By Cameron Craig
“My father always told me that life in this galaxy is every man for himself,” Kaze said, walking beside a middle-aged man, pushing a magnetic cart that was hovering a few inches off the ground. A few metal gadgets dangled below the tarp covering the top of the cart.
They walked down a winding dirt path that cut through a thicket of purple trees, two moons brightly shining in the night sky. Kaze rested his hand on the grip of his pistol holstered to his waist. He walked with confidence.
“Oh yeah?” the middle-aged man asked, adjusting his sweat-stained hat. He wore black overalls over his dark workman’s clothes and tucked into his boots.
“He said there’s winners and there’s losers,” Kaze continued. “You have to do what you can to survive.”
“My father always said it didn’t used to be that way,” the man said. “He always wondered where we went wrong.”
“Maybe we didn’t go wrong. Maybe it was supposed to be this way.”
The man didn’t answer but looked back at Kaze’s hand resting on the grip of his gun.
Kaze liked to repeat his father’s sayings, but as he got older there was a part that he found himself adding. Life is suffering, and then you die. Kaze lived that way, accepting his fate — forever in self-exile, doing what he could to survive. At least that’s what he told himself. It was easier that way. He had a routine. It was comfortable.
“We’re almost there,” Kaze said. “It’s just beyond this bend.” He pointed to a curve in the dirt path that led down a small hill in the middle of the forest.
“You know, I never caught your name,” the man said.
“No names,” Kaze responded quickly and firmly. “Makes my business more difficult.”
The man looked confused, but didn’t press further. “So uh, what’s got you operating out of Varindrack? Using a teleporter from Olympus Station to Varindrack is not something any merchant I’ve ever met does.”
“I like it. Away from people.”
“Doesn’t it get lonely out here?”
“No. It’s stable. It’s comfortable.” So he told himself.
The two of them descended the hill and approached a large shed camouflaged by the wide purple trees. A small ship was docked beside it, a tarp covering it.
The man approached the shed, looking inside at all the weapons, gadgets, and ship parts neatly positioned on display. “Wow, what a collection,” the man said, leaving his cart behind and approaching a table with a row of weapons. “This is all high grade stuff” he said while inspecting the weapons further. He picked one up and eyed it closer. There was a blood stain on the handle. The man slowly put the weapon down and turned back around toward Kaze.
Kaze immediately shot the man twice in the chest. The man’s lifeless body collapsed as red mist dissipated in the air. A few birds chirped and flew away from the loud crack of the shots. Kaze holstered his pistol and ripped the tarp off the cart. He began putting the man’s belongings in his shed with the rest of his wares.
Kaze and another man stepped off a metal platform in the middle of the woods. The man wore a hood that covered his face, hiding his identity. He grabbed his magnetic cart, identical to the last.
“Varindrack, huh?” the man said. “Quiet.”
They stepped on to the dirt path and began walking down the hill toward Kaze’s shed.
It was quiet. And comfortable, Kaze thought.
“Hard to believe you can turn a profit,” the man said without turning his face. “You know, buying these wares at such a high price.”
“You just have to know the right place to sell it.”
“Are you implying this is the wrong place?” the man asked.
“Come on,” Kaze said, ignoring the man’s snark. It wouldn’t be long before he didn’t have to deal with it anymore anyway. “It’s just around this bend, down the hill.”
The man approached the shed, positioning his cart to the side. Kaze stood back a few steps.
“You’re still doing this, Kaze?” The man said with his back turned.
What? He knew his name?
The man turned around and pulled down his hood, revealing his face.
“Jeremy?” Kaze said in disbelief, his gun pointed at him. He hadn’t seen him in so long he couldn’t remember how his voice sounded.
“Are you going to shoot your own brother?”
“Is this what you’re going to do for the rest of your days?” Jeremy asked. “What kind of life is that?”
“Some of us don’t have a choice,” Kaze gritted his teeth.
“I used to tell myself that too.”
“What are you even doing here?” Kaze said, growing angry and paranoid.
“I heard of a merchant operating out of Olympus Station and selling wares on Varindrack. It had to be you. Come on, father taught us both. Every man for himself, right?”
Kaze stood silently.
“He was wrong,” Jeremy said. “There can still be winners without there being losers.”
“I’m beyond saving,” Kaze said, his voice cracking, his chin quivering. He raised the gun higher at Jeremy. “I can’t repent for the people I’ve killed.”
“Just because you denied them the ability to change doesn’t mean you can’t. No one is beyond saving. Let me show you.”
After a moment, a tear rolled down Kaze’s cheek, his gun still raised.
“I can’t promise you things will get better,” Jeremy said. “We’re all products of our environment and bound to our conditions in some way or another. But you have to try.”
For a moment, Kaze thought about the saying he added to his father’s philosophy. Maybe life really didn’t have to be that way. All he had to do was try. If that’s all it took for a chance, how could he not? All he’d have to do is break his routine and venture into the unknown. He’d have to embrace the discomfort. He’d have to try.
Kaze lowered his gun.
Cameron is a writer and screenwriter currently living in the Boston area. When he isn’t working on short stories or his debut novel, he’s likely watching films as he is an avid movie buff. You can find him on Twitter @FilmEnjoyer93 or read his movie reviews/commentary at cameron-craig.medium.com/.
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