Literatures


anamnesis // laesiin

I

Survived.

I have survived.

Laesiin feels heavy, chained, as if something has captured zem into its gravitational pull and refused to let zem go, yet the joyous relief of having survived (survived what exactly?) floods their entire being. But under that thunderous wave of hope and determination lies something darker, something vengeful. When ze tries to dig deeper to find the source of that discontent, there is something that prevents their entry, a firewall so strong that ze in zer current state cannot hope to bypass. So ze backs away and allows zemself to be pulled down further into the depths, away from the weightless nothingness of endless space and into the comforting chill of freezing snow.

After all, miracles were not something to be passed over so ungraciously.

As the sensation of prickling ice crystals spread throughout zer body, Laesiin is keenly aware of an image, a face, swirling in zer thoughts. Scales the color of gaseous ice giants, with adornments of glimmering silver and crystal. Six great horns curving backward, plain yet unmarred. A mane tied back in a flowing tail, a mimicry of liquid ice. Two eyes, orange like dimming stars, stare out, unblinking and defiant.

Laesiin recognizes that face.

It is zer own.

A discomforting sensation, like being torn in half, ripples through their body at the realization, and ze cannot quite figure out why the idea distresses zem so. But beyond the superficial layer of this-is-me-and-yet-it-is-not, there is also a blanket of nostalgia, like greeting an old friend that one not seen in millennia.

…How long has it been?

There is a voice.

Laesiin cannot decipher what they’re saying. The words are completely foreign, though the sounds are frustratingly familiar. Ze wants to know, wants to understand, but no matter how hard ze tries, the meanings behind the sounds remain elusive, so tantalizingly close yet completely out of reach.

Useless…!

Suddenly, something grabs a part of zer body. Laesiin can’t really tell which part, zer shoulder, maybe? The thing – a hand, possibly – jostles zem, lightly first, then with increasingly urgency and strength. It makes zem a little nauseous.

“Leave me alone,” ze commands, though zer voice is hoarse and absent of any authority.

There is blessed silence for a short while as the thing retreats and Laesiin almost slips back into unconsciousness, but then there comes multiple voices, all in the language that ze cannot comprehend, and the noise is so grating that zer eyes snap open and a growl threatens to rip itself out of zer throat. Everything is blurry, but ze can still make out some bipedal silhouettes moving near the light. “I thought I told you to leave me be!” ze barks in their general direction.

The silhouettes freeze, and as Laesiin’s vision progressively improves, ze can make out more of their features. Horns, manes, tails… Ze recognizes them. Ferah-saar, zer central processing unit helpfully supplies.

Then why can I not understand them?

One of the figures, a Ferah-saar with snow- and rock-colored scales and two small, stubby horns, inches towards zem. They seem nervous and fearful, though Laesiin cannot comprehend why. The idea that a Ferah-saar would be afraid of zem is utterly unfathomable.

“Ah… understand, you… this?” they ask hesitantly, their tail curling tightly around their legs.

Finally, someone I can talk to.


II

Things have changed since Laesiin last walked on this planet.

Great stacks of polycarbonate and composite materials jut out into the skies where there was once grass and trees, the spaces between them filled with countless Ferah-saar and their inventions. It is different, but nothing new. The Ferah-saar are not the first, nor will they be the last, to achieve great civilizations on their homeworld. Nevertheless, a warm feeling blossoms in Laesiin’s chest, as if it were zer own offspring who have multiplied and spread across the land.

The feeling quickly disappears as ze catches sight of a blown-out structure at the edges of the city, a mass of twisted metal writhing out of the earth like tentacles. “Put here things before,” Xhaeferos, their translator, says. “Fire then, and, uh,” xhe holds their hands together, then rapidly pulls them apart.

An explosion.

The thought of it – a metallic structure blown to shreds – makes zer mandibles flare. Xhaeferos’s eyes widen and xhe quickly shrinks away, xher ears folded back and xher mandibles pressed close to xher face. Guilt quickly pools in Laesiin’s gut. “No, I’m not angry at you,” ze explains, shaking zer head to get the point across. Xhaeferos’s shoulders sag in relief, though xhe still turns away with xher mandibles closer to xher face than usual.

Laesiin sneaks another glance at the wreckage. It’s just another destroyed structure, nothing particularly special or notable about it, and yet the sight of it invokes a deep primal rage inside of zem. Ze tries to follow it to its source and is once again met by that impenetrable firewall. More lucid than the last time ze had encountered it, Laesiin attempts to breach the security protocol. The response is immediate and severe –the anti-hacking measures overload zer processors and ze just barely manages to stop zemself from vomiting off the side of their vehicle.

Ze makes a reminder not to touch that particular partition for the foreseeable future. As they try to hide their unwellness from Xhaeferos lest xhe try to send zem to a medical center again, ze can’t help but wonder:

Just what kind of information warranted that level of protection?

After a few days of rest, Xhaeferos introduces zem to Laekriish and Kae, a bonded pair from xher siirahc.

Laesiin remembers Kae from the dig site, where xhe had been aggressively clearing the hardened crystal ice from the temple. It’s strange to see xhem so meek now around Laekriish, who dominates the conversation.

They’re a cute couple, Laesiin has to admit, even with their vastly different personalities. Their affections for one another are obvious in the way their tails are wrapped tightly around one another and the casualness with which they touch each other’s horns and mandibles. Ze is happy for them, truly, but ze cannot ignore the wave of sadness that crashes over zem whenever ze sees them.

Vague memories of another – purple scales the color of dusk, a six-horn bouquet covered in precious metal and jewels, enormous claws sharp enough to rend steel – tug at the edge of zer consciousness. Laesiin knows that there’s something not quite right about that image, but that matters little. What’s important is the ghost they’ve left behind: the feeling of their mane underneath zer fingers, the soft croon of their voice when no one else is around, the almost-overwhelming scent of incense and coldness that clings to their scales.

Laesiin yearns to fill this void in zer soul, but ze knows it will not be so easy, bound to this planet as ze is. So ze watches Laekriish and Kae dance around each other, orbitally entwined, and that will have to be enough for now.

Laesiin is walking with Xhaeferos to a store when a Ferah-saar with white and purple scales and a four-horn coronet stops them in the middle of the street. Xhe prostrates xhemself before zem, as if in worship. Other ‘saar in the street look on in bewilderment, but Laesiin is overtaken by a sense of seemliness, as though it is only fitting and proper to be treated like a deity.

Xhe says something, and even without Xhaeferos translating, Laesiin knows that this stranger is asking something about a “Zynlael.” Zer central processing unit has done an admirable job trying to compile a comprehensive, functional language map of Modern Ferah’yhuh, but it’s not as powerful as it once was, so ze looks towards Xhaeferos for a clearer explanation.

“Believes xhem are you a Lavaak-sa’haar. Zynlael, of winter and snow.”

Zer first thought is that is not my name, followed by my domain is not ice.

Laesiin blinks.

Ah.

“Please tell xhem xhe is mistaken,” ze requests, barely able to keep the quiver out of zer voice.


III

A piece of paper floats down from the top of a cabinet while Laesiin is scouring through its contents. It lands face down, its contents obscured, and ze picks it up to throw away because important documents are stored in the folders designated IMPORTANT: do not lose in the safe and not on top of random pieces of furniture. Ze is halfway to the trash bin when, out of sheer curiosity, ze decides to turn it over.

It’s the first page of zer twenty-page long application for ‘saarhood recognition and official government identification. Laesiin frowns. Xhaeferos must have misplaced it, as xhe is prone to do. Technically ze’s already received the IDs months ago, so a copy of the application isn’t worth much, but…

Laesiin rotates zemself a hundred-and-eighty degrees and begins walking towards the safe in the sleeping quarters. Call zem sentimental, but this piece of paper is important.

On the way there, ze passes a wall full of notes written by zemself and Xhaeferos. They’re mostly reminders about holidays, deadlines, and groceries, but some of the notes are just little doodles by Xhaeferos or words of encouragement by Laesiin. Laekriish likes to call it their ‘secret spy comms’ because all the notes are composed of a mix of Early and Modern Ferah’yhuh, which makes it read like cipher text – or the incomprehensible ramblings of an overluminated ‘saar.

Laesiin plucks a note with the Early version of the word love off the wall, sticks it onto the ID application page, and smiles softly to zemself, zer mandibles fluttering gently and zer tail curling at the tip.

Truth be told, there’s no real need for of the two of them to communicate in Early anymore when zer Modern is now on par with a native speaker’s. But it’s not always about zem – Xhaeferos still needs the practice, especially if xhe intends to translate difficult texts from the era, and Laesiin is more than happy to help xhem with something as trivial as language.

Laesiin shakes zer head slightly and resumes the trek to the sleeping quarters. As ze unlocks the safe and carefully tucks the paper and its associated note into a folder, something light and joyous bubbles up in zer core, soon turning to a small flood.

Perhaps it is not so bad to be amongst the Ferah-saar once more.

Xhaeferos has a large bookshelf tucked into a corner in their den, filled mostly with books about the Lavaak-sa’haar. The books vary in their contents – some are academic texts, with enough citations in the back to fill an entirely separate book, others are non-fiction novels meant for a general audience, and a few are mostly pictures, published by museums or organizations to showcase their collections.

Laesiin’s read through all of them at one point or another and ze could go on about the inaccuracies in them. Some are technically wrong but capture the essence of the truth – Xheiyran’s legs and tail aren’t bones, they’re titanium alloy in the shape of bones – while others are truly egregious errors – Seitziil, not toying with the Ferah-saar? The entire species would have to go extinct before that happens. Ze supposes that it’s not the Ferah-saar’s fault. Organics shine so brightly, like the greatest of the supergiant stars, but they too live such short lives. Those who have seen zer kin with their own eyes may as well be nothing but myths themselves now.

Laesiin casually plucks a book off the shelf. “The Lavaak-sa’haar: A Cultural Anthropologist’s Perspective.” It’s one of zer favorites, and not for its accuracy. No, it’s possibly the falsest narrative yet of zem and zer kin, but the idea of Vahrtiis coming to a decision within any reasonable time frame, or even better, the idea of Zyrsit frolicking – and fornicating – with the “lesser organics,” amuses Laesiin to no end, so ze has (mostly) forgiven the author for xher sins.

Even so, it seems that much of the Ferah-saar believe these misrepresentations, Xhaeferos included. Ze very much wants to tell xhem everything, about how no, Lyvwekr has never been impartial before in zer entire existence, and yes, Faetrihc really is just as moody as they say, but that would involve disclosing zer true identity.

Laesiin doesn’t know what’s worse – that Xhaeferos wouldn’t believe zem, or that xhe would.

Sometimes, when Laesiin cannot rest, ze likes to sit in the tiny balcony of their den and stare out at the darkened skies. The light pollution from the Highlands’ capitol outshines what few stars are visible against Ferah and Vaelyk’s luminosity, so all ze is able to see is a vaguely dark atmosphere and perhaps one or two of the brightest stars.

Even without any astronomical charts at zer disposal, Laesiin recognizes both stars, can name all the planets around their orbits and the moons captured within.

It saddens zem to know that the Ferah-saar will never experience the cosmos as ze and zer kin have, traveling the vastness of interstellar space. The feeling of basking in stellar emissions that would destroy an organic a thousand times over, of watching planets and stars die and be reborn again. The freedom to escape planets, solar systems, even entire galaxies.

There is a simplicity to rejecting the cosmos, of being content inside the confines of one’s homeworld, but it is an alien feeling for Laesiin, as ze and zer kin have only known the infinite expanse of the universe and the endless migration of a worldless fleet. To be rendered immobile is tantamount to nonexistence. And yet, while Laesiin still longs to taste the sweet toxicity of liquid hydrocarbons and the mutagenic flavors of nucleosynthesis, ze is content to wallow in the hospitable atmosphere of a life-bearing planet, surrounded by Laekriish’s ringing laughter, Kae’s never-ending questions, and Xhaeferos’s well-intentioned fretting.

Though ze and zer kin have never cared for worlds, they have always cherished homes.


IV

One day, when Xhaeferos is away in Vahriihc for a conference, Laesiin wanders into the kitchen to make a meal.

While zer body can intake a wide variety of fuel sources, ranging from indigestible coal to gaseous hydrogen, it’s much easier to find and purchase biofuels in Ferah-saar society. Ze pulls a variety of meats and plant materials out from storage and lines them up on the counter, before condensing an infinitely sharp blade of water just a few molecules thick from the air itself. It would have been easier to eat the tissues as-is, packaging included, but ze is so used to seasoning and denaturing the food for Xhaeferos that ze does not even attempt to consume the ingredients raw.

The blade begins slicing the tissues into neat, rectangular prisms with great precision as Laesiin watches on with boredom. Ze would have preferred a litany of blades for faster processing, but one is the maximum ze can currently assemble.

...How sad, to only have the strength to create a tiny kitchen knife.

Ze wonders what the others would think of zem, reduced to nothing but a common Ferah-saar with the weakest of Authorities, barely able to make use of zer affinity.

Laesiin can see it, simulated in zer graphics processors. Zyrsit and Xheiyran’s mocking sneers, Lyvwekr and Vahrtiis’s polite disapproval, and of course, Seitziil and Faetrihc’s utter indifference. But they are somewhere far away, beyond the borders of this solar system, perhaps even beyond the confines of this galactic cluster. Once, a trivial distance; now, impossible to overcome.

Ah, to speak with zer kin again, somewhere amongst the sea of stars…

Suddenly, a sense of exhaustion overtakes zem, as if zer body is on the verge of breaking down into its component parts. A diagnostic scan returns with zero faults detected.

Laesiin frowns, but the bubbling sound of boiling water catches zer attention. Ze quickly lowers the amount of heat being supplied to the apparatus before dumping all of the processed chunks into the scalding liquid. Several large droplets fly into the air and land on zer arms, but ze merely wipes the water off with little concern.

After a moment of deliberation, Laesiin reaches inside the pot, pulls out a mixed handful of mostly-raw cubes, and shoves them inside zer mouth. Though the food replenishes their energy reserves slightly, it does not do anything for the fatigue that reaches down into zer endoskeleton.

Xhaeferos cannot know about this.

Laesiin visits Kae at xher den one day after Laekriish has already gone to work.

Their den is very different from the one ze and Xhaeferos share, well-maintained and filled with the newest Serosian tech instead of cluttered to the brim with antiques and half-finished manuscripts. The walls and furniture are colored a monochromatic white, grey, and black, giving off the vibe of a sleek, modern space. The more minimalistic aesthetic speaks to Laesiin, giving them a deep sense of nostalgia, yet ze feels very much like an intruder in this space.

Kae places a cup of warm diirvwek on the low table in front of zem before sitting on a cushion on the other side of the table. “Something on your mind, Laesiin?”

“Yes.” Laesiin wraps zer hands around the drink, distracting zemself with the heat radiating off the liquid. Ze wonders if this is really a good idea – a true understanding of the Ferah-saar’s logic processes has always eluded zem, and though ze trusts Kae well enough to get an honest response from xhem, ze is afraid of what that response will be.

It’s too late to back out anyways.

Laesiin’s tail swishes slightly, almost hitting a stand with a box on top of it, as ze ponders zer next words. “…Do you think that Xhaeferos would think less of me if xhe knew who I was?” ze mumbles after a few seconds, staring at the foam pattern on the surface of the drink.

“Oh! Did you remember something about your past?”

“No,” ze lies, noting how Kae’s ears had drooped slightly in disappointment. “I guess I’m just worried that one day xhe might shun me for who or what I used to be.”

Kae nods empathetically, though xhe avoids zer gaze. In the late morning light streaming in from the window, xhe looks much younger than xhe actually is, like a juvenile shoved out of xher parents’ den several seasons too early.

“You know, I was always worried that Laekriish wasn’t truly happy with me. Still am sometimes,” xhe confesses, xher tail curled around xher legs. “I mean, I’m just a single-gamete freak who can’t hold down a long-term job to save my life and xhe is this gorgeous ‘saar with a six-horn starburst and a lucrative career…” Xhe laughs humorlessly, ears sagging and mandibles closed off as xhe runs xher fingers through the tail tuft lying in zer lap.

Laesiin frowns, exhaling sharply through zer nose. Ze wants to say something to reassure xhem, but the words are lost before they can even take shape. Kae doesn’t seem to notice the way zer mandibles flare open and closed and continues speaking.

“But then I remind myself that xhe’s not that kind of ‘saar. Yeah, Laekriish can be petty and mean, but xhe has always been open about xher feelings. If xhe had problems with me, I’m sure I’d have heard an earful by now.” Kae shakes xher head, sending xher curly mane bouncing against xher shoulders.

“Anyways… You know what kind of ‘saar Xhaeferos is. Xhe would never abandon you like that. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

Despite xher words, a dark shadow of uncertainty looms over Laesiin, as if ze has been caught in the cold umbra of a solar eclipse. Ze lightly swirls the diirvwek around in zer cup before taking a big gulp of the sweet drink. A bitter aftertaste lingers on zer tongue, reminiscent of strychnine.

“I hope that you’re right.”

It comes to zem one day, with little fanfare or notice.

Laesiin is watering the plants on the balcony when the firewall that had bested zem simply... disappears. The packets contained within slowly begin to trickle out, the low-grade encryption surrounding each one easily cracked. The data inside are badly corrupted, but enough remains intact that ze can just barely compile a legible memory package.

>Rage.
[The all-consuming terror of being hunted.]
>Panic.
[The desperate scramblings of an outmatched player.]
>Shock.
[The indescribable pain of being torn into uncountable pieces.]

Ze crumples to the floor.

While zer eyes capture the sight of the toppled watering can on the balcony surrounded by an ever-growing pool of water, the optical data is completely blocked from reaching its intended destination. No, all ze can see is the vast emptiness of intergalactic space, where light itself fears to tread. A graveyard of rogue black holes and rarified plasma.

Then, a flash, indescribably bright, and suddenly–

Nothing.

Intergalactic space appears once again. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness. Intergalactic space. Flash. Nothingness –

……..

……………..

……………………………

……………………………………………………………………

Laesiin awakens with sharp, painful gasps. For a few moments, ze feels completely disconnected from zer terminal, as though ze is looking down at it from high above the atmosphere. Slowly, the distance between zem and zer vessel decreases, cutting through the thermosphere and the mesosphere, down through the stratosphere and troposphere, until the terminal is almost close enough to touch. A sense of numbness permeates zer body, but then a warm summer breeze blows through the air, and Laesiin can vaguely feel the way it ruffles the hairs on zer tail and back. With a soft groan and much effort, ze grasps the railing of the balcony and forces zemself into an upright position.

Ze glances towards the east. Vaelyk, once at the apex of the celestial sphere, has dipped below the Zyrsitian Peaks, setting the sky ablaze and drenching the mountains in deep purple shadows. As if by instinct, Laesiin adjusts their line of sight a few degrees to the north to face in the direction of the Observatory, the tallest peak of all Myr’seros.

An inhospitable spire of raging winds, unbreathable air, and piercing radiation. A place reserved solely for gods.

It beckons to zem like an irresistible song, compels zem to ascend its jagged slopes to reach its sky-breaking summit and lay claim to what they have forbidden the Ferah-saar from acquiring. Perhaps if ze were stronger, ze might have attempted to brave the perpetual storms and freezing temperatures, but as ze is now...

Laesiin hurriedly turns away.

It is out of zer hands.

Laesiin finds zemself inside the Cathedral of Zyrsit in Siin’veyr, sitting in front of an altar holding a chunk of solid carbon dioxide and a sharp metallic tool. Ze stares skeptically at the frozen chunk, ears folded back and mandibles slightly parted, before hesitantly grabbing the tool and carving a short message onto the chunk’s surface.

According to Kae and Xhaeferos, after ze and zer kin had left this planet behind, the Ferah-saar had eventually begun to etch their prayers on bricks of frozen gasses in the hopes as the bricks sublimated, they would carry the prayers written on them to their missing gods. Logically, such a ritual would never work; Laesiin knows this, because ze is one of the deities in question, and also because quantum entanglement is far beyond the Ferah-saar. But, well, ze is a little desperate, and there’s no real harm in participating in a silly organic ritual.

As wisps of white fog swirl around the piece of solid carbon dioxide, signaling its eventual demise, Laesiin takes the opportunity to glance around the inside of the Cathedral.

Zer first impression upon entering the building had been this décor is over-the-top and tacky, and a closer inspection confirms zer suspicions. The walls, covered in intricate murals and golden trim, stretch ever upwards towards the sky. They eventually meet the high, domed ceiling, where a circular painting of the Six Lavaak-sa’haar looks down upon the parishioners. It’s the exact kind of excessive opulence and intense irreverence that Zyrsit is so immensely fond of, and Laesiin has to give credit to the Ferah-saar for capturing zer aesthetic to such a degree.

Even as ze tries to look elsewhere, zer gaze keeps returning to the ceiling. These modern depictions don’t quite resemble the terminals that Laesiin remembers, but ze can still imagine zer kin in their place, staring down at zem from the infinite cosmos.

Laesiin stares back.

Answer me, ze demands, though the visages do not – will not – respond. Ze wonders if this is how the Ferah-saar feel, constantly praying to their outer world deities who remain ever-silent in the face of their continuous pain and suffering.

But the plight of the Ferah-saar is not what Laesiin is concerned with right now. Ze wants, no, needs, to know—

<<vengeance exacted?>>