Author : Mur Lafferty, featured writer
Cthulhu Bob and Hominy Jack were warming their hands over a barrel one chilly night on Londo 13, right outside of Hazy City, where hoboes were dumped after branding.
Hominy Jack looked up. “Gonna snow.”
Cthulhu Bob squinted into the blackness. His stomach rumbled, distracting him from the weather. “Don’t look like snow.”
Hominy Jack snorted. “Gonna snow.” He pulled back his tattered coat and sweater sleeves to show Bob the brand on his forearm.
“Snowflake. That’s for meteorolon- uh, weather predicting, isn’t it?”
Hominy Jack nodded. “I was Hazy City’s premier meteorologist ten years ago.”
Cthulhu Bob rubbed his hands. They usually didn’t get into pasts. That led to tears and drinking. He looked around and groaned.
“Aw hell. Space Cowgirl.”
She was about as old as Cthulhu Bob, with better teeth than most. She wore a purple scarf regardless of weather. But despite the hobo brand on her forehead – a capital H with a sunburst around it, the last brand anyone received – she always acted superior. But you didn’t turn a hobo away from your fire, so they made room for her.
“Boys,” she said.
“Gonna snow, Space Cowgirl,” Hominy Jack said. “Cthulhu Bob doesn’t believe me, but I got the meteorology brand.” He showed her.
She nodded. “Cold enough to snow. Cold as space, almost.”
Cthluhu Bob rolled his eyes. Some people weren’t just content to live their lot in life. His stomach rumbled again. Space Cowgirl glanced at him.
“So when were you in space, Space Cowgirl?” Hominy Jack asked. “I thought astronauts never fell this low.”
She sniffed and stared into the barrel’s embers. “I’ve never been.”
Cthulhu Bob laughed. “Then why do you call yourself Space Cowgirl?”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t go. I said I haven’t been yet.”
“Wishes ain’t for hoboes, Cowgirl,” Cthulhu Bob said, deliberately leaving off the honorific. “Wishes are for people who still have dreams. No astronaut program is gonna take you into space with that brand on your forehead.”
Her hands rose and touched the brand. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll get there. Somehow.”
Hominy Jack just looked impressed. Cthulhu Bob opened his mouth and was about to mock her again, but the entire outskirts lit up around them.
Space Cowgirl looked up, grinning, her mostly-good teeth shining in the bright light coming from the unidentified space ship above them. With her head thrown back, the scarf slipped down and brand underneath her chin was visible for the first time. The eye of Horus. The seer.
Without a word, she sprinted toward the landing craft and up the descending ramp. The alien ship rose into the air and disappeared.
Hominy Jack threw some trash into the barrel. “Huh. I thought we got our names arbitrarily. I like grits.”
Cthulhu Bob felt his hunger, deeper, now, stir within him, and wondered for the first time why Space Cowgirl was so eager to leave Londo 13.
He was just so hungry.