On my way from the barkeep to the patron hungry eyes clung to my hips and tail like leeches. The lighting dimmed so all the gold ornaments had a chance to glow with the warm spectral light. “Zeke’s Gate House” was famous for this special feature. Gold without alloy shined like bioluminescent creatures bursting into sparks. The upbeat music softened, changed rhythm and lowered in volume as soon as I approached the end of the curved counter. I flashed my best smile at the thin male Terran and brought him his 8th Old Fashioned. He kept the drinks coming, tipped more than generously. Patrons like him were my favorite. Hopefully, he had more on his mind than getting drunk. His hand connected with my lower back, before he even looked me in the face.
“Come, keep me company for the last one,” he smiled back. Oh, this went smoothly. Zeke, my owner, had plans for this man. By his gleeful look, the plans were deadly. “Your wish is my command.” He downed the drink I just brought him and signaled the bartender. “Tell me a sad story, gorgeous.” He took the ice sphere left in the glass and rubbed it to his temple. “Even if it comes with solace?” I purred. He smiled tiredly, took his hand from my lower back.
For a moment, he let something slip and I glanced his pain or grief. The barkeep nodded. His many tentacles moved with such speed, that the drinks were still swirling in their glasses as they skid to my patron. “On the house.” But the ‘Zeke’s Gate House’ was a miserable place, a gilded juggernaut of suffering made for the lonely, for those stuck between ports, or jumps, or ships, or beds and in desperate need of company. So we served high-end misery in bottles, glasses, cords, syringes and pipes. All kinds of exquisite agony, tainted joy between sheets, pleasures without end, each of them neatly price-tagged.
“The scrawny one paid for the whole night,” that was what Zeke growled, as he sent me over to him. “Don’t let him leave.” My patron didn’t seem the type to vulgarize, to let off steam violently. Dark hair, dark eyes, a coat too big for his frame, clothes that had seen better days, but he had jewelry, and his pockets didn’t run out of credits. “How about a happy story? You seem like you need some cheering up,” I chirped, as I shimmied myself next to him.
“No. No happy stories for me. Tell me a sad one.” Maybe he liked the wounded, maybe he was broken himself. Was he the kind that would try to save me, I asked myself.
“Very well, I will tell you about Utchara Star, the way my grandma told me and the other cubs from the village.” I took a sip from my drink too. “Utchara is a binary star system in the Andromeda quadrant, but from the Smoke Valley, it looked like two yellow eyes observing us in the night and at dawn. In ancient times, when the cliffs around Smoke Valley were nothing but little hills, Utchara descended to us from the sky to take a bride. He saw Kara in the desert. She was the most beautiful Fellaraen anyone had ever seen. He followed her all day and night, just to look at her. Her long legs danced over the hot white sands, her short tail a golden fur and tufted ears delighted Utchara so much, he made himself visible to her. Kara and Utchara fell in love instantly. But before they could leave for a new home in the stars, tragedy struck and Kara was poisoned. Utchara went mad over the death of his beloved. He screamed so loud, the earth shook and parted, oceans turned yellow with death and the sky hid in poisonous darkness. He took Kara with him, but left his eyes to watch for the murderer.” His stare was intense, examining my little cubtale, my face, my hands and the movement of my tail.
“Is that the name of your race? Fellara?” I smiled and nodded. “You’re my first Fellaraean. Do you know what that story means?” I looked at the brightening areas around his eyes and throat. Something he liked. I nodded. “Love never dies, but kills us all?” I tried.
He laughed out loud, genuinely amused. His hands brightened too. “Probably that too,” he shook his head. There it was again, that probing stare stopping at each of my scars and joints. His eyes locked on my hands, and he took them, examining like he saw them for the first time. I let him trace each finger, test the sinews and finally finding my claw pads, I pulled my hand back. They still hurt after the declawing. I took a swig and sighed. “Now you tell me your name, patron. Haven’t I earned it?” I grinned and booped him with the tip of my tail.
“How did you end up here?” He asked barely audible.
“Like we all do, darling,” I beamed at him. “Life knows some cruel jokes, and it wouldn’t stop for me.” I nodded to the barkeep and got myself another drink. I brushed his arm, placed my palm over his hand. “Then I got hungry, tired, horny and was in need of a miracle.” I winked at him mischievously. “And here we are. Two strangers, men sharing drinks.” I toasted him. “In a place like this, with most exquisite items to be exchanged.” I gestured vaguely at the counter then at myself.
My patron swallowed hard. “Darling, don’t be shy. I don’t bite,” I giggled. “Much?” My patron smirked.
to be continued…