Part 1 of my short story: “Hidden in Plain Sight”

Hi everyone,

As is custom for the last few weeks, I am once again experimenting with a new sort of blog post. I will be posting sections of a short story I wrote last summer about a planet revolved by deadly moons and the mysteries they hold. Since the story is almost 7000 words long, this process will take about 3 weeks, with me editing each section before I post.

I actually wrote this story in response to the prompt: Create an unlikeable character and put them in a situation that makes them likeable. Be them sure to comment if you think I succeeded in doing that.

Happy Reading!
Austin Wen

“We have to leave the wounded colonists,” Jessie insisted. “Or we’ll all die.”

The lead scientist shot her a look of such horror that Jessie almost thought she had said something wrong. “We can’t abandon them,” he said, the present, purplish moon in the sky illuminating the worried sweat drenching his dress shirt. “My sister’s leg is broken. We need a stretcher to carry her, and—”

“—and that’ll take more time,” Jessie finished for him. “Exactly. Can’t you see that the Deep Moon has almost risen? You’re supposed to be an objective scientist, so treat your sister like you would any other liability.”

The lead scientist wasn’t listening to her anymore. Jessie knew this would happen. Ever since the leader of their colony, the First Colonist, had died while venturing out of their spaceship to find what she claimed was “the key to unlocking the secrets of the four moons”, the job of making hard decisions had fallen to her second-in-command: the lead scientist.

Who is totally unqualified, if you ask me. But of course no one does because they always think they know best. Like the First Colonist. She went out onto the surface of an unknown planet to investigate the claims of a cryptic transmission we received from an unknown source. When there’s that many iffy factors, maybe you should consult your lead scientist before rushing off to satisfy a hunch.

She glanced at the sweaty man still directing their healthy colonists to bring the wounded to the safety of their spaceship. If only the First Colonist hadn’t demoted and replaced me with that guy. He doesn’t have the guts to do what’s necessary, and now we’re all stuck with him.

Jessie started to jog back to the spaceship, a massive ball-shaped contraption designed to survive wormhole travel. It was currently parked in the middle of a swampy plain, with occasional trees poking out of the annoyingly long grass that kept tickling her ankles.

We can’t even message Earth for more reinforcements because, well, it would take too long. We’re lightyears away, and we can’t open up wormholes to send a message through. The only reason our spaceship even managed to get here was because we found a wormhole relatively close to both Earth and this planet.

Behind her, the lead scientist was starting to panic. Jessie could tell because he was jumping up and down, yelling at the colonists to evacuate faster. Right now, the Moon of Oblivion was still rotating through the sky, but it was the only moon that posed no danger to them. Jessie wished the other colonists would listen to her. They claimed to care about each other, but if they really wanted to live, they wouldn’t depend on “there’s a chance we could save everyone” so much. When you looked at things that way, Jessie was the only one who truly cared.

Then the Deep Moon rose with the depth of a hundred oceans. Dark blue, almost tangible light suddenly filled the world in waves, reflecting off the swampy ground and making Jessie dizzy.

“Leave them!” Jessie shouted, glancing back before sprinting toward the ramp leading up to the spaceship’s entrance. She cursed. The lead scientist had stopped to help his sister, who was now hobbling on one, trembling leg. The four moons were not the only dangers of this planet. There were spindly creatures that clawed their way to the surface under the light of the Moon of Oblivion, which seemed to pose no threat to anything, making it the only time those monsters could hunt.

“Help me!” the lead scientist shouted back, gesturing to his sister with the fervor of someone deeply committed to a cause. There was no changing his mind.

Jessie bit at her nails, cursing the man more times than there were stars, then dashed to his sister, letting her put an arm around Jessie’s shoulder. She couldn’t let the lead scientist die. He was smart, if not in a practical way, and he had the best chance of locating whatever “secret” the cryptic transmission had wanted them to find.

The man had gone with the First Colonist to explore the planet, and he was the only one who’d made it back alive. Jessie needed to keep him that way.

“The wave,” the man’s sister whispered. “Behind you.”

Jessie turned her head to look and almost tripped over a rock in her haste to get away. The Deep Moon’s gravity churned the soggy but loose dirt of the planet’s swampy lands, and when it passed overhead, it would turn the ground at their feet into a sea of mud, dead trees, and grass, burying all three of them forever beneath its suffocating light.

“Don’t lift the ramp,” she muttered under her breath, knowing they would have to do so before the Deep Moon shone upon them. “Please don’t lift the ramp.”

Jessie started to drag the lead scientist’s sister through the mire grasping at their boots, ignoring her cry of pain. At least her brother didn’t say a word. He nodded at her, and Jessie was surprised to see real respect. What a sentimental man. I’m only doing this because I need him alive.

Still, she had to admit, it does feel good to be recognized.

They stumbled up the ramp, the lead scientist laughing a little crazily in triumph as the sliding entrance closed up behind them with a metallic clang and the ramp folded up into the spaceship.

But not as good as knowing I have a chance at figuring out the mysterious message’s meaning.

Jessie smiled at the Grass Moon, its pulsing, crocodile-colored light beginning to undo the damage the Deep Moon did. The view wasn’t as spectacular from behind a window, but the best view in the world wouldn’t make her step outside while the Grass Moon looked down on her. Its power regrew the trees and grass that covered the swampy plain, but anyone who was struck by its radiation would grow tumors and die at spectacular rates.

Jessie sighed and got back to work as the others celebrated their miraculous survival. She knew there was no time to waste, even if she did want to join in their back-patting and altogether too-jolly attitude.

If you really think about it, she pondered as she went to bug the lead scientist about the contents of the cryptic transmission, I’m the only who cares.

To Be Continued…

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