The long shadows of the day swayed and fainted across the landscape.
Flowers came on with the dusk: lavish blossoms of low light unfolded. Nocturnal insects, their transparent exoskeletons catching the glow of the flowers, spread out like sparks. Having slept all day under the shelter of the wide petals, drinking up the drug of the flowers, they sought out to sting, to spread the heady nectar. One sting was a potent high (a popular pastime), more became increasingly transformative. To be set upon by many insects would mean to careen through the night in an honeyed ecstasy before collapsing at dawn; the following night would see the buds of new growth emerge from the spent corpse.
Grasses swayed without the wind and trees flexed arrays of vigorous leaves. An attendant eye could spy a slow progression along certain swollen vines akin the uncomfortable act of a dry esophagus. It was all so rich, so leering, it made Nizzin nauseous. He tried to take the island in carefully, but he noted with increasing unease the halo of radiation exhibited by what he carried. As he passed, certain plants leaned in towards him like ferrous fur bristling. He could not tell how much of what he saw was the voluptuous nature of the island or what was the effect of his presence.
The stars came out fiercely, littering the sky with a electric array of mangled zodiacs. Those dedicated arrangements of stars so entangled with the fortunes of the far past were now chimerical and absurd. It was early still and the fungal moon had only just begun to roll it’s way over the sea. The other famous fixture of the sky, the crown of the island at night, had yet to rear itself.
Reaching a steep hilltop, parting the scimitars of broad ferns with his machete, Nizzin could at last look down to see that little town he had caught sight of on his flight over from the mainland. It was tucked at the base of a small bay, dreaming to itself in the light of low lanterns and the sleepy sip of the waves at the shore. Only a few silhouettes move through the streets. Only a few small ships were tied to the wharves. Palm trees, tipsy with the wind, droused slowly. The town had in it all the crafted quaintness of castles at the bottoms of fishbowls.
Out in the bay a craft bobbed among the waves. Taking a spyglass from his pack, Nizzin trained it on the craft. The lenses flexed the image into focus. It looked a lean vessel, painted some anonymous color, almost invisible out there on the water.
On the tip of the bow balanced the slim shape of a young woman. She was wrapped in some manner of short, loose dress with a hood pulled over her head. Even from this distance Nizzin could see a luminous flower pinned where her hood met her hairline. She too held a spyglass and was looking at the sky, so it seemed to Nizzin, for that same fixture he had wondered about, the crown of the island. Not finding it, she laid her gaze here, there, and it took Nizzin just a moment to realize that she’d paused in her peering with the spyglass trained on him.