by Sunil Patel
My attic craves memories, hungers for them. Jacinda, it whispers, show me the universe. So I do.
On Rydan I meet a Terran expatriate named Janessa. We laugh at the similarity in our names and share a cup of warm hungus, a local drink made by grinding an aquamarine flower until it turns crimson. It tastes of cinnamon and honey, though neither can be found on that world. I place the taste into a box to bring home.
On the way to Seraglia the starship is attacked by pirates. They board the ship and swarm the corridors, pointing a blaster at each passenger and demanding valuables. I hide beneath my cot, huddled up like a baby in the womb, and dare not make a sound.
A blaster shot. A body falls.
The door slides open and a pirate pokes his reptilian head in, sniffing the air. Then sneezing. He shakes his head and leaves, and the door slides closed. I let out the breath I’ve been holding, but not before I put my fear into a box.
The elephantine aardvarks of Nyctus have grown to become docile and tolerant of humans. Legend says they were once fierce creatures that ruled the tundras, goring small rodents upon their tusks, but terraforming destroyed their habitat. They adapted as best they could.
Despite the assurances of the ranger, I cower in the face of the creature’s massive tusks and long snout. It approaches slowly, each footstep causing the ground to reverberate. Out of its snout comes a thin, prehensile tongue, and it licks my face, tasting my flesh. The ranger reminds me that it does not see me as food.
Hesitantly, I walk to its side and gaze upon its grey, leathery skin, like the cover of an ancient book, full of stories in long-dead languages. It is surprisingly warm to the touch. I lay my head on the beast and listen to its heartbeat.
To two heartbeats.
I glance at the ranger, startled, and she nods at me and smiles.
Two hearts beating slightly out of sync, the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. Into a box it goes. click for full story
Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His plays have been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival, and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming inFireside Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Flash Fiction Online, The Book Smugglers, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. He also reviews books for Lightspeed and is Assistant Editor of Mothership Zeta. His favorite things to consume include nachos, milkshakes, and narrative. Learn more at ghostwritingcow.com, where you can watch his plays, or follow him @ghostwritingcow, where he’s been described as “engaging,” “exclamatory,” and “crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery