Here’s a Flash Fiction challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig at his Terrible Minds blog. The Challenge is this: Take a Stephen King book title and write a short story based on that alone. So here it is!
“Do you know why they call it the Dark Half?”
Emilio pushed the control console away from him and sat back in his seat, contemplating the question. The ship aligned itself with the planet’s horizon and began its descent.
“I read that it had something to do with it facing away from the Sun almost all of the time,” Emilio replied. The warlord smiled, his teeth shining bright orange from the light cast off the ship’s heat shield.
“That’s part of it. Never seeing the Sun does things to a man’s psyche. No, it has more to do with the folk that live there. They’re hiding from the light. Truth, civilization, order, a strong moral backbone, however you want to think about it, they steer clear of it; prefer to be left to their own devices.”
“If they want to be left alone, I say great,” said Emilio.
“That’s a dangerous thought,” said the warlord.
“Why’s that?” Emilio asked.
“Because nasty things grow in the dark when left unchecked,” the warlord replied.
The ship cleared the thin atmosphere and righted itself to match gravity’s pull. The landing field was straight ahead and buzzing with activity. The field itself was split in two, the Sun lighting one half, the stars the other half. Beyond that, the city of Limyt stretched out across the plains and hills, shrouded by everlasting night. Pinpricks of light from gas lamps dotted the city, but otherwise, there was nothing to see. One could barely make out the city’s edges, only enough to see that it was a massive, sprawling metropolis to rival anything found on Shattered Earth.
Within the hour, they found themselves in a tea house under a tram line that looked like it had been plucked from an old Kung Fu flick. After checking them for weapons, a group of gangsters escorted the two men past the tea house patrons to the back, past hanging pans and bottled spices where sat the corpulent form of the Boss.
“An Earthman and a Barsumi exile. What a strange sight,” the Boss said, slurping down some soggy noodles.
“We’re looking for a Neptunian gangster, wanted in connection to the murder of one Mitchell Wana,” said the warlord.
“And why would I care about some dead Earthman?” the Boss asked.
“We can make it worth your while,” said Emilio. The Boss slurped down some more noodles, belched, and wiped his mouth with a dainty napkin.
“What do you have that I could want? That I can’t simply take?” the Boss asked. Emilio and the warlord eyed each other.
“This doesn’t need to get complicated. Tell us what you know and we’ll be on our way,” said the warlord.
“Your offers now sound like demands. Are you losing patience with me? Do you forget who it is you address?” the Boss asked.
“Boss Lin of the Undersiders. Commander of the South district and wanted on several moons for crimes against Jovian rule. And if I remember right, a man with a very high bounty on his head,” said Emilio.
“From demands to threats. They may leave,” the Boss said with a wave. The gangsters pulled their kinetic pistols out and went to grab the two of them.
Emilio made a sign with his left hand that summoned a nasty little piece called the Tunneler. The warlord lifted his arms and from his wrist guards popped two dagger handles that quickly expanded into translucent void blades. The gangsters nearest them exploded from the two men’s fierce onslaught. Emilio grabbed what was left of the gangster in front of him and used him as a shield against the others. The dead gangster’s body turned into a pin cushion as kinetic needles perforated his back. Emilio lunged forward and stuck another gangster, whose insides became a pureed mess of viscera thanks to the Tunneler’s high speed drill head.
The warlord was a blur of movement, his loose garments obfuscating his true position, his void blades slicing and dicing everything near him. The kinetic shots of the gangsters found no purchase as he dodged and blocked everything that came his way. His accelerated Barsumi physiology made the world appear to him as a film in slow motion, his opponents hopelessly trapped in amber, their blood flowing out of their slit veins like thick molasses.
Before long, all the gangsters were dead or writhing painfully on the floor. The Boss let his noodles fall from his mouth, his appetite suddenly gone.
“How’s that offer sounding now? “Emilio asked, wiping offal off the Tunneler.
“I must admit, there is wisdom in your words after all,” the Boss said, swallowing hard.
“The Neptunian. Please,” the warlord said. The Boss nodded.
“Her name is Nerissa. Some call her the Broken One. She makes her home in the Heating District. She fears not death nor pain nor loss. She is attached to no one. She cannot be bought. She cannot be threatened. She cannot be reasoned with. Your quest will end at her doorstep.”
“Now, was that so hard?” Emilio asked.
“Should she ever find out about this, regardless of how far you make it before you die, my life will be forfeit. You understand my hesitation,” the Boss replied.
“It’ll be our little secret. Price of doing business,” said Emilio. The two men turned to leave. The Boss cleared his throat.
“If somehow, someway, you manage to find yourselves on the other side of your little quest, you will find plenty of work here. I can use men of your skill,” the Boss said.
“That’s a kind offer,” Emilio said before grabbing a jar of pickled sliver fish and heading out the back with the warlord in tow.
A few knocked heads and broken bones later, Emilio and the warlord found themselves in front of a sprawling complex in the heart of the Heating District called Central Forge. Towering smoke stacks spewed black smoke into the thin atmosphere. Ancient pipes led from the building to an underground network that covered most of Limyt. Emilio cracked his neck and knuckles. The warlord signed a holy symbol on his forehead.
“This could be our finest moment yet. Or our final one,” the warlord said solemnly.
“Either way, it’s been a fun year. I hope to work with you again,” said Emilio.
“In this or any other life,” said the warlord.
“Hey! You! Identify yourselves!” someone called from a third story window of the gatehouse.
“Bet you I can hit him from here,” the warlord said, pulling a dagger from his knife bandolier.
“Too easy. Close one eye and maybe we’ll see,” said Emilio.
“Hell, I’ll close both of them,” said the warlord.
“Now we’re talking,” said Emilio, cocking his microwave sniper.
The Battle for Central Forge had begun.