Here’s a dragon shadow. I’m experimenting with lighting. I’m not fond of the cloud, but I like the mountains in the distance.
The Next Message
Stuart kept his arms around Diana as they both read the burning white words that grew in the air, crawling like expanding worms of pale fire.
Good choice of showing. Enjoyable bond. Next. Break off or reproduction?
Diana’s heart did a very unpleasant flip.
“She’s too young. She can’t have babies right now. We can’t even copulate,” Stuart said before Diana had assembled her thoughts.
The first alien waved a misshapen hand and the white letters vanished and were replaced by slowly-appearing golden letters. The white letters had seemed to be made of fire, but these golden ones looked cold and metallic.
What maturation stage is of necessary age required in you?
“I’d have to be older, a lot older,” Diana said as soon as she saw the letters close off into the end.
“We’d have to be married,” Stuart added. Diana could feel his heart pounding against her shoulder, and she wondered if he was as scared as she was.
“I don’t–” Diana started to say, and then she stopped. She’d been about to say that she didn’t want children, even if she had been older and in some other relationship to some man she actually liked, but Diana had been doing a pretty good job of guessing what the aliens would like, and she had a sharp, unmistakable feeling in her gut that if she said out loud to the aliens right now that she didn’t want babies, the aliens might do something very permanent to her body to make sure she couldn’t conceive.
Diana didn’t like to think about the ramifications of that idea, so she changed what she was about to say.
“I don’t trust Stuart. He’s a bad person, violent, and he wants to change, but I don’t trust him yet. He has to earn my trust,” Diana said.
The second alien lifted one fist and the golden words vanished, to be replaced by one word in fluffy blue smoke.
The aliens vanished. Diana couldn’t see how they’d gone; it was as if they had paused time and gotten away before restarting Diana and Stuart, though she had felt no hiccup or interruption. There was no remnant left of the messages the aliens had written in the air.
“Well,” Stuart said, his arms immobile around her. She didn’t know what to do at all, and when Stuart gingerly let go and moved to sit down on the edge of the bed, Diana turned and climbed out of the window again.
She didn’t know what she’d expected the aliens to say, but she really hadn’t thought they’d ask about kids.
Diana sat down on the roof and in a few minutes, Stuart came out and stood next to her.
“Do you want to have a blanket or something?” Stuart asked. He sat a little distance from her. Diana shook her head and looked over at him.
“Thanks. I’ll just sit,” Diana said. She cleared her throat and studied the ice bubble that encased their house.
“What did they mean, break off? Would they have taken me back if you’d chosen the break off option?” Stuart asked.
“No,” Diana said, chewing on her bottom lip. Stuart glanced around at the ice bubble and then went back to staring at her. She could feel his eyes on her and was tempted to shift away.
“Will you tell me what you think, please?” Stuart asked. Diana glanced at him, tempted to smile.
“Are you afraid of what they’ll do?” Diana asked.
“I’m worried about you,” Stuart said.
This, Diana was sure, was a lie, and she turned away and stared at the cool white glow drifting from their dome of ice.
“You’re good at understanding them. What would they have done?” Stuart asked.
She could have told him that they shouldn’t talk about the aliens openly, but Diana felt angry, and restless, and a sensation of cold irritation was moving through her body, and had been ever since the aliens had broached the topic of reproduction. I don’t want to have a baby, Diana thought, repressing a shiver. Because she was angry, she answered Stuart honestly.
“They’ll bring in a girl, an older girl as good-looking as you, and see if they can make me jealous. They’re exploring my emotional range,” Diana said, putting her chin on her arms. She imagined the aliens chuckling in their strange, ugly laughter at what she said.
“You mean they would have done that? Why did you say they will?” Stuart asked.
“They want to know. Since we said we wouldn’t willingly copulate, they’ll bring an older female specimen and try again, and then watch me to see how I’ll handle it. How I will handle you and another girl,” Diana said.
Stuart was staring at her with a mixture of anger and disgust in his eyes.
“Well, I won’t. They’ll have to kill me,” Stuart said.
Diana looked at him with a smile, because she was completely sure Stuart did not know how he would react if the aliens did bring in a new female. She didn’t want to think about what she would do if the aliens dropped off a boy closer to her own age.
Diana shivered and Stuart stood up.
“Look, do you move around when you sleep?” Stuart said.
“I’m fine, Stu. You can go to bed,” Diana said. He looked at her for a long time and then nodded and went away. Diana thought she’d gotten rid of him, but Stuart came back with a couple of blankets and a pillow.
“Here,” he said, setting the bedding down next to her. Stuart moved a little down on the roof and sat down below Diana, his back to her and his eyes on the ice.
Diana would have told him to go away, but she recognized the ridge of tension through his shoulders, and she knew he would never leave her alone now. She sighed and went over to the other side of the roof. Diana had just sat down when she heard Stuart following her. He dragged the blankets and pillow over near her and then sat down a little lower on the roof, facing away.
Diana found Stuart exhausting. She felt bitter, irritated, and very angry with the aliens, and because the prospect of running away from Stuart all night was extremely tedious to her, Diana vengefully cuddled up in the blanket and pretended to go to sleep.
She lay very still, hoping that Stuart would go away or fall asleep eventually so she could get up and shake him off, but after an hour she peeked enough to see and found that he was still sitting there, staring out at the ice.
“I know you aren’t sleeping, Di,” Stuart said.
“Don’t call me that,” Diana said automatically. Being so still and quiet had, in many ways, reset her body and mind to the original state of their relationship, and she was very surprised to see Stuart’s body sag a little. “Are you sad?” Diana demanded, because she felt reckless and alone.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you,” Stuart said.
“This isn’t your fault,” Diana said, ignoring what he meant and pretending he’d been talking about the current situation with the aliens.
“Yeah, this is my fault, Di,” Stuart said, turning and looking at her. Diana’s eyebrows climbed.
“How so?” she asked.
“I can’t tell you most of it. Talking about what goes on is not allowed, but I can tell you that this is my fault. You being saved out like this. I asked for you. I wanted you. This is me,” Stuart said.
Diana stood up, the blankets coiling around her legs. Stuart looked up at her. She sat down again, her mind racing.
Diana wanted to ask what things were like in the alien ship, or ships. She had no idea if there were a lot of them, or one big vessel. Diana wanted to ask Stuart if she would be worse off up there than down here, but a warning sense in her body told her this was a disastrous question that would bring the aliens down again.
Diana licked her lips and noticed for the first time how Stuart was looking at her.
“Do you like me?” Diana demanded, her voice rising a little.
Stuart looked away.
Well, shoot, Diana thought, staring at the boy who had made her life a living hell for the last ten years.
You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, someone is spreading gossip about old Frederick M.