The Alien Chooses a Body
By Brenda Anderson
The prisoner expected no mercy. Blanketed in neon pink particles, Purry waited for the guards to unlock the door and escort her from the Alien Holding Cell to the mortuary.
She studied the bodies: a young girl and a kangaroo, arranged side by side on the mortuary bench. Which part of which body would she choose? The rest of her life depended on this decision. All captured aliens had to pass the citizenship test or be deported. She’d lived invisibly on Earth for one glorious year, loving every minute of her freedom. No question, she had to pass this test. Where she came from, everyone lived in lockup.
Concentrate, she told herself. Young girl. Kangaroo. Which sections would work better together? The moment she made a decision, Human Resources would connect the two and issue her the combination. Purry thought hard, pointed to the bottom half of the kangaroo and the top half of the young girl. Human Resources connected them, photographed her transition into the new body and tagged it.
Next, speech. Alien candidates were issued one sentence, the question, ‘Will You Be My Friend?’ If, in 24 hours, she had not used that sentence to acquire a friend and ergo demonstrate humanity, she’d be put on the next shuttle from Earth. Purry shook her head. Not an option. She flexed her new, powerful legs, stretched her arms and exulted. The kangaroo pouch wasn’t so bad, either. A girl needed a handbag.
The timer on the wall flashed. Her 24 hours had begun.
Purry hopped outside. The carpark’s boom gates were down. She sped up, jumped and landed on the other side. Ha! This was fun. Now to use that sentence. She headed to the nearest shopping mall. A fast food outlet would supply friends. Humans were sociable creatures.
Seated at outdoor tables, people ate and checked their phones. No-one noticed her, except a small boy who cried out, “Mum!” The woman next to him looked up, and her face turned white. “Jesse, no! Can’t you see? She’s …” She whispered something in his ear. The boy gave her a horrified look and hid behind his mother. Purry’s heart constricted. They didn’t want her.
One by one she approached an old lady, a few young men and a child, and repeated her question. No-one wanted to be her friend. Animal welfare activists, drunks, beggars, addicts, cops, criminals and lawyers didn’t, either. She checked a clock. Two hours remained. What else could she do?
She got half way across the freeway. In the distance a large road train thundered towards her. The median strip beneath her feet shook. Up ahead, an SUV swerved into the path of the truck, flipped over and rolled onto the strip. She leapt towards it. The passenger door of the SUV swung open and as she thudded up, a woman fell out. High pitched noises came from inside the front seat. She bent down. Strapped in its car seat, a baby screamed. Purry reached in, undid the seatbelt and lifted the baby out. With a screech of brakes another car slammed into the SUV and crushed Purry. Darkness fell.
A doctor patted her on the arm. “You saved the baby! She’s alive! It’s amazing anyone could have survived that crash!”
“Intact,” another murmured.
They shifted from one foot to the other.
“We got it all on two or three dashcams.”
Purry stared at them. These humans seemed interested in her. “Will you be my friend?” she said.
They drew in a collective breath. She looked past them. The clock on the wall told her she’d run out of time.
Tears formed in her eyes. “Will you be my friend?” she repeated. Human Resources had only given her that one sentence. Until they signed off on the deal, her vocal chords formed no other words. The humans turned away from her and talked among themselves. At the word alien, she tuned out.
The doctor stepped up to her bedside. “We’re checking your ID.”
She shook her head. No! They’d put her on the shuttle. Couldn’t she have just a few more minutes?
“Calm down.” The doctor smiled. “You saved that baby. Still, I understand the protocols.” He patted her on the arm. “Yes, I’ll be your friend. Oh, and one more thing.” He stopped smiling. “I’m afraid we had to replace your legs. Lucky for you, the kangaroo took the full impact. There wasn’t much left of it.”
Purry gaped. The kangaroo had taken the ‘full impact’? They’d replaced ‘her legs?’ What with?
A nurse bent over her. “Don’t worry. Part-body transplants are routine these days. We even matched your legs. You’ll be up and walking in no time. One more thing: Human Resources only had you listed as P915. Said they couldn’t pronounce your name. What is it, love? We don’t go by number here.” She gave a warm smile.
Purry blinked and mimed writing. Someone fetched a sheet of paper and a pen. With great concentration she voiced her name. Now to write it down.
She stopped. Purry? She’d given them her name, but Human Resources had made jokes about cats and in the end, given her a number.
The nurse clapped her hands. “Peri! Such a cute name!”
Peri smiled back.
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Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in places like Andromeda Spaceways, Penumbra, Fiction Vortex and defenestration, and will appear in SpeckLit. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia.