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Ilichevsk, recently renamed to Chernomorsk, Ukraine. Unnamed and unfinished hotel complex near Seaside Staircase. One of the rooms which is, more or less, finished and livable, unless you expect some high-quality 5-star service: after all it’s still under construction. She is standing on the balcony facing the sea and smoking. She lives in this city, does not care much for the sea itself, but she is not comfortable with smoking in-doors.

He walks slowly towards her, gazing over her tight figure dressed in gray shorts, accentuating her hips, and yellow top, barely covering her shoulder blades, exposing sun-burnt skin and part of a tattoo on it. He puts his arms around her waist and bends over a little mimicking her pose.

- What are you doing?

- I am hugging you. I think this is normal for a guy to hug the girl he likes…

- Don’t. I do not want to. Especially, if you’re going to get a hard-on.

She shrugs him off while straightening up without even looking at him. She sounds annoyed, so he lets go. He is uncertain how he should feel. He understands that she may not be in the mood right now, she may be tired, but he still feels hurt.

- I thought, we could have some alone time together, that’s, like, the purpose of me coming here. And pardon my hard-on, but I am a guy and you are a beautiful woman, it’s not like I can turn it off.

- Alone time? – she puts out her cigarette and turns around as setting sun flickers on her greyish-green hair. – Alone time? So, you came here just in hope to have sex with me?

She walks past him into the room. This is a studio-like room, a set of kitchen furniture, small refrigerator, microwave and other stuff like that on right across the door to balcony. To the right – entrance to the room itself and two single beds close enough to make up for a larger bed, with their feet facing balcony door. Across of them – a TV set with a coffee table and two armchairs near it and door to bathroom. She walks to kitchen sink near which there is an ashtray and puts the cigarette there.

- It’s not that. – he stutters – I mean… I do want to have sex with you, but I understand, that you do not see me that way… But maybe this still can be worked out somehow? I came here to spend time with you. And I want to spend it with you alone, because then there is a higher chance of us having a… Wholesome, tender, warm moment and…

- I will sleep with you? – she assumes.

- Well… I would not mind it.

She sits on one of the beds, the one that’s closer to the door. She looks tense, stressed, as if this whole conversation or even situation is like a chore to her.

- So? it is about sex after all.

- Why do you keep saying that? – he sits on other bed, looks at her, while she is not looking at him, but rather just across the room. – It’s not about sex. Well, it is about it, too, but more about… Intimacy. You know, we had a moment like that back in Istanbul, when I massaged your feet and then lied with you on same bed. Just lied their hugging you, while you were browsing your phone or something.

- I do not remember anything like that.

- Well, I do. It was the most intimate moment that we had so far. It was not something extraordinary, it was not anything sexual, some may say, that it was dull and mundane, but it was… Fulfilling. At least, for me. I felt, like we were on the same level back then. I felt… Happy. I want to have something like that again, that’s why I flew here and bribed some people to get this room, because I thought the view here could be somewhat romantic.

- I told you, though, that I did not want you to come here, though.

- Without any proper reason, though. “Save money” you kept saying. If money is all that it takes to repeat such a moment – away with it.

- Do not waste money on a whim. And I did not want you to come here, because you would be bored.

- Bored? Even if I would be, that won’t reduce the value of spending time with you.

- But I am boring to you, no? It’s not like we have much in common to talk about.

- I just told you, that it’s not about talking. Intimacy is about enjoying closeness with each other, enjoying the moment. You know, back at home, I sleep with a blanket even when it’s warm, because I can crumple it into something huggable and use it to cover myself, as if it is hugging me back. How sad is that? I want you to be there instead of that blanket. We do not need to talk, if we do not have anything to say.

- Should we not have something to talk about, though? Having common topics to talk is essential if you, indeed, want to have a family with me.

- Who told you that? Common topics may not exist at first and only appear over time with shared experiences. I know we are different and have different interests, but that’s normal, it does not mean we can’t work it out, that we can’t enjoy each other’s company. And wat, what do you mean “indeed”? You do not believe I want to make a family with you?

- No, - she lied. That is the thing, that she does believe in what he says and that scares her. She does not know how to cope with it. She does not know what to do if it fails. She does not know what to do if it does not. She does not know what to with the guy if he is there and if he is not. They’ve known each other for a few years and he was always earnest about his feelings, and though he was awkward about them a lot and made quite a lot of mistakes along the way, she never had a doubt, that he believes in what he says. And she is scared of that. She is scared of his feelings being true and her not being worth of them and scared of his feelings being false.

The Istanbul moment he mentioned – she remembers it well. Scared to admit it though, because she feels embarrassed for showing her vulnerable side like that. She tends to behave a bit bratty, but at that time she felt quite relaxed and… Girly. She felt his love through his hands, and she does want to feel it again, but… What if it was a fluke? What if it was just because he was a bit drunk at the moment? What if he was only suppressing his actual desire? Even if not, he does have it and is not denying it. And she is not certain she wants it. She can’t say she ever actually enjoyed other men, when she had sex with them, it was more like a chore for her. If it will be the same with him, then he will be disappointed and will leave and she is scared of that. And he does deserve…

- Big boobs.

- What? – he is baffled, since this sounds so out of place.

- You are a guy: you like big boobs. And they are important for a family.

- Why is it coming down to that complex of yours now?.. Firstly, big boobs are important for family from biological perspective only, which is next to irrelevant in our day. Secondly, I like not “big boobs”, but rather “beautiful breasts”. Thirdly, and I said that before: I do like yours. Yes, they are on a smaller side, but they look so tender and joyful to me. I want to fondle them, kiss them, lick them…

- See! This is about sex with you!

- I… I won’t deny that I just got another hard-on from describing your breasts, but it’s not about… Ok, in this particular case it is about sex, but it just proves my point: even such simple things about you turn me on. Your smell turns me on. Your… Spunkiness turns me on. Your “I know life better than you” attitude turns me on. Maybe I am just a masochist or something, but it does turn me on, and it does so the way nothing else ever did. It is special somehow. And I do want to… Share it with you, too. But in order to do that we need to first get an intimate moment, which we can’t get if you are pushing me away.

She does not know how to reply to that. She guesses, that’s one of the things she actually does like about him: he speaks his mind and his feelings, he is not afraid of them, unlike herself. Maybe, that’s why she is afraid? Some sense of inferiority because of that? Fear of being abused because of that? He tends to be a depressive at times, uncertain of himself, but in the long run he is always looking for a brighter future, for solutions, that can make things even slightly better, even though his ideas seem naïve at times. He may be saying he is weak, but she is not so sure it’s true.

- I… - he continues after a pause, - want to get through to you somehow. I say sometimes stuff like “I know you love me”, but, in reality, I know that it’s not true. Not yet, at least. I want to make it so, though. I want to break the wall that’s between us, but I have no idea how to. And you seem to be scared of it breaking as well, for some reason. I try to be understanding, but a lot of times I feel like I am actually being used for pure convenience, and it drains me. I know that “sex stuff” makes you uncomfortable, so I do try not to say lewd things as much as I used to, and I am not going to force myself onto you, obviously… I do not know what happened in your sex life in the past, that made you this way and I do not want to force the case either, but still… I want to know what you feel, what you think about me, how you see me. I want to feel your touch, like simple holding hands, for example. You know, minor stuff even. I want to initiate that too, but I always feel this wall and do not want to be forceful. So, just a little initiative from your side would encourage me to keep trying. It could be a sign, that my efforts are not fully wasted, and you are… Warming up to me. If only a little.

He falls silent. She praises the gods, that it’s turned dark enough, that he should not be able to see her face. A moment ago, it was flushing from embarrassment of him praising her breasts and now she’s flustered by his sincerity of his own uncertainty. Just as she always thought, despite depressive nature, despite self-doubts he is still looking for a way to achieve his goal – her. His feeling is too strong for her, she can’t handle it, does not know how.

She turns on the bed to look at him, even though still has no idea what to say. He is looking towards the balcony and pointing at something there, sense of tension emanating from him.

- I see you, - he says.

Indeed, he sees. Over the balcony fence a pair of wide-placed bulging eyes are looking at him. Slowly, as if with cat-like grace, they raise up along with the face they belong to. A humanoid creature with extremely slim body crawls over the fence. It’s so scrawny, as if it has no meat whatsoever. Its limbs seem longer than normal human, too, and it uses all four of them to move, somewhat reminiscent of a spider. Fingers are also quite long and look almost like needles. Its face is wide, more oval, than round, lips do not have much differentiation against other pale skin and look more like flabs of flesh, rather than something usable. Nose is also wide and almost flat: in the setting sun’s light you can recognize it only by its tip hanging over the upper lip. It had some black uneven hair as well, as if it was balding from radiation sickness.

When he noticed it he tensed up. Something was telling him, that this thing is dangerous. He pointed at it and called out in hope, that it will realize it’s been noticed and flee, but that plan failed. He does not know what else to do, but watch how it slowly crawls up to him, bending its head to the left and to the right, as if trying to size him up.

And, in a sense, it was doing that. It is shishiga. It lived along the shores of Baraboy river for quite some time, but due to quite warm winter and even warmer spring the south part of the river became too shallow for shishiga to hide there, so it had to go to closest water body, which was The Black Sea. It did not like the salty waters, though, so followed the shore to the north looking for something more hospitable for it. It decided to take another break on the shore, where no humans were in sight. At least, not at first.

When it was resting chewing on some seaweed, it smelled something strange in the wind. It looked around for the source of the smell and saw a female human standing inside the giant structure. It did not know how these structures are called, but understood, that human lived in such. But there did not seem to be anyone around here, besides this female. It was pretty hungry, and seaweed was not enough to sate this hunger, so perhaps, if the female is alone, it could eat her?

It approached the structure cautiously and touched its wall. It was porous and shishiga tried sticking its needle-like fingers into it, which went pretty well. It thought that it could try climbing up like this. It would be a bit painful on shishiga’s fingers, but it’s not that far to climb and female seemed to be quite meaty.

It finally reached the place where the female was, but it did not see her there. It looked over the edge and saw, that female was sitting further in somewhat like a cave. Shishiga assumed, that this is how human habitats look like inside. Unfortunately, female was not alone – there was also a male. And that mail looked much juicier: bigger, plumper. It thought that it may have a bit too much fat, but that can be used for warming up in future, if shishiga collects it. And nights near the sea, let alone in the sea, do get quite cold. And the male does not seem that strong, as some other humans shishiga has seen. Perhaps, if its’ cautious enough, it could take them on both…

As it thought that, male noticed it and called it out. It crawled over the edge and towards the male. Slowly, to make it look as if it’s scared and harmless.

- What is this thing? – female makes some noises but does not seem to move or show any signs of aggression.

- I do not know but try not to agitate it needlessly, - male responds. The sounds he makes are more like those made by females shishiga encountered before, not like a male should sound: higher, thinner. It does not dislike that sound. Not like it matters either way.

Shishiga is now close to the male. His odor is now more obvious: salty, fatty, but again, not entirely unpleasant. It will need to wash him before eating though. He tries to reach out to shishiga, but it catches his hand with its and lowers it to his knees. It crawls up onto his lap, covering his face in its fingers. It likes his blue eyes: they would make some good accessories.

It places one finger on his lower lip and pulls it down. He opens his mouth slowly. He finds this somehow erotic and thinks, maybe his love is right, and he is all about sex. Shishiga opens its own mouth as well and stretches its thin tongue. As it licks his cheeks, he thinks that it looks like a tentacle, rather than a tongue, but without suckers on it. And also, understands why his love is not too keen on him licking her.

Shishiga finds the taste quite good indeed. Obviously male will not follow it of its own volition, so it uses its tongue to prickle him inside the mouth. Shishiga hopes, that its poison will work as expected.

Female is still not moving, when it turns its attention to her. She is scared. She knows how to react, when shopkeeper tries to trick her into paying more, but this is something entirely different, not of this world. It can’t be of this world. And why is he not doing anything? Why is he sitting them as if… Wait, did it do something to him?

- Get… Get your hands off my man! – she yells. Or at least, she thinks she is yelling, but, in reality, this sounds like a whisper to shishiga.

She attempts to lunge in the direction of the creature, but it jumps off male and then on dazzled female, scratching her face. In pain she walks back until she hits the wall. She tries to get it off of her, but shishiga plunges its fingers into her head and uses its weight to smash her against the wall. She loses conscious after all and slides down onto the floor. Shishiga tries to get its fingers out, but they seem stuck and so she smashes the head against the wall, attempting to loosen it up. Once free, it checks her body and finds it too stiff for its taste: male’s meat seems to be softer. It decides that there is no sense it trying to take both bodies with it.

Male heard all this struggle but was not able to do anything. He could not even turn his head, no matter how hard he tried. The only thing he was feeling was the swelling on his upper gum, which felt heavy. Otherwise, he was numb all over. He assumed, that creature tongue was poisoned by some paralytic agent.

Shishiga crawls back to male. It stands on its legs and pulls down male’s head so that he would fall over to the floor. It drags his body towards the balcony, where it came from. He understands what this means. It puts his body over the balcony fence as if a sheet to dry, headfirst. He can see the gravel below and tries to close his eyes so that he would not see it coming closer, but eyelids also can’t move. As tears flow down his brow and he is dropped down, he does not even think about his love, as he imagined he would before. His last thought is that, at least, he won’t feel a thing.

In two days, female’s body will be found, and police investigation will start. Male bones will be found roughly at the same time near Arcadia. Shishiga will reach Southern Bug in about two weeks but will not be able to find a suitable place there despite relatively good water, due to the river being used by humans quite often. It will be swimming upstream, avoiding humans because of their numbers here and looking for a new home, until it finds other shishigas in vicinity of Letichevsky Castle and they welcome it home in the swampy area near river Vovk. It will live a long life there and die of old age while holding onto sweet memory of tasty meat of male human.