My inclination is always to write about a world where something is wrong. A story where the conflict is resolving a problem. Lately I’ve been writing things that aren’t my first instinct. In that vein, here is a nice little hopeful hopeful science fiction piece about a human’s friendship with an alien.
If you enjoyed it, you can find more of my Science Fiction stories here
Hope you enjoy it,
“Tell me more about yogurt.”
I sigh, whenever Ryan started asking questions it took forever to satisfy him, “It’s just a type of food, Ry.”
“Well obviously,” he answers. Ryan isn’t his actual name, but the squid (once again not their species’ real name) don’t seem to use names in the same way we do so I gave him the name Ryan and he seems to like it. We work together, though I can never quite wrap my head around what it is that he does. I’ve chosen to think of him like a rich dilettante with an unhealthy interest in humans and human culture. Lately he’s been big into what kinds of food we eat.
I’m a little short with the guy but I’m supposed to be taking apart and salvaging what reusable parts I can find in this broken-ass air filtration system. It’s a one person job but Ryan chose to accompany for, as far as I can tell, the sole purpose of annoying me while I work. “But more specifically? And also generally I suppose. Is it a sauce? Is it a broth? A drink? What is it made from? Who invented it, and why?”
“I don’t know Ry,” I grunt, ripping the useless wiring from the system. This shit was completely torched, I really have to marvel at the special kind of stupid it takes to so utterly destroy tech this well made. Tossing the wiring in a pile for later, his presence is just too much and I’m forced to stop and focus on him before I’ll be able to get anything done. That stare is just so unnerving.
He’s a good guy but I don’t think its races that the squid always give me this pervasive sense of revulsion deep in my guts. He looks like some kind of disgusting reptilian octopus-centaur monster for crying out loud.
I’ve been with him for long enough to somewhat read his emotional state for what little comfort that gives me. It’s apparent he’s feeling pretty relaxed around me. He’s lent back on his haunches, his back legs acting like a recliner chair. His huge muscular tentacles are swept languidly back across his body leaving his head completely uncovered. The vertical slit pupils of his eyes were wide and calm, somehow they were what unnerved me the most about their appearance. The way their eyes always made me feel like prey.
“It’s just a food. I mean, some people eat it as a dessert, some eat it for breakfast, some use it as a flavouring thing not entirely unlike a sauce I suppose. It’s part of a lot of things, but it’s not an ingredient like flour.”
“Interesting, I am still curious about flour now that you mention it,” he begins to settle into a rhythm and I know I have to stop him now or I’ll never get any work done.
“Hold up, Ry. I’ve got work I need to do, and I can’t concentrate with you talking to me, how about I meet up with you later and I can answer any questions you have about yogurt or flour.”
His pupils contract slightly, I’m not sure exactly what that means. If it’s a sign of annoyance at being dismissed or if he’s just scrutinising me, maybe he just had gas. I rest a hand on my hip and stare him down for the moment, no doubt the gesture is as foreign to him as his to me. He makes a disturbing coughing noise I think is his attempt at imitating laughter and gently touches the floor in front of me with one of his tentacles, a common gesture conveying something like an apology among his people. He then leaves me to my work in peace.
As I return to the mindless work of stripping the filtration unit down, I let my mind wander with thoughts of Ryan and the squid. They are the first form of intelligent life we’ve encountered since we left the the Solar System and for a species of pure predators they seem pretty chill. First contact went way smoother than anyone expected, it was the culture shock that followed that was really the hard part. They’re hyper-competitive, but weirdly directionless as a species. When humanity took to the stars we had very clear goals of colonising other worlds for expansion and economic purposes, the squid were simply curious according to their telling. Largely humanity and squid have kept to themselves, our leaders negotiated friendly terms after a lot of struggle to understand one another. Ryan is a bit of a weirdo, curious even for a squid he’s the first of his species I’ve ever heard of being employed by a human corporation. He’s a bit famous because of it actually. For whatever reason, he seems to have decided we’re best friends. Maybe the squid are like cats and they only ever want to sit on the lap of the one person in the room who’s afraid of them. Whatever the reason, he terrifies me, but I’m getting used to him.
Completely salvaging the filter takes a way more hours than skill, but eventually I’m finished. I meet up with Ryan in the cafeteria after work, it’s both of our favourite place to hang out together on the ship. For me because there’s a lot of other humans around I feel a lot safer and whenever a doe-eyed kid wants to meet his first alien they give me a little break from his relentless questions. And for Ryan, the cultural experience of a human’s meals is like when I would go to theme parks as a little girl.
Whenever I catch a glimpse of the speed and power his tentacles can exert I’m grateful again that the squid were friendly. My grandma was remembers when we first encountered them, the fear that came with first spotting them and the uncertainty while we waited for the experts to figure out how to communicate. When I think about how vast space is, I’m kinda glad to have a friend as scary as Ryan.