• Jabe Stafford

One Page Wonders VII - Corpse From The Stars

Flash fiction is a love of mine, and so are geeky tropes and pulp-style stories of every variety. Sometimes it's the characters that spur the writing. Other times it's atmosphere, concept, magic system, or a twist. One Page Wonders blogs started as a writing exercise. Now they're digestible, one-shot stories you can read on the bus or while sneaking 5 minutes at work!

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Best part of washing windows on a space station is not having to wear an EVA suit.


The view was goddamn majestic too until the body crashed onto the lift next to me.


Breaths come a little too fast as I seize the lift’s rail and steady myself. It helps with the vertigo to train my eyes on the point miles away where the atmodome—it’s the sky, not the ground, Randal—meets the artificial farmland. The view. Skyscrapers, rooftop gardens, and urban sprawl pulse in my vision like neon-lit nightclub walls after five drinks. I taste grit and spit out something hard and sharp. Damn dead guy jolted my lift so hard I cracked a tooth.


A little less loopy now, I look up and down the building that my lift’s attached to. The atmodome overhead is crazy-bright with stars; one of them’s straight overhead and brighter than the others. Steel and newly cleaned glass make up the building’s outside and the reflective surface fires my reflection back at me, leather-faced and lanky. Exterior camera feeds here on the outside of The Spine would have caught every inch of the happenings on the two-hundred-story building at the core of the station. Including the roof.


Dead guy.


I squint down at the body and it turns out it’s a woman dressed like a lawyer or translator to the sorvias or the nerks. Coulda even been some tourist who wanted to see if they really made our kind’s space stations like metropolitan areas on the inside.


Surpriiise.


My eyes swim again and the patch on my getup with “Randal” stitched on it jumps up at me when I’d been expecting a badge. Still too used to wearing that old uniform. Every piece of power wash equipment I brought up is gone. Knocked to the depths now. A hobo’s as likely to pawn it all in the next half hour as I am to find it.


A woman’s voice calls out from above me. “Sir, get yourself up here where it’s safe and don’t lose that body.”


I bite back a ‘No shit’ and lever the lift up the five stories from one-ninety-five to the top of two hundred. There’s no seeing the gawkers and pissed-off executives and politicians on the other side of the mirrored glass, but they’re there, no doubt about it. Yelling into their ulnars or typing out texts on ‘em.


When I hit the top, the woman stabs a finger at her ulnar screen and a lens at the end of her wrist opens. Her blazer’s and button-up’s left sleeve is tailored, ending halfway up the forearm. Broke jokes in the depths would have rolled up their sleeve just like my own was rolled up. Bags hang under her brown eyes and her black ponytail looks like I feel. Half out of it.


She says in a clipped voice, “Stat Sec. I’m Ivah Stanley. You’ll need to tell me what you saw before we proceed anywhere else.”


I cross both arms, putting the screen in my left wrist on top so it’s over-the-top obvious. That too-bright star overhead glares off it a little. “I been doin’ my job and nothing but. You can see the exhilarating replay right here. I was on the outside working the whole time and this signal here will match up with The Spine’s records.”


Ms. Stanley’s look notes that I proved my whereabouts before showing concern for the victim. “I am aware The Spine’s software tracks the location of every ulnar in the building. You’ll be marked innocent, Mr. Randal. But you were the one who found the body, and the only one in an apparent position to have done it. You’ll have to come with me.”


I hate drama.


One thing I hate more than that is lazy schmucks that use their authority to get things moving instead of following procedure themselves. “Hey scout leader,” I spit. “Why don’t you check The Spine’s feeds and then, I dunno, find the guy that did this? And how do you expect me to finish this window washin’ with my equipment decorating someone’s balcony down there now?”


Ms. Stanley swipes a finger in a circle at the rooftop around us. Skyscraper garden. Benches with free ulnar cleaning stations. Pigeons. “I checked them before I had the pleasure of meeting you, Randal Davis. ‘Atmodome’ Davis they called you?”


I meet her eyes. “No more dome roaming for me. Retired.”


“Is that how you pronounce, ‘decommissioned?’ Don’t tell me I’ve been saying it wrong.”


“And how do you think I got up to the top of two hundred, pushed this woman off onto my own lift, and got back down in time for you to catch me?”


“I don’t think that,” she says, pointing her left index finger straight up.


Up at the too-bright starlight shining in.


“Well I’ll be goddamned,” I say, pointing domeward and zooming in on my own ulnar.

The screen in my wrist shows a Sat Sec emergency skiff and some astronauts in EVA suits sliding a large transparent disc into place over a hole big enough to fit a person’s body through.


Ms. Stanley lowers her hand and dead-eyes me. “I think you’d have the best insight on who could have pierced our station’s atmodome and dumped a body onto our nation’s capitol building.”

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