Chasing Black Unicorns
"One shadow came a little too close. It was a woman, but no hint of jasmine."
I’m at the bar on Titan earlier than usual. I needed to think. The crowd is thin, the drinks are thick like dragon’s milk, and the music replays the same chords over and over again. Del should be here by sunset, if he was still coming. I assume he would pretend that he knew nothing. I would pretend that I knew nothing, find Hathor and leave. I would need to find a place for Hathor and I; a suitable place for us to live in peace, beyond the scope of the Agency and AK…a place where Del could do no harm and would be too far from AK to get access. The sun hadn’t set, but the hall was near black. All I could see were shadowy figures. One shadow came a little too close. It was a woman, but no hint of jasmine.
“Hello stranger,” the familiar voice rang. I could recognize the ray of sunshine in this voice anywhere. It wasn’t Hathor but rather another woman whose path I’d crossed many times, many years ago. We weren’t lovers, but we were bound in that our jobs required galactic travel and for some reason we were always in the same dwellings. She was an entertainer, I was always in flight. It was nice to see a friendly, familiar face when the dark seas of the sky kept me from calling anywhere home. She went had many names. She was Catherine the Mighty, she was Tikiya the Great, she was Star, and she was Alchemy Winter. In fact, she had so many names; I didn’t know what to call her. She wore giant sun blockers and sported long red tresses. Only a true star could wear sunglasses in the blackest of places.
“Don’t say my name,” she said, lowering her voice. She didn’t have to worry, I didn’t know which was she was using. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m in town. I have a new gig,” she said, flipping her hair back from her slender face. “The place is amazing,” she added, dragging out the last word like an old world accordion. “No trackers, no Agency, no pirates. It’s the perfect getaway from the galaxy. And I have a boyfriend,” she added as she straighten her back and giggled. “A plain ole human boyfriend,” she said.
“Wow,” I said. “It’s a place where you can stay underground. No one asks any questions, either,” she added.
“How do you get in?” I asked.
“Getting in isn’t the problem,” she whispered. “Staying is another matter. It’s a place where people respond to precious metals and old fashioned humanity. You have enough of it, and you can do whatever you like,” she said. She lowered her voice again.
“It’s a land of eternal bliss,” she added.
“And the Agency doesn’t know about it?” I asked.
“They don’t have a clue,” she chimed.
“Is it a portal?” I asked.
“To call it a portal doesn’t do it justice,” she said, wiggling her shoulders to a beat that didn’t drop. “But it’s protected. And that’s what you need,” she said. “You’re in trouble, Dayo. Everyone seems to know it but you.”
“You’ve been talking to Del?” I asked.
“Del’s already there,” she said. “He came out there looking to cut deals, barter some treasure he claimed he found, but his ship disintegrated when he hit the atmosphere. He’s stuck. He can’t get to his riches and he can’t contact the Agency. The atmosphere is too dense for the signals to get out. Time feels eternal out there, so as far as he’s concerned he’s been there a hundred years.
“A hundred years?”
“Time get’s weird on that side of the galaxy. But he blabs so much and mentioned that he was scheduled to meet you here.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.
“I believe in the mystery of love,” she said, arching her back and lifting her chin before resuming a normal position. “So if true love is what you have, then this underground paradise is for you,” she said. “It’s a place where you can get away from it all.”
“It’s a bar,” she said. “You’ll love it. Great people, great drinks. They don’t serve the mud thick crap they serve this way. Lots of characters but everyone stays to themselves. It’s got everything you’ll ever want or need.” She slipped me a small sheet of paper.
“These are the coordinates,” she said. “Get there as fast as possible. Have your lady meet you there. And remember, if you see me again, you don’t know me,” she said before turning and dashing through the glut of shadows.
A world off the grid? Curiosity matched necessity at this point. Even my quiet farm on a distant moon was on the galactic map. I looked at the coordinates. If I left now, I could get there in no time. The Agency would be alerted, but I would be out of their reach by the time they were triggered to my absence. A big body with a glowing dark X marking his chest appeared beside me. Surley’s breath was heavy. I handed him the coordinates. He would deliver my message to Hathor and our fate in this mystical land that She spoke of would be sealed.
I hoped this place was all She said it was. My new day was dawning.