Noah walked home with bruises and blisters on his hands. He cradled one in the other as the now starlit sky glimmered off his blonde hair and in his ever-blue eyes. As he walked he limped, and he groaned. He hadn’t taken that many hits in the scheme of things, but he was still hurting pretty bad. The bruises on his stomach ached and his legs trembled after all the intense movement. After all it had been a while since he’s taken karate as a kid, and most of his strength was from all the physical labor he’d done on the mining colony V-6720, as well as the meat packing plant.
As Noah closed the door to his apartment he nearly collapsed to the floor, using the door to slide down gently. He slowly laid down on his chest and started crawling his way over to the couch. The real challenge however was after reaching the base of the couch. With Noah’s face pressed firmly on the floor he could see underneath the piece of furniture. Underneath was like a whole new world to Noah, although a bit different than the world of Vishta.
There were tons of dust mites and crumpled up candy wrappers. Around the mites and wrappers it was absolute caked with dust and dirt. Despite how disgusting it was, there was a sliver lining. Literally silver because there was some change underneath. With weakened, and limp arms Noah reached for the change and pocketed it. Then after several failed attempts to get onto the couch Noah started to lose some of his steam. He lifted his leg onto the couch and tried using it to get up there but to no avail. Eventually he just gave up and accepted the fact that tonight he belongs to the floor. And as he lay there, weak, and tired. He drifted off to sleep.
(Four Years Ago)
“As you can see by these opposable thumbs, and these strong legs and arms that this creature would be perfect as a laborer on your colony.” A greasy Domin pleaded.
“Er… I don’t know. He looks kind of small…” A mining company associate stated.
Noah stood there trembling before the associate of the mining company. He was wearing nothing but a scrappy poncho and was covered in dirt as well as his own filth. The draft in the lobby they were standing in on Mining Colony V-6720 was unbearable. Noah’s legs were freezing but his face was red as a maraschino cherry. But unlike his legs it was hot as a frying pan. He stood there nervously as the two discussed business.
“Okay, okay. We’ll give you 5,000 Ven for him.” The associate offered.
“Deal!” The Domin handler said as he shook the associate’s hand vigorously.
Outside as loads of other species were corralled back onto the Domin Pirate Ship the Domin handler and Noah sat outside the office. The Domin smoking a cigar he had taken from the now nonexistent planet Earth. Noah looked out at his new home, and it was nothing but gray stone, bright flood lights, and dark, dark skies. After all Mining Colony V-6720 had no sun. It had no renewable resources. It was rich in minerals that could be fabricated into furniture or be used for medication and other pharmaceuticals. But water, food, or any wildlife were completely out of the question. Because of the lack of resources, all of the food and water was cheaply shipped in from elsewhere.
“5,000… only 5,000.” The Domin handler mumbled to himself.
Noah sat there expressionless and literally staring off into space. The Domin smoking the human made cigar looked at him in disgust.
“And look at you. Sitting there with that pathetic look on your face. We could have gotten ten times that amount 32 billion Light-Years back in the other direction if you hadn’t soiled yourself in front of that brothel owner.” The Domin said, taking another drag. “And what’s with the silence? You don’t have to pretend not to speak my language. You really don’t have anything to say about your financial ship crash?”
“I… I hate you…” Noah said begrudgingly.
“HA!” The Domin handler let out a boisterous laugh. “That’s rich! Unlike myself. What could you possibly hate me for?” The large beast-like Domin asked.
“You ruined my life.” Noah softly but bluntly pointed out.
“Ruined your life huh? So I guess plucking you from an imploding planet is what passes for ruining one’s life on your world? Well I have news for you. If we hadn’t taken you, you’d be dead right now. Floating around your atmosphere in more pieces than the planet itself.” The Domin handler said to Noah as he sat there offended. “Better hope you never find yourself on another planet on the edge of destruction.”
The Domin took one last puff of his cigar before throwing it on the ground and stomping it out. One hour later Noah was pulled through a conveyor belt with a bevy of other species. They were hosed off. Noah could feel a sting from the cleaning fluid as it hit his skin which was so delicate by comparison to some of the other species, like the Gwetzels (Another “lesser” species) for example that the staff had to turn the setting down to low. As he went through the whole process he was stamped with his ID number, given his non-removable tracking band, and logged into the indentured worker tracking system. All the creatures that came through the colony were logged in this way.
Organization was the name of the game at Mining Colony V-6720. The tight corridors, and tight living quarters of the colony were there for efficiency. The rooms were 8 feet by 8 feet, and were fitted with a bed, a toilet, and a sink. They were gray and drab like the rocks outside the facility. The lighting in each room was bright and almost fluorescent-like. And worst of all about the lights that were there, was the fact that they couldn’t be turned off. And they were always running. Noah’s first night on V-6720 was him in his locked room, covering his face from the light, and hearing the buzzing of the bulb. But that wasn’t all he heard while trapped inside that “box” they called a bedroom.
He could hear the unruly shouts and screams from outside his room. He could hear the hear the eruption of his home planet in his head, and he could hear the jolting and radiating sound of the energy beam that plucked him from his home. Noah then pulled his pillow from off of his head as a tray of food was slid under his door. The food square like a brick with the texture and pores of a sponge. It was also gray. Very gray, and so was the cup of water next to it. But that was less it’s natural color, and more so because it was filthy and unfiltered. As he lay there on that thin box that barely resembled a mattress Noah began to sulk. But unfortunately for him he would soon feel more than a tinge of melancholy.
The next morning Noah stood in an open chasm with lights suspended on wires that were hanging in gridded formation. The workers were chained to each other by beams of green energy that acted as rope but were hot to the touch to disincentivize tampering on the part of the worker. They were equipped with sledgehammers that had a sonic wave burst function that help break the stone by softening the rocks with each swing and hit that makes contact. Lastly each creatures ID numbers were plastered on the back of their shirts to make it easy for the official staff and security officers to identify and even communicate with them.
Speaking of communication most of the officers were bilingual. They could speak many of the common languages in the intergalactic community zeitgeist. Including but not limited to the languages of “lesser” species such as the Gwetzels, Torvaks, and Blizvains. And naturally they could speak the more common languages like Vishtian, Maltraxian, Wrapthian, and of course even Domin. But that doesn’t mean that issues with language barriers didn’t occasionally slip through the cracks.
“Ve ni toph do graz!” One guard yelled at a tired Noah in Vishtian as Noah gasped, tired, and exhausted in place as he continually tried his best to penetrate the rock before him.
“What?” Noah said in English still gasping.
“Ve ni toph do graz, den ves no stovatesh!” The officer then said, still speaking Vishtian.
“Huh?!” Noah then frustratingly said while speaking Domin.
Noah pissed off and being screamed at in a language he couldn’t understand decided to keep working. Hoping that if he worked harder that the issue would be solved, and that the security officer would leave him alone. He then began smashing into rock and mineral aggressively, blasting it away bit by bit, destroying rock and discolored rock alike. But the officer didn’t stop yelling at him, and even pulled out a stun rod and started making threatening gestures and hand motions. The glow of the stun rod which had the same neon green glow to it as the chains that bound the miners together had gleamed off Noah’s face. The glow of it made Noah nervous and encouraged him to work harder. But the harder he worked the angrier the guard got, and eventually Noah had been struck by the stun rod, singeing his shirt, and knocking him to the ground as he foamed at the mouth from the heat and the paralysis.
Moments later he sat in an office in front of a case worker as the worker went over the report for what happened. The case worker, who fluently spoke Domin explained to Noah that he hadn’t only been breaking away stone but had also been destroying some of the minerals they were there to forage. Noah was removed from the office and put back to work. But as Noah was rechained to the other workers and told to get back at it he stood angry. Angry there hadn’t been more transparency. Angry that the effort hadn’t been made to find someone who could communicate with him. Angry that he had been captured, angry he had been sold, and angry that he was essentially alone, and being forced into labor like some sort of slave.
As Noah worked his anger grew. Then it grew some more. Noah’s anger had grown so immensely that he continued to destroy minerals on purpose. Going so far as to go out of his way to smash them even when they fell to the wayside. Once again it didn’t take long for security to take notice of his actions. The same officer from before came with backup. This time backup that was fluent in Domin. And as the two made demands for Noah to stop they were plainly ignored, and Noah began to work harder yet again but this time for a different reason. This time Noah was out to spite them. And as he struck the rock and the deposits of mineral and ore a vein began popping in his forehead.
And as one of the officers tried restraining him. Noah got pissed off and pushed him back. The security officer in shock unholstered his stun rod powered it up. The neon green glimmering off of not only Noah’s face but also his sledgehammer as Noah raised it with full intention striking the officer down. But before Noah could follow through with his potentially unspeakable he was shot with a powerful, fast dissolving bead that housed tranquilizer liquid. The tranquilizer hit Noah’s system like lightning as he stood frozen with lifeless eyes. As his grip loosened the hammer fell from his hands and took out a chunk of the rocky ground below. Noah would soon follow suit, hitting the ground face first as he was drug off in in front of all of the other miners.
For the next night Noah was held in a small 6x6 room with no bed and no sink. Only a toilet. As Noah lay there on the floor with a thin twelfth of an inch thick black comforter as a tray was slid under his cell door. The tray had a block of food on it half the size of what he had been given the previous night and somehow 2x darker. This time without the cup of water. Noah stared at the tray with flared nostrils and an iron grip on his comforter. And the next night, he’d show that anger by pulling the same stunt. And in turn he was thrown into the brig for three nights. And then he’d pull the same stunt again. Now it was five days in the brig, and then after doing so again, a week. and before Noah knew it his anger had turned to fear.
Once thrown back into the chasm Noah was put back to work. His fingers holding the end of that sledgehammer began to tremble. Noah sniffled, held back a tear and got back to work. As he worked he stood shoulder to shoulder with species like Gwetzels, and Torvaks. He did his best to keep up with there swings and each time he carved out a mineral or piece of ore, he’d throw it behind him with the rest. As he worked he tried to avoid eye contact with what were to him, nightmarish creatures from another world. Creatures that looked as if they popped right off the screen of a 1950s B-Movie.
And in the coming days Noah would continue to work hard. Work so he could remain fed. Remain clothed. Remain hopeful, despite his broken spirit. He’d keep his head down. Lay low as not to attract attention from the security staff or the other miners. And he’d continue to do that for the following weeks, then months, and then the following years. Until one day after three long years as an indentured servant and galactic miner. It was finally over. The Foreign Species Rights Bill had been passed, and Noah had been loaded up on a Vishtian ship along with the Gwetzels, the Torvaks, and the Blizvains, and they were then shipped off to Vishta, the Capitol Planet of the galaxy.
There they’d be fed, lodged, and taught to be integrated into the Vishtian society. Noah would start over. Once again learning how to read, how to write. Learn about the subtle differences in technology from his civilization to this new one. As he sat at the chow hall the food still looked strange and foreign to him. But one think he thought as he looked at it was “at least there’s a few different colors there.” Which oddly relieved him. Perhaps even a few more shades of certain colors he had never seen before. As he held a utensil that vaguely resembled a spoon and looked down at a plate with items on it that vaguely resembled food he shoveled some of it in his mouth. And as he tasted real flavors again. He had a soft smile on his face. The first smile he’d had since before he’d been stolen from his home planet. And now knowing that he could smile like that again. He figured “Hey” why not giving life another shot?
Over the coming year Noah had made great strides in learning the Vishtian language and about their currency. He learned about Vishta’s traffic laws, and their geology. About their public transportation, and their businesses, animals, plants, and even the various species inhabiting the planet both old and new. And after being taught how to function in this new society he had been assigned a living quarter, given temporary employment, and 1,500 Ven to get him started. And last but not least he was assigned a professional therapist.
“Um… excuse me.” Noah said as he softly knocked on his therapists’ room then entered.
“Oh please Mr. Graham no need to be so shy. Or formal for that matter. Why don’t you go ahead and take a seat and we’ll get started with our first session?” Greshit said as she swiveled around in her chair.
“S-sure thing.” Noah said slightly less nervously as he entered the room and shut the door behind him.
Blurred background with his eyelashes in the foreground clear as crystal. Then the opposite. Noah’s entire body was collapsed on the floor next to his couch as he rest cheeks pressed flat on the ground as a pool of drool sat puddled on the floor next his face. He groaned and began to stretch as he slowly picked himself off the ground. He then gained his senses as he startling darted his gaze toward his alarm clock. The symbols on the clock translated to 4:15 AM. And with that knowledge Noah let out a sigh of relief. Mainly because he didn’t have to be at work until 7:00 O’clock AM.
As Noah walked with moist eyes and a groggy demeanor he turned on his VISOR to the morning news and let play in the background. He then walked his way over to the kitchen counter to brew himself a cup of zellos. His brewer worked much like a regular coffee machine. It heated up the water and mixed with the crystals until they dissolved creating a zellos formula. But unlike instant coffee or coffee grounds a cup of zellos isn’t instantly consumable after mixing. The zellos first has to settle and then be mixed with the Vishtian equivalent to vanilla extract. After that the harmful chemicals in zellos that numb lip and limb are neutralized, and the combination even adds a hint of sweetness.
As the zellos was sitting on the counter brewing and settling Noah disrobed down to his drawers and then removed those before then entering the shower. He felt the warm water hit his face and then trickle down his chest and back. The soothing touch of hot water on skin juxtaposed against his aching muscles and the sting when the water met his blistered knuckles was an odd sensation. But still despite the occasional stint of pain Noah knew he’d need that shower to recover in time for work. Still though, as Noah clenched his fist and held it in front of him he felt powerful. Powerful in a way he hadn’t felt before and especially since he’d been whisked away by those pirates all those years ago.
In fact he’d been dehumanized and had his power stricken away from him on V-6720. When he was forced into manual labor and thrown in a cell over and over. When he was fed food that even a dog wouldn’t eat and degraded to the point of no longer being able to make eye contact with anyone. The pieces to the puzzle that was once Noah Graham had laid scattered, but with that action Noah could finally feel the pieces coming back together.
Although those pieces had already started to be reassembled, this was the inciting action that made Noah really start to feel as if he were coming back into his own. But as he stood there in the shower he thought back to when he got to Vishta. Then he thought about Greshit, and his first few therapy sessions. He realized when he opened up to her about his experiences that may have been the beginning of the puzzle’s reassembly. And as he thought about how he brutally brought down those Maltraxian thugs. It ticked in his brain. What would Greshit think about what happened? He thought to himself.
“I want you to have one and just one conversation with a stranger from Vishta. Maybe try to sculpt a friendship from it even?” His brain wandered back to his last meeting and the assignment Greshit had given him.
It was then that Noah had found himself with a bit of a moral dilemma. He wanted so badly not to disappoint Greshit. She had done so much for him since the beginning of his reintegration into society. But at the same time he was sick and tired of looking down at the floor. Unable to make eye contact with any other species that tried to look him in the eyes. He was caught up in the rush of power that seemingly surged through his fingertips. And the respect he had for his therapist and her wishes. Then as he turned the valve to his shower he exited and dried himself off.
He sat out on the couch moments later drinking his cup of zellos. He watched the news while sipping it, consuming both the beverage and the caffeine it contained. Then as he looked at the screen he watched as the news anchor went on a political rant about the Foreign Species Rights Bill. And as the anchor continued to question the validity of Noah and over half a dozen other species legal citizenship, Noah’s blood began to boil. Noah grabbed a pen and paper and prepared to write out all of his angry feelings onto a piece of paper in the form of poetry and short stories. But as Noah sat there getting ready to bring pen to paper he felt as if something was missing, and that his usual venting process wasn’t going to cut it.
Then despite his aches and his pain Noah then threw himself to the floor and began do as many push ups as he could muster. He felt his arms tense up as he did them but despite that he knew this what he had to do. He felt this was the perfect way to get his frustrations out and to help him prepare for… prepare for. Well even he wasn’t quite sure what he was preparing for. But with what felt like warrior’s blood now flowing through his veins this was the only thing he could currently do to quell the thirst he now had for that news anchor’s head.
Later that morning on his walk to the bus station before work, he felt himself walking at a much brisker pace than normal. He moved with his head held high and walked with an unshakable confidence. And as he sat on the bus making his way to work. He saw the same Torvak woman from the other morning on the bus only a few seats in front of him. He thought about Greshit and then considered going and talking to her. He wanted to apologize to her for the other day. For pretending that he didn’t speak the same language and essentially making an awkward conversation for her.
But as he sat there looking at her. He began to think. He thought on the fact that he didn’t really want to talk to her. And not for the usual reasons such as his own insecurities and fears about potentially opposing species. Instead he felt he didn’t owe her any sort of apology. And though he didn’t, the reasons weren’t the most reasonable out there. He ultimately decided to bite his lip and stay put.
As he got to work he started working harder than ever before. Packing meat, canning meat, never missing a beat, and stringing it up using his hands and his feet. Throwing large animal carcasses up onto hooks all by his lonesome. He felt his arms strain after a while but managed to gain his second wind. And as he worked his ass off his coworkers began to take notice. And as his coworkers took notice his boss took notice. His boss looked down at him through the glass of his second-floor office. At first he was pleased, but the longer he looked he actually began to worry. He started noticing the subtleties and mannerisms of human expression. What he started to realize was Noah wasn’t determined but pissed off. Really pissed off. He then stepped down from his office to check on him.
“Noah…” The boss man said as Noah worked.
Noah determined kept pulling the chain. Heaving and hoisting large carcasses off the ground and suspending them into the air.
“You are doing some good work there…” The boss told him.
Noah then swiftly pierced and hoisted another carcass into the air.
“But don’t you think you should slow down a bit?”
Noah kneeling on the ground refrained from piercing the dead animal carcass for a moment. He then stuck the unusually shaped, and skinned creature before continuing to do his work with intensity and vigor like never before.
“Slow…” Noah softly said as he breathed heavily. “Think you could make up your mind?”
Noah then began hoisting up another one. Straining his arms as he did.
“Well yeah normally, but son-”
“I’M NOT YOUR DAMN SON!” Noah snarled as the boss backed off.
“Right… k-keep up the good work.” The boss said as he let Noah be.
And as Noah’s boss slowly wobbled back to his office Noah looked at him. He then looked down at his hands after he ferociously pierced what used to be the throat of an animal carcass. A sense of melancholy wrung over him until he thought about everything his boss had said to him in the past. He then sneered as got back to work. Tackling his work with the same fierceness he’d tackled it with the last few hours.
Later that evening on his way home from work Noah had purposely walked through the same Maltraxian neighborhood from the other night. He could have easily taken a different route but for whatever reason he wanted to go this way. Walking passed the same morose and sharp Maltraxian churches and gothic themed houses with red tinted glass. He knew it might be dangerous to walk through this area after what had happened, but strangely Noah knew that might be what he wanted. And after realizing that, it shook him. He then thought back to Greshit once more. But this time it wasn’t going to affect his thought process. He slowed his pace and removed his hands from his jacket pocket.
Noah then looked forward with a devilish grin. Hoping some boogeyman would jump out and try to take what was rightfully his. Hoping some drunk Maltraxian would ask for due recompense to the Church of Maltrax. That being said it didn’t need to be a Maltraxian. It could be anything or anyone. A Maltraxian, a Torvak, a Vishtian, a Gwetzel, it really didn’t matter. Noah then pulled out a coin and started flipping it as he began to whistle. He whistled all the way through the neighborhood as his whistles echoed through the streets.
The next day on his way to work again Noah sat near the back of the bus looking at the same Torvak yet again. He then looked out onto the Vishtian skyline. Looking at all the superior architecture that Vishta had to offer. All the flying vehicles as well as exotic flying animals. He looked on as the bright red sky gleamed off the water of the lake he was riding past. Every time he rode to work he was always amazed by how the Vishtian society looked and operated. It was similar to Earth but in many ways far more advanced.
A large majority of the planet was powered by both solar and hydro power. The rest of the planet was powered by environmentally safe minerals that were foraged by mining colonies much like V-6720. And the lake? The lake did a little more than just power part of a planet. It was also home to over 80 species of aquatic life. Some of the most common of which were a serpentine creature known simply as the sting, an animal which rides the top of the lake like a pack of dolphins. They’re long and scaly with a spine of spikes. And as Noah sat looking out, he thought of how majestic the wildlife, and city skyline looked paired together. It helped put his mind at ease for a moment. Anything to distract him from his growing thoughts of aggression.
Later at work it was the same routine as before. Packing meat, canning meat, never missing a beat, and stringing it up using his hands and his feet. Throwing large animal carcasses up onto hooks all by his lonesome. And as he did it this time he kept an even more aggressive pace. And as he worked his boss and coworkers just looked on in worry. Then later that night he made a cup of zellos, stood in the shower, and felt the water wash over his aching body, and then did angry pushups while watching the news. The following night was similar. Ignore the others on the bus, destroy it at work, drink zellos, take shower, and then pushups. The following was much the same. Bus, work, zellos, shower, and pushups. And then the same the following night.
Then before Noah knew it as he was making his way home from work, it was now the weekend. His therapy session was the next morning and he hadn’t even tried to do his “homework” that Greshit assigned to him. And he didn’t even feel as if he wanted to. But it’s funny, you rarely find something when you’re looking for it. In this case it was companionship. As Noah walked, several feet ahead of him was a woman. She was standing perched over the railing looking out at the lake. Watching as the purple sky bounced off the lake’s reflection, distorting the two suns the sit up in the sky.
Noah paused to look at her for a moment. She wasn’t like any other creature he’d met yet on the Capitol Planet of Vishta. She stood at a half a foot shorter than him. Her hair was long, black, and flowed like silk. But more surprising than that was the fact that she had hair to begin with. Her fingernails were black, almost as if there was nail polish on them but they were all natural. Her eyes were deep white with what would be the whites of a human’s eye being a dark black for her. Her eyebrows were thin in appearance but dense and luscious, unlike that of her lips which were just thin. Her ears were pointed like an elf, and her skin was a just of few shades darker than his own pale complexion. She was very appeared very human with the exception of those key details.
Plus her clothing was very flattering on her. She was wearing black tights with an odd flower pattern on them, printed in white. A pattern that he didn’t recognize. The vines connecting them had rose like thorns on them. And the flower petals themselves were sharp as daggers according to the rendition. Her tank top was also black, but her hoodie was white like her eyes. With a black pattern of the bud of that same flower. Lastly there was her boots. Which were a combination of a black leathery material, with white straps and a white base.
As smitten by her as Noah admittedly already knew he was he ultimately decided he was going to leave it alone. Besides he had no idea what species she is and has no idea how to approach her. On top of that he just doesn’t feel like he’s in a position where he can be sociable. After all just at the beginning of this week had just gotten into the fight of his life. A fight that he fears may have awoken something dangerous inside of himself. He had decided in that moment just to ignore her. Despite his curiosity.
“So you’re the human right?” The girl asked that as she then unperched from the railing. Noah caught off guard was stopped right in his tracks and in his thoughts.
“Mrex, bor doshby tek Vishtian.” Noah said speaking Domin, roughly translating to Sorry, I don’t speak Vishtian.
“Mrex, droc bor altrexky freth lurt tek Vishtian.” The girl then told him while speaking Domin as well, which roughly translated to Sorry, but I already know you speak Vishtian.
Noah stood standing there like an earthly deer in a human car’s headlights. The last thing he was expecting was for this delicate looking beauty of a specimen to speak such a droll language from such a brutish race. Although that being said, as far as he’d known he never saw a Domin female. After all, for all he knew this was one. The thought of her with someone like his previous handler for example literally made his skin crawl. However she knew the language, Noah’s bluff had been called, and all that was left was to confront her.
“So you’re the human right?” the girl asked again.
“Yes” Noah said before pausing a moment. “I am.”
“It’s nice to meet you. My name’s Faytana. But you can call me Fay.” Faytana said as she held out her hand for a handshake, catching Noah off guard.
“A handshake?” Noah said with a tinge of confusion.
“Of course silly” Faytana said with her arm and her hand stretched forward. “It’s not going to bite you I promise.” She said laughing.
Noah stared at her hand for a moment. Looking down at it with a confused grin. Most creatures on Vishta didn’t handshake. Tapping their shoulders if they had them. Or even locking arms were far more common forms of greeting someone. Handshakes were greetings done primarily by homo sapiens. This is the reason for Noah’s confusion. It was odd because he hadn’t greeted anybody this way since he was back on his home planet of Earth. And as he looked down at her hand he felt nostalgic. Even though it was just for a moment’s time. He then sighed, took a deep breath, and put on an even bigger smile as has he met her hand with his. Shaking her hand he felt very comfortable. And suddenly just like magic, all of Noah’s angry feelings he’d been storing up for the past week were gone. Just like that.
“Just like that.” Noah whispered.
“What was that?” Faytana asked.
“Oh it’s nothing. Just talking to myself.”
“Is that something human’s do often?”
“Oh all the time. But hypocritically when we see somebody else doing it, we have largely the same reaction that you just did.” He told her with a nervous chuckle.
“Well it is an appropriate reaction.” Faytana said with a giggle.
“Anyways how do you know that I’m a human?”
The girl then laughed again and perched back up onto the railing. Hoping to catch the last hour and some odd minutes of the purple sky within this sunset. She then motioned for him to join her, using hand gestures that were familiar to Noah. How does she know this stuff? Noah wondered to himself. But it almost didn’t matter. There was a comfort to it. And after all she could have easily learned through research, what has already been known about Earth culture or even through what was archived in Noah’s very own testimonies about Earth. Noah met her side by side on that railing, and they talked while being greeted by the last glimpse of the two suns for the night.
“Honestly you’re the last of your kind and you actually didn’t expect me to know what you were. Plus you’re not really all that hard to find. You address is public. You take the same walk and bus ride to work every day, and you have a pretty distinct look about you to boot.”
“A distinct look huh? And what type of look is that exactly?” He asked.
“It’s a look of… unremarkability.”
“Wow… harsh.” Noah said admittedly slightly stung by that comment. “But you know. In the scheme of things you don’t look all that differently to me. So you’re just dogging on yourself.” Noah fired back with.
“Are you comparing me to an animal?” Faytana angrily replied, which was met with a brief moment of defensiveness.
“No woah wait! That’s just an expression!” Noah nervously said before stopping to think for a moment.
Wait a second… he thought to himself. How does she know what a dog is? Has she seen the last one living? Are dogs documented in the Earth archive? Noah was confused and caught off guard by that. However he didn’t let it shake him too much. This was more or less one of the first few positive interactions he’s had with a foreign species on Vishta. And he wasn’t about to scare her off because of a few vague suspicions he may have had of her.
“I guess what I meant to say was… sorry.” Noah then told her as she smiled at him.
“How about we go for a walk.” She suggested.
As they walked they talked for almost half an hour, and before Noah had known it they passed his bus stop. But he didn’t mind. He didn’t really know it but ever since arriving on Vishta this, what they were doing right now was the type of social interaction that he’d been craving ever since. They walked on sidewalks as urban land vehicles rode past them in a blur. Through the city at night as automobiles of the sky whizzed over their heads, and even sat at park benches as other late-night pedestrians walked their Zorfaks. Which was essentially the Vishtian equivalent to a puppy. But instead of fur there was more, slime. And skin that was like a stress relief ball. Strange creatures for sure. But just a cute as, and also just as a cuddly as your average canine.
“So how’s Vishta been treating you so far?” Faytana asked him.
“It’s been… well it’s been great… yeah great I guess.”
“You don’t sound very sure.”
“Yeah well… It’s not that it’s not a great place it’s just not…”
“Precisely.” Noah said putting his finger on his nose, a gesture Faytana didn’t quite understand but rolled with the punches anyway. “I think that Vishta would have been a fascinating discovery. A great place to see pictures of or maybe even a great place to visit. But like you said… It’s just not my home.”
“I know what you mean.” Faytana said in agreement.
“Then you know there are other planets I could go to if I wanted. You could argue that there are even more options for me now than there’s ever been. But the one place that feels right is just… well it’s no longer an option. And that, that, that stings a bit.” Noah said, at a loss for words there for a moment.
“Let me tell you something Noah. I’m what they call a member of the Nierdesh. And my home world is gone as well. It’s been that way for ten years now.” Faytana enlightened him.
“Ten… years?” Noah said with melancholy and empathy. “Are you also the last of your kind?” Noah then asked out fear and curiosity. Faytana flashed him a bit of a half-smile.
“No not exactly. The Nierdesh were already incorporated into Vishtian society to an extent. And a good number of us were abroad when our planet was destroyed. So I’m not technically alone in that sense.”
“Well that’s a relief.” Noah said that completely believing he meant it. Despite that he knows there was a part of himself who wished she really was the las of her kind. Because then at the very least he wouldn’t be the only one who was alone. This thought sickened him, and it made him hate himself almost as much as he already hated the inhabitants of Vishta. Faytana continued.
“Yeah it is. But I can’t say there aren’t a good number of creatures out there who wish us gone. Even in Vishtian society.” Faytana said that with an Icey look in her deep white and black eyes. And those eyes were staring right at Noah for a moment. Piercing him with their yin and yang like demeanor and look.
Noah’s blood ran cold. He’d never met a Nierdesh before Faytana and he’s never read anything about them. And the way that she looked at him when she said that. After he thought what he’d thought. Can she read my mind? Noah pondered. Did she feel my momentary resentment? He then questioned. And he had every right to. The timing was all too perfect, or perhaps imperfect depending on how you looked at it. He had the feelings he did and now she’s looking at him the way she is. It’s uncanny… Noah thought.
“Wh-why do you say that?” Noah asked with his spine in chills.
Faytana looked forward, softening her Icey glare. “It’s just nobody likes the Nierdesh. We’ve always been seen as more of a menace to society. Not that I can blame them for that…”
Noah seemed to calm down a bit upon hearing that news. Not that he was happy that Faytana’s seemingly had it pretty rough. But happy that she couldn’t read his mind after all. And even though he was still alone in the sense that he was the last of his kind. At least he wasn’t the only homesick creature out there. He’d be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that it was nice to have someone to relate to. Even though it was tragedy in which they were relating. It was in that moment that a timer went off in Faytana’s pocket.
“I got to get going. It was nice meeting you Noah.” Faytana said as she removed a communications device from her pocket, silencing the timer.
“Wait a second…” Noah had just realized. “I never told you my name.”
“Hmph.” Faytana said as she looked back at him with a smirk. “I guess you’re not as invisible as you once thought then huh?” She said, then turning her back on him.
“Wa-wait, Faytana!” Noah yelled out of desperation as she grew farther and farther away from him. “Will we see each other again?” He asked boisterously.
“We’ll see I guess.” She said walking as she turned to face him one last time. “And Fay is fine!” She said leaving him with that last phrase.
Fay is fine? Noah thought to himself with a smile. And once she was no longer in sight Noah couldn’t help but burst into laughter. But he wasn’t laughing because anything was funny. He was laughing because he was actually happy. That may have been the first moment of true joy he’s felt since arriving on Vishta. He was laughing because of all the interactions that he’s had up until this point, they all seemed so toe curdling but that one seemed so easy. It was ironic really. He’d been avoiding interactions like that for so long. And the best part of it was he’d actually finished the assignment that Greshit had given him. Just like that. The thirst for confrontation and that feeling of hate had been quenched.
That following morning Noah was pumped for his next therapy session with Greshit. He threw on his clothes, stopped in at a zellos brewery and got himself a nice cup of zellos with some added flavoring. Poyo flavoring to be precise, a fruit that tasted like bananas, was sof on the inside like a banana was round like a baseball. He felt in the mood for something sweet and delightful since he had such a delightful the previous evening. He even greeted fellow Vishtian citizens as they walked their Zorfaks. As he entered Greshit’s office she was surprised to see the man who walked in. Happy and full of enthusiasm.
“Well Mr. Graham this is a nice surprise.” She said. “I take it your little homework assignment went well then?” She asked.
“It went phenomenally.” Noah said as he took his seat. “I talked for hours with this girl last night and it had to be one of the most pleasant conversations I’ve had in a while.”
“Oh really?” Greshit retorted with, both excited for him yet a little jealous at the same time. “And what did you two talk about?”
Noah then proceeded to catch Greshit up on their conversation. He told her about how she recognized who he was. That her name was Faytana, and that she could speak Domin as well. That she had lost her home world too and about her impeccable sense of style. And he told Greshit about all this without losing his enthusiasm.
“Well I see you’ve had quite the night.” Greshit said as she noticed his hands. “What is that?” She then pointed out noticing Noah’s battered knuckles.
Noah looked down at his hands having almost forgotten about the encounter. And just as he saw them it all came flooding back to him. The Maltraxian encounter. The thugs’ fists flying through the air as he dodged one punch after the other. The way he felt as his fists contacted their faces. Then in a flash his excitement turned into regret.
“Oh this…” Noah said nervously. “I may have gotten into a fight with some Maltraxian thugs.” He told her as he jaw metaphorically dropped.
“When? And how?” She asked in shock.
“I was on my way home when they tried to rob me. I gave them what I had but I guess it wasn’t good enough for the Maltraxian Church. So after already having hit me once, they hit me again and stole my wallet along with the Ven I’d already given them. So… I took back what was mine.” Noah said clenching his fists as he’d done before.
“Well why didn’t you just call for help?” Greshit asked disappointed.
“In a Maltraxian neighborhood! Seriously!” Noah went from calm to visibly furious in an instant. “Why didn’t I just yell and wave my arms up and down while I was at it!? And then by the time the thugs were already gone all the Maltraxians around could come down and give me seconds and thirds while they were at it!” Noah yelled.
“Noah!” Greshit then yelled to regain his attention. “What made you think that fighting back was the best option. You should have contacted the authorities. Violence is never the answer.” She said with resolve.
“Violence is what got me back my Vishtian citizenship ID.”
“We-well y-yes of course but…”
“Violence allowed me to keep the money I had to eat on for the week.” Noah said now standing and pointing.
“And you know what else Greshit! It felt damn good to do what I did. Because I kicked their asses like you wouldn’t believe. And you know what I think? I think maybe, just maybe… I wouldn’t mind doing it again!” Noah yelled with flared nostrils and Satan’s look in his eye.
“Please…” Greshit said with a squeaked voice and low volume.
Noah could see himself in Greshit’s large trembling eyes for a moment. And didn’t like what he saw. He felt ashamed. As a Wrapthian Greshit was taller and larger than Noah. She looked strange and foreign to him. After all she wasn’t a human, so he’d never thought too hard about showing her humanity. But maybe that was a mistake. And it was in that moment that Noah realized what Greshit had been trying to teach him since he’d started his sessions with her. That the people of the Capitol Planet of Vishta were just that, people. She had said straight to his face so many times, but it took him terrifying her for him to finally see it. And for him to see how dangerous of a person he was becoming. Ironic because he had always seen those around him as the dangerous ones.
“Could you please sit… Mr. Graham.” Greshit said, regaining most of her composure.
“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry.” Noah said calmly as he sat back down in his chair. “If it’s okay with you Greshit… I’d like to steer the subject back towards Faytana…” He then said with guilt in his eyes.
“That sounds… like a good idea.” Greshit retorted. “So this Faytana? That’s an interesting name. By chance, what species is she?” Greshit finally asked.
“She told me she was a Nierdesh ma’am.” Noah said not thinking anything of it.
After Noah said that Greshit’s eyes had widened and began to tremble again. Noah was perplexed. He didn’t know what he’d said that was so wrong. Is it because Faytana’s a Nierdesh? He wondered. What are the Nierdesh that they could elicit such a reaction? Noah sat up in his chair with curiosity and asked. “Ma’am, er I mean Mrs. Greshit. What is a Nierdesh?” Noah then asked.
“And you said you got in this fight before meeting this girl right?” Greshit asked.
“Yeah, why? What’s a Nierdesh Mrs. Greshit.”
“And you’re sure you haven’t been in contact with her before?” Greshit then asked.
Noah was getting a little frustrated. “Yes! Now what is a Nierdesh!?” He asked again.
“I think we’re going to cut this session short. I just remembered that I had to meet someone today so… I’ll wire you the money that would have been spent for the rest of the session.” Greshit then said as she scurried a confused Noah out of her office, then shut the door.
“What is a Nierdesh?” Noah then just whispered to himself. He then placed his ear on the door to Greshit’s room and could hear her sobbing. This was a strange sensation for him. Outside of the occasional VISOR entertainment program Noah had never heard one of these species crying before. He unslouched his bag and walked out of the building. On his way to the bus stop his mind raced at a million miles an hour.
As he walked he ignored all of the oncoming traffic and the forthcoming pedestrians. The whole way to the station Noah stood high but with a head held low. He couldn’t help but feel regret for how he treated Greshit. And though he felt no remorse for those Maltraxian thugs and believed he saw to it that they got what they deserved. He knew that it could act as a domino effect barreling him down a darker path. And lastly there was the issue of Faytana and the Nierdesh race. He had already decided, he was going to investigate the Nierdesh and what they are. After all with he knew that with Greshit’s reaction to them there must be something to it. He only hoped it wasn’t something too sinister.
Noah then sat at the bus station reflecting on these thoughts. He knew he had to get it together. He had already been teetering on the edge since V-6720, and whilst he had recovered some of his sanity from his therapy sessions and relative return to normalcy. Home, job, “TV” (VISOR), etc. There was still a part of him that was trapped there in that 8x8 room. A piece of his soul stuck on a Domin pirate’s ship. And chip of his humanity stuck in orbit, looking at the shards of his shattered home world. Looking out at the stars beyond with a sense of fear and sadness.
As Noah sat on the bus he felt as if he were sinking into his seat. He peered out from just above the bottom of the window out to that purple evening sky. And as he watched the colors of that fiery red sun, and the blue dwarf off in the distance blend together to create that iconic purple skyline, only seen on the Vishta, the Capitol Planet. He felt it almost symbolic to his current situation. The azure nature of his humanity meeting the inferno of his deep prejudicial rage. Battling it out in a constant struggle for his heart and mind.
But this battle would have to wait. It was his stop, and he had a lot to sleep on. He stood up to get off the bus and as he stood he was forced to wait as the cavalcade of species from Torvaks to Gwetzels fought their way off the bus, forcing Noah into a momentary stalemate. And as the stampede had passed Noah frustratingly entered at the back of the line. Finally as the line before him slowly made its way to the end of the bus and out of the busses exit he was getting closer and closer to that finish line. But then just as he was getting ready to jump off, just like clockwork the bust door was closed in his face. Assuming he had gone unnoticed like he had many times before he turned to face the bus driver.
“Hey, I was getting off here.”
Noah said that calmly as the bus driver ignored him and took off. Noah losing his balance from standing on the moving bus got even more frustrated.
“Hey, that was my exit!” Noah said as he slammed his hand on the dash and leaned in to face the driver. “Are you even listening to me!?” Noah cried out yet still ignored by the driver.
“If you’re curious of whether or not he’s listening to you Mr. Graham then the answer is yes.” A large alien in a suit standing near the back of the bus pointed out while adjusting his tie. “However I can assure you… he chooses to ignore your pleas.” He then said with a smirk, as a look of shock lay smeared across Noah’s face.