Shifting Ice: Chapter 15

Prelates On A Darkened Moon

By Jared Vaillancourt [creative writing bureau chief]

“Good morning, Vintis,” the Pyryx greeted as it walked in the door. Vintis smiled at her as it hung up its coat. The brief vacation it was supposed to have enjoyed seemed to loom over its head like the ever-present gas giant in the sky. “Did you enjoy your time off?”

“Sure,” Vintis replied as it ran its credit coin over the pay reader. “A friend came to visit. She had some interesting news.” The Pyryx snapped her jaw shut and gave it a concerned look.

“Bad news, if I read you right,” the Pyryx stood up and crawled over the counter. She placed her large claws over its shoulder. “I have heard rumors of you, Vintis.” She informed it. “Was it Kyraa who visited you during your time of rest?” she asked. Vintis smirked and shook the Pyryx off.

“No, it was Ltezi.” He corrected her. “She came to warn me about Kyraa, though.”

“I know this Ltezi,” the Pyryx commented as Vintis grabbed its skinning scythe. “She buys meat here, mostly during the weekend.” Vintis turned to look at the Pyryx. She was staring at it again. “Do you need more time off, Vintis? A loose Izraal would cause me great concern.” Vintis shook its head.

“No, thank you,” Vintis said as it turned and walked towards the freezer, panting its sweat in the warmth of the deli. “I need to get out of the house. Working helps me think.” It opened the freezer, relaxing as the blessedly cool cloud of fog rolled over it. “It keeps me calm.”

“By your wish,” the Pyryx whispered. Vintis turned to find her standing right behind it. “Your bravery is true to the rumors, then.” She smiled and patted it on the back, almost hard enough to knock it over. “You may work as much as you want, great Vintis.”

“Thanks,” Vintis muttered as it entered the freezer, securing the door behind it. It considered the scythe in its hand. “Just remember I was a bookkeeper, not a fucking soldier,” it grumbled as it turned to the slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling and got to work.

Vintis was the first home that night. It charged up the feeding lights as it cut fresh fruit, setting the table as it waited for Klezyp to return. It examined its credit coin as it sat and waited; it reported that the Pyryx had paid it overtime for its entire shift that day. Vintis sighed and ran the coin over the table’s reader, authorizing the extra funds for a local charity.

“Thanks anyways,” Vintis grumbled at the reader. It sighed as it considered the vibrant blue fruit sitting on the table. Klezyp was unusually late coming home today. It considered calling Klezyp, ready to ask if it was all right, but thought better of it. Klezyp was one to be trusted.

Not ten minutes later, the door opened and a chorus of Pyryx voices entered the room. Vintis turned and stood as Klezyp quickly rushed inside, turning and slamming its palm over the door controls to shut and lock the portal. It was panting heavily as it removed its coat and hung it up.

“Klezyp?” Vintis ventured as it stood. Klezyp turned to look at it, its expression exasperated and tired. Klezyp gulped and took a deep, calming breath. It attempted to smile.

“Hey, Vintis,” Klezyp coughed. “Wow. You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had.” It leaned a hand on the wall and took a few more greedy gulps of air. “Sorry, I mean, how was your day?” it asked as it looked up. Vintis came over to it and helped Klezyp over to the table. Both of them took their seats as Vintis stared at Klezyp, its brow furrowed in confusion.

“My day was fine,” Vintis said slowly. “My boss tried to pay me overtime.” Klezyp nodded and continued to pant, its head in its hands. “What through all the great stars happened to you?”

“Oh, nothing,” Klezyp grumbled. It looked up at Vintis and smiled. “I was on the other side of the moon, counting a village of Pyryx.” It chuckled. “You know, aliens can’t tell us apart, eh?” it asked. Vintis sighed and nodded down at its empty plate.

“Let me guess…” Vintis whispered. Klezyp leaned back and lowered its arms.

“It’s her! It truly is her!” Klezyp imitated a Pyryx accent, “It’s the great and mighty Vintis!” Klezyp reached forward and loaded its plate with a vengeance. “The Izraal seek her head, my brothers! Keep her safe! Keep her happy!” Klezyp stabbed the fork into a piece of fruit and angled it over towards Vintis. It reached back and activated the feeding lights. “We’re a bunch of obsessive-compulsive animals who don’t know one Zwitii from another!” it finished with an angry bite into its fruit. Vintis took its helping of the almost crystallized blue wedges and calmly tucked in. For a moment, both of them ate in silence, with Klezyp focusing intently on its food while Vintis watched it quietly.

“Klezyp…” Vintis said softly. Klezyp stabbed its fork into its last piece of fruit.

“No, Vintis, it isn’t your fault, I know,” Klezyp said quickly. It sighed and looked up at Vintis. “I was fine at first, you know. They were really nice, answering all of my questions and offering me drinks. When I tried to tell them my name, they all thought I was being humble.” Klezyp harrumphed and picked up its last piece of fruit. “Then the crazies came and everything went into a giant singularity.” Klezyp sighed and ate its last piece of fruit. It stood and started to clear the table. Vintis stood and walked over to Klezyp, placing its hands on Klezyp’s shoulders as that worthy hesitated.

“I’m sorry, Klezyp,” Vintis whispered. “I never wanted any of this to happen.” Klezyp turned to Vintis and nodded, its eyes cast down towards their feet. Vintis patted Klezyp on the shoulder reassuringly.

“This war really will consume us all, won’t it?” Klezyp asked. Vintis looked down as well, remembering the words a vague J’r protester had once said. It hugged Klezyp tight. “It doesn’t matter where we go,” Klezyp whispered. “They’ll always be there, won’t they?” it asked. Vintis sighed and closed its eyes. No matter where they… went…

“Brakksys,” Vintis whispered as it opened its eyes.

“Huh?” Klezyp asked. Vintis grabbed its shoulders, as it looked Klezyp right in the eye.

“Brakksys!” Vintis repeated. Klezyp gasped and smiled.

“Vintis, you are a genius,” Klezyp muttered as they both began to laugh.

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