Blog-A-Day #4– “Why are bananas important?”

Someone jokingly sent this to me as a suggestion for my blog a day project.

What they did not know, is that, in all seriousness, I take bananas very seriously.

When I was a kid, I hated fruits and vegetables, and I generally refused to eat them whenever I got the chance. My dad, however, figured out that if he made it “cool” to eat fruit, then I would play along, wanting to be “cool” like my dad.

It is also important to note that my dad was a traditionalist, and was the type of guy who would eat the same thing, every day, because, well, “That’s just what he liked”.

Every day, before school, my dad would make himself a breakfast of either a bowl of plain cheerios or a bowl of plain rice chex. If he was feeling particularly fancy, he might make an egg or two, but generally, he stuck to cereal and one important side-dish– a banana.

Now, my dad was really, really particular about his bananas. As a kid, I remember endless fights between my mom and dad about the state of the bananas that had been brought home from the grocery store– my dad liked them nearly raw, and my mom liked them nearly composted.

So. Every morning, my dad would solemnly break me off a small portion of his bananas and offer it to me. I would accept, and he would declare us “banana buddies” for the day. It was incredibly stupid, but man, being banana buddies was THE COOLEST thing ever when I was seven.

As I got older (and a bit wiser), I finally figured out his game, but by then, it was too late. I liked bananas. Most fruit, actually, but I still loved bananas, and I would always accept his offer of being banana buddies for the day.

When I was finally able to drive myself to and from school, the tradition of banana buddies became lost in the shuffle of life, except on Sundays. Sundays was a day for church and family breakfast and my dad would wake up early to make chocolate chip pancakes— with his daily banana. I don’t think I ever refused his stupid “banana buddies” deal. It was…just….one of those stupid things that we shared.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he encouraged (read:ordered) me to continue with my plans to go to England. I did, and while I was over there, he got a lot sicker, sicker to the point where I knew that I was going to have to come home. So I did.

The day that I got back, I took one look at my dad in his hospital room, ravaged by infection, and knew that he was going to die. Maybe not then, maybe not right there, but sooner or later, I knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to make it.  He was too weak to eat anything but “thin” foods. I remember that the hospital brought him a “regular” lunch tray by accident, and on it, was a banana.

My dad was too weak to lift the tray cover, so I did it for him. He looked at the banana, I looked at the banana, and we both started laughing. He was bald, covered in disgusting sores, shitting into a bag attached to his leg and was half the size of the huge man that he had been, and still, we both laughed.  I spoon fed-him strawberry yogurt that afternoon, and that night, he died. Not even 12 hours after my flight got in, my dad died.

When I was about six or seven, still too young to really understand the implications of my dad’s job, we were at the grocery store, when a elderly, bedraggled (and, frankly, smelly) African-American man walked over to my dad. He shook my dad’s hand and thanked him, and he leaned over to me and said “Young lady, you have a fine daddy. You should be proud”.

I was terrified. I knew that my dad dealt with “bad men”, and for some reason, I was convinced that this guy, as scrappy as he looked, was obviously one of the aforementioned “bad men” that my parents talked about. To this day, I still feel bad about hiding behind my dad when the other guy reached out to shake my hand.

When he left, my dad was (rightfully so) embarrassed and a little pissed. He asked me why I had hid behind him, and I told him my theory about the guy being a “bad man”. My dad, ever the lawyer, asked me why I thought this guy was a bad man. I shrugged.

“Was it because of his dirty clothes?”

I shrugged again.

“Was it because of how he looked?”

I shrugged again.

Then my dad pulled me over to the display of bananas, and told me to pick out any bunch I wanted. I picked, (responsibly, or so I thought), the “best” looking bunch– free of any bruises or markings. We bought them, and I took them home.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, and my dad pulled out an older bunch that we’d had for a couple of days, that were marked up and dirty on the outside. He plunked both of them down on the table in front of me, and then proceeded to say something that I will never forget for as long as I live.

He took one banana–one from the “perfect” bunch I’d selected, and one from the bunch that’d been sitting around for awhile.

“People”, he said, “Are a lot like bananas”.

I was seven, so I started laughing.

“Don’t laugh”, my dad said. He said it in his SUPER SERIOUS voice, so I got kind of scared. “I’m not joking. Listen. Look at this banana you picked today. It’s really nice on the outside, right?”

I nodded.

“Try it”.

He peeled the new banana and I tasted it, and it wasn’t ripe, so it was hard and it tasted terrible.

“Now try this one”. He peeled one of the marked up bananas.

The one he’d peeled was super, super questionable looking, with a bunch of grody black marks and bruises all over the peel, but when he opened it, the fruit itself was perfect, and it was just ripe enough to be delicious without being mushy.

“That man at the grocery store today is like this banana. He didn’t look very nice or very clean, and he has been bumped and bruised by life,  but on the inside, he is one of the best people I know. You can’t always judge someone by their outside. You have to talk to them, and get to know them–peel away their outside so you can get to know them on the inside. Does that make sense?”

I don’t remember what I said to him, or what we talked about after that. All I remember is sitting at our grey Formica top kitchen table, sharing that ugly, marked up banana off of one of my awesome Lion King plates.

Years later, I brought up that story to my dad. I asked him if he remembered it, and he told me that I did. I was in my (perpetual) smart ass phase at the time, and I asked him what he would have done if the shitty-looking banana had actually turned out to be bad.

He paused for a moment, looked me straight in the eye and said “You’re old enough to know now, for years, I was terrified that you were going to become a serial killer, because for weeks after I told you that, you kept talking about how you wanted to take off people’s skins so you could get to know them better. I figured at that point, I’d done enough damage”.

Then he went back to watching his baseball game and I went to rehearsal, and life continued on, as it often tends to do.

I later found out that that guy who had spoken to my dad in the grocery store was an ex-felon who my dad had put in jail. While he was in there, he had written my dad a letter, telling him about his problems with drug and alcohol abuse, and my dad went out of his way to get him transferred into a treatment program, instead of just sitting in jail. I the guy went on to get his degree and become a teacher. That guy (and a number of others) were the start of what would later become the Drug Court program in Illinois, which my dad helped found and organize.

I never realized how much of an impact my dad had until his funeral, when a whole bunch of guys stopped me in the parking lot, and when they found out who I was, they thanked me, telling me that they were graduates of the program, and that my father had saved their lives because he went out of his way to get them into the program instead of letting them “run through the cycle”.

They shook my hand and told me that my father was a good man. I’d known for years, but in that moment, I was entirely sure.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that my dad kicked ass and bananas are delicious.
(Side note, please keep sending in your suggestions. I’ve only got enough to last for the rest of the month so far). You can send them in with this HANDY FORM!!

Getting A Sister For My Birthday.

Today, I turn 25. (Well, when this is published, I’ll have been 25 for an entire day, but whatever).

Today, I also got a phone call from the man who is my father. Technically.

I say technically because he is the man who left his biological imprint on me, who is one half of the genetic donors that made me, however, he is not my father.

I was adopted at 2 days old, and from that point, my adoptive parents became, unquestionably, my parents. This is a strange concept for some people to grasp. As a kid, I would get the question “But who are your REAL parents?”. Being 7, it was hard for me to explain that no, my parents are my parents– those “other parents” just happened to be the ones who’d win a paternity test, but MY mom and dad have, and always will be, my mom and dad.

I tried “You’re not my REAL Mom” once, and only once in the heat of an argument over something stupid, probably having to do with my perpetually messy room, and the hurt on my mother’s face was enough to stop me from ever saying something so stupid ever again.

When my dad died, that…well, that was kind of it on the whole “dad” thing. There was never a part of me that thought “well, I’ve got this bonus dad on the back burner….”…I just…figured I got what I got and that was that. I got 20 some beautiful, fantastic, wonderful years with the man who was my father, and while every day I regret not having more time with him, not having him around to know Jake or see my shows or a million other small, trivial things…I had an amazing father. And I miss him, every single goddamn day. I miss having a dad. I miss having someone to look up to. Except for a very brief stint in an amazing play last year, I haven’t had that in a long time. And it’s very easy to forget what it feels like, looking up to someone.

But then, today, the man who is my father and not my father called.

And he told me that I have a sister.

Flash back three or so years–I am roughly 21, and my mom has facilitated contact with my biological mother, and SHE has a daughter. Since our first encounter, we have gotten to know each other, and I can fully and honestly say that my biological half sister on my mom’s side is the goddamn shizzlenit. She’s amazing. She is brilliant and funny and talented and beautiful and we even kind of look alike–and, bonus, we get along, and I’m going up to see her in a few weeks, and I could not be more excited.

So then here I am, today, (well, I suppose yesterday, at this point), and I’m sitting at work, taking a break, listening to a man I’ve spoken to twice in my life tell me that I have a 14 year old sister named Lillian and would it be okay if he told her about me?

….What do you say to that? Of course I said yes.

And then, thanks to the instant-gratification magic of the internet, I got a friend request on Facebook within an hour, and then, by the end of the night, we’d exchanged several messages back and forth.

My half-sister, who I’ve known about for less than 24 hours, is just as amazing as my other half sister. It is creepy how many similarities we share— except for one.

She’s 14.

I’m ten, well, now, eleven years older than her.

And I see SO much of myself in the person that she is, right now.

And it’s weird.

Because suddenly, I’ve gotten a free telephone call to 14 year old me. I’ve got one free trip in the time machine to warn me about what lies ahead. That awkward, uncomfortable, speech-team/band geek teenager that was Catie of Christmas Past– she’s been messaging me on Facebook. And asking my opinions. And advice.

And it’s…..strange. I know that this new half-sister is not the same person I was, but at the same time, we are so very alike. Even in just the couple days that we’ve been talking, I know her. I remember her, because I WAS her. I remember 14-year old Catie, and I remember the struggle and the self doubt and the generalized awfulness that was high school—as much as I keep telling myself “we are not identical”, it is really, really difficult to accept that, because we are, for half sisters ten years apart who only “met” a day ago, we are….nearly the same person.

So now, I’m at this really weird juncture.

Part of me wants to flood her message box with the wisdom that I wish someone had told me. “You are wonderful. You are beautiful. You are amazing and talented and loved and brilliant and everything–absolutely everything–will work out okay in the end”…because I’ve got a shot. I can still save 14-year-old Catie from a thousand hurts and a thousand dangers— but I keep having to remind myself that a shared interest in percussion and speech team does not an identical personality make.

I don’t know her, really. Who am I to assume that she is not a fully confident, beautiful, assured young woman..just because I wasn’t? Who am I to determine that she needs my sage wisdom of “just keep being a jackass, it worked out for me in the end”…who am I to assume that she needs me at all?

And I feel bad. I know how I present myself, and I know how I come off. Cool, fun older girl with swords and a boyfriend and Shakespeare and blue hair and poetry and travel and performing and being awesome, all the time, but I don’t have the heart to tell her that I can’t afford my phone bill. I don’t want to disappoint her, because I feel like I’m letting her down…and I’m letting the Catie Of Christmas Past Down. It didn’t turn out all sunshine and roses. I still need a full time job, I’ve got a pain disorder that makes my life shit nearly every day and oh, by the way, sorry, 14 year old Catie, your size 0 phase lasts for about two months. Don’t get me wrong– some of it– most of it, really, turned out fucking amazing, it’s just the not-so-amazing parts that I’m hesitant to reveal. I don’t want this kid to know that I spend a lot of nights crying because I’m in so much pain. I don’t want her to know that I still puke (sometimes) just to prove to myself that I’m still “in control”.

I’m not broken, and I’m not a martyr. I accept who I am and my choices have made me who I am, a successful, awesome 25 year old, but sometimes…goddamn it….if I could warn me about me before it was too late….would I? Or am I am who I am today because of my royal fuck ups and failings?

How much about the real world do you share with someone who has two more years before they can drive?

I, well….I’ve always wanted to be a cool older sister…and now, suddenly, after 24 (well, 25) years of not knowing, I’ve suddenly been given the chance, and the potential for me fucking this up royally is pretty goddamn high.

I really….don’t have an ending for this. I don’t have a cute closer or a smarmy punch line. I’m scared. I’m scared because I like her, and I really, really  don’t want to fuck this up.  I like this kid a lot. But I don’t see myself as a role model or even, really, a responsible human being. I’m a writer with a passion for Shakespeare. I make shit money and I have a basket of swords, and I consider one of those an important life achievement. I love who I am and what I do, but I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, act like I know what I’m talking about…and here, suddenly, is someone who so very much reminds me of who I used to be, waiting to hear my insights.

It’s….it’s huge, for me, at least. Suddenly, I’m kind of an older sister. And, well, goddamn it, last night, after I had told her that sometimes I write things for money, she asked me to tell her a story. I could barely keep my shit together enough to tell her something coherent, let alone creative. I was literally weeping while I was writing some bullshit thing about dragons, because this….this is not something you get every day.

What would I say to 14 year old me?
What warnings would I give? What would I say to stop all of the hurt and doubt and mess that is high school? Or would I say anything at all? Would assuring her that I end up relatively good looking stop an eating disorder that nearly destroyed me? Would telling her that my writing winds up gaining me a modicum of fame push me harder to succeed?

Who would I be if I know the things that I do now?

What happens when the time streams collide?

Do I just tell her a story about dragons and long-lost sisters and nightmare kings  with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres?

Or do I tell her to love herself, every goddamn minute of every goddamn day because she, by very virtue of her existence, is amazing?

…Goddamn it, I don’t want to fuck this up.

Blog-a-Day Suggestion #2– “Write about Darkness”.

The bridge was silent. The engines were running, but they’d upgraded them years ago as part of a government push for low-emission engines. The boss downstairs has decided it was a smart move– play along, play it safe– “Always under the radar. Don’t make waves”. So the engines had been silenced, and the boss had happily accepted a large kick-back for the upgrade.

A.V. hated the silence. As a kid, he’d been lulled to sleep by the hum of the engines on his father’s ship, but now, there was only silence. He looked at his watch. He’d been at the bridge for hours, covering yet another shift for the boss, but now, his eyes burned and his neck was stiff. He shifted in his chair, and the glare from the console below him appeared on the observation panel he was staring into, and he jumped, thinking, for a brief moment, that he’d spotted the lights of an oncoming ship.

“You can only stare into the darkness for so long before you start to see things”.

A.V. jumped again, this time spilling his coffee down the last clean bit of his pants, cursing at the sudden warmth.

His boss laughed, a loud, jovial, raspy laugh that ended in a hacking couch. He spit, and wiped the corners of his mouth on his sleeve and slapped A.V. on the back. A.V. jolted at the impact. His boss was a huge man, barely able to stand in the bridge, his greasy black hair grazing the recessed lighting of the steel ceiling. There were plenty of rusty spots overhead, and A.V. had a sneaking suspicion that they weren’t caused by moisture from the ship, but from the sweat of his boss’s endlessly receding hairline.

“What can I do for you?” A.V. instantly regretted the phrasing.

“What can you do for me? Save that for your granny, son. I don’t need your help, I just need you to keep this pile in the air long enough to make the drop!” He laughed again, this time coughing for even longer. A.V. went to the water panel on the wall and filled a small paper cup, but his boss waved it away.

“Don’t–don’t waste that on me, son. Don’t– don’t want you to think I’m getting s-soft”. His boss sat heavily in the seat next to him, gasping for breath.

A.V. shrugged. “If you insist”. He went to the coffee pot and refilled his mug, joining his boss at the main console. He tapped a few keys, checking their altitude, then their trajectory, then checked the radar. There was nothing. Only them and maybe a few rocks. His boss looked on approvingly.

“You’re a lucky find, you. Didn’t think you’d amount to much of anything when I picked you up. Weren’t but a speck of a kid. Now look at you. You’re what now, 26? 27? Getting old….” His boss laughed again, then spat.

A.V. looked over the arm of his chair at the puddle on the floor. Even in the dim lighting of the bridge, he could see that the spittle was tinged with blood and dark with infection.

“28 next month, and you really need to do something about that cough”.

“Don’t think I know that, boy? Nothing they can do. I’ve been to every doctor that’d have me this side of Bode’s, and they all told me the same thing. I’m dying”. The old man looked dramatically into the darkness and coughed pathetically.

A.V. rolled his eyes. “You aren’t dying. I’ve seen people come back from twice as bad. You need to get some meds, Bass”.

Bass roared with laughter. In between coughs, he manged to sputter out a few choice insults.  “First name basis, now, eh? You got a mouth on you, son, I like that. Problem is, where’m I supposed to find meds around here? We’ve got a good three weeks before we hit anywhere close to civilization, and in the meantime, I’m not taking any damn traders aboard. Knew a guy from back in school, took on some traders to make a little extra cash, weren’t more than three minutes aboard before everyone had their throats slit, AND I heard they raped the bodies”.

“From who?”

The old man started. “What?”

A.V. grinned. “How’d you hear about it? If everyone had their throats slit, how’d word get out about the evil traders raping the bodies?”

Bass made a face. “How’s anyone hear about anything these days? I heard they recorded it, then posted it up on the video channels for other people to find– as– as a warning”.

—“And then they showed their severed heads hanging on pikes, with written messages about which government officials were next?”  A.V. smugly folded his hands behind his head. “They ALWAYS say that, Bass. That’s…just…the story. I don’t even think there are that many traders capable of that much destruction in this whole damned galaxy”.

Bass looked at him seriously. “Don’t matter how many of them, boy, it matters what they do. Two men can conquer an entire planet if they’ve got the most guns. I’ve seen it happen. Little settlement, not expecting nothin’, then BOOM, next thing you know, women ‘n children bein’ sold into slavery, men gettin’ shot and killed, it’s a horrible business, I’ll tell you what”.

A.V. looked out into the darkness, thinking.

They sat in silence for awhile, lost in thought, when the faint light of the blue communication channel light lit up. A.V. and Bass glanced at each other.

Bass spoke first. “Now, who in the hell— all the way out here?”

A.V.’s finger hesitated over the button. “Do you want me to–“.

“Might as well, might be a distress call or somethin’. Never know. Just don’t say anything stupid”.

A.V. hesitated for a moment longer, then pressed the open channel button. He gave their call and registration numbers as per standard procedure, and then waited for the response. Nothing.

A.V. looked at Bass. Bass shrugged.

A.V. gave their registration numbers again, and waited. There was a long silence, and then a faint crackle of an open connection.

Bass rolled his eyes and stabbed the button. “Look, sweetheart, airtime ain’t cheap in these parts– either get off our line or spit it out”.

They both waited, listening to the static on the other end. The connection crackled again, then a small voice on the other end replied. “Hello? Is anybody there?”

The two men looked at each other. A communication this far out was unusual, but not unheard of. However, the voice on the other end of the channel was a kid, or at least, someone pretending to be a kid.

A.V. pressed the button “Hello? Who is this?”

“This…this is Elena. Elena Sigrun. I’m scared”.
“Elena, my name is A.V. Where are you?”
“…I’m in the room where they drive the ship”
“Okay, Elena, is anyone else there with you?”
“No. I’m all alone. Everyone else is sleeping and they won’t wake up”.

A.V. glanced at Bass. Bass mouthed “Traders”.

“Elena, how do you know everyone is sleeping?”
“Because they’re all sleeping in the hallway”.
“Everyone is in the hallway?”
“Yes. And there is a lot of blood everywhere. I was hiding from the bad men and when I came out everyone was sleeping”.
“The bad men?”
“Yes, the men in the funny hats. My daddy let them onto the ship and then they hurt him”.
“How did they hurt him, Elena?”
“They put a knife into his neck and now he’s sleeping”.

A.V. looked up at Bass. Bass was absentmindedly chewing at his thumb, staring out into the darkness. Bass motioned for A.V. to switch seats. As the older man took his seat, A.V. watched him hesitate for just a moment. Then, in a gentle voice that seemed almost alien coming from the huge man, Bass spoke.

“Elena, my name is Bassem. My friends call me Bass. Let’s be friends, okay, Elena? How old are you?”
“Seven”. There was a pitiful sniff.
“Elena, do you know where you are?”
“I told you, I’m in the driving room”.

Bass paused. He thought for a moment, then he spoke again.

“Elena, do you want to play a game with me? ”
“…No. I’m scared”.
“It’s okay, Elena, you don’t have to be scared. I’m here, and so is A.V.”.
“But I don’t know you. You could be bad men”.
“Elena, I’m not much of a man, not much of anything really, but I promise you, we are not bad men”.
“…What does A.V. stand for?”

Bass looked up at A.V. and grinned hugely, miming a gesture akin to “what are you gonna do?”  A.V. sighed. He bent over the console. “Elena, A.V. stands for Adaeze Valerija”.

There was a giggle. “That’s a funny name”.
Bass tried valiantly to hide his amusement, and failed miserably. “You’re not the only one who thinks so, Elena. Now, how about that game?”

“….Okay. How do I play?”
“Elena, look out the window. What do you see?”
“…Nothing. It’s dark. ‘Sides, I’m too little to reach the window all by myself”.
“Okay, and what about around you?”
“I can see…..I can see the buttons that the driver pushes. and his chair. He’s sitting in his chair, but his head is off”.
Bass started. “His head—- his head is off?”
“Yeah, the bad men took his head off”.

A.V. swore under his breath.

Bass took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s really good, Elena, what else? What else do you see?”
“….My daddy”. Her voice warbled.
“Good, Elena, where is your daddy?”
“He’s in his chair. He’s sleeping”.
“And where are you, Elena?”
“I’m sitting on my daddy’s lap. He won’t wake up and I’m scared”.

A.V. couldn’t be sure, but as Bass turned suddenly to gaze out into the blackness, it seemed like Bass’s hands may have swiped at his eyes. Bass turned back to the panel.

“Elena, where is your mom?”
“…the bad men took her. They took all of the mommies. and the kids, but not me cuz I was hiding”.
“So…so you’re all alone, then, kiddo?”
“Okay, kiddo. Do you know how to use the transporter system?”
“The what?”
“The trans— the machine that your daddy used to bring the bad men onto the ship. do you know how to use it?”
“No. that’s for grownups”.

A.V. suddenly understood, and lept to their own transport system and began the lengthy boot-up process.

From across the bridge, Bass spoke.

“Elena, look over into the corner. Is there a big box where the men came out of?”
“No, that’s in the underneath”.

Nearly simultaneously, A.V. and Bass swore. With no way of knowing what class or style of ship these people were running, there was nothing they could do. If their transporter was on another deck, they’d run the risk of losing contact before they could get the girl over to to them.

Bass thought for a moment, his face contorted with the effort.
“Elena, when the bad men came, where did they come from?”
“That’s easy, they came from the storage room. That’s where I hide sometimes. It’s warm”.
“Can you see the storage room?”
“Yeah, it’s down the hall a little bit”.
“Okay, I want you to go down and look on the main access panel and tell me if it’s enabled to dispatch “.

Bass swore silently.
“The box with all the lights on it. Should be to the right. Go see if there is a big green light at the top”.
“Ok! I can do that, easy!”. Her confidence was heartbreaking.

The two men waited anxiously, listening to her footsteps fade into the empty crackle of the open line. Then, suddenly, she was back, and breathless with excitement.

“I did it! I found it! It’s on, it’s on!”
Bass smiled. “You did great, sweetheart. Now, here’s what I want you to do. I’m going to give you some numbers. I want you to go over to the big panel, and type in the numbers EXACTLY how I tell them to you. Do you know how to write down numbers, kiddo?”
The sweet voice on the other end was tinged with annoyance. “I know how to write, I’m almost 8”.
Bass smiled again. “Great. You’re right, I’m sorry. You’re almost a grown up. Do you have a pen?”
“Yes, there’s one here in my daddy’s pocket”.

The smile faded from his face. “Right. Okay, kiddo, I’m going to tell you some numbers now, and I want you to write them down, then go put them into the transporter exactly how I told you, okay?”
“Okay! I can do that!”.

A.V. listened intently as Bass rattled off their transport id system numbers from memory. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and the tiny voice tentatively and haltingly repeated them.

“Good, kiddo. Now here’s what you gotta do. Go down to the transporter and type those in just like I told you. Then, push the big button that says “activate”, okay?”
“Then jump in, and we’ll see you on the other side”.
There was a pause. “But…what about my mommy and daddy?”
Bass closed his eyes and looked down. “Once we’ve got you safe and sound, kiddo, we’ll come back for your mommy and daddy, okay?”
“You promise?”
“I promise. Both me and A.V. promise that nothin’ bad will happen to you, okay, Elena?”
“Okay. I guess…hey, I guess I’ll see you soon!”
“We’ll see you soon”.

Bass sprung up, an impressive feat for a man his size and cross the bridge, banging his head on a low-hanging pipe and swearing. Both of the men started intently into the transporter, willing Elena to appear.

A.V. didn’t turn his head. “You realize that if she fucks up those numbers, she’s either going to get sent over gods know where or get torn apart, right?”

Bass didn’t either. “I know”.

Suddenly, the incoming light flashed once, twice, and then the familiar whir of the transporter activated. The doors slowly opened, and there was Elena. She smiled, stepped forward, and then, without warning, fell to the ground as the gash on her throat slowly wept blood onto her white dress and onto the steel floor of the bridge.

A.V slumped against the wall, hands over his mouth, suddenly lightheaded. Bass dropped to the floor, kneeling over Elena’s body, then scooped her up into his arms. His head flew up and he looked at A.V., eyes full of tears.  “Man up, boy”, he roared,  “we’ve got to get her to a medic, there might still be time–“.

Suddenly, two men stepped from the inside doors of the transport system. Silently, the two men slipped into the bridge. Without speaking a word, they broke off, methodically, one towards A.V., the other towards Bass.

A.V. was the first to scream, once, then twice, and then, as the reflection of the bridge lights on man’s silver knife cut silently through the darkness, Bass joined in.

A.V. fell, his blood mingling with Elena and Bass’s. It was cold.

Bass coughed, once, twice, but this time, the coughs were deep and gargling, wet. Blood dripped from the corners of his mouth and down the front of his shirt.

Then, there was nothing.

In the darkness, the bridge was silent.