by Kate Stuart
We first mated 27 years ago.
"And you thought it had killed me. Literally."
Yes, at first I did think it had killed you, and then I thought it would kill me.
* * *
Ten million years ago, Suvess orbited Phus in the habitable zone.
Evolution was barreling along. The first hominin was just around the
corner when some indeterminate force knocked Suvess into a closer
orbit. Life at the equator must have been wiped out. Certainly, the
genetic ancestors of humans fled to the poles, and so two completely
separate paths of evolution were followed.
Born of the same primordial RNA sequences, the evolutions followed
similar paths in a similar enough sequence. Planetary tilt made the
North Pole--Helmkih--more moderate and hominids... .
"'Hominids' isn't a Suvesseet word, dear."
Of course, too much time with the Galactic scientists, but then
"Suvesseet" and "suvessist" aren't Suvesseet words either. We had no
word for all of us together. Anyway, suvessists from Helmkih have
fleshier skin in a variety of tans and browns. Suvessists from the
South Pole, Sathzenn, while being surprisingly close to Helmki
genetically, have hard, scaly skin whitish-tan or pink in color. There
are other differences. We, Satheets, have multifaceted eyes and
opposable thumbs, but only two digits. Whereas, Helmki have single lens
eyes, and also opposable thumbs, but five additional digits.
Yes, well, anyway, a trip across the equator was impossible for our
ancestors so we are distinct species. Then Helmki invented the
airplane. An airplane flown across the equator at night landed on
Sathzenn seventy years ago. What a trip that must have been! All our
history in one hemisphere, both sides with myths of an earth like an
upside down bowl on a bed of coals or the oven that the sun bakes in at
Satheets were maybe 50 years behind technologically, so not so far
behind, but at first it was a bit touch and go. The Helmki may have
enslaved us, but they were so certain that they wouldn't find
intelligent life, that it just wasn't possible, and of course so many
of them believing that they wouldn't find anything at all. Besides,
they had only a certain--very predictable--window when they
could take off or land, because even now the trip over the equator is
too dangerous except at night. Sathzenn is so much hotter too. They
were not, are not, naturally equipped for life at on Sathzenn.
"We need lots of light clothing, sunblock, and parasols, even then
it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. Air conditioning and
lots of water, too."
So, Satheets had a fighting chance, and we took it. For a while, it
has even united Sathzenn. We speak with one voice. My mother, after
life had settled down, after a new generation grew up, one... more
believing, more accepting was sent as ambassador to Helmkih when I was
eight. Of course, my father, keeper of the house, came, and I came, but
my two older brothers were in the middle of their studies, and my
younger brother would not be keeper of the house, so he was left with
my uncle to prepare for his studies to be a doctor. Being a girl, my
parent's only girl-child, I must follow in my mother's tradition and be
an ambassador so my apprenticeship had already begun and I could not
leave my mother until it was done. I was eight, flown across the world
under cover of darkness to Helmkih and the rest of my life.
It changed our history, Nusse. We changed the history of our people.
"Someone would have eventually."
Helmkih was unlike anything I had, any of my people had, ever
imagined. There were rivers, lakes, and green for miles upon miles.
Trees were everywhere and everything was made of wood. Our house had
splinters and softnesses, and it was always so cold, and there was
school: formalized, ritualized lessons day after day after day. My
mother decided I should go to school; that we should immerse ourselves
in your life. So, I, a freakish, ignorant Satheet, started school in
Piy Rush, the capital of Nsojep, the largest of the Helmkih countries.
* * *
"Do you remember the day we met?"
My first day of school: you were the only good thing that happened
to me that day. I was eight, Nusse. I was alone. I was the only Satheet
in a school filled with kids who'd never seen a Satheet, only heard
stories, seen pictures on the news. The war was barely over. These kids
had lost relatives in that war. I was the enemy.
"Not everyone thought so."
I didn't know the first thing about Helmki clothing. I tripped over
my shoe strings all the way to school, and kids were snickering and you
came up to me, took my hand... I was so shocked. Satheets do not touch
one another casually. At all. Ever. So, I followed you determined to
rip your throat out if you led me somewhere private, but you only led
me to a bench. You sat me down and you tied one of my shoes, and then
you took my hands and you walked me through tying my other shoe.
"And we were friends."
Friends? We were inseparable. Oh, we had a group, sure. For every
kid that hated me there was another lining up to be "friends" with the
freak. Some of those friendships stuck. So we had a group and no
one--well, our parents anyway--didn't suspect how close we were.
Really, they probably couldn't imagine that such a thing was...
possible. We were different species. It took us long enough to think of
it ourselves. We were nearly done at university. You'd had girlfriends.
Quisee, obviously, was serious. She and I got along. Who knew how
important that would turn out to be? I still like her almost as much as
I like you, but you'd had a fight and I... I needed release.
"You thought you'd killed me."
Well, yeah, you would have thought the same. When Satheets mate, the
woman bites the man releasing hormones into his bloodstream. It's
instinctive. It's part of the mating process, a vital part of the
process. You went catatonic. We were camping in Koules Canyon and...
I've never run so fast in my life. Climbing the wall of the canyon left
me pretty beat up. Your parents thought you had done it trying to
escape my clutches.
"Our parents didn't know what to think. You'd bit me. I'd collapsed."
I found the nearest phone and called the hospital, called my
parents, called your parents, I think I would have called everyone on
the planet. I just wanted to save you. I couldn't breathe for it, and
then we were at the hospital with my mother trying to explain to your
parents that I hadn't tried to kill you, and my father bringing down
heaven and hell on me because I'd even thought of committing such an
abomination, and you not breathing.
"And then you collapsed."
Not until later when they took you away and I couldn't see you.
Sometimes that happens when a woman bites a man and sex doesn't follow.
It's not serious. She'll wake up cranky with a splitting headache at
the worst of it. Mother had them put me in a quiet, dark room. It
should have passed in a couple of hours. Instead, I got worse. I was
nearly catatonic myself and the nightmares came: mostly that they
wouldn't let me see you, that I couldn't find you, that I couldn't save
you. I woke up cold and sweaty and my parents were talking to the
doctors about sending me back to Sathzenn. I struggled to get up. The
nurses wouldn't let me and I was thrashing about. By then, we were in
adjacent containment rooms, and I saw you. There you were and it was
like everything was okay because I could see you. "Nusse," I said
before sinking back into the hospital bed.
"I wasn't getting better though. Not worse, just also not better."
No, you weren't getting any better, and they wouldn't let me into
your room. The only reason they let me stay was that I'd get hysterical
if I couldn't see you, like physically lay eyes on you, I would just go
mental. I was--we were missing exams and graduation. Quisee came to see
you every day. They didn't let her into see you either so we'd sit
beside one another holding hand, crying, talking.
Weeks passed, a long month, another short month after that. Finally,
they admitted you were stable, not contagious. It might not do any harm
to let me in. All I did was touch your hand.
"I asked, 'What took you so long?'"
Quisee nearly left you then. I had saved you. We'd been inseparable
before and now we were... connected. How could she compete when I
literally could not cope with you being out of my sight?
"But you convinced her to stay."
She had to stay. I was sure soon enough the doctors would figure out
what was going on, figure out how to fix it, and then I was gone. I
planned on being on the earliest flight to Sathzenn I could manage and
to, if at all within my power, never lay eyes on another damn Helmki in
all my live-long natural life.
"And I didn't do so well without you in physical contact unless Quisee was around."
So we all moved in together. Our parents were furious. I was
supposed to be getting my first assignment. I was blowing my life
apart. It's not like Helmki; it's not a career, it's not an option;
it's a life path; my raison d'etre. I am an ambassador. Your
parents, Quisee's parents, were sure that I'd enslaved you both. Really
though Quisee's parents were the only ones with any sense. If Quisee
was going to live with you, Quisee was going to marry you. They just
took me out of the equation altogether. So, you and Quisee were married
and you were a couple, and where did that leave me?
You had each other. You had children. You were normal. Recovered. I
was the one left with nothing but panic and fear and dependence. Years
we lived that way, Nusse. Years of ignorance. For an entire year, I was
locked away, kept sedated. That was no good for anybody. Quisee finally
insisted on an end to that experiment. Really, it was easier on
me than you. I was sedated so heavily I didn't know my right hand from
my left. You're the one who knew what was going on--could feel my
"Like a knife in my heart."
Quisee tried everything to make us healthy. I think she has always
been content with us, well, since the coma anyway. She accepted me as a
necessary part of the relationship. We've been fortunate to have her.
It's so necessary for the square to be complete.
It took so much time to realize that when a Satheet and Helmki mate,
both partners must then mate with someone of their own species, and the
Satheet-Helmki pair is mated for life. Though the breeding mate--as so
many call it now--may or may not be for life. How may Satheet partners
have I had? 4? Or is Weyna the fifth?
Voru stayed, yes, for his children. Until he met Peyquee. Funny how
it's not a latticework. He could no longer be with me once he was with
Peyquee. It seems to be the rule: only one Satheet-Helmki couple within
the square and two breeding couples. Even as long as Voru stayed, he
and Quisee never even tried, and they were very fond of one another.
Quisee's been fond of all of my mates.
"Weyna's been a good fit. Voru always wanted more."
Yes, Voru is a good man. He loves the children, but I never needed
him the way I need you. Weyna is more accepting. Which is good. Five
children by four different men. Voru may not have been understanding of
that, but his two were the first two, and back then we were still lost:
lost and so utterly clueless.
Until Shapli. The ambassador--no, not the first, this would have
been the second ambassador from Helmkih to Sathzenn. I think his son
must have been ten maybe twelve years younger than us. So the son tries
hooking up with one of the Satheet maids he fancies, Shapli. Same deal
as us, he's in a coma; Shapli goes into hysterics, only her family
brings in her fiancé and she doesn't have the panic attacks, the fear.
"Theirs isn't a happy story though."
No, Shapli's fiancé is so enraged about what the ambassador's boy had done that he murders the ambassador's son.
"And Shapli kills herself."
And Shapli kills herself. Not a happy ending, but the mating part is
the part that caught my parents' attention. They bring up a Satheet
man, Voru, to mate with me, and it works. Years of anxiety and fear if
we're not in the same room gone, and right away I'm shipped off to the
Galactic ship. Mother thought it was such a piece of good fortune when
the Empire showed up just as we'd figured out how to fix me and I'm
available for the station.
It didn't work out so well though. Not like we thought it would. We thought we were free of one another.
"Things hadn't been good for a while."
How could things be good? But you're right. Quisse was on edge even.
We would stalk around one another. We tried mating Helmki-style. It
helped. Some, but now I was gone, high above Suvess, floating in a
ship, and you were down here with Quisee and your children and we were
both going nuts. Finally, you arranged a trip, just a little
site-seeing tour like they do, but we'd have lunch. I met you at the
"'Met' may not be the right word."
Seeing you, then... pure instinct. I needed to be with you. All those other times we thought mating would help, but that time it did.
"You drew blood."
I'm Satheet. Of course, I drew blood. At least you didn't go into a
coma that time. Quisee and the children helped. They kept us in my
apartment, kept us together. Vuro was there for me. Poor Vuro. Only
there because I had had his child and caught in the middle of this, in
the middle of us.
* * *
The Galactics were all over us. They'd never seen a planet with two
technologically advanced species, ever, in all their explorations, we
were unique, and then there was you and me seemingly unable to live
without one another. They loved to study us, and they began to make
sense of our predicament. Of course, by that time, we weren't an
isolated incident. In spite of all the horror stories, Helmki and
Satheet children were unable to resist one another. Of course, those
not mating with the other species were not having children. Those that
were, were having children in droves. Well, for those who had contact
with the other species anyway.
Fertility only becomes an issue for children who come in direct
contact with the other species. A million Helmki, a million Satheets
have fled to remote enclaves: preservation of the purity, down with the
abominations, and all my classmates with the millions of turrers spent
"Not just your classmates."
Not just Helmki. Thousands of suvessists not able to have children because of some latent genetic trigger.
"The great symbiosis."
The great symbiosis. So, Suvess brought her children together.
© 2015 Kate Stuart
Bio: Ms. Stuart works days as a paralegal to support her writing habit.
E-mail: Kate Stuart
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