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Dan Kirshtein

Stars Gods Wolves

Book One: Carrion

First published by Stones & Cherries 2019

Copyright © 2019 by Dan Kirshtein

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise withoutwritten permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distributeit by any other means without permission.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it arethe work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localitiesis entirely coincidental.

First edition

ISBN: 978-1-7357432-2-6

Editing by Jenn Bailey

Proofreading by Nick Hodgson

Cover art by Ryan Schwarz

This book was professionally typeset on Reedsy

Find out more at reedsy.com

Special Thanks to Jack Murnighan & David Greenberg

1

Oh, come on. Do you know how often I get asked that?

Seriously.

Nobody actually cares what I believe. Nobody.

The kinds of people who ask me that are the people who doubt the existence themselves. They ask me because they figure I’m smart and that if I believe, then God must be real.

But truth be told, how could I know? How could anyone?

We used to think heaven was in the sky, but then we started living among the stars, so now where is it?

It’s fun to have religion, and sure it gives some people purpose. But it’s more practical—albeit more superficial—to believe in biology.

Biology is very similar to God, in that it creates, prunes, and encourages life. And it does this against impossible odds.

And, like God, biology has a way of suddenly changing its mind.

It finds the need to cull.

Interview with Dr. Martin Collier,

‘The J. Reed Pub-Cast’

October 1, 2298

Sabile: Former warm and cozy homeworld of the Heruleans, current icy apocalypseSomewhere between Research Station 2 and Research Station 4

He’d taken four hyper-planet transports, traveled 6,326 light-years from Earth to a planet with no living populace, and yet Mitch still found himself amid the usual bullshit. Being the only one without his actual doctorate, it was as if his finger were eternally tied to the short straw. ‘Lab Assistant’ was a generous term for what he did, which was basically any job the doctors didn’t want.

So when Research Station 4 went dark for two days and wasn’t responding to hails, he was volunteered to endure the razor-sharp winds and gray snow of Sabile. It was like an Earth winter, he told himself as he trudged: the most awful, horrible, skin-splitting winter he’d ever experienced. Except on Earth the air didn’t smell like dead things. Mitch pulled his scarf up to his nose, hoping to block the wind from forcing the smell into his nostrils. The other small parts of his face and wrists that were exposed burned from the cold as he tried not to notice the amount of snow that had fallen into his boots.

He looked up to see the beacons that lit his way along the otherwise impossible-to-follow trail. They flashed slowly, shining a red light into an otherwise gray sky that occasionally crackled with blue lightning. The wind flung his hood back, but he caught it and held it forward with both hands.

The rocky terrain, unfit for any vehicles the scientists had brought, would catch his feet by surprise sometimes. The second time he tripped, he was convinced this was most certainly not like a trudge through an Earth winter. It was a herculean feat, he decided, one that he would tell his grandchildren about. Perhaps he would exclude how much he cussed and grunted the whole time, but in his defense, the climate was recently designed to be inhospitable. Only an idiot volunteer would be unfortunate enough to traverse it. Maybe he wouldn’t tell his grandchildren. Maybe he wouldn’t survive the trip.

As if in response to his thoughts of giving up, he spotted a small structure in the distance. Research Station 4 was a simple black square built to endure the harsh environment. Mitch was so relieved to see the station that he began to shout to it, though he didn’t think his voice carried through the wind. He probably sounded nonsensical: The freezing cold was making it difficult to move his lips.

If he squinted hard, he could see the station’s door and two windows. There were no lights on, but something hung out the window to his right. His eyes could not make sense of it. The station housed two doctors and an assistant, all of whom were intelligent enough not to open a window in this kind of environment. Frowning, he squinted and noticed that the window had not been opened, but broken.

The large object hanging from it was an odd color: a light blue top with a long white, flailing bottom, with some red in the middle. It flapped at the end like a flag, but seemed too heavy in the middle for that to be the case. Mitch grimaced, covering the top of his goggles as if that would help.

He walked closer to examine the object. His eyes, to their horror, finally made sense of it. Doctor Henrietta Weaver, forty-two years old, hung out the window by her waist. Her lab coat draped over her head and flapped in the wind, concealing her long black hair and pale skin. Her powder blue undershirt was stained a deep red, the same deep red that sat in a puddle below her.

The realization of what the ‘flag’ actually was occurred to Mitch all at once, and he leapt with surprise and horror. He let out a low yelp and gave no thought to examining the rest of the building. He was no longer a lab assistant, now just a man trying to survive. He simply turned and ran.

His heart in his stomach, hood flew backward as he sprinted. His scarf loosened and eventually fell

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