Earlan looked on in horror as the sun spat out its tendrilous rays, thrashing the Alsviðr. It bent, parts of it expanding, parts turning to blackness, parts of it dripping into the liquidy globules they’d remembered seeing gallium make in water back on Earth.
Their number two put a hand on Earlan’s shoulder, trying to pull them away.
“Captain, it’s been hours since it happened. There’s nothing we can do,” Kamya nudged, her dark lips attempting something like sympathy.
“You ever see anything like it?” Earlan managed after a few minutes pause.
“No, and I don’t want to ever again,” their number two shivered.
There was a knot in Earlan’s throat, the culmination of the twisting insides that defied all the laws of physics. They’d never see Pocovus again. The two of them had spent years baiting eachother and joking via communicators. He was Earlan’s closest friend – always separated by too much dark matter. When was the last time they’d even seen each other in person?
Earlan tried to push the thoughts aside. They closed their eyes and immediately regretted it. Forever imprinted, literally burned, into their vision was that sight of the Alsviðr: metal twisting and screaming and dripping and expanding.
I reached out a hand to the mirror, outlining the sheer form standing behind me. It flinched, faceless and cautious. I pulled my hand away, not wishing to disturb it. I had always wondered where the strange noises came from at night. Why sometimes a chill flushed through my veins.
I just wish I knew its name.
“Hello,” I tried. The form pushed through me to the front of the mirror. Ice shot through me and I shivered. I stayed still, watching the form search me up and down. It seemed to finally realize I could see it as it could see me.
“Do you… do you have a name?” It was strange, my throat closed up and I had trouble speaking at first. Wind passed by my ears and I almost thought I heard something.
“What was that?”
Goosebumps prickled up my arms as a soft breeze tickled my ear. I felt as if I could hear, if only I listened a little closer.
I took a step forward and the ghost stepped back. I stepped back. I held out a hand, open-palmed and up-turned, to show I meant no harm.
“Please, here… My name is Kay.”
The ghost seemed to turn its head to stare at my hand, thought on it, and then slowly disappeared. I’d have to try again.
A snarl released from the back of my throat and immediately we went at it. Like animals, over a piece of meat. Over territory. Over a mate. My fingers dug into his skin and ripped the flesh open. Bruises welted my stomach with each hit he landed, and my arms with each hit I blocked. I grabbed for hair – just a little too long, just perfect for me to use the momentum to slam him to the brick wall. With him dazed for a moment, I slung a foot through his ankle and forced him to the ground. His hands shot up and grabbed my throat. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision as sounds begged to escape my throat with no relief. Blackness filled my vision until my knee found his crotch. As he screamed in pain I rolled away to catch my breath. Slowly, I became cognizant again of the cheering crowd that surrounded us in bleachers. He seemed spent. I need only to kill him, and I had my freedom. I stumbled towards him, ready to make my final move.
He was too quick, and I fell.
And so, like animals, we continued to fight. Him for property, and me for freedom. That’s the way of it – for a slave to break free from their master, we must fight to the death. And the others – they must watch.
Beep beep boo…….
The little robot trailed off into a descending scale that quickly turned to static. Maggie started crying. I scooped her up, all 40 pounds of her and pulled her close. I hated seeing her cry, that’s why I got her the robot in the first place. But the technology by now is old and outdated – it was a relic when I gave it to her. She never went anywhere without it though, not since she was 9 months old. Her mother said it raised her. As she got older, I started to make jokes about how the robot was like me – we both had clockwork hearts. So I think, maybe, she began to see us as kin, as the same.
And so as that little robot sputtered to a final halt, she thought it was me. I tried to reassure her that it was okay and everything would be good again. She’s just too smart for a 4 year old. That little robot seemed to introduce her to a concept I had thought she was far too young to grasp. I held her closer. I knew, just as she did, that one day my little clockwork heart would fall apart as well.