Sunsets were shorter on this moon than on Gaína.
Everything had moved too fast since he'd woken up, healed but weaker. Since he had told Jaya she would be better off without him. Jaya had crossed the doorway of his hospital room and left him alone on a planet he did not know the name of. He had made it to the Intergalactic Academy after three months of... three months of work. It had gone by like a blink, like a nightmare.
He has no rights beyond the basic right to life. No right to the money in his pack, no right to the passage he bought to the Academy, no right to demand money for his work and no right to refuse anyone who asks for it.
But now he was here.
This moon was considerably larger than the one that housed the Mond. Its atmosphere and attributes, along with the technology developed in the Academy, allowed for the growing of flora and assimilation of fauna from various planets. Aside from his home, it was the most colorful place Ono had ever seen.
He’d finally made it here, to the Intergalactic Academy, the place of all his ambition. And yet he felt the strongest desire to go home to Gaína, his enslaved planet.
No. Not enslaved. Indebted, because of his ancestors’ cruelty during the war. Indebted with an entire galaxy. Indebted.
He squeezed himself onto the wide window ledge and counted his own breaths. Living quarters, such as this one, were conditioned to each race that inabited them. The classrooms and halls were commons, artificially suited to all races, but living spaces were cut into sections and modeled with the inhabitants' comfort in mind.
There were, of course, no quarters prepared for one such as Ono.
He had wanted to sleep outside, under cover of the stars...besides, he had no money to pay for lodging. But his new superior, a gentle Karaktar named Professor Ácimo, refused to let him sleep outside.
He had an inversed sort of strength, that wise, fluffy, cowering creature.
"If you are to sleep outside," Professor Ácimo had murmured. "I will sleep outside as well."
Illogical, but effective. Ono accepted the professor's hospitality, reassured by his promise to make him work harder than any other intern in the Academy. He would pay him back. He could pay him back, because the professor gave value to his work.
The tesseract worker took his passage ticket and ripped it in two. Then he made Ono work to supply the energy necessary for the vehicle to work. Ono had worked for the tesseract for three months, until an inspector caught him at it and sent him on his way.
Ono had never dealt with windows before. Or low ceilings. But he liked the warmth and clutter of the professor's home.
Another professor, who had doctorates in intergalactic law and diplomacy, had told him that he was not permitted to kneel before anyone here. That he stood on the same ground as any other creature, on Academy ground. It didn’t matter if the rest of the five galaxies demanded he greet other creatures with this display of submission.
It was a strange feeling.
Ono had been dealing with so many feelings lately.
Everything seemed to be happening too fast. Down to the sunset.
Ono lost count of his breathing.
The colors were glorious, red and purple and blue and the barest hint of green on the edges. Nothing on this moon reminded him of home, but its sunsets were still beautiful.
Ono ached all over. Inside, beneath his skeleton, bruises bit at him like parasites.
Ono knew that, in the morning, he would have to deal with more of them. The diplomacy professor might have told Ono he was an equal to the other students, but the professor was far outnumbered. Outnumbered by his fellow colleagues and by many, many students, including those who had taken their fear and anger out on Ono today.
Ono wishes he were not so big compared to them. He wishes he were not a target, despite how useless it is to wish you were not what you are in your essence.
I grew like this to serve you, Ono had wanted to say to them. But who would listen?
The sun sunk below the horizon. Ono realized his room was dark, pitch black, and he could not see.
The door to his bedroom creaked open.
"Who is it?" Ono asked.
Professor Ácimo always carried a light. He had freely confessed to Ono that the dark terrified him.
"That's why I'm among my books, and leave the field to my colleagues." He had chuckled.
Ono wondered if the creature in his room had a weapon.
He would not have wondered such a thing, at home on Gaína. He had not known creatures were capable of attacking without proactive provocation, but after the Earth woman had stabbed him in the Mond market, he was no longer so sure.
"Your roomate." A voice answered cautiously. "My name is Ava."
"I was not aware Professor Ácimo had...other tenants."
"I'm new, such as you are." Said the voice. "Say...close the window. It's cold out."
Ono treaded his fingers up in search of the latch and closed the window.
"Are you not afraid of me, Ava?" Ono asks.
"Maybe I am." The voice chuckled. "But my curiosity gets the better of me. What's your name?"
The room smelled strange. The creature's scent reminded Ono of water, of rainy earth. He breathed in quietly; he did not know what was better, more unusual, if this scent or being spoken to with politeness.
"Say, Ono. You give off electrons, no?"
Ono nodded. "I do."
He wondered if the creature was playing a trick on him. The door clicked shut behind it. Ono could not hear any other breaths or heartbeats in the room, excepting Ava's and his. It seemed she was female, small-too small. Small enough to fit inside Ono's two hands.
"I'm here." Ava whispered. She did fit into his hands. She floated and placed herself there, just as Ono stretched his hand out to greet her. "I can feel the charge on you... woah."
Ono blinked. It was a strange sensation, touching Ava. It almost reminded him of...
Her rainy-earth scent was so at odds with how her skin felt. The first reminded him of home, made him feel nostalgic and vulnerable- he had been having to deal with so many feelings, too many feelings, lately. He should have been asleep already, he was tired and he ached. But he had wanted to watch the sunset.
Irrational. Unwise. He needed all his energy to prepare for tomorrow. Instead he was here, letting his feelings command him.
Ava's skin, by contrast, made him feel awake. Strange.
"May I?" Ava said.
Ono had no idea what she meant by that question. But she was one of the three creatures who had addressed him kindly these past three months. And it was late. Ono was almost too tired to care whether she meant to harm him or not.
He did not want her to leave. His insides did not feel so hollow in her presence.
"Yes." Ono said.
The sound she made then was like music.
It reminded him of something.
The feeling in his hands increased, and now he could identify it, as warm and soft, almost ethereal, and...
Something in his chest seemed to rush out of him, all at once-he felt exhilarated. He gasped- Ava was no longer in his hands, she had slipped through his defenses, his skeleton, she was-
The coiled energy in Ono rushed into Ava, snapping the tension in him, allowing him to breathe. He felt overwhelmed and lost and full of hot, bright light.
She was gone.
"Earth below." She whispered, from halfway across the room. “That was…”
Electric. That word hit Ono like a whip. Only his Jaya made him feel that way, with her kisses, with her touch, and this creature was a stranger, and the room was dark, the night starless, this moon was cold and foreign.
What he felt with Jaya, it didn’t belong here.
Ono shuddered. He wrapped both arms instinctively around himself. He should not have let her breach his defenses. He felt the need to hold Ava in his hands, he needed her to make sense of what just happened.
“Please leave.” He said instead.
“Hey, don’t be-“ Ava said.
“Please.” Ono’s body hurt.
“Go away.” Ono stood.
His footsteps were too loud on the floor. Ava made another frantic, musical sound and dashed out, taking her rainy-earth smell with her.
Ono moved himself back to the window ledge. He sat there, opened the window and looked into the depthless dark. He knew it would be difficult to find sleep tonight. He wrapped both arms around himself and made himself hum a familiar song. Just to feel a vibration in his chest.
He felt emptier than ever.