I hope everyone’s having a pleasant winter. Saskatoon has been on the receiving end of an endless stream of snow. It’s a little exhilarating, incredibly pretty but also a lot of work to shovel it all. Not to mention the icy temperatures…good thing I have a wool scarf my sister wove for me. It even has the Star Trek symbol felted into the ends of it. What an awesome Christmas present that was.
So today, if you didn’t already figure out by this post’s title, I will be sharing the first chapter of my novel Black Ice. Make sure you didn’t miss the prologue. Also, I will be compiling the whole novel on the same page as that prologue, so if you miss a post you’ll be able to find everything I’ve posted there. It’s also accessible through the menu at the top of my blog. Conveniently labeled ‘Black Ice’ in the menu, I might add.
Before I share the novel, I wanted to show off a little graphic I designed on one of the many custom logo websites. This is basically a low-budget version of how I envision the title of my novel as it would appear on its cover. Of course, I have to get published first, and even before that it might be a good idea to finish the novel.
“I told you, Brill. I don’t want to give you any more of that garbage.” Alia Sin’s words came out sounding like a lecture and his orange tinted face was unimpressed. He was a Fienian, and had all the discernable features of that species. Black, tired eyes sat underneath a ridged forehead and four small horns protruded from his orange scalp.
Brill looked distraught, frustration spread out across her pale face. “I just,” she protested in a desperate voice. “I really just need some.” Her thick, purple-grey hair hung in a ponytail past her shoulders, which were thin and bony. Her whole body was thin, with sunken cheeks, skeletal hands and a waist the size of a child; all characteristics of the Boranese people from Borania, her ancestors’ home world.
Sin sighed and tried not to clench his fists. Instead, he wrapped them around the edge of his simple, metal desk. “You don’t need to, girl,” he said, hoping to convince her.
Brill held her hands together in a pleading gesture. The blank walls felt even colder today, because the usual playful mood shared between the two was simply not there. “We don’t need to fight,” Brill said. “We’re friends, and friends help each other.”
“I am helping you,” Sin explained, his frustration returning. His long, pointed ears slightly folded back, as always happened when he was displeased. “You don’t need that stuff,” he told her as he started fidgeting with a glass ornament on his desk. It had been a present from Brill, given to him many years ago. It was an old, cheap, glass ornament blown into the shape of some spacecraft that neither could identify, or were even sure was a real model. But it is one of Sin’s favourite possessions, he had adored it from the moment he received it. “You can’t even afford it,” Sin told her, more of a lecture than a piece of advice.
Brill cringed a little for a moment, the glass ship making her think about their long friendship and how, at times like now, it could be just as fragile as that ship. “It’s payday, Sin,” Brill reminded him. “Take it out of my pay. I don’t care.”
Sin just shook his head. “You need that money.” Business hasn’t been that good here, Brill. You know that.” He looked around at his bare walls, still hurting from having to sell all of his hangings just to pay the rent on his dive of a bar. “And I don’t want you to have that stuff.”
“We’ve known each other a long time,” Brill reminded him with words accompanied by a harsh stare. “And I’m your best server, you know that.” There was no arrogance in what she said; it was just simply the truth. “I’m a responsible person,” she continued, arguing in her defense. “And you know that it won’t affect my work. I won’t even take any of it during work.”
Another sigh escaped through Sin’s orange lips. “I know that,” he acknowledged. “But don’t you ever think of the effects of that stuff? It’s poison for you, girl. Poison.” There was truth in what he said, as well as genuine concern for Brill. “Don’t you think you’ve been doing it long enough? That stuff is for people who have even less than you and I. It’s for people who have nothing to live for.” He set his ship down, careful not to break it and leaned back into the chair. “You got something to live for, Brill. You could one day get out of this dump and make something better for yourself. The crap you want is no good for you.”
Brill wasn’t sure how she could be angry with her dear friend, but her frustration just took over. “If you’ve got such moral standards, why do sell the stuff at all?” She looked away for a second, trying to push down the guilt she was starting to feel. “You’ll sell it to anyone who comes in this joint, so why won’t you help out a friend. It’s not like I don’t have the money.”
“I only started selling it so that it would help pay for rent.” He hoped that he would justify his stance, rather than appear as more of a hypocrite. “That’s all I’m doing. I plan on stopping once business gets better.”
“Business isn’t going to get better,” Brill snapped. “The rich keep getting richer, and the rest of us damned down here are just getting damned-er.”
“All the new bars and clubs seem to be doing okay,” Sin retorted. “We’ll get this one back up to that level.”
Brill shook her head. “That’s the problem, Sin,” she said, sounding more rational. “We’re not going to get there. People like us have smaller and smaller pockets, so they’d sooner spend what little money they have at places like the Lunar Lounge and Star Bar. You have to face the facts. Black Ice just isn’t mainstream anymore.” She shrugged her small shoulders. “That’s the way it goes down here, at the ass end of Jallin. And since you’re desperate to pay rent, let me add to your profit by buying some crystals.”
Sin looked defeated and was not sure what to say. There was silence for a moment as he let out the breath he had been holding while Brill was speaking. “Girl, I just worry about you. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Brill nodded. “I know. You’re a great friend. I’ll even take less than normal, just for you. Just seven gems, okay?”
“As long as it doesn’t affect your work,” he said, opening up the bottom of his drawer and leaning over, his hands shuffling about with the contents.
“It never does,” Brill told him. “I’m a user for pleasure, not addiction.”
Sin set a plastic container on the scratched surface of his desk. “I’m sure we’d both like to believe that.” He opened another drawer, counted out some plastic money bills, and laid them beside the small container. “There’s what’s left of your pay.”
Brill’s pale, nearly colourless, face lit up with unhealthy joy. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Alia.” Thin, pale fingers scooped up the money and container scrupulously and Brill deposited them into a pocket in her dark pants.
Sin tried to smile, but his heart wouldn’t let him. It was so unfortunate to see such a bright, beautiful woman throwing her life away. If she wasn’t careful, she would end up shaking for space crystals on the side of the road. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said.
Brill nodded, more enthusiastic. “I’ll be here usual time,” she said, noticing that Sin was not his usual self. She tried to ignore the wrenching guilt that was building in her stomach. “Thanks again.” Brill turned and left, closing the door to Sin’s office behind her and leaving her boss staring blankly at the wall, thinking about life. Why were they forced to live such a pathetic existence, when billions and billions of people across the stars could afford to fly expensive air shuttles, own ocean retreat houses and live in large homes? The galaxy was definitely not a fair place, and people like Brill and himself were living every day on the edge of survival.
Sin looked down at his hand; a few crystals nestled in his palm. They were the same one’s he sold to Brill, and they shimmered in the light. The worst part of living such an underprivileged life was that those who led comfortable existences took everything for granted, most of them not even aware of the terrible situations many people had to live through every day. He stared down at the crystals, knowing why Brill smoked them on such a regular basis. They took her away from life – took her mind away from her situation here. Sin felt a blast of anger course through his body and he threw the crystals at the wall.
The galaxy is most definitely unfair.
It was very early in the morning and the sun was only just beginning to peek over the horizon, barely casting any light through the rank smog in the sky, leaving the streets quite dim still, except for the flickering light from any signs and advertising screens on the front of buildings.
The streets were nearly empty, as was customary at this time. Most everyone had returned home, usually having spent more than they could afford on drinks, games and even some intimate company for a few hours. Those that didn’t make it home were either passed out in the streets, or stumbling around intoxicated. Embarrassment was an emotion no longer felt by those who lived in such a manner. When their lives were all but over and the joy of living had long faded, if it existed at all, there was an apathy that took over.
Brill saw a few people in the streets, all in different states, but none of them were a cause for any concern. Many of those she was passing by are the same people she sees wandering the streets every morning after work. She just keeps her hands in her pockets, eyes to the street ahead and moves silently, hoping to not become an interest to any of these people. Brill was always cautious, though, of thieves and pickpockets hiding around corners or in alleys, waiting for someone like her: alone and with the potential of having something to steal that will be worth the thief’s time.
Brill had lived in Jallin for the majority of her life, so she was used to living around criminals and impoverished, distressed people. She was also used to not trusting anyone she was surrounded by, no matter where she was. Even the few friends she had she didn’t truly confide in. The only one person she actually trusted completely was Sin, because they had known each other so long and she knew that he returned her sentiments of friendship and faith. She wouldn’t put it past anyone else she knew to stab her in the back if it was in his interest.
Everyone…except for Sin. Brill was still upset about acting so immature with him today. All for a few crystals that will keep her happy for the next week or so, while at the same time keeping her pocket book a little too small for quite enough food to eat.
That was okay, though, for Brill. She had accepted a long time ago the idea that she would be perpetually hungry. It was what people in situations like hers had to deal with every day. She was just appreciative that she was making some money, even if it was only enough to scrape by. She stepped over a man who smelled of star dust – a more potent drug than even crystals. The Boranese woman wasn’t even sure if the blue-skinned, greasy-haired Netillion was alive or not. For her own safety, Brill decided not to get involved with finding out.
Brill lived in a dingy, one-room apartment, about a ten minute walk from work, the Black Ice bar. The building used to be a hotel, some hundreds of years ago, when the city of Jallin looked quite different than it does now. Brill was fairly certain that her apartment was currently owned by a crimelord, like most buildings and residences in this district of Jallin. Brill had come to learn that the galaxy is a very corrupt place.
The hallway on the third floor always smelt of sweat, intoxicants and vomit. So very often, Brill will hold her breath from the time she leaves the stair well until the time she unlocks her door and is inside her not so pungent place. She had lived there for nearly six years, and had looked after it impressively during that period. It certainly helped to keep the odours from the rest of the grungy, sullied building out of her room. The acrid scents that did still manage to drift into her room were covered up by the permanent aroma of smoke from her crystals. The smell had long ago stained the air in her apartment, but Brill didn’t mind. She actually liked the smell of the smoke, and was glad that it covered up most of the unwanted stench from the other occupants in the building.
Brill locked the door of her apartment behind her, and hung her coat over the back of a chair. It was a small, shabby excuse for a living space. There were two chairs, one small table, a little bed, a dresser, an undersized kitchen area all crammed into one room. There was only one other room, the washroom, which was small as well. Brill sighed and opened her small, fridge unit. It was disappointingly void of anything of substance, and so she settled on a glass of water instead.
Only half empty, Brill set the glass down on top of her dresser so that she could finish it later. In the meantime she wanted to relax and just lay down on her bed. After a hard day’s work, on her feet for ten hours straight, it didn’t matter how old and uncomfortable the bed was. It still felt good to lie on and Brill was enjoying every second of it.
Brill wasn’t sure how much time had actually passed before she started thinking about her crystals. At first, she had convinced herself that she was too tired to do anything with them this morning and that she would just wait until the afternoon. She recalled the argument with Sin and knew that he would be so impressed and happy for her if she didn’t have any that evening.
She pulled the container of crystals out of her pocket, popped the lid and gently spilled a few of the small, iridescent rocks onto the pale palm of her clammy hand. They were definitely calling to her, a temptation Brill found difficult to resist.
It was several years ago when Brill finally acknowledged Sin on his assumptions of her addiction to the crystals, having already been using them on a daily basis. She had known right from that moment that Sin was upset with her, and she knows Sin is still disappointed. Yet, despite this, he is still the best friend she could ever ask for or want. She just wished that he would not take such a moral stand when it came to her addiction.
“It’s my own life, after all,” Brill said quietly to herself as she pulled open the top drawer of her dresser. And with that thought in her head, she reached into the drawer and dug out her ‘incinerator’, which she would use to smoke the crystals.
In another life, Brill knew she wouldn’t be doing what she was doing. But she was not in another life. She was in this, unfair life where she had nothing to live for and nothing to look forward to. Her job barely paid for food, and Sin probably paid her too much to begin with because he just scraped by every month himself, barely affording rent on Black Ice. And while they suffered, some hotshot, criminal scum sat in a comfy chair and watched his pocket grow fat as he collected rent on dozens and dozens of places in the same situation of Black Ice.
Flipping the top of the incinerator open, Brill dropped in one crystal. One crystal was enough to last her a couple of days, making her incredibly numb for a few hours each day. For those short hours, the travails of her life seemed to slip away from her, like sand through her slender fingers. It was only time during her day that she didn’t feel like death would be a welcome happening.
The galaxy is cruelly unfair.
Not The End
Thanks for reading! Please share with me your thoughts. Thoughts are good.
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