The Cold Dark
John Biggs presents a vignette from the world of Mytro, his new young-adult novel about a secret train system that can take you anywhere in the world. [5m read time]
411 arrived at the small Rambla station just as the men were beginning to realize they were trapped. The taller of the two pushed at the door and found that it gave slightly. He pushed again, and suddenly he was whisked through to the other side. The Mytro had let him escape.
The other man rattled the door and rattled it again. Each time he opened the door, the wind from the tunnels slammed the door shut, trapping him. He tried to push a shoulder through, to chock the door with his foot, but he could not. It would open just a crack and then shut again. The Mytro was having its fun.
Slowly, the man realized he wasn’t alone. He looked up at the Nayzun, now coming down from the ceiling of the tunnel like a spider climbing down a wall. 411 had nothing to say to him.
The hired man turned white and stank of fear.
A train pulled into the small station and stopped with a screech. A ribbon of dust, disturbed by the wheels, puffed up at the Nayzun’s feet. 411 stood by the door and gestured toward the train with his long fingers.
This is your train, the Nayzun said. The hired man stepped back. The Nayzun had a voice like a clattering on a set of distant tracks, the howl of a whistle through a tunnel, a distant crash. The man shook his head—No!—and the Nayzun was impassive. He stood before the human and gestured toward the train.
You can board the train and it will take you home, said 411. You will never ride this train again. Or you can stay here and fight.
411 had an inkling that the man would make the wrong choice. The Mytro seemed to know his mind better than the human did. All the humans ever wanted to do was fight. The train bell dinged and the doors closed.
The hired man pulled his pistol from his shoulder holster and aimed. The human fired, and the bullet thunked into the side of the departing train, splintering some of the wooden molding. He fired again, and the Nayzun was on the ceiling, his hands clinging to the surface of the tunnel using an energy that crackled like electricity and filled the room with the scent of ozone.
The Mytro did not take long to respond to this affront. 411 could hear the rails, steel wires in the dark, howling in anger. The darkness from both ends of the tunnel poured into the small station and began to roll over the trackbed and then up onto the platform. The man watched in horror as the darkness spread, covering the floor, crawling up the walls, inch by inch. The darkness flowed like water and began to lap at his shoes. The Mytro was angry and 411 heard it scream like bridge wires snapping in high winds or the sound of a dozen animals caught in a wire cage.
411 came down to be close to the man as he died. He screamed as the Nayzun grasped his wrist. The pain was clearly unbearable, and anger and fear froze on his face.
“Stop!” he yelled.
The woman, the girl’s mother. Where?
“Manduria, Italy. The refugee camp. She’s not hurt.” The Nayzun nodded sadly. So you are trying it as well? “What? Trying what?”
Theft, said the Nayzun. Slavery.
411 let go of the man’s wrist, and he crumbled onto the platform. His wrist was red but not injured. The darkness rose high enough to engulf the man. It rose over his head until he slowly disappeared into the darkness, his body covered inch by inch in a black flood. He had seemed passive during the experience, but perhaps fear shut his mouth and eyes. The darkness began to recede.
The Nayzun climbed along the ceiling and onto the top of an arriving train. The train’s wheels sloshed through the darkness like a streetcar through a puddle. The darkness oozed off the front and sides of the train, leaving no residue. When the flood had receded, the man was gone.
In a way, 411 pitied the man, in the way a cat pities a mouse being devoured by a tiger. It was, in short, an unfair fight. The hired man never knew what was coming.
But 411 knew the simple rule: Everyone who took the Mytro by force or destroyed its foundations was punished. Of that 411 was certain.
Mytro is available now
Cassandra Khaw’s shockingly good 3-page short story Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end takes a genre and an archetype and distills from them a perfect moment that embodies and exceeds both. Uncanny Magazine: That they dragged us back, bound in brambles and bronze, that they made us choose between […]
Fantasy and science fiction author and political activist Steven Brust (previously) was this year's Guest of Honor at Philcon, an excellent Philadelphia-area science fiction (I have also had the privilege to be Philcon's GoH, and it's a great con); his guest of honor speech is entitled Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as […]
In 1918, there was plenty of speculation about 2018; in 2018, no one is talking about 2118. Bruce Sterling discusses the relationship of industrial design to science fiction; the New Aesthetic and Turinese architecture; and many other subjects with Benjamin Bratton. (via Beyond the Beyond)
With the quick-fix appeal of video games and their own cell phones, it can be tough to keep kids focused on supposedly “educational” toys. And while it may seem counter-intuitive to fight tech with more tech, we’re all in when it comes to the Toybox 3D Printer. We’re not sure if anyone had envisioned a […]
Whether you’re an artist, designer or just organizing a photo album, photo editing software is a must. And software designers know it: Platforms like Photoshop and Lightroom have a ton of helpful features, but you’ll pay for them in spades. Luckily, there’s some competition in the photo editing arena. Right now, Skylum’s Luminar software is […]
Who needs a holiday sale? Sometimes there’s no better time than the thick of summer to find deals. We should know – we’ve found ten deep discounts on some must-have items. Whether you’re searching for CBD edibles, exercise gear, chargers or other tech, take a look. But don’t look long – these prices aren’t likely […]