The captain’s old partner tapped her cane and twitched her wing behind her lanterned telescope. The second trashmoon was almost in alignment. When the moon got this close, she could see every guard tower, every barred window, every winking light in the penal colony’s night. One of those lights would be for her.
Her nervous foot brushed something and it plinked along the roof. It was Seahorse’s bloody mary glass. She grimaced. She should be spending this calm and clear night with them. She should be drinking with them, making funny hypotheses about the strange, tendrilled fruit Seahorse had brought home. Then they’d help her down the stairs to her greenhouse and her wing would flex with pride at her plants and her love and this new life on this new moon–
Instead, she’d let Seahorse head downstairs alone, so she could sit here, looking up at the ugly prison. Her old life of hopeless nights, secretly tending plants in solitary. Why was she here every cycle? Just to share these dismal memories?
The second trashmoon was in position. She adjusted the telescope and began blinking the light: 两只老虎, 两只老虎… she could barely remember where she’d learned the nonsense poem, if it was in prison or in some foggy youth on Earth. But even these many years later, she’d found that whomever she signalled would know it. 跑得快… She waited for a response. What would she talk about? Her lover, her experiments, her warm evenings with bloody marys? Everything seemed banal, ill-gotten, torturous to relate. One mad attempt, one desperate escape wing-to-wing with the captain, and her life was perfect. Irrelevant in the crushing drudgery of the penal colony.
A light flashed. 一只还有翅膀. It was the prisoners. What did she have to say. How are you. How is everyone. Is anyone I know left alive. How’s the food. Has it gotten worse. Do you have hope. They asked, “How are your plants?? Zhi Ruo has a weird weed under her bed and she’s seeing how weird she can make it.”