feeling neurons dissolve

rating: +64+x

Death sequence:

The thing is skewered around our auxiliary antenna, penning a tale of woes in whips of cerulean blood. Blues spill from the gashes, fold into spinning fractal glyphs, and drift on the zero-g nothingness away from our vessel.

The halo is small; 3-dimensional. Not as boundless or decorated as those of the matured angels we've seen dip down from Above. It only burns a fraction of a lamp's warmth, instead of blazing the righteous wrath of a supergiant. I can't tell whether it drifts over the head or one of the arm stumps — the thud the thing gave against our hull would've left any skull a smear.

I pulse the suit thrusters a centimeter forward and it finally takes notice. There is a twitching in one of the gutted organs, one of those sensory structures tuned to perceptions that no number of celestiobiology textbooks could ever let you envision. An eye on the 17th of hundred remaining, non-fractured wings rolls through its cracked socket. The iris blurs into a blue stain. Veins slough free from the cornea, and in some self-sacrificial cry it spurts torrent after torrent of glyph through the blackness around me. I'm surrounded in a veil of shock, of desperation, wild and shocked and scared, scared of why the antenna stings so bad.

It falls on deaf minds — I never learned Basic Empyrean.

Now the thing writhes. Wings are pulling hard on their sockets at angles impossible and perpendicular from the ship. The spacetime is folding against them hard enough that the friction between every spatial axis is screaming flares of searing violet radiation. Arms are physically bashing into the hull, pushing, contracting every time the scrape of metal against guts sends a jolt of tearful pain.

The antenna seems yet to be damaged from the affair. Every wing is now thrust back like javelins of divine flame and the body is a torrent of spiking blue auroras. Lacerations shred wide as the force of the push everts guts through the vacuum. Blood crystallizes. Vaporizes. Ionizes. It's bleeding so hard to pry free and the cries resound like psychic jackhammers through my head but it isn't breaking off, it isn't escaping, it isn't healing. Several meters ahead of me the thing burns.

I turn on my in-suit speakers, padding the harsh sobs rebounding in my mind with the blanket of nu-Saturnian rhythms, when every psionic shriek cuts quiet.

Cerulean splutters over my visor — I wipe it off. Curled around the antenna, bones clutched around a gaping wound in an unrecognizable body part, is a corpse. Bloodless, lifeless. An embryonic head inches in a last twist to stare my way as its neck comes undone at the tendons.

My mind hears a whimper — quiet, uncertain, fading. Before it can understand what has happened to itself it is too faint to perceive; it's gone.

There is no more light from the thing. The eyes are as grey as a tomb; still. The skin solidifies; ashen.

I pulse a thruster over. Reaching into the toolkit by my chest, I flick its latches open, extricating a hacksaw from inside.

Raising it through the vacuum, I thrust down and crack a wing off.

My intercom buzzes right as I get to work sawing off the nearest bundle of clenching arms.

« Status? »

"Fine," I reply. "Thing's dead. Think we need to report it in?"

« No, no. We've hit larger. Chop it off, run inspection on the antenna, and once it seems set you can get back to engine duty. »

Crunch. The limbs crumble, remnants drifting past me while the dust disperses.

"Roger. We're getting close to arrival, right?"

« Yes we are. Three more weeks until we reach Ashburn Station port, and our ice shipment will arrive in perfect condition. We've done enough good this way 'round that we deserve the payment. Starting to think now we could even get new cargo compartments for that extra bulk. »

A desiccated third eye splinters.

« It'll be worth celebrating over, won't it? »

"For sure, for sure."

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

« Let me know when you get back in — probably a few coolant pipes to be re-welded. Take care out there. »

"Roger. Thanks."

The intercom clicks off.

I carve against the side of another wing, one of the three which weren't blown apart in that final scramble for home. The remnants are denser here, more compacted around the arteries where liquid daylight once flowed, but this blade alone is enough to do the job. Shouldn't take more than another hour to clear it all out.

Behind me, a trail of ash arcs into the blackness. The dust scatters, from cluster to strand to mote, until, in the time it takes for the saw to complete another motion, the last grain blinks out.

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