“Stars” Ten

So I weakened from my stand a week ago… Here is another dose of the science fiction story Stars in Heaven, which includes some relatively strong language (maybe).

Star Cluster

It would be nice to sleep now. He felt almost as if he were there, asleep, almost at home. Aunt Sarai’s voice seemed to tremble in his ears. But she wasn’t here. She wasn’t. Just Ghorf. And distant Daniel, restive now, and Rimmon and Jiz.

He lifted his heavy eyelids and looked again at the numberless legs and feet churning dustily by. Some were gray, brown, green, blue-shoed, black-shod, red-legged. He couldn’t keep track. Too many legs and twice as many feet. …Maybe not. —Too many anyhow.

Daniel kept looking at the sky. He wanted something to happen. He looked at his uncles, who ignored him, and then finally at his father. Ghorf was staring into the square, oblivious, as usual, to everything but himself.

“Getting late, inn’it?” Daniel was trying subtlety.

“What do you care, kid?” Jism snarled. Ghorf just kept staring away, though a dim sound rumbled in his chest. Daniel seemed poised but frustrated. He waited, but no one else said anything.

“How long we gonna stay here?” Daniel persisted, making his plea considerably more obvious.

Ghorf glared at his son with a nasty grimace. “As long as I say, Daniel. As long as I say.”

“But it’s time we were going… Inn’it?”

“Like I said, Daniel. What’s it matter to you?” Ghorf’s face was taking on its ugly look; that redness made the boy feel queasy. “We got stuff to sell.”

“And none of it’s gone anywhere yet,” Jism contributed, still testy. His acerbic voice twisted around the boy’s head like fumes from day-old empty ale bottles.

“Yeah. So shut yer face and keep still. We’ll go when I say. When I say.”

“Leave him be, Ghorf. This’s gotta be boring for a kid.”

“Shove it, Rim. He’s mine and he’ll mind. And keep his big mouth shut.”

“Like freck I will.” Daniel released what he’d been holding—not all of it, just what had been building up today.

“Huh!? Whadja say, kid?” Ghorf looked purple in an instant.

“You heard me.” Daniel’s face, too, looked nasty. The father and son were glaring at each other like contorted mirrorimages, both filled with a parallel rage. An explosion was coming. Rimmon backed away a step or two, but Jism leaned his knifeface toward the fight.

Ghorf rose to his feet, rumbling, bearlike, his little pigeyes redder than ever. Daniel got up, too, not retreating, glaring directly at his old man. This was it. This was the moment toward which his entire life had been constructed. The tension held yet, poised, nearly in balance.

Ghorf took one step toward his son, his arms swaying, right hand fisted.

Crouched by the boothside, the boy felt sick. Suddenly all his weariness seemed to condense, focus into his stomach and his eyes, the back of his throat. He felt sick. He felt it twisting inside and then rising from his stomach. No longer tired. Sleepiness evaporated in the abrupt biliously acidic feeling that sprouted low and then erupted from beneath his heart.

He vomited. Green and purple smoky liquid spattered the gray-brown dirt beyond his knees, speckling Daniel’s left foot. It smelled like sour wine (like Jism’s voice sounded), like fried vermin for Saturday night supper (When had he had that last? Three months back?) and oat cakes and battery acid all mixed up with snot and other things. He saw, smelled and retched again.

Ghorf reacted first. “Whuh the freck—? Whuddaya doin’, ya mealy brat?”

“Pukin’, seems to me.”

“Lid it, Jiz.”

“Lid yerself, Rim.”

“What’s yer problem?“

“Make the kid stop!” Ghorf’s hand darted at the boy, grabbing his hair.

“Think this’ll bring in business?” Rimmon sneered.

“Let him go, Ghorf. He’s not well.” Jism was defending him? Another hand smacked the hand in his hair; he felt stunned as he was released. Vaguely, he realized that Jism and Ghorf were faced off, glaring at each other, over him. He could feel the heat from their bodies. Daniel stepped closer, beside Jism.

Rimmon was fretting. “Oh, this is good. Business’ll flood in if we’re fighting.”

“It’s yer wife’s slop he’s upchuckin’ there. —Not that I blame him none.” Did Ghorf want everyone against him, all together?

Rimmon held quiet and still. Would he fight, too? The sultry air seemed filled with static electricity, but it was only antagonism, sparking out from everywhere, focused at Ghorf still looming over the boy’s wretched head. The big man was breathing heavily; he’d eaten garlic for breakfast as well. Daniel’s left foot was twisting in the dirt.

The boy felt no better. His gut still coiled, cramped and congealed. And it came again.

All over Daniel’s leg.

“That freckin’ does it! I’m outta here.” Daniel landed a kick with that filthy foot hard in the boy’s gut—once, again; the world looked green; he felt it coming one more time—and Daniel was gone, leaping away and opening a doorway of sunlight and air.

“Daniel!” Ghorf sputtered. “Get back here, boy!”

He spewed once more.

“Ah, shiva! Someone shove a rag in that kid’s mouth.” Ghorf smashed the boy’s head aside with a solid fist and took off himself, chasing Daniel. The boy flopped down in the dirt, into his own vomit, things he saw wrenching sideways, Ghorf’s sandals slapping puffs of dust as he thudded out of sight, sideways. Other feet, too… The dazzling sunlight seemed to dim a bit with each footfall—not-so-bright, faded now, turning to late afternoon, grayer, dimmer yet, going dark, black…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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