Moths to a Flame
I hope I’m the last Elven-woman to find herself integrated within an intergalactic spacecraft. In my haste to depart, and somewhere in the confusing rush of space and time between the human world and my universe, I made an error.
I was still confused then the Authorities ensnared me. I’m not the first of my kind to end up here. Without us Elves they can’t communicate with the Space-Canaries, they need our telepathic skills. I suspect they deliberately intervened with my transition.
If I could figure out exactly where and when I am I'd be off in a wink, but they're aware of that and keep me moving. They programme my spacecraft to move through the universe in an unpredictable fashion, so I never get a chance to get my bearings.
Three hundred years living in a feudal society means I’m bereft of knowledge of the technology or calculations required to counter their programming. I’ve applied myself fully to the educational material they’ve provided but it’s limited in scope to only what is useful for my assignment. I now understand the basics of quantum physics but know nothing of multiverse mechanics. So I'm stuck and have been for the last thirty space years. It's all very frustrating, particularly for an Elf with my particular set of talents.
In an early blow to my confidence I realised the Authorities were immune to my ability to manipulate minds. On Earth, I influenced the thoughts and actions of others at will. My greatest talent though, is manipulating non-conscious living organisms, especially plants. I induced crops to mature faster and larger than they should, fungi to sprout where they shouldn't and summer fruits to ripen in the middle of winter — all to help those ungrateful humans.
In the early days those of us born of Old Magic adored those crazy little beasts who called themselves humans. They were so fragile and yet resilient. We couldn't help but protect them from the elements, but then we started protecting them from themselves. Before we knew it they'd overrun the planet and we'd been forced deeper and deeper into the forests, mountain tops and dark places.
By the time I made my decision to leave there were only pockets of us Elves left in their world. Most had travelled through space and time to the lush green planet of our original universe. For me, the final straw occurred during a particularly harsh winter in France. I’d carefully created a garden of summer vegetables for a starving peasant family. Instead of being grateful they spat at me, calling me the devil's whore and trampled the ungodly food into the snow.
Here, in the empty space of this particular universe, there are no living entities for me to influence — I can't even create myself a flower to admire. I wish that my talents extended to manipulating the elements. If I could influence water I’d fill my pod with it and drown in delight. Some days I imagine I’m one of the mystical Fire Elves. I can almost feel the heat of the burning pod and smell the purple clouds of toxic smoke filling my lungs. Sadly, outside of my fantasy, my consciousness doesn’t fade away to death. I’m powerless.
Without means to escape I remain bound within the interior pod of the spacecraft, fed and excavated by tubes. My only company is a Space-Canary and she's as unhappy about the situation as I am. She’s tried to communicate her name to me, but it’s both incomprehensible and unpronounceable so I call her Rosy.
Given the constraints of my experience, I can only frame my description of Rosy in terms of what I knew on Earth. To my eyes she resembles an enormous shimmering pink and yellow moth — but less assembled. What might be wings are four times the width of the central portion I refer to as her body. Her head region is a gigantic yellow fluffy ball with two enormous feather-like antennae projecting forwards. She's covered in what appears like a downy fur but is, in fact, a mass of sensory organs. She can't see or hear so feels her way through space by virtue of her extraordinary sense of smell and her ability to sense touch at a molecular level.
Like me, Rosy is hard-wired to the spacecraft, tethered by a flexible harness like a horse to a carriage. Together, we form a functioning unit. She collects and interprets the data, I translate her findings and the spacecraft relays it all back to the Authorities. We make an efficient, but miserable, team.
Over the years Rosy and I have become so close we can sense the subtle nuances in each other’s thoughts and in this way we have our private conversations. The Authorities are privy to all the translations in my head, but they are insensitive to the tone and tenor of the words.
Our purpose is to monitor the smells of space. Rosy has taught me that different sections of space have characteristic odours reflecting the molecular make-up of each region. Deep space smells like hot metal, while the centres of some galaxies have an aroma reminiscent of raspberries. I enjoy her interpretation of those galaxies, but not all assignments are so pleasant. We were once sent to a large galaxy the Authorities believed was becoming unstable. In one of its solar systems was a multi-mooned planet that stank like human flatulence. It took over a light week for Rosy to clean herself, not satisfied until she’d removed every single offending molecule.
From my studies I know that inappropriate smells in space indicate one of two things. The first, and least concerning, is caused by artificial interference with the region. For instance, non-permitted mining of dark matter in deep space, or the unlicensed destruction of entire moons or planets for various nefarious purposes. These are localised problems with no universal impact.
The second is a shift in the stability of this particular universe — a far more serious concern with implications for the entire multiverse. The only way I can understand the multiverse is to imagine it as a gathering of bubbles or foam. Each bubble or universe is distinct, yet at the same time forms part of the structure of its neighbours. If one bubble collapses, the foam structure is drastically altered. In response to the violent collapse of a single universe, many others collapse in what can become a catastrophic chain reaction. So, there are teams like us keeping a metaphorical eye on things.
Rosy and I are good at our job so it’s a surprise the Authorities are giving us a new project — one we’re not at all qualified for. Our new task is to inspect a galaxy that’s producing more light than it's theoretically capable of generating. It's the most exciting thing that's happened to us in the last twenty space years.
As programmed, we emerge from the worm hole at the outer limit of the universe. I cast my mind outwards in my usual futile attempt to contact another mind or find some sort of living organism. For the briefest moment there is nothing.
Then I feel it, just a tickle at first before awareness explodes in my mind — a sentient mind. Not just any sentient, it's an Elf and he's reaching out to me as eagerly as I am towards him. Our minds smash into each other and I'm swept with feelings of intense passion and desire. To add to the confusion Rosy is having her own issues. She’s sensed pheromones and is wildly broadcasting her need to mate. Somewhere in the glistening bright jewel of a galaxy before us is a spacecraft with a male team.
I've never encountered the mind of a fabled Fire Elf before. It's overwhelming and all manner of hormones are released into my blood stream on instinct. My poor shrivelled, inert body hasn't felt such sensations for well over thirty space years. I've almost forgotten what desire feels like. A phantom tingle tweaks my nipples and my long-forgotten cunt spasms as it sparks back to life.
Rosy bucks in her harness, triggering almost every alarm. I can't withhold the blast of sensations from the spacecraft and I'm terrified the Authorities will yank us back through the worm hole.
Outside my pod I see smoke, but the filters prevent me enjoying the metallic odour of electronics melting. Just like in my fantasy the Fire Elf has burnt out the circuitry. I can still breathe and my visual monitors allow me to see outside the spacecraft still, but all the other systems seem to be dead. I'm panic-stricken and exhilarated at the same time. Hysteria bubbles up in my mind as I realise that Rosy and I are free from the Authorities. I try to laugh but the tubes prevent it.
Rosy is towing me and the spacecraft through the galaxy. She doesn't move in a linear fashion, we flit between solar systems as she tracks her mate. I had no idea she could move this way. I hadn’t understood the horror of her confinement, it's been worse than my own.
I now know where the extra light is coming from. It's him — my Fire Elf. He lights the way, drawing us in. Suns burn hotter and whiter than they should in front of us, then expand into red giants as we leave them behind, their energy spent. It would be simpler for Rosy to follow the blazing stars, if only she could see. I'd guide her if she’d let me, but her mind is overwhelmed with the need to procreate and she’s lost to me for now.
We’re getting closer, I can feel him probing through my memories and thoughts. He's powerful and I can't resist. The intensity of his exploration is almost painful, like being too close to a flame. I’m frustrated, I have no idea who he is and how he came to be here. He gives me nothing, yet knows all my secrets.
Our destination looms — a tiny solar system near the centre of the galaxy. The little sun pulses like a beacon. My heart is almost bursting as it pounds with a mixture of fear and desire. Rosy surges on, flitting across vast expanses of space in the blink of an eye. The violence of our arrival is shocking.
As we collide I know him. I can’t escape the flood of images and feelings he pours into my mind. He is Lucilius — all fire and passion. The Authorities didn't understand his talents and underestimated him. He and Gilvus, his Space-Canary, escaped on their first mission. They’ve been here for over a hundred space years. Touched with the madness of being isolated and constrained for too long Lucilius entertained himself by manipulating the light in the galaxy around them. They have stayed hidden from the Authorities all this time, waiting.
Waiting for us — waiting for Rosy and me.
Rosy and Gilvus don't pause as they take up their ritualised mating dance. Twirling their bodies around each other they flit through space. Inescapably harnessed to them Lucilius and I are dragged along, the hulls of our spacecraft clashing and grinding against each other.
We see one another through opaque hulls as our craft smash together. He appears as a golden-skinned Elven man with flashing amber eyes. His flame-red hair dances around his face as he reaches for me. In our minds I wrap my pale slender body around his, my long platinum tresses entwine us as his fire melts into my ice-blue eyes.
Minds fully open we merge with Rosy and Gilvus and our very cells disperse to join their amorphous swirl of pink and yellow. Our desire amplifies their need — they respond. Bodies entwine and tangle, meld and re-combine as we consummate our union. Desperate frenzy subsides as our tortured souls and bodies writhe in rapture. Desire for the slow burn of bliss tempers our primal need to reach completion. We probe and stroke, lick and thrust, grasp and bite with deliberate restraint, holding back the eruption for as long as possible. The ecstasy of our minds and bodies tipping over the edge into wave after wave of unified orgasm is almost more than we can bear.
Time and space stand still as we drift tangled, stunned and exhausted.
Rosy disturbs our repose to scatter her fertilised eggs, we shudder with her as waves of pure pleasure flow through us. Spent and complete we’re filled with love. Our entire lives have led to this, there can be no more.
The welcome heat draws us in as we slowly spiral into the pulsating sun — like moths to a flame.