Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Hilosh sighed and let his eyes wander past the window and up the wall to the ceiling. Everything here was constructed from the same dull grey lightweight metal. No matter how many rugs, tapestries or blankets, shipped in by successive crews who tried to make the barracks more livable, were hung on the walls and covered the floor, it still felt like the inside of a can of salted fish. Between the rationing of water that made showers a scarce commodity and filled the living quarters with a briny aroma and the darkness of his office, he half-expected that when he turned his head he would find not Yarmar, but a bug-eyed scaly fish staring dumbly straight ahead.
Instead, it was just Yarmar; a whole generation younger than him, although, who wasn’t these days? She gazed out the window with such determination that he could almost believe that she could resolve this storm just by looking at it. Her wide violet eyes, not uncommon in their species, looked deep purple in this light, while his own pale blue ones appeared dim, as if someone had turned off the light behind an empty pane of glass. The light of the storm in general was not kind to their complexion, erasing the darker ringlets that mottled their earthen green skin leaving them looking like monotonous blots of ink, particularly where the mass of flesh that formed at the back of their skull and neck drooped over their shoulders, spilling down slightly over their chests. Despite all that, he was perfectly content to hole up in his metal cave. Yarmar was of course right though, he had to do for the men what she’d done for the women. It wasn’t their fault that they were stuck with him.
“If I go down and join the men to eat, how else would they know I’m working extra hard on their behalf by watching this blasted storm for hours on end? Probably know more about it than Viri at this point.”
“Well that’s good, we might need a replacement meteorologist soon,” Yarmar said.
“Because if the crew has to ration any harder, he’s first on the list to get eaten.”
Hilosh chuckled, dislodging something in his throat that made him cough. “You’re as dark as a Mraboran,” he said.
“Well I did work among them for years.”
“Right, that must be why they love you.” Rocks; rocks made a lot of sense to Hilosh. People, not so much. He liked to think he knew more about rocks than Yarmar, but if he did, it wasn’t nearly as much as she knew more about people than him.
“Oh, come now.” She paused, and he wished she hadn’t softened her voice. “They love you too.”
“Yeah, maybe how I’d taste.”
“See, easy habit to make, harder one to break.”
Hilosh let out a laugh that faded as his thoughts returned to the weather outside. His mind raced to find patterns and hypothesis. No lightning strikes for three seconds? That was a good sign up until the skies would unleash another volley that would jump from guardrail to guardrail down into the open pit. A patch of sky that grew lighter towards the horizon? That meant the storm was running out of steam. And then, a few minutes later, it would grow so dark Hilosh suspected the sun itself might have gone out while no one was watching. Everything in his head was the storm, and so he didn’t even hear when Yarmar took her exit from the office, leaving him with the only company he’d kept in days. A particularly bright flash struck the ground beneath his window.
Everything was good omens and bad omens and new omens he hadn’t yet ascribed any meaning to. None of them however slowed the approach of the Raire, or hurried up the storm, or transported all their mined ore to the transfer station in orbit. He remembered the words of his son, spoken with such disgust and embarrassment years earlier: “This is why we lost. This is why we’d been losing for centuries.” It wasn’t his words, of course, it was theirs, the Thorian educators in that fancy school of his. Hilosh thought it would give Rachek an advantage in the world. He was right, Rachek was doing well in the world, better than his father could have ever imagined himself doing, but it was still somehow the biggest mistake Hilosh had ever made. The second biggest had been agreeing to accept this position. Not having seen either of his kids in years, he figured he’d spend some if his later years in service to his people. And yet somehow it still felt like losing.
Yarmar once again was right, it was sleep that he needed instead of insisting on this window-side vigil. He’d need the right presence of mind to tell their crew that they needed to section off more parts of the barracks, that they’d be bunking in even closer quarters, and that despite all that, they’d still need to lower the temperature a couple of degrees.
In the corner of the office, there stood a cot, recessed underneath some shelves. It was one of the reasons that him and Yarmar had separate offices, since they slept in them too. He crawled underneath the thick rough blanket and, sticking his head inside until his breath sufficiently warmed him, fell asleep in minutes.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.