On the other side of the singularity, Seneca finds himself stumbling in three-day old snow which crunches up to the spurs on his heels. The air is bitterly cold. The only thing whiter than the moonlight on the frosty ground is Grey’s face beneath her freckles. Remarkable, he thinks, how recognizable human features really are. Maybe all sentient species are the handiwork of the same gods, after all.
For her part, Grey’s initial reaction to Seneca manifesting five feet in front of her is stricken bewilderment. He’s seven feet tall of he’s a centimetre. He’s the color of cobalt. The feathers on the crown of his head, flattening in answer to the shocking cold, make him look like a cross between a snake and, she thinks, the devil’s cockatoo. She can’t read any of what little he reveals in the expression on his square eyed, aquiline face or his cardboard-brown irises. Not a threat, nor assurance that she hasn’t just lost her mind. Was there something in the punch? So she just stares at him, stock still, until he says her name.
He doesn’t need to ask if this is the right woman—it’s her. Younger now, of course, copper and fire hair not cropped quite so short, the smoothness of youth exaggerating the wideness of her slanting Slavic eyes and the tightness of her shocked expression. Still, addressing her seems the way to start.
“Grey McPherson?” he hisses.
Making a sound like she’s swallowing her own lungs, she stumbles back by a step. Two. Three. She comes up against the bony fingers of a winter-naked scrub oak and throws her arms out as if the fragile branches could steady her.
What the fuck, she’s thinking, what the fuck?
He takes a step toward her. The snow is already soaking through the wraps on his feet. The air bites through the wet fabric as he moves.
Grey responds by closing her hand hard enough around a sharp, slender branch to break it off, promptly bringing it up over her head clenched in both palms like a club.
“Stay back,” she tries to screech, though it comes out a whisper. “I swear to god—”
“You’ll what, poke my eye out?” he remarks in his own tongue. It isn’t meant for her. Its meanness meant for the cold, for the debilitating pain in his gut where time is clutching, screaming, at his organs. But she hears is plane, baritone English—my first little miracle, my first little gift—and she responds.
“Oh my god,” she stutters. “what even are you?”
“My name is Yavarye Inkánat Seneca . . .” he’s not a diplomat, and he spits unforgiving facts accordingly, “my people call ourselves saeristi, our planet Euora is farther from here than you can probably comprehend, but we’ve come to meet the neighbors. In 2053 . . . I’ve been told you help us.”
Grey, colorless except for her hair and bright eyes, remarks: “I am so fucking high.”
He inches toward her, and she screeches, lowering the stick she grasps in front of her, now like a broadsword.
“I sure as shit will poke your eye out! Stay away!” she threatens, recalling his earlier remark she wasn’t supposed to hear. Adrenaline keens in her tone, enough of it flooding her system that her vision turns to higher definition and she can feel the movement of her own blood.
“I said, I don’t care if I’m hallucinating, I will absolutely stab you.”
“But I never said anything about my eye.”
“Yes, you did,” she declares, matter of fact. “I may be hallucinating, but I know what my hallucination said, thank you very much.”
Mind blunt with pain, it takes him a beat to think of speaking to her in Molni again to test whether what he thinks is happening really is.
“What do you think I am?” he asks in Euoran tongue.
“Proof I should have gone to temple more and partied less.”
Maybe she is high. Surely, it seems to Seneca, she cannot just be like this. She’s unreal in the defiance of her fear, her sharp tongue so at odds with her appearance of being near fainting.
“What language do you think I’m speaking right now?”
“English, human, am I speaking it?” he snaps.
“Wrong,” he retorts, switching to English, aware of his own sharp and bouncing accent over the words, “now I am speaking English. How are you understanding me?”
Her arms slowly lowering, the stick falling from her fingers, Grey asks again, now aloud: “What the fuck.”
© Laura Ridyr 2013