By Lavie Tidhar
Read by Alasdair Stuart
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Originally appeared in Strange Horizons
All stories by Lavie Tidhar
All stories read by Alasdair Stuart
Rated 17 and up for language and sexual imagery
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By Lavie Tidhar
It began, in a way, with the midget hunchback tuk-tuk driver.
It was a night in the cool season…
The stars shone like cold hard semi-precious stones overhead. Shadows moved across the face of the moon. The beer place was emptying –
Ban Watnak where fat mosquitoes buzzed, lazily, across neon-lit faces. Thai pop playing too loudly, cigarette smoke rising the remnants of ghosts, straining to escape Earth’s atmosphere.
In the sky flying lanterns looked like tracer bullets, like fireflies. The midget hunchback tuk-tuk driver said, ‘Where are you going -?’ mainlining street speed and ancient wisdom.
Tone: ‘Where are you going?’
The driver sat on the elevated throne of his vehicle and contemplated the question as if his life depended on it. ‘Over there,’ he said, gesturing. Then, grudgingly – ‘Not far.’
But it was far enough for us.
Tone and Bejesus and me made three: Tone with the hafmek body, all spray-painted metal chest and arms, Victorian-style goggles hiding his eyes, a scarf in the colours of a vanished football team around his neck – it was cold. It was Earth cold, not real – there was no dial you could turn to make it go away. Bejesus not speaking, a fragile low-gravity body writhing with nervous energy despite the unaccustomed weight – Bejesus in love with this planet Earth, a long way away from his rock home in space.
Tone, in Asteroid Pidgin: ‘Yumi go lukaotem ol gel.’
‘No girls,’ I said. Tone smirked. Bejesus danced on the spot, nervous, excited, it was hard to tell. Tone said: ‘Boy, girl, all same.’
Bejesus, to the driver: ‘I dig your body work, man.’
Tone shaking his head. ‘Dumb ignorant rock-worm,’ he said, but with affection.
The hunchback midget tuk-tuk driver grinned, said, ‘You come with me, no pay. Free tuk-tuk!’
‘Best offer we’re going to get,’ Tone said, and I nodded. Bejesus passed me a pill. I dry-swallowed. The floating lanterns seemed larger then, like warm eyes blinking high above. ‘Let’s go!’ I said. My heart was beating too fast. ‘Hungry and horny and a long way from home,’ Tone said – a bad poet in hafmek armour.