Author: Caius Finswith

“The trick is you can’t look right at them: not like you ever could,” my partner said.

It was my latest job on Parrhesia 9 and it was all about the exotics. Transporting everything from radioactive waste to actual grass-fed beef, I’d seen just about everything. Over the course of my 6 years working on the Penny Lou transport, I’d seen my fair share of exotics too. Exotics seemed like a writhing kaleidoscope: fantastic creatures that morphed, melded and mutated into colorful beasts the human eye was never meant to see.

Pneumas were different though; no eye had been meant to see them and strangely none ever had. They seemed to be magnetically pulled to humans but it was only just possible to glimpse them out of the corner of your eye. In that heartbeat it took you to focus, they’d have flitted off to the other corner of your vision. There was never any certainty if the reflection of that old crimson sun or an oddly out of place shadow could be one of those phantoms. Parrhesia 9’s air was humid with them, wisping tantalizingly about. While our sensors were blind to them, the only thing that could perceive those phantasms were the one thing they seemed made to avoid: the eye. Because of that, we were planetside trying to cage one. Harmlessly swinging our carroll batons at a hazy half seen flicker, we desperately tried to herd, even accidentally, one into our pens.

No one was quite sure what the Pnuemas might be good for. Something so swirlingly mysterious must be beautiful when finally seen. Perhaps science could find a long-awaited answer among the doubtless thousand questions raised. At its core, the expedition was fueled by greed and a chance to monetize something about the being.

We wasted countless hours trying to catch one, all so someone else could profit. Although we had failed to catch one and the corporation was hemorrhaging funds, I couldn’t care less. What I wanted, was to see what others had only dreamed to know: the full Pneuma form. My last night planetside it happened. The corporation had ended our contract and shamelessly retreated in defeat leaving us to make our own way home.

It could have been a summer zephyr or lover’s kiss that awoke me but it was more tender. With an antithetical stillness, a Pneuma floated inches from my face. Like gasping a deep breath before going underwater, I desperately tried to memorize those gracefully slow currents and radiant edges. The natural elegance of something so ephemeral yet so tangible made me stretch out my hand to prove it belonged in the world beyond my imagination. As I dipped my hand in its outer streams, it seamlessly swirled into me, becoming one with my soul.

Worry or concern was not what I felt; rather, it was the knowledge of a grandeur which couldn’t be explained. Turning inward on myself, I would begin to search my depths to find that timeless magnificence that had united with me, long after we had left Parrhesia 9.