Over at Clarkesworld Magazine is the latest story from Indian writer (and World SF Blog contributor) Indrapramit Das: muo-ka’s Child.
Ziara watched her parent, muo-ka, curl up and die, like an insect might on Earth.
muo-ka was a giant of a thing, no insect. Ziara was the one who’d always felt like an insect around it. Its curled body pushed against the death shroud it had excreted in its dying hours, the membrane stretched taut against rigid limbs. She touched the shroud. It felt smooth but sticky. Her fingertips stuck lightly to it, leaving prints. It felt different from her clothes. muo-ka had excreted the ones she wore a month ago. They smelled softer than the death shroud, flowers from Earth on a distant, cosmic breeze. She raised her fingers to her face, touching them with her tongue. So salty and pungent it burned. She gagged instantly, coughing to stop herself retching.
“muo-ka,” she said, throat thick. “You are my life.” Ziara thought about this. “You are my life, here.” She meant these words, but felt a hollow, aching relief that muo-ka’s presence was gone.
She closed her eyes to remember the blue rind of Earth, furred with clouds, receding behind the glass as she drifted into amniotic sleep. Orphan. Volunteer. Voyager. A mere twenty years on that planet. When she had opened her eyes after the primordial dream of that year of folding space, the first thing she saw and felt was muo-ka pulling her from the coma, breaking open the steaming pod with predatory lurches. Its threaded knot of limbs rippling like a shredded banner in the sweltering light, stuck on the leviathan swell of its dark shape. She had opened her mouth, spraying vomit into the air, lazy spurts that moved differently than on Earth. muo-ka had pulled her out of the pod and towards it, its limbs sometimes whiplashes, sometimes articulated arms, flickering between stiffness and liquid softness so quickly it hurt her eyes to see that tangled embrace. Stray barbed limbs tugged and snapped at the rubbery coil of her umbilicus, ripping it off so pale shreds clung to the valve above her navel.
muo-ka had grasped at Ziara’s strange, small, alien body, making her float in the singing air as she tried and tried to scream. – continue reading!