Fragments of Mutiny

Do the cave eels of Europa hunt by vision, or sound? Heat, maybe? He hoped it wasn’t heat.

Bay stood still in the ice cave for a long time, waiting until he was absolutely sure the crew had departed. There’d been a mutiny—not against him; he was just a general staff member, and a junior member at that. But Bay refused to participate, and for that he was left in the ice caves, a hood over his head and his wrists bound behind his back.

While he tried to figure out his next steps, he stood motionless, soundless, for fear that the swooshing sounds he heard were the bodies of 30-meter carnivorous cave eels brushing against the icy walls, lurking just around a bend. Or maybe it was just geothermal outgassing.

It was darker than a dead star’s heart in the caves, but he started to sense a sort of diffuse blueish glow through the hood.

Were cave eels bioluminescent?

The glow grew brighter. Closer. Oh shit. Ohshitohshitohshit.


“Who’s there?”

“Shhh! Keep your voice down. It’s Jax. I’m here to help.”

Saved! What a relief. He didn’t remember any Jax, but the ship’s crew worked in shifts. He knew more faces than names. He felt the tension on his wrists release, and he reached up to pull off his hood, grateful to have the itchy fabric off his face.

Bay turned around, and did indeed recognize Jax’s face. It deformed like wet clay into an expression of pure terror as a cave eel sank its teeth into his midsection and pulled him screaming backward into an icy tunnel.

Do the cave eels of Europa hunt alone, or in schools? Were they attracted to blood? He hoped they weren’t.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Arnaud Pheu, used with permission.

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