This Happened in Larkan
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Now listen here. Your grandparent has a story for you. Now don’t ask what it means, or what the moral is. This is simply something that happened to me when I was young.

Now, if you were to condense all the fizzing curiosities of the Universe down to one place, you were probably in Larkan. Encircled by green pastures to the left, an ocean to the right, and pencilled over artificially steam-dried marshes, Larkans very structure, culture and design begged the Question. And that was all it needed to fisher in tourists, settlers, secret keepers and liars too.

If you’ve ever wondered something, asked a question or sought out the unspoken, you’d find a paper trail curling towards and slicing through Larkan. It was the fresh faces who depart aged by experience that made it home. The street-dwellers knew all below ground thanks to the rats and mice, the rich bartered exotic secrets between themselves and the intellectuals at the Sharpen Academy transcribed everything they heard or read or uncovered.

I was a fisher back then. Nothing special or demanding, barring the odd Kraken. (Whispering a lie that’s also a truth will do the trick. I recommend Davey’s Entry to Actual Fibs. It’s hilarious as well.) My crew would sail far from the shore catching bundles of fish with our copper nets and returning with them filled with tender molluscs and misleading decapods. Today was different. My crew found our yields naked, as were the lobster traps set within the local reefs. While we waited for our fishing lines to shake, I watched the sky. As I watched the sun hide behind thickening clouds, it dawned on me just how quiet the world felt today. Quieter than anything. Larken was holding its breath, but whatever for?

We came home that day empty-handed. So did Cindry’s team as well as José’s. The barnacles underneath the docks were sealed up tight, even now at high tide.

“Something’s in the air. Can you feel it?” I whispered to Cindry.

“I’m unsure. Our town hosts all sorts of visitations. There are hazards in keeping all sorts of secrets together. Moreso when you have the answers.”

We fell silent and watched the waves before us.

“At least we have tomorrow,” I said when the moment lingered for too long. “I best be going.”

That day I didn’t immediately go to the Sunken Inn. Something was wrong, and I needed to know. I walked towards an outcropping of rocks on the far side of the beach and moved behind the boulders piling up high. It provided me with the necessary cover as I stepped into the waters. Pressing my lips close to the water I sang The Quiet Song. I waited, and as I did I could feel my knees grow weaker. Despite this, I looked ahead and held strong. A shape moved forward from the waters. The mermaids had taken a liking to me when I was a boy and swore off drowning me. I’m still uncertain as to why, but honestly, it was a question I dared not seek the answer to.

After wading awkwardly through the shallow water the shape crawled close by me and then rested by my feet. Mermaids rarely used their facades in their own company, and for whatever reason, with me. Today she was not a sight to behold, at least not through beauty. Her skin was transparent like a jellyfish, tinged with pale pinks, blues and greys. I could only just discern a large and slimy blob through her foggy flesh. It was no doubt her intricate mind ticking away. Her torso, shaped to imply womanhood yet lacking clear sexual characteristics, was the size of a typical human. And yet her scaled tail drew back at least four and a half metres long! I wondered how any creature would have the coordination to mobilise such a thing!

“You called to me, Camille?” Said the Mermaid. I dare not tell you her name.

“I have, sea intelligence. I would like to ask a question, if I may.”

“Hmm,” The Mermaid cooed and grinned. “I will listen to whatever you say, and then I’ll decide.”

I could see her teeth beneath her transparent lips.

I nodded graciously. “I wonder, what is the reason for the current stillness of Larkan? It's as if I’m floating across the sea whilst a great mouth waits gaping beneath me.”

“Is this great mouth fanged? And filled with the bones of sailors?”

I hesitated before nodding. “Some were fat sailours too! Others were strong like the tide and others were thin yet taught.”

The Mermaid’s eyes widened in a dreadful glee that shook her slimy form. “Larkan is getting a terrible visitor! A visitor from a planet far from this place.”

“We get many visitors from across the galaxy, even outside it! Yet it is rare for Larkan to silence itself to this extent.”

The Mermaid rolled onto her side as if to display herself to me. I looked away, not out of respect or to hide any flowering feelings, but to make it clear I was not food. I could almost sense her disappointment. Turning back to her I could see her many hearts beating slowly and gradually slower as she seamlessly drew herself close to my lips. I dared not shudder as her glinting grey eyes fixated on my own. Again she chirped and cooed, pulling her paralytic hair away from my cheeks.

“There is a boy who will visit Larkan. His kind share blood with mine. I’m sure you’ll understand what that entails.”

I dare not breathe.

The Mermaid continued. “He will ask for information, like many who come here. I’d wager you should answer it.”

“Why?” I dared to ask.

“Because the alternative is his petulant, adolescent angst,” Said the Mermaid, with a hint of experience.

I shuddered as the toyingly Mermaid placed a hand on my shoulder. Again a grin flashed across her face, letting bare her terrible fangs. She release me and moved away. If it were any other day, I’d have found humour in watching her crawl unglamorously back into the sea.

Even the Sunken Inn was quiet that evening. I mulled over a few too many schooners, eyeing the bar television with mild interest. It was a soap of some kind, but that was all I discerned. It struck past eleven o'clock and officially the bar was closed. Regardless, Barkeeper Mitchel sensed that tonight's opening hours weren’t entirely in effect. I gazed around at the few confused souls still dotting the Inn like ghosts. Nobody seemed drunk but each kept to themselves and found whatever blank space they could to stare into.

I hated that silence. It was only then I released that the television was on mute. What in the world was happening to us?

The bell hanging over the inn’s front food rang as it opened and again as it gently closed. All eyes in the inn suddenly awoken and turned their attention to a figure standing at the door. It was a boy, someone in their late teens perhaps. He almost seemed perturbed by all the faces suddenly staring at him, but then the expression faded as he then surveyed the room.

The boy's features were strange. Not the fact the left side of his face was purple, as were both his exposed arms, with that left eye pale and bulbous. It wasn’t the sunny innocence that the right, human-looking side of his face projected. No, it was a sense of facsimile about him. I couldn't quite place the sensation, but it was there in my stomach yet remained unnamed.

The boy’s eyes darted and scanned the details of the room as he patiently waited for something. I risked a glance away from the boy and saw a strange hesitancy possessing my fellows. That Mermaid's warnings resurfaced in my mind.

Finally, I spoke. “Ey, the pubs closed, son.”

‘Son’ was merely a supposition based on the oversized singlet he wore, the general design of his soft features and the slightly puffed way he held out his chest. I’ll clarify that this observation is not born from any prejudice; it seemed as if he was not someone trying to pass as a man but rather to pass as something resembling a person through the pinhole of manhood. It gave me the image of a fish wearing a nametag reading ‘human.’ (This did happen once, although that’s a story for another day.)

His head turned machine-like to face me. I bit my lip as the boy considered my words.

“Oh, ‘the pubs closed?’ But you see, that’s exactly why I’m here.”

I did not know why, but there was relief that he could speak. The way he rounded each word implied the task was something unique to him, and there was an accent I couldn’t place.

“Why is it preferable to have the pub closed?” I asked. “You are seeking information, right? Surely it’s better to return at a more crowded time? More people to speak to? More potential that you’ll have your questions answered?”

“I believe you know the answer to my question. It’s Camille, correct? I’ve been told you come here often.”

“And what is it you’d like to ask me?”

“What planet do Trimat Three live?”

I’d have screamed and called the boy an idiot for even saying that name! But his eyes narrowed on me when he said this, and the Mermaid’s words held down my protests.

“No good comes from the Trimat boy. They’re an evil trio who will stab you in the back on a good day. They boiled a star into ash during one of their little games. Even Loki would hesitate to beckon them.”

“Oh, I’m not here to beckon them. I’m here to use them.”

The confidence struck me hard. “You can’t just use them! They’re forces more twisted than any can understand.”

“I understand perfectly! I have come here to seek a simple answer to a simple question. I have come here when it is quiet because I’d truly hate for there to be some unforeseen accident.”

“Is that a threat!?”

“It’s a statement.”

All eyes fell on me. Like a wave, my will crashed. “They’re on the desert planet of New Rike.”

The words seemed to take a moment to register my words, his mind no doubts racing to make cosmological calculations. Finally, he looked at me.

“I apologise for any inconvenience I might have caused. Thank you all for your time,” The Boy said with frank kindness.

With that, the Boy left us to be and disappeared into the night. Rumours that morning claimed to have seen a young man entering a glowing orb of orange light contained within a set of spinning wheels, which balanced on a spoke shaped like a bolt of lighting. That object vanished in a flash and Larkan let out a collective sigh.

I still wonder what happened to that boy. It pains me to say, I fear what terror I might have brought to the Universe that night. About a week later when the Inn was undergoing renovations, Barkeeper Mitchel nearly had a heart attack after finding dynamite stored underneath the floorboards. The strangest thing? They were manufactured by a company that got founded three systems over about a decade later. Anyway, a little before your father was born, a drunken space pirate gave me a new piece of information in return for a drink. The Trimat Three had disbanded and it became a known fact in some circles that one of their members was almost certainly dead. It was said the other two wouldn't last long. This happed the same year that Mars became the cold world it is today and all the martians died, or so the pirate claimed. Anyway, after I had your father we moved away from Larken and settled on this lovely planet. I thought it would be safer to the colourful home of my youth.


I’m grey and weak now. My eyes and mind aren’t what they were. I hear things, you see. See things too. But some days I pass a figure of indeterminate sex or gender. They are thin and frail and watch me with deep unease. One side of their face is purple, as are their arms. They look very old, but not old like me. They feel as old as the sun, as the world beneath our feet. Staring back at me through those mismatched eyes, I can only just make out this. They are filled with a clear and singular phrase that makes my old heart shake; “I am sorry.”

Thanks for letting me blabber on. I’ll like a rest now. Just leave me be.

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