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๐— ๐—ถ๐˜…๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜›๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜บ ๐˜š๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ



Swarlob settled slowly, his thin translucent body covering a broad patch of the lakeโ€™s sandy bottom. Twelve light cycles had passed since the last liquid infusion of methane to the lake. Food proved scarce since molecules of fargrop blown by polar winds from the far hills only descended into the methane when the temperature stayed below -162 degrees celcipod. But the planetโ€™s temperature was rising, threatening to turn their entire ecosystem gaseous.


Swarlob began to digest some of his fringe to maintain energy. But another hunger instinctively caused him to search for a mate, using up his limited charge.


From the shoreline, a female cunzburch floated from the shadows toward him, flashing sepia, red, and saffron. He edged toward her, displaying his most vivid blues and purples with jagged shards of orange.


At first the female seemed interested. From her displayed colors, he recognized Salantee. They had mated many light cycles ago and had spent an entire cycle doing it. But this time she seemed to shun him and retreated to the rocky shore, in danger of being snapped up by a flying goolope and spirited upward into the yellow sky.


Jeez, whatโ€™s a male gotta do around here to get laid? Swarlob thought and moved toward her. She edged under the rocks and flashed black and white stripes. Swarlob stopped, knowing that mating with an underage cunzburch could get him expelled from the lake onto land where he would slowly fry. But then he thought: Wait a minute, if sheโ€™s under 300 cycles old, that would make me barely out of my motherโ€™s clankerboo.


He moved toward her. Salantee backed farther under the rocks, molding her thin form against them and displaying her hooked stingers.


โ€ขโ€ขโ€ข


Damn, itโ€™s that creep Swarlob, Salantee thought. The last time we mated my clankerboo was sore for seven cycles. And it wasnโ€™t that great. I mean, with a poobang that huge, what can a female expect! Besides, I never gave birth and I donโ€™t have that many cycles left to waste on that jerk.


She moved farther back into the rocks and primed her stingers with venom. Her hunger for food weakened her charge and she stopped displaying, hoping the creep would get the message and leave. But no, he continued to advance, displaying cobalt blue and vermillion, although the colors seemed faded. The idiot must be starving as much as me.


Salantee stayed dark but prepared for a first strike. Swarlob stopped and flashed green in short bursts. She held back on her instinct to return a flash, knowing that this male fancied himself a real femaleโ€™s cunzburch. In the darkness she developed a plan, one that made her wiggle her fringe excitedly.


Slowly she moved into the open methane and briefly flashed sepia and saffron. She withdrew her stingers and swam next to Swarlob. He had not aged well, his fringe ragged, body opaque around his internal organs, deep goolope feet around the eyes. Swarlob floated above her and prepared to mate. Not very original, she thought. This male has as much imagination as a mentally challenged grashgig.


She gave off quick flashes of black and white and he stopped. More flashes of chartreuse, pink, and turquoise got the message across. Swarlob flipped over and settled onto the lakeโ€™s sandy bottom. Salantee slowly lowered herself onto him, her fringe waving in the thick methane. Now this is more like it.


Without much pretext or foreplay they made mushtang. For Salantee it was as distasteful as before. As he relaxed, she charged all of her stingers with her full reserve of poison and attacked. Swarlobโ€™s body bucked and heaved. But she held on, and in a few parsongs, he quieted, flashing weak black signals until they faded away. His body turned gray.


Salantee fed for six cycles until nothing was left of Swarlob, not even his annoying poobang. Afterward she floated free, keeping her eyes focused for more attractive mates, flashing sepia, red, and saffron at full strength. She never noticed the solar flare. The lake instantly vaporized, leaving her stranded on its white sandy bottom, baking under a glowing red sun. โœฆ




Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and two plump cats (his in-house critics). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, and novels. His short stories have been accepted more than 450 times by journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bryant Literary Review, and Shenandoah. He was nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes and once for inclusion in Best of the Net anthology. Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitaristโ€”who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.



Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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