Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

art by Billy Sagulo

The Decent Thing

Dexter Fernandez is a former police officer, journalist, and DJ who now works in the communications department of a California state agency and also as the personal staff assistant to a pair of cats. Writing is his drug of choice.

Squirrel died in the snow.
I heard the shot and came running. I found him gurgling and clutching his throat. He'd been hit right in the throat, right above the breastplate of his armor. He was looking at me, pawing the dirty snow with his free hand, and I knew right then he was trying to scream. All that came out of his mouth was blood, bright red, gushing over his hand and his ridiculous bush mustache, what he called his 'flavor saver.' Spraying the dirty gray snow around him.
I saw all this in the space of a second. It was too long. I could've died right then and there, because there was a woman there, too. Civilian. Skinny and wild-eyed and wearing rags, holding the hand of a little blond-haired girl. In her other hand she had a revolver.
"Gun!" I yelled. Once upon a time I would have told her to put down the gun and get on the ground, but those days were gone. We'd learned. Now I brought up my rifle, centered the targeting laser on her chest, and double-tapped her. Blood and bits of flesh exploded out of her back. The kid jumped at the sound and suddenly was alone.
Chaos was erupting behind me. Yells for a medic. Feet running through the snow. But I didn't look back to see what was happening. I kept my eyes on the kid, on the dark, snow-covered town beyond. This could be the start of an attack.
But nothing moved out there. It stayed dead. Gray. Silent.
Orders were to avoid contact with civilians. That meant telling them to stay the hell away from us. It was the only real way to know who was on our side; assume that nobody was on our side. But it looked as if Squirrel, the family man from Tennessee, with that stupid mustache, had broken that rule.
I could see how it happened, just as clear as if I'd been there. Woman with a kid walks up, out of the dark. Squirrel would have been thinking of his wife and kids back home, and because of that he'd let them get too close when he should have warned them off. I'd had to yell at him about that before. He was too sentimental. Always helping people when it was all we could do to keep going, to keep fighting this damned war. I'd told him that it would bite him in the ass. Or the throat.
I didn't want to look at him. I could hear the medics working on him. They were the best, but I didn't think they were going to do any good this time. I didn't know how, but I knew. Squirrel was going to die. I didn't want to watch that.
So I walked up to the woman. The little girl didn't look up at me as I approached. The kid reminded me of a rag doll, wrapped in shreds of T-shirts and whatnot against the cold. Blond haired. Cute, though it was hard to tell how old she was under the dirt and the harsh angles hunger left on everyone these days. She could have been six, could have been ten. Impossible to know.
I squatted down next to the dead woman. She had the same hair as the kid. Same eyes, too. Light blue, staring without blinking up at the black sky, the light gone out of them, already going cold. Very probably the girl's mom.
Now mom was just dead. I picked up the revolver and popped open the cylinder. Two rounds fired. Two rounds left. Cheap piece of metal. The kind of gun you'd buy if you didn't know much about guns and wanted to save some money.
"Want to party, mister?"
I looked up. "What?"
Her face was expressionless. "Give me some food and I'll make you feel good," she said. There was nothing in her voice. No expression at all. Like she was a machine.
But her eyes... Those were the eyes of someone forced to choose between hungry and doing nasty, painful things, just for the right to stay alive. Someone who had to make that choice every single day.
In that instant I was twelve again, naked in Bill's bedroom, the knife in my hands, covered in his blood.
My throat hurt. Remembering what Bill had done. Had made me do.
I realized that it had gone quiet behind me.
I turned. They were standing around, almost as if for a portrait, with Squirrel laying still and silent in their midst. My boys and girls. My family. All with the hungry look the kid had, but with a difference.
All we had to do to stay alive was kill. We had it easy.
There would be work ahead. We would have to clean him up. Wipe that blood off that mustache. I didn't want that flavor to be saved. Then we would have to bag him up, if we could find the plastic, then find a place to bury him where no one would find his corpse and dig him up. It would be hard work.
And on top of that, I would have to take care of the kid. Damn you, Squirrel. Damn you for not getting it. Damn you for forcing me to do the decent thing.
"Kid," I said, "You got anyone who will look after you?"
She shook her head. "No." She kept looking down at the dead woman. She didn't show it, but I knew what she was feeling. Lost. There was no one left to look after her. I'd killed the only one who'd bothered. If you could call being used for a can of beans being looked after.
"It's okay," I said softly. "I'll look after you."
I brought up the revolver and pulled the trigger.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Author Comments

I've often felt that there is a fine line between good and evil. Sometimes, in the right circumstances, that line can cease to exist. That leaves us with this story, which was the result of a challenge I set for myself. Is this a case of a hero doing something bad? Or a bad man doing something good? That judgement I will leave for the reader.

- Dex Fernandez
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying The Decent Thing by Dex Fernandez.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.2 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):