To our great surprise, there aren’t very many lifeforms that look like humans out in the Galaxy. Movies and TV shows had us thinking that every sentient alien would have a head on their shoulders, two legs, a spine, a brain and a little four chambered heart, but it turns out this form is rare in the cosmos.
Humans like to travel. We like to see. So, we fly through the slipstream, traveling at super luminous speeds in boxes of metal in the ether that connects the light matter. Despite being small and generally unremarkable, you can find a human being pretty much everywhere. We are an odd bustling diaspora.
Some sentient aliens are friendly. Some sentients are not. Some sentients see us as a kind of attraction, strange exotic little things with odd ways from far beyond. Some sentients yank us out of their bars for being too loud and under their alien skies beat us to death with g’rannixaball bats. Like we were animals.
Most though are nice. Put us to work. Give us food. Antimatter. We go through the cosmos in search for a friendly place, lots to do, air that’s breathable, land that could be a home.
Every human we see now is a welcome face. The absurd notion that a dark-skinned human is somehow untrustworthy or a human with little eyes and olive skin is somehow suspicious becomes unimportant when your employer is an intelligent caterpillar the size of a house, with liquid lithium flowing through their veins. Our self-hatred washed itself out against the ocean of the universe.
On the new worlds we find we are quartered off in our little human parts of town. Aliens with lizard skin and breath as hot as lava visit and walk through our streets where we’ve built replicas of human places from back on Earth. The Parthenon. The Eiffel Tower. The Great
pyramids. They laugh at our stinky human food. Our hamburgers. Our spaghetti. Our burritos. Our dim sum. They pick up a crucifix and laugh and wonder what it means. They tickle Christ’s armpits, and they toss it into their alien air like a toy.
After an alien century a human goes to an alien school. We sit in giant chairs not built for bipedal creatures. Our name will be something like Alice Washington or Martin Kien, but at any given moment, if we were ever asked, we have our alien name ready too. But no one asks.
And the other youngsters mock and laugh at us. Make fun of our two tiny hands. Our two tiny legs. Our strange smooth skin. Our tiny eyes. What are those bits of filthy string that sit on the top of their round head! They say these things at high volume, thinking that the little human child doesn’t understand, not knowing that our ears are implanted with Universal Translators that gather alien words like water and floods a human heart to breaking.
And we go. We find and cling fast to our purposes. We build sturdy farms of alien fruits on a planet where once was thought nothing could grow. We tag along to a hardy crew of malcontent slugs whose only joy is mining asteroids for precious stones. We serve in a bar where we sling poisonous concoctions to gargantuan amoebic travelers from across the Spiral. We learn and we teach. We embed ourselves in institutions of study, where minds from an infinity of worlds attempt to solve the problems of infinity. And every night, as bowties are undone and hands shake ommatophores and the alien moons rise to their zenith, we sit down and these new friends flick their tongues at us, “You’re a fine little creature! Where is your homeworld? Where are you from?”
And we give them a smile they have yet to learn to understand, and we say, “Here.”
And they laugh or come to their alien proximity to laughter. They pass us a flask of Ionioni whiskey. They slap our soft backs with rough paws the color of auroras. They think it’s a joke, but it’s true. Because this is what a human does best and what defines a human the best: our home is where we belong and wherever in the universe we belong, we can make our home.
Weddings between sentient aliens and humans are a fun affair. Joyous days when cultures amalgamate, become one out of many. We are dressed in blue suits, black tuxes, beautiful flowery hanboks, colorful lehengas and pure white gowns and they will stand ten feet tall, gangly clumsy tentacles evolved for navigating seas of mercury, tied in little silken bows. And they will share our beds, they whose skin is the noncolor of dark matter, whose touch is static and whose voices vibrates like the baritone hums of Mongols chanting. They will rest their inky appendages on our skin and bone, and they will learn a new way to love by loving us.
No wars are fought in this brave new world like we saw on TV. It’s just the infinite war of wanting to be seen and being seen as nothing. Some sentients will love us, yes, want to protect us and understand us. Yet still, some sentient aliens will see our bodies as expendable, disposable, easily plucked like turnips from the ground, for their consumption, for their pleasure.
After another alien century, we will stand a foot taller. The gravity, the food, the culture, changes our form. We will dress in the alien fashion. We will stand in the alien way. We will seek ways to change our bodies, wearing false legs, false arms, and distorting our eyes with surgery or color in order to look more “beautiful”, more like them. We will speak in new tongues with accented human voices. We will not long for blue skies, or the taste of mangoes, or the smell of smoky lapsang. We will not yearn for the sounds of trickling water, of starlings singing, of the mourning of a cello, or to see the orange creamsicle vision of a single yellow sun rising over Lake Michigan.
By then, we will truly be from “Here.”
Oh, but how we find each other still. Across a sea of green skin, a young girl in Hobardi dress sees another girl with her head on her shoulders and two legs and presumably a spine and a brain and a little four chambered heart. What an odd-looking thing.
It begins with a wave, then a smile, warm and surprising. Then two credits worth of Valvaxan tea later.
Where are you from?
My mother’s mother is from Port Andradi on Othos. It’s a human colony on the Perseus Arm. I know Othos. It’s nice.
I’m sorry, but where are you really from?
Like, originally originally?
Oh. Uh. I think Earth.
Me too! Do you know where exactly?
I couldn’t say. I don’t know much about Earth. Do you?
A little. My father’s ancestors colonized Europa. He was a sailor during the refugee crisis that’s how we ended up in Hobardiim.
I don’t mean to be rude.
It’s not rude.
It is rude.
Not when you ask it.
I only ask, because I was trying to do some research at the Temple, and I discovered that I might be from… Cincinnati.
Cincinnati? What system is that in?
It’s a city on Earth.
Really! That’s so cool. How do you know?
This book. Look at the girl in this picture.
She looks just like…
It might be stupid. There’s so many Earthling places and different types of Earthlings who lived in so many different types of places. I could be from anywhere! But I was just drawn to her, you know? Her nose.
She could be your great-great grandmother!
How long are you going to be studying at the Temple?
I graduate in 2 years.
Wow. Me too.
I don’t mean to talk shit, but I hate the Yrrg-zai acolytes. Oh they’re the worst.
Have you ever been talked down to by…
They talk like we don’t understand.
I have a PhD in Xenolinguistics. I understand.
The other day a priestess grabbed me.
You know that section in the dining hall where the Order dines? I had spilled some food, so I decided to walk through them to the bathroom and they just…
Did they think you were…?
I guess, they just saw THIS and made their assumptions.
I’m so sorry.
It’s ok. It’s fine. It’s FINE.
Did you get hurt?
Did you notify…
Yes. Nobody did anything. It’s stupid. It’s my fault anyway.
No. It’s not.
Of course, it is not. What an Ygarl-malil.
No it’s ok!
Do you want a tissue?
I dunno. For some reason…
It feels good to talk about it, yeah?
It’s like we have our own…
Yeah! I feel it too.
Of course, it’s not ALL bad.
No! It’s not.
To say this to you and for you to just hear it. To see your face as I say it. It feels really good! …
It’s really cool to have met you.
I know. I feel the same.
We should meet up again.
I don’t have very many Earthling friends.
I have like zero Earthling friends.
Actually I have like negative Earthling friends.
I only have Earthling enemies.
What’s your slip address.
What do you want to do?
I love tea!
There’s a Human town in Ghibben City that I’ve been meaning to check out. Let’s do it. Maybe we can find out more about Cincinnati! Oh! Yes. Please!
See you then.
See you then.
See you then.
is an actor and writer based in Chicago. He is a Kundiman Fiction Fellow and his short plays have premiered at the Gift Theater as part of TEN and his fiction has appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Riksha and is forthcoming in the Tiger Moth Review. He
has performed with the Timeline Theater, Lookingglass Theater Company, the Goodman
Theater, Victory Gardens Theater and with the Steppenwolf Theater Company, among others. He also recently co-starred in the film I Used To Go Here. Please say hi at rammelchan.com