I fling myself face down on my bed wearing only my underpants. Worst. Day. Ever. B-cup Barbie bugging me about no breasts, Mr. Thomas riding me about my book report and Mom chewing me out for swatting Martin even though he started it: finally, I had to wash and dry the dishes myself and got sent up to bed without dessert. Life sucks.
Shaggs comes in and sniffs my back, then sniffs at my armpit. I roll over and give him a good scruffle while he licks my face. Good old Shaggs; he flumps down across my chest and goes to sleep.
Mom leans in the door. “Chase, put your pyjamas on right now. You’re flashing the whole neighbourhood.”
Yeah, right. The whole neighborhood is in my bedroom. I’m not that naked. And a two-hundred pound Saint Bernard is laying on me, so I’m staying laid on. At least Mom closes the door. I wish I was someone else. Anyone else! Shaggs’s slow breathing lulls me to sleep.
* * *
I wake up in a state of panic. Everything looks wrong and smells wrong and there’s a hairy beast lying next to me. This isn’t a proper nest and my arm aches and everything smells funny.
I take a deep breath, and then another, then push myself up. The creature next to me is a human. Wait a second! Why am I saying that as if I’m…
My hand is white like a porcelain doll. And it’s got two big fingers and a thumb. The other one looks the same. And the other four. O.M.G. I’m an alien. In fact, I’m the alien that found Shaggs last weekend.
I try to speak but out comes a hawk squawk. I grab my beak. Beak? I scuttle to the bathroom and look in the mirror. A white hairless (featherless?) owl-like face stares back at me.
I freak totally and scamper out through the cabin window. It’s really easy to move around like this; I can go very fast and make almost no noise.
I perch in a tree and look around. The morning sounds of the forest are comforting. I can hear little things scampering through the brush; the only predators are a smelly cat and a little red dog. There are no feral children at all, which is a shame because a forest like this should be swarming with them. It reminds me how truly unlike home this world is.
I’m hungry. My body tenses and my senses of sight and hearing get more acute. I creep slowly along the branch and study the forest floor.
Something small scurries across my field of view. In a flash I’m on it, scooping it up in my beak and downing it live in one gulp. It wriggles on the way down, which is both disturbing and pleasant at the same time.
By standing perfectly still I can hear another one. It comes into view and goes down my gullet just as quickly. O.M.G.; I’m hunting mice! I could throw up if they didn’t taste so good.
The smell of bacon draws me back to the cabin after only a couple more mice. I love bacon, but to the alien body it’s more like a drug. This body craves bacon; it would kill for bacon.
This body would kill for a lot of things. It’s carnivorous, and all the things that look delicious indicate that. Even Karen looks like she’d make a nice meal.
Ew! I’m not a cannibal! I don’t want to eat humans! I don’t want to eat mice! I’m stuck on this alien planet with so many other creatures and no proper people! I want to go home! I screech out my loneliness to the world. If I had tear ducts I’d cry. No matter how bad my life is, this is worse.
I wish Shaggs were here; he’d know what to do. If I didn’t try to eat him.
* * *
The tender of the Tomb-of-Papers is still watching me as I scan down the list of subjects on the computer screen. It has taken me some time to determine the relationship between the names on the screen and the many paper volumes here. Now I cannot find a reference to the subject I want! This is very frustrating!
The paper-tender approaches me again; it is a young adult; its clothing conceals its somatype.
“Can I help you find something?”
“I want to know how to be human.”
It sticks a fingertip in its mouth and stares at the associated knuckle through its corrective optics.
“Do you mean something like dating?”
“No. I mean how to be like a normal human and to not do things that cause social discord.”
It leans over me and types something on the keyboard; a moment later several lines of book descriptions appear, all marked ‘ILL’.
“Well, there are several available, but we’d have to get them shipped up from Coeur d’Alene, which will take a couple of days.”
I try to resign myself to the information’s unavailability but my body has an allergic reaction. My breath comes in gulps, my nose starts running and my eyes start leaking water.
The paper-tender senses my distress and offers me a square of thin cloth.
“Don’t cry, dear. There may be another way for you to read them.”
It takes me by the hand (upper left) and leads me to a small area set apart by fabric walls of about my height. There is a computer here, larger than the one in Chase’s bedroom and tethered to a power outlet.
“Why do humans not have computers implanted in their brains?”
It sucks its fingertip again, then answers, “We don’t know how, I think. There’s probably other reasons, but mostly we don’t know how.”
The books have interesting titles like “The Asperkid’s Secret Book of Social Rules” and “How to Be Human.” They contain some information, but many things are lacking. I have to seek more.
I need a vantage point, so I climb onto the top of the dividing fabrics (which are supported by a sturdy frame). They form a ready walkway, so I scamper over to where the helpful book-tender is standing with another human.
The two humans widen their eyes to show they are listening. I crouch on top of the wall lifting my lower garment (ref:skirt) out of the way for better balance; human feet would be more useful if they could grip.
“When is it acceptable to bite another human?”
The book-tender tugs at my lower garment until it droops below the level of my perch. “Uh, only if you’re defending yourself. Did something happen?”
“B-Cup Barbie insulted my form so I attacked her. Her … ” I thought of the book “ … friends attacked me in return. I fled and came here to learn what I had done incorrectly.”
“Did you find it?”
“Some, but not enough.”
The other human reached up her hands. “Come on down, girl.” It took me by the waist and gently dislodged me. This mildly agitated the book-tender.
“Jen, you know the rules.”
“Rules be damned, Stacy. This kid needs a hug. Anyway, you’re here to chaperone.”
The human then sat down and pulled me so I was sitting on its (her) legs. She wrapped one arm around me and used the other to pat my head-fur. I could hear her whispering to me like a house-mother welcoming a child back from the wilderness.
I’ve just found one good thing about being human. But I want my own body back.
I had the allergic reaction again.