Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
I’m on a steamboat at night. It’s hot out. I’m standing at the railing throwing earthling dimes into the dark water in the Mississippi night. I’m wearing a white linen suit. I feel like a dandy but wool would be suicidal in this heat.
Well, to someone that grew up in a cold place, anyway. Like me. I’m not from here.
I take another sip of my White Russian and look out in the near-jungle of rainforest that edges away into the darkness. We’re still too close to the city for stars but I can see the yellow-dot constellations of alligator’s eyes in the river picking up the shine from the moon and lights from the ship. The reptiles float by like dead things.
Steam. Fledgling electricity. Telephones. No connected computer network yet. Nothing that could detect the alien organs lurking under my disguise.
Behind my back, the steamboat is still alive with the sound of carousing but it’s dying down. Tourists are betting the last of their money, making their endgame strategies with new objects of affection, or stumbling back alone to their cabins.
We are an oasis of light and sound in the silent swamp. We’re invasive and we don’t belong here. All of the noise is coming from the deep, almost panicked need to be entertained. Humanity’s place in the world is clear at moments like this.
We. I thought the word ‘we’. Have to watch that. I’m thinking like them again. I’ve spent too long with these obnoxious experiments fouling their own cradle.
I pour the white drink into the river. It skates on the rainbow surface of the oily water, snaking back into the wash from the noisy paddlewheel at the rear of the ship.
Just another ten of the human’s years and my time here will be finished. The ruse will be up and I can go home to my own planet. I’m looking forward to it. Other contacts have reported forming an attachment to this place, to some of the humans. I envy them. That affection must make the time pass quicker.
For now, however, I feel more kinship with the alligators on the far shore with their unblinking flashlight eyes.
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