Just to let you know, this is where the heavier aspects of the story really begin to rear their heads. The “adult themes”, as it were—although I don’t think these are quite
the things that justify the rating of PG-13 or higher. No, those are still to come…
Chapter 4 – The Messenger
The nearest place to park in the shade was five blocks away from the Haven—five blocks to walk under the harsh midday sun, under which Esaax had not been for years. He certainly wasn’t enjoying it, and he continued to wonder how in the world a snorunt could tolerate it at all, shade or no shade. He still halfway expected to find a little gray-and-yellow corpse sitting behind the wheel—or perhaps just a puddle…
Breaking away from that train of thought and the rather morbid turn that it had decided to take, Esaax thought of something that restored some of his sun-drained spirits. “You know what, Syr? I think I’d really like to drive. You just tell me where to go, and I’ll go there. Think Jan’ll let me?”
“It’s ‘Jen’, Esaax, not ‘Jon’,” Syr corrected.
“I said ‘Jan’.”
“Well, whatever you said, it was wrong. And no, you can’t drive this car.”
“You know I know perfectly well how to drive a car, Syr,” Esaax said a bit crossly.
“Not this car. Besides which, I haven’t forgotten your record with motor vehicles. Every time you’d try to drive something, anything
, you’d break it or wreck it, or else you’d just—”
“But they fixed that at the Haven,” Esaax interrupted. “They made me stronger so that I could be more careful and less likely to break things.”
The arbok at his side raised an eyebrow at him. “Doesn’t it seem like more strength should make someone less
careful and more
likely to break things?”
“I’m not gonna wreck it! Just let me drive the stupid thing!”
“I’ll only say this one more time. Listen very carefully. You
can’t drive this
car,” Syr said.
Esaax was about to argue some more, but then he actually saw the car—a copper convertible—for himself and knew at first sight that Syr was absolutely right about it. The wobbuffet couldn’t
drive it, no matter how much he wanted to or how carefully he thought he could do so. The driver’s seat had been modified, reshaped expressly for small species to put everything within their reach. The space was so small and everything in it crammed so closely together that it would have been awkward to the point of impossibility for someone Esaax’s size to occupy and use.
And there was indeed a snorunt behind the wheel. Despite Esaax’s concerns, the ice-type was very much alive and well. Jen scrutinized Esaax through beady little eyes, nibbling every few seconds at a tropical snow cone as he stared. “That’s him?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s Esaax… Where’d you get that snow cone?” Syr asked.
“An ice cream truck went by not long ago,” Jen answered, continuing to stare at Esaax. Then he smiled at the wobbuffet with teeth that looked more than capable of taking off an arm. “I’m very delighted to meet you, Esaax. You can ride up front with me—if you want.”
Esaax shivered, finding that smile more than a little unnerving. Nonetheless, he saw that he didn’t really have much choice with regards to the seating arrangements since Syr was really too big to ride anywhere but in the back, and thus Esaax took his place next to the snorunt, albeit reluctantly. The arbok entered the vehicle after him, coiling loosely across the back seats. With everyone on board, they were on their way.
“So tell me,” Esaax said to Jen shortly after they’d headed off, chatting more out of nervousness than actual interest, “how do you plan to drive this thing once you evolve and don’t have hands anymore?”
“He’s not evolving,” Syr said.
“Now, that’s not fair,” said Esaax. “You can’t forbid him to evolve just because you’re scared of—”
“No, it’s all right,” said Jen. “I don’t want to become a glalie. If he said ‘do it’, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do it for anyone.”
“Huh. I always thought it’d be kind of neat to evolve,” said Esaax.
“You never have?” Jen asked.
“Well, yeah, I have, before I was born. But that doesn’t really count.”
“Huh… Anyway, it isn’t ‘kind of neat’—it’s major
. It isn’t just your shape that changes—your whole life changes. Especially when it comes to changing into a glalie…”
Jen gave a small shudder and went dead silent, apparently not wanting to proceed any further with that topic. Luckily, they arrived at their destination just then, preventing things from getting any more awkward. The three of them got out of the car, and Jen unlocked the front door.
Esaax, Syr, and Jen entered the house, and a place quite far from Esaax’s expectations opened up before him. This had once been a home for humans, and outwardly it appeared as though it still were one. But on the inside, only a scattered few furnishings, such as a television and a rather large, gray sofa, still spoke of its former residents. In the place of human décor, the home had largely taken on a more natural appearance, fashioned into a curious amalgam of a woodland burrow and a cave.
Esaax tossed himself onto the sofa like a bean bag and stared up at the ceiling and the artificial stalactites that hung there; he had to shoo away an sudden, unbidden mental image of one of them breaking off and falling on him. “How long did it take to put all this together?” he asked, indicating his surroundings with a wave of his hand.
“Couple of months,” Syr answered. “It was started right after I got Jen. We actually had a pretty small team working together on it; I’m surprised the work went by so fast.”
“I think it’s cool,” Esaax said. “You guys did a good job.”
Esaax looked over to his right from whence that voice had just sounded and found Jen offering him some dainty-looking little cookies on a tray. There was that disturbing smile again—was
that a smile? Man, that kid’s creepy,
Esaax thought. He took two of the cookies and thanked Jen so as not to risk offending the snorunt’s feelings—he didn’t want to find out the hard way just what those teeth could do.
Esaax popped a couple of the cookies into his mouth, but a weird twinge prickling across the back of his mind in the next moment distracted him from their flavor at once. Someone—and something
—was coming his way. He was given no time at all to figure out how or why he knew this, for just as soon as the notion had hit him, that someone was knocking at the door.
“I’ll get it,” Syr said as he went to answer the door. He opened it and found a xatu standing on the other side.
“Misters Esaax Evergray and Syr. Someone wishes to speak with you,” the xatu said.
“How did you find us?” asked Esaax.
“Who wants to speak with us?” demanded Syr.
“I was sent to find you. I desired to locate you, and thus I was simply able to do so.” The xatu gave no indication that he didn’t honestly believe that that statement would have made sense to even the most dense person. Answering the second question with a bit more clarity, he said, “You are summoned by one Faurur ursh Nanku. Shall I take you there, then?”
The two who’d just been summoned stood petrified in bewilderment, seemingly deaf to the confused questions of the snorunt skittering in circles around them.
“I already know your reply,” the xatu said. “I shall wait for you outside.” Without even touching it, he closed the door on the bewildered recipients of his message.
Esaax and Syr looked at each other for a few moments, neither saying a word. Finally, “Jen? Esaax and I need to have a talk in private,” Syr said. Jen nodded in acquiescence.
Syr led Esaax into the bathroom and shut the door. Esaax noticed that unlike the other parts of the house that he’d seen, the bathroom was almost completely unchanged from the way that humans had intended it to be. All the fixtures were still intact—including the toilet. Unbidden curiosities made it to the surface of his mind, even in spite of the much heavier thoughts already there.
Fortunately, Syr brought Esaax back into focus before he couldn’t help asking as well as wondering. “I’m not so sure about this,” the arbok said. “You’re the psychic. Tell me: can we really be so sure about this guy?”
“I’m psychic, but I’m no mind-reader. Still, I’m pretty sure he’s for real. I got this… this feeling
about him just before he showed up. I knew he was coming, and that his arrival was very important somehow.”
“I guess so. I can still feel the weight of that, plus… something else. I’ve just got this instinct about him, and it just feels really, really big
.” He shrugged. “It’s enough for me to vouch for him, anyway.”
The wobbuffet noticed then that he was pacing and realized that he’d been doing so ever since he’d entered the bathroom. He’d overestimated his nerves yet again. He managed to stop the motion of his legs, but his tail kept on anxiously switching back and forth. Though he tried, he could not calm it.
Sighing in surrender to his unrest, Esaax said, “You know, that’s actually what I wanted to discuss with you back at the Haven—not the xatu, obviously. I mean, you know, what all you two did after you left T—” He felt his voice catch in his throat. “What you guys did after you left us, and how Faurur’s been lately…”
“I actually haven’t talked with him in a long time,” Syr said, sounding a bit troubled.
“Her,” Esaax corrected.
“You really haven’t
seen Faurur in a long time…” Esaax remarked. “What’s been keeping you guys out of touch? I always thought you were like the ultimate best friends and all…”
“Hey, it wasn’t like it was my
fault!” Syr suddenly blurted. The outburst surprised even him. He took a moment to stop and breathe. “Sorry… sorry, it’s not like it was really Faurur’s fault, either. Something happened, you see—something weird. It happened almost right after Faurur and I parted ways with you. These lights that were like nothing I’d ever seen before appeared and moved across the sky one night. The next day, the koffing were all saying that their ‘gods’ had arrived. They demanded that my people swear loyalty to these gods, too.
“We had no clue what they were talking about, and we weren’t about to just give ourselves and our faith to total strangers. So the koffing drove us all away—you wouldn’t believe how strong they can be in a group. I never did find out if Faurur was on their side… Anyway, since you
—more recently than I have, tell me: when you were with her then, how was she?”
“Well, first of all,” Esaax tended first to the unspoken question that he suspected that Syr was harboring, “they’re able to do that by just deciding to do that. Change sexes, I mean. How
they’re able to do that, I don’t know at all, but they are. The reason Faurur did was because the koffing had chosen him to be their new colony leader, but the thing is, the colony leader always has to be female. It’s just one of their laws. So Faurur became female out of duty.”
Esaax hesitated then. He didn’t really want to go on and tell of what had happened between himself and Faurur, for the memory pained him to no small degree. But at the same time, he couldn’t help feeling like he owed it to Syr given that the arbok and weezing had known each other and had been close friends long before he’d come into the picture.
As Esaax began to tell his story, his voice underwent a marked transformation. His words were strained; it was all too clear that he was forcing them out.
“After the Extinction,” Esaax began, “I tried to get back together with some of the old crew. No luck finding anybody other than Basath, but… well, she hates me… You never got to meet her, though, did you?”
“No, I didn’t,” Syr confirmed.
A strange, distinctly sour look took over Esaax’s features. “Well, consider yourself lucky,” he said, and his tone told that he was not at all interested in continuing any further on that subject.
“Eventually, I managed to find Faurur,” he then said. “Now, as for these ‘gods’ you were talking about, she made no mention of any such thing. And when I asked her where you were, the answer she gave me was really ambiguous. She told me that you and the ekans just decided to go off on your own somewhere, and that you gave no explanation as to why.
“What she said didn’t seem suspicious to me at the time. I don’t remember that anything about the situation did. But I’m not surprised that I missed the signs. I was… kind of in another mind at the time…
“Anyway…” Esaax’s voice began to tremble and crack. “…Anyway, something went wrong—nothing to do with gods or sky-lights or any such crap. Faurur wanted to know, of course, whatever had become of her poor, precious ‘Master’. She actually, honestly didn’t know
; that’s how far-removed her life had become. I had to break that
news to her. I had to deliver that
message—it was awful
“You can just imagine her reaction, right?” But before Syr could answer, “Wrong
. You have no idea. I mean, the level of adoration there… it’s much greater than we ever thought. I told her, and it was like I’d just ripped her right open…”
Esaax, having begun to pace again as he spoke, came to a stop once more. But this time, rather than standing, he sank, sliding down the wall until he was slouched against it on the floor with his spine bent at almost a right angle.
“It was awful
,” he repeated. “I just felt like a monster for making her feel that way. I swore that, no matter what, I would do anything to help her. I gave her that pain, so I had to be the one to take it away. I had to be there for her so she could recover.”
His voice changed yet again; it was now barely more than an exhalation. “We became very, very close…”
Syr had had his head lowered in the somberness that his friend was casting over the room. He looked back up at Esaax then and found the wobbuffet staring at nothing.
“We became very close,” Esaax continued, “and then… and then we…” He swallowed very hard. “We had an egg.”
For a moment, Syr was too surprised to say anything. When he found his voice and his wits again, he asked, “So… was it a boy, or a girl?”
Esaax smiled very faintly. “It was a girl,” the wobbuffet answered. “A koffing, of course, but a little more blue than purple because of me. When she hatched, she was so tiny that I could hold her in one hand…”
His smile widened, but became very shaky. “She was named Drasigon, and I really liked that name. Faurur told me that it means ‘never ignored’, and I agreed on it instantly.”
Startlingly, his gaze locked back into focus in a single moment. With a stare like a homing missile straight into Syr’s eyes, Esaax said, “Guess how long she lasted.”
“Come on, guess.”
What kind of a thing is
that to say?
Syr wondered. “…How long?” he finally asked.
There was no response.
“How long?” Syr gingerly asked again.
,” Esaax answered abruptly, harshly. “Four days
. That’s all
. Four days, and then she just burst into flames, just like that. And then she was gone
, Syr, like some evil magic hit her. For no reason
Esaax was shaking so hard at this point that it looked like he could just fall apart. His eyes closed, overflowing with tears. As Syr stared at him in shock and sorrow, he thought that he saw something that disconcerted him even further: for just a second, there seemed to be a faint, multicolored aura around Esaax.
“And Faurur was there when it happened, too,” Esaax went on. “We were just frozen there for a little while. I looked her right in the eyes, and… and I just didn’t know what to do
, so I… so I just ran
Silently weeping, Syr gathered up the wobbuffet in his coils and embraced him tightly as if trying to hold him together. Though Syr certainly wanted to reunite with Faurur, he wasn’t sure it was such a good idea for Esaax to revisit that aspect of his past face-to-face (or faces, as it were), regardless of whether or not the wobbuffet wished to do so. In fact, Syr began to wonder if maybe the only place Esaax ought to be going was right back to the Haven…
Before he could say anything to that effect, however, Esaax took a very deep breath, stood once more, and then removed himself from the arbok’s coils with total ease. “I have to go back to her,” the wobbuffet said. “Right now
“Are… are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Syr asked quietly.
“She needs us,” Esaax responded, wiping the tears from his face as well as he could. “Both
of us. She wouldn’t have called for us both if she didn’t. If something happened to her because I couldn’t be there for her…” He swallowed hard again. “…I don’t think I could forgive myself, Syr.”
Syr frowned at Esaax for a moment, still unsure about the situation. Esaax lowered his gaze, then turned toward the door. Sighing, Syr followed him out of the room and back to where the xatu was waiting, hoping that this was indeed the safer course of action for his friend to take.
Feel free to guess who and what Basath happens to be (her name is a slight hint). ^^
Next chapter: Syr and Esaax reunite with Faurur at last. What news and events could she possibly bear that would have warranted reaching out to them after so many years, and in such an unusual manner? See you then!
- Sike Saner