Sunday 5 September 2010

This Alien Land

Cally is not trembling this time.

She puts a hand to his massive face – that part of him alone approximately two thirds her own height – and lets her eyes wander over his green features.

Now that she is really looking, and touching, she realises his thick skin is soft. His face is not unlike a human face, though she cannot liken the features of this creature to the features of the man she knew. Rigid structures sweep back from the top of his hairless head, like half-flattened cones, or horizontal icicles. Smaller but similar structures descend from his cheeks, protecting the sides of his wide mouth with its semi-circular rows of pointed teeth like pencil nibs lined up (two rows at the bottom, she notices, and one at the top).

The same thick protrusions extend back from major joints all over his hulking body. The effect is not unlike a young boy trying to draw something moving at speed, but he is so stationary, so settled he seems as immoveable and weighty as a rock. If she hadn’t seen him in motion, hadn’t seen the speed and grace and ferocity, she could almost believe him a freak outcropping of lichen-swept cave. Almost, were it not for the gentle hush of breath from his half open mouth and his eyes – shifting, cloudy maroon orbs with no pupils (which are disconcerting as she can’t tell exactly where he is looking).

It strikes her then as odd that his physical form seems so earth-like. Gargantuan, for sure, but, in a general sense, his body shape, his stance, is somewhere between a bear and a gorilla. Brutish but regal, beastly but graceful. His back curves down from his high shoulders to the squat hind legs on which she has seen him stand when threatened, a spectacle inciting fear and awe in good measure. Rearing up he becomes taller than two men, and free to strike with his powerful forearms, his taloned fingers.

Cally takes a deep breath, and sighs. Whatever she hoped to see in him, she doesn’t. He is too different. It may not be there at all, or it may just be that she does not know how to recognise it now.

He tilts his head a little to one side. Curiosity, a strikingly human gesture.

She talks to him at last.

“Bryn is in prison now. For... for what he did. And the ministry say you may return.” She hesitates. “They want to study you, but that will be your choice.”

“And what do you want?”

His voice is deep and resonant, calm. So unlike how he used to be.

“I–” she clears her throat, swallowing hard on the sudden tightness. “I don’t know. You are not the Benj I knew.”

Saying that, she knows that she can move on, finally. And now she begins to tremble, tears welling in her eyes.

(author's commentary)

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