Skyglass Epilogue: A Box for Wolves
Marko’s first day of work on the maintenance crew of the Genship Mimir is three Earth months after he last saw Moss. Life has gotten no easier. He doesn’t message Moss or any of his other friends, because he doesn’t want them to know how badly he’s fucked up. He doesn’t want them to think they have to come save him.
He wakes up on the floor of the tiny, tubular space he rented upon first arriving on Mimir. He stands, rams his head into the meter-high ceiling, and collapses back to the floor with a curse.
Marko gets lost on his way to work–trying to navigate the crawlways and tangled innards of Mimir is a challenge when you’re over two meters tall and the breadth of your shoulders is literally too wide to fit in some spots. Still, he manages to duck into the repair shed the AI directed him to only five minutes late.
“Sorry,” he says, easing the door shut behind him.
There are two women in the shed, which is really just a clearing in the ship’s piping–like an opening in a rusty forest with a door stuck on it. Both women are tiny: probably barely over a meter and a half tall and slight as sparrows. One leans against a rickety pipe, mouth around a black stick, leaking frosty air through the gap between her front teeth. She’s no less than thirty years old, short brown hair, hazel eyes. She has skin a shade darker than Marko’s own warm brown, but it’s drawn all over with tattoos done in black and milky blue ink. The name embroidered on her bodyzip says Verna. The other woman–a few years older and sitting at the table–has pale slate skin and hair that’s blond-going-white. Her eyes are like ice melt. Her embroidered name says Auttie.
Verna narrows her eyes, suspicious. “Who’re you?”
“Marko Gunnarson. I’m new–today’s my first shift.”
“Oh no.” She shakes her head. “There’s no way you’re the new hire. You’re too big. Get out.”
Marko opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He takes out his com, flicks over to the job confirmation message.
Verna barely glances at it. “Nope. Sorry. Scram.”
“Let me see that.” Auttie snatches his com away with strong fingers. She examines his message, then shoves a scattering of tools and dirty plates off the table she’s seated at. Its surface lights up, and then Marko is staring at an image of himself surrounded by scrolling text.
He grimaces–he’s been avoiding mirrors for months and this is proof why. Gaunt face, sunken eyes, hair wilder than he likes, beard out of control. His eyes, though–those are okay. Green, winter light. No longer dyed garnet. Back on Earth, he was an elf, property of the Bureau of Botanical Psychology, given a small stipend, but sentenced to meditate with plants and feed them brain energy, which they collected to power the city around him–all because he’s one of the few people uncharacteristically in tune with biomass. He never minded the duties much, but the uniform the BBP required was another story: ears docked to points, bleached white skin patch over the left eye, irises dyed jewel tones. So at least the dye has faded. There’s nothing he can do about the rest of it.
“Well, the picture certainly looks like you,” Auttie mutters. “But just to be sure…” She digs around in one of her bodyzip’s many pockets and produces a gleaming-clean scalpel. “Blood, please. Just let it drip on the table there.”
Marko complies silently. He cuts shallowly across the center of his right palm and squeezes his hand into a fist until red dribbles out. For a moment, all he can smell is blood and wax; all he can think of is the first ritual he performed, back when he was barely more than a kid and decided to move from his hometown to Raith, eight hundred kilometers away. He’d sat in his compartment on the train, candles dripping onto the scummy carpet, a fall of blood for each flame, a spell for safety and good journeys. He is pagan. A witch. How did he forget?