Chapter 23: Wounded, but convicted
They all entered the gas station ahead of Selene. She trailed behind as she gathered her thoughts. The town was on its head, driven to madness. She had come to earth on a scouting mission, like many had done before. Like she had done with her mother so many years ago. Her mother was gone, but she couldn’t help but wonder if her ghost was among the stars witnessing the turmoil that had resulted from her carelessness. She never should have been spotted by the Airforce, and consequently shot down. She never should have let them get so close.
She entered the gas station; there were blood smears up and down a food aisle. A man was butchered and hanging off the front counter. She couldn’t take it anymore. She crossed her long legs and sat down on the floor. She cried.
She was spotted by Mandy, who came to her. Mandy crossed her legs and joined her on the floor. Their knees touched. Mandy signed to her, “What’s wrong?”
“Everything,” Selene signed. “All of this is my fault.”
“You can’t say that,” Mandy signed back. “This is not your fault.”
“I brought this upon all of you. If only I’d been more aware of my surroundings, my radar. If only I’d seen those missiles coming sooner. All of this could have been avoided.”
Mandy shook her head, “No. I reject that. Mankind brought all of this on our own heads. We’re too damn greedy. We see something shiny; we commit genocide so we can have it to ourselves. We see a new technology; we shoot the owner of it out of the sky and cause an outbreak on our own species. We are royally screwed up.”
“That may be,” Selene signed, “But I could have done better.”
“We can always do better, Selene, that doesn’t mean we are to blame.” Mandy paused for a moment, and then she shed a tear. “You all shouldn’t integrate with us. We’re not safe. We’ll inevitably find some way to enslave you or kill you off.”
For the first time in her existence, Selene disagreed with the last sentiment. She could see now that there were some humans who were loving and kind. That were understanding and inclusive. All these years later, and she was still seeing things her mother had seen before her. She couldn’t help but wonder if her own mother had once sat down and talked it out with a human like she was doing.
Mandy stood up. “I’m going to hug you. It’s a custom among humans. It’s something that can convey compassion, love, or friendship. Extend your arms like mine.” They both extended their arms wide. “Do as I do.”
Mandy stepped up to Selene and wrapped her arms around her.
Selene didn’t know what to make of it, but then she remembered she was supposed to repeat her motion. She wrapped her arms around Mandy’s comparatively small frame. And they just stayed like that. Mandy rested her cheek on Selene’s shoulder. Selene could feel a warmth coming over her reptilian body. In her chest she could feel the beating heart of Mandy through hers. The warm feeling swept its way all over her body. It was a feeling she used to feel when her mother would put her to bed as a child. Her mother would tell her one of their many traditions, and then she would rest her hand on Selene’s insignia and remind her of what it meant: Despite all our differences, we're all made of the same material.
Selene pulled Mandy back from out of the hug, so she could talk to her once more. “I have been very wrong for many years. But I see now what my mother saw in humanity. She saw passed the loud and obnoxious, the angry and bitter, and she saw you. And people like you. People with good hearts, warm ghosts inside. She saw the warmth. Maybe she even felt it like I have tonight. From you and your friends.” She looked around. Elderton and the others had been watching. “Mandy, translate for me.” Selene stood up and signed to the group. “I am thankful to have met such wonderful women. Such strong people. Such loving and caring people.” Mandy continued to translate for the others. Selene continued with tears. “I used to disagree wholeheartedly with my mother that the likes of you existed here on Earth, but I was wrong. Tonight has proven to me what my mother knew long ago, that humanity at its core is good. And good always conquers over hate. Love always prevails. Hate may rule for a space, but compassion and understanding rules for centuries.” Selene knew what she had to do, but she didn’t want to part company. She felt she had so much more to learn from her new friends. “I must leave you all. I must go destroy the pod which has brought the poison into your town. I must make my amends. I suspect I won’t return from my mission. I wish I had more time with all of you. But know this, I want you all to keep being your true selves. Do not be ashamed. Let your inner ghosts shine outward, warm and true.” She took her finger and traced the insignia on her chest, but this time she closed her eyes and focused her energy to it. The triangles lit up in purple hues. “Despite all our differences, we’re all made of the same material.”
They all came in, one by one, and joined in a group hug with Selene. She had never felt so much warmth. Her insignia shone brighter and brighter until the entire gas station had purple hues bouncing around its walls and ceiling.
Please subscribe to our newsletter to learn about new publications of stories and more.
About the Blog
Stories, excerpts, writing tips, guest bloggers, writing prompts, and more. A place to share and grow as a writer. Feel free to subscribe, submit something for the blog, or dive into the comments.