You’ve never seen him cry before, he's so stubborn and so proud most times, but he’s weeping openly now, howling and curled in a miserable ball in front of the ruins of your hive after red and blue fire tore open the sky outside your window, collapsed it and crushed you. The very foundations of it shake with the force of his grief. His hands are dirty and torn-yellow from where he had tried his frantic, skinny damnedest to dig you out before sense took over and he moved the largest slab of roofing with his psionics.
He’d carefully placed it back after seeing the mess you’d become, like the last stone in a monument, and fell to his knees in tears. They’re golden, and weirdly beautiful in this light. You try to tell him you’re okay, you’re here, you’re dead but you don’t blame him for what she did, and you’re right the hell here, but he can’t hear you because you’re past that threshold already, not almost-there, not still dying but gone through. So you’re dead, and he can’t fucking hear you anymore.
It’s very nearly full dawn when time begins to occur to him again, and he slumps back to his hive, the occasional sob tearing away from him, rattling his thin bones like branches.
Being dead is strange; you have so many new things to perceive, so many new senses, and they’re all raw and tender and all of it is a shattered mess of perception at first. He visits the wreck of your home, but sometimes you can’t tell when he’s there and when he isn’t because time itself is different, and some nights it’s like being asleep, like dreaming. Meaning comes in layers, in strange connections between stupidly mundane things, but that’s a little like normal, like you still have a circadian rhythm, even if you wake in the day now, too, unsure of how long has passed, the punishing sunlight streaming through you.
Sometimes, you’re pure perception, made of that longing to be heard, that want to touch something screaming inside, the need for anything alive and immediate, when suddenly you realise you’re floating outside his hivestem window in a thunderstorm, and you’re crying his name as loud as you can, lightning cracking sickly green across the bruiseblack sky. But you might only be the wind, part of the tempest that bore you here, as he’s still slumped at his husktop, typing furiously. A few bees dancing their intricate beenary patterns on the glass might have noticed, might be curious. But it might also be a way of bees, something they just do. They might just be talking about the weather, and how glad they are they’re not outside in it.
It doesn’t help that the dead are louder than ever. The howling and the fragmented messages, the demanding and the mad things they show you; reflections of a self that has seen centuries though you know you’d have been ever so lucky to make half of one, mad and ancient and limned in emerald fire. A functional version of that strange metal self you found in the ruins, then an army of them, all of them hard and purposeful and shining in the face of some kind of apocalypse. A version like something from a myth, smiling and at peace, crimson-cloaked, haloed by impossible wings.
The dead say you’re seeing through time, and though it’s all so mad, you’re inclined to believe them by the way it tastes, by how it all resonates. What you see between the lines is terrifying, even considering how much it takes to touch you now. You pull your ghost-fragment self together, and go back to the frog temple. Urgency may be alien to the spirits, but there’s a pull to do something, the beginnings of a map of calamity assembling from the pieces you have already. As you go, you listen to the dead, and those other selves begin to speak to you as well, a coda to everything you were and a choir of what you would be. They tell you everything they know that you might need, first and foremost of which is how to find your way back to the living, and why.
In the ruins, you remember and future-remember, you read the scrawling on the walls for nights and nights, and after some nebulous period of time, the code and what it means comes together, perfect and terrible, but now you know, because those future selves know, you can tell him now, and everyone else that’s as much a part of this as you. All of you may be doomed, but maybe there can be something on the other side of it when you’re through. Now that you can touch your sylladex again, you find your strange grey grubtop easily because you’re the spirits now. Opening it brings up his name, first.
If you still had airsacs, you might take a deep breath. As it is, you brace yourself and click on his name.