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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 2

"I Am Pirli, You Are Oona"

written by

Sandy Parsons

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

Do not let the rippling of my parasol disturb you. It is large, but I am very old. I’ve been to many worlds and classified many beings, but few comprehend Pirli. Oona, I do not understand what this orifice is for, or why you have more than one. I have only one. Here it is below my resonance filter vat, which I use to catch and sort knowledge. I realize you do not understand me. How could you, with no filter vat? I suspect you have a filter analog, beneath this squishy shell. The pulses, waves and tones surrounding us are my language, and my hope is that if I describe what I am doing you will recognize something as communication. Let’s start with this porous layer. It is too soft to be of any use, and I cannot perceive what lies beneath it. I’m just going to peel it back. Hmm. It is quite firmly attached.  I will need to begin again.

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

You move around so much, Oona, that I wonder if that is somehow related to your method of communication. These longer appendages, perhaps, ending in a fringe of ten above and below. So adorable that each side mirrors the other. I am going to loosen the bindings on them and see if I can make sense of you. Maybe more degrees of motion will provide a clue. No no, Oona, remain within the collection net. That area is not safe. Do you not sense the ion curtain? Oh. I suppose not. At least Oona’s are abundant on this world.

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

You have many openings. Some of them are connected. But it is stranger to me that you have so many things in duplicate. I do not understand that. Since this appendage is repeated on the other side, I’m going to assume it is redundant. May I remove it? I know you do not understand me, Oona, but I want to reassure you that I will return it when I am done. Oh, my. You are leaking more than expected. I will reattach it. Oona, stop squirming, you are scattering the sealant. Now, that’s better, Oona. Oona?

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

I have noticed a correlation in your orifices. When these two orbs near the top of the round appendage roll, the tissue around them tenses and a tone emits from the expandable orifice. You are a curious Oona, you have not shown understanding, but I think you are communicating with me. Hmm. A Pirli once told me they breached the gap of understanding by utilizing a rhythmic tone. That gives me an idea. When I spin the interior cups of my parasol I can make a very pleasant hum. It goes like this…Oh, how embarrassing, let me wipe that off. I always spray a little when I first get started. Oh my. I forgot how friable your soft outer shell is. But don’t worry; I have learned that you are not Oona without it. Now, back to the vibration. Yes, you are moving the rounded top appendage, the one I hypothesize houses your filter vat. Does that mean something? Repeat these sounds back to me: plink, pulse pulse tick. No, that is not it. Plink pulse tick. Oona, that is wrong, but your species is clever to alter the tissue around these little holes to produce tones. I will attempt to reproduce them with my resonance filter vat. Hehh..lll…pppuhh…suuttt…aaaa..puh. Such odd sounds, not like communication at all. Wait, Oona. Has the splatter from my interior cups damaged your porous shell?

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

You react in odd ways to the failed Oonas. Perhaps you would prefer to absorb them yourself, rather than let my room dispose of them? Here Oona, I will give one to you. There, go ahead and begin absorption. Wait, now, you cannot bend that way, as I well know, heh. I suppose you are not presently in need of nutrition. I’m sorry, I have a very large parasol so I rarely have to supplement my sustenance, and because of that I often forget the needs of others. Would you like to see my parasol ripple? Oh, heehee you like it too, don’t you, you are opening and closing the stretchy orifice on your filter vat casing. Oops, condensation from my parasol tends to drip. Wait, you like that? Oh you do. More? I love to ripple so this is a happy accident. Is it possible that you feed and communicate from the same place? There now, you have had enough, I see, as you are returning some of it. Let me ponder you, Oona. You are a fantastic puzzle. When I have parsed you I will share the entire contents of my filter vat.

I am Pirli. You are Oona.

I have constructed this tube so that you may control how much you consume of the runoff from my parasol, because I have exhibited poor judgment in that area. No, don’t worry, Oona, it is okay if my parasol caresses you. I have learned to appreciate how easily you can be damaged. What, that sound you are making with the orifice that receives sustenance? It tickles my parasol. Wait. Do that again. Oh my! The frequency is too regular; it can’t be random. No, no, Oona, do not shy away. I will try not to press too hard. Oh, I see. That is ‘yes’ when I give you the condensate but ‘no’ when I make this pressure. I am Pirli, you are Oona. That is yes. You are saying yes, I think. Yes. That is a good place to start.

Sandy’s fiction can be read in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Escape Pod, and Reckoning, among others. In addition to writing fiction, Sandy also narrates audio fiction. When not writing, Sandy works as an anesthetist in Georgia. More information and links to stories can be found at

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