Hollow Moon Part 2
- Hollow Moon Part 1
- Hollow Moon Part 2
- Hollow Moon Part 3
- Hollow Moon Part 4
- Hollow Moon Part 5
- Hollow Moon Part 6
- Hollow Moon Part 7
- Hollow Moon Part 8
- Hollow Moon Part 9
- Hollow Moon Part 10
- Hollow Moon Part 11
- Hollow Moon Part 12
- Hollow Moon Part 13
- Hollow Moon Part 14
- Hollow Moon Part 15
- Hollow Moon Part 16
- Hollow Moon Part 17
- Hollow Moon Part 18
- Hollow Moon Part 19
- Hollow Moon Part 20
- Hollow Moon Part 21
- Hollow Moon Part 22
- Hollow Moon Part 23
- Hollow Moon Part 24
- Hollow Moon Part 25
- Hollow Moon Part 26
- Hollow Moon Part 27
- Hollow Moon Part 28
- Hollow Moon Part 29
- Hollow Moon Part 30
- Hollow Moon Part 31
- Hollow Moon Part 32
- Hollow Moon Part 33
- Hollow Moon Part 34
- Hollow Moon Part 35
Esk woke with a start as he realized that he had slipped into stasis in front of a human. The daylight filtered in through the cabin curtains. Sam was still fast asleep in his recliner. Esk had not wavered in form while in temporary stasis. He was grateful for this. If Sam found out what Esk looked like without his armor, he would kill him out of fright! Esk looked upon Sam’s calm expression and took the acoustic vibrations of Sam’s vocal cords to mean that he was in a deep sleep, as coarse as the sounds were. They communicated something of sleep—that was all the linguist cared about. Then Esk had a thought. What if I make such vibrations in my sleep? How would anyone else sleep if I did so? Esk was disturbed at the thought and dismissed it immediately, moving on to the next step of his mission: to find out more about the humans’ ancient languages. As Esk was peering around the kitchen wall, Sam padded around in his socks and greeted him at the kitchen table.
“Mornin’, Esk. How’d ya’ sleep? I told ya’ that recliner was comfy, now didn’t I?” Sam seemed pleased with his own hospitality. “So, what do ya’ want for breakfast, Esk?”
Perturbed at the question, Esk hesitated. He did not know if he could assimilate human food. He did not want to offend Sam, either. Esk did the only thing that he could think of and claimed that he was feeling ill. The human, concerned, walked Esk to the bathroom and told him to take as long as he needed. There was an expectation that Esk do something specific, but what, he had no clue. He took advantage of the privacy, though, and explored the bathroom. He first encountered the mirror. Esk discovered that it did not reflect his armor but instead his true form. He had to avoid reflections at all costs if he was to keep up his disguise amongst this race. Esk rubbed his finger against the mirror, and it swung to the side on two hinges, revealing the neat, shelved contents inside. He cataloged a straight razor, shaving cream, men’s hair grease, a deodorant/antiperspirant mix that sent his olfactory senses fluttering, toothpicks, a toothbrush, an extra toothbrush, dental floss, and other odds and ends belonging in a man’s cabinet. Sam tapped lightly on the door.
“You okay, Esk?”
“Yes. I am okay, Sam.”
“Holler if you need anything, okay?” The wavering tone of Sam’s voice indicated worry.
Esk snuck out of the bathroom and shuffled his way back into the kitchen. Sam was eating a large flat biscuit soaked in brown goo. “Aw, there you are. Everything alright? You want some pancakes?” Esk politely refused. “Musta’ been something ya’ ate yesterday that’s givin’ you fits. You’ll be okay, I reckon. I got today off, it bein’ Sunday. Ya’ wanna go t’church with me? I’d like some company there, Esk. I always find myself sittin’, well, by myself.”
Esk agreed and they got ready for the church service at the local church. “How should I dress?” asked Esk.
“Well, I don’t s’pose you have yer Sunday best with ya’, now do ya’? I’ll get ya’ a few things outta my closet, and you can try ‘em on—see if they fit ya’.” Sam dug through his clothing and found a light gray suit for Esk. “Here. Try this’n on.” Esk looked dapper, and Sam was impressed. “Wow, that suit fits you better’n it fits me. You take that. That’s yers, now. Let’s find you a tie to go with that…” Further burrowing produced a multicolored tie that was stunning with the suit and Esk’s complexion. “I reckon we done found you yer Sunday best!” Sam went to change, pleased that he had found his new friend a fine suit of clothes to attend church in.
The gray-haired ladies sitting in the pews looked at Sam and Esk out of the corners of their beady eyes as they entered the church edifice. Esk felt a strange discomfort in his internal organs. “Why do they look at us this way, Sam?” Esk asked in a low tone, as not to alarm or frighten the herd of wrinkled humans chittering amongst themselves. Sam called them “gossips.”
Esk took mental note of the Gossips and their unique, high-pitched, bird-like language patterns. “What tribe are they from, Sam?” Esk asked, again keeping his vocal sounds at a minimal volume as not to disturb the Gossips.
“The Gossips. What tribe are they from?”
“Oh. You mean where’d they come up with that gawd-awful chirping of theirs. Well, they’ve always done it since I ben here, and they’ll prob’ly always do it after I’m gone. Ole ladies is just like that, Esk. Women in gen’ral might even be like that. I wouldn’t know. I don’t have a woman in my life.”
“I tole’ ya’ he was a girly-man,” Esk overheard one of the Gossips say to another.
“Oh, yes’m, ya’ sure did, and sure’nuf, it looks like he’s brought his boyfriend to sing ‘Hallelujah’ with’im,” said another.
Esk judged this language to be improper and in bad taste. Whatever it was referring to, the Gossips guarded their speech. He thought it to be poor form not to allow Sam to hear and defend himself against accusations. Accusatory language was what the extra-terrestrial linguist heard in the Gossips’ tone. Esk felt a pang in his right thumb, where what humans would call their “heart” was located. It was not the actual organ that pumped blood throughout a body. Instead, it was Esk’s emotion-sensing organ used to gauge feelings with. It hurt for his friend.
“Sam, let us go to another edifice,” Esk insisted.
“What’s a’matter, Esk? Don’t’cha like Sunday church service?” asked Sam.
“Sam, I am afraid that your ‘heart’ is in danger.”
“My heart? Esk, I’m not havin’ a heart attack ‘er nothin’. Honest. What made ya’ think that?”
“What I mean is that I am afraid that your emotions will be damaged irreparably by the Gossips if you hear what they are saying.”
“Aw, Esk. That’s mighty good a’ ya’, but I don’t pay no attention to them ole biddies. They’s just lookin’ for somethin’ t’keep their minds occupied. They ain’t got much t’think about. Most a’ the folks they know is dead people.”
Esk choked in horror. The Gossips somehow communicated with the dead! He must report this post-haste to the Council. “Sam, I am feeling distressed. I must go. I will meet you back at your home later.” Esk made for the door of the church amidst Sam’s objections and never looked back. He took off at a dead run for the nearest cover. He needed to translate himself to share this ghastly information.
Sam slumped in his pew, half-heartedly singing the words that he read in the hymnal to an ill-tuned piano. He was sure the pianist was blind because every other note she played was off one way or the other. He had had enough. During the prayer prefacing the offering, Sam slipped out alongside the pews to the back of the chapel. Outside the chapel doors, one of the most esteemed members of the congregation accosted him. “Where do ya’ think yer goin’ in such a hurry right before they pass the plate, Mister Sam?”
Sam tried to dodge his way by her, but she was spry for an elderly woman. “I don’t have any money on me, okay? Now, I need t’go.” He pushed halfway past her before she grabbed his arm.
“Need t’go find that friend a’yers? What’s his name, agin’?” the Gossip asked, adjusting her Sunday bonnet and fixing it with hatpins to her ruffle of permanent-styled hair that was too obviously dyed the wrong color for her age.
“I didn’t give ‘is name, an’ I ain’t fixin’ to unless he wants me to. Now please step aside,” Sam said. He tugged at his sleeve to break it from the old woman’s grasp, proceeding out of the church building.
“Well, I never!” the woman huffed, turning on her heel and stomping back into the sanctuary. Sam kept walking. He knew better than to get into a scuffle with Ms. What’s-Her-Name over who Esk was. It was none of her business. Sam drove slowly back to his lonely cabin with tears in his eyes.
“They communicate with their own dead, though! I perceived it with my own acoustic membranes. The human ‘Sam’ told me that the Gossips do this.” Esk shook where he stood with passion and anticipation. What will the Council say? Have I been too hasty in reporting this?
“The Council would like to expand your mission to include infiltrating the Gossips’ central command and learning the secret manner by which they communicate with their dead, Esk. The Eskerektul must not be ignorant in the ways of their creations,” said the Council collectively. Esk was overjoyed but stifled his outward expression of emotion before the Council. Now he could go back and see Sam. Esk backed out of the Council Chamber and translated himself to Sam’s house.
Sam heard a knock at the door around midnight. He had been drinking cheap beer and wandering around in his underwear for most of the evening. Sam stuck his head out the door to see who would call on him at that hour. Before him stood Esk.
“Come on in, Esk,” Sam said, turning and walking back to his recliner. “I’s worried about’cha. Where ya’ been?” Sam slurred the question and it was difficult for Esk to understand.
“Are you alright, Sam? Your words are not clear. Are you having a medical emergency?” Esk asked, perplexed and knowing nothing about how to help a human with such an emergency.
“Course I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be alright? Ya’ hung me in church this mornin’, buddy. Left me to them Gossips and one of ‘em caught me on the way outta the church buildin’ wantin’ t’know all about’cha. I didn’t tell her nothin’, though, an’ she got real mad ‘bout that. Ole biddies…”
Esk’s olfactory sense detected the presence of a high concentration of ethanol in Sam’s blood. He wondered if the Gossips had poisoned his friend for not divulging information about him. “Did they harm you, Sam? The Gossips? Where is their leader? I will find their leader, and they shall be punished.” Esk’s internal colors were beginning to glow through his armor, throwing off heat and light in the darkness of the cabin doorway. Sam was too inebriated to notice.
“The preacher’s wife. She’s the leader of them Gossips, as you call ‘em. Mighty hateful wo’man she is. Always puttin’ on a pretty face an’ then slittin’ somebody’s throat behind their back. Prays all day, she says, but everybody done knows that’s a lie. She an’ Deacon Pritchard is always ‘prayin’ together’, but I say that’s a bunch a’ hogwash. Ain’t nobody that don’t know that’s hogwash. Prayin’ ain’t what they’re a’ doin’ up in that chapel office when the preacher’s down tractin’ houses. Despicable wo’man. She’s the head Gossip if there ever was one. She’s a hypocrite.”
Sam put his head between his knees, growing pale. He stumbled up and, woozy, headed down the hallway to the bathroom. Esk pondered what he had learned about the Head Gossip Hypocrite and what to do about her. He sunk into his recliner and fell into temporary stasis in front of the fire. Subconsciously listening to Sam cough and spit in the bathroom, Esk slipped into a dream state.
Featured Image by Chouaib Saoud via Pixabay