My dearest darling wife,
My mind has played a cruel trick on me this cycle. Though you and our brood are lightyears away, safe on Balaho, I keep expecting to turn a corner and find myself in our warm little hut. I can almost see your triangular humpback hunched over a simmering Jackal stew while our grubs crawl up the walls. I know this cannot be. I know that when I turn around, I will only see the cold purple hallways of our dreadnought, glistening with orange Hunter blood and fresh corpses. But I cannot help being disappointed when you do not appear. Perhaps the smell of plasma-scorched intestines reminds me of home.
I CAN’T RUN WHEN I’M SCARED
As for your most recent request, I will send rations and pay when they are issued. So far, no additional resources have been sent our way. The other Grunts in the company have begun sleeping on the floor due to malnutrition, which makes our responsibilities as lookouts all the more daunting. Methane winters are hard, though not as hard as a Brute’s kick to the ribs, and I wish I could be there to keep you and little ones warm instead. If you do not receive any rations from me soon, have the larger children eat the smaller children should they get too hungry.
BECAUSE OF YOU, MY KIDS CAN’T GET ENOUGH GAS. OR NIPPLE! HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL? INCOHERENT SCREAMING/CRYING
I have been to the surface of the Ringworld at least five times now. The Brutes and Elites in charge these days have told me that we are due to return for a sixth trip soon. I do not look forward to these excursions. Too many vehicles, too many rocket launchers. Much safer up here where the Demon cannot creatively exterminate our kind. But who can say what amuses the Him? He is a cruel and unknowable force, whose whims are as destructive as ravenous grubs. I cannot even begin to describe what he does to the bodies of his foes, in case any of the children come across this file, but I will never understand why he insists on performing such crude and horrible ritualistic dances on our fallen brethren. Cruelty is not bound by species, and watching the Demon grapplehook up a mountain while wielding a Gravity Hammer against a Banshee fills me with an existential dread. I have seen death, my love, and it is rad as hell.
HE’S GOT A BIG WHACKING STICK AND HE’S WHACKING IT
But for all the hardships we are experiencing, I cannot say that the Ringworls lacks beauty. The sky is bluer here than on Balaho. And the trees, my dear, are unlike anything you have ever seen. I lack the words to describe my surroundings to you accurately, but the when the sun breaks through the great Halo’s atmosphere, I am reminded of my happiest memories all at once. Like the first time I laid eyes on our egg clutch, or the sweet stink of my childhood den. When the water shimmers above my head on the other side of the ring and I look over the lip of my gas mask, I am reminded that all great songs by even the wisest prophets are merely pretty words that dissipate as soon as they are sung, but the eternal universe that separates our family is far stranger and more awe-inspiring than I could ever imagine. And in that brief moment, I find peace.
That is, until the parasitic spider monsters come screaming out of the ground and start using my friends’ corpses as murder puppets.
CAN WE GO HOME NOW
Write back soon.
Adam Camiolo (@upandadamagain) has been found complaining in the local paper about transportation, foreign policy, and healthcare. Some of his flash fiction can be found at SVJ Dispatch. He lives in a small seaside town in New York with his wife and dog, and considers himself to be a pilsner guy.