Playing Rummy in the Shadow #shortstory

Playing Rummy in the Shadow

 By: Eric Darrel Johnson


Dilanio 24:04: New Australia has to have been one of the worst ideas in colonial history.  They sent us here ill prepared for what was waiting.  By the time we arrived the engineers had already seeded the moon and it had developed a good bit of oxygen and a layer of soil.  How the plants grow here though, I have no idea.


Through some random or maybe psychological profile reason, the council selected me as one of the waiters through this Shadow.  Not something I want.  I have heard of waiters going crazy and killing themselves or other waiters.  Another outpost reported a waiter unplugging the sleepers, or at least that is what I heard.  I do not want to be a waiter.  The Shadow scares me.


Dilanio 25:04: Our moon spins around one time every 22 hours.  Our days though are rather capricious though.  In mid cycle, we have day light all day long, half of the day from the sun, the other half from that monster Raskolnik.  When we are off to the sides of the gas giant, the light from the planet makes for either earlier mornings or later evenings.  Then there is the Shadow.  I have slept through the Shadow the last three cycles.  The colony though does not have enough sleeping pods though for everyone to sleep every year, so some people have to wait it out.  In the Shadow, Raskolnik faces towards the sun and casts a shadow onto New Australia.  The planet is so large that it takes nearly a twelfth of the cycle to pass through.  In that time, we don’t get light from the planet or from the sun.  It would not be so bad except that it takes us 1282 days to complete a cycle.  That means about 106 days of darkness.  Raskolnik is already in crescent.  I do not want to be a waiter.


Dilanio 27:04: I tried to appeal on grounds of mental instability today.  The council laughed at me.  Laughed!  They said they could not appeal being a waiter on the grounds of being afraid of the dark.  It is only three days till the darkening.  They have already started taking the first sleepers and getting them prepped.  The first time I slept, on the trip here from prison, I hated the idea of sleeping for such a long period of time.  The smell of the sulfur dioxide had me trying to claw my way out of the pod.  My body, being inert was an unreal thought.  Essentially, I was dead between the prison and New Australia, dead for one hundred and twenty years.  Except for those others from the prison that came with me, everyone I ever knew is dead.  However, they woke me up.  They made me alive again.  I know now it is safe to sleep.  However, I have heard stories of what happens in the Shadow.  The Shadow scares me.


Umbra 1:04: The shadow comes.  Rask has but a slice left.  I can see the sun peeking out from the edge.  It is a strange sight.  At the prison, we hardly saw the sun, coming to New Australia gave me a respect for the sun, and I learned to relish its presence.  I feel like I am saying goodbye to a good friend who is going on a long vacation.


Umbra 3:04:  The corona flare would have been the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, were it not for the sudden darkness after.  I was in solitary a couple of times in prison.  When it is lights out in there, it was lights out.  You could not see the hand in front of your face.  It was nearly that dark.  We even cut off a lot of the settlement power because the solar and wind energy is not usable during the Shadow.  They tell me the temperature is not going to drop much because of the tidal sheer from Raskolnik.  I am not sure if that is true, but I know I felt a chill through my core when the sun’s sabbatical began.


Umbra 5:04:  I think I am coping fairly well.  Power consumption is severely limited, so entertainment options are limited.  I spent a bit of yesterday with Miguel playing rummy.  It sounds weird to call it yesterday because all the days, or rather nights, all run together.  I have not slept much since the third.  Maybe I will sleep better tonight.


Umbra 7:04: Miguel and I got in an argument today during the rummy game.  On the other hand, should I say at the conclusion of the game?  I was up by 200, and he decided to get up and leave.  He said he had to go meet with Monika.  I told him he needed to finish the game or next time don’t start something he cannot finish.  I miss the sun.  When I walk outside, it is black out.  I can see very faint lights from the buildings.  The temperature has dropped about 10 degrees from the loss of the sun.  The only way I know if it is night or day is by searching for the hole.  During the day, the sky has a huge black hole where there are no stars.  No stars, no sun, just black.


Umbra 8:04: Damn Miguel!  I told him I forgave him, but he still does not want to play anymore.  What do I do for entertainment now?


Umbra 9:04:  Bored in the Shadow dark, everyone now is sleeping, I am seeking light.  I have played so many games of solitaire.  When I close my eyes, I see spades and hearts fighting in a battle to be on top.  It has reduced me to haiku poetry.  I hate the dark.


Umbra 11:04:  Miguel and Monika got in a fight today, best game of cards I have had all week.  I hope they keep arguing so Miguel will be able to play everyday.


Umbra 13:04:  Who does she think she is?  Monika thought she could come in and play rummy with us today.  Miguel was even going to let her.  “What about how she treated you?”  I reminded him, but he persisted.  I had to quit before I got too upset.  Maybe I will go by the rec-center and see who is hanging out there.


Umbra 14:04: Today I met Gregg.  He is from a neighboring colony, but got trapped here when the Shadow hit.  Energy conservation meant he either had to walk home or stay here.  He has been living in the rec-center since then.  He does not know how to play rummy.  I think I will teach him.  He talks about Gloria from the other colony a lot.  The hole in the sky is scary.  I hate the Shadow.


Umbra 19:04:  Gregg is pretty good with the cards.  Maybe he was lying about not knowing rummy.  He will not shut up about Gloria though.  The sun is out there, behind this behemoth hole, I must have it back.  Stupid haikus.


Umbra 21:04:  So today Miguel shows up at the rec-center, trying to find out where I have been.  Gregg, Miguel, and I get into a good round of three-handed rummy.  Maybe Monika could have joined us the other day.  But then they were all kissy kissy.  I could not stand it.  Maybe I need a woman.  What I need is the sun back.


Umbra 25:04: I thought we had a good thing going.  Gregg though says he is tired of rummy.  Miguel just had to agree with him.  What am I supposed to play if they don’t want to play rummy?  Gregg offered to tech us dominoes, but I never was good enough at math for dominoes.  They were both beating me very badly.  Then they started making fun of me by asking stupid questions like, “What’s four plus six?”  The kitchen ran out of tomatoes today.  They don’t keep long in the Shadow and they cannot grow more.  They still have some canned tomatoes, but it’s just not the same.


Umbra 26:04:  As if to rub my nose in it, Monika showed up today.  The three of them played dominoes all day.  No one wanted to play rummy.  I went for a walk, or rather tried to.  That dark hole was staring down upon me.  I feel like the sky is going to fall down upon my head at any time.  Where is the sun?


Pullus 02:04:  The rec-center was exciting today.  Monika and Miguel really got into it.  I think the Shadow is getting to them as well.  They were fighting tooth and nail all day.  No could get any card playing done, we were all watching them.  Miguel stormed out.  Monika ended up hanging out with Gregg all evening.


Pullus 03:04:  Gregg was not at the rec-center this morning.  I went to Miguel’s but he did not feel like playing rummy.  Damn Monika is messing up my life even when she is not around.  Had a strange experience today while out walking under the hole; I felt a slight breeze.  I had not realized how stagnant the air was till I felt it moving again.  It almost made up for the hole, but it didn’t.


Pullus 04:04:  Gregg is back, but now he has Monika in tow.  We tried to play some Rummy, but Miguel showed up and caused a real scene.  I just wanted to pass the time with some cards.  I had to take a walk instead.  I ended up watching the tides.  It is quite amazing to me how much the level of water changes in the reservoir in just a few hours.  It is like a small desert oasis suddenly becoming a sea.  There is a breeze again today.


Pullus 06:04:  Kitchen duty this week.  No time to play cards.


Pullus 08:04:  Got to the rec-center on my break.  Gregg and Monika don’t hang out there anymore.  Found out Gregg is staying with Monika.  I tried to go by Monika’s to play some cards, but no one would answer the door.  Back to work.


Pullus 10:04:  Chicken today.  Where in the damn Shadow are they raising chickens?  It was a bit of a delicacy having chicken again.  I hear they brought it in from another colony.  It was slightly windy today.  I asked about it.  This guy Franco, who has always been a waiter, said it happens mid shadow that the winds kick up.  He said if it gets strong enough, they will turn the lights back on.  I hope so.  I mean we have lights, but they run them at such a low-level most of the time.


Pullus 12:04: Free from that kitchen finally!  Went out to see if the hole was still there, it is.  The wind has really gathered strength.  I saw the windmill turbines turning.


Pullus 13:04: I thought the sun had returned.  They turned on the outside lights.  The whole place is lit today.  I am feeling pretty good.  Gregg and Monika are still MIA.  I was able to convince Miguel to play some rummy today.  He is pretty bitter over Monika though.  Gees man!  Get over her.  Let’s play some cards.


Pullus 14:04:  Damn electricity!  Now they are going to make us work since they have the power to run the machines.  It does make the time pass faster, but I mean what about the sleepers?  Why not wake them up to work too?  I wish the sun would just come back.


Pullus 15:04:  We are building turbines on the machines.  I talked to one of the directors and found out we are making underwater generators.  Essentially, the tidewaters moving through the channels and turning the generator paddles will power the generators.  They are trying to eliminate the need for sleeping.  I cannot imagine having to look at that hole every cycle though.


Pullus 17:04:  Having the wind is great!  I don’t mind the work.  The lights on the buildings are bright enough to make most of the stars invisible.  I cannot make out where the hole is.  After work, I got to play some good cards with Miguel.


Pullus 24:04:  Been playing a lot of cards after work.  Occasionally I will see Greg and Monika, but they are keeping to themselves.  I almost feel bad for Miguel, but at least he can concentrate on the cards now.
Scando 3:04:  Winds are dying down.  They are talking about turning out the lights again in a week, sooner if they have to.  I hate the dark.  I might go out there and blow on the turbines myself.  I spent an hour staring at the reservoir.  If we had the tide generators setup by now, they could leave the lights on.  We all played cards together: myself, Miguel, Monika and Gregg.  Must be the lights, because we got along just fine.  Monika even teased Miguel a little and he did not get upset.


Scando 4:04:  Winds died abruptly today, so did the lights.  The hole is back.


Scando 4:04:  Gregg is back at the rec-center.  He seemed a bit distracted and I kept beating him at rummy.  That was not normal.


Scando 5:04:  I saw Miguel today.  Guess who he was with?  He had Monika on his arm again.  No wonder Gregg was so distracted yesterday.  I wanted to play cards, but no one was in the mood.  I tried to play solitaire.  I actually won at a game of solitaire, sort of anyway.  Guess what I found though?  I found that after finishing the solitaire hand, I still had three cards left over.  Someone has been cheating!


Scando 6:04:  Miguel met me at the rec-center and invited me back to his place for rummy.  Gregg and Monika seemed to be elsewhere, so I went.  We had several good games.  The hole stared down at me on my way home.  I miss the lights that kept me from seeing the hole.  I miss the work even, it kept me busy.


Scando 9:04: I am starting to worry about Gregg, he has not been at the rec-center.  Miguel has been around though, and he has at least stopped talking about Monika all the time.  I have not seen Monika either.


Scando 11:04:  Into the Umbra, gas giant conquers the sky, how I miss the sun.  The darkness is really getting to me.  I did not go out today.  I am getting tired of Miguel.  Worse than talking about Monika, he has taken to talking about how the Shadow makes people go crazy and do crazy things.  Maybe he needs to learn how to do haiku.


Scando 13:04:  They came and knocked on my door today.  Monika is missing.  Enough people complained that they had not seen her.  The authorities opened up her home and searched inside.  There was food on the table for two people that they estimate had sat there for four days.  They also are not sure where Gregg is; they think he may have taken her to his colony or something.  But that would be a long walk.  They are waiting to hear back from authorities there.  Miguel and I had some great hands of rummy today.


Scando 17:04:  Dark black hole is eating my mind.  Miguel and I got into several arguments today over nothing.  I hate this Shadow.  Miguel seems pretty calm and cool about it, but every so often he gets weird.  It’s not anything I can exactly put my finger on though.  Sometimes it’s his tone of voice, the look in his eye, or how he picks up the entire discard pile.  He didn’t used to do that.  Maybe he learned it from Monika.  They still have not found Monika, Gregg either for that matter.  No word from the other colony.  Communications are slow during the Shadow.  They are probably holed up somewhere together hiding from everyone and having some alone time.


Scando 20:04: Sometimes I really hate Miguel.  And I don’t think this is just the Shadow talking either.  He did not want to play anything.  He was just sulked and moped around his place.  I was even willing to play dominoes.  Oh well, I may have to hang out at the rec-center again and see if I can find anyone else that plays rummy.


Scando 24:04:  Miguel and I played some good games of rummy today.  I don’t know what was wrong with him the other day, but today he seemed fine.  Maybe the Shadow is getting to him.  I try not to even look up any more when I go outside.  I know that hole is there and mocking me.  Maybe Gregg and Monika are hiding in the hole?


Antediluculo 2:05: Happy New Year.  I got so smashed on New Years Eve that I passed out for two days.  I still feel hung over.  I looked though, that damn hole followed us into the New Year.  I think I met a girl on that night.  I seem to remember one.  Man, I cannot remember.  Wait, yeah, it was Helen or Heidi or something like that.  Not too many H names out there.  She is a local resident, just does not get out much.  I will have to dig around and see if she gave me her address.


Antediluculo 4:05:  Whoever named this month is a masochist.  I remember something about it being based on an ancient dead language.  With spellings like this, I can see why the language died.  It is now in the darkest period of the Shadow.  They say it is always darkest before the dawn.  I am not sure who ‘they’ is, but they have it right in this case.  The authorities came around again asking about Monika.  Neither Monika nor Gregg have been seen in the other colony.  I met up with Hailee.  That was her name, Hailee.  I knew it was something with an H.  Turns out she is a good rummy player too.  She only beats me about half the time though, so we are pretty well matched.


Antediluculo 6:05:  Penumbra is going to happen soon they say.  At least the hole will go away, but it will still be darker than usual.  I cannot wait.  Hailee and I have started playing rummy with Miguel.  It is all going very well and we get along.


Antediluculo 10:05:  I woke this morning and it was a dark grey outside.  This is much better than a pitch black.  I looked at the hole.  There is a border to it now, a gray line coming around one edge.  I have not been happier than when I am with Hailee.  She has the same interests.  The other night we watched nearly all the water run out of the reservoir during the tide change.  We stayed up together that night and waited for the hole to rise.  Then I went back to her place and spent the day with her.


Antediluculo 14:05:  Strange thing happened to us today, we were over at Miguel’s playing cards and the authorities showed up.  We had to wait for an hour while Miguel was outside talking to them.  We could occasionally hear shouting.  When Miguel returned, he picked up his hand and continued like nothing had happened.  He even seemed a little cheerful after the ordeal.


Antediluculo 16:05:  I can see the crescent of Raskolnik.  That is the first time in a while I have considered it a planet and not a hole in the sky.  Could not find Miguel today.  Authorities seem to be looking for him too.  Hailee and I end up going out again.  This time we stayed up to watch the crescent rise.  It is almost daylight bright outside now.


Antediluculo 18:05:  It is nearly bright outside.  Today we had chores to do.  We made a mess of the outdoors.  In the dark, if something hit the ground, it stayed there unless it was important to find right that instant.  Now in the light, we could see waste debris piled up anywhere there was a windbreak.  Everyone teamed up with a couple of other people and gathered the garbage.  We did not want this place to look bad when the sleepers got back.


Antediluculo 21:05:  The sun burst free of the Raskolnik.  A great corona flare appeared to spring out from the edge of the planet just before the sun emerged.  Everyone was outside waiting for it.  There was loud applause.  The sleepers are supposed to start returning tomorrow.


Antediluculo 23:05:  We were at Miguel’s playing cards when it happened.  The place was stormed by the authorities.  At first we were held against the floor along side Miguel, but once we were frisked, we were sent outside.  They forced us to stand behind some line in the soil to keep from interfering.  After about an hour, they came out, Miguel restrained with handcuffs.  He was smiling like some idiot and he even waved at us from behind his back as he went by.   There was still activity in the house so we waited.  A little bit later, they removed a large object, draped in a sheet from the house.  It looked like a large chest or freezer.  If Miguel had a freezer, he must have kept it in the basement because I never saw it.  We hung around a bit longer and eventually one of the Authorities stood in front of the group and informed us what was going on.  They had located Monika and Gregg.  They were in a freezer in Miguel’s place.  In his freezer!  We had been playing rummy all that time with a couple of dead bodies just below in the freezer section.  They are calling it a crime of passion, but I think I know what happened.  I think that the Shadow got to Miguel.

2 thoughts on “Playing Rummy in the Shadow #shortstory

    • I have a little bit of a collection of Space Colony short stories. Not quite enough for a book right now. I would like to do that at some point. Space stories are a lot of fun for me.

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