Chapter 1:

First Snowfall

Senescence had seen snow plenty of times but she had never seen it falling from the sphere sky before. Belle*Sphere , where she recently moved away from, can’t afford to fund more realistic weather cycles.


They have snow during the cold cycle in Belle*Sphere but it never falls from the sky. It appears on the ground on the first scheduled day of cold cycle. Fluffy, white, ice-like particles appear and reappear at precisely the same time every weather cycle.


Shatl*Sphere is known to be one of the most realistic spheres. In other words, it's one of the most affluent. Shatl*Sphere can afford the fancy weather cycle props and are known to have the most impressive prop-synth lab. For the right amount of bits, they can make props of any kind.


Their snow was more realistic than in Belle*Sphere. Their snow fell from the sky. In Shatl*Sphere, everything seemed hyper-realistic. The snowflakes were the size of your fist and you could see and touch all the intricate detail etched into each icy snowflake. Senescence had only seen pictures of snowflakes before.


The human side of her was amazed. This intense sense of wonder and discovery she felt made her human side buzz like it never had before. It was daunting but exciting. Her heart was beating so fast that she pressed her hands against her chest to make sure her heart stayed in place.


The buzz she felt on her human side felt like a tickle, like when you hit your funny bone on something. It hurt but she couldn't help but laugh. It was a confusing combination of emotions she wasn't used to.



"Wouldn't it be nice to deal with all kinds of pain that way? Laugh them away. You can't do that with chronic illnesses like The Dark Cloud (The  Belle*Spherians' term for a condition akin to Depression.)


Senescence could hear Styron's voice saying those words in her head. He had said them to her before, many times; not in so many words.


What-it's-like-to-be-human is a common topic of conversation between Senescence and Styron. 


It's been an ongoing conversation in which Styron talks about what it's like to be full-human living with The Dark Cloud, or at least the experience of it from his point of view.


Senescence is half-human so, though she has a sense of what Styron's human experience is like, there's a finite limit to how much she can feel and understand.


During their conversation, Senescence tends to talk about her frustration about not having the option to feel at a more intense level.


No matter what happens in her life, she can only feel so angry, or so exhilarated, joyful, desperate, anxious, silly, depressed. Being half-robot impacts all the feels. It dampens them.


Senescence wanted so badly to understand The Dark Cloud first-hand but she's anatomically incapable. Styron often told her how lucky she is to not feel as much as he did.


"It's overwhelming and scary, Sen," he'd say but Senescence didn't care.


"I'm tired of barely feelings things, Sty. What's the point of life if you can't feel ?"

Senescence stepped forward and held out her hands, palms-up. She watched snowflakes float sideways and downward against a Maxfield-Parish-pastel and fluorescent sky.


“When I was little, I believed diamonds were created from snowflakes.” She said aloud.


Stymphalian watched as she held her arms out with her eyes toward the sky. She was squeezing her human eyelid tightly shut. Her robot eyelid shut with gentle precision, as it always does.


She felt a cold spot at each little point on her skin where the snowflakes fell. Lower-chin, upper-right forehead, tip of the nose. She could feel the snow fall upon her skin on only the human parts of her face.


The snow reminded her of Styron.


“He loves snow,” she said aloud. Stymphalian hastened his step, turned his head in the opposite direction, and started whistling.


Stymphalian knew she was talking about Styron. He felt slightly annoyed that she had been mentioning him more in the past few days but he didn't say anything about it. 


"She's thinking about Styron because they're partners," he said to himself. "They decided to stay together after she moved. Of course. I get it. She needs to talk about him. She's grieving. It makes sense. So, why am I feeling so vexed by this?!"


Stymphalian shook his head as his rapid thinking began to slow.





















He hadn't felt this level of magnetism with anyone before. From the moment he saw her in class, he wanted to protect Senescence. He wanted to hold her when she needed it; especially, when she pretended she didn't want to be held and comforted.


Stymphalian didn't talk about his feelings with Senescence. He wanted to appear strong, knowledgeable, and on-top-of-things around her. He didn't know why. 


Senescence noticed that Stymphalian whistled whenever he seemed anxious. He whistled a lot when Styron came up so she tried not to mention Styron, but it seemed everything reminded Senescence of him, and she didn't always catch herself before she started thinking aloud.


"You miss him, huh?" Stymphalian turned his head firmly toward Senescence and looked in her eyes.


"Yeah. I miss him a lot," she said. His prolonged direct eye contact made her human side feel uncomfortable and squirmy but she couldn't look away from his eyes. Her toes curled inside her shoes.


"I've never felt this kind of 'missing' before," she told him. Their reciprocal gaze was steady. She found it calming. He felt wholly present with her. This was something she wasn't used to either. 


Stymphalian watched as Senescence's human eye dripped sparkly light blue tears down her face. He wanted to wipe them away but his limbs felt like they were frozen in place so he spoke instead.


" You’re in a completely different Sphere than where you’ve been your whole life, Senescence. You’re adjusting to a lot of changes.”


“....yeah…” Senescence cast her eyes down to the grass beneath their feet. She could see parts of the ground underneath the snow. It was a sparkly fluorescent green.


“You're right. Thanks for the reminder,” she replied. "Also, my name's pronounced Senescence, not Senescence," she lightly giggled as she wiped her tear-wetted cheeks with her fingers.


The edges of Stymphalian's lips curled up into a smile. 


"Oh! You mean I put the emphasis on the wrong syllable?" Until now, he'd not so much as cracked a smile when he acted silly but he let out a laugh this time. Senescence liked that. She hadn't heard his laugh before.


She let out a loud and heavy sigh. She could feel her feet settle more firmly on the ground.


"I'm glad he mispronounced my name," she thought to herself, "It totally snapped me out of my sad reverie about Styron."


The more-intense-than-usual feelings Senescence experienced in her conversation with Stymphalian, it was a shock to her system. Her stomach felt like it was on fire but she didn’t mention it to Stymphalian. She felt like she needed to be tough around him. She didn’t know why. 


Hiding her thoughts and feelings from Stymphalian left her feeling forlorn and insecure, not resilient or strong, as she appeared to be.

Robot and human hearts.


Her family had only moved from Belle to Shatl*Sphere a few weeks ago but it felt like longer. Senescence closed her eyes and replayed her last moments with Styron in her head.


They looked at each other in disbelief that they were saying their last goodbye. Their arms were wrapped tightly around one another.


Senescence gave Styron a nice long squeeze and Styron squeezed her back. They both let out a long, slow exhale. She felt his hot breath on the top of her head.


"I'm going to miss this," she whispered.


He held her more tightly in his arms. They were pressed so closely, she could feel his heart beating in his body. 


Tha-thump, tha-thump. Their hearts raced together.

Senescene's heart.