Jatydid, Skylar, and Leama, headed home from the depleted greenhouses the fastest way they knew: cutting through the market square.
Thick green clouds filled the sky making too much chill in the air for the middle of summer. No one living in the apartments boarding the market square had their windows open now. There was no boisterous chatter with people above, no music beating the background to the movement of the crowd. What was left was a fraction of a regular market day, and more hopeless than that.
One of the only stalls took the prime location in the middle of the square. A few were crowded around it, and as organs shifted around, Skylar got a glimpse of what was on display. Their only thing up for trading was a small, partially crushed horn tuber. And an unappetizing one at that, the color of sticky mud instead of the deep purple it was known for.
"What do you mean you want my ship for one measly tuber!" The middle Qwortarian looking started to puff up and the others started hurrying away. "You don't really want to trade anything for the food huh? You just want to horde it for yourself!"
"No! I swear, I ask for your ship so that I can go and try to trade on planet L-121."
"Your outrageous prices are starving us!"
The seller was shrinking while the buyer still grew. Both of their skins grew tiny spines.
In the space between words the buyer shaped one tentacle into a skywhale tusk.
"No!" The shout came after the tusk pierced the skin of the seller, sliding through the insides, piercing a couple small organs before poking out the other side. "No..." The impaled buyer sobbed.
Jatydid grew a large wing, blocking Skylar's view. They could hear their parent Leama speak over the cries of the injured.
"How dare you impale a fellow citizen?"
"Fellow citizen? They would have left with my ship to never return! They would allow-"
"Silence!" Form a moment even the done stopped. "As general I hereby put you under arrest for the murder of Zuzuki."
"Wait," Skylar looked at Jatydid, poking them until their eye turned towards them. "Why doesn't Zuzuki shift into something that won't leak out their insides so fast when the tusk is pulled out?"
"Unfortunately, the tusk also punctured the phenogland. You can't shape shift without it."
"Oh." There was still some protesting and sobbing over Leama's commands, but all Skylar heard was the loud slurp of the tusk being removed, and the splashes of Zuzuki's insides on the cobblestone.
"Let's go Skylar." Jatydid nudged them with their wing. Skylar moved more quickly than they thought they could considering the empty pit where their stomach should be.
"When will the famine be over?" Skylar asked. Jatydid did what they usually did when they didn’t know how to answer, they spoke with silence.
Word count: 487