Hollow Moon Part 4
- 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 (pending)
Esk did not return to Sam’s cabin until the wee hours of the morning and headed straight for his recliner. Sam pretended to be asleep and peeked every now and then to see what Esk was doing. Esk was wearing a white scrub suit, and it had orange stains on it. Sam did not want to interfere with Esk’s routine. He said nothing but lay awake thinking about it until morning. Sam thought he must have dozed off at some point because when he awoke, he smelled breakfast cooking. “Your dipping eggs and toast are ready, Sam!” Esk raised his voice from the kitchen. Sam peeled himself out of his recliner. He expected to walk into the kitchen and find Esk wearing the orange-stained white garb he came in with earlier. Esk had his traditional clothing on, though, as clean and tidy as ever. Sam decided not to ask any questions.
“Why, Esk, ya’ didn’t have t’cook me breakfast. That sure is nice a’ya’. I taught ya’ to cook breakfast so ya’ could cook it whenever you wanted it,” Sam explained.
“I wanted to cook for you, Sam, to say thank you for housing me and teaching me,” the morning cook replied.
“Well, that’s mighty nice a’ya’, Esk. I reckon I’ll siddown and have me some dippin’ eggs an’ toast, then.” Impressed with Esk’s cooking, Sam dug in. Esk beamed with pride at having prepared the only human meal that he knew how to cook. As long as his friend Sam liked it, it was a success as far as he was concerned. He would report to the Council on the other findings later that day.
Piles of naked DNA strands slithered toward them across the floor. They used some type of luminous orange lubricant to pave their way there. The clones stood by and watched until the female human passed out before retracting their armor. The lights went out, and their bioluminescent blue lubricant trails were clearly visible to Deacon Pritchard, to whom they led. His primal scream was audible on Io. Esk assured the visitors in Io that everything was in order; they did not need assistance. It was Esk’s turn to give a report to the Council again.
Esk’s native form was a glowing emerald green. Esk decided to give his mission report to the Council in his armor this time. Surprised, the Council whispered amongst itself when Esk walked in as a bipedal Homo sapiens sapiens. He spoke as he did on Earth as well, raising a great commotion within the Council. Esk then communicated via the usual telepathic method to explain his choices. The Council was impressed with Esk’s intellect and proficiency in the human ways. Asked if he had yet gotten inside the Gossips’ ranks and discovered the secret of communicating with the dead, Esk said, “The Chief Gossip and her illegitimate mate are being dealt with as we commune.” Leaving with the Council’s continued blessing, Esk felt a sense of vengefulness. He approached the reprogramming room where the Chief Gossip Jean Bandersnatch and the illegitimate mate Deacon Pritchard were being examined from the inside out. Soon, they would be ready to tell him anything he wanted to know if he knew humans at all.
Several colors of luminescent slop oozed from every orifice of the bodies on the slabs. Neither had regained consciousness yet. Unconsciousness was requisite for the examinations. Most humans regarded the diagnostics terrifying, and lost consciousness on their own during the procedure. These two were no exception. The Chief Gossip awoke first, coughing and spitting. This was a normal part of clearing the airway of slurry. She turned her head and spat an orange substance all over Esk’s armor. Fortunately, he had changed into a white scrub suit upon entering the exam room. When she opened her eyes, Esk was the first being she saw.
“I-I remember you. Yer Sam’s friend. Aw, Lord, Lord, thank ya’ fer this wonderful man come to save ma’ poor soul from hellfire an’ damnation! Please, please get me out o’these straps, young man,” she said in an urgent tone. She looked around and saw the clumps of DNA surrounding her, feeling faint again.
“You harmed my friend Sam,” Esk said in a monotone voice.
“Um. I may’ve said some harsh things, yes, but I didn’t mean ‘em t’hurt nobody. Honest.”
“Chief Gossip, you could not be honest if you desired to be. You do not possess a conscience. Bandersnatches are what your kind call ‘sociopaths’. I must reprogram you.” Esk glowered at her, towering above her on her low slab of metal.
“Well, what’re ya’ waitin’ for? Get these straps off o’me, so I can get outta here. What’re ya’ standin’ there gawkin’ at me for? I didn’t get yer name, by the way.”
“I did not give it,” said Esk as he transformed into his brilliant green DNA form. The Chief Gossip tried to scream, but only a weak gagging sound came out as Esk entered her body. Green slime trails dripped from her lips and nostrils. Her eyes stuck wide open, as did her mouth. Both were frozen in horror, revealing her only genuine human trait.
Sam waited up late for Esk that night, wondering where he could be and if he was okay. “Aw, I hope nothin’ happened to my buddy,” Sam said to himself. He paced his cabin floor and looked out each window at every passing. He decided to wait outside and, upon opening the door, a beaming full moon met his gaze. The moon was so big and bright that Sam had to shield his eyes to allow them to adjust to the light. Sam could then see all the pockmarks and craters on the moon’s surface. It was such a sight to see that he brought out a lawn chair and plunked it down beside a pine tree. He stared at the moon and could bathe in its glow until Esk came home. “Home,” Sam said. “Yeah. This is Esk’s home now. I hope he’s a’seein’ this full moon….”
Esk was busy attempting to reprogram Ms. Bandersnatch’s neural connections. They were an epic train wreck. The pathway that should have led to her having a conscience was nonexistent. Esk had not dealt with the complete absence of a neural pathway to the conscience before—only the twisting or wrong-turning of one. He wondered what to do about the problem. The Chief Gossip was missing a conscience altogether. Esk had to construct what he thought would suffice in the meantime while he did more research on this species. He had to get Bandersnatch back before anyone missed her. The other visitors were finished with Deacon Pritchard. They left him in the middle of a field close to town with his clothing in disarray. At least they had put his clothing back on his body for him. He was not able to do it himself in his condition. Esk never could figure out why humans responded so to examinations. He had to keep his faculties on the task at hand, though—forging a pathway through Jean Bandersnatch’s brain.
Esk finished his task, translated himself back to Earth, donned his armor, and headed back to Sam’s cabin. The other visitors would take care of the Chief Gossip’s safe return. Sam was asleep in the lawn chair and was cold to the touch. Esk cradled him and laid him in his recliner inside. He pulled off Sam’s boot and discovered an unpleasant olfactory sensation. Esk continued making Sam comfortable despite the smell’s awfulness. Once Esk had laid a blanket over Sam, he climbed into his own recliner and commenced temporary stasis.
Sam and Esk both awoke to the sound of someone banging on the cabin door. “Sam! Sam Wilkins!” the angry voice shouted. Sam pulled his boots on and rushed to the door. It was barely dawn.
“What d’ya’ want at this hour, Reverend?” Esk heard Sam ask.
“I wanna know what yer friend there did t’my wife, Sam Wilkins,” demanded the unknown entity known as ‘Reverend.’ Esk looked at Sam and shook his head. He had learned this was a nonverbal cue meaning humans did not want to talk to each other.
“He ain’t here. Now go bother one a’ yer payin’ parish’ners an’ leave me be, Preacher,” Sam said, slamming the door on the stranger. “Esk, what’s that fella talkin’ ‘bout you bein’ with his wife? Bandersnatch? I can’t imagine…wait a minute, Esk. Did you go talkin’ t’her ‘bout that gossipin’ a’ hers? Did ya’?”
“I will not deny the facts. I did address the Chief Gossip about her ways,” Esk said.
“Aw, Esk. Now that Reverend’s gonna be botherin’ us for all eternity an’ beyond ‘cause nobody’s s’posed t’be talkin’ t’his wife but him. Says him, though, an’ that ole biddie don’t listen to nobody regardin’ her chatter. ‘Bout ever’body else’s affairs…so I guess that’s fair, too, but still. He ain’t gonna leave it alone now.”
“I am sorry that I have caused you trouble and sorrow, Sam. Do you want me to leave?”
“Leave? Naw, Esk, I don’t want’cha t’leave. Where would ya’ go? Yer my buddy, an’ I’m gonna make sure that nobody messes with ya’. I don’t rightly know what ya’ been through in yer life, but it can’t be good, an’ nobody’s gonna hurt’cha long as I’m around. Yer always welcome here, Esk. This is yer home now if ya’ want it t’be.”
Esk found that his lacrimal glands were leaking in his ocular sockets. Saltwater dripped from his eyes. He felt a strong sensation in his thumb. This is the emotion that humans feel when they say ‘love.’ How is it that I feel this for a human? He said that I have a “home” here. I have never had a ‘home.’ What is this ‘home?’ I must know.
“Sam, what is a home?”
Sam’s jaw dropped, and he raced across the living room toward Esk. Esk was unsure if it was an attack or a gesture of comfort when Sam threw his arms around him and squeezed him. “Esk, this is a hug. An’ this is yer home. This is where ya’ can always come to and be safe. I’ll be right here,” Sam said as he held Esk even tighter. Esk’s thumb throbbed with raw emotion. He found himself hoping that Sam meant what he was saying. The Chief Gossip and the Reverend could be a problem. Esk knew that both may require examination and reprogramming now….
Image by Chouaib Saoud via Pixabay