The greys conferred. V’x trilled to herself. I laid back and waited. My shoulder was killing me. I wanted to ask about it, but I waited. They had to let V’x out.
‘It is never our intent to hurt these creatures,’ a grey said finally. ‘We try to help.’
‘We fail,’ said another.
I groaned from the pain. “You can make it right.”
‘There is no way. We cannot communicate this way.’
“I find it hard to believe that you’d just give up,” I muttered.
‘We don’t have the knowledge.’
“You can ask.”
“I’m sitting right here,” I shouted. “You can ask questions.”
The greys fell silent.
“May I please go over to Vix’s cage. At least let me be close to her.”
‘She may hurt you.’
“Oh come on. Stop this!”
I felt shame. Not my own, but from the greys. Some were angry, too.
“You guys, come on. I’ll sit in that cage with her. I’m not afraid of her.”
“Yeah, she could. She has pointy bits. She could kill me. I know she won’t. Let me prove it to you.”
‘You are injured.’
‘You haven’t the strength.’
“Then carry me.”
Fear flowed through the greys.
I sat up again. “You’re really that afraid? Well, why didn’t my legs work? How come I fell? I don’t feel that awful.”
‘We have…’ a grey started, then chaos filled my head.
“What? What is it?”
My head was abruptly silent. The greys shuffled out of the room.
“What?” I shouted after them. “Come back!”
And they were gone. V’x stared at the door, trilling softly. “What happened?”
“I don’t know, Vix,” I said flopping back down. “I wish I could walk!”
“Why can’t you?”
“I don’t know. I tried and I fell.” My feet were two lumps under the covers. I tried to wiggle my toes. They moved, but they seemed so distant. “I can’t really feel them.”
“You were badly injured.”
“I don’t remember.” I flipped the covers off my legs and moved them experimentally. They did what I wanted, but the sensations were not right. Not painful, just dull. “I want to do over there.”
“Just stay where you are, Nate. Do not anger them. They will hurt you.”
“You know, I don’t think anyone wants to hurt anyone else. It just keeps happening. Everyone’s talking and no one is listening.”
“No. They will hurt you.”
“They think you’ll hurt me. They think you’re completely dangerous.”
“I would not hurt you.”
“I know that. They don’t”
“But you can tell them.”
“I’m trying. They won’t listen.” I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and looked down at my feet. They were there, pink and healthy looking. But they were so weak. I rotated my ankles. The message was slow in getting from my head to my feet. It was a struggle. I frowned. “They’re so stubborn. They are, I mean. The greys. Whoever they are. You’d think with such high technology they’d be more open-minded.”
V’x trilled softly. “With such power, they don’t need to be open minded.”
“Can you walk?”
I shook my head. “I think I’ll fall on my face again. I think they’ve done something to me.”
“I am frightened.” V’x slicked her feathers down. “I want to go home.”
“So do I.”
I door came open and the greys filed in again. It bothered me that their faces were always so blank. There was no reading their emotions. They surrounded the bed. The nearest one gently touched me. A flood of conversation rang in my head. “Ouch.”
‘Does it hurt?’
‘You should lie down.’
‘Where does it hurt?’
“You’re loud,” I mumbled. “And I don’t want to lay down. I want to see how my friend is doing.”
The greys turned and looked and V’x. ‘How do you know it will not hurt you?’
“She never has. They’ve always been kind to me.”
The greys were curious.
“The Vr’ak’l took the time to learn my language and worked hard to accommodate me even though I’m so totally different. They’re good people. I wish I could make you understand that.”
‘We are fragile.’
‘They can kill us easily.’
“Then why did you help them in the first place, if they were such a threat to you?”
‘They are interesting.’
‘We do not like to see species go extinct.’
‘We felt we must try. Our ancestors taught us this.’
“And yet, you’re afraid.”
‘We cannot communicate.’
‘And they attack.’
“They attack out of fear,” I said. “Think about what you look like from their perspective. And if you won’t touch them, there’s no communication at all. Can you even talk?”
‘We do not communicate in this way.’
“But can you?”
‘We would have to make a device.’
‘But we do not even understand ‘talking.’ This is what you do with your mouth?’
The greys conferred.
“Can I please just sit with my friend? Why can’t I walk?”
‘Your back was damaged. We have worked hard to repair it.’
‘It would be best if you laid still. You must heal.’
Fear flooded through me. “I broke my back?”
‘It was not severed.’
“Shit,” I muttered. “All right. I’ll lay down. But I want to be close enough to touch my friend. Help me. Please.”
The greys helped me back into a recumbent position and covered my legs. They were chatting among themselves. The discussion was so rapid, I couldn’t follow it.
‘We can put this bed closer.’
‘You can reach through the bars.’
‘I hope it does not claw you.’
“She won’t hurt me.”
They rolled the bed across the room until it was beside V’x’s cage. She was bloodied and frightened, trilling quietly. I reached out my hand. V’x took it into her own.
“My friend,” I said softly.
“Thank you,” she cooed.
The greys were agitated and nervous. They expressed shock as V’x leaned against the bars, holding my hand close and burying it in her feathers.
“It’s all right Vix,” I whispered.
“So frightened,” she trilled quietly.
‘What would happen if we touched it?’
“Really? I don’t know. Her feathers are soft.”
‘Can it communicate this way?’
“Haven’t you tried before.’
A sense of shame bounced through my head. “Vix? Let me see your hand.” I pulled her hand through the bars holding it firmly in my own. “They want to touch you. Don’t be scared.”
“Why?” trilled V’x loudly.
“Maybe… Maybe to talk to you. Just relax. Listen. Trust me.”
“Don’t let them hurt me.”
“I won’t. Just let them touch you. And listen. It’s strange.” I nodded at the greys bent over me. “Try it.”
A grey reached carefully out and set its hand on the back of V’x’s.
Go back to the beginning.