yet they were all identical. In a bed surrounded by loved ones or in the alley of some unknown street, the end result was the same. I would bear them, with my darkin wings, up and up and up. And now, there was no one to carry.

It was ennui, but it would soon become existential angst. What would a flower be, if it could not smell pretty and be colorful? What would a sunrise be, if it could not inspire? What would the night sky be, if it wasn’t a map? What was I, if I had no souls to reap?

For days and days, I pondered, and I soon grew alarmed. Was I still a reaper if I had no sack of souls? Was I still the ferryman of the dead if I had no passengers? Was I still the curator of the crypts if there were no new arrivals? Teleologically, I had already ceased to exist. Soon, would my corporeal form fade too?

But alas! There are still humans alive. The one percent! I looked down at the earth, at the aftermath, at the post-apocalyptic hellscape. Yes, indeed, some humans had survived, and they were dying.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but their impending departure was bad news for me. If I was to have a job still, or even a being, then they couldn’t all die at once. Oh no. There had to be sustainable death.


If there was any hope, it remained with the 1%. Well the 0.98% now. With every passing moment their numbers waned, and if there was no change, the human race would undoubtedly head to oblivion.

They were scattered across the globe now. A diverse group of humans. Various ethnicities, races and religions were represented. There were very few things linking them together. For some it was luck, but most others shared aberrations in their genetic material. Regardless of being fortified by millennia of natural selection, their tenacity would be short lived. The first storm in the nuclear winter had taken heavy casualties. In the blizzards succeeding it, the survivors would die at an exponential rate. Until the reaction completed. Until there was no more death. Until I ceased to exist.

I was never one to meddle in the affairs of living humans. Once, I bumped into a kid, leading to his untimely demise, and that was it. I promised to never walk among them. Sometimes they refuse to let go of their loved ones. They hang on so tight that when I come for a soul, I usually end up taking two. I had as much interest in living humans as they did a colony of bees. Beyond the occasional curiosity, I couldn’t care less. That had to change now. I would have to become “involved”.




For a while, I walked among the humans. When they felt fear, I was there to comfort them. When they felt loneliness, I was there to provide companionship. When they were ignorant, I provided illumination. I never appeared twice in the same form, and I never stayed too long. If I did, they would be seeking to “elevate” my status and make me a leader. A king perhaps, or even a god. This, I could not allow.

In time, my efforts bore fruit. My machinations had brought the humans together and soon, they began to rebuild. This time however, they took things slowly. The fact that the environment was conspiring to kill them all had forged strong bonds between them all. There was no racial or religious tension. There was no “us” and “them”. There was just an “us”. This meant that for a long time, there would be no murder. Some still died, mostly the newborn babies. But I had hope that there would soon be so much more.

Sometimes I questioned myself. With the death of racism and religious extremism, would humans still die in the thousands? I always put myself at ease however. I knew, as strongly as I knew what I was, that in time, they would argue. Arguments would turn into quarrels, quarrels would turn into fights. Fights that wouldn’t easily be made up because of the formation of ideologies. Idealogies which would persist, Ideologies which would separate. Ideologies which would provoke. Someone would die, someone had to be there. My scythe was ready, my wings yearned for the black sky.