From the Realms of Glory

GALACTIC CO-ORDINATES: 19-25-06-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify Link at End) A Christmas Cornucopia (Album), Annie Lennox.

 

 

 

I swing through the air and I love it. Here there are clouds and nothing else. Each one is another world for me to explore. I have wanted my full wings for a while and they are nearly there. When it is time to sleep, in the black clouds, I count my feathers. Some time ago there were a couple of sprouts and then a tuft and then two full round feathers. That was a good day. A few weeks after that I didn’t have to ride on my mother’s back any more.

Today is an exciting day. We start the journey to the star. Every year, as is expected, we do a full ring of the cloud rock. A full journey means a year. The last stretch is the route to the top north of the rock and above is the star. Our bright shining lord. I have made this journey as long as I remember but always clinging to my mother’s back. This time I get to do it on my own.

Up ahead is my mother, she is stirring from her sleep. Her face, round and pink, is just moving. She smiles and opens her wide eyes. He wings lull sleepily just keeping afloat. We have walked on the ground before and I have seen my mother do it many times, but we prefer not too, sleeping in the clouds is best. My mother smiles and embraces me, we are high up now and below is a valley with spirals of grey and white towers. She nods forward and flies smoothly. My mother is the best flier I’ve ever seen, she can twirl and backflip, and go lighting fast. I wish I could fly like her.

I’m looking across the cloud waiting for my family to wake up. Suddenly with pops across the white swirls they shoot upwards and shake off the night’s sleep. They are everywhere. One of my brothers swoops past; he is fully grown now and even has a bright white beard. He drops some food into my hand. Him and the others must have gone down to the surface for some supplies. It is fruit today, a round red thing. I know it’ll be good, the food changes across the surface as we travel but here on the star path it is always best. I bite into it and the red juice flows down my cheeks, it is sweet like the moment you break through into the sun.

There is a bellow – the call of the tribe mother. She is my great-grandmother, I learned the other week, but we all call her Tribe Mother. She has a huge set of wings, bigger than I’ve ever seen and can even move clouds with them so I’m told. She is kind but also scary. Everyone follows her path. As we always do we rise up into the sky above the cloud valley. All my brother and sisters are here. My cousins too and their parents. Hundreds of pairs of everything. Smooth legs and chests, feathered wings, soft eyes. The tribe mother is pointing in circles and swining her arms round. I know what this means, I think. We have to fly through the valley separately as not to disturb the formation too much. I don’t know quite what formation means, only that it is hard to say. I was taught this by my father long ago, he has gone down below gathering now forever. I miss him. Last year he was here on the star path.

It is important we make it to the star point to say thank you. It is there under the light that our people were born. They say once we walked on the ground but one day a child was born and on his back were tiny stumps. At first they thought he was strange, the ground dweller had smooth backs. But as he got bigger they saw the stumps grow into beautiful wings. As they saw him take off into the sky they found wings growing on their backs too and joined him in the sky forevermore. I love this story. The thought of walking all my life glued to the surface makes me shudder.

The tribe sings in response to the tribe mother’s bellow. I sing high and clear. At each age we are given a new note, a new voice to show our place and to show how we fit in. The singing fits together perfectly and echoes out across the sky. Suddenly there is movement everyway, water splatters across my face as my cousin swoops up past me, he turns quickly and laughs then shoots off again. I see the gatherers separate from a huddle as they fly through a hole. The tribe are separating into their passages. I know mine. I’m to go on the outside, through the thin wispy white. An easier route for me. I wanted to go through the middle but my mother wouldn’t let me. I see the valley beyond me. On the other side, just colouring the horizon is the deep clear. Out of the clouds we will come into nothing. Just a patch of open sky. Then it will be the new year.

I am feeling sick. I’ve never flown for so long before. I want to be on my mother’s back still, moving through the middle not out here on my own.

I take a deep breath and fly down over the clouds and turn left towards the edges of the valley. Things feel a little darker than before. The white is turning grey. I see my cousins turn right, some of them are young too and are taking the wisps at the other side. My mother is just heading down and looks at me. She nods and smiles and then disappears. I reach the edges of the cloud valley, beyond are clouds too thin to keep us afloat and after that another valley. My wings are already feeling tired, they’re not used to beating for so long. Now there is silence everywhere, I can’t hear the cries and laughter of my family just the wind. I am alone now.

This is why they make us go to the edge. I always wondered as I watched my brothers and sister go the edge of the cloud valley why they couldn’t come with us. But it is to make them fly alone and now it is time for me to fly alone. I set off smoothly through the thin edges. I thrust forwards and twirl. I want to see the sky above but all around is becoming greyer. I turn on to my back and soar. Fear grips me. It shouldn’t be happening not at this time of year but there it is. Crawling like a herd of surface beasts over the top of the valley is a storm. It is black and huge and crackling with lighting. Suddenly it is over me and raining fiercely. The drops are sending the wisps flying to the ground. I fly forward and sing outwards. The rumbles from above are deafening.

I stop and look around. There is no one there. The storm is moving thick and fast to the middle of the valley. The tribe must be right in the middle of it. There is a crack of lighting to my right. I leap away. Everywhere seems to charged with electricity. Another bolt strikes just by me. and then another one up ahead. Its like I’m in a cage I’m trapped. I fly lower and lower there’s nothing I can do. Eventually I dip below and see the brown rockiness of the surface. Up ahead is a battleground. I can’t see any of the tribe. Not one has dipped below.

I can’t go back up. I can’t go to the surface. This must have been me. I must have failed the path because I was scared. Because I doubted the path. Now we will never get to the star. Now a new year will never begin. It is my fault. I hover with my wings outstretched and wait in shame. If the boy with the first wings started our journey in the sky, I am the one who has ended it.

I hover for what feels forever but I eventually I hear the rumbles move off into the distance, the sky is lighter as usual but it is still so quiet. I look around. Far off there is no sign of anyone else. If I am the only one left then. I have to make it to the star no matter what.

The edges of the valley are clearer now but still feel scattered. It’s as if the map has been cut up into pieces. I wonder where the tribe mother is. I long to hear her deep, rumble voice. I fly upwards over the ridges and further into the valley. I don’t care about the rules I just want my family now. But there is no one around. Not a catch of laughter or a moment of song. Here the clouds are thicker in scoops and I flow over them. My wings are not tired any longer, they feel strong. I am becoming old now, much older and stronger than before. The deep blue on the horizon is getting closer. I must prepare for myself alone. If I am there though, if I make it then at least we still give thanks, at least the new year will begin.

I can see it up ahead the last wall of cloud out of the valley and into the clear at the star path’s end. I burst through into the clear blue. My eyes fill with light but my ears with something else. It is singing, singing in beautiful harmony. The low rumbles of the elders, the mellow middle notes of the mothers, the sweet highs of the young. As my eyes adjust there in the clear blue is my tribe, my family their wings outstretched and signing their song of thanks. I fly towards my mother and she embraces me.

‘I got lost,’ I sign. ‘I’m sorry…’

‘I know my child. You have brave the storm my dear not go under it, always brave the storm.’

 

 

 

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There’s Something in the Sewer

GALACTIC CO-ORDINATES: 35-01-02-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: See Spotify link at end.

 

(1)

 

Ea1 NewsComm:

 

Work is coming to a close on the latest in a string of terraforming in the 02. The Siren’s Belt stretch, officially know as 01-02 has been undergoing biological and architectural upgrading to provide accessible housing for the 01. This controversial project has recently come under fire from the So-Hal University for projecting human standards of biology and physics on an area that does not allow for it. In a statement made earlier this week, Empress and Senate Leader Tabitha Might, claimed ‘We are working in the 01-02 for all levels of galactic society, to provide a housing and living standards that work for all in our galactic community.’ Work should be finished by the end of the next standard orbit.

 

 

‘Yep about there should do it.’ Jex shifted the bags into place. ‘Look at this place. I hate terraforming its disgusting.’

‘Ah, stop complaining you old git,’ replied his companion Terry, from down the tunnel.

‘You know what I mean though. It’s gross, I mean look at this place, fully built yet the wrong cocktail of chemical and it produces this.’ Jex flung a lump of the fluffy, red substance to the floor.

‘Why do you keep touching it then? Use the neutralizers.’ Terry shouted.

The company the pair belonged to, the rather plainly named 01 Cleaning Solutions, had been contracted to the nearly completed Siren’s Belt, after the main city’s sewer bricks had reacted baldly with native soil resulting in their expansion into what was essentially corrosive red foam. A standard operation in the grand scheme of things but politics, as usual had got in their way. After a long process in of discussion in the Capitol, they had come to the decision that they had best do something about it. By this time Terry and Jex were faced with a whole city’s worth of compacted red mutated bricks.

‘You looking forward to going home Jexy?’ Terry splashed through the water, hauling two bags of compacted foam with him.

‘Aye, yes. Not seen Sarah and the boys for what feels like forever. I came from that job over in the 06.’

‘God. Fringe stuff that. What was going on?’ Terry lifted his visor, revealing a cheerful, bearded face below.

‘You’re telling me. I was induced for about 3 weeks. Something to do with a sudden fall of rock dust over a planet. A new Empire post, but the place was covered in it. Like a storm had hit it. Had to laser sweep the place from orbit.’

‘Grim. Ah well, just a couple of days under the gas before we get back. Can’t wait myself.’

Terry bunged his bags over to the growing pile. They had burnt the foam down into tiny wisps and then collected them up in bags. They would take them back to Ma1 with them to be shot out to some desolate waste planet. It was a satisfying job and you could tell it on both of their faces as they surveyed the tunnels. The building drones had followed them along as they worked carefully replacing the brickwork as the foam peeled off the earth. So now there was just a dark shining tunnel, ready to be filled with the city’s waste. The last job was to get in the Germ Cart, as they called it, and sweep the place.

‘Come one, let’s go and spray weird shit on the walls,’ Jex sighed. Terry smiled as he watched his ever-grumpy companion trudge into darkness.

 

(2)

 

Ea1 NewsComm:

 

Throughout Ma1 and the AC operations are now taking place for the populating of The Siren’s Belt. Following the recent criticisms of the project, the commons have launched a formal inquiry into the processes of construction planning and are set to release a conclusion in ten standard years. The new home units across the six planets have been met with some suspicion by potential home owners due to the historical instability of the area. Professor Garrick of the University of Cold Light described the project as ‘irresponsible’ claiming that the belt had been left alone ‘for good reason’. Empress Tabitha Might has released a statement claiming that ‘the immigration crisis into central galaxy has to be controlled and assessed. The Siren’s Belt project is a way in which fair and affordable housing is available for everyone.’

 

Swipe for full statement video.

 

‘All Aboard!’ Terry smiled and offered his hand out to Jex. The germ cart, or Hyper-Sealer as it was more formally known, was a long platform that hovered slightly above the ground. Fixed to each end was a control panel and a hazard suit. The idea was, after the general cleaning was done, that the germ cart would zip through the offending area firstly identifying and categorising the last remaining microbes and then, if appropriate, destroy them. The cart was not only lighting fast it was fitted with a military-grade selection of cell based genocides. The laser effectiveness of the process hadn’t failed them yet. The process was also galactic law, which was why the inventors had installed a categorisation stage, if the microbe was beneficial or essential to terrestrial life than the injectors would bypass it.

Jex took Terry’s hand and climbed on to the cart.

‘You see this is the bit I find weird,’ Jex said with a heave.

‘Oh god, here we go.’

‘If we’ve cleaned the place, which we have, then why do we need to do this step? If it’s good for terrestrials than its gonna reform or congregate elsewhere isn’t it?’

‘It’s just for a double check, insurance, isn’t it Jex. I bet after this fiasco we’ve just cleaned up, someone’s heads on the block.’

‘It’ll be for the categorisation I’ll tell you that for nothing.’

Jex was having some trouble getting in his haz-mat suit. He pulled it on over his leg and then realised the head hole was in his groin. He swore loudly and tried again. Terry looked on from behind the glass of his fully assembled protection.

‘Oh here we go with the conspiracy theories…’

‘I’m telling you Terry, they only compile information to make sure humans come out on top.’

‘Oh I don’t care. Come on let’s get this done so I can go home.’

Jex eventually clambered into the suit and stood panting at the edge of the cart. In formation they both place their hands at the left edge of their control panels. A light emitted from the panel and then a voice spoke clearly;

‘Terry Swaa and Jex Smith, 01 Cleaning Solutions, Security Level Delta, Cleared.’

The cart hummed with higher and higher intensity. The pair, quickly and efficiently spread their fingers over the buttons tapping and pressing with the confidence of a concert pianist. A green light emerged from underneath, it quickly spread towards the walls lighting them up as if they were underwater. The cart started to vibrate.

‘Ready Jex?’

‘Aye Terry.’

At blink speed, the germ cart set off down the sewer.

 

(3)

 

Ea1 NewsComm:

 

Breaking News. Ships have departed towards the controversial Siren’s Belt region of the 02. Despite claims from the Fal Tap Senate, of the biological favouritism and recklessness of the Human Empire, the plans to rehome millions of citizens from the 01 is going ahead. The ships departed this morning (Ea1 Standard Time), and the project’s leader, Captain Monica Tand, hoped for ‘a smooth and enjoyable transition.’ More to come.

 

‘Anything?’ Terry said.

‘Not yet, picking up a few specks in the cracks, nothing interesting.’ Jex stared intently at the screen as the sewer zipped by in blur past him.

‘They’re shouldn’t be any cracks we’ve just installed the bricks!’ Terry smiled.

‘I was a bit sleepy after my lunch yesterday.’ Jex said and looked backed at Terry. Suddenly an alert appeared on the corner of the screen. ‘Ah now then, a Muxlin Strain has just appeared.’

‘Muxlin? Odd I’m not getting that.’

They were heading now deeper into the city past the huge swirling bypasses that served the new administrative quarters. Apart from the blinking map on the screen they would have had no idea where they were.

‘It’s just one cell, or only a couple at least. Guide it back we’ll go check again.’

Terry leant his hand on the control panel and pressed the palm in deep. Jex did the opposite, pressing his fingertips in instead. The cart slowed down just enough to see a slight outline of brick and then shot down back the way they came.

‘Yes I’ve got it too. Muxlin. There are a few more now though.’ Terry said.

‘It’s an odd strain. The basic structure is there but it’s not like any muxlin I’ve seen before.’

‘A shot of Indritol should do it. If it’s a muxlin structure it’ll stop it dead.’ Terry said. ‘Your end I think, 02 strains.’

Jex found Indritol on the screen and dragged it over to the ‘deposit’ menu.

‘Good, good, right just the northern outskirts and then we’re done. Swing it back will you?’

‘Aye Aye!’

The carriage swung around a long curved tunnel, whizzed across the central canal like a stone skipping on a lake. With a whirr it ground to a halt outside the main exit. They both inhaled deeply as it they leapt down from edge. They both knew this smell, the smell of a finished job and it was their favourite. Even in the sewer the place smelt clean as a whistle. It was fresh and clear, the germ cart even deposited pine-freshness as it went. Terry stroked the cart fondly.

‘Do you two need some time alone?’ Jex laughed.

‘Shut up! It’s a fine bit of kit though this. I’ve always thought that. Imagine the lives it saved. Just in a simple act of categorisation and cleaning.’

‘I don’t know how the germs feel about it though. Ha!’

‘You’ve cheered up.’ Terry said. The exit chamber, a wide platform with two stairways at the back, like an old-fashioned subway, was scattered with equipment. The pair got to work, packing the poles, sponges and laser beams back in their respective holsters.

‘Well we’re going home aren’t we?’ Jex smiled.

‘Aye you’re not wrong.’ Terry strapped the equipment onto his back. Jex always laughed at his colleagues with their backpacks because with all the poles they looked like an antenna.

‘What was that muxlin strain from before?’ Terry said as he got out his clipboard.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I gotta fill in some forms, government job you know. What base was it?’

‘Bloody government. I think it was carbon? Carbon based muxlin.’ Jex heaved his bag onto his back.

‘Carbon? Weird, should be okay though,’ Terry stuck out his tongue.

 

(4)

 

Ea1 NewsComm:

 

Breaking News: The Siren’s Belt is warming up for the arrival of, what critics call ‘The Homeless Hoards,’ a term not endorsed by this newscast. The power bots took flight late last week from their sapping point the 06 Sun, Caster M and have docked. Lights are now appearing across the planet’s surface. We spoke to a passenger who claimed that xe and xyr family were ‘thrilled to be getting away from Ea1 and to forget everything we saw there’. Arrival is expected in the next 24 standard hours.

 

‘Right let’s be offskies, I’ve sent the all clear to the fat cats in orbit,’ said Terry. The tunnel was dark and quiet apart from the slight clinking of equipment. ‘I won’t miss it here down here.’

‘I feel that,’ Jex laughed.

Suddenly, with a whirring flash, all along the tunnel the lights came on. The pair covered their eyes for a moment to adjust. From somewhere beyond the walls came the sound of machinery. The whole place was waking up.

‘Well look at that,’ Terry sighed. The bright white lights had revealed the tunnel’s true magnificence. The black tiles shone like squares of space each with their own little star.

‘This place is going to be a beautiful place to live.’

‘I know – if the sewers are this good then the rest of it…’

At the end of the tunnel a green glow appeared. It just fringed the edges but appeared to be coming towards them.

‘What’s that?’

‘Power surges. It happens all the time on powering up planets. Let’s go before it catches up to us.’ Terry nodded to the stairs.

Jex ran forward and placed his hand on the railing. His hand stuck to it. He flicked it away and stared down. His hand was covered in a green jelly. The railing had dissolved in front of him. The jelly in his hand swirled and congealed until it formed into a rough cube. Jex found he was fixed to the spot.

‘Terry, you better come and look at this,’ Jex said, his voice cracked like he had just hit puberty.

‘Don’t worry Jex I’ve got it too.’

Jex turned to see Terry knee-deep in the green jelly. Down the tunnel he could see flashes of light and cracks of energy.

‘Stay there Terry. I’m gonna have a look.’ Jex flicked the goo off his hand and ran to the tunnel. Slowly one by one the lights down the long strip went out, each one with a shuttering hiss. He turned around. At the corner where the tunnel turned off to the right the green glow was brightest.

‘Jex get the acid wash, I’m going down here.’ Terry was half way down into the floor. From his waist tiny blobs of green goo were jumping out and hopping away. Jex ran for his bag and pulled out a pole with a yellow end. It fizzed into life.

‘I can’t use it without hurting you mate.’

‘I’ve got my protection suit on you idiot just zap them.’

‘Right right yeah.’

Jex plunged the acid wash against Terry’s middle and pulled him out of the ground. In the hole was just a mass of morphing green goo.

‘What is it?’

‘It must have been the muxlin strain. I told you didn’t I? They don’t check these things – they just assume one thing works for all. It’s my fault I said the Indritol would’ve neutralised but it seems to be reacting with the light.’ Terry clutched his head.

‘What do you mean we got rid didn’t we?’

‘Clearly! What happened before – it exploded into red foam – whatever is on this planet is not reacting well with Ea1’s protocols. We knew that and its only gone and happened again.’

‘So we’re back to square one. Bloody hell!’ Jex stamped his foot and made a green goo footprint in the floor.

‘Looks that way. Well it looks potent but not live. The Muxlin strain mustn’t have been capable. Unpack the equipment then…’

They both turned to the tunnel wall. The whole thing was a dripping mass of green. Jex and Terry reached for their poles. On the wall a thousand eyes morphed into life and blinked with uniform precision. Further down, growing from the bottom were scuttling claws that scraped along the floor. In the middle like a black hole a mouth plunged open and from each side a set of long, sharp teeth.

Just before they could reach the panic button they fell into the green mouth opening up beneath them.

 

(5)

 

Ea1 NewsComm.

 

Breaking News: Ships are arriving at the Siren’s Belt and are set to disembark new citizens within the next hour. Latest reports from the project’s orbital hub state that they have received the all clear from the team performing the last-minute checks. The brand new, empty cities are set to be a dazzling sight for their new inhabitants providing comfort and facilities unheard of beyond the central hub. The rife criticism and fiery debates of the last months seem to have proved fruitless as millions of citizens look forward to their new future in the 02. All here at NewsComm wish them well.

 

(6)

 

GMesssage. Sarah xo.

 

Wishing you a safe journey home sweetie. Seeing the news of all the people excited for their new homes is making me so proud. That was you you know. Boys can’t wait to see you. Love you xx.

 

 

Galactic News: Vol.2 + Submissions.

 

GALACTIC NEWS UPDATE FRESH FROM EA1.

Hi all, check out the latest updates from Galaxy below.

Vol.2

It’s been a wild ride already right? A big thank you to all those who have been tuning in for our weekly dip into the Galaxy – I hope you’ve had fun. Six short weeks later (7 including the one just gone) we find ourselves at the end of Vol.1. You lovely readers will have had some tantalizing glimpses into this madcap galaxy but there are so many stories to explore. So I am pleased to announce that Galaxy will continue from next week with 6 more stories, in other words here comes Volume 2. The titles, which give virtually nothing away, are as follows:

 

There’s Something in the Sewer.

From the Realms of Glory

Captain RainCha and the Child Prince

Beep. I. Beep. Love. Beep. You.

The Rubber Mice

Starlight. Camera. Action!

 

As always, each one will be accompanied by a unique soundtrack. In the last update I claimed that this volume would be fortnightly which turns out to be a lie. These will be released weekly, the first two before Christmas and the rest in the New Year. Happy reading space explorers!

 

Submissions.

Even before Vol. 2 is released I of course have Vol. 3 in mind. The aim of Galaxy is not for me to just continue on alone, this is a world(s) building project and I want you to get involved for Vol. 3! The beauty of galaxy is that practically anything and everything can be a story – so if you have a burning idea I want to hear it. As with the other volumes there will be six stories, each with an accompanying soundtrack. So if you would like to get involved and write for Vol.3. please send the following to galaxyscifi1@gmail.com by 31st December 2016:

 

A title

 

A brief summation of your story, moment and/or theme

 

A suggestion of your soundtrack.

 

 

If you wish to reuse characters or are unsure about certain aspects of the galaxy please don’t hesitate to get in touch! If your story isn’t right for Vol.3 it may well be for Vol.4 (or beyond!).

 

Keep Exploring!

All Best,

 

A.

 

The Black Market of the Hapless San Ya

GALATIC COORDINATES: 156-78-06-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify Link at End). Butterfly, Crazy Town. We No Speak Americano, Yolanda Be Cool. Cheap Thrills, Sia. Mr Saxobeat, Meteorite, Years and Years. Starstrukk, Katy Perry, 30H!3. Saturday Night, Whigfield.

 

 

They say if you want to find something, and particularly something illegal, then the place to find it is the Black Market of the Hapless San Ya. At some point in her long and mysterious past, San Ya, proprietor and overseer of the Market, acquired a battered, dirty and all together dangerous space station. It was said, that she had single handedly flown it to the very edge of the galaxy and moored it around the dead planet 156. Over the years, in the sub networks and under-waves she sent out a message. It was an advertisement and an invitation. It read:

 

Come. Sell your wares. No judgment.

Only rules: No explosions, Nothing Gross.

But come. Sell.

 

And slowly like the trickle of a spring that grows into a great river they did. Designated life forms from across the six sectors came to sell whatever they had and whatever they could. The wide corridors and halls of the dilapidated shack of a shuttle quickly became full of shouting, squawking and rumblings of great beasts. There was always a party atmosphere in the market as people ate and drank and traded. But there was always money and ambition lacing through each word. People came because it was simply – exciting.

Now, San Ya was a tiny woman, for most of the life forms she would only come up to their waists (or waist equivalent) but one stare from those formidable glasses would keep even the darkest species in line. She ruled with a tiny iron claw. It was because, and she knew it, they respected her. If a customer arrived, and after pursuing the stalls found that the particular brand of banned chemical, or traditional body-opening device wasn’t there, San Ya could always find it for them. In fact, San Ya, more often than not would already have it.

San would draw the line sometimes though. Anything to do with children or the designated species young – she would refuse transactions on. Also any attempt at Sentient Cargo earned the seller a lifetime ban. She had learned the evils of slavery a long time ago and would not tolerate it again. She would march the corridors of her queendom inspecting each stall daily, her and chief of staff a Fal-Tap called Valeir, would inspire fear, laughter and all things in between.

San Ya to all intents and purposes was a fearsome woman. But she would, as we all do from time to time, get into scrapes. And this, to Valeir’s constant exasperation, was because San Ya, no matter what it was, could not resist a bargain.

 

On the morning of the May 1st, Galactic year 7.017, San Ya woke as usual. She washed thoroughly; she scrubbed at all parts and not just the ones in reach. She dried her long hair and bound it tightly in one thick, bready plat. She chose a grey starchy dress that stopped just below her knee; she had several and wore them every day without fail. With a final flourish she placed on her thick, bottle-end glasses. She pouted as the glass revealed her own image to herself.

She could see the lines along her face though. They had crept along in the night as she had tossed and turned. The night before something had arrived on her desk. She hadn’t noticed it at first, the desk was piled high with books, open boxes of wires and screws and countless mildewed mugs. But as she sat down to mark the accounts of the day there it was – a round object wrapped in brown paper. She had looked around, no one had been there. No one was there now. Or so she thought. But there in the shadows of the far corner two eyes emerged and then a set of teeth. It unflured like smoke into the room until a tall, seemingly male, ghoul of a figure stood in front of her. It appeared to be wearing a black cloak like a Vespin, but its face was almost human in construction apart from it swirled and undulated as if it was made of thick smog.

‘You shouldn’t be here,’ she said.

‘I have come to sell.’ Its voice clawed at her ears. It was just a rung below painful.

‘Then you will come back tomorrow and I’m sure some of the vendors can accommodate you.’ She looked to the door pointedly.

‘A few months back I was in a bar named Salty Joe’s. I believe you were there too. Do you remember?

‘Ah. Oh…yes perhaps.’ She cursed the day she’d ever set foot in that place.

‘Well I remember overhearing you were looking for something. Not something particular just something. Something powerful. A jewel in your crown. Well I’ve not found a jewel but this is something much more alluring…,’ he hissed.

And it was. She had locked it away in her safe. But it had kept her awake all night. Now, at the Black Market another day had begun. In the docking bay, above which her own personal quarters resided, there was a flurry of activity. She walked out onto the balcony and peered over. There was a big shipment coming in for the Walran Bank, she noted. Long crates all lined up like soldiers. She wasn’t interested about what was inside, never worry about the Walrans, she knew that. On the other side were a group of Gorbegs, pulling a huge crate. They shifted it into position and dropped the sides. Inside were a collection of beautiful stone statues; they had been carved into curves and slides like whips of energy. At the end of each were faces that screamed out like ghosts. She had seen them before. The Sent Forms. They were Cratian in origin. Very rare and very famous. Someone had been busy.

‘I wonder how they came across those.’ Valeir’s soft purr made San Ya jump.

‘Stop creeping up on me! My god.’ She dusted down her dress. Valeir was stood behind her smiling. He wore a tight fitting two piece, grey, crimson and red, with broad shoulders and lots of gold detailing.

‘My apologies San.’ He nodded at the statues. ‘How do you think they acquired those. They’re meant to be in the Sector 2 Pan-Race Museum.’

‘Don’t ask questions. You know that.’ San Ya, jumped off the balcony railing and stared upwards at the fur on Valeir’s face. ‘Haven’t you got something to do?’

‘What is wrong with you today?’

‘I didn’t hire you to ask me questions – go and check what’s in the Walran boxes.’

‘What are you not telling me?’

‘Okay fine. I had a private visitor last night.’

‘Okay…this already feels like something I don’t need to know.’

‘No not like that. A seller. He had overheard me in Salty Joe’s a bit ago. Brought me something he thought I would like,’ she whispered. Valeir noticed she was hopping from one foot to another. He couldn’t tell if it was with excitement or fear.

‘For the last time will you stop going to that bar. Every time there is some kind of trouble that stems from Salty bloody Joe’s.’

‘Oh just get in here.’ She dragged him by the fur into her office.

 

San Ya knew her limits. Or at least she thought she did. But something about the man emerging out of the shadows had shut off all her good judgment. She knew she shouldn’t have done it. But the curious way he had offered it, the fact that throughout their conversation it had remained in the package, temptingly hidden, it had brought out her inner collector with fiery passion. And boy was it a bargain. For such a…rarity. She had bought it and now she had to tell Valeir. He was going be mad.

 

‘What have you bought?’ he hissed. He sat down in the chair behind her desk. He folded his leg over the other smoothly and flicked a moment of dust off his knee.

‘You don’t come in here and judge me,’ she threw her hands in the air.

‘What is it?’ he growled.

‘I’m still your boss. Remember that Val.’ She pouted and folded her arms. She knew she had to tell him.

‘Oh for god’s sake you’re as much my boss as the planet beneath is. For an old woman you really are a child.’

San Ya gasped and clutched her chest in a picture of drama.

‘I am not…’ she gasped again. ‘An old woman.’

‘Right I’m going.’

Valeir rose from the chair and swiftly pivoted on one paw. San quickly reached over her desk and, whilst knocking a pile of paraphernalia flying, pressed her panic lock. The door steamed shut just missing Valeir’s padded nose.

‘I mean we always thought they were theoretically possible…’ San Ya’s voice had dropped to a whisper. Valier narrowed his eyes and placed his hand on the door.

‘Go on…’ He said slowly.

‘You know, a weapon. A big one. A proper big bastard.’

‘You don’t mean…’

‘Yes last night I bought a planet destroyer.’

‘Oh God San Ya. What have you done?’

 

So between the tiny woman and the tall, slender Fal-Tap a plan was devised. They had to get rid of it – that much they knew. Even with the dodgy practices of the market, if the Empire found out they had a planet bomb, they would wipe them out without a moment’s hesitation. But the two of them knew the visitors to the market well, and if this weapon got into the hands of some of these life forms. Let’s just there would be a lot less galaxy than there was before.

They were looking over the docking bay as they did every morning. San Ya had been here before, but never like this. Trouble came to San Ya, like iron filings to a magnet. She loved it, there was always something exciting happening at the market and here, plughole of the central sector was a bottleneck for the unusual and the amazing. She ran her fingers along the rail. But this was different, this was dangerous.

‘We could just keep it in my safe?’

‘No,’ Valeir said softly.

‘Fine. Have it your way.’

They headed down the stairs into the hubbub below. Some of the more aware life forms nodded their heads towards the pair. Some scattered into the backs of stalls lowering their heads in keenness to get away. They stopped for a moment and stared up at the statues, The Sent Forms, which had been placed pride of place in the central reservation. Their owner, a squat, bald human called Greb, slid out from behind a particular wide stretch of stone.

‘Ehhhh San Ya, Val Val, how goes it?’

‘I’m busy Greb. Move this will you – it can’t stay in the docking bay.’ San Ya flicked him aside and inspected the swirling marble heads above.

‘But it wont fit through the sub tunnels. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement.’ He smiled a gummy grin and tapped a jingle-laden pocket.

‘Come on Greb, that won’t work on me and you know it. Move it.’

‘You’re killing me San! You’re killing me.’ He raised his hands in a mock beg-prayer.

‘Bugger off Greb – get it moved.’

They moved on past the thousands of boxes and into the main sub-tunnel. Here the stalls were pressed tight against the walls and Valeir had to duck and dodge the banners, bunting and washing-line like displays of goods that hung tight across the walls. They were heading down into the engine market for the first part of their plan. The Engine market was the hub for all tech enthusiasts or just those with a slightly illegal and broken ship that would not do being repaired at the Capitol. It was a huge hanger filled with steam and smoke and grease. It was also home to renowned Walran engineer and former Chief Technician of the Walran Empire Fleet, Terius Flax. If there was one person who could deactivate the device it was him.

They entered his metal shack through the smoke curtain, a thick set of flaps that coated you in grime as you slid through them. Inside was a series of wide, tall steps that rose towards the wall. On the limited surfaces was every conceivable bit of tech you think of. Comms split open and unfurled like pictures out of anatomy book, holoscreens that fizzed and crackled like lava and towering fronds of stiff cut off wires like metal palm trees. But not only the surfaces, the walls were hung with all artifacts. There was an expanse of android arms, some twitched at the cusp of life, below that were hundreds of blue prints, tech-specs of ships and stations and buildings. High above, near the curved ramshackle roof, on a hover-platform was Terius, he was pouring over an item harnessed to the wall. Occasionally he would stretch his hand-flipper over the side and a bit of metal would fly up into his palm. Magna-grabbers, San had seen them before.

‘Terius you tech-head get down here I need you.’

‘Go away San. You only bring trouble to my door.’ Terius had a deep, chocolaty voice that wrapped around the room.

‘This is different. Come on Terius.’ She said mock sweetly. Valier looked on silently.

Terius zoomed down on the platform in front of them and stared at them. His whiskers were twitching under his goggles. After a moment he erupted into a huge belly laugh that rippled though the blubber of his body.

‘What is it San?’ he said.

‘I need you to deactivate it.’ She reached into her pocket and produced the crumpled brown package. Terius knocked up his goggles onto his smooth grey head. She pulled the paper aside, within was round glass ball filled with rippling energy. Along the glass were small flashes of light in vein like pathways. Terius’s eyes widened into two round plates.

‘Where the hell did you get that?’ he whispered in awe.

‘So you know what it is?’ Valier said slowly.

‘Of course I know what it is. A scref-energy cluster stabilized in an unlockable terra-glass case. A planet bomb. And a nasty one. If you even turn it on this thing will lock onto the nearest planet and then… Oh San.’

‘My thoughts exactly,’ Valier chipped in again.

‘I know, I was weak. The collector’s rush took over.’ San said raising her hands.

‘Next time the collector’s rush comes over you San Ya you run it by me.’ Terius snarled. ‘Right well it’s going to take me a while but I might be able to set up a system to link into the terra-glass that’ll deposit the energy into a series of micro-clusters. In other words bitesized chunks. It won’t deactivate it but it’ll make into a fairly standard explosion instead.’

‘Thank you Terius. You’re a life saver.’ San hopped on the Walran’s platform and swung her tiny arms around her neck.

‘Planet saver more like. Come on we can’t do it here. Back to yours?’ Terius flopped off his platform with a thud.

‘I think that would be wise.’ Valeir said.

But then, just as they were about to leave the tech all around them buzzed into life. Whirrs and rings scattered out all around. Valeir covered his sensitive ears and screeched in pain. One by one a message popped onto all the available screens. San Ya stared in horror at the same words all around:

 

We know what you have. We want it. Regards, The Owner.

 

‘Who’s the owner?’ Terius said guardedly.

‘Trouble that’s who.’ San Ya scooped up the package and thrust it deep into her the pockets of her dress. ‘This is what I feared. If some proper shit like him is after this than the whole galaxy is in trouble.’

Valier, breathing heavily appeared to be coming round. ‘Who did you tell San?’ He snarled.

‘No one I swear.’ With the firm press of her tone Valeir knew she was telling the truth. ‘It might have been the seller, or something I don’t know. There could have been psychics on board? Oh who knows?’

‘Who is the Owner though?’ said Terius.

‘He’s, or at least we presume it’s a He. He’s a powerful agent. I’ve dealt with him before or at least I used to. At first it was just usual stuff – a shipment of worker bots. A few tankers of sketch fuel. And then stranger requests came – artifacts. Specific ones from dangerous places. And morbid things as well, souvenirs he called them. From crash sites, from war zones. The name kept cropping up too ‘The Owner’. It would be stamped across delivery receipts, or I’d hear it being whispered behind a stall.’ San Ya clutched her arms around herself.

‘But he’s banned San, after that cargo of Sonva he was trying to flog. He can’t come here. And neither can his goons. The system will cross-check them no problem – they won’t get even get past the exterior shields. We just keep it safe and go on with the plan.’ Valeir placed a comforting hand on San’s shoulders.

‘Right then. We go on as planned. I can, if I concentrate, speed up the process a little by filtering the energy into temporary units as I build the more permanent ones. Come on.’ Terius, with a brief look in either direction headed out the entrance flap. San Ya looked at Valeir warily and followed in the same direction.

 

The Market was as busy as always. From every direction came the smells, sounds and sights. As the standard lunchtime approached, thick beefy smells erupted from all around. At mealtimes, the market took an even more jovial atmosphere as customers broke bread with stall-holders and supped deep on drink. But all this was passing over the three burdened holders of the planet bomb. They would ignore the shouts over counters for their attention and the offer of food form friendly traders. At every corner they were listening. They were looking for signs on every slip of paper or running across each holoscreen. They were looking for two words – ‘The Owner’. Eventually they reached the docking bay.

‘Not far off now.’ Terius said cheerily. They looked around. The bay was strangely quiet. San scanned the room with her eyes. Life forms were slipping out of the back into the storage areas. Ship windows and doors were shutting with a hiss. Her comm. unit sprang into life. ‘Mark 3 Vessel approaching’ it said metallically.

‘Mark 3?’ said Terius. ‘That’s massive.’

‘It’ll be him. That’s for sure,’ San said darkly.

‘He still can’t get through, those shields would withstand the inside of a star. He’s going nowhere,’ Valeir hissed.

San Ya stood for a moment. She looked at the other two as if she was about to explode. Putting her hands on her hips and growling she took off into the main bay.

‘Comm. put me in contact with the Mark 3.’

‘Of course.’ There was a light buzz as the contact was made.

San looked up into the sky outside the entrance to the docking bay.

‘Right Owner. I don’t know how you found out but you’re not having it so bugger off from my air space.’

A tinny, robotic voice fizzed into the speaker systems around. It seemed to come from everywhere at once.

‘My associates are already here.’

Between San Ya and the entrance was the statue of The Sent Forms. At first she thought she was imagining it, but the white twisted forms were getting darker. They coloured like ink dropped in a glass of milk. Then they started to twist further into shapes. Out of the solid stone burst smoke. They churned and swished until it they formed into figures. Each one had a mouth like a dropped scream and two endless holes for eyes. Even in all her long years San had never seen this lifeform before. They certainly weren’t registered.

‘Okay. Okay what the hell are those?’ Terius said, sliding up from behind.

‘No clue. I have an idea though, about the item.’ San whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

The figures held up hands towards her.

‘Just give it to them San.’ Valier purred. He was trying to be kind to her she knew. He wasn’t being cowardly. Everything in the market had gone quiet. She wondered if these figures had emerged in other places across the market. They could be everywhere.

‘Don’t be such a turncoat Val. I have something. I need you to turn off the outer shields.’

‘You have to be kidding? Let his whole fleet in?’ Terius said patting his flipper to his head.

‘Just do it, get over to the switch and when I give the nod, turn it off. I’ll distract them.’

The two men looked at each other warily. San had done some crazy stuff in her long life but this time it seemed she had lost it.

‘Oh and Terius leave me your Magna-grabber.’

Terius slipped off his glove and handed it to San Ya. The dimensions changed and crackled as it strapped itself to her hand.

‘Put the weapon down in front of you and we will leave your little market alone.’ The figure’s deep voices spoke as one.

‘Okay okay. Keep your smoke together. Here.’ San Ya reached into her dress and produced the battered looking packing. She placed it carefully on the floor. ‘Just for my records – what are you? Oh god that sounds a bit specieist doesn’t it? Sorry. But what’s your designation?’ She inched slowly round them as if to have a look.

‘We have none.’

She inched round a little further taking a look at them from all angles. ‘Must come in useful that magic trick. I wish I could appear and disappear at will – it would keep my traders on their toes. Or toe equivalents. Do you have toes? I imagine it would be hard to keep together a smoke toe.’

In her inching she knocked into a stall sending some copper pots flying across the floor. She was a couple of meters from the giant open mouth of the cargo bay.

‘We have the device. Thank you. We will go,’ they said as one.

‘No!’ said San Ya. ‘I can… I can get you a designation. Surely you must want one? You could enter central space proper. Access Empire boundaries. You must want that?’

She walked along, still facing them, until she was in front of the docking entrance. They had turned with her. All they must have seen was a tiny woman cut out against the enormity of space.

‘Now!’ she shouted. With a hiss the shields sparked out of life. She held out her magna-grabbed hand. It buzzed with life. The planet bomb shot from across the room through the life forms and into her hand. ‘Will you look at that?’

The life forms burst with smoke. They were angry San could tell that. But she didn’t care. It was her market and she made the rules.

‘Give that back.’ They said furiously.

‘Yeah yeah of course I will.’ She clicked a few buttons on the device. It whirred into life. ‘Whoops.’

‘San! What are you doing?’ Valeir shouted from across the room.

‘Making sure no one uses this again.’ She said with a smile. The planet bomb rose into the air and shot towards the dead planet below. ‘Shields up if would Terius. Also maybe fire up the warp engines if you can.’

She turned to the lifeform. ‘Remind the Owner if you will that he has a lifetime ban from my Market and he is to stay away. Hope he has a good set of shields.’

San Ya smiled as the exploding planet beneath propelled her great market to a new home.

 

2 Weeks Later (Ea1 Standard Unit).

 

San Ya sifted through the piles of paperwork. Since the incident, as everyone kept calling it, she had kept quiet. Firstly they had found a new mooring, this time in the 05, a little closer to the central galaxy, but she thought it might at least pick her up a bit more passing trade. Valeir had chastised her relentlessly for such recklessness, saying the shields might not have held but the radio silence on The Owner had been reward enough. She peered out of the window of her office. The planet beneath was beautiful. A gas planet that swirled with whites and greens and golds. Much nicer, she thought, than that dead red rock before. There were so many questions to follow up she knew that much. Where had the device been made in the first place? Who sold it her? She grimaced at little. She knew she should really check up on her sellers.

The comm. buzzed and chimed. She sauntered over and flicked it on. It was Valeir. Oh no, she thought.

‘San, there is someone here to see you. He says it’s urgent.’

‘Who is it?’

‘A Captain…erm…What was it?’ There was a rustling exchange off the line. ‘A Captain RainCha.’

San smiled. She’d been wondering when he’d come and show her his new toys.

‘Send him in.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Skies

GALATIC COODRINATES: 17-34-05-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify link at end), A Day in the Life, The Beatles. California Dreamin’, The Mamas and the Pappas. Ironic, Alanis Morisette. St James Infirmary, Hugh Laurie. New World Coming, Nina Simone.

 

 

In the Silent Skies, there is peace; in the solid earth there is joy. That’s how the old song goes isn’t it?

 

It’s hard to even lift your head from the pillow sometimes. That your head feels so heavy, that to move it but an inch higher is a colossal effort. An achievement. And that’s fine. Today I have work, as most people do in most days. So I move slowly around my small apartment performing the required ablutions. I comb my hair, I drink the coffee, I pull on the appropriate garments. I stare at myself in the mirror as people across the world do every day. I always have this thing – if I was a bit thinner, if may hair grew slightly differently, if I was a bit less this, if I was a bit more that then. Then I would be happy. That my life would be literally perfect. Is that stupid? It kinda is I know. But I can’t shake it off as much as I try.

 

No. Today, I say to myself, will be a good day – today I will be at my best. The children will like me. My colleagues will not think I am a fraud. Today I will be happy. Because I am happy.

 

I leave for work. As I exit my apartment building I am gripped by that whoosh of, all I can say is, feeling. It’s feeling. Not particularly one way or the other. Just feeling. As I step out into the open I feel empty again. I long to be in my flat already. I long to be back home from work but I take a deep breath and step into the street. The bus is full. I don’t mind it there amongst the fellow commuters. They have macks and battered briefcases. We are the same here. We are one. Something pricks my ears. There is a lively debate happening down the carriage. They are arguing about the Separation Program. I was against it myself. The twin continents were better together. But who am I to say. One man is gesticulating madly and pointing at the newspaper. The other brushes him off with a wave of his hand. Nearby a woman joins in, I can tell from her accent she is from across the Line-Sea. She speaks clearly and sweetly but firmly disagrees with the man and his pointing finger. I smile at first but then feel sadness. It flourishes as it tinges, washed with a green lilt of jealously. She is confident. She is wonderful. She must have someone who loves her very much. She is happy. And then the man too, with his confident striding opinion, he has someone waiting for him – I’m sure of it. Why can’t I?

 

I moved to Vanga a couple of years back. I was stuck, I was floundering and I thought I’d try again. So I came here and I didn’t look back. Sometimes I think of all the people I’ve known in my life and feel that they look at my choices. They hear about the things I’m doing, through a friend or a colleague and they laugh. Or not even laugh they smirk. I am person with real choices. I am a person who is just trying to live their life. Why do you have to laugh?

 

When I arrive at work the children are already there. They are cool and I know it. Imagine being that carefree? Today is a language lesson, and my cross continent grammar is a bit shaky but I’ll get through. I hope to god that the kids don’t notice. They won’t I know but god hell if they do. I’ll look like an idiot. They’re still growing these kids, I mean obviously. But what I mean is there hair is still growing. They must look at us with wonder, at our hair covered faces and wonder why? Why it happens – why don’t they just stay the same? I guess we know a bit nowadays of why it happens. Sort of. The thought of all those strands inside me, the genes, the dna – it makes my skin crawl.

 

In the staff room the chatter is about the odd weather. Do they talk about anything else? But it has been particularly odd lately. There’s been huge clouds over the city. They congregate in thick grey clumps and move around in circles. I dunno – they say we’re doing things to the planet maybe this is what they meant.

My friend, Freddie walks in. He’s sort of my friend, I guess. We started at the same time. He sits and we exchange a few pleasantries. He has his life – he’s not really interested in mine. God if there was anything to tell. Nothing serious, nothing bad. He asks me how the lesson went this morning. I say fine. My mind races. How did he find out? I did it all right. The lesson was great. But maybe it wasn’t? Maybe I messed it up. It wasn’t good enough. How did he find out? One of the kids must have told him.

I go to the bathroom. In the cubicle I get another wave, a rush of ‘feeling’. Freddie doesn’t like me, I know that. The kids would much rather have him than me. I’m the weak link here. They would be better off without me. I’m going to quit. Try something on my own.

Today, I say, you’re going to happy. Today you’re going to do better.

 

In Silent Skies, there I’ll be happy; in the solid earth, there I’ll be free. I used to sing that a lot. I loved that song. Now I feel nothing.

 

At the end of the day there is always a bristle of what next? Some slink off quickly, they say it is to avoid the rush but I know it’s because they’ve got better things to be getting back to. I’ve been out a few times to the bars downtown with them. Freddie, Joanna, a few others, but I always feel like there’s somewhere else they’d rather be. They’d be checking their phones or furtively glancing at their watches. Or worse, the lingering, slow drawn out ‘I best not’ at the offer of another drink. But I don’t have somewhere else to be. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. I’m like this because it’s my fault; it’s how I think. I could be nicer. I should be nicer.

 

Everyone slinks off and I am left at the front entrance waiting for the rain to stop. There are people passing. Lots of people. This city is too big. It has been for years. And in the rain it smells bleak. Just the sight of the dripping umbrellas makes me sad. I push mine out and join the mass.

 

I’m sure other people do not review their days to the same extent I do. I mean maybe they do? But I always think that most people go home and accept the day. I can’t even think of doing that. Going home and putting my feet up and accepting the day is over. There is always for me the next. Always what could I do more – what could I do better?

 

But of course I do actually come home and put my feet up. I get the cushion and hold it tight to me for a moment. I grip it really tight. I want to scream into it but I don’t. I want to cling to it forever until I rip into it but it replaces itself in my hand. I breathe and breathe and breathe.

 

Silent Skies are calling. Silent be my heart. I sing softly.

 

Suddenly I stand up. It often happens where suddenly I feel silly. I feel silly for having doubted myself and silly for judging others too hastily. Let them get on with their lives and I’ll get on with mine! What does it matter? But I know it does. Deep down I know it does.

I make myself dinner – I always make sure to cook properly. Chop and dice and fry. It makes me feel productive, proper you know? And then I clean and sort for the next day. And suddenly there’s nothing left to do. The floors are spotless and everything is tidied away. So I make a list. Good. A list. I write down all the things I need to do in the next week so slowly each day I can tick them off and then I’ll be sorted right? It’ll be fine because I know exactly what I need to do and I can be on top of it.

 

The list is done and I turn on the television. They’re filming the skies again. The clouds are churning as if angry. There is a white furred presenter with a huge umbrella. Behind like a waterfall the rain pours off the edge. They pan across the sky and the clouds are turning black. Oh god I think. What is this? If there is a flood I cannot go to work. Is that good? I mean I guess – but I will be here all day with nothing to do. I can’t do that. I stare at the screen with the plunging of my stomach pulling at my mind. From the clouds a long metal expanse pushes its way through. They cut to it across the city, hundreds and hundreds of what look like spaceships coming from the sky. It’s like something from a film. I rush to the window and there it is for real. I can’t hear the presenter. My eyes start to blur. Then the screen goes blank.

 

I sit and grip the cushion. I breathe and breathe and breathe.

 

From my blurred vision I see the screen light up again. It brings me back into the room and I lessen my vice-grip on the cushion a little. On the screen is what looks like a child but older. Not an adult just like a big child. It’s a person with pink skin and a crop of fur on its head. It’s wearing glasses and smiles at the camera. Behind it, as its backdrop, are green fields and a bright blue sky. It starts to speak. For a moment it is in a language I don’t understand. But then there is a glitch in the audio and its flows into understanding in my brain. It says:

‘…we have deemed your planet to be of sufficient sophistication to join the galactic community. This is a time of great joy for your species – membership of the Galactic Empire will bring advancements to you planet beyond your wildest imaginations. We, at Ea1, your new capital, are so pleased to meet you and welcome you to our family. We will begin registration soon; this is a simple categorization process, for our records and information banks. In the meantime we encourage you to continue with your everyday activities. Your own leaders will inform you of the changes the Galactic Empire will bring. Many thanks and Goodnight on behalf of Empress Tabitha Might and the Human Alliance.’

 

The bottom has fallen out of my stomach. I don’t understand. I look at my list and scrunch into a ball. It has always been there the sky and the space beyond. But that was not my world. That wasn’t anything. And now they are… they were there. They were there all along. The universe floods into my mind. It burns with it. It is almost hurting – the thought that out there are worlds and worlds within reach. And then these…what did they say ‘Humans’ are just there to drop in on our world. It makes my problems seem insignificant just for a moment. But then they rise before me like specters, larger and more powerful than before. I bet Freddie, Joanna, May, Dave. I bet they’re all there slightly afraid but excited. Excited for this. I bet they’re hugging each other and claiming what a turn up – what a thing to happen. And me, stupid me, is here fretting. I’m worrying. I can’t just enjoy it. I swing to the floor and lean against a cupboard. My thighs twitch and I pull at my hair. The thought of those ships, those spaceships whizzing through the sky bringing god knows what here. We’ve been deemed worthy – by who? Who? And I begin to shake. This is my fault. If I had worked harder. If I hadn’t been such a prick I would be here with someone else and we would brave the storm together. But I’m not and it’s my fault. I whelp and gulp and choke on my own failing breath.

 

The thought of this galaxy that is so big and so populated stops me. It is so big and so populated and I am still alone. I have no place here. I never have.

 

I go to the kitchen, I grab what I can. I go to the bathroom. I close the door on the galaxy. I close the door on my life.

 

Silent Skies are calling. Silent be my heart.

 

Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon

 

GALATIC COORDINATES: 98-50-01-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify Playlist at End), Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry. Mama Said, The Shirelles. Shame Shame Shame, Linda Fields. People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul, James Brown. The Cisco Kid, War. Superstitious, Stevie Wonder. Thank You, Sly and the Family Stone. Clean up Woman, Betty Wright. Mighty Mighty, Earth, Wind and Fire. Slippery When Wet, Commadores. Bootzilla, Booty Collins. Brick House, Commodores. The Lady Wants Your Money, Wild Cherry.

 

Close up on cigarette. Raise camera as I swig a whiskey. Right?

 

Ok. So I’m here again. Lord knows I always say it – that I won’t, but here I am. Picture the scene. A freakin’ dive at the rat end of the asteroid belt. We’re central in the galaxy but proper fringe central. I mean if this is the plughole of the capital sector we’re clinging on to those tiny bars where spinach gets caught. Hell, we’re clinging on to the spinach. It’s an absolute petri dish of races here at Salty Joe’s. I’m talking mean shit from the edges – sector 6 kinda shit. You know, those big things that evolved in those dark cold planets. Or those things from those low grav places that are all heavy but seem to spring – you know what I mean? There was a group of them on Ea1’s Got Talent last year? Now I know I’m a human but don’t get me wrong I’m not prejudice – far from it but you look at those things. Sometimes your own biology rejects it. Guess that’s my problem not theirs. Anyway. Ahem – I’m not sounding good here. What I’m trying to say is this place is dodgy as shit. They serve race-specific alcohol to anyone who asks for it – that shit can kill a human dead – one shot. I once saw a fight in here between an energy being and some liquid thing. I didn’t even know it was happening until I was drenched and blind for a week after. But I guess if there ever was a place in this goddamn shit-hole of a galaxy to call home it would be here. The kinda place you’ve hated, you’ve loved, you’ve cursed the day, you’re praised it lusciously, all in the same evening. Home.

Salty himself on duty tonight, he slides over and looks at me cocking his head. He’s a Walran is Joe and dresses like an old fashioned chef – even though he’s not been near a kitchen in years.

‘El Capitan,’ he says. ‘What’s the matter?

That’s me by the way. I’m El Capitan. Or more accurately Captain RainCha, formally of the Empire Defense Squadron Libra Division (Hons) – presumed dead.

‘Joe Joe Joe. What do you mean?’ I say dramatically. He raises his fleshy eyebrows.

‘Now don’t get me wrong Rainy – I’ve seen you come in here a few times with your tail between your legs but tonight you look… creepy man.’

‘Creepy?’ I say, knowing he’s right. There are ridges under my eyes I’ve not seen since the army.

‘Yeah man. Even the Despids over there said you were freaking them out,’ he says, nodding to a group of hooded, vultures with thick black goggles in the corner.

‘Yeeash how bad I look?’ I didn’t need to ask the question I looked fucking weird.

‘All I’m saying is you look strange. But not bad – I dunno man – where you been?’

We pause. I look at him. He looks at me. Okay this is the part where I tell old Salty Joe another story. So I may as well tell you too.

 

Hit the lights. Slap that bass.

 

So roll back three weeks ago. I’m on the storage planet W15. I was heading for the Capitol. Sort of. At least I was heading in the general direction of the galaxy centre. You know, I had to see a man about a dog. But I got waylaid. The throughways were closed, something to do with a huge space-station crash. Its cracked engines had flooded the space with interference meaning at least a couple of weeks before the Neutralizers had finished cleaning up and I could get through. Anyway, the guy I was travelling with, a huge Bonso named Ray, said he’d drop me at the nearest planet and see what I could do from there – his mate said he could offer me a lift to another sector, Ray was off home – I’d just have to sit tight for a bit. He was a good guy Ray, we had met years ago at a race-course in the 04. I noticed him because he was hanging down from the rafters of the concourse swinging like an acrobat from his leathery grey hands. I had never met a Bonso before – they tended to stay less central. I mean I’ve never had an issue with them – things evolve. Humans did why shouldn’t the apes too? All they did was get intelligent and move away. Cool. Fine by me. Fucking humans man. But yeah, me and Ray hit it off and I’ve been sketching lifts off him on and off as he hauled goods across the galaxy. If I asked him how he could be so nice to a human he always just smiled that huge grin and laughed.

I’m always sad when I see someone fly away. It’s the space. Even with comm.-tech you just never know do you? You never know when you’ll see them again.

W15. Fuck me storage planets. Ray dropped me on one of the landing pads. And the sight was incredible. In every direction as far as the eye could conceive – plastic and metal. And then like crows on a corpse were spindly metal cranes silently heaving boxes. It was like seeing nanomedics in the body. Tiny little operations happening again and again. It was grim but fucking hell it was beautiful. And all I could think was – imagine. Just imagine the fucking riches in this place. I mean I had a bit of spare time? So I got my rope.

Now, the landing pads are high up but I’m nimble, I’m young (ish). And I thought well there must be something down there. Something I could…acquire. I think Ray knew this but was keeping his fur clean. So I grab my rope and tie it round my waist. There’s no one around apart from a few buzzing info-bots over head so I tie it to the railing. I know it was stupid, I really did – I mean I didn’t even have that much rope. But yes I jumped over the side.

The sight from the top was great but here, as the bots and the crates swung past you it was incredible. It was less of a body and more of a hive. Industrious was the word. I watched wide-eyed as the boxes slotted into place by a whizzing drone only to be scooped up and moved by another. I inched down on the rope, it would take me an hour or so but if inched carefully I should make it to the surface for what it was. And then? I mean there has to be a hatch or something – there’s always a hatch right?

But fuck. Just as I’m settling in to my lovely lofty descent with these delightful scenic views there it comes. Hurtling towards me like my own stupid realization. A drone with its blade spinning to holy hell. It cuts my rope in two.

 

Shock close up. Bundles rope in hand. Turns to camera for a second. Falls.

 

Okay, hold up. Keep that pause button firmly down child. Here’s a confession: I’m not a model citizen of the galaxy. Whoa I know, I would gasp too. Good reaction – full marks. I guess it’s that I was once – I totally was. I grew up on Ma1, finished my schooling. Joined the army and then. And then. Let’s just saw humans are dicks. And I know – I am one. Since then it’s been this – hitching rides, planet hopping, job hopping. Salty Joe’s. Until this story. Until what happened next.

 

So, sorry, we’re falling right. Wheeeeeee…yeah?

 

So this is me in the freakin’ shit. I thought I had been here before but fuck this was really it. Why hadn’t I waited? All I literally had to do was wait. But oh no. Not me – not Captain RainCha I had to go and prod the beast. I just had to dangle my legs over the edge. I started to think about all the things I could have changed in my life. All the things I could –

 

Ha. No I fucking didn’t. I was falling to me death – all you can think of is that. It’s a pressing matter. Trust me.

 

The surface of the planet was fast approaching. It came at me filling my eyes with grey. It didn’t look so beautiful now. But just as impact came I felt it. That slight tingle with a metal edge. It pricks your skin just a little and you can almost taste it. The grey was taking on a blue tinge. Teleport.

 

W15, to my distinct relief had a lifeform security system. I’ve looked into them since – nifty bits of kit. If any life form approaches a storage box in any fashion deemed either ‘irresponsible’ or ‘threatening’ the system just plucks them out of the air and deposits them inside. It’s like a video game – you die, you go back to the checkpoint. That’s what happened to me I died and I flashed up good as knew in the checkpoint. Turns out though the checkpoint was exactly where I didn’t want to be.

 

Fuzzy and a bit sore, I materialized inside a grey box. Not too thrilling I know. Even in the circumstances, in the planet of the grey boxes it wasn’t too much of a surprise. But there in the room outlined in silhouette were two Gorbegs. Two, big, ugly Gorbegs. Their grey-ridged eyebrows bristling with hair. They both had overbites with rough tusks erupting from brown gums. They were muscular and had long wide legs. Back when they were first registered humans called them Rhinos. Not quite okay…on Ea1 rhinos didn’t go Bonso, they’re still rhinos. Anyway, race relations aside, these guys looked mean and stupid. A combo that has not been great for me in my life. As the tinge of the teleport faded I found I recognized them.

‘Oh fuck,’ I say. ‘Not you guys.’

‘He he he,’ the left one, Teff wheezes like the stereotype goon he is. ‘Finally caught up with you haven’t we?’

‘He he he.’ The other one Beff mirrors.

‘Look. It’s not my fault, I had no idea those android sheep were actually real.’ I mean, I did, but time and place. I look back at them. ‘I thought the replication was just super realistic.’

 

Ok hold up. Scratch sound on the record. We’re going back a bit.

 

Sometimes to make ends meet you gotta think creatively. Now, when I said before I I’m not a model citizen of the galaxy – yeah I mean it. Look, it’s not my fault – this galaxy is big… I just end up falling through the cracks a few times. I got caught up with these guys by accident. The Owner, that’s what they call him, yeah with an actual capital letter, The Owner. Ridiculous right? But I overheard these guys in Salty Joe’s (Of course) – they were saying how the Owner (scoff) was obsessed with old Ea1 animals – and was filling his complex with them. They were saying that he wanted android ones though, not real ones. I mean I can sympathize – if they’re only for show you may as well have fake ones. But either way me and Ray, who happened to be sat next to me, had just swung by Ea1’s supply planet, you know the one they terraformed way back when? Well we had we just been to drop off a parcel but…

 

Cut to me and Ray in spaceship with a flock of sheep.

 

I think you can put the rest together. Let’s just say The Owner wasn’t too happy when he first tried to fix a fault in his ‘android’ sheep. Whoops. My bad.

 

‘Wait. Wait. Wait. Capitan. Android Sheep? You’re bullshitting me. That’s Phillip K. Dick.’

‘Shut up Salty Joe. Are you gonna let me tell this story or not?’

 

Anyway. Gorbegs. A grey room. teleport….

 

‘Too late now. You cross The Owner – you pay,’ Teff grunted.

‘God you two are so predictable. Did they actually cast you like actors? Cos you can’t be real. Casting call for two big hefty stupid goons? How did you get me here?’

‘Er… None of your business.’

‘Not Ray? Not my lovely Ray?’ I say heartbroken.

‘Not the Bonso.’

Ah fuck, I realize. My ride. It must have been these goons who told Ray they’d give me a ride. I’m an idiot.

‘He he he,’ he laughs as he sees my face break with realization.

‘And I guess I’m coming with you.’

They both laugh as they lumber towards me.

 

So when I wake up we’re taking off. I can see the grey mass below getting more obscure. Or at least that’s what I presume I would see if this place had any windows. I know we’re taking off because I can hear it. That wherrrrr-whoooossh of ascending metal. This ship is a big bastard. I’m tied up to a vent or pipe or something but I can feel the draught from behind. This must be a cargo ship. I’m bound tight in what appears to be shipping wrap, like bubble wrap but proper protective – the type they use to transport vases and shit on the ultra fast liners. This stuff would survive a dipping in a volcano. These guys think I’m going to try and escape – which obviously I would, of course I would. I feel around. My hands are handcuffed too I can metal nested amongst the wrapping. Fuck me I think. I’m going to have to double check all of Ray’s ‘lifts’ in future.

‘Where are we going?’ I say. The two goons are sat ahead throwing some corn-based concoction into each other’s mouths.

‘None of your business.’

‘To see The Owner right? On Seadon 2?’

‘Nah he lives on Ea1 now,’ The one on the left says, I don’t know which one’s Teff and which one’s Beff now.

‘Shit don’t tell him that Teff’ Ah so it was Beff. Ea1. I think – hmmm that’s interesting. Why is that interesting?

‘Wait so we’re heading to Ea1?’ I say. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I realize.

‘Yeah. But I’m not telling where he lives.’ Beff.

‘Yeah. Like obviously it’s Ea1 but we’re not telling you his address.’ Teff.

I remember what Ray had said. I mean it’s the reason I’m in the mess in the first place. The path to capitol past Ea1 is flooded from the space station crash. Fuck.

‘Right,’ I say. I’m trying to sound legitimate but panic is really sneaking into my tone. ‘I’m not making this up I promise. Although it will really, really sound like I am.’

 

‘Very convincing.’

‘Shut up Salty Joe.’

 

‘What are talking about?’ Teff says.

‘Well the reason I ended up on W15 was because the route from here to the Capitol was infected. There’s been a crash or something and it’s flooded. I’m telling you we can’t fly through it.

‘You’re making it up! You were just there to swipe things.’ Teff.

‘Yeah stop making it up!’ Beff.

‘Right boys we’re friends yeah? We’ve had some laughs but really, seriously, we need to turn back.’

‘You’d love that.’ Teff.

‘Oh god! Are you guys actually actors? This stuff is pure gold. Of course I’d love that.’ I start to struggle; the shipping wrap is holding me tight. ‘Teff. Beff. Turn this ship around. Right now.’

‘We’re gonna go even faster.’ Teff.

‘Yeah put your foot down T.’ Beff.

 

Oh for fuck’s sake. No way out this time. The ship surges forward. I can just see in the distance through the windshield, a mass of purple waves lashing across the black sky. The ship lurches to the side. I see the goons look back at me. I mean I did tell them. It lurches to the other side. I can feel the wrap cut into my wrists with the movement. The ship swings upwards and then spins upside down. Whatever’s out there is fucking things up – no wonder Ray went back. I see Teff and Beff crash to the roof come floor. I hang tight like a set of fucking wind chimes. If my body’s ever found they’ll think I was being used as some macabre Christmas decoration. Then I feel it, like a wrenching whomp of energy. Shit, I think, the orbit stabilizers have gone. They’ve gone before but Ray knows his way around an engine. But here I am, no Ray, just two goons and me tied to a fucking pole. The ship has gone too near a planet, or at least something big. And its locked onto the gravity. There’s going be a moment and then – yep there it is. Drop.

 

Freeze frame on me shitting myself.

 

Salty Joe flicks his flipper at me as if to say ‘you’re winding me up’. I raise my hands. I know that’s what happened. He pours me another drink and leans on the filthy counter.

‘So you’re planet falling? Then how are you sitting in my bar smart ass?’ He smiles and then grimaces. ‘You’re not one of those space ghosts I’ve heard about are you?’

‘Yes Salty I’m a space ghost,’ I say. I’m looking down at my arms, thinking about what happened next. They are shining just a little. ‘Ok you’re not going to believe it…’

 

So we’re falling. And no before you say there is no teleport this time.

 

I can feel the buffers kicking back. We’re slowing down but we’re still going to crash. For sure. Up ahead is a smoking rock of a planet. All craters and smog. Eugh. And that purple is back. The waves from before are congregating around the planet. Sorry – we’re crashing aren’t we? Enough of the scenery. This time I really do think about my life. I think about why I left the army. All those humans lined up. Me one of them. Trudging across planets that weren’t theirs. You can’t discover a planet if there is already people there right? I think about hiding at the edge of the galaxy after my ‘death’ – about the beauty of the fringe planets. How I wished they would stay uncategorized forever. I think about how long I’ve been running since then, not even running, wandering, not even that – clinging on. Clinging on to a galaxy that doesn’t want me. Doing no one any good. If this is my death, I think, then I accept it. I can’t wander forever.

 

We crash. Blackout. End.

 

Well…not quite.

 

And I’m alive. By some miracle of this god damn universe I’m alive. I’m fucked up don’t get wrong but boy is this heart still beating. I can see around me the crash, flames and big jagged bits of metal rising up like monsters. The front where Teff and Beff were has completely disappeared – it must have crushed on impact. How am I alive? This is a legit space crash. That’s the standard no survivors. I feel like I’m lying on a bed. It’s not the craggy rock I saw from the ship but something soft and squashy. Fuck. I start to laugh. They wrapped me up. In case of accidents. I was precious cargo. Those goons saved my life. But even so I can feel I’m not going to last for much longer. I ease my head up and look down. My leg had broken. When I see it pain rushes through my body like my brain’s finally caught up to what’s going on. There’s a deep gash in my side where sluggish black-red blood is seeping out. Since my army days of course, I don’t have the nanomedics installed – I can be kept track of otherwise. I looked around. A stretch away was a cargo box spilled over. I couldn’t quite make out what was inside but there were white boxes. Not just white but green. Medical supplies for sure. It was my only hope. I started to crawl over. I couldn’t believe it. There was a lurch from above. A huge beam of metal broke free of its mooring above and smashed through the cargo crushing it completely. I lie back – this time in the dirt and the rock. All around was that purple from before. It was as if the planet was covered in it. In the air were the ribbony spools or purple energy and floating across the floor was smoke. I lay back to die. There’s nothing else to do. But this is the bit you won’t believe. The bit why I’m still here at Salty Joe’s telling this story. Out of the corner I see a weasel.

 

That took you by surprise didn’t it?

 

It’s running along the purple energy ribbons. I dart my eyes the other way. There’s another one. It rises up on its hind legs for a moment and sniffs. They’re purple too. They’re completely coloured that soft pinky-purple of the rest of the planet. Suddenly in my face is another one. Sniffing around. I shout out and try to bat it away but I can’t, all I can feel is waves of pain from my leg and side. I’m stuck. Oh god, I think, they’re going to eat me. A space crash I could deal with but not being eaten alive by purple space weasels. I curse the day I even crashed on that planet. Strange in the circumstances I know but its what I thought. And then I thought not planet but moon. It was a moon. But how did I know? I hadn’t seen it’s adjacent planet I’d been too busy crashing and being tied up. The weasel on my chest sort of smiled. As much as a weasel can do any way. Behind I could see there were more. They were congregating around me. I’ve claimed it a few times but this is really where I thought it was the end.

 

But it was the beginning. Is the beginning.

 

The weasel dived into me. Literally. It jumped up and my chest absorbed it. One after another, eight weasels jumped into my chest and disappeared. Now they didn’t sort of claw their way into me. It was like absorbing light or radiation – I didn’t feel it but I knew it had happened. Hell I saw it happen. And then the pain stopped. I looked at my leg – purple light was growing over the break. The same on my side. Whatever these things were they weren’t here to hurt me. I sat up feeling my fresh body stretching into place. I flexed my hand just to check if it was real. And then out of it a weasel appeared. It nuzzled my finger and curled into a ball. In my mind the words ‘we’ll help you Captain’ appeared like the switching on a light. I stared in disbelief. I stumbled upon an uncategorized moon and boy was it good one. These little critters were symbionts. And they had chosen me as their life partner. I didn’t just feel healthy man I felt fucking fantastic. I felt powerful.

 

‘So. Wait. So are they inside you… like right now.’ He slides back slightly from me.

‘Salty please let me finish.’

 

So I stand up and survey the crash sight. I try my other hand. Another weasel appears. They look exactly the same but I can tell it’s a different one. It has a different look on it’s face – it’s a bit surly this one. I stretch out my fingers it shoots out like a laser.

 

Oh yeah baby. The old captain’s got dem superpowers now.

 

It smokes and fizzes into a rock and then appears good as new on my hand. It looks a bit smug now. So yeah quite unexpectedly everything’s coming up RainCha. But alas there over the crest of a jagged hull clawing their way up are Teff and Beff.

‘How did you survive?’ Teff growls.

‘Yeah you weren’t in the impact pod,’ growls Beff.

‘Well you did wrap me in hyperspace protection padding.’ I say. The weasels have made themselves scarce.

‘Well where’s the damage on you?’ Teff.

‘Yeah you should be at lease a bit cut up?’ Beff.

I smile.

‘Nah I’m good. Just landed well,’ I say.

‘Well we’ve still got a job to do.’ Teff says menacingly.

‘Yeah we’ll finish you off now instead.’ Beff menaces.

 

I see it first in their faces first. It goes from that tusked grimace to a sheer open mouthed shock. Then the shock ripples through their bodies as they start to run the other way. All I did was raise my hands.

 

I stand up. Salty smiles at me and laughs full-bellied.

‘So go on,’ he says. ‘Show me.’

I look each way and then quietly produce my hand outwards. A weasel appears and flexes out, the little flicks of purple energy spark over the bar. Salty goes out to touch it. It nips him on the flipper.

‘Ouch you little bastard.’

‘Oh yeah they’re hella naughty. Sorry should have told you that.’

‘El Capitan. And his naughty boys. Nah not cool enough for you. Captian RainCha and his bad boys.’

I think for a moment.            ‘Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon. One day they’ll write a comic book about me. And that’s what it’ll be called.’ I say and laugh.

‘Ha! You wish Rainy! So what’ll you do now?’

‘I said didn’t I just as the ship was crashing I needed something. Something to change. And where there are humans – there is trouble. But with these boys in tow…’

I turn and see the vulturous Despids from the corner have shuffled over. They are about a foot taller than me their cloaks billow with grime.

‘Alright gang. How’s it hanging,’ I say. Their leader, I presume, steps forward.

‘Did you say that you are wanted by The Owner?’ It says threateningly.

‘Uh oh. My big mouth.’

 

I wink at Salty and spin round on one foot. I spread my hands wide. In the reflection of their goggles I see eight purple weasels spring out of the tops of my arms.

 

Credits roll. ‘til we meet again.

 

 

 

 

Cocoon.

 

Galactic Co-ordinates: 13-21-05-01

 

Suggested Soundtrack: (See Spotify soundtrack at end) Premiere Gymnopedie, Erik Satie. Gnossiennes: No.1, Lent, Erik Satie.

 

 

I.

 

It feels everything. Firstly its eyes, closed yet formed beneath the lid. They extend out in circles, ridges take shape. Hard, they stand proud from a face. It raises the muscles at the top of the head.

 

I am.

 

Suddenly, a hole. An intake of air. Not air. But liquid. It is thick and flows down the throat but it feels like air. As if this is what it should be doing. Flowing in and out of it. It rolls a tongue around the hole. The fleshy lumps from before are not there. There are sharp points, arranged in a row.

 

Before.

 

Its face winces. It tries to understand what it means.

 

Before.

 

It feels a stretch of bone at each side. They are attached just below the head. It moves them slowly at first, the creak and the hinge of an elbow are learnt and then mastered. It tries to raise them finds it can’t. There is more of the liquid and beyond – something else.

 

I.

 

Its eyes are still closed. It hasn’t had the sensation yet. Of opening one. It doesn’t know how. But it feels the compulsion to do so channeling through its body surging them upwards. But they are heavy. They want to continue in their sleep.

 

I am.

 

Its muscles expand and contract. Like the delicate plucking of a tuned string they ripple across its body. It feels further down two more stretches of bone. At the end, the tips splay out into claws. It knows it will put them on the ground, climb with them, mark others with them.

 

Others.

 

Something pricks its mind. Shapes moving in the distance. Inching along. Flapping high above. Running. Running. Running.

 

Others.

 

There was stillness too. The shapes twist and lilt into many solitary strands. They tower high above and low on the ground. The extend out like the new stretches of bone. They cut and scrape like the claws. But they are still. They watch.

 

I.

 

It stretches out again – this time along down the back of its head. A spine. He can feel every tiny flex of bone as they ridge and extend together. How they bristle into calcium undulations. Around half way down there is another mountainous protrusion. Two of them either side. They grow out into small, hard panels of bone and then, to its surprise, with a flood of nerve-travel into great stretches of skin. It wraps around the now body.

 

I am.

 

He wants to swing them outwards. Feel them unfurl and then contract. He wants to flap. The word forms strangely in his mind – flap. But then crests over into understanding.

 

I am.

 

Something rises from his middle. It grips and pulls in at his muscles. At his skin. It churns and spikes. It flows up through his chest and into his mouth. He rolls his tongue along the teeth and then out into the hard lips.

 

I want.

 

He craves something. Something hot. Something wet. Something to. Something to. Something to chew.

 

I am.

 

He flexes. The wings extend. There is a sound of ripping and a flooding of light. He stands and takes in gulps of air. He hovers. He opens his eyes. There is a smell of blood.

 

I am awake.