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   Chapter 4 No.4

Black Sunrise By Christina Engela Characters: 4324

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:01


"Funny how the stars look out here." Said a masculine voice close to her ear. "So dull. So dead."

She could see the stars in question, hanging lifelessly a few million light-years on the other side of the large viewports – or if you will, windows. They hung out there like bits of painted tinsel.

"Oh. It's you, Fred." She said. "Yes, I suppose it's because there's no atmosphere to give them that luster. On Earth they seem to wink at you. On Jez El they're all different colors because of the way the air splits their light like a prism."

"I've been to Jez El." Said Fred. "I've never been to Earth."

"It's lovely." Said Mei. "At night the sky is dark blue and they twinkle. You can feel the cool wind on a summer's night and there's not a cloud in the sky."

"Wind." Said Fred. "Yes, that's one of the things you never get on a ship. I miss the wind."

"Me too." She sighed. "I miss taking a walk on my Grans' farm."

"Don't walk much." Said Fred. "Don't actually do much at all."

"That sounds awful sad, Fred." Mei sympathized, "You really should get out more next time we make planetfall."

"Love to." Said Fred.

"Get out a bit, take in the sights. Feel the wind blowing through your hair – "

"Leaves."

"Leaves – the warm sun on your sk- " Mei stopped. "Sorry, Fred. I feel like a bit of a twit. Keep forgetting."

"No problem." Said Fred. "Makes me feel more a part of things. All I need is a bit of water nice and regular and some good conversation."

"Being stuck here on the rec-dec can't be much fun, huh?"

"Well, the music's good. Computer plays Mozart and Tchaikovsky a lot. The stuff the rest of the crew likes is awful."

"You mean rock music?"

"Not good for growth, that stuff. Far as I'm concerned, rocks belong in the substratum, not in music."

"Your leaves are looking greener." Mei remarked.

"Thanks. I got the computer to turn up the UV a little."

A meter-high bush of thick fleshy green wiggled a few leaves at her in gratitude. She smiled, realizing that if she had seen that happen a few months earlier, she'd be half a block away by now, screaming. She made a mental note to remember t

o include sun-block in her morning routine – she didn't want UV damage to her hard-won milk-white complexion.

"Fred?"

"Yes, Mei?"

"What's it like to be a plant?"

Fred sighed. Being on the rec-dec meant that he spent a lot of time alone. The other plants weren't much company. The ships computer was accommodating, acceding to his requests for what he called good music – but its capacity for reason and conversation were somewhat limited. Being the only example of his species on board meant that he spent a lot of his time, well, vegetating. The crew came here in an attempt to relax. Crewmen would often sit and talk to him at odd hours of the cycle, often while slightly pickled. They would unload their worldly troubles on him and make him feel like a bartender – and a rather confused one, at that. They asked him questions that presupposed he somehow soaked up the wisdom of the universe through his aerial roots. He still didn't understand the animal obsession with reproductive activities.

"Well, " said Fred considering the question carefully. "Suppose I asked you 'what's it like to be human?' I suppose you'd say, 'Well you've got lots of muscles to move, squishy bits inside, you feed by actually sticking things into yourselves and you've got rocky bits inside called bones.' Well – now suppose I told you being a plant I don't get around much, being pretty much rooted to the spot. I don't like the nightlife 'cos it's too dark and people keep picking my flowers in spring. Suppose someone came along, ripped your balls off and walked off sniffing them? The point being, actually, that you couldn't imagine my life as a plant any more than I could imagine being human. Understand?"

Mei waited for a definite pause before answering. "Umm. I suppose."

"What kind of name is Winter, anyway? Not some sort of seasonal thing, is it?"

"It's my last name. My full name is Cindy-Mei Winter."

"That is a full name." Said Fred. "Mine's just Fred. Plain old Fred, first and last, all in one."

"Tell me, Fred." Said Cindy-Mei, risking another question, "What is it you like most about being a plant?"

Fred barely hesitated.

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