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Science Fiction Fantasy Friendship

Jeremiah Reddington stroked his healthy, reddish beard as he stood at the peak of the hill, overlooking his secluded mountain base. From this position, he could survey the vast elevated foilage of sweeping forest terrain that conveniently functioned as a perfect canopy of veiled cover.

Scanning the distant horizon of trees, he adjusted his digital visor to seek out any heat signatures that would alert him of encroachers to the untouched utopia hiding its secretive residents. Any interference to the small mountain research laboratory that Jeremiah cautiously guarded, could jeopardise his humanitarian quest to save a distant alien species from extinction. One false step of his unstable and cloaked footprint would end the risky game of hide-and-seek, endangering not only his adopted mission but the safety of his extra-terrestrial companion through discovery.

“All clear… Commence transmission,” he instructed into a hidden communicator installed in his visor.

Several moments of precursory serenity were abruptly broken by a low hum increasing methodically in volume, that undulated through the breezy mountain air, causing tree branches to rustle and shimmy from its vibratory pulsation. Increasing in volume, the hum reached a maximum level - not too unlike the noise that a typical power substation transformer emits at full capacity. However, in the mountains, sound can travel far, so Jeremiah diligently maintained his cautious visored exploration for unwanted heat signatures, while a laser-like ray of light shot out from a concealed position in the forest. A pulsing pattern of shaded hues of bright-white beams the speed of one million fibreoptic cables tied together, stretched toward the heavens and out into the cosmos to a destination unseen with the naked eye. The twenty seconds burst of pulsating beam activity abruptly ended as the linear blast of light completed its task, then vanished. This was followed by the hum reducing in intonation as it too powered down. Normality returned to the lush mountain environment as birds could be heard singing along to their daily tasks of gathering food, while in the distance, a Woodpecker busily jack-hammered away at a tree. Pausing to admire the sounds of nature, Jeremiah breathed the mountain air deep into his lungs. “What a beautiful planet,” he mused before a monotone voice broadcasting distinctly into his ear, caught his attention.

“Pulse deactivated… message transmission optimal. Return to bridge… darling…”

With eyebrows raised, Jeremiah looked to his right, toward a clump of green-hued vegetation, concealing a shiny silver-like object in the form of a large, other-worldly flying craft created by a technology beyond that of the most advanced tech Earth had to offer. Zooming his visor to peer through the canopy of trees, Jeremiah could make out a familiar figure looking back at him through the window of the spaceship’s bridge.

“Ok, something’s up,” he replied through his visor. “I’ll be right in.”

Hurriedly, Jeremiah pushed his way through the thick green blanket of camouflage and headed back to the craft. Reaching the landing ramp, he removed his visor, clipped it onto his snugly-fitted utility belt, then proceeded to the ship’s bridge where a very tall figure of female proportions – alien in appearance, gingerly turned to address him. Without any apparent movement of lips, Jeremiah could hear every word spoken to him, as if he was listening to music through ear buds.

“Jeremiah, I have some news… I’ve been summoned home.”

“You’ve found the missing DNA link?”

“I’ve collected enough data to experiment with. Initial results look promising.”

“When do we leave?”

“That’s what I want to talk with you about… I must journey alone.”

“What? Why? You promised me... I’ve helped you through all of this.”

“It is not my decision. There are a lot of variables involved. It’s not as straightforward as you think.”

“Don’t you want me to meet your parents… darling?” Jeremiah asked in a facetiously bashful manner – still not realising the seriousness of what he had just heard.

“You may not like them.”

“But they’ll like me, yes?”

“Probably not. They’ll think you’re a freak of nature. You have no vagina.”

“Ok, that was very blunt of you… Having no vagina certainly didn’t turn you off…”

“Did that upset your fragile human ego?”

“Not having female genitalia is not a problem for me. Makes me feel more of a man…”

“Ah, another example of your facetiousness. We’re friends… we started as friends, and we will part as friends… nothing more… darling.”

“…I always liked to think we were more like friends with benefits. Obviously, I was mistaken.”

“Admittedly, the physicality of our relationship has been a most illuminating and new experience for me. I have enjoyed our copulatory ecstasy; but unfortunately, our time together is as temporary as my stay on this planet now seems.”

“Holiday romance over, is it?”

“I don’t understand…”

“Forget it, you’re not capable of understanding. It’s a human thing… I never thought of myself as an undesirable.”

“Oh… you’re hurt... That is understandable. Don’t be. My parents tend to think that anything outside our race is inferior. It’s nothing personal. Besides, I would need time to prepare your introduction, and that is something I suddenly don’t have.”

“Don’t have or don’t want to have? Your parents are three light years away, there’s plenty of time.”

“If travel was that slow… Anyway, we would never be allowed to display the type of physical contact that we’ve practiced here…”

“Again and again and again… No-one would have to know what we did in private, would they?”

“We’re telepathic, remember? Once probed, all thoughts are public. In our customs, physical contact is politely reserved for greetings, and is not to be wasted on copulatory practices.”

“You’ve never explained how that all works… you know… the creation of your little giants…”

“We self-impregnate ourselves.”

“…Interesting concept… Wait until they probe your mind upon your return and find out the sordid details of what you’ve been up to here.”

“That’s different. On assignment, we’re expected to fit in.”

“Oh, I see. It’s a matter of when on Earth, do as humans do, when on home soil, get off me, is that it?”

“I must admit that I have grown to enjoy the physical contact. You have been pleasing to the touch, and you’ve been nice and warm. My species has evolved to handle nine-month-long winters, and as we operate at a lower temperature than humans do, warmth is always a pleasurable experience.”

“Wow! Slow down a bit. Your emotional attachment is disengaging at a disturbingly fast speed. I might begin to think you’ve just been using me for your own selfish purposes.”

“Cross-culture relationships are universally difficult to maintain. Just look at your own human couplings. There’s a great amount of disdain from certain Earth societies about mixed marriages – as you call them.”

“Earth is a melting pot of wonderful cultures and colours. You can’t compare us to your one race ideology.”

“At least we all get along. Unlike your murderous, ape-like species.”

“The truth reveals itself… No wonder you’re dying out. You’re just a bunch of lanky, cold-hearted racists!”

“You know me better than that… Something unexpected altered our DNA and we haven’t been able to reproduce for at least one generation. It’s purely a defensive posture. The fact of the matter is that the data I have collected may help to reverse the worrying decline in our population. My mission has ended, so I must return home.”

“So that’s it, then. Forget Jeremiah. He’ll be fine foraging for leftover love amongst the forest fungus.”

“It’s beyond my control…”

“Yes, I know. Your parents…”

“It’s not only them. My society is linear, a singular dimension of narrow-minded comfort-zoners, unbending, and resolute in opinion. You would be an outcast and I would be endlessly ridiculed. They would accuse me of being monosexual. An irreversible denunciation in my society.”

“I see. They’re a bunch of bigots…”

“Unfortunately, yes. Earth has demonstrated to me pockets of wonderful examples of diversity that will never exist on my planet. This place has pleasantly altered my outlook. Compared to how I was on arrival, my opinion of Earth and you is much more favourable now… even if it’s not perfect…”

“So, you know when we first met?”

“I vividly recall that moment, yes.”

“Did you ever think that we would end up in what you call, copulatory ecstasy?”

“That possibility did not occur to me, no.”

“...And... with the inherent prejudice of your species coursing through your long cold veins, what thoughts were trapped behind your sealed lips at that very moment?”

“I deliberated whether you were a threat or not… but then I probed your thoughts.”

“Yes, I felt you invading my mind. It was a weird feeling, like you were everywhere inside my head.”

“I was searching for your innermost essence – the real you.”

“Why?”

“To see if you deserved to be mind-blanked.”

“…That’s actually something you can do?”

“It’s just a simple memory wipe.”

“Nothing serious then… yes, that is an example of sarcasm.”

“Interesting…”

“What did you see in my innermost essence?”

“A man of conviction, sincerity, and strangely alluring. You emoted a warm compassionate and trusting nature that was excitingly fresh to me.”

“So, you were breathlessly startled by me when I stumbled upon you that night?”

“A little. No-one was supposed to discover me. I chose this forest location for that specific reason. You just appeared too quick for me to hide.”

“I am a mountain man. The forest is my supermarket. I was searching for edible mushrooms...”

“Ok, you’ve heard how I felt, let me turn the tables on you - without me probing your mind for the answer… What was your first impression of me?”

“…I thought… what’s a seven-foot-tall albino wearing a white, skin-tight suit doing in the middle of a vegetable patch, halfway up a mountain.”

“Yes, I can confirm that thought. I just wanted to hear the bigoted truth from your own lips.”

“I’m not a bigot… I’m a painter of words… and you should try moving your own lips once in a while.”

“That felt derogatory.”

“…Although, in retrospect, you looked more like a Kung-Fu master from a Hong Kong martial arts movie. Long white hair, white eyebrows, pale, smooth skin – my-technology-is-better-than-your-technology… darling... The only thing missing was the long white beard.”

“..I don’t have the genes to grow facial hair.”

“That’s interesting – seeing as you’re both male and female.”

“I believe your human term for it is, Androgynous.”

“So, you took one look at my... 'singularity' and wanted to zap my brain…”

“Not zap it… just blank it…”

“Tell me this… With all the bigotry and distrust flying around your planet, why do you not have any wars or conflicts?”

“Our telepathy is our biggest weakness. We can’t block out probing minds. Historically, war has always been predictable, and conflict usually ended in stalemates. To avoid confrontation, our fragmented society became insular and separated. Even family arguments were hard to win, so a law was passed to end any physical acts of communication so as not to offend anyone. Any inadvertent disagreements were conducted via telepathic probing methods. Not being able to hide any thoughts, made us more amenable and truthful.”

“…And uncaringly cold… So, how do you think this little argument will end?”

“You’re not telepathic, so I can project certain suggestions into your thought patterns to win my point… It’s easy…”

“That’s brainwashing.”

“You would get used to it very quickly…”

“…Well, that's clinched it... You're absolutely right. This wouldn’t work out between us.”

“No, it is not to be… So, about your memory… It is regrettable, but...”

“Whoa there, brain invader! You have a safe flight home. It’s been real... Have a nice life out there in androgynous land. Please don’t call me, and try not to die out, won’t you.”

“Wait, I must follow protocol and mind-blank you.”

“No need, I won’t be discussing my relationship with a chick with a dick to anyone.”

“I sense another derogatory comment bordering on rude. Perhaps it’s all worked out how it should have. Your uncouth manner would be most difficult to accept back home. You know, my parents are right in thinking we are a superior species.”

“I’ll try not to let this fast-closing landing ramp hit me on the way out…”

“Earth fool!”

“I may not be telepathic, but I’ll bet you can hear what I’m thinking now…”

“…Yes, you’re thinking about how I have two sets of genitals, and…”

“…and?”

“…Your human sarcasm is insulting, yet confusingly funny… and to answer you, I will… next time I’m in copulatory ecstasy… Goodbye!”

Jeremiah awoke in the centre of a brown patch of forest grass as dewy streaks of morning light streamed through freshly broken tree branches onto his padded sleeping bag, warming his body while he yawned and stretched his rested limbs before rising to his feet. Unclear as to how he ended up sleeping on the charred spot, he brushed some dirt from his woollen tartan shirt, then proceeded to innocently relieve his bladder against a tree, oblivious to the recent events freshly erased from his memory. Ready to tackle the new day, he curiously played with a strange type of sun visor still clipped to his utility belt. Not thinking anything of it, he removed it from his belt, then stored it away in a large camping backpack - resting against a nearby tree. In an habitual, almost mechanical performance, he proceeded to rummage and forage for his morning breakfast. As the groggy after-effects of his recent mind-blank wore off, Jeremiah stooped to pluck a small bit of fungus from the base of a tree - all the while repeatedly reciting to himself, “I am a mountain man. The forest is my supermarket. I am searching for edible mushrooms... Go fuck yourself...

April 29, 2022 08:41

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7 comments

Michał Przywara
20:43 May 06, 2022

Heh, this was a funny story. Considering how it started, a very sci-fi kind of sentry duty, I did not expect where it went. The breakup exchange is well done. There's stages where Jeremiah goes from confused to hurt to defensive, and considering he uses sarcasm to defend himself a lot of the lines turn out funny. "Not having female genitalia is not a problem for me. Makes me feel more of a man…" lol! We don't get a lot of time with the alien since they're on the way out, but the always-on telepathic nature of their species raises some ...

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Chris Campbell
02:12 May 07, 2022

Michal, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my story. I appreciate your kind words and the time you spent responding to mine.

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Gareth Hopkins
14:46 May 05, 2022

Hi, Chris, I got a sent a link to this via the critics circle thing so thought I'd come and check it out. It's a long time since I read anything like this and it really made me smile quite a lot. There's a naivete about the writing style that I like and a couple of bits made me laugh out loud ("Don't you want me to meet your parents...darling...?"). There's a sense of the mundane relationship frustrations we all have with our partners there, but juxtaposed against a conversation about interstellar bigotry. It's sort of surreal and I think ...

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Chris Campbell
15:51 May 06, 2022

Gareth, Thank you for reading my story and for your constructive comments. The first draft was all narrative, and too wordy, so with two days left until the end of the contest, I rewrote the same story, and may have lost a little of the structure in doing so. In the end, I just wanted to tell a domestic dispute story with a twist and show how any relationship - whether it terrestrial or interstellar - can turn sour very quickly. Glad you liked it.

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Lavonne H.
05:12 May 08, 2022

Ouch!!! But funny. An interstellar couple breaking up...is harsh. Was this first contact? Was the copulatory ecstasy against the Prime Directive or what?!! I loved this because...well, just because it's sci fi and I have just enjoyed the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. I just want to share my two cents re the need for more description. Your characters' dialogues shared their personalities so well, that in between the sniping and insults and the broken heart, I felt I knew them well. Personally, I think Jeremiah should listen...

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Chris Campbell
03:07 May 09, 2022

Thanks Lavonne. Jeremiah was just repeating his thoughts captured by the alien in their final argument. I meant it as a small cliff hanger, describing a shard of memory not totally erased. Your First Contact line is funny. One of many Copulatory Ecstasies, I would imagine - again and again and again... I too enjoyed the new Star Trek. It's already better than the Discovery series. Discovery started so well, then transformed into a form of back-patting, self-indulged characters vying for a roll in a Hallmark film. :)

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Lavonne H.
15:56 May 11, 2022

LOL! Agree :)

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