by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Typewriter Emergencies: A Journal of Furry Lit, May 2017
Argelnox hunched her shoulders inside her mechanical shell. The metal casing chaffed against her soft, wrinkly green skin. She’d been traveling for months, solo-zipping from one planet to the next, skimming only deep enough into each planet’s atmosphere to replenish her oxygen and basic nutrients, soaking them into her suit’s mechanical gills before sling-shotting towards the next.
The purple-blue world beneath her was the last planet in this star-system. Once she left it behind, she’d fall into deep hibernation, solo-zipping through the deep space between here and the next star. The next palette of worlds to tickle her taste buds and tempt her. She shouldn’t stop here; it would only slow her down, and she’d fallen far enough behind the migration.
Yet, the sun glowed orange over the purple rocky mountains in the distance, and her determination faltered. She dropped the power of her jets, letting herself fall into a descending orbit. Argelnox spiraled downward, the atmosphere burning against her metal shell. Wind whistled and roared against the clear dome shielding her oblong head; it was a glorious noise after months of only her own breathing echoed in her auditory canals.
Argelnox landed lightly on one of the purple mountaintops and descended the clear dome over her head backward into her mechanical shell, allowing the alien air and golden sunlight to bathe the naked green skin of her face. Her inner eyelids closed, slowly, luxuriously, as if she were preparing for a hundred year nap — the kind of nap that had left her behind the rest of the migration in the first place — but she didn’t fall into hibernation this time.
She needed respite, but she needed to keep it short. Only a few days for searching out and collecting creepy crawlies among the purple rocks; a few more days to shed her mechanical shell and swim through the blue ocean, catching fish and jellies; then a week to say the prayers and perform the rites before finally settling down to a true feast.
She savored every bite taken with her chitinous beak — crunching the insects, chewing the jellies, and rolling the flaky fish over her tongue. It was all so much more revitalizing than a thin soup of gases absorbed through her mechanical shell. That could keep her alive, but this would keep her going.
When the feast was done, Argelnox ignited her rockets, blasted back through the atmosphere, and fell into the numbing rhythm of flying through space. She would catch up to her people eventually.