What follows is an excerpt from The Stars My Redemption. It’s from a scene where Abe is hallucinating, revisiting several moments from his life.
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Now for the excerpt:
There is darkness again, and he floats within it.
No stars. Just black. A deep, sumptuous nothingness that swallows him up, enfolding and consuming him. Abe sinks within it, as if it were a heavy ocean of oil. And then there is warmth, rising up from the deep.
The heat grows in intensity and becomes fire, burning his flesh.
Abe is back on Ryana, fighting his way through the fires raging in the capital city. He is younger than he is now, much younger. He has not seen and done the things that have left him broken and bitter. Abe fights his way through the populace, choking on the burning air and trying to force his way to the front of the mob. The entire city is burning, and everyone is evacuating. He was brought to Ryana as an orphan child. Now he leaves as a similarly orphaned adult.
The heat turns to wet humidity.
Abe is hiking across the jungles of Alannaris as a Union soldier. It has been five years since Ryana. There was a dogfight in the upper atmosphere and he was shot down. Now he makes tracks through the thick vegetation in an attempt to get to some kind of higher ground. He hopes they’ll be able to detect the signal from the tracking device implanted within his neck. The air is thick and moist and it is hard to breathe. Abe just thanks his lucky stars that the Alannarians haven’t found him yet. At the back of his mind he wonders if the tracking device even works, and whether they’ll even bother to try and find him. In fact he wonders if the Alannarians will detect it first. He is still young, and very much inexperienced.
I don’t want to die alone, he thinks. I don’t want to die here.
Abe floats within the dark. He starts to turn around and around, over and over. He does not fear death. He doesn’t want to die, but he doesn’t fear the inevitability of it.
Abe has left the Union army. He is lying in a dirty bed with an even dirtier woman. She kisses him after several hours of fucking. There was no lovemaking. There was no love. They have an arrangement. An agreement. Soon after, he pays her and leaves. Although he has satisfied himself, there is an empty hole opening up in the middle of him.
The hole will grow bigger over the years. Eventually it will more or less consume him.
He remembers what happened after his brief tour of duty on Vitka III.
There is a hospital bed. He is bleeding all over it. He can’t feel his legs. He can’t feel his feet. He can’t move them. It’s like they’re not there.
Ice. Empty ice. He is screaming. The people around him are wearing masks. They shoot him up with something. It spreads itself cold and numbing around his body, through his heart, over his brain. The black envelops him again, pulling him back down into its steady tide.
Chabon III. Abe lines up his shot on the door of the compound. He is using a long-range Zeboscope sniper rifle. His hands are steady and sure, and he waits patiently, barely breathing. His target exits through the door, as expected. For a split second he hesitates. It’s his first assassination. He squeezes off the trigger and instantaneously the target’s head vaporises. He walks away calmly, but for days afterwards something about it bothers him. It was a clean, quick kill. A humane kill. He has no feelings about killing someone; that died within him years ago. But such a kill does not satisfy him. He feels nothing.
Abe rides the waves. They propel him upwards.
A grenade goes off in front of him. He is thrown backwards. The left side of his face burns as if it has been sprayed with acid. When he sits up and looks around, he sees his arm lying on the floor. There are more coming for him. The grenade has only delayed them. He leaves his severed limb and runs.
It is getting lighter. The dark recedes. His world is grey twilight.
The life-boat. At first the sex was rough and primal. But then in spending their time together it became something else. She lies next to him, hugging his chest as she sleeps. He feels weird. Something has changed within him. For the first time in years he feels uncomfortable because for the first time in years he made love.
It is getting lighter and lighter. He rises. The dark lifts him towards the light.
“Why leave me here?” she asks him. She reaches out to take his hand — his real one. He flinches back from her, resisting.
“I thought we had a connection…” she presses him.
Abe looks away.
“You’ll be safe here,” he says, avoiding the subject.
She doesn’t say anything more, but he knows without looking at her that she is crying.
“I have to go…” he starts and then turning his back on her he walks away.
Almost-dawn and he is meeting it. The night slips away.