“What is it? What is it?”
Baetylus looked down at the creature squirming in his hand and tried to decide how best to explain it to the juvenile ape. It’s a monster? It’s an animal? It’s a trans-dimensional symbiote that my people have tamed and use as decoration in their home. “It’s an animal,” he offered softly. “They live back where I’m from.”
“Where did it go a minute ago?”
“It doesn’t really exist here. It’s an illusion I’ve created from my own memories and experiences with and knowledge of the creature.”
“What does it eat?”
The meatform frowned. “It’s not exactly known. The part of them that consumes energy for sustenance exists on a different plane than my own people, so we–”
“Sweetheart, leave the nice man alone,” another ape said, it’s voice deeper than the juvenile’s but still rather high. Baetylus looked up and saw an adult female, its facial features similar to the juvenile’s. A mother, perhaps, or a sibling.
“Aw, but I’m not bothering him!”
“I don’t care. Leave him alone.”
“Really, ma’am. I don’t mind at all.”
The woman looked up at Baetylus anger and protectiveness flashing in her eyes. Her body tensed in a way that Baetylus had seen in the canids and the felines, a cautionary display before an attack. “I’m not talking to you, Sir.”
“Mommy, be nice!”
The woman grabbed the child by the wrist and began to pull her away. Panic filled Baetylus. The girl had been the only one to see his weavings. What if she was the only one on the planet who could? What if he could reach out to the rest of the apes by talking to her and being unable to do that would set back his progress by months? He couldn’t let the girl leave. He’d have to stop the mother.
He almost reached for the woman’s arm before the meatform’s memories told him that if he did that, he’d be attacked every ape within fifty feet. He had to confront her non-physically.
He closed his eyes and tried to reach out with his senses. There was happiness in her, and pain, as there was in all the apes, but she seemed to carry a greater sorrow than most.
“Your mate left you,” Baetylus said as softly as he could while still being heard by the woman. She froze in her path and Baetylus pushed on. “After the child’s birth. A revolution of the planet around its star after. You are angry at him. Terribly angry. But you are sad, too. You miss him.”
The woman’s shoulders slumped. The girl looked back at Baetylus, her gaze darting between him and her mother, confused as to why they had stopped. Despite the pain that emanated off the woman, a feeling of satisfaction came to Baetylus. He had succeeded, at least temporarily.
The feeling lasted only a moment, though. As the woman turned to face him, Baetylus saw an expression on her that he had no words for. Her voice was soft, choked, as if something were lodged in her throat, but that must have been impossible. Saline welled at the corner of her eyes and ran down her face in thin rivulets.
“Who are you?” she asked softly. “What are you?”