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Friday Flash Fiction: A Pilgrimage

March 1, 2013

I am sweating. I’m trying not to sweat because I know what the consequences might be.

If they twig just how alien I am – I don’t want to think about it. A cold, spiky itch starts on my back, but I’m still hot. When I fell in that lake, the circuitry on my travel suit must have blown, or something. How am I supposed to know how it all works? All I can tell you is that the cooling has given out, and this is the hottest I have been in a long time.

The officer comes for me. I am used to the sight of these people now, with their alligator skin, silvery like the moon, and their light, gauzy tunics. She seems friendly enough, I suppose, but I can’t quite warm to them. In my mind they are still invaders, usurpers. They are in occupation.

That doesn’t matter now. I am the one who is under the radar and I must comply. I am winging it, because the translation kit has packed up too, and the calm voice in my ear has stopped dropping those cultural navigation hints that were so annoying until they were gone.

She touches my shoulder as she guides me out of the cell and a strange look crosses her face. Confusion, I think. Dangerous! She speaks to me, and the language might as well be whale song. I have no idea. Her expression is almost human – motherly, even – and she touches my shoulder again. The sweat is evaporating through my damp suit. I hope my dip in the lake is enough of an explanation for that and then I wonder if they will think I’m just ill. I see immediately how stupid that idea is. No matter how ill you are, you can’t sweat if you don’t have the glands.

She gestures at her own tunic and at last I realise that she’s offering to bring me dry clothes. I shake my head and skitter away, trying not to look scared. They mustn’t see.

I follow her to what I think must be an interrogation room. There is another officer there. This one is smaller, and I decide that he must be a man. He is wearing the same weightless tunic that everyone wears, that even I’m wearing. As I sit down, I catch sight of myself, reflected in the small window behind the officers. I have not seen a mirror since I first left my ship a fortnight ago and I stare at the strange image. I am surprised to be reminded that I am reptilian, too.

The man begins to speak. We rely so much these days on translation tech that nobody really bothers to learn other languages – not even human ones, let alone anything else. I find myself bitterly regretting it as the two officers began to question me and I am forced to play dumb. An idiot, even a foreign one, might be released as too much trouble. An off-world human? Never.

Eventually one of them fetches a kind of tablet, supplementing speech and gestures with images scribbled or downloaded onto the screen. They want to know where I came from, where my papers are. I shrug, as expansively and expressively as I can. The papers disappeared into the lake, but I don’t know how to explain. They were faked anyway.

The officers are patient, and even with those gaping sharp-toothed grins they seem almost gentle. But they soon realise that they’re wasting their time. They don’t know what to do with me. The man takes me back to the cell and gestures for me to stay there. As if I have a choice.

The door closes and I put my head in my hands. I’m so hot I can barely think.

Gran was right. I should never have come. All I wanted was the chance to see my home planet. A pilgrimage, I said. Like the Hajj, or something. And it nearly worked. I was on my way home, on my way back to the ship when I lost my footing and slipped into the simmering water. Even then, I’d have been alright if I hadn’t fallen so close to that boat.

I feel now how utterly stranded I am. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2013 4:05 pm

    This would be a great FFF! Can I use it?

    • March 3, 2013 5:20 pm

      Thanks! and Yes!
      🙂 x

  2. March 3, 2013 7:27 pm

    Do you have any specific info or a mini-bio you’d like me to include? Email me @ if you like.

    • March 3, 2013 11:00 pm

      I have sent you a note. All the best! x


  1. I win something | Ariadne

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