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Karl K. Gallagher is a systems engineer, currently performing data analysis for a major aerospace company. In the past he calculated trajectories for a commercial launch rocket start-up, operated satellites as a USAF officer, and selected orbits for government and commercial satellites. His novels Torchship and Torchship Pilot are working-class hard SF adventures, available on Amazon and Audible. Karl lives in Saginaw, TX with his family.
I didn't recognize the guy, but I let him in. He felt familiar; the name would come to me in a bit. Probably a historical reenactor. The height and beard made him a perfect fit for the Viking encampment.
The eye patch was overdoing it. But who am I to judge?
He accepted a beer--last of the Rahr--and settled into the easy chair before bringing up his business. "You said something at the party Saturday."
I looked down. "Oh. That. You're right, I was totally out of line. I shouldn't have said that to him."
"You didn't believe it?"
"It's not that I don't... look. Losing a child is horrible, it's the worst thing ever. But telling a guy in a wheelchair that he doesn't have it so bad, look at me, that's wrong. I was rude and selfish and I shouldn't have said it. No matter how much I had to drink."
"You meant it."
"Yeah." I downed a slug of my Shannon.
"I accept your bargain," said one-eye.
I looked at him. He'd taken a wood saw out from under the long leather coat and held it out to me handle first.
A pair of birds flew into the room and landed, one on each of his shoulders. Amazing given that all the windows were closed. They were crows. No, too big. Had to be ravens. They looked at me as if I was a doubtful meal.
Good thing I'd been hospitable.
I took the saw. Tested the edge with my left hand. Sharp for a saw. Not scalpel sharp, but then it had to go through the bones. "I'd probably pass out before finishing the first cut."
"I'll take care of that."
I laid the edge against my thigh, about a hand up from the knee. The first stroke was wimpy. Slashed a hole in my jeans while scratching my skin. Barely even drew blood. I put some muscle into the second cut. Damn it hurt. The third carved deeper, almost to the bone.
It hurt with hope.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

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