“Tell me about it,” I said. “Describe what you’re feeling.”

Neltoq inclined his head. “It is like…” He trailed off, and for a moment there was just the sound of his reedy breathing.

“Go on,” I said gently.

“Imagine a song you have never heard, but one which you nevertheless know by heart,” said Neltoq. “You hear it distantly, as if borne on a summer breeze. As much as you desire to hear it, you hold back out of fear.”

I could only nod my head.

“How else might I describe it…?” Neltoq closed two of his eyes to re-moisturize them. “Perhaps…you see an old lover from a short distance away. You want to cry out to her, but at the same time you dare not. It is too dangerous. There is too much pain. Instead, you feel the embers of what was, what could have been, stirring deep within you.”

“I didn’t know you were a poet, Neltoq,” I said.

“It is an avocation I hve been studying,” he said. “It is a tradition among the Ultoq to compose a final testament before the metamorphosis. I have long thought that I would prefer for mine to be a poem. My scientific work will speak for itself, but it contains none of my soul.”

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