Author: Thomas Desrochers

Bg’lkk Ut’rk had found the blue jewel with its eccentric inhabitants and decided he wouldn’t make contact. His name sounded like “big lick” in the planet’s principle political and business language, and he was of the opinion that first contact by “‘Big Lick’ the Curious” was simply a disaster in the making.

So, he watched.

Well, he didn’t just watch.

The humans were a fractious lot. Some among them were concerned about saving species from vanishing, and Bg’lkk thought it was a rather noble endeavor. After all, any species was shaped by the environment around it, and it followed that the organisms that lived there formed a part of their identity. To him, saving these was like saving the monuments and icons of past ages. There were humans saving mammals, and fish and lizards, mundane and exotic creatures, a whole society of spider-keepers! But there were some that were neglected, sometimes fewer than a hundred left and no tears shed or hair pulled.

So, he collected.

And wondered: what sort of sentients would save creatures they had grown up next to but not ones they had created and grown alongside, like a Ku’rkr’rk that favored its coralmate over its own spawn?

Ethel sat on her porch wrapped in a wool afghan and sipped at her tea. She liked to sit there in the evenings and watch the lonely cars go by on the distant highway. It was cold out, the trees barren. Heavy clouds overhead carried portents of snow to come.

The roads were quiet, the only lights those from the far off houses in the hills. Tonight the world was small – the porch, the yard, the woods beyond. Ethel liked it when the world was small. “Comfortable,” she called it.

Something intruded on her small world. It was hard to see for it had no lights, a shadow the size of her cottage that descended from the sky to land gently on her lawn. It made no noise as it fell and the air barely moved, but there was a soft hiss and clatter as it settled.

Ethel set her tea down and stood, grabbing her shotgun. She was used to creeping in the night to eradicate the pests that harassed her girls.

She stayed to the edges of the lawn, obscured by the forest. As she came around the intrusion she could see movement – something in her coop! No, somebody! Ethel lowered her shotgun, irritated. If she took out a miscreant like they were a raccoon the sheriff would be less than pleased, so instead she fished her flashlight from her smock pocket.

When she turned on the light it was hard to say who was more surpised: Ethel, or the four foot tall hunched crab monster that was half in the coop. It scuttled back out and raised all six of its double hinged fore-claws in the air, three of Ethel’s hens and one of her roosters ‘bup’ing sleepily in its grasp.

Before Ethel could react the crab monster slurred out, “A lack of violence is favorable! I am here for precious feathered hot-lizards!” It regurgitated something yellow onto the ground. “Recompense!”

Ethel could only watch as it scuttled aboard the shadow and disappeared into the night. One of the remaining hens started up a belated ‘buh-buh-buh, buh-gAwk.’ Ethel gathered her wits and panned her light to the yellow thing.

“Ernie,” she yelled toward the cottage. “Ernie, get out here!”

A window opened and Ernie stuck his head out. “What? What is it?”

“A honest-to-god alien bought some of my girls, and it paid in gold!”