TWA #13 – Short Story “Out of the Universe by Sundown” by Danny Brophy

Out of the Universe by Sundown

Hey, you.

You would’ve thought a human’s throat would be easier to slice. They’re so…pliable. The contract stipulated the throat had to be cut. Didn’t know why, don’t know, well, you know.

I know how much you hate me repeating stuff, especially when it comes to work.

So, I cut the human’s throat, he’s a guy. And I used a sharp knife, I’m talking horrendous in how sharp it is. I get afraid if I drop the thing on the Nin, it’ll cut through the hull.

It made me a little sad. Like, I snuck up behind the man, slipped the blade across his throat, and yeah, it cut him good. Cut him real good. But not good enough. He turned around and wrestled with me. Least, he wrestled with one hand trying to enact some kind of retribution while the other was holding back all that gorpiness humans got tucked inside them.

Disgusting, babe. Real disgusting.

He dropped, finally, after I grabbed the bastid and cut again. Not like a samorian’s throat. Granted, a samorian’s got like nothing to its throat, not a long neck like…oh, what’s that race from out beyond the rim, got the longish necks? You’ll let me know, right?

I miss you, by the way.

—–

Hey. Thought I’d be home soon. Was right in the Nin, about ready to fly off this odd ball, and of course, got another contract. I know it sucks, babe, I know it does, but this is good money. Just see it my way and I know you’ll be easier on the idea of this. Seems the boss wants me to stay on here for about two weeks.

Not like this’ll be forever. Not like I like this.

—–

Hey. Haven’t heard from you. Maybe that was a little heavy, talking about the whole slitting a throat thing. Sorry. But, you gotta find some kind of enjoyment, right? No, no, no, not enjoyment, not the right word. Um…how bout I just start this over.

—–

Hello, babe! I miss you. Another contract completed, another one sent by the boss. Still on Earth. You’ve heard of Earth, right? That planet with the idiots sending all them messages and such out?

Yeah, now that I think of it, you’re the one that told me of it. Sorry. Memory’s so shot from the long trip down here. Remember how you went to Cygnus and couldn’t even remember me? I spent the first two days really really explaining that I was your guy, I was your mate, and you didn’t believe me, but you put up with me because you thought I was cute.

All the trips we’ve done, that was my favorite. It was like getting you to fall in love with me all over again. We should do more trips like that.

Oh, my new contract. Boss is paying me double since I’m already here and it’ll eat away at the time dilation until I get back. Also, this dude’s apparently important to have killed on Earth.

I don’t know why, and, between me and you, well…you know this, but, it like fucking sucks I can’t ask questions. Like why this one’s so important, or why I gotta stick around and slice a couple of throats on this odd planet. Good drugs, though…shit…computer delete, computer delete—

(indistinct voice)

Shit.

—–

Mele, I am so sorry about the last missive. I had to do drugs, well, the local kind, to get in with the guy I’m supposed to…I had to infiltrate to get the target. The only way I could do that was to partake in the local nonsense. The guy’s name is Ed, and he likes me now because I’m not a cop.

That’s really important with these drug-using types. You know, that’s the weird thing about Earth. It’s like a lot of planets, of course, but, still, it weirds you out when you see just how similar one planet is to another. And, babe, is there a diversity here. Like, I’m pretty sure there’s like seventeen different cultures, at least, on this planet. Most round our parts have like, what, one or two cultures per planet? It’s diverse.

Sorry. Repeating.

Ed was an easy kill. Kept giving him drugs and such. Easy easy easy. So, I should be back soon. Probably don’t want to see me, and how can you?

I miss you still. Miss you all the time.

—–

I will say, it’s still an odd place, Earth, yet, interesting. How? Wish I could elaborate. The people here, humans, they’re…sorry, I’m so bad at describing things. Remember how I had to describe that tervinger to you and you spent the whole time of me talking staring at me, a smile slowly creeping up on your face, as I kept spluttering and going on and on and on until you just grabbed me and kissed me and said how cute I was?

Oh and I have another new contract here. Met him tonight. He’ll be dead by morning.

—–

I don’t think I can kill this one.

I know, I know, you hate the details. But I really hope you respond to this one, because what this guy said is just…

So, the guy I have to kill, the human, I mean, Klove, this is what he said. I even caught it on a recorder. I know you’re not speaking to me, but this is something, Mele, this is really something I could use a word of advice on something.

Let me…piece of…okay…here it goes:

“I knew this girl, and she was so fine so fine, and I just fucked it all up, see? I had job. Had two jobs, but weren’t that bad. Had that girl, though, and motherfucker, did I just shoot that in both feet. She was smoking, ya know, and just fine as all hell, but that wasn’t even what I gave two shits, let alone one about, cuz she was just, cool, ya know, just so cool and wanted to be all chatting and stuff, dug I read and all, this was way long ago, duh, but see she was into me cuz not because of important shit like money or that, but that she dug me. You ever meet someone and you just click and all and just hit it off but it feels different, you get to that fucking point where you clicking but you’ve felt that shit before but it all feels real, real real that one time, and convinces you that shit’s like the real love type of shit, and you press on and it’s all good, but then you start thinking about that grass, you know, like the grass is greener on the other side, or you think it just fucking sucks being with this one, and you’ve been with someone before and you think this one sucks even though during that new car smell stage you be all ‘oh, this my girl for life,’ just cuz she make you feel good, and you have to make her feel good, and none of that life shit get in the way, but once she start thinking about that life shit, she start seeing your flaws, start seeing that maybe you ain’t the shit, you ain’t king shit and golden boys like she thought you were when you all first met, and you be fucking face to face that first couple of months.”

Here, the guy, sorry, the human, well, the target, went silent. He was looking at me.

Should I even do this? Not like I can’t escape the boss. Just put a new transponder in the Nin, got some money saved up. It would mean I’d have to wait to see you.

If I ever get to see you again.

—–

Babe! You are gonna, just wait, you are gonna hear this, because I wrote you this, I actually used what they use for writing stuff and I wrote it down and it’s so good so check it out ready?

Tessellating black ribbons of stone
Are sheltering
My darkened home.
A pious man creeps in the dark,
As the lightening shines
Silent.
But…when I was older in my life I faltered as a boy.

If gravity’s halo should be burned away
Be a cautious foot
In the door.
There are demons there, shifting out of phase.
In the shadows outside
Your floor.
But…when I was younger in my life I conquered as a man.

I wrote that for you. Probably reads better than me saying it.

—–

You’re gone gone gone. Where will I see you again? When can I?

—–

Hi again. Sorry about the last messages. I was…still working, and I guess I lost my head a little.

The human, Klove, is not dead yet. For what passes as a junky here, he’s rather erudite. That means well-learned. Well, you would know what it means. Always good with context clues you were.

This job, though, Mele, I gotta admit, I hate it. Traveling to a planet, from the moment I get the contract from the boss to when the job’s complete, I just can’t stand it, or tolerate it, or anything. The thought of doing it fills me with such dread, just these explosions in me that wouldn’t abate until I…yeah, I’ve gotten back off the shit they peddle here for drugs. Even started reading again. Hence my awesome vocabulary. Or…get ready…lexicon.

See? Improving myself every day.

—–

The boss keeps calling. Like, calling to the point where I can’t even stay on the ship. She stopped leaving messages. Now it rings, the console lights up, sirens go off and I forgot how to silence them. I’ve been staying with Klove. Yes, the target. It’s getting hard to find a proper time to send these missives to you without the boss calling all the time.

I can already hear what you would…are saying. “Stop fiddle-fucking around, Delvin.” That was always my favorite expression of yours.

So, Klove let me stay for the night. The days and nights here pass a little slower than my time, our time. Or a little faster. Damn, I never get the right science shit right. You know me, was always great with the words, but the math and science stuff just, well, eludes me.

I miss you.

—–

Klove wouldn’t wake up. I kept shaking him because there was banging on his door. Didn’t know who it’d be so I figured it best if I got him to answer. The dumb bastid fell asleep with the needle in his arm again.

The door evaporated. Like, it was there, then a thump of smoke and ash, and through it stepped this, well, thing.

Four arms. Four arms! What has four arms? You know how all the races got that same kind of body, humans got that, too. But this big thing, wasn’t even hiding its four arms. And in each one was a gun, and each looked like it’d have no prob bringing down my ship.

The thing unloaded all four guns into the room. Firing all haphazard. Not like it was spazzing or some such, but just so it got anything living.

This apartment’s not been furnished or had anything done to it since the forties. That’s what Klove said. And Klove likes sleeping in his bathtub. Said it keeps him safe. So I’m in the bathroom with Klove and he’s groggy as all time and I’m getting him up and I see the thing make the door go poof, the door to the apartment, and the thing just lighting the place up. I dive in the tub because what the hell else could I do?

Anyway, the thing finishes and is gone as quick as Klove’s door went from solid to ash.

Klove pulled the needle out and asked me what the fucking racket was all about. Funny guy, Klove.

—–

Hi, sorry, I know I promised a daily message, and I think I’m getting it in on time. Stickler for details, you know how I am. If I say something now, I do it.

Babe, Mele, it means nothing for me to say it now, I know, but I do love you, so so so much. Like, a lot. And this is…this can’t keep going on. I’ve waited and waited and I know now, I know you’re not coming back. I can’t do anything about that. No words, no matter the entire dictionary and thesaurus and all the great works could help me say what I want and you’ll be back. Makes these missives pointless, if you think about it.

I know you’re probably not even seeing these. Well, I know you’re not—

—–

Sorry about that. So, it would seem the boss sent someone else to maybe finish the job that I haven’t done yet. Yet, I say. Klove’s passed out on my ship. Getting him on here was a bitch with a gun. But, got him on. Made it easier to ease him into who i was and where I’m from and all that. This backwater planet still thinks they’re the only ones.

Remember fourth grade, how you and I thought we were the only species in the universe, and then finding out we’re like, 117th on the list of important species?

Klove took it well. You know, I have no idea what it is about this guy. This human. Didn’t seem like he had a job. No family. Only person I met associated with him was the guy dropping off drugs. Where Klove got money, not a clue. Like, he doesn’t seem to have any sort of mattering to anything to everyone on this planet, this Earth. But, someone, like, the boss, thinks Klove’s right damn important. And Klove doesn’t even have a clue?

His lucid moments are great, because that’s when he talks, and he talks and talks and talks, and it’s fascinating. Like, he’s not even talking to you, just letting the words come out, like they’re from somewhere else, and his mind’s pulling them into his head and expelling them through his mouth.

“You kidnapped me or something? That shit ain’t cool, yo.”

I haven’t told him I’m supposed to kill him. I know, I know: I hear you saying it without even having to say it.

“You see? Everybody got purpose. Everybody got reasons, feel? There’s important fucking things banging about and you had to pick me for some motherfucking reason. There is a reason for it all. I ain’t the first to be saying all this, but you, man, you don’t seem like you even know bout none of it.”

Something’s banging at the hull of my ship.

“Don’t be me, yo, wasting shit all away. Look at my ass. I had a girl. Job. Life.” Here, he flicked his arms, tracks and scabbing holes running up and down both of them.

I remember having some of those. Sorry. I’m not trying to wistfully remember the good old days or something. Not even were they good. You saved me from that.

More banging.

“You gotta go out and do shit. Why you hanging with a motherfucker like me anyway?”

So I told him. I told him he was to die at my hand because my boss who’s an alien, like me, wanted me to come here and kill him.

He took it pretty well.

“Huh. Fuck it, man. Do it up.”

—–

Dear Mele,

I can’t stop. The thing with the four arms broke through the Nin, broke my poor ship. The thing kept trying to kill Klove, and I protected the human, just kept fighting back. Used that oh so sharp knife and cut the arms off but the thing kept trying to get at Klove. Afterwards was when I figured the boss sent another to kill this human. Boss lost faith, I guess. Why must everyone I’ve cared about or had to answer to in my life lose faith in me?

It feels good to kill. In those moments when their eyes lose the light, when their rubbery faces slacken and droop, when that final moment between life and whatever’s after, I feel better.

It helps me miss you less.

I’m so sorry, Mele. I kept trying to hide it from my head, from me. I can’t. Because there’s another contract. The boss isn’t happy that it took me this long to take care of one human, but she’s happy. She’s sorry, too, that she sent, and she called the thing something I couldn’t even begin to pretend to pronounce.

I’m sorry you’ll never get these. You’ll never see them. Read them. I’m sorry you had to go. I’m sorry you had to be gone and I’m sorry I had to do it. It’s what was the contract said.

I love you, Mele. I love you, love you love love you.

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7 Comments

  1. Pingback: TWA #13 – Intergalactic Hit-man Battle Thread - The Writer's Arena

  2. This was really an amazing story. The voice of the hitman came through so clearly and you did a great job of slowly letting us learn about the reality of the character behind the facade he tries to put up.

    Attaching a tale of heartbreak like you did was an inspired choice and certainly not one I would have recommended, however you pulled it off perfectly.

    I loved the dirty details of drug use and the hitman’s frustrations with his meaningless job as the deliverer of death for reasons (and via methods) he never gets to understand.

    The poem in the middle was…actually I’m unsure where I land on the poem. I’m almost never a fan of poetry appearing in fiction like that, and yet it was so spot-on for this character and I could easily see him noodling away at some poetry while heroin coursed through his body.

    And then there was the ending, which was amazing. Subtle, shattering, powerful and one of my favorite’s so far in the arena.

    Well done.

  3. I love this story so much. At first you feel like it’s not going anywhere, but the voice carries your through, and then you start to get invested in this character study, the picture being painted of a man going through the motions. His job is grizzly and unusual, but for him it’s become mundane and now he’s numb to everything.
    The twist at the end somewhat detracted from the tragedy of his failed life replacing it with an actual tragedy that came out of nowhere and didn’t seem to make much sense, but that failing wasn’t enough to detract from how much I enjoyed the story overall.

  4. My sole quibble about this story – which in every other respect is an affecting character study of a person losing himself – is that this could just as easily be about a human. We could probably debate how possible it is for a human to write from an alien perspective.

    I’m not sure about the ending. I didn’t understand it at first, so when light finally dawned I enjoyed the emotional kick it brought to the story as a whole, and also serves as an explanation for the journey the character takes. It helps make sense of the whole “descent into drugs” thing.

  5. That was pretty damn awesome. You have to have a lot of faith in your writing to maintain that perspective and still tell a strong story. I’m with some of the others on the ending, I’m not sure it helped. It Didn’t detract much from the story for me though.

  6. This was tough for me this week. I really liked both stories and this one had a very clear voice. I could see the slip from reality with the drug use and the struggle of the character.

  7. This is a really well-written story. The voice is what carries it, and he’s sympathetic even through his weakness. My favorite line came at the very beginning: “Least, he wrestled with one hand trying to enact some kind of retribution while the other was holding back all that gorpiness humans got tucked inside them.” – love that!

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