“Shoreline’s Dream”

760 Words

“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.

“Survivor”

451 Words

Parts of my body are coming back to life, like some long dormant machine. I don’t remember what happened to me before, not quite yet. An icy cold feeling travels through my insides, reminding me of something sterile and numb like a surgery.

I’m hazy at first. My eyes are glazed over with something like clear petroleum. Then hearing comes back to me, but what I hear isn’t something I recognize. These sounds, these voices, aren’t human surgeons waiting for me to regain consciousness.

When my eyes finally clear, and I can focus, I see my “surgeons” for the first time.

I want to scream, but my voice isn’t working well. All I can emit are half-hearted moans and soundless breath. They know I’m afraid, so they keep contact with me to a minimum. They don’t leave the room though. I am afraid, yet fascinated.

The beings gathered around the room are floating ovals, with three tentacle arms, one arm being the longer of the two. They crawl along the walls, somehow gripping it snuggly. There is a single bulbous independent eye at the center of each body, moving and twitching this way and that. A set of disturbingly insectile mandibles quivers at the base of the arms. Their skin is a constantly strobing pattern of infinite colors.

While I absorb their appearance, my fear starts to subside somehow. It’s then that I notice that their patterns are starting to synchronize. Warm, calming hues wash over their bodies, while dark bars undulate the length of their tentacle arms.

For some reason, something in my brain tells me they are saying ‘Hello’. I don’t understand how I know this, I just do.

As I regain feeling in my body, I sit up and realize I’ve lost my left arm. The rest of me is intact, and I am not alarmed by the absence. A memory tugs at me just under the surface, telling me there is a reason for the limb’s absence.

An accident back on Earth; I was stuck under rubble after a bombing of some kind. My arm was pinned under heavy rock, crushed beyond repair. They found me, and I screamed when I saw them coming. Then I blacked out.

I don’t believe they mean me any harm. I’m starting to think they may have re-wired me for communication with their species, though. I have nothing left to go back to, and even less to lose. I might as well see what happens next.

I don’t know what they want, and I don’t know where they’ve taken me, but I know something for sure now. I’m less afraid here with these aliens than I was back home.

“The Egg”

646 Words

Chirui is about to learn that every living thing must struggle to survive. Her first test is to break through the egg in which she has developed and slept for the last several months.

Even though she has never known the world beyond her egg, she knows her name. It has been spoken to her many times since before she can remember. It is the first inkling of memory she has.

She calls out instinctively, a nasal chirping, to summon her kin. A sudden swell of determination boils within her, and she knows she must break out of the egg. She writhes within tight leathery walls, struggling to right herself. She uses the claws on her feet to find a grip on the thick flesh. She pushes outward with her powerful double-jointed legs. She loses grip, and the fleshy walls cave back in around her.

Chirui rests for a moment, then, she extends her legs again with more force. She sees a sliver of light pour into her world. She blinks a few times while her eyes adjust to the brightness. Fascinated, Chirui squirms more, wriggling her body into the outer world of light. She slides out with the mucous. Exhausted, she rests again for a while. Her delicate gills breathe fresh air for the first time.

She sees a long serpentine thing unfurling at her side. It scares her at first. She strikes at it with one of her forelimbs, and is unpleasantly surprised by a jolt of pain. It is then that Chirui realizes the long thing is part of her. It’s her tail. She moves it again experimentally.

There are new things flooding her senses. She can smell and taste the air in the chamber around her with the long pair of sensory tentacles connected the base of her crested head. She smells the other eggs near her, and then, a comforting chemical scent that is the unique signature of her Hive.

Chirui decides it’s time to try and move again. She is tired, but very curious about her surroundings. With some difficulty separating herself from the egg mucous, she eventually rights herself, and begins to crawl away from the nest of eggs.

She hears something ahead. Hurried pattering coming her way. Chirui becomes frightened. She crouches, gills fluttering quickly, bracing for some unseen monster. Large forms come into the chamber. They notice her.

Something changes in the air of the chamber. Chirui can feel it. She feels a familiarity with them, and is no longer afraid. They walk closer. They extend their own sensory tentacles out toward her. She does the same. She absorbs the individual chemical signatures passed between them.

The Large Ones caress Chirui’s head crest with their three fingered hands. They make soft sounds that she doesn’t understand, but they are gentle and caring.

The Large Ones take her out of the chamber and into a tunnel, then to another chamber. This one has a shallow pool of water. Chirui likes the blue color that seems to make the pool glow. The Large Ones place her gently into the warm water, and wipe away the remaining sticky goop leftover from the egg. She touches the water with her hands, then, experiments with splashing. A few of the Large Ones cringe at getting wet, but do not anger.

Chirui’s eyes catch a quivering image on the water’s surface. As she stills her movement, so does the water. She sees the Large Ones’ reflections on the surface, then she sees her own.

Chirui sees a metallic dark bronze face staring back at her with bright amber eyes. It even blinks the same time she does.

The Large Ones whisper, and their sensory tentacles curve upward. Chirui returns to looking at the rippling reflection in the water. Somehow, she knows the image is herself, and that she is the same as the Large Ones.

“Silti”


488 Words

 

The Silti cannot remember the universe that gave birth to their kind, and cannot remember a time when they did not consume one universe, and move on to the next. They have never had names, nor needed them. They move continuously in a large kin group, migrating, feeding, and absorbing all knowledge.

When the Silti have devoured the last stars of a universe, their lithe worm-like forms emit bioluminescence in the ominous darkness that is left. As they consume every resource until there is nothing left but atomic particles, they build enough energy to jump to the next universe in a string of infinity.

With every migration, a new generation is born. The cycle takes eons, and yet they continue on endlessly. They encounter and cause the demise of a multitude of civilizations. They do not mean to, but they cannot survive if they stop consuming. It is all they have ever known.

Strangely, in a numbered few of these civilizations the Silti find they are worshipped as Gods. The concept is confusing, and they do not know what to make of the undue attention of the small creatures that call themselves “people”. The word is an odd description of the disorganized and highly individualized little beings. The Silti have always identified as a group, and a reasonable organized one at that. Their definition of “people” is a bit different.

As time went on, the universe with the strange “people” in it began to change. Things never really died right away as the Silti fed. They began to slowly lose all substance and just fade away. The green stuff would disappear first, seeming to just wither away from no cause. The process would reverberate down to other forms of life.

Then, the “people” started to fade away. After all their time in this universe, the Silti had communicated with the “people” sometimes. Now, they were disappearing like everything else. Such defiant little sparks of life they were. The Silti felt sadness, and guilt in spite of themselves. They could not fight the instinct for self-preservation, and they sadly felt the hidden cost of it.

Before the last of the “people” died away, one had spoken to the Silti.

“If the infinity of universes do have an end, would that last one be worth letting alone?”

The Silti were impressed by this question, and considered it for some time. Infinity was difficult to fully comprehend, even for the Silti. To stop consuming all matter would mean death for all the Silti.

They weighed the dilemma between their own species survival, and the end of life in every possible universe. It was a worrisome conflict. It took a very long time to come to a consensus, but the Silti finally reached agreement.

The only option the Silti had was to carry the memory of the question and the answer they must consider if they did encounter an end to infinity.