Galaxy Skin – Short

Galaxy skin, a short story by Chapel Orahamm.

You’re staring off into space again.

“I’m bored. That’s all.” The city was grey. The rain was grey. The dust mixing with the water was sludgy on the window sill. A pigeon hunkered down in its nest regarded me with displeasure.

Bored? The great and mighty Yezer? Bored! Surely not.

“It happens. It’s wet, and it’s not like it was before.” I leaned against the cold glass, my breath fogging the surface, whiting out the evening in a blur.

Call up Gregor, or Naska. They’ll be more than happy to kill something with you.

“They’ve been dead for three hundred years. You know that.”

The voice stilled, leaving me to my small apartment and the reality of my stomach growling. I slid off the window seat and rummaged through the make-do kitchen. A handful of nuts, a glass of tepid water, a couple marshmallows. Not filling, but I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a meal, or get down to the road to see what food carts were open in the downpour.

Turning to the view, I found a fingerprint of a little shooting star glaring across my window where I had fogged it. “What are you doing?”

You’ve been down for a while.

“And drawing on my window is supposed to make me happy? That’s creepy.”

Not like I’m a poltergeist. I’m at least not opening all your cabinet doors. Not like there’s enough in here to make an impact. You live forever, and you end up in this – let’s be nice and call it a shoebox. How have you fallen to this, Yezer?

I snorted. How had I fallen to this? How had the world moved on? was a better question. I used to be the wizard in an adventuring group. We took out kobolds, dragons, ghouls. We ended battles and dethroned a king, maybe two if that one guy counted for anything. But gold eventually gets spent, and what use is there for a wizard when technology could handle it all and more? Fireball? Against a tank round? Please.

“Maybe I’m just taking some time.”

Warmth pressed against my back and wrapped around my shoulders. There’s taking time, and there’s being directionless, my friend.

“Friend? When were we ever friends?”

I think it’s grown. I’d like to think a friendship has been growing.

“Why? Because I’m alone, and you think that being around all the time is friendship?”

Then why don’t you show me what friendship is?

“That’s a dangerous idea if I’ve ever heard of one. Befriend the Darkness?”

You have all the time in the world, and so do I. It could be interesting.

“You’re just as bored as I am.”

Maybe. Maybe I just want for you to not be a shell of your former self. I miss your glory days.

“You mean your glory days. The ones when you would decimate villages, upend towns, plunder cities under the cloak of night.”

I didn’t stutter.

It was my turn to still.

You had a job to do, and so did I. You and I, we were two sides of a coin. Now? Neither of us do. Maybe that’s what karma is, or fate, or irony. Probably that last one.

“I was protecting people.”

I was ending plagues.

“You were creating collateral damage.”

I was doing the best with what I had, like what you’re doing now.

“You killed people.”

So did you.

“They were bad.”

And sickness isn’t moral in its decisions. It affects all.

“I had to stop you.”

Why? Because the Darkness would kill your parents? Your niece? Your next-door neighbour? Time would have done that regardless of what say I had in events. It did. And now you’re here in a shoebox, withering away at a desk pushing papers around for someone else.

“You never learned.”

You’re afraid.

“Of what?”

Of that jump in your heart every time I talk to you. That flush across those freckles of yours every time I lean on you. You’re really bored if we’ve gotten to this point.

“It does not!” I backed up into my living space, planting my back firmly against the couch cushions.

Oh, it’s getting worse just mentioning it. Pff. You know, the warmth settled across my knees, and chin, pushing my head back until I was staring at little more than a whisp of dust motes between me and the ceiling, teasing should have been my first method. You’ve been stuck in your shell. Let’s call friendship bunk.

“What are you doing?” Heat trailed across my bottom lip.

Getting you to see me for once.

“What is there to see? You’re the Darkness. You’re a different plain of existence. You’re-“

Not physical?

I swallowed. That wasn’t quite right. Not with the shades shifting in front of me. Not with the warmth. I reached up to where little dust stars shifted back and forth. My hand passed right through. “What are you?”

Three hundred and seventy years, and you finally ask me? What am I? No more good nor evil than you, or the next person.

“The gods wouldn’t have given me immortality for capturing you and locking you away if you weren’t evil.”

The gods wouldn’t have left entire communities to die of disease if they weren’t evil. They gave you immortality because you locked me to your heart, and as long as it beats, I can’t just go out and do what I want, which is convenient to them.

“You can’t seriously think the gods are evil. That’s insanity.”

They aren’t any better than you or me then. They kill. You kill. I kill. They save. You save. I save. Who is wrong? Who in this equation wasn’t right in their actions when they made them?

“Are you going to get off me?” I traced the path the stars took until it dawned on me I was looking at several pairs of eyes.

Sigh. Yeah. The heated weight shifted off me.

“You’ve been making passes at me for four decades now rather than just hissing at me. Does teasing me make you happy?” I pushed hair out of my eyes.

Not when it makes you angry at me.

“Is Darkness your name?”

A pause answered me. I drew myself up and rummaged in my kitchen drawer for the toothbrush and toothpaste. The grey of evening was quickly slipping into the orange and pink neon glow of night. Halfway through my routine of getting ready for bed, heat drew along my hand.


“Twiq? That’s your name?” I dragged on my pyjama pants.

Been a long time since anyone called me that. Longer even before you caught me. I thought I had forgotten it.

I flopped on the couch and tugged a ratty blanket off the back of it. Snapping my fingers, the one under-cabinet light turned off. “Still haven’t told me what you are, Twiq.”

Stuck. That’s what I am.

I raised a hand and waited until warmth intertwined with my fingers and heat settled across me. “If you say you’re stuck to me, I’m going to go stand out in the rain, and you’ll be just as cold as me.”

I was a dying doctor who made a bargain with a god of death. Now? I don’t know what I am.

“How are you stuck?”

No one can see me. You can’t even touch me. No one talks to me because you’re the only one who hears me, and for the most part my presence just irritates you.

“I can see you.” I brushed at the stars floating above me, though I couldn’t find anything tangible at the edge of my fingers. The stars flared. “Always thought I had dust motes following me around. But it’s night, and there’s no side light.”

A drop of water plopped onto my cheek. A sniffling hiccup broke the silence. Heat wrapped around me until I was in a warm cocoon. “You’ve been really lonely. I’m sorry, Twiq.”

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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