Tag Archives: Jack Johnson

The Killing Type (Part 2 of 2)

A few days ago, I posted a call for song suggestions. The idea was like my Open Prompts stories, except that I would use quotes from song lyrics in my story. Thank you to the people who gave me suggestions. They are, in the order they commented:

Arjun Bagga: Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Family Tradition

Miles Rost: Alphaville’s “Dance With Me

starlight: Patrick Park’s “Blackbird through the Dark

Michelle Proulx: Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes

The Bumble Files: Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (Also, obviously, the inspiration for the title)

I have linked the quotations from the songs to the place in the Youtube videos where they appear. This is Part 2 of the story, so you can read Part 1 here.

 

The Killing Type: Part 2

Cassandra looked over at Doug and saw the fierce delight in his eyes. He was staring at the squig-squill, like a gladiator staring down his doomed opponent in the ring.

“Come on, let’s just go,” Cassandra said, reaching out for his hand. He shook it away.

“Hold on, you gotta watch this.” Doug darted forward and held the knife in front of the squig-squill. The creature lashed out at the blade. A small splash of pale pink blood landed on the ground and it pulled back with a roar of pain.

“Hilarious, isn’t it?” Doug said, with a laugh. “It’ll keep attacking and hurting itself, it’s so stupid.”

“Doug, come on. Let’s go,” Cassandra said. She tugged on his arm, trying again to pull him back to the rover.

“Fine, let’s go,” he said at last. He darted forward again and stabbed the long knife through the squig-squill’s throat. The creature fell back and Doug stepped on its chest. Even with the thin atmosphere, Cassandra heard the crunch of breaking bones.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy?” she cried.

“What do you care? They’re just pests. I’m not going to leave it alive after I’ve found it.”

“But it didn’t attack us. It was just defending its home. How did you get in this condition, Doug? You weren’t like this four years ago.”

“It’s easy for you to say, Cassandra, living in Coventry in the middle of an empty plain. We fight these things every day up in the mountains. They hide in the mines, they ambush the transports. We wiped out a lot of them before we started digging, but still they keep coming back, again and again. We need to wipe this planet clean, and then there will be peace. Stay here a minute.” Doug stepped over the body of the squig-squill and disappeared behind the bushes.

“Where are you going?” she asked. He didn’t answer.

Cassandra followed him through the bushes. In front of them, the ravine came to an abrupt end and was covered with a screen of woven plants. Doug ripped it aside, revealing what looked like a pile of fur, until a head raised out of it, hissing and snarling.

Doug kicked the pile apart and a handful of scrawny younglings tumbled out of it. A female had been covering them with her body. The female attacked Doug’s legs with its teeth, but they had no effect against the metal shin guards built into his suit. He kicked it off and stepped on one of the younglings, slowly crushing it into the ground.

“Stop it!” Cassandra screamed. “Let’s just go. Please, Doug!”

This is a mercy killing, Cassandra,” he said. “These ones are dead anyway. If the female goes to get them food, they’ll freeze and if she doesn’t, they’ll starve. She won’t go, so they’ll all die slowly together. It’s a foregone conclusion anyway, so might as well get into it, right?” He gave her a grin as he moved from youngling to youngling. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch-crunch-crunch. “My jellyfish dance, Cassandra. No rhythm, so but I’ve got some deadly moves. Come dance.”

“You monster!” she shouted. It wasn’t just the killing; it was the look of joy on his face as he crushed the little creatures under his heavy boots.

He stopped smiling and looked hurt. “Geez, it was just a joke. Sorry.” Crunch. “It’s got to be done—I was just putting a good face on it.” Crunch.

“Would you just stop!” she shouted, so loud he put his hand up to his ear in pain. The female was crawling back towards him and he stepped away from it.

“What do you want, Cassandra? We can’t live on this planet in peace with these things, and if they’re going to attack us, someone has to stop them. And I’m good at it. I saw you when you were dancing, with that look of joy on your face, oblivious to the rest of the world. You know that desire that burns a hole you’ll never fill with anything else. You have dancing and I have hunting. You’re the dancing type; I guess I’m the killing type.”

She looked into his face and saw with horror that he was right. He had become a killer, and he loved it. He turned around. “Go back and wait at the rover. I’m just going to take care of this last one.” He held up the knife and took a step towards the female squig-squill.

Cassandra ran at him and shoved him to the side. Doug tried to step to the side to maintain his balance, but he tripped on a rock and fell face down. His scream of pain reverberated inside her helmet. She ran to him and pulled him over and gasped when she saw the knife sticking out of his chest.

“Doug, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Killer,” he whispered, and for a moment, she saw his familiar, teasing grin touch the corners of his mouth before the life went out of his eyes.

Cassandra stayed kneeling for a moment until she remembered the squig-squill behind her. She jumped up, but it was nowhere near her. It was picking up the crushed little bodies that were scattered around the dell and arranging them by the rock wall. Then, as she watched, it made its way out through the bushes and lay down, covering the body of the dead squig-squill with its own.

Cassandra pushed the button on the com, trying to keep the tears out of her voice. Still, her voice quavered when she spoke. “Akash, come get me. There’s been an accident.”

*         *         *

Coventry Outpost was a storm of rumors, but all anyone knew for sure was that Doug Rankin, the son of Camellia Outpost’s commander, was dead. Cassandra sat in her room, confined there by her father while they sorted things out. After an hour, her parents came in. Her mother sat down and hugged her tightly.

“This is a horrible tragedy,” her father said, “but I think we’ve found a way for some good to come from it. Here is what you are going to tell everyone: you were walking with Doug when you were attacked by a group of squig-squills. He tried to defend you and killed a lot of them, but then several hit him from behind and he fell, accidentally stabbing himself with his knife. Akash is willing to testify that he was worried about you and came to find you, arriving just in time to scare them off.”

“What good could come from that?” Cassandra asked softly. She felt as if all the energy was drained out of her. The world was a more confusing place than it had been, just hours before.

“You pushed him and he died,” her mother said. “Some people might consider that manslaughter, and that could even carry the death penalty if Rankin pushes for it. He is inconsolable. But there were no witnesses; there’s no reason we should even go through that.”

“Plus, now I’ll have a pretext to start hunting them again,” her father said. “The commander seems to think that since they’re not attacking us at the moment, we have to maintain some sort of truce with them. But their numbers are just increasing and some day there may be enough to attack Coventry itself. Remember the Magnolia.

“No, I’m not going to tell them that,” Cassandra said. “I’m not going to let you hunt them. I saw them, Dad. They’re intelligent, and it would be wrong.”

“You would throw away everything because of them?” Her father’s voice was full of disgust and disbelief. “You would possibly even die for those things—our mortal enemy?”

“I’m not a killer, Dad,” Cassandra said. “I’m sorry. I guess I broke the family tradition.”

coventry outpost


The Killing Type (Part 1 of 2)

A few days ago, I posted a call for song suggestions. The idea was like my Open Prompts stories, except that I would use quotes from song lyrics in my story. Thank you to the people who gave me suggestions. They are, in the order they commented:

Arjun Bagga: Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Family Tradition

Miles Rost: Alphaville’s “Dance With Me

starlight: Patrick Park’s “Blackbird through the Dark

Michelle Proulx: Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes

The Bumble Files: Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (Also, obviously, the inspiration for the title)

I have linked the quotations from the songs to the place in the Youtube videos where they appear. The story is about 2500 words, so I split it into two parts. The second part will be posted tomorrow.

The Killing Type: Part 1

He finally found her, dancing alone in the stardust dawn underneath the crystal roof of the power station. She was twirling and pirouetting with utter abandon, her eyes closed and her feet splashing through the oil and waste water on the floor.

“Cassandra,” he said at last, hating to break the spell of her dancing.

Cassandra stopped and looked up, then her eyes widened. “Doug? Is that really you?” She flitted up to the steel ladder and gave him a hug. “Stars, you got tall in a hurry. When did you get here?”

“An hour ago, maybe,” he said, grinning. “It took me most of that time to find you. What are you doing here, in this filth?”

“It’s the only place I can be alone and still see the stars,” Cassandra said. “I don’t want to dance where people can see me. I was born in Coventry Outpost but still, the close quarters, always being near everyone else—it gets to me.”

“But at what price?” Doug asked. He indicated her bare feet that were covered with tar balls and scars.

“It’s worth it,” she said and suddenly laughed. “Tell me what’s happening with you. I haven’t seen you in four years.”

“It’s a great life out there on the frontier. I’m working with my father to expand Camellia Outpost. We just built the smelter and factory.” He paused. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” she said. She took his hand. “Hey, do you want to dance with me?”

“I’m not really the dancing type. I’ve got no rhythm.”

“Bah! I remember you. You’re slow and graceful, like a jellyfish. When you move like a jellyfish, rhythm don’t mean nothing.”

“Jellyfish are deadly too, though,” Doug said. “Hey, I know what we can do. Have you ever killed a squig-squill before?”

“What?”

“I’ve gotten really good at it—you gotta be out where I live. I can hit one with an air rifle at 50 meters. You wanna try?”

Cassandra looked up into his eager, expectant face and let go of his hand. “I’m really not the killing type,” she said.

He nodded. “Okay, okay. But let’s go find some anyway, just to look at. Have you ever seen one?”

“Only in pictures.” Cassandra had seen lots of pictures of squig-squill bodies that had been killed back when she was a baby. They looked like limp bags of fur with claws sticking out of them. Her father was head of patrols and boasted about killing hundreds of them. These days, though, the outpost commander forbade them from hunting squig-squills unless they passed the outer perimeter of the outpost.

“You gotta see one up close,” Doug said. “I’ve gotten really good at finding their nests. So, you wanna?”

“Isn’t it dangerous? What about the Magnolia?” The very first manned mission to Asteria had been attacked and annihilated by squig-squills, back when Cassandra’s parents were children on Earth. The legend lived on, though, and every child in Coventry had to memorize the names of the ten astronauts killed.

“That was back when we didn’t know how to deal with them. Trust me; there’s no danger at all.” Doug gave her a reassuring smile.

“It’s pretty far to walk, though,” she persisted. “The outer perimeter is 5 km out and there aren’t any squig-squills within that.”

“Listen,” Doug said, as if he were imparting a secret, “I’ve got a rover.” His eyes were shining. “It’s the first one we’ve built at the factory. That’s how I got here; I drove it and my dad drove a transport.” He caught up her hand and squeezed it. “I know that before I left, we used to be just good friends—”

“More than just friends,” Cassandra said, smiling.

“We would have been, if I hadn’t had to leave.” He suddenly leaned in and kissed her. It felt good and she would have kept kissing him, but he straightened up with an impish grin.

“Fine, go show me a squig-squill,” she said and he hugged her again. Cassandra wiped off her feet, put her boots back on and then led the way out to the vehicle dock.

The commander of Coventry Outpost was hosting a banquet in honor of Doug’s father, Commander Frederick Rankin, and almost the entire population of Coventry Outpost was squeezed into the main dome. The only person Cassandra and Doug met on the way out was Akash, the guard at the airlock gate.

“I just heard over the com that they’re looking for you two, you know,” he said, giving them a knowing smile.

“They can’t be looking very hard,” Doug said.

“No, they’re not,” Akash said, “and they probably think you’re off somewhere, catching up. Which I guess you are.” He pushed the button to open the airlock. “Don’t go far, and stay on the com.”

“Yessir,” Doug said with a salute. He gunned the engine and the rover sped out over barren plain.

For Cassandra—sitting behind Doug with her arms around his waist—the feeling of speed and openness was heavenly. She was only able to leave the outpost every 20 days or so, and that was just to walk around the perimeter and check the instruments. Red dirt and sand covered all the land as far as she could see. Asteria’s blazing sun was just over the horizon and the light sparkled and flashed in the upper atmosphere. Above them, tethered lightdomes hung in the upper atmosphere, gathering energy and providing the outpost with its communications. Through the lightdomes shining in the sky, the last of the night’s stars burned in the midnight blue expanse.

Doug drove them out past the perimeter and up into the foothills of the rocky spine that led from Coventry to Camellia, 200 km away. Small, scrubby plants began to appear among the rocks, interspersed with icy pools.

They came to a ravine cut in the rocks and Doug stopped the rover. “This is the kind of place you’d find them in,” he said.

Cassandra heard his voice through the speaker in her helmet. He pointed to a white smear on the rocks, about a foot off the ground. “Look there. They leave those around a lot too. To mark their territory or something.”

Doug took Cassandra’s hand and led her towards the ravine. The light of the sun was blocked by the rocks and the ravine was in deep gloom.

“Is this safe?” she asked. “How will we know where they are?” She noticed that he had drawn a long knife and was holding it in front of him. “What’s that for?”

“The males are aggressive. Best not to take chances.”

Before they could take another step, Cassandra heard a high-pitched roar. It sounded faint and far-off in the thin air. A squig-squill burst out of the bushes, blocking their path. This looked nothing like the limps bundles of fur she had seen in pictures. Its small, misshapen head was stretched out on a thin neck and flicked back and forth, mouth open and menacing. It moved its clawed limbs in circles in front of it, but did not attack.

(to be concluded, here)


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