Short Story: Feeding the Muse

"Some days, Simon, I really loathe you," Mariel said, with just a hint of genuine venom.

She dropped the Writers Digest on the table, its cover and front pages folded back to reveal a page mostly consumed by a photo of Simon at his writing desk. The image was full of deep shadows, moody, and deliberately included the dark, heavy bookshelves that surrounded him, their worn hardwood planks supporting hundreds of hardback classics, sheaves of loose papers, and the occasional occult or funerary artifact - a human skull here, a hand of glory there. Block letters above it pronounced Simon to be the "Modern Master of Horror and the Macabre."

Simon sipped his espresso double-shot latte and produced a wry smile. "It's not my fault if you can't keep up."

She twisted her mouth into a sarcastic kiss and pretended to fix her lipstick with her middle finger.

"Some of us just refuse to sell our artistic integrity on the open market," she said.


From the Files of Dake Antilles, P.I.: Star Killer, Prologue

It's funny how sitting in a dive bar gets me thinking about my pops. The smell of stale smokes and cheap liquor always brings him to mind.

I blame Luke Skywalker for that.

Luke Skywalker. Hero of the Rebellion. Destroyer of the Death Star. Bane of the Emperor. Savior of the Republic. Last of the Jedi Knights. Yada, yada, yada... I've heard it all before. How one man single-handedly ended the tyranny of the mad Emperor Palpatine.

Yeah, right. What a steaming load of pudu.

Let me tell you about Luke Skywalker: he was a lucky punk. Would have never been anything more than a pimple of the ass of the galaxy if it hadn't been for my family.

And who am I? My name's Antilles. Dake Antilles.

"Who?" you ask?

Of course you do. No one ever remembers the name Antilles. Skywalker, he's a legend. And the names of his buddies - Solo, Organa, and the rest? Legends. But not Antilles.

What you don't know is that without my grandfather, who captained a Rebel blockade runner across seven star systems while being dogged by Imperial cruisers, Skywalker would still be herding moisture collectors on that pile of dirt, Tatooine.

And without my father, Skywalker'd be a cloud of x-wing wreckage orbiting the still-rampaging Death Star 1. Or a frozen, tauntaun-wrapped corpse-cicle on Hoth. Or a prisoner on the now-rampaging Death Star 2. Hell, my pops pulled Skywalker's bacon from the fire more times than my family can count.If it weren't for the Antilles family, there would be no Luke Skywalker, insert pompous title here. No end of the Empire. No legend for people to cling to, no new hope for the galaxy for people to believe in. But you never hear about that, do you?

Have you met my pops, Wedge Antilles?

No, seriously: have you? 'Cuz I haven't seen him since I was 11 - I have no idea where he is, or if he's even still alive. He went out one night for his nightly pack of vapor-sticks and bottle of Old Coruscant and never came back.

I guess I can't really blame him. After the Battle for Endor, things really went south for the old man. Without the Rebellion, he had nothing. No one cared how much of a part he played - as important as that of The Heroes of the Galaxy. Nope, old Wedge was forgotten like a bad one-night stand, and he took it hard.

After "Big E," as he used to call it, he drifted for a while, I guess, until he met my mom. She was working as a dancer in a seedy cantina in Mos Krappo, and that's where she met him; a shell of a man, running a puddle-jumper for food and fuel. They fell in love, or so I've been told, and soon after, I came along. But I don't think he ever got over being left out of the Skywalker legend.

As for mom, I don't know what she saw in him. But whatever it was, I'm glad she saw it. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here to tell you the facts.

Not that "here" is a great place to be: a dive bar on a dive planet. More specifically, the Lahmia Lounge in Port Lovell on the backwater industrial world of Mundus. No money to buy passage off this rock, and no prospects for work. And a bar tab that's starting to make the New Republic's deficit look like a drop in a bucket.

. . . . .