In The Between (1990)
an Ian McCanus short story
It was their last meal and the Torhns had lost their appetite.
Their world was about to end, the two black holes on either side of their planet were about to tear it apart, split it, right down the middle and that’s all there was to it. No amount of food could change that. Even the Schgleg they were about to consume knew something was amiss.
” Go, shoo.”, Yichn ordered.
The Schgleg, feeling unwanted, slimes out of its tray and leaves the table.
“What’s the point?”, Yichn asked rhetorically, “It’s all going to end anyway.”
Her husband, Gnok, had no answer for her.
“You’re upsetting Igli: calm down.”, he answered.
Little Igli was only 300 years old, she had no defined idea about what was going on. She had just wet herself, though.
“I don’t care! It’s the end! I can do what I want!”, Yichn continued.
“That’s not true, you have a responsibility: you’re her mother.”
“Oh blow it out your flaaagn…”
“I know how you feel but you can’t let it get to you, let’s just finish our last meal with dignity. As a loving family.”
“A loving family? You think I don’t know about you and Griil?”
“W-what do you mean?”
“Oh forget it…”
Gnok turns to his daughter, wiping the urine from her face.
“Go to your room, Igli. Mummy and daddy need a moment alone.”
“Wammy?”, replied the infant.
“That’s right. I’ll be in there to tuck you in right away. Just give me a couple of months, ok?”
Igli leaves the table and walks to her bedroom leaving a trail behind her. Gnok turns back to Yichn and gently places his tentacle on her shoulder.
“You’re upset, I understand that. But we have to make the most of our time together, while we’re still alive. The planet is splitting in half, that doesn’t mean we should do the same.”
Yichn promptly knocks his tentacle away with her paw.
“That’s just it: maybe we should do the same! After all, if nothing means anything, why shouldn’t we? Why should anything?”
“Yichn, calm down…”
“Why?! Why be calm? Who is there to wake up? Besides you?”
“You’re the one who needs waking up! You’re asleep! Asleep from the truth!”
Yichn stands up. Now hysterical, she starts to turn purple as her antennas vibrate from side to side (a sign of stress). Gnok walks to her slowly, trying to calm her down.
“Settle down, Yichn. You’re having a breakdown…”
“You’re asleep, they’re all asleep!”
Gnok moves his tentacle towards her.
“There there, it’s gonna be alright. Just give me your paw and we’ll talk.”
“Don’t touch me!”
“I’m not gonna hurt, no one is…”
Just then, Yichn opens her third mouth and bites Gnok’s tentacle hard: she eats half of it. Gnok screams, flapping his remaining tentacle around the room, breaking vases and glasses in the process.
“There there…”, Yichn says in a dark monotone, “It’s gonna be alright.”
Yichn falls on top of Gnok and devours him on the spot, her mouths taking large chunks out of him with every single bite. Gnok struggles and screams throughout, his orange blood splashing over every family portrait, every inch of the room.
Minutes later: Gnok was no more.
Meanwhile, Igli is lying in a puddle in her bed, counting Niays, her favourite animal. Yichn knocks gently on her door and walks in, still completely covered in blood and foaming at the mouths.
“Hi honey, you asleep?”
“You are asleep, aren’t you…”
“Hungry? I’m hungry too.”
There’s a knock at the front door. Startled, Yichn gets up and goes to answer it. Igli continues counting Niays.
Before opening the door, Yichn enquires:
“Who is it?”
“It’s Poyng! Open up! One of the black holes imploded in on itself. It’s gone! Our world is safe!”
Trembling, Yichn finally opens the door.
More from Ian McCanus soon.
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