The Sound of Death
by Gareth D. Jones
The doorway to the apartment was guarded by a Peace Officer, all six arms folded
across his corrugated chest plate. The vermillion sash of the Service contrasted
vividly with the dark grey leather of his skin. Inspector Ek-Lo-Don traversed the
length of the corridor, floor-claws tapping out a signature of authority. The guard
acknowledged his approach with a subservient-professional rattle of his
"Has anyone been inside?" Ek-Lo-Don asked with a muted chattering of his outer
"Only to verify the location of the body."
The guard stood aside and Ek-Lo-Don pushed through the warm doorway
sphincter which gave way with a welcoming murmur. Within was dim warmth.
The entry matting gave under his claws with a tinkling crunch of joviality and
sprang back into shape with a complementary whoosh of studiousness. The
inspector cocked his head: an interesting combination.
The room was a large oval, much bigger than standard. Four door sphincters at
diagonal opposites led, he presumed, to the sleep chamber, excretorium, sloughing
chamber and storage. Around the walls, an array of high quality furniture: tables,
chairs, brood couch, trophy cabinet. In the centre of the floor, a body.
The inspector stepped forward and leaned over the deceased. A male of early
middle age with grey-green skin and dull, uncared-for claws. No obvious signs of
violence, disease or unplanned sloughing.
He circled the room slowly. There was no indication of a struggle, but several
signs of neglect. Dust had accumulated on various surfaces, the door sphincter to
the sleeping chamber hung limp. The trophy cabinet was disorderly, many of the
trophies having been pushed back to make room for an empty tray stained scarlet
with the remains of lika beetles. He lifted the tray carefully and held it close to his
head. No sound. The beetles had been eaten at least several hours earlier for their
remains to be silent.
He put the tray aside carefully and turned his attention to the trophies, handling
them respectfully. There was a curious mixture of awards for scholarly excellence
and sporting proficiency. A suitable reflection of the entry matting signature. Each
was marked with the dead male's name: Lak-Do-Sil. None were more recent than
a dozen seasons ago. He placed each back in the cabinet carefully, lined up in an
orderly display that would not distress the deceased's family. There seemed to be
one missing; the trophies did not match the marks in the dust.
He stooped beside the body for a particularly unpleasant task. Using his
lower-midclaws he prised open the male's outer jaw and peered closely at the
inner jaw. The lika staining was old and ingrained: an addict for sure. He let the
jaws snap shut on the distasteful sight. Only his brood mate had ever heard the
intimate chatter of his own inner jaw, and she had only seen its workings on
Addiction did not lead to death, merely to slovenliness and torpor. He shook the
corpse gently from side to side. A faint tinkling. He leaned closer and shook the
body harder. Lika beetle continued to chime for several hours after consumption,
but something did not sound right.