Sorry for the delay, here’s the next part of the Coleopteran tale, Birth.
992 1126 words, fantasy/steampunk/insectpunk.
Update: I’ve done some edits and corrections this morning. Added in a few details. Also, I just noticed that I changed the Doctor’s name from Part One, Temblow to Trembelow. Oops. This is exactly why you do multiple drafts and have an editor! It’s also exactly why you don’t write something and throw it out on the Internet and have it judged. Unless of course you can shrug and own it. Mistakes happen, look at Moby Dick.
S30 – Birth – Part 2
Leaving the birth pool
Sosan passed the time with increasingly bad grace. He could read, but it was a struggle, so it wasn’t something he did for fun. However his boredom reached a point where the nurse of the hour, they seemed to change often, would place a newspaper on the side of his tank. Sosan could read most of the double pages, though the thick glass always distorted some of the text. This passed the time well enough, Sosan read slowly.
He couldn’t talk when under the gel; he had to surface to speak. Surfacing was an ordeal all of its own. His lungs were flooded with the gel, which his body now processed as though he were breathing air. To make the switch from liquid to gas Sosan had to expel the gel first. Loudly and violently. It was something he’d got used to now, as unpleasant as it continued to be.
The first time he’d come to the surface the dim light of the room burned his eyes like looking at the sun on a summer day. He’d yelped and ducked back under. The attending nurse, or assistant, Sosan wasn’t sure which, laughed softly, shaking their head. They rose from the battered leather chair and took a pair of tinted goggles from a small box on the floor. With a flick of her wrist they plopped into the gel. Sosan reached up and inspected them.
“You’ll need those during the day from now on.” The nurse said. Sosan shrugged and then pointed upwards, his sign for wanting to speak to directly. He came to the surface of the tank, retched until his lungs were clear.
“Why?” He asked, eyes, pressed tightly closed, his voice croaking from the lack of use.
“Your eyes. They’ve been changed, you have more receptors now.”
“So I can see in the dark?”
“No, no-one can see in the dark. But in low light the only things that are going to be able to get around are cats and you.”
“That’s pretty neat. Wait, I remember, so I can see in deep water.” Sosan said.
“That’s why, yes. The drawback is you can’t see anything in daylight anymore.” Sosan nodded and after two slippery adjustments he got the goggles on and looked around. They made the colours in the dingy room seem even further off than from inside the tank. He wondered if he’d got used to the green, and how long it would take before he got used to the goggles.
“Don’t do much yet. No long walks, no running at all. Don’t go to the docks and get in the water.” Doctor Trembelow said. He stood in the archway watching Sosan work on his hair. The gas quality must be an issue as shadows danced from the flickering gaslight. Sosan’s discharge, like every other aspect of his treatment, was brusque and efficient. The nurses were muttering to each other as they roughly bagged the sticky towels that Sosan was using to scrub the gel off.
“Why?” Sosan asked.
“You’re weak. You spent so much time in the tank. You should walk, yes. Get used to that for a couple of days, only then go to the docks.” Sosan legs had shook ever since he got out of the tank, his body seemed body was. Not just from lack of use, but the amount of metal fused to his torso. He was afraid to bend over in case he couldn’t get straight again.
“Alright, walk around for a couple of days. Got it.” He had no intention of doing that, weakness be damned. Sosan felt like he had to try out his body as soon as possible. It was a compulsion, a need as bad as the need to get out of the tank had been. He’d go home, rest for a while and go down to the docks if it was still light, or first thing in the morning.
“Good, good.” The Trembelow muttered, more to himself than anyone else. He nodded to the nearest towel-holder who gave a curt nod in acknowledgement and turned to Sosan. Trembelow, mired in shadows, stepped backwards and left. Sosan met Trembelow again, but when he thought of him, it was always as he’d seen him then, a vanishing man of shadows.
“This way, we need to wash off what’s left on you, then you get a cab back to where you live.”
“Right.” Sosan said. He tried to hide how fragile his walk was as he followed the nurse. The first time he’d left the little tank room in three days. The water was cold, but refreshing. It beat the sticky gel as far as Sosan was concerned. Two nurses cranked a hand pump while another sprayed him down from what looked to Sosan like a canvas tube. He’d never seen such an arrangement before. After another towelling, Sosan was given his street clothes back. He was led back to the much more appealing front rooms of Trembelow’s offices, where potential customers get sold dreams through modern technology – clockwork, steam power or beetle.
A nurse walked him out to the cab, holding the door for him and getting him inside. From a small scrap of paper he read out the address of Sosan’s apartment. With that the cabbie whipped the horse into motion and Sosan rattled away from where his old life had ended. The ride was smooth; Trembelow’s office was situated in Harley Street where the road stones were flat and even, unlike those in Sosan’s own street.
The Cab rounded a couple of corners and pulled over. Sosan was so absorbed in his own thoughts he didn’t realise they’d stopped unto the roof of the cab was rapped upon from above.
“Ssso, to the docksss then?” The cabbie said loudly. He voice was slurred, but Sosan’s heart jumped when he deciphered the words.
“Yes, yes please.”
“Right you are lad, be there in ten or ssso.”
“How did you know? Where I really wanted to go I mean.” Sosan asked. The cabbie coughed, a hacking wet noise that sounded unwell.
“I been doing runsss for the Doctor for quite sssome time. I know where the new dockiesss want to go.” Another sound, like a cough but Sosan worked out it was quiet laughter.
“Ha, thanks.” Sosan replied with somewhat forced levity.
“It’sss what good cabs do, take you where you need to go, even if it’sss not where you sssay you want to go.” He spoke something to his horse, and the cab pulled away once more. Sosan hung his head from the window, the goggles turned Colopteran’s streets into unfamiliar shades, but to Sosan it had never looked so good.
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