Every End Is a Beginning

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The 2020 Halloween 3D Vault Winner for the Haunted Cantina Prompt: Branzam72!!!

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The landing was a blur. There was a glitch in Charon's hyperdrive, a series of crackling misfires, and then I was here, on a dusty red planet that seems devoid of life.

G9 doesn't like it. The hover-droid whispers along beside me, scanning the dusky landscape with his sensors. He issues a low, mournful moan.

"I know, buddy," I say. "Me too."

A rust-colored mist blows in from the east, or from what I believe is the east. In truth, the compass in my head is just as scrambled as the one back on the Charon.

I spot the cantina beyond a rocky hill dotted with shrubs. At first, there's nothing but endless night, drifting fog. And then the cantina emerges: a sand-colored structure capped with domes, rising from the desert like a mirage. Inside of its arched windows I see a wan, yellow light—the only light anywhere, aside from the moon.

G9 chirps beside me.

"Well, there's only one way to find out," I say.

I clamber down the slope and make my way across a dusty flat, one hand resting on my blaster.

Something feels off. As I approach the isolated cantina, I feel like it's watching me, its windows working like eyes. Alarm bells ring. Red flags go up. Normally, I would heed those warnings. I would avoid the place entirely, or recon from a safe distance. But there's no time. The temperature is plummeting, and the reddish fog threatens to blot out the sky entirely. So I quicken my pace and hope for the best.

The cantina's double doors creak as I push through them. The interior is dim and smells like a mixture of sulfur and earth. In the center is a U-shaped bar covered by a scrim of reddish dust.

A cloaked figure stands behind the bar. I get the sense it has been standing there for a long time. In the darkness beneath the hood, two eyes glimmer like distant stars.

And just like that the blaster is out.

"You won't be needing that," says a gravelly voice.

I look down and find my hand empty, the blaster gone.

"You won't need the droid, either."

G9 floats to the ground. His plasma drive hums to a stop. He powers down, becoming dark and still like the planet itself.

"Who are you?" I ask the figure.

"I have gone by many names over the millennia."

"What is this place?"

"The end of one thing, the start of another."

The end...

A cloud of recollection settles over me: the ship bucking and rattling, the staccato chain of explosions as the main drive failed, the resulting plummet toward a desolate rock of a planet.

Not a landing, but a crash.

I glance down at my feet but see only the fog, reddish and swirling. I open my mouth but hear only the wind.

The cloaked figure raises a gate in the bar to let me in.

To bring me home.

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