Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The thing about sleeping in zero g is that I have a lot of dreams about being in my mother’s womb except that in my dreams, my mother is sleeping in zero g as well. That’s impossible because my mother never went to space. She was sixty before the alien diplomats came down to Earth, one in every major city and no two aliens the same. Glittering ships that defied all reason touching down like inverted chandeliers before discharging creatures trained to field questions in English through their translators. The one in my home down of Phoenix Arizona was a tall insect that looked like a violet, leafless tree that walked around on crab-leg roots with a tight line of softly-glowing blue eyes down its trunk.

I was twenty-five years old at the time but still, when I saw that creature, I felt like a six-year-old who knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. Your calling can come at any time, I guess.

I wake up smiling at the memory and uncurl, the light slowly branding up to daylight in my quarters. I turn on the gravity and look out the window. Through the porthole, I can see a cadmium cue-ball planet with scudding blue clouds and a double meridian of shadow from its two suns. It’s beautiful. I’ll be briefed about its name in a second but for now I just drink in the view and once again swim deep in the wonder and pride I have at my job.

And then I look in the mirror.

I had alopecia when I was thirteen which means my body hair grows in patches now. I also have a dark wine birthmark that splashes across half of my face and most of my right arm. One of my eyes has too much eyelid and is higher than the other while my wide, thick lips hang like deflated inner tubes over the ragged jut of my huge, uneven teeth. My chin pushes forth like the prow of a ship. My nose is more like a beak and would probably come down to nearly touch my shelf of a chin if it hadn’t been broken in a youthful bicycle accident. It’s like a shark fin shaped into a child’s drawing of a lightning bolt in the middle of my face.

My point is that by human standards, I’m ugly. Hideously ugly. Almost comically ugly.

And the aliens don’t care. Because of that, I smile again like I do every day here. I don’t care if I ever see Earth again.

I take a morning sip from the protein udder on the wall and zip up into my jumpsuit. As I leave my quarters and join the flow of traffic to the main hall, I bump into a krinotaur. I think it’s beautiful. It flows past me like a wave settling next to the shore.

Maybe it took the job for the same reason I did. Maybe its eye cluster is too bulbous. Maybe its leg-stalks are too short. Maybe its communication mandibles have a noticeable stutter or lisp equivalent that’s erased by the translators.

I would have no idea.

Everyone’s earned the right to be here. We’re diplomats and we’re intelligent representatives. I know that the other life forms have tests and training just as stringent as my own that brought them here. We’re good at what we do; useful to our homeworlds.

I head to the briefing room to learn about the white planet below us and what city I’ll be assigned to welcome them into the galactic council.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows