It had been a long day. The hot-shit new supervisor, who looked about sixteen and probably hadn’t even started shaving yet, had written me up twice. I’d crumpled both slips in front of him, thrown them in the trash.

On the way home, the 48-Arrakeen worm died at the base of the hill, and we all had to hop off into the sand. The thing was already starting to stink as I began the trudge uphill, bone-tired and thirsty.

Then a bit of luck: the neon sign at the Rack was lit. Soon I was at the bar with a decent spice-drunk going. It was an hour before last call, and the regulars and spicers were in fine form.

I heard a woman’s voice behind me: “Look who it is. The famous writer.”

I ignored her, focused on my drink.

“What are you drinking?” she asked.

“Spice and water,” I said.

“Two spice and waters,” she said to the bartender.

I turned and looked at her. I’d seen her around, a former Gesserit turned spicer. Her eyes were permanently blue and her front teeth were chipped from fighting, but otherwise she wasn’t much worse for wear.

Our drinks came. She raised hers and drank it down, and I drank mine. “That’s a start,” she said. She smiled and looked at me like she wanted to get her hooks in me, ride me awhile.

There was a crash, and I turned to see two old spicers circling each other, knives drawn. I took her arm and we stumbled out into the night, leaning on each other as we made our way through still-warm sand, our doubled moonshadows staggering along beside us.

- - -

At some point she’d gotten up, dressed, let herself out. I was already at the typewriter and didn’t look up. When you’re on a spice bender, you hold on or it throws you off and circles back to finish you off.

I tapped at the keys. The writer is a stillsuit, taking the piss and sweat and filth of the world, filtering it enough to make it palatable. The tapping echoed off the stone walls.

- - -

It was an hour after dawn and already a sweat-draining bastard of a day. My left arm was numb from the mailbag and my socks were full of sand.

I did my rounds, handing out the letters, making the bag lighter. My final delivery was a package that needed a signature, which always brought out the lunatics. Before I could knock a woman flung open the door, eyes wide and blue, hair sticking out in all directions.

“Well, well,” she said, voice hoarse from spice-laced cigarettes.

Behind her in the darkness came a man’s voice: “KEEP YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF IT, YOU WHORE!”

The woman looked me up and down. She let her robe fall open. I could see she was naked underneath.

“I need a signature, ma’am,” I said.

“Why don’t you come in?” she said.

“Ma’am, I can’t give you this without a signature.” My head hurt from a combination of sunstroke and hangover.

She grabbed the pen angrily, signed, and slammed the door. I could hear them yelling at each other, muffled behind the door as I walked away.

By the time I got back to the sorting station the sun was setting. The smell of the stillsuit was godawful, like something had crawled inside it the night before and died.

- - -

In years past they’d worm me down past the meridians first-class, keep me in palm wine day and night. But back home I was unknown. People didn’t understand. “If things are so good there, why come back?” they’d say.

It was simple. They loved what I wrote, and to write what I wrote I had to be here, even if it meant I was hungry, spice-drunk, tapping away in my hollowed-out rock in Los Gusanos with my hot plate and half-fridge and dirty mattress. At least the days were shorter.

Each morning I’d get up and squeeze myself into a patched-up stillsuit, ride the worm to work, and deliver the mails. It was enough to pay the rent and keep me in spice and booze.

- - -

Home after another sandfox-fuck of a day, standing at my door in the darkness, fumbling with my keys. The new guard was perched overhead. I could feel his eyes on me in the darkness.

My hands were tired and the keys were giving me trouble. “You didn’t do the walk,” he said. “You’ll bring a worm.”

“Maybe next time,” I said under my breath.

“What was that?” he said.


“I’LL KILL YOU, WORMFUCKER,” he yelled back, and a few seconds later I heard footsteps on stone as he hopped down the boulders toward me. I got the key into the lock and shut the door behind me, and soon I was on my mattress, eating spice and sardines on crackers and drinking a bottle of palm wine I’d found in the fridge.

There was banging at the door. “CAN’T STAY IN THERE FOREVER, SPICE-BRAINED SHITBIRD,” he yelled. He gave the door one last kick and left.

In the newfound silence, I lay on the mattress and let the spice and the booze do their thing. The cracks in the stone ceiling danced, and after a while I closed my eyes and slept.

- - -

The week ended and Saturday came. I decided to take a walk. I had no particular reason, it just seemed like a thing to do. I put on my cleanest stillsuit, which still smelled like sweat and spilled wine.

I got the door open and staggered out into the sand and heat and the big blazing sun, still drunk enough to avoid the hangover I knew was coming. The guard wasn’t there, but I heard his voice in my head, Do the shuffle, keep those feet moving, you old fuck. I pulled half a leftover spice bar from my pocket and took a bite.

I kept walking, and the spice started to go to work. I felt like I was getting smaller and smaller, walking on the surface of an ocean, whale-worms passing through the depths below me. Kwisatz whateverthefuck, I thought, stomping on the sandy ground. Then I leaned back and yelled, “COME AND GET IT, YOU UGLY BASTARDS.”

The sand started to shimmer, and soon enough the ground was shaking. I sat down and closed my eyes, feeling the sun on my face.

All things considered, it hadn’t been a bad week.