Written for Picture It & Write. A story, about a familiar yet vastly different alien biology, begins after the image.
Genre: Science Fiction
Things were going poorly for Edvard Perry.
As he crashed through the atmosphere of Calliope, he imagined his death might not hurt so much in the weak gravity. He could breathe. Normally, he wouldn’t dare breathe alien air without testing first, but the catastrophic tear in his suit gave him no choice. That was preceded by the engine failure in the escape pod, which was preceded by the failure of the fusion bottle in his research vessel orbiting the verdant moon.
During his fall from 120,000 feet, he’d screamed the prerequisite scream that one makes when falling to their doom. After falling for 10 minutes, he tired of screaming and stopped to enjoy a lovely Calliope sunset. He’d come to accept his impending death, prolonged by a surprisingly survivable atmosphere, and a light gravity, reticent to hurl him at the surface. Looking down, he admired the lush tree growth forming around lakes and streams.
He noticed something else. A winged shape approached him. Its wings were huge, easily 24-feet across. So there is animal life on Calliope, he noted. Then he realized he would not hit the ground and die immediately.
He would be eaten.
He screamed anew until the winged creature struck him, and Edvard was knocked unconscious.
He awoke, shocked to be alive, resting upon a nest of leaves lined with brightly-colored feathers. The nest resided in a spherical enclosure of vines. Patches of sunlight shown through the gaps and illuminated the creature watching him. Its immense wings of purple, green, and yellow feathers were unfurled. Edvard expected to see a wicked, curved beak on its head, gaping to devour him, but he was surprised to see a very human-like face. In fact she–he felt this instinctively–was quite beautiful. Her petite nose wrinkled above full, very human lips. Her expressive eyes watched him with sympathy, and something else. “Hue-mahn?” she said.
Most ordinary people would be shocked to see a creature so recognizably humanoid on an alien moon and speaking English, but Edvard was a scientist. Earth mammals strictly have four limbs. This creature had four reasonably human limbs, albeit flight feathers on her legs, and two wings for a total of six limbs. An unlikely evolutionary path for a humanoid. It was this fact that shocked Edvard more than her speech.
In the days that followed, she flew off on hunting excursions and returned, often with a dead, six legged animal. Luckily, Edvard could eat the alien proteins with minimal indigestion. Occasionally, she carried him on her trips and showed him her world. They explored lakes and waterfalls and many kinds of curious animal life. He learned that her name was Etame, and soon after he learned that she was very curious and very lonely.
He explained in detail about his studies in the field of xeno-biology, a subject that would put most humans to sleep, but one that fascinated Etame. At times it seemed his studies were too far away to be of interest anymore. He saw her less and less as a curious alien to be studied, and began to see something else. Her caught her watching him carefully as he showered in the waterfall, even as he was sneaking glances at her different but decidedly female anatomy.
One day, he blurted without thinking. “Why don’t I see the males of your species?”
As she wove fresh leaves into her enclosure, she shrugged and looked away. “It’s difficult to explain.”
“What’s to explain?” He tried to gesture as subtly as possible. “I mean you seem to have very human…ah…reproductive organs.”
Completely unaware of societal propriety, Etame sat back with legs spread. She poked curiously. “Is that what this is?”
“Haven’t others of your kind told you about this?”
“It’s difficult to explain, as I said.” She pointed. “I notice you’re different. I wasn’t sure at first that you are human. Sometimes it grows. There! It does it again.”
Edvard flushed and tucked himself between his legs. He cleared his throat. “Mine is the male part. The human female part is practically identical to yours, so it appears.” He tried not to look, and felt increasingly uncomfortable. “It’s how humans reproduce.”
It took quite a bit of coaxing, but eventually Etame’s determination for knowledge won him over. After examining her to make sure her alien “equipment” held no surprises, he joined her. The act was tentative at first with many starts, stops, and explanations. Before long they found a comfortable rhythm and both found completion again and again.
As Edvard rested beside her on her soft wing and gently explored her warm skin, he said, “So, I guess you have no other mates I need to compete with?”
Etame smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “This is all new to me. I gained this two years ago when a human ship crashed here. One survivor still lived, though she was dying. I used the Tal’vinay to save her structure. It seemed a waste to let it pass.”
“Wait, what did you gain?”
“This.” She patted between her legs.
“No. That’s something you’re born with.”
“Not for me. This wasn’t here two years ago.”
“Okay, I’m lost now. Maybe your puberty cycle is way different. Ah…tell me, what is Tal’vinay?”
“It is how I reproduce. I can give or take structure. It’s how I gained this face, this skin, and how I know your language.” She semi-seriously frowned. “You never asked about that.”
Edvard blushed at the admonition. He quickly returned to investigative scientist mode. “You mean, you can change shape?”
“Yes, but I need genetic material to copy when I do it. I can take the features I desire.” She shrugged. “I wanted to keep the wings.”
“So, you’re not really human at all?
Edvard clapped his hands. “That explains a lot! Human features, yet six limbs? It made no sense. That’s how you did it.”
She grinned. “When I was born, I was a seed. I sprouted and grew until my leaves reached two inches. A butterfly landed on me. Through the Tal’vinay, I gained it’s wings. I flew to a furred creature, and gained its fur. I am the product of numerous changes, unique in all this world. Now you’ve placed your genetic material inside me to permit further changes. ”
“You were a seed? A plant?” Edvard said with astonishment.
“Yes.” She dipped her head. “I can change again, if you desire more human features.”
Edvard looked at the alien, no…woman, who was like none other. Yes, she had wings, but they looked amazing and honestly, he couldn’t imagine her any other way. She touched him deeply just the way she was. “No. Don’t change a thing. But now, you said you could take or give genetic features, right?”
She grinned with relief. “Yes, anything. The Tal’vinay can change you if you desire it.”
He smiled large. “You know. Those wings are really cool.”
Each week, Eliabeth and Ermisenda offer a new picture as a writing prompt. This week’s prompt may be found here: http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/__picture-it-write-77/