Three: Naming

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The lights in the hall whirl together as I'm carried, unceremoniously, back to my hole. I ignore everything around me, including the male with the blue skin who has me pressed to his chest like a sleeping infant. His suit sticks to my skin, stretching as it tries to mold our bodies together. I do not fight it. I don't have the strength.

He attempts to speak to me as he walks, giving me the feeling that he's trying to quiet the near screams escaping my throat. But I cannot contain them. They are all the grief and agony I've been feeling since I first offered myself to their mercy. They are the goodbyes I'll never speak.  

I am so caught up in my sorrow that I'm surprised when I'm set down on something remarkably soft, like an over-sized pillow stuffed with down feathers. "Rest now," I'm ordered by soft growl, almost like a cat purring. It silences me. The screams die in my throat, falling into softer whimpers.

"I miss them." I murmur, doubting that he can understand the connection we humans share. He strokes my head, his touch so much like my father's before his accident.

"I know, but it is for the best. They would have corrupted you. We saved you." I want to argue, but my mouth feels raw, my lips chapped, so instead I yawn, feigning tiredness. "Sleep for now. I'll come back with something for you to eat." He stands and the bed shifts slightly, the material nearly wrapping me up on it's own. I close my eyes and try to imagine the softness is my mother's bed, the sheets fresh from the wash. I imagine I feel lips press against my forehead.


My eyes open to the sounds of dogs snarling. Zyngar, the male from my nightmares, is standing feet from me, his face nearly purple as he speaks to my guardian. They don't notice me as their voices continue to rise.

I move off the bed, trying to stay as silent as possible. I've never seen any of Them fight before. They always seem so calm, so detached while they stand up on the docks. I sidle past them, my feet bare on the cold tile-like floor. Zyngar notices me first. His teeth break out in a smile beneath his painted beard. "Looks like she's decided to join us." My guardian jerks in surprise and moves to grip my elbow in support. I shrug him off. He backs away, a beaten dog.

Zyngar's smile becomes a little more forced. "Still so human." He says. I watch as his eyes take in my too thin garment. "Grzyndigaldrx, she shouldn't be in those clothes. They're contaminated." I glance at my guardian, my mind trying to work it's way around his strange name. He avoids my gaze.

Zyngar turns to him as the silence extends toward awkwardness. "Do you hear me? I don't want her looking like a savage. Get her in something warm, her lips are turning purple." My guardian nods, his eyes on the floor. Zyngar huffs and leaves the room, an automatic door sliding closed behind him. Silence stretches between us as the shushing sound fades. I feel the niggling feeling of guilt so, instead of looking at him, I cast my gaze about the room.

Unlike the rest of the ship, this room feels almost cozy. The bed takes up most of the space, leaving only enough room for a side-table and a row of shelves. The lights are a warm orange color and I wonder if the inhabitants get to pick their own colors. "Would you like something to eat now?" Startled, I meet his eyes. He nods towards the side-table, which has what must be a trey of food sitting atop it.

My nose crinkles. One of the items is bulbous with slight blue black veins spider-webbing across it while another looks like a wad of hair. My stomach churns its protest. "I'm not hungry." I say, although I can feel the feel the first pangs of starvation radiating from my center. He nods, his face somber. I find myself missing his bright smile.

"Commander Zyngar says that I need to get you a bio-suit." He doesn't lift his eyes from the ground. He looks so defeated, that I can't stop myself from wanting to lift his mood.

I finger the edge of my shirt. The fabric is fraying in places and it's still covered in dust from riding in the back of our wagon. I take in a giant breath. "Good," I say, trying to force a smidgen of his previous cheerfulness into my voice. "I'm freezing."

My words have the desired effect. Immediately, his mood brightens. He goes to the wall of shelves and grabs a small container. He holds it up to me. "Here it is!" He beams at my confused expression. This wasn't my idea of a suit. He unscrews the lid, revealing a lump of dark blue goo. I fight the urge to gag despite the lack of smell.

With his free hand, he takes mine. I resist the urge to yank it away. All the hairs on my arm stand on end as he carefully tips the container towards me. I let out a small scream as the syrupy liquid falls towards my skin. 

It doesn't splatter. It lands, almost languidly, ringing my arm in a warm, springy bracelet. "There now." He releases my arm with a satisfied smile. "I'm going to go outside so you can," he gestures to my clothes. For some reason, my instincts tell me he's blushing although I can't see any color change through the tattoos. He ducks his head and starts to leave.

Terror rises up in me. I stare at the thing slowly creeping up my arm. "Don't leave me." The words are thin and come out in a strangled whisper.  I don't want to be left alone in this strange room with this strange substance. He stops just as the automatic doors shush open.

"I'll be right here." He points to a space just outside the doors. I'm shaking. The goo has started to spread, coating my wrist and moving up towards my elbow. My fist clenches, the knuckles turning white.

"Please. I don't..." the words catch in my throat. We stare at each other and I can't stop the terror from reaching my eyes.

With three easy strides he's beside me again and I suddenly feel like I can breathe again. With expert hands he grasps the goo sucking to my skin, becoming a part of me, and rips it off. It comes away easily. He sets it back into the container and quickly screws the lid. Then his eyes meet mine. "You should have told me you weren't ready." His tone is harsh and slightly angry. I shiver. My hand rubs the place the liquid had been.

He watches me, a strange look overcoming his face. He collapses on top of the bed, his head cupped in his hands. "I'm sorry." My head drops towards the ground.

He rises again and comes close to me, so close I could graze him with my fingertips if I'd only extend my hand. "It was my fault. I am supposed to protect you." He reaches for my face but stops himself, letting his arm fall back to his side. "I can't do that if you don't tell me things scare you."

My eyebrows come together as my thoughts scatter, trying to harvest this bit of information. "What are you protecting me from?" He blanches, as if he's suddenly realized he's said too much. My heart skips inside my chest. Are there more dangerous creatures than Them? Who do They fear? Certainly not humans. Zyngar proved that when he tried to kill my brother. Cold chills race up my back.

As if reading my thoughts, my guardian tries to distract me. "What is your name? On my home planet they call me Grzyndigaldrx." I stare at him. There is no way my tongue will be able to say it. He grins. "But you may call me whatever you like." I bite my lip. He waits, letting me think.

"May I call you Zyn?" It is the easiest part of his name to say. He smiles, showing off his white teeth.

"Yes, but what can I call you?" His eyes are intense as he waits for my answer.

On Earth, they used to advise us to never speak to Them, claiming that once they knew your name they could control you with only a thought. For a brief second I debate lying, but his face is so earnest, so bright, that bring myself to do it. "Azra," I say. "Simply Azra." He smiles and I have the feeling he wants to touch me, but he doesn't. He just smiles, as if I've just given him the greatest gift in the universe.

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