Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 18: “Memory Vault” • by Gustavo Bondoni

INTRO: Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people have come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and peculiar things have begun to happen, and it all started about six weeks weeks ago, in a bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t just warp the fabric of space/time, he completely bent it…

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten | Part Eleven | Part Twelve | Part Thirteen | Part Fourteen | Part Fifteen | Part Sixteen | Part Seventeen

18. “Memory Vault”

by Gustavo Bondoni

“Any questions?” Raisa Popov asked as she turned off the auto-drill. They stood in a mine shaft deep below the surface of Odin III, an important excavation site operated by the Galactic Mining company light-years from Earth.

“None. I can handle one of these,” Jonas Gruber replied, stepping eagerly towards the machine. “It’s not so different from the equipment on a star freighter.”

“Good. We’ll work you up to these over the next few months, then,” she said. Her arm barred his way.

“I’d rather start now.”

Popov sighed, and Jonas didn’t see the foreman who made others tremble, but a woman with much too much on her plate. “Yeah. You and every other gopher in this mine. I’ve heard it all. The pay’s better when you work a drill. It’s more fun than loading the carts… You’ll wait your turn like the rest.”

“My brother…”

“Your brother loaded ore for a year before he even saw a drill. The only reason you’re here is that he has a knack for finding nodes of sylicenium for the processing plant to ship out. We’re hoping you’ll take after him.”

“He takes after me. I’m older. Time dilation on the interstellar runs just makes me look younger.” Jonas was tired of explaining that, even though he was in his twenties, he’d been born before his thirty-odd-year-old brother. He also refrained from saying that he didn’t just want a job, but wanted to fit in: everyone he knew was a senior miner by now.

“If you can find the ore, I don’t care if you’re his grandfather.” Popov walked off, heading deeper into the mines where the early-morning shift had, half an hour before, replaced Jonas’ graveyard shift.

Jonas checked his watch. If he hurried, he could catch second sunup.

Instead of heading out through the main exit, he took a connector tunnel that ran between the current shaft and a shallower, spent mine. That mine’s exit was his favorite place to watch the rise of Odin’s second sun, though it was technically forbidden to exit out of any but the main mine entrances at night, on account of dangerous predators.

As he walked, he pulled a bag from his pocket, extracted a mushroom, and tore off a tiny chunk, hopefully small enough to avoid addiction. He wanted to relax, allow himself to ease back into life on Odin III, but he didn’t want his mind eaten away.

The big, empty mine was well-lit and routinely patrolled to keep it clear of wildlife.

Movement flickered in the corner of his eye. Was this one of the mushroom hallucinations he’d heard about?

He looked towards it, but saw nothing but an empty tunnel, the rock drilled into organic shapes.

Jonas resumed his walk, and again something flickered in his vision. This time, he didn’t turn his head, but stared straight ahead and tried to see if he could make out what he was seeing out of the corner of his eye.

Men in orange, full-body suits flickered in and out of his sight. They appeared to be pulling something from the ground and stuffing it in sacks.

It took all of Jonas’ discipline not to turn his head to look. He knew the men would disappear. He had to piece the hallucination together from what his peripheral vision allowed.

It came together and he realized the men were harvesting mushrooms. The same kind he had in his bag.

They were filling sacks marked with the Galactic logo.

Jonas walked on. This wasn’t an interesting vision after all. He already knew Galactic Mining wasn’t bagging mushrooms in this mine, even if they were plentiful. He’d been all over the complex, learning every production process. No mushroom packing at all.

But… he distinctly remembered buying Galactic-produced mushrooms on his travels. They were everywhere, the bag and logo synonymous with the drug in the rest of the galaxy.


Jonas watched the sunrise, remembering many things at once.

Every single one of those things seemed real. And yet every memory seemed to contradict every other memory.


Weber’s Place was as empty as it was before he left. The big difference was that the bar was now owned by Ingrid, the founder’s daughter. Apart from her and that constantly snoozing cat of hers, only Father Luigi and the woman from the comm station were there. He knew that she and Father Luigi had a thing.

He shook his head. Luigi—the town screwup—was the last person he’d expected to become a priest.

He sat at a stool in front of the bar and said: “Beer.”

“What kind?” Ingrid replied. She didn’t stop wiping a glass with a cloth.

“Cheapest you have. Maybe when I get on a drill I can buy something better.”

She passed a bottle across the bar. “How are you settling in?”

“As well as can be expected. Except…” Jonas said. He stopped speaking and drank a sip of the beer.

“Except what?”

“Except I don’t exactly know which Odin III I’m trying to fit in to. Is it the one that sells sylicenium? The one that runs the mushroom business in this sector? The one that I saw destroyed by an asteroid on the news when I was doing the Crystallia run? Or the one that rebelled against Galactic and set itself up as refugee colony?”

She shrugged. “We didn’t do any of that. Well, except for the sylicenium thing.”

“And yet I remember all of it,” Jonas replied.

That earned him a raised eyebrow. “Have you been on the mushrooms?”

“Not much.” He pulled out the bag. “Look.”

Ingrid turned pale.

Luigi walked over to check on Ingrid. His eyes fell on the bag with the unmistakable logo on it. “I didn’t know Galactic sold mushrooms,” he said genially.

“They don’t,” Ingrid replied. “I talk to everyone. They don’t.”

“I agree,” Jonas said. “I’ve been down in the mines for days. There are plenty of mushrooms, but we aren’t bagging them. I would have seen it.”

“So what’s that? A practical joke?” the priest asked.

“No. That’s what mushroom bags look like… out there, among the stars. I remember buying them. But I also remember what I saw in the mine. We’re not mining mushrooms.”

Behind Ingrid, looking over her shoulder, a man appeared: Ingrid’s father Frank.

Jonas shook his head. “You’re dead,” he told the apparition.

The man looked straight at him. “Where I come from, you never made it back. Freighter accident returning from Crystallia. No survivors. So, you’re dead, too.”

Jonas couldn’t take it anymore. Abandoning his beer, he went back out into the street, hoping to clear his head. A number of vehicles drove by, around him and even through each other. He didn’t even bother to try to figure out which were actually present in his own reality and walked across the street.


Ingrid had followed him out of the bar.


She seemed concerned. “You need to lay off the mushrooms. Really.”

“I left the bag inside,” he said. “Keep it to show the people who don’t believe me. I really don’t want any more of these visions. Even if they’re real. Maybe especially if they’re real.”

“They’re not real,” Ingrid said. “Where are you going?”

“For a walk.”

“Be back before sundown. And don’t do anything stupid.”

“All right,” he said turning away again.

She grabbed his arm. “Promise me.”


“Promise me you won’t do anything stupid. Promise me you will come back to my bar before the sun goes down. We’ve already lost people to the mushrooms. Some of them were good people.”

“I left my mushrooms in the bar.”

“Promise me.”

He sighed. “All right. I promise.” He made to leave again but stopped and turned back to her. “And between us, I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t the mushrooms.”

Then he walked off.


Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Test Site Horror (2020). He has also published two other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019) and Jungle Lab Terror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
His website is at

In the meantime, stay tuned for Part 19 of The Odin Chronicles, “The One Who Walks Out,” by Carol Scheina, coming on Friday.



stupefy (ˈstü-pə-ˌfī) to stun, astonish, or astound


Interface with Stupefying Stories!