Author : Z. J. Woods

Crowley said, “You sure you wanna do this?”

I brushed at the front of the faded jumpsuit. Nothing on it, of course. Nervous habit.

He took a long drag from his cigarette, sighed the smoke out. “Well,” he said. Expecting me to fill the silence. With what?

“Dammit, Crowl,” I said eventually. “Just do it. You won’t be back this way for … what? Six, seven years?”

“Seven on the inside,” he said. “Really can’t say.”

“I can’t wait that long.” Pictures of my broke-down apartment tumbled through my head. Leaky ceiling, peeling wallpaper, the works. Anything you can think of to make a home uncomfortable, that place had it. That whole damned world had it. “Do the thing before I change my mind.”

“Ain’t nothing much better out there,” he said.

“We gonna sit here all day?”

He shrugged, ground the cigarette into an ashtray that pulled out of the front console. Then he held the bike handle-looking thing with one hand and flipped switches with the other. “Ain’t too far off now. Look.”

The black mass blotted out the stars ahead. Space serpent, as Crowley had promised. Only they go fast enough to make jumping between the settlements possible. And only they know where they’re headed.

“The fuck do you plan to wrangle that thing?” I had to ask. “Can’t hardly see it.”

He tapped on a screen above the bike handle. The serpent squirmed, an orange blob
in green space. “Besides,” he added, “the harpoon knows its business better than I do. Nothing to worry about.”

When the ship knows more than its pilot, well, let’s just say it’s a hell of a universe we live in.

“Alright now, watch this.” Crowley did something with the bike handle, and the harpoon roared out faster than the old tug it came from could ever hope to go. Took about twenty, thirty minutes to hook the serpent. When I tell you I could hear my heart beat the whole time, wondering if it’d work at all or if Crowley was just a crazy bastard like he’d always been, God knows I’m not exaggerating.

I can’t say Crowley isn’t crazy, now, and he’s sure a bastard, but one thing he isn’t is a liar. Pain kicked the serpent into action. The line behind the harpoon pulled tight. Space disappeared.

Seven years. On the inside.

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