Dear readers, tonight with us is an artist, working with refugees and standing up to the galactic dictator.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born on Lyra III, a Gaia planet in Federal Coalition space. The Lyran system is binary, and people originating from it sport coloured freckles near earlobes, down necks, and around other erogenous zones. My father was an art teacher, and my mother was an art dealer. I grew up breathing art. At three, they gave me an art digibook as a gift. That was the beginning of my artistic journey. Of course, my parents supported me all along. Unfortunately, they didn’t survive long enough to cherish my successes with me.

What do you do now?

I’m an artist. I just finished an important commission for a rich customer. Before signing new contracts, I decided to take a sabbatical year and travel the galaxy to visit locations famous for their ancient ruins. That’s why I came here to Ketar. I wanted to study the Valley of Kings and create some art inspired by the ancient history of the Shedirian people.

But you haven’t been spending much time studying old ruins lately.

It took me a week to set up a team to get to the place, but my guide had an accident at the last moment, and we had to postpone. So, I stayed in the village, and ten days ago, I met this guy in a bar. We’ve been spending a lot of time together since then. He’s a terrific subject for a series of portraits I was working on back home.

Is he? I can’t think of anything further from art than a Manderian.

I can’t believe I’m hearing this from a Lyran. That’s quite xenophobic, don’t you think? Anyway, his features are exotic. One doesn’t meet a Manderian every day and doesn’t get killed. I couldn’t lose the chance and asked him immediately to be my model. I didn’t think he would accept, and from the face he made, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting that kind of request. He accepted, so here I am, drawing Manderian scales every day.

What does he do?

Drahnzer is a refugee. He has a farm around here somewhere. I hear there’s a whole community of Manderian refugees on this planet. It looks like everybody knew it except me. You know, I’m not into politics.

Does that mean you don’t know we are at war against the Manderians?

Of course I do, silly. I know we’re at war. Their dictator wants to rule the galaxy with an iron fist, or that’s what I heard. Anyway, Drahnzer is such a sweet guy. Not all Manderians are nasty monsters as the press pictures them. But we never talk about politics.

Life must not be easy for him and his family as refugees.

I suppose so, but he has no family here. His mother died, and his father —an arsehole—wanted to force a marriage between Drahnzer and a Manderian girl, according to an old Manderian tradition. Parents arrange marriages when their children are still toddlers, sometimes even before they’re born. When Drahnzer refused to get married, they had a massive argument.

What about his job? Being a farmer on a verdant planet like Ketar must be easier than on Mander Prime if that’s where he comes from.

Yeah, he comes from Mander Prime, a barren planet from what I remember, but now that you mention it, Drahnzer never talks about his job. We always have much to do when we’re together.

He poses as a model and you draw. Feels like there’s plenty of time to talk.

Not exactly. Sometimes I draw. Most of the time, we have sex, or to put it in Manderian terms, we mate. And believe me, they take a looooot of time before intercourse, and unlike most male specimen, they don’t have much downtime.

Rumour has it that even during sex they’re quite violent. Is that true?

Their mating rituals are a framed masterpiece of a bumpy ride, but that’s exactly what I like about being with Drahnzer. We fight, and we fuck. He can’t stand it when I tell him this, but I’m a teaser. I tease him all the time, and then we fight again.

Are you serious about this relationship?

Serious? It’s hard to say. I’ve had plenty of relationships in my life, and I wasn’t thinking about settling down any time soon. Yet, Drahnzer is intoxicating. The longer I am with him, the more I don’t want to be parted from him. But he never said anything about a lasting relationship. We’re very much … diverse, and not only physically. It’s not only a matter of skin and scales. I don’t think he’s interested in me to the point of having a serious relationship with me. We have fun, that’s it.

 What is the worst thing about having a relationship with a Manderian?

The mystery behind the person. Yes, I know where he comes from and about his family, but I know very little about his feelings. Drahnzer can be cryptic. I never asked to visit his farm because I don’t think he would allow me. Whenever I ask about it, his replies are evasive. Sometimes I think he has a wife and a multitude of children there. And there’s more. Even if he’s living amongst aliens and having sex with me, I have a feeling Drahnzer can’s stand diversity. I don’t think he’s a xenophobic Manderian, though—he never said anything to give me that impression. This is probably due to the hardship of living as a refugee on an alien planet.

What is the best thing about it?

Ah, that’s easy. The sex is fantastic. And scary at the same time. Like all Manderians, Drahnzer has the instinct of a predator. Fear allures them, and it’s like Drahnzer can smell cortisol and my rising adrenaline. It must be a chemical reaction, an overwhelming one.

What does the future hold for you?

A visit to the Valley of Kings and then I’ll be off to another world. I had a plan somewhere, but when my visit to the Valley of Kings was delayed, everything went belly up. Most of the places I wanted to visit are in impervious areas, and it’s important to arrange a visit at the right time of the year. I’ll make a new plan when I’m done here.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I’ve been having this dream. I am on an alien planet in a big house overlooking a valley of crumbled skyscrapers, not ancient ruins, but fairly recent ones. It definitely isn’t in the Lyran system because there is only one sun—probably a red dwarf—but at least three moons, visible in the reddish daylight. I’m surrounded by a horde of children running, screaming, and fighting one another. I try to stop them, but they just don’t listen or, more likely, they can’t even hear me. Then, a towering figure comes out of the house. I can’t see who it is, the sun is behind the house, but from their stature and shape, I can tell it’s a man. When the children spot him, their reaction is immediate, as if he gave them a telepathic order to be silent and to gather around me. Only when they come closer, I can see the children’s features: they’re all Manderian-Lyran hybrids. When I raise my eyes, I meet Drahnzer’s. Then I wake up. If I didn’t know better, I’d say my subconscious is telling me that I lost my heart for this Manderian, and that I’d like to set up a family with him, but I’m not that kind of girl.

Keyla Damaer is an Italian author who has enjoyed writing since she was a child. She travelled a lot, especially throughout the United States, where part of her family lives, and that gave her the opportunity to deepen her knowledge of the English language, which she had cherished since she was a child. She was born and raised in Rome, where she still lives with her husband and her turtle. By day she’s a part-time accountant, but by night she’s an imagination engineer with a way with words. Tales From The Sehnsucht Part One – The Manderian Halden is a prequel of The Parallels, the first book of The Sehnsucht Series and her first novel published as an independent author.

You can find Ameela on the pages of The Manderian Halden.

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