Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
For a few moments after he’d woken up, Hilosh gave serious consideration to the possibility that he was dead. What else could have explained the doughy blanket of tranquility that he found himself wrapped in? Hilosh vaulted out of bed, nearly slamming his head into the shelves that overhung his cot and went straight to the window, where he found mostly darkness. It was nighttime on this inhospitable rock, but more importantly, the bolts of lightning were reduced to a few sparks glowing along the horizon. Any vestiges of remaining sleep left Hilosh and he marched out of his office, trailing behind plumes of fog from his warm breath in the frigid corridors and stairways of the barracks.
Stepping into the kitchen, he found Charosar already at work, with Yarmar offering herself as support.
“You knew about this and didn’t tell me?” Hilosh asked Yarmar who was checking on a steaming pot of something nutritious for a change.
“I figured you needed your sleep,” she answered unapologetically.
“Maybe you’re right. But don’t go spreading word, alright?”
“We’ll see,” she answered, closing the lid and moving to another pot.
“Should be ready in about a half hour,” Charosar declared as she leaned into a knife with the satisfaction of a professional who had been kept from her true passion by so many days of rehydrated ration packs. “Twenty if you want to lend a hand.”
Hilosh pulled off his fur-lined gloves and joined Yarmar at her side.
“I’ll give the call to wake up the crew in a few minutes,” Yarmar said. “Then after they had their fill, we’ll head straight out there.”
Hilosh nodded, slicing into a vegetable that had been frozen for far too long; nothing Vaparozh, so he never bothered to learn the name of it. As he toiled with Yarmar and Charosar over the hot pots and pans, for the first time in days he peeled off the outer layers of his clothing, revealing a frame the other two appeared to him to eye with some concern. It was what he always looked like, though, even in his youth when he’d have to finely adjust with his bare hands mining drills that weighed three times as much as he did. It was nice, for a change, not only to shed the fake skin of a shimchek, but some whole other person’s body type as well.
Once they were done, and the food was delivered, Hilosh and Yarmar split up to attend to their duties.
The crew hadn’t gotten a full night’s rest but with the food filling their bellies and the prospect of getting the job done, no one was complaining and the mood in the male mess hall was generally upbeat. Yarmar was across the door in the female mess hall – their crew was split about even, though she had all the Mraboran, and he figured the mood in there was a few degrees more cheerful than where he was. He never had the same way with words as she did, but in any case, it didn’t seem like they needed him much, as most of the crew was chatting away contently, with the notable exception of the Human, who sat in his own corner of the long table, trying to keep down the alien cuisine.
Hilosh knew his own prejudices weren’t helping Ayra Santosi none either, that he wasn’t being fair, drawing this kind of inexorable association between two completely random Humans, who likely never met and hadn’t even been aware of the other’s existence. It was hard, though – Humans hadn’t exactly become ubiquitous around these parts and Hilosh encountered so few it was easy to imagine them as part of a small cohesive group rather than a species that numbered in the billions, much like the Vaparozh themselves. Still, every time Hilosh looked at Santosi, he imagined the one that had come years before Santosi, brought to this forgotten corner of space as if intentionally to set off the chain of events that brought Hilosh there.
The turnover at this mining operation made it that there was no one on this rock left who had met her. Even the ownership of the facility had changed twice since she spent time here, guiding the bore machines, praying away the lightning storms, and freezing in her bunk between supply shipments, just like the rest of them, except for one small difference – somewhere in the dead lava tunnels that crisscrossed this once volcanically active world, she’d discovered a Drop. In the stories that were passed down about the glossy black sphere, its size varied greatly – anywhere from being barely large enough to power a surface-to-orbit shuttle to being suitable for a capital navy ship or a small lunar colony. The only things that were certain was that it did exist and that it was promptly pilfered, most likely by the same Human who found it, leaving nothing here but the promises of finding more. These were the promises sold to the next owner of the mine, and the next, and then to the corporation that Hilosh was working for, who then asked him, for the good of all Vaparozh, to volunteer for this post, not because he had some magic touch, but because everyone else was either too old and important or too young and full of promise. At least Yarmar was someone who could relate. She had a far more positive outlook, though, something he envied her for.
Just don’t look at Ayra Santosi, Hilosh told himself, focus on the others, and do what Yarmar would do, which, he acknowledged, was useless advice, as he was no Yarmar.
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.