Wide plain, washed in a dim red light of the closest red dwarf star. Cubic rock formations strewn about, like building blocks on a playroom floor. Wispy leaves of thin vegetation, clinging to stones. A high cliff over a loud, ceaseless, muddy waterfall.
Zaha Sanko, age twelve, sits on a large jagged rock, stuffing his face with a sloppy spaghetti sandwich. His back is turned, and he is quiet, but Avakian knows that he is ugly-crying because of his uneven breath and the quiver of his shoulders. He messed up making the meatballs two times in a row, that’s what set him off - but really it was just the last straw.
He is awkward and gangly, in the middle of a growth spurt; optimistic and upbeat most of the time, eager to go forth and carve out a life for himself. Yet he is still a child, lost and alone in the vast cosmos, now newly homeless and on the run again.
Avakian reaches out.
“Flesh or Darkness, come.”
It’s an empty windy place on a forsaken desolate planet, nobody here but these two fugitives. Sanko turns around at the touch, eyes red, cheeks blotchy, chin smeared with sauce. He blinks through the tears, surprised for a second at the transformation, then stretches his arms and buries his face in Avakian’s chest.
“Thanks,” he says with a watery smile.
Avakian can’t give him anything more than a hug from his own mirror image, perhaps only a shade of comfort that a real friend would. But maybe for now, it is enough.