Dirty Little Coward

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The Dentist turns onto Fremont Street. Pausing, he slips a hand beneath the lapel of his jacket and massages the laudanum that eases the needles that scratch in his chest.

The double-action Thunderer that hangs at his hip will feel light in his hand as he draws and he knows it’ll pull up and off to the left. He will aim at the hip. The right one, at that spot that always glimmers, catching his eye as clearly as a nugget in a crystal-clear placer stream.

Once muddied wheel ruts have bleached almost to dust and crunch like freshly fallen snow beneath his tightly booted feet. He knows this town well, though his liver knows it better and, with this in mind, he stops and affords himself a most saddened of sighs.

Before him, the charred ghost remains of C.S Fly’s Saloon and Dance Hall play out a faint tune. The bitter remnant taint of the fusel oils that had so coddled his pains and echoes of a lust that only its soiled doves knew how to tame. The scent of its soot reminds him of meat. Carved fresh from the beast and cooked over an open fire in the spit of a skillet and bottles of smoky whiskey that he’d swallowed down in lumps.

He looks up at the sun that creaks just now to its zenith and he knows that blood is near. Now is perfect. Time to pull in the next few moments and reshuffle them until they are just right and just so.

His foe will appear in the ruins and out of the ash he’ll stride. Cordial greetings will be exchanged and then the Dentist will offer to count. 5… 4… 3… and with that he will draw and kill this foul blaggard dead as a pair of two black aces and eights. For scum of his order, they can but pray for the honour afforded to men.

“It’s time!”, he calls and his hand clutches at the air at his waist.

I ease forward with the brass-handled joystick and my Colt single action .45 caliber drone falters and then steadies as I draw it level with the greased slick back of his head.

And I know that he feels the taunt as the blades of my machine they sift through this moment on pause.

“Hello Doc”, I say, my words piping from the engraved slots of the speaker that hovers and points at his back.


I wait not one more instant and the bullet it slams through his skull and enters the mind of this man, so unworthy that he live as a legend. The remaining five rounds plaster his back and his nose snaps as he falls to his face in the dust, and I grin and rock back into my chair.

“You’ve shot him right through”, squeals Billy as he jumps up from the lunch my dear wife has only just laid down.

“I am become legend”, is all I can think to say.

I sense what’s to come but I walk across the parlour and stand upon a chair and rub with my cuff the dust that streaks the monitor that hangs just above the mantel.

Hear now the slick slide of barrel against leather.

“You are wrong, Jesse. I am legend”, William H. Bonney stutters with the shimmering tongue of a coward.


Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

I was going to say that everyone knows of Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who hid for many years, not knowing that the war had ended. But most, probably, do not. His war and its scattered detritus have now long since been replaced by new wars and new tales of loss and the lost.

But here now a teenage girl sits in a thread-bare Nazi officers uniform and she, too, does not know that the war is over. She does not know what war is. She does not know of time or age or mortality. All she knows is the sun.

The swastika that’s clutched by the great bird on her cap is but a shape and nothing more. A thing that she draws in the snow.

At night she picks and she peels away at the bones of her family, for these sticks they also hold no meaning. They are but the struts to hold up the roof and the walls of skin. Just as they do with the creatures that wash up and bleach on the blackened and frost trimmed shore.

She is eighteen but she has no need of this number, she has no concept of the fear that accompanies the creep that is death. If she did then she’d worry that her skin has prematurely puckered and her eyes have been robbed by the glare of the snow. And that her cells are being eaten by a shrill heat that whines and shimmers without stop.

The air bites and she pays it no mind but there’s also something else that now shudders her skin. Something is coming. She has no words but she forms in her head an old memory, a feeling that many years ago wrapped around the face that gazes out and down from the wall by her bed. That thing. Its glare as cold as the ice that cracks and she knows it is bad and not good.

Creatures like those from her cap swirl up above and she imagines that they sluice out from the sun. It’s a door, she thinks. A portal of light and from this place the things they will come.

For her.

“Guten Morgen ruft die Sonne/ The sun calls, Good morning!”

A beckoning call to the sky. She feels it. The heat from the sun as it pulls at her face. A stinging pall the same as that which wraps and holds her in sleep.

Endless nights and, slowly, she cooks curled beneath the hovering Haunebu that perpetually hum in rows within the crumbling hanger at her back.

Her eyes close and her head floods into a dream. She is standing atop the disc and the hatch is no longer locked tight. A thing with long hair and thin smiling lips reaches up, offering her a blemish-less hand and she now remembers the word for mother.

The girl’s eyes open to a painful squint, she will wait. She will wait for them for as long as it takes. And they will come and they will fly her away. Up and into the glorious black hole that burns at the center of the sun.

It’s OK to Cry Here

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The rain is sharp as the one-armed man pulls his daughter up the gray steps and barges his shoulder to the door and staggers from the dark night and into the old psychiatric hospital’s milky black gloom. Steadying, he listens. He knows the gentle creak of death but all he hears now is the water that gushes in the walls and the wind that scythes as it peels in sheets at the roof.

It is not lost on him just how easily he’s just walked into this flogged-horse, cheese-slice of dog-eared horror fiction. He’d once savored these kinds of frights. Huffing handfuls of popcorn as beautiful young people lost their clothes and their blood and their phone reception and their common sense within gurney strewn halls just as this. But here the bulbs have long since flickered their last.

The air and the wood in the floor and the ceiling is heavy with the weight of the tempest. Such a familiar stink, this rot through which the man now guides the girl. Mounds of saturated things, chairs with books that have sunk down and into themselves – their pages sagging as wax from candles forgotten and long since dead.

The man feels no fear. The girl too knows when bad things are cowering. Nothing is here, but the wet.

It’s OK to cry here, proclaims graffiti hacked into the wall at the base of a great arching staircase. Stairs have a way of drawing people. Blaring arrows to places unknown.

Ascending, the man and the girl enter a corridor lined to the dark pitch of its end with doors with windows of glass. Dr. Samantha Hing once worked here, her name flickering as lightning beats at its back.

The man doesn’t, but the girl wonders just where the doctor is and she squeezes her eyes shut and she hopes that this woman she has never once met has managed to escape from the things.

The door handle is cold in his hand as again he leans and pushes with his shoulder. A shoulder that’s been getting a lot of use since only last week he’d screamed at his daughter to cut away his arm with an axe.

Doctor Hing’s office has gone. Its walls have subsided and it’s gape is a stage to the storm.

The man puts his face to the rain and closes his eyes and it’s not bitter as it runs to his lips. He feels peace in this place where minds once peeled back and fear leeched from the rinds.

These shadows hold no evil. Those who once rocked in these rooms and scratched at their tongues so as to find answers to questions that they could not even begin to ask were not the ones to fear.

Fear lives in the light. When the world fell apart, it streamed from the good and the normal. Normality. The institute of the clinically sane. That’s were evil resides.

He heard the airplanes again today, third time this week. Was it planes? Maybe just the wind through the dead broken trees. No, it was gulls. He feels the sweet rain whip at his eyes and, without knowing, he starts to cry.

“You alright, Dad?”, asks the tiny balled hand at his side.

“Yes”, he says and, for the first time in a very long while, he senses not the slightest hint of a lie.

Deep Fake

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The Detective lays in the warming twist of the hot-tub, an outrigger cocoon that juts, one of many, from this recreation floor high above the 2211th Precinct. The steam peels away thoughts of her desk and of stacked files of death and corruption and it drips, a dark overflow that dribbles the length of this tower and returns to the stink at its feet.

Her clothes pile beneath the business end of the Smith & Wesson Model 29 that pokes from the shoulder holster slung from the stool at her back. The still turning wisp of the last round that she spent, but an hour ago now, floats unseen in its barrel and she is sure that she catches its scent.

The Detective looks down at her perfect body and revels in its secret. Sublime legs, how they float just beneath the bubbles and her toes they curl and ball like fists. Who even remembers now the actress from whom they were inspired? Her hips and belly likewise delicate selections and her face a buffet of the most beautiful and exotic extraction. And the old woman, she marvels at just how it is she can feel every last caress of the water, as it pulls the filth from her skin.

Her Grandfather had made her this puppet. Years ago now when it was she who walked this beat. He’d drawn his craft from the dark age of Deep Fake. That era when technology leaped forward and stole the rights to our skin. In which we took faces without asking and crafted them into perversions unbound.

Julia Roberts, that’s her. That’s who gave her these legs.

The Detective again stretches and looks out and into the acrid mist that foams at the windows that bookend this lofted canister and she shrugs at its voyeuristic design. Nobody drives this high anymore, the smog is that thick, but she does like the idea that, perhaps, there are eyes that look upon her as she lays alone in the steam.

There is someone. Not out there. Here, behind her. She can hear now the swallow in his throat.

“You killed wrong today”, he stammers.

The Detective stands and turns and hopes that the wet drip of her glistening form will ensnare what her instincts tell her is the very most simplest of minds.

She is wrong and her head barely flinches as the bullet passes through her eye and ruptures the window at her back.

In a lonely room the old woman shudders at the hit, clutching at the console before her. She takes a step and two more rounds to the chest as she reaches for her holster and draws out the 6 1/2 inch barrel as if a sword from its sheath and the ancient canon feels like air in her hand.

“You poked a hole in me”, she says as she blasts her killer’s heart through his back.

The ruined Detective stagger-steps through the water that is churning her blood and the blue drip of her brains and up onto the now blustering ledge.

A tired old woman, with wires streaming from her body and tears from her eyes, braces as the street now reaches up and grabs at her face. She feels numb from the impact or is that relief that she sighs as she absorbs her facade’s very last spasm and both they slide down into death.

Beneath the Chaos Terrain

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Europa Nov. 22, 2122 [GMT] 5400 mSv

The submersible hovers in the heavy sodium sea 99.8 km below the Europan crust. Steadying it snaps to grid-coordinate: K-V-6-2.

“Damn. You sunk my battleship”, quips 2nd Lt. Percy Newberry in a joke he has told many times over. One that is yet to receive so much as a resided chuckle.

Expertly he maneuvers the craft, landing it astride this perfect trench. The leading-line they have followed now to this the chisel-point of its end.

“Looking good Canary One. Sub-surface achieved”, chimes in the command ship. Nestled high above among chaotic jutting spires and tectonically contorted sheets it waits and weights upon the radiation chewed ice.

Carter breathes deep as his suit is tethered and the umbilical communication and life support indicators are checked and checked again.

“It’s like you planned this. What flavor of darkness did you invoke to have the trench too narrow for the ship but just wide enough for an under-skilled boy-man contractor such as yourself to be lowered into?”

“I know the bosses daughter”

“You’ll not be the same after this. You’re the new Armstrong. The first man to actually step foot on Europa”, whispers 1st Lieutenant Herbert as she checks the seal of his visor.

“I can do without the hassle, Evelyn. Think I’ll just come straight out with a statement that we faked the whole thing”, he grins and he feels the warm flood of anticipation ooze into the pores of his face.

Slapping the side of his helmet she gives the thumbs up and there is a gentle hiss as he is hoisted and readied to be lowered into the dive-bay that now opens beneath his feet. The Lieutenant squeezes the com-link at her lapel.

“Think of something iconic to say. Command has changed plans. We broadcast live. No pressure”

Carter descends into this place that he’d never been but where his imagination had lived and bred since as a child he’d rubbed his finger across a tiniest slither of rock. A fragment from the edge of another sea. Serenity. Now so perfect a word.

The darkness clings like thick memories and he looks up and sees the flicker of the submersibles navigation lights and he is home.

Lost in his youth high on the iron roof of his grandfather’s garage. The weather-vane, a smiling steel whale gently it squeaks and the undulating iron at his back is still warm from the now long spent sun and his eyes they fix to the stars.

He barely notices as his feet touch down and his suit automatically calculates and redistributes its weight and suddenly the murk throbs and it pulses.

“We have visual. Confirm receive. Glare detected. Light source. Confirm”

But Carter is silent and the light it plays, filling the HUD that streams the curve of his visor with a hue that envelopes and pulls at his cells, dragging him into the glow.

Such a strange light this is that clings within the strafes of the warm tidal flex that undulate the walls of the trench. Things that aren’t there appear. Great robed beings all in a line. Heads hung, they beckon and bow.

“… confirm receive”

His feet feel light as they drag silently through this gauntlet of ancient ice and toward the increasingly narrowing fissure at its end.

“Confirm receive. Confirm?”


“LRV Carnarvon. LRV Carnarvon. We’ve lost contact with Carter. Rad levels normal. HR spiking… ”

“Carter. Carter. This is LRV Carnarvon. Respond. Carter!”

“I’m OK”

“Can you see anything?”

“Yes, wonderful things!”

“Please repeat… [Redacted// Carnarvon Corp.]