Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

The suns rotate around each other, red over yellow, yellow over red, and Sharra’s skin sheds again. Yet again, she had refused to mate. He hasn’t had a single sexual encounter during the last sun rotation and her body knows. It thinks it has failed her. So she molts her body trying another shape to attract mates. The process is painful. She stays at home for days, picking at her skin, nursing new limbs out of their hard shells. When it’s over, her sweat glands open and her scent hangs heavy in the hot air. Males sniff in the streets, noses veiled, but twitching as she walks by. She smells like copulation, like love.

“What is it that you want?” asked her sister, who had mated since her first molt, maintaining the same shape since her adolescence.

“Not this.” Sharra tells her, running her new limbs over her body.

She bathes to wash the scent off, but by the first sunrise it’s always back, wafting from her scales. Males flair their leathery skin wings at her – vestigial, but colorful reds and yellows, sometimes a dramatic neon blue. But Sharra isn’t interested. In the cafeteria, males give her colorful spun latticework, made from their vibrating tongues. Some of them are dull and gooey, but others are stiff and beautiful, colorful, works of art. She keeps all of them until they crumble. They are all sincere, if unwanted.

“Mate now,” says her sister, “and you will keep that scent. Don’t you want to have your pick of mates?” Her sister believes this is important, as important as work, as breath, as her own eggs.

“No.” says Sharra. “It’s not right.”

“But changing every sun rotation is a hassle! If you don’t like any of your mating options right now, you can always have a stimulator,” her sister says, “it will do the trick. Then you can keep that amazing scent!”

“I want to change,” says Sharra, her new skin tender under her scales. “This is what I want.”

This scent attracts too much attention. The scales are too rigid. Already Sharra knows she is ready for a change. Maybe next time, her shape will be right.

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