Author : Sarah Crysl Akhtar

They said no pets. I’d felt a little guilty, a little bit not quite truthful, but I hadn’t made a home for it or anything, no tank on the windowsill; just sometimes carried it inside, from the garden, and then took it back out again. If it wanted to be friends with me, I’d thought defensively, nobody said I couldn’t have a friend!

And you don’t think of something, a hamster or a toad, as being the same as you. You might think, my pet’s so smart! But smart for a hamster, of course.

And you don’t think, do you, about what things so small as that want? You don’t ask yourself, does this goldfish really want to go home with me and live in a glass bowl? You’re the only one with a choice about it.

So I was sad, putting the little thing back in the garden for the last time; the last time looking into its little bright eyes that looked back at me with recognition and, I thought, affection. I patted it on its little furry behind and said scoot! and turned away with the wet glimmer of tears in my own eyes.

Little things like that, smarter than you think, can get back inside if they want. You’d notice a cat or a dog of course, but something that small, hops in, creeps in wherever it finds a way, if it wants.

Crept out of something the grownups carried in, once we’d taken off and it was too late to do anything about it. Clever, not to hide in my things. It’s kids they always distrust, that you won’t follow the rules, that you don’t understand how important they are. The adults get only cursory scans, because of course they know everything, don’t they?

We go a lot of places we’re not invited. Big and smart and with all those really high-tech weapons–is a gerbil going to stop us?

They hadn’t liked us coming at all, and even though it was just one research station to start, they actually were smart enough to know that was only the beginning.

I must have had a natural immunity that only got stronger, from picking it up all the time and all. Of course it knew that because I wasn’t dead. And it did seem to like me. Back home, in our own garden, all carbon-based life forms, it found plenty it was able to eat. It was already pregnant or whatever you’d call it, with little things like that, and they’re just like rats, or rabbits, or whatever, they breed really fast.

That natural immunity, turned out it was pretty rare, and the first contact was usually all it took. They weren’t vicious, or anything. I know; after all, I’m sort of like their pet, now.

It was just, they didn’t want us coming back.


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