by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
He was on his side of the glass, she on hers. Betrothed, full of love, full of dreams, full of fear and terror of the future. Full of loneliness and fear. Putting his hand against the glass, he watched her as she put her hand against his. Almost touching except for the heavy pane of glass in between. She turned away, though her hand stayed.
Was the glass the slightest bit warmer under his palm?
He remembered the aliens. They'd appeared out of nowhere. One moment Earth orbit had just the expected, and then their ship was beside the station. Everything anybody could think of to open communication was tired, but for a full day there was nothing but silence.
In the end he'd drawn the short straw. It seemed that everybody on Earth had their own set of instructions for him, but he choose to ignore them and just do what he thought was right. It's not like anybody had had any experience with this kind of thing.
He'd moved slowly, being watched by more people than Armstrong. Ever so slowly he'd touched it, and it was smooth as glass, featured, textureless. Warm.
And then he'd vanished.
According to Earth clocks, he'd spent a month inside. To him it seemed only a few hours. The aliens were like squids, though other comparisons could have been made just as easily. Their skin was rough, their tentacle were clustered in two nested groups, their mouth was a trunk rather than a beak, their body ended in a long dolphin or shark-like body and tail with flaring gills. They'd be silent, though each lit up in a cascade of colours, bright enough to put Time's Square to shame.
Carefully they'd examined him, and let him examine one of them. That was when he'd discovered what they'd done to him. He remembered a thin tentacle sliding its warm slick rubber along his chest, along the gills opening and closing on his chest--
He shook his head back to reality as his betrothed knocked on her side, the air side, of the glass. The was going to go and suit up so that they could hold each other.
It was all they had left. As long as she could stand the immersion. As long as he could stand the roar of her exhaled bubbles.
Floating there, he watched her go, cursing the aliens. A few hours of glory, and a lifetime of loneliness. A few hours of them examining each other, and then they'd vanished, like a popping soap bubble, leaving him in his suit drifting in orbit. The aliens had modified his life support system in some way so that its duration was nearly infinite. They'd left meg after meg of mathematical equations describing reality, or so the physicists speculated, in his suit computer.
Part of him wanted them to come back, the rest hoped they boiled in hell.
There was a splash behind him, a roar or bubbles, and he turned to embrace the naked form of his love for the tiny time he could.
At least nobody one Earth could see its most famous human being cry--
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