“Alright,” Jeron groaned, “You’re not unbearably heavy, but you’re heavy…”
“I-I’m fine,” Sylus huffed, “I-I can walk o-on my…”
“No you can’t,” Jeron repositioned his arm over his shoulder, “You can’t walk for shit you goddamned whale.”
“I… I know… I… I’m fucking huge…”
“Yeah, you fucking are…”
“Wait… Wait a sec…” Sylus pulled away from Jeron. He almost collapsed under his own weight but he managed to steady himself, “I-I have… a-an i-idea…” he struggled to catch his breath. Home wasn’t far, but at this rate, it’d be noon before they got there. He unfurled his back tendrils once more and slowly propped himself up on them. They wove into a sort of makeshift seat. Jeron looked up to him on his tentacle wrought throne.
“I guess you really didn’t need me…”
A tendril swooped down and wrapped itself around him. With a shriek, Jeron was lifted into the air and placed upon the throne next to Sylus.
“Gotta have my king by my side,” he sighed in an almost drunken manner.
“Oh fuck you,” Jeron shoved him lightly.
“Is that a threat or an invitation?” Sylus grinned sheepishly.
“I… I don’t…” Jeron caught himself.
“Jeron,” Sylus turned to him, a stern look upon his face, “You… you do realize and understand that… consenting adults can, you know, do things together, right?”
“Y-yeah I… I do, but…”
“Oh you thought I meant now? Jeron!” Sylus laughed, “I can barely walk! I’d be limp as fuck in bed. Don’t worry, okay?”
Jeron gave a deep sigh of relief.
“Let’s just get home, okay? I need to lay down in my own bed.”
Jeron sighed a bit.
“You’re invited if you want.”
Heat filled his cheeks as the tentacle monolith began shambling its way home.
The tendrils slowly lowered them to the ground as they reached the house. Sylus stumbled a bit, but Jeron caught his arm and kept him from hitting the ground.
Inside the house they found Daniel and Saari asleep on the couch under a blanket. An empty bowl of what was once popcorn between them.
“Today was rough,” Jeron sighed as he made his way into the kitchen to finish cleaning up dinner, “Can’t be easy to see your father spewing smoke first thing in the morning.”
Sylus sighed heavily as he took the smallest steps he could manage.
“I’m sorry about that…”
“You know what to do now, so it won’t happen again, right?”
He nodded slowly.
“Good. That’s all that matters.”
“Should I put the kids to bed so one of us can sleep on the couch?” Sylus paused a moment.
Jeron paused a moment in thought. He turned to find Sylus gazing somberly at the kids. There was a deeply sad look about him.
“No,” Jeron turned off all the lights in the kitchen area. “Let them be.”
“You’re heading home then?” Sylus turned to him with the weakest smile on his lips.
Jeron leaned on the island. “I… I guess… I should…”
Sylus nodded. “Nine, get him home safely okay?”
The spawn nodded with glee, delighted to be of use.
“Good night, Jeron,” Sylus yawned as he started stiffly making his way up the stairs, “Catch ya tomorrow?”
Jeron continued leaning on the counter in silence, staring at him.
“Jeron,” Sylus chuckled, “Go home! I can manage getting myself to bed just fine. Besides I have the walls for support if I need them.”
Jeron sighed as he finally stood upright. “Alright,” he forced a laugh, “Good night, Sylus.”
“Good night, Jeron,” Sylus smiled broadly.
Sylus continued on his way to the bedroom while Jeron followed Nine outside.
Sylus sat on the foot of his bed struggling to undress himself. It was an entirely frustrating and upsetting experience. He never wanted to be in a position where he couldn’t take care of himself, yet here he was barely able to undo his pants. He hated everything about this. He especially hated that Jeron had witnessed it. He knew things would be different now. They were already different than before, but he wagered it’d be far less of a romantic relationship and one of practicality which, honestly, he was okay with. He really just wanted to keep Jeron’s company in his life. He needed the man far more than he wanted to admit.
Once the constriction of clothes was removed, Sylus felt disgusting. Better, but still disgusting. He leaned backwards onto the bed and just laid there, staring at the ceiling or anywhere that wasn’t his massive gut. What was he expecting? Qaitax never lied to him about his diet so he had to assume this was what was best for them. But… Maybe if he just ate more normal food, he could get around this, too.
It would be incredibly inefficient and, as I told you, it is the core we truly need.
“Then can’t we just take it without eating the whole damn thing?”
The body offers it a level of protection that takes it longer to breakdown making it a more efficient source of energy so long as it is housed in flesh. Once the core is removed from said flesh, it immediately begins dissipating. By the time it reached our stomach, it’d be far from as potent as it is now.
“I hate this, Qaitax…”
You’ve made that very clear, Sylus.
“I want alternative solutions.”
There are none that are even remotely as efficient, but if you insist on resisting your natural urges, we will continue to struggle and suffer.
“Natural, huh? What about this is natural?”
In the scope of the Void? All of it.
“And what if the Void is natural?”
To a mortal mind? Nothing.
Sylus closed his eyes.
But you are more of the Void than you are mortal now. You must accept that regardless of how your mind chooses to process it. This is what is best for all. A day or two of discomfort for restoring all of your energy for weeks.
You shouldn’t need to eat again for at least two earthly weeks.
“So… Twice a month? Th-that’s it?”
Possibly. This is, however, all new to me. I ate once a Q’taxian month. I have yet to translate that into Earth time, but time in and of itself is not my area of mastery.
“Twice a month…” Sylus repeated, “Twice a month I have to do this?”
Give or take. This is all very new territory.
“I… I really can’t afford to be down that much…”
You will learn to manage your energy more efficiently. Eating will not be incapacitating once you’ve done it enough.
A knock came from the glass door in his room. He sat up abruptly, the weight of his stomach hauling him over onto the floor.
“What the fuck?”
He waited a moment in silence for another knock to come.
Slowly, he got up and shuffled his way over to the curtains in nothing but his boxers. He parted them ever so slightly to find a familiar shadow standing on the small deck.
“Jeron?” he slid the door open, “W-what…”
“I don’t like the idea of you being alone with new weird shit,” Jeron announced as he pushed himself inside. “I don’t know what I can do to help, but I don’t want you to think you have to go through every new oddity on your own.”
“I’d rather be here with you right now than home alone with my thoughts. I’d rather be with you listening to that gut of yours making all that noise than sit in silence by myself. I’m too used to having people around. I’d rather not be alone.”
Sylus simply stared at him as he slowly slid the door closed.
“I’ll keep to my side, okay?”
Sylus slowly shuffled back to the bed and sat down on his side.
“You okay with me being here, Sy? I… I don’t meant to impose…”
Sylus chuckled. “I said you were invited to stay, Jeron. You’re always invited to stay.”
“I-I know… Its just… I’ve been…” he sighed, “struggling with thoughts and feelings and shit.”
“Wanna talk about it?” Sylus looked over this shoulder. Jeron was sitting on the opposite side of the bed facing away from him.
“No. Not right now. I’d rather go to sleep.”
“You really are sleeping now, huh?”
“Yeah.. Its weird… Since you left and the Riftworks exploded, I’ve started actually feeling tired. It’s not all the time, I can definitely last longer than a normal person, but its not for months and years on end… I honestly missed sleeping, so its good that it comes around every once in a while.”
“That’s great, Jer!” Sylus turned to face him, “No nightmares or anything?”
Jeron shook his head, “No dreams at all. At least, none I remember.”
“Well,” Sylus yawned, “I’m sorry but I have to sleep. The sooner I sleep, the sooner this nightmare’ll be over.”
“Is it really that bad, Sy?”
Sylus pulled his legs onto the bed, turning completely to face Jeron.
“Does it hurt?” he continued.
“I mean… It’s… It’s uncomfortable and disturbing as fuck, but no… It doesn’t hurt. Not at all, actually.”
“That’s good,” Jeron turned to lean against the headboard. Sylus did the same, resting his hands on his belly.
“I might pass out soon, Jer…”
“Get comfy then.”
With a nod, Sylus pulled the covers over himself. He laid there on his back too afraid he’d get stuck if he tried to lay any other way.
“This is going to be a regular thing, huh?” Jeron muttered as he kicked off his shoes.
“Y-yeah… Qaitax things twice a month or so, but we’ll see. He also said I’ll get better at it so I don’t become an invalid every time.”
“You’re not an invalid, Sy…”
“Not being able to walk seems pretty bad if you ask me…”
Jeron sighed, “I’ll help you out if you want.”
Sylus sighed. “I-I really did appreciate you being there, Jer… Its just… I-I was really hoping I could spare you all from this for at least a little while.”
“The kids are still innocent to it. I suppose Saari isn’t, but you aren’t exactly Qaitax so it might be a whole different thing for her. And honestly, Sy? They’re going to find out sooner than later. It’s better you’re upfront about it than try to hide it.”
“All I can think of is poor Daniel trying to rationalize how fucked up his father is then trying to imagine how much more fucked up it could get… It’s like I set a new bar every day.”
“And someday the bar will just stay where it is. Everything’s new right now and Dan seems to be taking it really well for an eleven-year-old.”
“Seems is the key word there. I can’t be sure because he’s learned so well to hide his feelings,” Sylus sighed, “I taught him well…”
“You also taught him compassion and empathy, Sy. He’ll talk to you when he’s ready.”
“You think so? Would you talk to your father if he was a monster-eating… monster?”
“I mean… In some way that might be kinda cool?”
“Cool?” Sylus sat up, “How is that cool?”
Jeron shrugged, “Kids idolize weird things. Monsters that eat other monsters doesn’t seem all that out there from a kid’s perspective.”
Sylus bit his lip as he slid back down under his covers. “I just feel like I keep piling shit on him and he hasn’t had time to breathe or worry about himself… Like your dad did to you…”
“Not the same,” Jeron barked, “Pops was harsh and even cruel sometimes. He taught me how little I mattered and how to submit to authority. He never taught me how to be a good person just that if I was a bad one, I was going to Hell. I learned to be good on my own. I learned by telling myself I’d never become whatever he was. I aimed to be the opposite, but sometimes… I still feel that old familiar rage in me… And I look in the mirror and see him and what he molded me into and I feel like I can’t escape it…”
Sylus reached out and placed a hand over his own.
“You’re not your father, Jeorn. You’re better than that.”
“I sure hope so,” he forced a laugh, “I feel like I’m fighting my programming sometimes…”
“You are. And that’s good because someday you’ll overwrite the bad and replace it with the good. You’ve already come so far.”
Jeron sighed, “You know what you said before? About picking one thing I want to do?”
“I-I know its impossible, but… I really want my GED.”
Sylus wrapped his fingers around his hand.
“That’s not impossible.”
“Here and now it sure is,” Jeron laughed, “But its all I’ve ever really wanted… Somehow I feel like I’d be a whole person with that piece of paper.”
“You’re already a whole person and wanting to better yourself is something we should all strive for.”
“Cut the shit, Sy,” he snorted, “I’m a high school dropout in my mid-thirties. I’m a deadbeat, Sy…”
“Hardly. You helped your pops make that Diner of his a booming place. In its heyday, it really was something else and it never would have been that way without you…”
“Pops would have found a way without me. I know he would.”
“But he didn’t, did he?”
Jeron sighed, “I thought we weren’t going to talk about this kind of shit?”
Sylus shrugged as he pulled his hand away. “Sometimes opening up just happens,” he yawned. “Can’t help it.”
Without considering the consequences of his actions, Sylus rolled onto his side. At first he was terrified of the shift in weight, but ultimately he felt a sense of comfort as his body was no longer being crushed under it. He sighed in relief. He could feel Jeron getting under the covers beside him and a smile crossed his lips. He really was happy to not be alone right now even if it was incredibly awkward.
“Good night, Sy,” Jeron whispered.
“Good night, Jer,” Sylus yawned in reply.