“It wasn’t as if anyone got hurt,” said Sophie. “You’re okay, and I’m here with you.”
She comforted poor little Xeelii as he trembled within his bed pod. His big, single turquoise eye was filled with fear from a bad nightmare. His three tentacle arms twitched nervously as he looked up piteously at his human caregiver.
“Dream felt too real,” he clicked with the little mandibles at the base of his ovoid body. “Xeelii scared.”
Sophie could see Xeelii’s skin had mimicked the shade and texture of the material in the bed pod. It was an ancient defense mechanism his species used to hide from predators, and apparently, from the occasional nightmare.
Sophie understood the alien dialect he spoke, and she caressed the top of his ovoid body, and an opaque lens covered his eye in that moment of safety. Warm orange and yellow hues washed over Xeelii’s body as he calmed. Specks of electric green danced on his tentacle arms as he inched toward Sophie and touched her hand with one soft arm.
The metallic shell of the bed pod glimmered in the early morning light that came through the porthole window. Sophie noted that the sunlight was nearly lost on Xeelii’s vibrant colors.
Sophie smiled softly. “When I was a youngling, I had bad nightmares too,” she said. “Sometimes, I would pull my covers up over my head until I felt safe enough to open my eyes again.”
“Really?” Xeelii asked, clearly surprised that she could be as afraid as he was.
Sophie nodded. “Even I was scared too, Xeelii,” she said. “You’re not as alone as you think.”
Xeelii crawled into Sophie’s lap, wrapping his soft tentacle arms around her. A swell of maternal instinct warmed her. She never knew she could love someone so alien, and yet so innocent. She set him gently on the floor and he propped himself up like a tripod and ambled forward. Sophie stood, and she felt one of his arms worm its way around her hand as they walked to the door.
She watched him as they walked. His mandibles clicked and chattered, but said no coherent words. It was a quirk he had. It was as if he was testing out sounds before he made complete words, not unlike an infant.
Sophie brushed her dark hair out of her face, then, returned her single arm to Xeelii’s clutch.
Sophie had watched over Xeelii since his egg was laid. His single, asexual parent had allowed her the privilege. Xeelii’s people had rescued her from a war ravaged Earth. During the ordeal, she’d lost an arm. The aliens had happened upon Earth in their travels, and too late to make much difference. They were saddened that such an astonishing amount of life was lost. They had tried their best to save a few other stragglers besides Sophie, but none survived very long.
It often overwhelmed Sophie to be the last human left in the universe. It was both a gift and a curse that she’d survived. To live amongst a species not her own, to struggle to adapt to their culture, and their world. They helped of course, by rewiring parts of her brain so she could understand their language, and the unique signals the chromatiphores patterned across their skin.
Sophie was not alone, and yet, she was. Attaching to this child, however, had giver her something to live for, something that would not allow her to give up. Xeelii’s parent had proposed the idea in the first place. Thankfully, it had worked. Not long before then, Sophie had seriously considered suicide. This little squid-like infant had saved her life.
Sophie knew Xeelii loved her. He always seemed to know when she was sad, and would either crawl into her lap or wrap a tentacle arm around her hand. Now, he was leading her outside toward the shoreline.
The sky was a vivid orange with wispy lavender clouds. The sea lapped at the clay-like shore, leaving strangely unique shells behind. The sound of the tide’s ebb and flow soothed them both.
Xeelii looked up at Sophie with his bright turquoise eye. He spread his mandibles wide, doing his best to mimic a human smile. Sophie laughed, nonetheless grateful for his attempt. Even in her darkest moments, Xeelii would be there. That they both knew.
Sophie and Xeelii continued walking down the shoreline. Sophie wondered sadly if Xeelii knew that he gripped the hand of the last living human, and that when she was gone there would be none like her again.