Wednesday, October 4, 2023

“Shiny, Glinting, Silver” • by Andrew Rucker Jones


Tap, tap, tap went Ifor’s fingernail on the hull. He didn’t notice it as he peered out the porthole, but Sarah did, and she wasn’t paying for a metaphysical retreat in low Earth orbit only to have her swami or whatever he called himself stare out the window. She assumed lotus position.

“When do the spiritual fireworks start? I have nothing else to do, and I don’t sleep much.”

An energy folded lightly around Ifor as if he had invisible wings, and the sight of the sun gilding Earth’s edge like the curve of a silver dollar against raven black enthralled him. But his client had asked a question, so he would have to respond. “Ms. Harris, has Colwyn been here?”

Sarah wondered why these mystical types could never give straight answers. “Would have been, if he hadn’t fallen sick and sent his teacher instead. You are the better deal, aren’t you? Because so far, I’m not impressed.”

Trying to see beyond the edge of the porthole, Ifor bobbed in all directions. “Have other mystics been here?”

Sarah tapped her fingers too, but in conscious impatience. “I bought this roost off a Fortune 50 CEO after I stole his customers and got him sacked by his board of directors. I don’t have a guest list before that, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.”

Roost. Limb, Ifor thought, and wondered if Sarah felt it too, in her own stiff and blocked way.

He relinquished the captivating view and folded his own legs into lotus position, floating in the private space station. Sarah’s gray eyes caught the sunlight at their edges. “We must begin by cleansing this space.”

“I don’t brood over spiritually untidy spaces. Start with the bona fide meditation.”

“Ms. Harris, when we exited Earth’s atmosphere, powerful, greedy, black spirits flocked the shuttle, and they’ve trailed us here.”

Sarah grimaced. Ifor was a typical new employee: she had to keep them hooded and jessed like a falcon until they grasped how she did business. And if they didn’t grasp as quickly and powerfully as a falcon, she fired them. She would have to dock Colwyn’s pay for not briefing Ifor better. “This trip cost me more than you’ll make in your life. I expect the spiritual benefits to manifest themselves in dollars. My research suggests affirmations offer the best return on investment, so that’s what Colwyn has been teaching me this past month. That continues here and now.”

Tap, tap, tap went Ifor’s finger against his knee, but Sarah couldn’t hear that, so she closed her eyes and waited.

Perhaps if Ifor took a different tack.

“In order for your affirmations to nest in the universe, you must open yourself to the universe nesting in you.” While that was true, it was a circuitous approach to a simple technique. Ifor hoped to sensitize Sarah’s mind to the dark energy beating at them so she would agree to a cleansing. At the least, maybe she would feel ill and he could perform the cleansing on his own.

“I’m starting at ‘I am the top-earning CEO on or off the planet.’ Let me know when you catch up.”

Ifor closed his eyes, and he saw the space station as he had seen it from the shuttle. Glinting. Silver. So shiny. He felt a compulsion to touch it.

Rap, rap, rap went Sarah’s knuckles against the hull above her, and Ifor’s eyes fluttered open.

“Are you still here,” Sarah asked, “or did you like that affirmation so much that you’ve taken it for yourself, and I should bury you now before I have to on the open market?”

Ifor had slipped into the state of mind where he could see auras, and Sarah’s was as shadowy and indefinite as an ash plume. Except her eyes. They shone.

Clang, clang, clang came a pounding at the hull, and Sarah startled. Clang! clang! clang! sharp, without pause, and from all sides.

Ifor understood, and Sarah wouldn’t believe, so when she cocked an eyebrow at him, he shrugged and said, “Space debris?”

“Space debris doesn’t peck.”

So she does feel it, at least a little, he thought, or else why say “peck”?

Sarah knew nothing about space or engineering, but she was accustomed to fixing problems outside her ken, so she said, “I’m going out. Don’t press any buttons.”

He could see her in the airlock over the closed-circuit television, but his attention dwindled as the spirits flew into a frenzy of pecking that made his finger twitch. She slipped into the lower half of her spacesuit. Ifor’s finger slipped to a large, covered, red button on a panel. The button was so shiny. Sarah flipped the top half of her suit over her head and tethered it to a hook on the wall. Ifor wasn’t watching. He flipped the cover off the button. It had a metallic glint. Red, metallic paint. Sarah tapped her helmet’s visor to activate the heads-up display and pulled it on. Ifor tapped the button lightly.

Tap, tap, tap went Ifor’s fingernail on the metal. Then click as he pressed it.

The airlock burst open before Sarah could secure her helmet, and it flew off her head. Impossible wings and beaks swarmed around her, turning and diving in ways the vacuum of space wouldn’t allow. Sarah’s tether went taut and swung her around to collide with the porthole Ifor watched from. He counted fifteen seconds until she stopped thrashing and the crows could land on her. Her gray eyes froze into shiny globes that caught the glint of the sun as Sarah’s body floated at the end of its tether. The crows flocked her face and peck-peck-pecked at the two silver pieces in their sockets.

Ifor watched from the porthole, caught by the power of the greedy spirits. Tap, tap, tap went his fingernail against the glass.


Andrew Rucker Jones is a former IT dweeb and American expatriate living in Germany with his Georgian wife and their three children. His greatest literary achievement to date is authoring ninety-eight iCloud reminders for every household chore from cleaning sinks to checking smoke detectors. Learn more at

[~ed: Despite his modest self-description, Andrew has had about thirty stories published or accepted for publication so far, in Dark Matter Magazine, On Spec, and Tales from the Fiddler’s Green, among other places, “Shiny, Glinting, Silver” was first published in Illustrated Worlds.]