Signals from the Front: Visible Elements Chapter Seven

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Chapter Seven

The day Vysha takes Sky Harvester to see the sculpture is blisteringly hot. They are grateful for the palanquin’s dimming; even on maximum polarization, the sky is a sheet of blazing warmlight in their eyes. With his permission, Vysha rearranged crates to make a private studio in the corner of the warehouse, which is, if possible, even hotter and dryer today than usual. Yet Vysha almost doesn’t feel the cracks threatening to form on their skin. Anticipation has pushed discomfort aside.

They park the palanquin and lead Sky Harvester between the twisted columns of packing crates. The big Rul’s rustling gait is labored as he navigates the warren. Vysha must resist the urge to curl a tendril around one of his pods and drag him into their work space.

     “I think you will like it,” the translator on Vysha’s sensory bulb says for them. “It is very three dimensional, very…visual.” They carefully draw aside the tarp.

The spitstone has hardened on Vysha’s masterpiece to the density and texture of enamel. Vysha tries to imagine seeing it for the first time and fails. To them every ledge, every prominence, every cavern is already an intimate friend. Always already home. Vysha could trace it with their warmlight organs covered.

The seastack of Traat, first colony of the Veerten of Teluk, rises in a column of spitstone as wide as Vysha with arms extended and three times as tall. Its shape above the waterline should be unmistakable to any citizen of Anmerresh, a visible reminder that it was the Veert who shaped the bedrock of Teluk’s history. Vysha wishes Rul could see warmlight, so that Sky Harvester could see them glowing with pride.

Sky Harvester is quiet for a time. At last he ventures, “I can see you’ve put a lot of work into it. But, ah, I’m not quite sure what it’s supposed to be.”

Vysha feels like they’ve swallowed polluted seawater. Sky Harvester doesn’t see it at all. “It’s the seastack of Traat,” Vysha says. 

“Ah, I see it now.” Sky Harvester places two pods against the concrete-hard surface as though to mollify Vysha. “It is perhaps unfinished?”

Vysha sees the escape Sky Harvester is offering them. “It is unfinished,” they lie. But their insides are churning. Vysha had thought the sculpture a perfect replica of Traat, been assured by those in their cohort to whom they’d shown the piece that it was accurate in every detail.

“I don’t know what to add,” Vysha admits to the Rul.

Pensive flickers cross his pods. “When I was sketching my design, I had to weigh accuracy against the emotional impact of the piece.” He bunches his pods in a Rul shrug. “The Terran and Coalition ships were not as close as I depicted them, but it was my way of emphasizing the element of conflict. You have to ask yourself what elements of your sculpture are most important. Those are the parts that should be the most visible.”

Vysha thinks about this long after Sky Harvester has left the warehouse. They focused on the total image of Traat, the way any Veert would do. But to land-dweller eyes, the piece is still background lacking a foreground. It needs a last element to bring the whole thing into focus.

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