My Extended Death
—A serialized novelette from the world of the Human Legion—
It started with a homemade mortar round flung at the roof of the colony, the death rattle of a religious sect desperate for the nourishment of publicity. When you, the people of the outside world, first stumbled across our isolated nest two millennia before, you decided to preserve our Pristine Colony in splendid isolation. According to this failing sect, this represented a blasphemous worship of your primitive past.
Idiots! The Pristine Colony remains the shining example for your future. Your only hope.
Forgive me, dearest Keligomo. My pup. You have heard my tale before, of a natural life shielded from your technology, your great-parent implants, and your failing war among the stars. Hear me one last time, I beg you, for now I address my tale not only to you but to all the people of the worlds outside the Pristine Colony.
Besides, my story has grown. It has gained a moral.
And an ending.
The mortar attack from the religious zealots proved futile, of course, but I was forever changed because it led to my two centuries of extended death. To be fair, the sect had only limited access to your technology. I think they did very well to land their bombs so accurately, hitting the roof of the colony’s birthing hospital, right over my head.
I had been stretchered back from a mating and left in my cell by the nurses for metamorphosis to take hold. Ochre moss coated the snug cell, promising warmth and moisture for my Dreamtime. Loosening into the happy, warm fuzz of parenthood, I lay waiting for the Change, as contented as a warrior who is offered a scent message of respect.
I had little choice. The flesh I had ingested from my defeated lover so distended my belly that I had to lie on my dull-black carapaced back, pinned under my belly’s weight.
The lover I had eaten was called Abrihet. A good fighter, sie had scored a deep gash in my flank and ripped off two of my limbs.
None of that mattered now. I was pregnant once again.
You in the worlds outside should try real life one day.
My smug tranquility shattered when the bomb exploded overhead. The shockwave made my thorax hum. I looked up and got an eyeful of dirt dislodged from the ceiling. Great chunks of it filled the morphing shelf.
Through the gaps in the ceiling, I could see juveniles and scribes scurrying and chittering, awed that they could actually see daylight. Someone summoned a warrior squad, thinking we were under attack.
So we were, up to a point. But not by a rival colony, not in a sense that any of us understood at that time. Especially not me because I had come perilously close to spinsterhood in that cycle. Like my fingers that had almost fused into shovels, my ossified brain had been regressing into a more primitive tool. And so I failed to notice the absence of enemy warriors. Instead, I stared as the cracks extended their black fingers through the morphing shelf, reducing it to rubble. I was supposed to use that shelf.
Through the slowly clearing dust cloud I could now look into the neighboring cell where, staring back from ser own stretcher, I saw another parent-to-be. Sie must have mated much earlier in ser cycle than I had, because ser carapace still held patches of soft white fur. An aggressive growl escaped ser mouth and fought through the flood of dreaminess in my veins to limply stir the lust that had led to my mating with Abrihet.
Deep inside, my depleted sac of love darts ached. I wanted to move but had neither the strength nor the limbs. My nose filled with the allure of the pregger’s scent and my mouth twitched at the hope of biting into that soft fur.
“You, I like you,” I growled. “Want you.”
Hardly the love sonnets of N’Bushe you might think, rightly, but I was alive then and in the barely fertile outer reaches of workerhood, close to the threshold of dimwitted spinsterhood.
Then the nearby pregger rubbed ser legs seductively. (Sie had retained all six legs during ser mating. I recall that made a huge impression on me at the time.)
Juvenile nurse-apprentices fussed into our cells, their soft, egg-white bodies pulsing red in concern.
“Are you in trouble?” one asked me.
“No. Want something.”
I enjoyed the confusion in ser scent. I do not suppose the newly pregnant often feel the need to speak.
“Choose name of pups,” I stated.
“You want to alter the name of your pups?”
Unsure whether my words were unclear or the juvenile was questioning the validity of my request, I let off the scent of agreement.
“W-well, I do not advise making decisions in your state. You’re pregnant now.”
“Change name,” I said.
The juvenile rolled ser eyes but waved assent. Sie picked up the clay tablet beside my stretcher and blew off the debris.
“Your mate’s name choices were ‘Chioma’ and ‘Yenee’, pretty names both. What would you change them to?”
I craned my neck to look at the neighboring cell where the beautiful pregger smelled and watched everything.
“What your name?” I asked ser.
“Kelile,” sie grunted.
“My pups,” I grunted. “Call both of them Kelile.”
“But that’s…” My nurse-apprentice looked to ser counterpart in the other cell.
“There is no precedent,” said the other nurse.
Then Kelile spoke. “My pups names. Use ser name.” Sie pointed two legs at me.
For long seconds, the nurses said nothing, gave off no scents. Then came a whiff of submission and they amended our tablets. My pups were named Kelilekwanza-pya and Kelilepili-pya.
“Remember me,” said Kelile.
My pregnancy hormones lost their patience and claimed me. Soon I was drifting in the Dreamtime of metamorphosis, but I did not let go of that name: Kelile!
Text (c) 2015 by Tim C. Taylor. All rights reserved. Alien insect image (c) bluecrayola / Shutterstock