What Sunlight Tastes Like

Chapter 7

by Fallenlog

Tags: #asexual #Human_Domestication_Guide #scifi #sub:male #dom:the_inescapable_reach_of_the_affini_compact #m/m

“Lembic, Herschel has awoken”. 

Roq’s entire body rumbled as she spoke. Herschel had trouble balancing atop her smooth carapace, but was held steady by her grasping lure. She guided him into a seated position on her back, with his body resting against her furry head.  She spoke in as calming a voice as she could manage, “I am familiar with your current situation. Your lembic is undergoing what the affini call “re-blooming. Would you like me to take you to him?

“Y-yes, please.” Roq steadily made her way towards the door, taking great care to keep Herschel from sliding off her back. As they exited the room, Herschel took a moment to get acclimated to the light before getting a look around what must be Saguaros’ hab unit. Colorful tiles lined the walls and floors, occasionally breaking to frame murals depicting landscapes of an alien world. 

Saguaros’ sing-songy voice could be heard from somewhere within the hab. “You’re taking him to your room then?” Roq rumbled in what Herschel assumed was affirmation as she continued traversing the colorful residence. The flooring shifted from tile to sand as they entered the mushusha’s room. 

The sound of ocean waves lapping at the shore permeated the space, the walls of which depicted a convincingly lifelike version of the landscapes from the murals. A luminous blue/green moon hung low in the sky over the water, casting a room in a subtle cool light. In one corner was a sizable pool of water, and in the other was a pile of familiar plant matter.

Roq gently shifted Herschel off of her back and onto a suspiciously comfortable rock before entering the water. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the botanical jumble that was apparently what was left of Connifred. It made occasional, subtle movements to a slow but familiar rhythm. He reached for it with his new arm, the vines sliding apart to cover as great an area as possible. 

“Halt.” Herschel’s entire body froze. “It is unwise to interfere with the re-blooming. Perceive with your vision, not your tactile sensation.” Herschel’s arm fell limp at his side, again unreceptive to his attempts at moving it. He let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding and nodded at Roq, who returned the gesture. 

He sat and stared for an unknown length of time, only broken from his reverie by Saguaros placing a tray of food in front of him. “You gotta eat something, okay cutie?” She sat on the ground next to him and ran a hand down his back reassuringly. “This is a perfectly normal part of our lifecycle. Connifred’s always been a bit of a long-bloomer, but he’ll be okay.”

“...Do you have any pictures of him?” Saguaros pulled a tablet out from somewhere within her person and pulled up an image of her and Connifred, which she handed down to Herschel with a jovial “Sure thing, flower.” Just as he suspected, the Connifred in the image was a good bit larger than the Connifred he’d known. He set the tablet down and heaved, choking back a sob. 

“This is my fault.” Tears fell onto the sandy floor as Herschel crumpled in on himself. “He took the brunt of the explosion that I caused, and-” His words were cut off as he was grabbed and held tightly by Saguaros. Her words had an heretofore unheard authoritative timbre: “You bear no responsibility for this.” 

Her statement left no room for argument. She held onto him until the tears stopped and he’d settled down a bit. “There is no requirement that you stay and watch him while he’s like this.” Herschel shook his head and stood up out of her grasp with a newfound sense of duty. 

“I’m not leaving him. He’s been there for me again and again, and I need to be there for him when he wakes up.” He looked up at Saguaros and locked eyes with her. “Please.” She stood impassively for a few seconds before relenting. “Fine. …You really are two of a kind.”

<> <> <>

True to his word, Herschel spent every waking moment watching Connifred. He took to sleeping next to him in a makeshift campsite, and given his surroundings it genuinely felt like he was off in the wilderness. Roq made no objections to Herschel and Connifred taking up her space, and Herschel enjoyed learning more about her. 

He learned that the bright light at the bottom of her pool helped stimulate the growth of helpful microorganisms, most of which lived in the lure at the end of her tail. She took great pride in its luminosity, making a point of comparing her cultivation of the tiny creatures to the Affini Compact’s dedication to the countless sophonts under their care. 

She spoke of the affini in purely positive terms, explaining that though her people were proud warriors, their societal hierarchy was based almost entirely on age. This made their assimilation into the accord one of the simplest on record, as even their grandest elders were saplings in the eyes of most affini. 

The term “lembic” referred to one’s highest superior. Not just a leader, but a guide and mentor. The Mushusha had a very different outlook on domestication compared to most terrans, seeing it as an honorable commitment as opposed to subjugation. 

“Your lembic will need you once he completes his re-blooming. Whoever he becomes afterwords, you will serve as a connection between his past and present.” Herschel took a moment to process what Roq just said to him. He quietly asked her, “What do you mean ‘whoever he becomes?’” Roq left her pool and approached Herschel, plopping down on the ground beside him. 

“When my lembic re-bloomed, she emerged anew in both body and mind. Our time together, to her it seemed to have happened a lifetime ago. There were many memories I was trusted to keep safe until she could find them again for herself.” Roq continued elaborating, but Herschel couldn’t hear her words over the torrent of worry that once again deluged him. 

Would Connifred still remember him? Was the gentle caretaker he’d grown to trust going to be but a fragment in the mind of whatever emerged from the pile of plant matter before him? He kept spiraling like this until he found himself waking up in Saguros’ arms. 

Roq was no longer in the room, leaving just him, Saguaros, and the bits and pieces that would eventually re-form into Connifred. The “song” that Saguaros exuded was entirely different from that of Connifred’s. Hers was assertive and commanding, dappled with soft undertones of playfulness. Holding him like this, it felt less like she was encouraging him to calm down and surrender his worries to her and more like she was commanding him to do so. 

“Speak.” Her tone left no room for argument, but carried with it a genuine desire to help. Herschel felt the words spill out of him. “Connifred might not remember me when he comes back, and more than that he may be an entirely different person than before and I don’t know which would be worse, and I know you said it wasn’t my fault but I still feel that guilt crushing down on me and-”

Saguaros held a finger to his lips, silencing him. “Connifred told me you value truth and understanding. This is a trait we share, and as such I’m going to tell you what may or may not happen. Do you understand?” Herschel nodded. “When we affini re-bloom, we regrow our bodies and replenish our core. For some, this is a simple process that rejuvenates our physical form. For others, this is the end of one chapter of our lives and the beginning of the next. It is not unheard of for one’s re-blooming to bring forth new outlooks and traits, which can in turn obfuscate previous experiences and identities.” 

One of Saguaros’ hands unspooled into a mess of vines, which interwove with the vines of Herschel’s new arm in a familiar but alien gesture. She smiled down at him, all four eyes twinkling. “If such a thing happens to Connifred, know that he isn’t gone. His love for you is still there, and if it is buried, then he gets the pleasure of re-discovering it with you.”

She ran one of her vines gently over the fresh scar on the back of his neck, causing him to shudder. “You carry with you a piece of him, both inside and out.” Herschel looked down at his new alien appendage, noting how he could feel Saguaros’ vines entwined with his own. 

“Now come,” Saguaros untangled herself from Herschel and beckoned him to follow. “My florets and I are dying to include you in at least one round of Plinkekko. Connifred will still be here when you get back, I promise.” 

Plinkekko is a card game with too many, but at the same time, too few rules. 

Show the comments section

Back to top

Register / Log In