FlashFic: Get Gone (Crowndon, Part 1)

Sometimes I noticed the soot covering me. It turned everything filthy on Crowndon. We had to burn whatever we scrounged up for fuel. Between that and the factories, ash was a constant mist. The snow was full of it. When snow melted in my hands, it left trails of light skin.

Days were spent finding stuff to scrabble through the next day. Lucky ones worked in the factories. They had food most days and their windows were stuffed, keeping the wind out. Mam wasn’t a lucky one. We stayed hungry and cold, but she taught me how to scrounge. She once found a tattered sweater. It hung over my scrawny body to my knees, flapping over my hands. It was perfect.

When Mam brought Joram home, things were supposed to get better. They didn’t. I wasn’t just scrawny, I was small. Moved quick. Quick enough to get away from Joram. He grabbed at me when he stunk of ketla. Mam looked away. One night, he caught the back of my sweater. The harsh sound of it ripping as I yanked away decided me. I had to get gone.

It was dark when I stopped running. My breath huffing out in clouds, I thought fast. Thugs were bad, but night brought out the rapegangs. The only light in most places was from the moons. Even they had to fight through the layer of soot.

The spaceport had some lights. Clinging to shadows, I aimed for it. Took it slow and real careful. I had to crouch in one deep shadow, waiting while a gang took someone down. I covered my ears against the boy’s screams. They finally moved on, the kid they raped stumbling away.

I pushed through a hole in the spaceport fence. The place was empty. No one landed on this iceball if they had a choice. Wasn’t my first night hiding from Joram. Wasn’t my first time scrounging at the spaceport, either. Sometimes I found good rags or leftover ration bars. I’d make do. Didn’t plan to go back ever.

I got to work. Found a deep shadow for a bed. Torn, greasy coveralls mostly fit with the sleeves and legs rolled up. No traffic here, but a few people worked the port. I saw them come and go, watched when they threw stuff away.

A ship landed one night. Moving between shadows, I went for a look. Might be some good scrounging. I saw a port worker arguing with a pretty man. He was all clean, wearing bright colors. The pretty man looked angry when he went to his ship. I scurried near the landpad, ducking into darkness when he came out. He muttered, carrying a crate to the ‘cycler. Soon as he was gone, I jumped in to scrounge.

More muttering made me freeze. He stopped, crate raised, eyes widening. “This gods-forsaken spaceport has rats? Come on, out you get.” He looked me over. “Too small to be a rat. A mouse then.” He squinted then snapped his fingers. “Come along, Mouse.” I followed him to the hatch of his ship and waited. He stuck his head out. “I said come along.” Startled, I stepped into the ship.

Bright lights. Shiny and clean. My mouth dropped open and I stared. He held out a cup. “Slowly, it’s hot,” he warned. I tasted it. Soup, with veg even. I sucked it down. My belly was warm and full. My “thank you” was too small for so big a gift.

“I mean no offense, Mouse, but you are unpleasantly fragrant. Into the ‘fresher. The autotailor has basic clothing. I’ll just set the size to Mouse.” He smiled at me. “Unless you’re particularly fond of those coveralls?” I mutely shook my head, eyes wide as I trembled. Too embarrassed to tell him I never used a ‘fresher, I fiddled with the buttons. Water cascaded over me. Foamy soap cut through the grime. I scrubbed and discovered pale skin. Clothes waited for me, from new smalls to shirt, pants and coveralls.

I gathered my stinking pile of rags and headed for the hatch. “You’re a blonde?” He came toward me. “Much better, Mouse. Put those in the wall ‘cycler. There’s still the small matter of your payment.” My shoulders slumped. Knew it was too good to be true. I fed each disgusting piece to the ‘cycler, pausing when I got to the sweater. Fingering the tear at the back, I remembered what waited at home. Maybe getting raped in exchange for being fed and clean wasn’t such a bad deal.

“The portmaster says there’s no droid repair here. That can’t be right. Who fixes your droids?” He looked so earnest I almost smiled. At least he wasn’t in a hurry to rape me.

“No droids here,” I replied. “Not since the Perlaki War took out the power grid.”

“No droids.” The pretty man tilted his head. “It seems I have employment available, Mouse. Looking for a job? You’d have to learn quickly and get used to being clean and fed daily.”

“You need a whore?” I heard of them, people dressing nice and bartering rapes for food.

He blinked. “No. I need an assistant. My droid fried its mem crystal.”

“No raping?”

“None.” He watched me. “It would mean leaving Crowndon. Are you willing?”

The only sound for a long moment was my heart hammering. Dumbstruck, I nodded. “Please?” I heard my voice. “Please, I need to get gone.”

He nodded decisively. “Very well. You may begin by telling the portmaster we’ll lift off at 3515 Galaxy Standard Time.”

He let me sit with him as he guided the ship away from the spaceport. I watched Crowndon become a dingy ball with two bright moons against a backdrop of stars. I stared at the planet until its filth disappeared in the darkness of space. Only then did I truly feel clean. It’s the closest I ever came to a spiritual experience.

© 2010 Jessica Rosen

This story was inspired by a #storystarters I wrote. The lines are used to begin “Rescue Mission (Crowndon, Part 2).”

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28 thoughts on “FlashFic: Get Gone (Crowndon, Part 1)

  1. Aislinn O'Connor April 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm Reply

    Glad she’s escaped from such a miserable place – think there’s scope for a whole book here! Love it 🙂

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 9:07 am Reply

      Thanks, Aislinn. I think you may be right.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  2. Jen Brubacher April 30, 2010 at 5:34 am Reply

    I’m so glad she’s escaped! I think you could have ended it with, “Only then did I truly feel clean,” it’s a bit stronger than the spiritual existence line.

    And then write more about this mouse, okay? I want to read it. 🙂

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 9:10 am Reply

      Thank you, Jen. I agree about the line. I went back and forth over it so many times that I finally just decided to post it as it was. I see a long story arc in which that line/concept is explored, but it doesn’t have to be stated in this flash.

      I’m editing a very different series right now, but may well explore Mouse again, either as future flash or my next novel. Crowndon, Part 2, will be posted this evening as an entry for #ss500.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  3. Deanna Schrayer April 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm Reply

    Jess, this is some fantabulous story-telling! I’m so glad she escaped. I could feel her fear throughout, and then her relief – palpable.
    Superb work!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm Reply

      Deanna, thanks so much. That makes me feel really good. She is so vivid to me, even down the line. Part 2 is going to be posted this evening. It’s an #ss500. I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it as well.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  4. soesposito April 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm Reply

    I want to jump up and clap for joy! 🙂 Hope in the form of a “pretty man”. Great story, Jess!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm Reply

      Thanks a lot, I appreciate the enthusiastic feedback. Really glad you enjoyed it.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  5. Marisa Birns April 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed this story. Mouse is a great character and it would be great to read more about her and the adventures she’ll have outside of Crowndon.

    Well crafted story telling~

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm Reply

      You’ll see her again tonight in a shorter story (#ss500) called “Rescue Mission (Crowndon, Part 2).” Thanks so much for your comments. I’m likely to revisit Mouse and the pretty man at some point.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  6. yearzerowriters April 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm Reply

    A society that has reverted to the primitive savagery of ‘rapegangs’ is matched by your depiction of a regression in breath too, as the voice here is breathless, one can almost sense the difficulty of forming words and articulating them. Fear and anxiety, like animals constantly on the look out for predators, stop up one’s breathing and alter our resting rates. Wonderful stuff.

    marc nash

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm Reply

      I have to confess, I didn’t analyze it to that extent, but I agree with what you concluded. Getting into her head, feeling the cold, filth and fear as constants, made my breath harsher. I was tense while writing her. I’m glad it came through the words. Thank you for the better understanding of why the word choices and sentence structures felt necessary.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  7. Sterling April 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm Reply

    In just a handful of words, you managed to convey the life of Mouse, Mouse’s family and the state of an entire planet’s worth of people.

    Yet, despite all the hard knocks that life has thrown Mouse’s way, Mouse has hope.

    Only real difficulty thus far is accurately identifying Mouse’s sex. One would initially think female, but later it is demonstrated that rape is not confined to just the females. For all we know Mouse could be male.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 7:48 pm Reply

      I do appreciate your kind feedback, Sterling. You’re right, of course. Mouse’s sex is not specifically referenced. In Mouse’s society, people have degraded. That Mouse was vulnerable sexually had nothing to do with gender. It had only to do with being weaker.

      I hope you’ll enjoy Part 2 as well.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  8. Gracie April 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm Reply

    I’m glad there’s going to be a part 2. Loved this story. Such strong visuals, and Mouse’s voice is so clear. I’m so happy she got gone.

    Excellent writing, as always.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm Reply

      Thank you, Gracie. The character seems to have taken up a section of my brain now. Mouse keeps whispering about adventures. It’s distracting. I’m editing a series of romantic suspense novels. Space opera adventures are alluring, though.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  9. John Wiswell April 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm Reply

    That is a beautiful opening paragraph. I didn’t know where you were going (in the paragraph or story as a whole), but ending on the trails of light skin was striking in a rare and resonant way. It definitely earned my attention proceeding into the rest of the story, which was an interesting view of a dingy little place. Hopefully she got more spiritual experiences in the places she wound up.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen April 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm Reply

      Thank you, John. I wanted to gently zero in on the main character before expanding the view. I’m glad the paragraph worked for you and appreciate your comments about it.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  10. Annarkie May 1, 2010 at 1:43 am Reply

    Wow. Just Wow. I wanted to read more! Moving on to part 2.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 1, 2010 at 1:54 am Reply

      Wow is good, thank you so much for the wow.

      Take care, my inkwell crew compatriot,
      Jess

      Like

  11. Sam May 1, 2010 at 9:44 am Reply

    What a great opening – this should most definitely be an on-going piece. I for one would love to read more of Mouse’s adventures.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 1, 2010 at 11:07 am Reply

      Thank you, Sam. It’s so good to hear people want more of her story.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  12. Al Bruno III May 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm Reply

    Just started this now…great work. Very immersive.

    Like

  13. 2mara May 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm Reply

    I laughed out loud at the “No raping?” I think this world is pretty awesome.. I look forward to reading the next part (in just a second)

    ~2

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm Reply

      That was probably my favorite line. Thanks for the kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the stories.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  14. Amy Saunders May 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm Reply

    This is one of my favorite #flashfriday stories this week! I agree it has serious book potential. 🙂 I’m on to part 2!

    Amy

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 8, 2010 at 1:05 pm Reply

      Thanks, Amy. I hope you continue to enjoy.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

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