I lay in a hospital bed with a mattress the texture of a bunch of flowers, framed with something like rubbery vines, boa constrictor thick, with metal facets. It seemed like someone had grown it in a lab somewhere, stabilizing it with machine parts. Pictures and other decorations hung from walls resembling pollen under a microscope. Homelike, to an alien.
A guinea pig-like nose and mouth wiggled on the nurse's hairless humanoid face. Her mouse ears twitched. "How are you feeling?"
I stared into the Abreya's goat eyes. "You speak English?"
She nodded, her long opossum-like tail waving a diagnostic tool over my body. "It's part of my religion."
The creature offered her hand. "I am Pulsa Pillow."
I shook it. "Nice to meet you, Pulsa. I'm David Barnes."
"Pulsa is my surname, Mr. David."
"Sorry. I forgot about that. Nice to meet you, Pillow."
Pillow raised an eyebrow. "You don't laugh at my name?"
"I'm sure it means something different in Wava. I mean, hey, I have a roommate named Coleslaw."
"Coleslaw was name of my Halkuda, my grandfather." She straightened her translucent jumpsuit.
"I...hear it's an honorable name." My eyes traveled downwards from her face, looking through the jumpsuit at arms and legs covered in gray fur, an area between encased in a black leathery sort of bikini.
Pillow uttered the type of growl a guinea pig makes when you rub its fur against the grain. It's my experience that this sound means trouble.
Embarrassed, I quickly returned my attention to her yellow eyes. "That's...an interesting outfit you're wearing."
She chuckled, with less unease than I expected. "It just medical uniform. Sterile, easy clean."
When everyone around you speaks Wava, you can't complain about pidgin English. "The nurses on my planet mostly wear white, to symbolize purity."
Pillow glanced down at herself. "It must be hard to keep spotless...Is that why your underwear white?"
Warmth rushed to my face. "Um, no. It's just a neutral color..." I cleared my throat. "So...uh...I've never heard of any religion here that requires the use of English. What's it called?"
The look on her face said `Seriously?' "Christianity...Is my English good?"
My mouth fell open in shock. "Yeah. Uh, wow. I heard rumors about some evangelism, but..."
"We're a small but strong group. When I heard about another human in the hospital because of flying accident, I had to see you...Are you also a Christian?"
I swallowed. "...Yeah...are you single?"
A green coloration crept up her cheeks. "I...am idinra, unmated, if that's what you ask me."
"Whenever I get released from this hospital, we should go out."
Pillow looked confused.
"On a date?" I tried again in her language. "Aldoyi?"
She flinched a little, eyes widening in surprise. "Aldoyi? With me?"
I shrugged, wincing a little as it aggravated my injuries.
"You mean jufadoyi, outing with friends."
Pillow looked greener.
"If you don't want to, that's fine..."
"No, no," she stammered. "I would love to. I mean, I would like to."
I grinned at her reaction.
"Are you feeling any pain? You had a much painful falling.""
My smile shrank a little. "A little. But not nearly as bad as it felt when I hit the ground before this."
I glanced at the storage container next to my bed. Someone had set a bonsai looking thing on top of it. "What's that?"
Pillow brought it closer, and I saw that it had little modern looking buildings and stuff all over it. Multicolored spheres of leaves popped out here and there at awkward angles like a Doctor Seuss illustration. "It's a model of Aglacya, my home tree."
Her frog finger poked a small structure near the canopy. "That's Nogbacar, where my umma and geben live. Mother and father, I grew up there." She tapped a marble-like object next to it. "Coleslaw."
"So he lived next door. That's nice."
Pillow showed me other buildings. Lots of family, all calling that same tree home.
I tried to imagine it in reality, bigger than the largest California redwood, all cluttered with those sophisticated alien houses.
"It must be nice there. The place I'm staying is over a row of shops, and it's super busy. Is your family rich?"
She snorted. "Oh no. Don't you know about Aglacya? It's historical...art. Building sell, get destroyed, catch fire, but..." She put a hand to her chest. "It is here. Like Jesus."
I wrinkled my face. "Um..."
Her color drained a little. "Did I say sacrilege? I did not mean to."
"Slightly. How about..." I put a hand to my own chest. "Like the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Guep! You understand!" Pillow smiled and wagged her tail, just about dropping the scanning tool. "You are very wise. Maybe Ponai bring us together!"
I rubbed my chin. "I have heard people say that about too many things right before they made a mistake."
Pillow looked crushed. "You...do not wish to aldoyi anymore?"
Red faced, I blurted, "That's not what I meant."
"What did you meant?"
"Mean," I corrected. "Forget I said anything. You could be right about God, Ponai. I don't know. Guess we'll find out, huh?"
Pillow gave me an eager nod. "Do you know Mot Ganon?"
I thought about it a moment. "I...think I've heard the name before. Why?"
"He started my church. Also, friend named Goksar. We—"
A similarly visaged female, one with gold fur and a stripe running down her hair, came in, jabbering something to my new girlfriend.
"I'm sorry. I'm interrupting your job."
Pillow waved dismissively, jabbered something back. "It's okay. I said I would trade duties with her, so I can have you for myself."
I swallowed hard. "What?"
She burst out laughing. "You are funny! I have to see other patient, but will be back soon."
It took a little longer than that.
I didn't have that much to do. I switched on the conical device that showed holographic movies.
Luirfural. Like the majority of Abreya programs, editing didn't seem to be a priority. They spent a lot of time walking around, eating, smelling flowers.
Losing interest, I leaned over the side of my bed, reaching for the bonsai thing.
The moment I had it in my hands, my back suddenly informed me that it wasn't all the way healed. I gasped in pain.
The Aglacya slipped out of my hands, shattering on the floor.
I heard a puppy dog whimper, and Pillow came rushing into the room.
Crying, she knelt by the broken pieces, turning them over in her hands to inspect the damage.
Pillow glared at me, tears rolling down her cheeks.
"Pillow. Your family doesn't live in that model. The ones you lost..." I pointed to the ceiling.
Her anger softened a little, but I still saw tears. "Not all of them. We both know that not everyone goes there."
I sighed. "I'm going to be lying here for awhile. If you got the stuff to fix that, I'd be happy to help."
Pillow chuckled a little, wiping her eyes. "Thank you, but you need to know everything about myself and family to put together correctly. Very long history."
"I have time. And two ears."
Pillow squeezed my hand, gazing into my eyes. She smiled.