Screaming Candle

All That Remains – Part 5

The rocket was ten by four by six meters and shaped like a stubby airplane.  The rear held seven large engines in a hexagon and the nose had a half-extended ramp to match the half-buckled supports on two of the three landing skids.  As Pez watched, leaning against a boulder in the shade of the parasol, a steady stream of bent parts and curses poured down the ramp.

“Not that it isn’t lovely out here, but how are you doing in there?”

Another bent piece of metal rang out as it flew down the ramp and joined the pile.

“It looks like the robos were actually fixing it after a fashion. I mean, all the guts are all over the place, but the computer still works. They fixed the power reactor – having previously shot it out from under me – and the anti-grav…” Mixie’s head popped down upside down, her short hair fanning out below her.  “Maybe they were trying to make a friend?” She grinned.

“Ah, again, levity. You humans are much more about levity than my people. I like it.”

Mixie retreated into the ship but continued to talk.  “Yeah well, it’s either laugh or cry.  And…’Your people?’ You mean, you’re not human?”

“Nope. I just look like this to keep you from being … thoroughly unhappy, though the Neplax are not so different from you, though. Bipedal, big head, scrawny.”

“Now who is making jokes.” Mixie started to squeeze through the partially open ramp to join Pez.

“Yeah. I believe you humans make jokes about things you find too painful to talk about directly. Ironic… your pain makes you funny. You touch things without actually … touching them this way, feeling the softness of the skin of a thing without confronting the …” Pez smiled at Mixie as she joined in the parasol’s shade. “…The fact that my metaphor has run off a cliff. Sorry.”

“Look, I know this is a sore subject, but you realize that I don’t actually believe much of your story, right?  I mean, what’s the most logical thing – explorer comes here, gets stranded, figures out how to live but loses their mind … OR you are god.”

“A god.  The Neplax were polytheistic.”  Pez sniffed.  “Is it possible that you have such a hard time with this because you, yourself don’t believe yourself worthy of love?”

“You are dodging the issue.”

“Yes, but it’s a brilliant dodge.”  Pez grinned, then pressed on.  “Why are you so resistant to possibilities?  You have been out in the universe and seen it’s wonders.  Why is this so challenging?”

The question hung for a moment.  Mixie showed new interest in her boot print in the sand. Finally, she sighed and said, “Your assertion is extraordinary, and you are putting it on me to justify my unwillingness to just take it on your word?  Come on.”  She walked around and scuffed at the sand.  “And besides, I’m a spy, Pez.  I kill people.  We’re in a war and my job is to gather intelligence that will get people killed and sometimes kill them myself.  And they are not all robots.  The only god I’m aware of frowns upon that shit.”

“So, you think that there are actions that make you less deserving of love?”

“Yes!  No!”  She kicked a rock “I don’t know!  You know, Pez, I am thoroughly uncomfortable talking so explicitly about this stuff.  Not to mention that I’m not at all convinced that you are not completely nuts.”

“Nuts?  Nuts!?  Of the residents of this conversation, there is exactly one who travels lightyears across space, bypassing the wonders of the spirit and the physical while armed and ready to murder people and destroy walking trashcans.  I tell you that I love you, without expectations, because that is what I do and how I feel and instead of that being warm and reassuring it gives you the willies and makes you barf up your every shortcoming and doubt.”

“Well, what do you want from me?”

“Nothing!  That’s the point!  I want you to be happy!  This murdering thing clearly isn’t doing it for you, now is it?  So stop.  And beating yourself up for what you’ve been told you must do to keep people you might one day love, because no one in their right mind goes out and kills strangers for no reason.  I’ve looked into your soul.  You aren’t the type.  Every one of those people haunts you.  You are … human for lack of a better word in your language.”  Pez trailed off with a mumbled, “Little ethnocentricity in that language choice, by the way.”

“Look, I’m sorry for not immediately buying your delusion.  I… I just… proof would help me.”

“But proof destroys the divinity of the divine.  Turns it into a tow truck.” Pez smiled. “I’m sorry, I’m not doing parlor tricks.  I do not want this to get in the way of our friendship, for I do believe you are my friend, Mixie.” Pez smiled and Mixie found herself smiling back.  “And the nice thing about my divinity is that I do not need you to believe me for me to continue to be” Pez posed with a flourish of the hand, “divine.”

Mixie snorted.  “Quite!  And Pez, you… you are my friend, as much as these few days at any rate… I just don’t know… And maybe, if you’ve got this delusion from some kind of trauma, I can maybe get you help.”

Pez sighed.  “Is it so bad a delusion?  I mean, if I’m truly mad and delusional, would this particular delusion be all that bad?  For me?  For you?  Would believing it really cause you any great harm?”

They sat in silence for a while.  Mixie drank from the canteen while Pez rifled through the backpack and brought out some toasted gecko and some roots cut into long sticks.

“That lunch?”

Pez smiled up.  “A picnic!”

“More gecko? I’d think with all your godness that you’d be a vegan.”

“I am not wasteful, nor do I delight in the killing, but food is important to you.  These beings are hearty and easy to trap.  And the greens of the roots here make a decent rub with the ever so plentiful salt.”

The two ate in silence for a while with Mixie taking heavy swigs from the canteen.

Finally, she asked, “So, what happened to them? Your people?

“Oh, a mix of things. Many of them fled this world. Too few… And not enough who would accept the old teachings enough to … let me go with them. I let them go with the love of a mother for her wayward child.” Pez sniffled, then added, “That’s one of my many aspects, you understand.”

“Of course,” Mixie smiled. “But I was more interested in why this world is so… dead. It’s got the ability to sustain life, but it just doesn’t.  Not the way it should.  It’s fucked up how much salt is everywhere.  You would think it would … I don’t know… migrate with rain or something?”

Pez packed up the rations and dusted one hand on the other. “Ah. Well. That’s both a simple and a complex story that’s best shown, not told. You said the ship was mobile, at least a little, any chance we can take it somewhere?”

“Actually yeah. I can anti-grav the thing and just throw the computer inside.  Won’t go much faster than walking, but… I don’t see much of a point. Rebuilding the rocket from scratch will take forever…”

“Well, I’m sure I could help you pass the time. I am the god of love after all. Billions of creatures have coupled in my name.”

A laugh erupted out of Mixie.  “That’s your pick-up line?” Pez continued to smile, which should have been unnerving, but it wasn’t.  “Yeah, and don’t think I don’t appreciate the offer, but … Pez? Are you male or female? I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Slinging the backpack over a shoulder, Pez said, “You humans are so cute! All ‘detail oriented.’ But suit yourself, the offer still stands to lie with a God. But come… Not all things on this planet are ruin.”

[Author’s note: Hi.  Trying to get this out before NaNoWriMo hits next week.  Please like if you care to spread the word of the site and my work (I could use it).  And feel free to look around.

Come November 1, I’ll be posting my daily NaNoWriMo output under the “Minions of the Orange Overlord” page.  With any luck it won’t be a total dumpster fire but I’ve probably only got about 5K worth of story in my head for it.  Luckily, those parts are the beginning, the middle, and the end, so I got that.

Hope you like the story so far.  It’s not that much longer but I’m doing a fair bit of editing, as with everything these days.

Stay Weird

-SC]