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Verisya

The planet, located as it is on the edge of a small, unpopular irregular galaxy, itself on the edge of a slowly separating cluster of galaxies with limited appeal to travelers, receives few visitors, and even less attention. Its sentient inhabitants do not, for the most part, seem to mind. Consisting of two species, one cloudbound and incapable of space travel, and the other a largely immobile race of hyperintelligent green crystals, they occasionally put out a quick raced pulse or two in response to some great universal or cataclysmic event, but otherwise seem content to remain quiet and overlooked.
Nonetheless, a few stray travelers find their way to Verisya every thousandth cycle or so. Preferably well equipped. The X'xfrx--the cloudbound race--demand hard currency (never easy to locate, this far from more popular galaxies), or, failing that, other hard goods of value. Quite why has never been clear: the X'xfrx can store nothing in their clouds, and must allow everything they receive to fall to the ground far below them. Nonetheless, this is their demand, and travelers failing to provide the X'xfrx with sufficient payment may find themselves hovering in orbit, well above the clouds, unable to see the wonders below.
A pity, since the Barikk--the hyperintelligent green crystals--have created a wondrous world below those clouds, one well worth a detour for any intergalactic traveler. Perhaps predictably, crystalline structures form the main mass of this world, but what crystals: some tiny and delicate, some soaring into the clouds, some near the size of large cities on other worlds. And in between these crystals, luminous gases and liquids, shimmering and shifting, a wonder that must be seen or sensed to believe. And the colors--brilliant, soft, vibrant, shifting--a riot and richness of color unmatched in the universe.
The world offers delights for other senses, as well: the structures range from sharp to soft, and the sounds of the various substances crashing into the great and delicate structures have been compared to the greatest of the Korj performances. The Barikk, too, are gracious and entertaining hosts, if limited in movement: travelers have reported losing track of time while wrapped in communication with the green creatures.
The accommodations are, it must be admitted, uncomfortable for non-vanadium-based lifeforms, and all travelers are advised to bring their own supplies, as substances common to other worlds tend to be nearly absent on Verisya. Also, the cloud cover that forms a vibrant habitat for the X'xfrz is toxic to many other lifeforms, who must either try to descend down to the surface through rare and unpredictable holes in the clouds, or content themselves with images brought back from other travelers. And more than one person has reported receiving severe injuries while travelling along the surface: some of the crystals are extremely sharp and not easily seen in the wonders. But all agree the experience is worth every inconvenience.
And for this, the Barikk demand payment in poetry and song.
This can be difficult for travelers, particularly those coming from worlds without such traditions, and no concept of poetry, music or dance. The Barikk, however, have a rather broad view of poetry and song: some visitors have been able to claim that mathematical formulas and images of dying stars count as poetry, while others have been able to tap out patterns, patterns swiftly matched by a green pyramid hovering in a soft, pulsing blue mass--one that swiftly moves to allow the drumming travelers entrance into their world. Others simply leave items of value with the X'xfrx, stare at the clouds, and head on to other worlds.
Some have theorized that this payment system stems from the very remoteness of Verisya--a remoteness that has presented its inhabitants from developing the same interest in commerce that has plagued other worlds. But this seems unlikely: many isolated worlds have developed robust systems of commerce and war without intergalactic contact. Others have claimed that the Barikk have so steeped themselves in beauty that they can only accept beauty in payment--a lovely thought, close enough to poetry to perhaps even buy entrance to their crystalline worlds.
But the Barikk themselves tell a different story.
They know, they explain, that their own sun, and their own galaxy, will not last forever. Longer, perhaps, than other worlds. Their own white sun is a low mass star, which may survive for billions of years after other, brighter suns have flared into dust. But not forever.
But they might.
They are not great travelers themselves, but those few who have managed to leave their crystalline homes and travel above the clouds have found that their vanadium-based forms can, indeed, survive in the harsh voids of space, far from their planets, or indeed any stars. They do not, after all, require the energy and air and liquid that other creatures do; a mere trickle of light--found even in the vast depths between galaxies--is enough to sustain them.
How long? Well. That they do not know. They think it possible--probable, even--that they will not, cannot remain in the void of space for ever. That at some point another star will draw them close, perhaps merely to circle their light, perhaps to pull them into the flames.
If the star can do this, before it dies.
But that it is possible--probable, even--that even after their own sun dies, even after their own galaxy collapses, that some of them will survive.
And thus, even after every star dies out, the universe will always remember poetry and song.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
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