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Being Human

Ed Kratz is a retired computer specialist. This is his second story in Daily Science Fiction. He has also been published in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, and Literally Stories.
************Editor's Note: Adult Story*************
The Incident:
A mall. copper coins twinkling in the sparkling fountain in the afternoon light. A four-year-old girl, in a red skirt, long blond hair capturing the sun. She leaves her mother and goes to the fountain.
There is an alien there, watching. But there are always aliens about. What danger is in her innocent exuberance? There are, after all, guidelines. The aliens mean no harm.
She dances, spins around and around her hair swirling behind her, her skirt rising red and lovely in the sun. Look at the dust motes. Look at the lovely little girl.
The alien artist:
The sparkling. The sun flickering. How could I not make beauty from this scene? Human artists, in their simple ways have tried. But we are superior.
The witnesses:
I'll never sleep again.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
I close my eyes but still see it.
I'll always see it.
Sobs.
Retching.
A catatonic empty minded staring.
Blank eyes, and even the mind is blank.
The investigation:
The authorities say they mean no harm. Our visitors want to study us, that's all. Officer Warner does not accept the alien occupation. Humans are not lab rats.
Word of the incident spreads to the resistance in a matter of hours.
Officer Warner is in the resistance. She is a human bomb. She has an explosive device implanted in an artificial tooth.
When she is called to investigate, she sees the duty as a sign it is time for her to act. She will show these monsters what it means to be human.
She meets her superior, Captain Brewster in an office accessible from outside the mall, just a table and a few chairs. The stark decor is a contrast to the horror inside.
A brief hello, they nod and sit. Brewster has experience as a liaison-traitor-with the aliens. That makes Warner's planned attack easier. Brewster is guilty. He deserves his fate.
The alien walks in. Brewster jumps to his feet like the sycophant he is. "Zeus, I thought we had an agreement. No more of this."
Warner thinks, Zeus? They mock us. Name themselves after our gods.
The alien is seven feet tall. A long white beard covers his chest; hair, too falls down his back.
Warner stays where she is. She will not rise.
"Zeus, you said no more. Didn't we agree?" Brewster whines like a child pleading with a parent. What could he bargain with or threaten the alien with?
Warner can threaten. But she will not bargain.
"How could I resist? "Zeus says. "The perfect moment. A rare confluence. Spinning. Spinning. In your earth sun." He turns and rotates, and his white beard and white hair make a flashing circle.
Warner stares.
"Zeus," Brewster screams, screams before it seems Warner will fall into that spinning. "We had an agreement. No more."
"You must see. Then you will understand." Zeus waves his hand toward another door. "To the art."
"You don't have to come," Brewster says, but Warner must come.
They follow Zeus through the mall till they reach the frozen escalator. And the frozen people. Six of them, some with their hands before their mouths, expressions twisted in rage or fear or disgust. A few bent over retching.
And then the bubble over the fountain. And the gore inside it.
Zeus says, "Imagine. The red. The sun. The blue of the ocular orbs."
Warner raises her hand over her mouth. She has seen road accidents, violence, too, but nothing like this.
Intestines, it appears in tangles on the sides, surround maybe fingers, and hands, and pieces of arms. Blue squished against each side. Eyes? Red and yellow. The hair and--could that be swaths of clothing intertwined with pieces of organs and flesh? And at the top, still pulsing, throbbing. There is something.
"See?" Zeus says. "The hair combines with the red dress, and the orbs on the side. Lovely. And the red. There. Special to humans."
"You don't have to look, Warner, "Brewster touches her shoulder. His hand shakes.
"No. No." Warner says. "Not that."
"Not bright red, of course, but I added a touch of color. Doesn't the pulsing draw your eyes?"
The little girl's heart, Red. Pulsing. Yes, it draws Warner's eyes. She can ignite the bomb. A certain twisting of her tongue hard against the device inserted in a false tooth. She will show them what humans are.
Brewster says "You promised," the words coming soft out of his mouth like a plea.
"You want me to put it back together?" Zeus says.
Back together? Warner thinks. Like humans can be deconstructed and reconstructed so easily, Put them back. You monsters. Just put them back. What are we?
Zeus waves his hands, and the frozen people move. He sighs again. Parts rejoin in a blur. Then another wave, and a little girl comes running from the bubble. "Mommy. Mommy" she screams. She falls into her mother's arms.
Warner is twisting her tongue against the device. Go off. Dear God, go off. I cannot live with this.
Zeus shrugs, a gesture he learned from humans. "Such a waste of art."
Warner cannot speak. Her mouth hangs open. The mother hugs the little girl. Warner should be happy. But what is a human?
"You humans have such a primitive biology. Not too distinguished from your earthworms, to us," Zeus says. "And officer. Your device will not detonate. But your passion intrigues me. I do hope we will meet again."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 11th, 2019


While in a mall, I saw a young child playing near a fountain, and thought how awful it would be if an alien decided to make an abstract work of art from the actual human body. Then I recalled one of the many books on writing I read which suggested thinking of a story, writing down possible endings, then waiting and thinking again with the message to not pick the first few. So I speculated it would be even more awful if the aliens found us so simple, they could put the human body back together again as though nothing had happened, and went with that ending.

- Edward G Kratz
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