APHELION: CHAPTER 7 (1)

We return for Episode 2: Welcome to Horizon’s Crown, in which we find out just what Sophya has gotten herself into and what has gotten into Varrett. Or at least we get an idea.

Once reasonably dressed and armed with a snack, Varrett left Mom with the Caster and went to get his ware un-dusted. The snack? A protein bar out of a box he’d looted an entire week ago, which supposedly came in all sorts of punchy flavours. Chocolate. Nuts. Assorted fruit and berries. Broken hopes and crushed dreams, etc. This one had come in a blue wrap with blue bubbles printed on and so he’d wagered blueberry (or one of the countless intergalactic variations of it anyway). But what he’d ended up with after scarfing down half had been 99% cardboard and 1% idea of blue, if blue had indeed been assigned a flavour.

Bleh.

He choked down another bite. His stomach roiled. Some of that was hunger and lingering exhaustion. The rest was a queasy unease over how the daemon was getting its grubby code all over his ware. But he’d cope. He had it figured out. Really. Collin would fix the daemon and then— right after getting scrubbed —he’d get a proper meal and crawl into bed. Or crawl into bed with a proper meal. Either way, he couldn’t fucking wait.

Walking a bit faster, Varrett circled halfway around Sixty before turning sharply into a wide stairwell.

・・・ “Elaya’s delicate little toes be blessed, that’s pretty,” the daemon exclaimed, right as Varrett got swallowed up by the stairwell’s colourful decoration.

He grunted, his eyes flicking left and right.

Children’s drawings crowded the stairwell’s base. There were dogs. Cats. Einlings. Dragons. Stick-figure people and stick-figure robots, and all the other what-have-yous that occupied a child’s imagination, all applied using lots of crayons or sloppy furniture paint with a too wide brush. Bleeding from the children’s art, like an innocent dream swelling into a neon haze steeped in pent up emotion, was a wealth of psychedelic graffiti. More of the same swept down the steps.

Surprising no one, the Distribution assigned janitors had once been at war with this particular stairwell. But its artists had been relentless and the art had kept coming back. By now, the spectacle followed Varrett all the way down to the next floor, exploding outwards to contrast the otherwise fifty-nine shades of professional desperation.

It was neat, alright? Which made the daemon’s comment more unsettling.

Why bother giving the thing taste?

He left the colours (and musings about code with artistic preferences) behind and followed the hall wrapping around the central courtyard into a crowded Fifty-Nine. Down here, restaurants, overpriced shops, and tacky bars had been gutted to make room for everything one might need if one was trapped on three floors of shared misery. But that didn’t make it a bad walk, all things considered.

Even with the daemon falling in step with him, its naked feet padding over the dirty floor.

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Thank you for reading, you rock.

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