STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, Part 2

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN // THE PRISONER

Far in our future: the Unified Galaxy! Kymn Valence, the galaxy’s second most dangerous woman, has been found guilty (in absentia) of over one hundred and sixty crimes and remanded to the Draper Extrasolar Penitentiary, aka Draper’s Rock. What no one–not even Warden DeVore–knows is that Kymn is a spy and being incarcerated is exactly what she wants!

Stairway to Heaven created by Douglass Barre

stairwayTHE PRISONER

Part Two (of Five)

Kymn Valence stepped out of the bottom of the dropshaft. The gravity damper for the tube had slowed her descent enough to land safely, but even without her enhanced senses, Kymn could tell that it was wearing out. Five more years without being serviced and the next prisoner to drop was going to land with a splatter rather than a cloud of dust.

Light tubes of several colors ran down the ceiling of the hallway that stretched out from the round landing zone at the bottom of the shaft. Kymn was surprised that it was empty. She had expected a welcoming party of some kind, either literal or euphemistic. Instead there was no sign of life. The dust she had kicked up landing was as thick in the hall.

At the end of the passage was a checkpoint room with a sturdy metal turnstile that had once been painted yellow but repeated blows with hard-but-not-hard-enough objects had left it a cratered black. Kymn pushed through it into a round junction. Five stone tunnels extended from here like passages in a twentieth century text adventure (the subject of Kymn’s final EarthLit paper back at Oxford Station so many years ago.) The colored ceiling lights also branched here, each one going down a different hall. Paint on the walls indicated that four of the five were to the cell blocks and the fifth, the green lit one, to “Cafeteria/Infirmary/Gym/Library.”

The most compelling signage, however, was the dead Harpact body nailed with thick metal spikes to the wall of the tunnel to Yellow Block. The body was long dead, at least a year if Kymn remembered her forensic entomology… probably somewhere between wave 7 and 8 on the Megnin scale. Its rostrum had been cauterized–that had probably been done prior to incarceration–and large portions of its chitin had been torn off. It was pinned to the wall with one arm stretched out, pointing the way. Above the arm, painted in sloppy black letters with what was likely the Harpact’s own blood, were the words “SINE IN” and an arrow pointing the same way as the corpse.

“Why do I doubt they’re inviting me to a trigonometry appreciation society?” Kymn muttered.

“Hsst!” came a whispering voice from behind her. Kymn spun around, taking the first (and least threatening) död bekämpa stance. Tight surroundings like asteroid warrens were perfect for död bekämpa, which called upon both lethal digit strikes and pernicious feng shui.

“I can kill you twice before you move, so choose your next words carefully,” Kymn said, even as she got her first glimpse of the figure. It was another human, enhancile too if the quantum boot on his wrist were to be believed. He had short red hair that looked (rightly so) like it had been barbered with a bent shiv. He was dressed in the remnants of the prison greys Kymn was also wearing, but his were far more deteriorated. What was strange was that beneath the tatters of the prison clothes he seemed to be wearing a silky white tunic, far too clean for a place like Draper’s Rock.

“Hey, hey, pax, lady. I’m not here to hurt you.”

“You’re a prisoner? Why is this place so empty?”

The man tittered like a scary child. Kymn extended her middle fingers both as a död bekämpa threat and a New York love letter.

“Look, if you want to get out of here, you gotta make skin with one of the Pates.”

“Out? Escape?”

“No, ya skitz, I mean out of here.” He giggled again. Kymn could easily break his jaw and stop it, but that would stop the rambling information he was slowly leaking. “I can take you to the Promised Land, sucre!”

“This is a drug thing.”

“Look,” the man said, backing away a step, “You do your due dil. I’ll be around. Name’s Mad. Mad Hater. Your doorman to Draper’s Sky.”

He was faster than he looked as he turned and ran. Kymn could have caught him–easily–but it sounded like there was going to be another chance to try to parse his patois. Kymn turned and followed the yellow passage towards the “sine in.”

After two heavy duty manual hatches, neither of which was locked, Kymn found herself in Yellow Block. Cells seemed to radiate off of cul-de-sac passages, themselves spoking out of the round hub area Kymn stood alert in the center of.

Another body lay before her, again posed as a message to the new resident of Draper’s Rock.

“FOOLD YA!” was painted on the round metal surface of a table, bent forward on its central leg with impressive strength. The bottom of the table leg thrust through the chest cavity of a grey skinned alien that Kymn had only read about in ‘Tripper logs. It had four arms, and a face that moved like it was modular, made of hundreds of organic pieces all sliding around each other. Like snakes encircling a cadeuceus, red tendrils of something between a liquid and a gas flowed in cycles up and down its four arms, even in death. This was an alien from a galaxy so far away that light from it hadn’t reached the Milky Way yet. Only astralnauts who pushed their minds beyond all reasonable limits had claimed to “see” them, and even then, they had only agreed on the appearance… and the name.

This was a Nepthli.

It was so unexpected to see the dead creature that Kymn almost forgot to parse the warning sign embedded in its chest.

Because Yellow Block was a trap.

The point was driven home, quite literally, into the intercostal space between her seventh and eighth thoracic vertebrae. It was sharp, and metal, and pierced her heart.

To be continued…

This is the one hundredth daily post since we started CHIMERICAL TALES back on the first of July. Someone recently told me, “you write a lot,” and das’t if that wasn’t the best compliment I’ve had in an age. Sometimes the day’s post didn’t make it on until five minutes before midnight, but heck, that’s still part of the day. My Scrivener tells me that all told, I’ve posted 168,229 words. We’ll round down, since I admit I made a few of them up. Anyway, thanks to all of you who have been with us this far… and if you like what you read here, please share it with someone new! See you Monday for one-oh-one!

© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.

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