"Rocket Fall" by David Prill
Pain is a strong motivator. The Baron Armstrong has determined that pain can also be used to travel beyond life. He sends his representatives beyond to find his beloved Madeline, who died of an illness at twenty-three, much too soon for the Baron to put up with. Bob the Torturnaut pilots his ship to the place where Madeline resides, but he cannot bring her back. But when he does come back, the spirit of Maria, an Ethyl who was tortured to death to power Bob’s painship, Junior High Locker Room Shower Humiliation, accompanies him.
The failure to retrieve Madeline enrages the Baron, who induces Engineer of Fear Otto Jederman to new levels of pain creativity with a little pain creativity of his own. Otto, whose fondest wish is to be Patches, the Big-Hearted Clown, creates a new device that will help the Baron when he himself travels to find Madeline this time. But this will be the last trip of the painships, as Maria leads the spirits of the other Ethyls from Bob’s journey to turn the Baron to his own propulsion.
Psychic and spiritual travel is not new to fiction, but pain as a direct propulsion method is novel in my readings. With dark humor, however, you have to offset the rough edges of the story with lightness, even consequences for the darkness. And “Rocket Fall” is straightforward in the consequences the Baron faces. We even let the people rejoice in their freedom from the Baron.