Author : Suzanne Borchers

“Ivan, what the hell is that!” Roger pointed at the creature roosting on the rafter.

“It’s a chicken, of course.” Ivan reached up and smoothed one of its orange feathers.

“We’ve been doing this dig for how many months on this barren forsaken planet? I’ve never seen a sign of life and now you tell me this…thing… is a chicken?”

“Weird, huh?” Ivan shrugged.

“You certainly didn’t bring it from Earth. We don’t have any birds except in pictures.” Roger reached up toward Ivan’s chicken. “Ow!” He jumped back sucking the blood that oozed from the chicken’s peck. “How did this get here?”

“Funny thing about that,” Ivan said.

“I’m not laughing.” Roger scowled.

“I was digging in Quadrant 17 West–”

“Obviously. All five of us are collecting.”

“and I uncovered an egg. The red-orange swirls on the shell gave off rays of warmth that surprised me.”

“You didn’t report it.” Roger stared at Ivan’s chicken.

Ivan’s chicken thrust its head toward Roger.

Roger flinched. “Hey, that chicken has the blackest eyes. Did Earth’s chickens have black eyes?” Roger continued to study it.

“I don’t know,” Ivan said. “I didn’t want to share the egg. When I held it in my hands, I felt peace and well-being surge through me.” Ivan hesitated. “I knew it was wrong. I couldn’t help myself.”

“Well, when did it hatch, if that’s the term for it?”

“Today, I felt it crack along the swirls. Then a chicken emerged. I watched it grow larger and larger until…well, there it is.” Ivan sighed. “I can’t hide it any longer.”

“Right,” Roger said. “Report it and maybe we can eat something better than freeze-dried crap tonight.”

“No!” Ivan pushed Roger back from the chicken. “We can’t eat it!”

“Maybe you can’t.”

“It’s not an Earth chicken, Roger. Don’t be stupid.”

“We’ll report it and then Dr. Lopez can decide what we do with it.” Roger sucked at his finger. “It sure got its taste of me.” Roger glanced up at the chicken. “I wonder how it tastes.” He stared at the bird’s eyes. “I wonder what it eats.”

“I never saw its eyes turn red before,” Ivan whispered. “Do you think–”

“Just leave, report, and cover your ass,” Roger said while he watched Ivan’s chicken.

“I’ll be back soon,” Ivan said. “Don’t hurt it.”

“I think it just got bigger,” Roger said. “Hurry.”

Ivan ran out the door.

An hour later, Ivan brought Dr. Lopez into the room. “Roger?”

The room was empty except for an egg with red-orange swirls gently rocking on the floor.