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Splat Day

Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in F&SF, Clarkesworld, Analog and other places. Her SF novel "The Wan" was published by Pink Narcissus Press. When not writing, she knits, reads and gardens, preferably all three at the same time.

For more about her work, you can visit her website or Amazon, or find Bo on Facebook @bo.balder or Twitter @bonbalder.

Marin's smartcane tapped out her way over the up-and-down alleys. She was taking a shortcut through the Gukke quarter despite tense relations between the races. Maybe a strange choice for a blind woman, but she was in a hurry.
Halfway through the alley an enormous looming presence came up behind her. It could never fit in the alley without reducing the dwellings to rubble and herself to a smear of jelly. She pressed herself against the cold plast walls.
The presence mashed against her senses, flattening her. But the thing or person passed by with a woosh of station air, leaving her unharmed, not even a graze on her garment.
Marin dialed up her synthetic eyes. She hated using them: they gave her jangling headaches and harsh, jarring color halos around everything. But this, she had to see.
A small outline scurried away through the alley exit onto a large thoroughfare. An alien of a kind she only vaguely remembered; two-legged, floppy extrusions from its head, in a skimpy sky-blue cloak. It dove around the corner and disappeared.
Marin shrugged and dialed the eyes off again. Weird. Hadn't she read something about them in National Geographic? Something about bower building as a wedding display?
A timer sounded. Just ten minutes left. Despite the shortcut, she'd have a struggle to get to the ship in time. It was Vinday, when spaceships allowed bids on their unclaimed cargo containers. Marin made her living by selling the contents.
The other human sellers made way for her when she arrived with less than a minute to spare. The other aliens from the city clustered by race. Such a large potential consumer base, but Marin hadn't been able to breach the communications gap.
An eerie voice cut through the greetings, just as the captain was coming out of the ship's bay with her manifest.
"Noo, noo, it has to be now," the voice wailed. "I have to get to Sigma to build my bower. Here, let me show you--"
It had to be the alien that had passed her in the alley. Marin felt its gigantic size pressing against her, shortening her breath and making her dizzy.
Eyes on? She turned them on, gritting her teeth, to verify that it was really not as large as her other senses told her. No, it was as small as she visually remembered, with untidy appendages sprouting from under its cloak. She couldn't hear the captain's answer.
"I need to be on my way, now, now, now!" the alien cried.
It might have been comical, the short weird alien wringing its hands, if Marin hadn't felt that other immense presence threatening her.
The alien's three eyes bulged. "Too late, too late, get away from--"
With a boom, the other-sensory pressure on Marin disappeared. She was lifted off her feet and dumped back down. Stuff rained on her, soft, hard, smelly, powdery, pattering like hail. Ow.
Eyes back on.
The alien had disappeared. Everything around her was covered by things, objects, and it still rained down. She was up to her waist in stuff. Gripping the smartcane, she clambered to the top. There, an appendage peaked out from the rubble. A dark blue three-fingered hand. A Gukke? She was afraid to touch it, but she could hardly leave another being in distress. She grasped its hand-thing and hauled.
Nothing moved. Gukke were much heavier than humans.
She used the smart cane to root down through the rubble. It wasn't rubble, though. She recognized diamonds, Earth art, Gukke petrified eggs, shimmering cloth, spapples in stasis. Riches.
It wasn't a Gukke, but the weird little alien's head analog that came free. Right. What did it see with or sense with? She didn't even know. She folded the appendage over the smart cane, placing her hands beside it, and pulled. The smartcane lifted the alien free of the rubble.
It flashed its wings at Marin. She didn't know what it meant, but she was gonna go with gratitude. The smartcane could utter "Excuse me" in three alien languages, but that didn't seem appropriate.
The alien turned to look at the enormous treasure heap it had created. Its wings and appendages drooped.
Marin patted its elbow. "There, there. You survived, isn't that the most important thing?"
No reaction. Even if it had understood, maybe it hadn't been the right consolation. She looked up the NatGeo article. Oh, the poor thing! The Eieviid collected treasure all over the galaxy to build bowers to attract females. It danced an ancient mating dance before the wedding, which lasted for the rest of their lives.
"You know, I bet no female of your species has ever seen a bower like this. Look how those jewels hang off the Gukke towers?" She scanned the article again. Something about scent? "And the combination of so many alien species creates a unique scent. You should record this and send out invitations to the ladies you had in mind. I'm sure they would be very impressed."
The alien lifted its crest and started to send out shimmering waves of sensation that tickled the same place in her brain as before, but without the immensity of size.
Together she and the alien clambered to the top of the treasure mountain. It covered the whole spaceport with forays into the four quarters of humans, Gukke, Paal, and Ahluwalia. Everywhere she looked, interspecies rescue operations were going on. The four species were finally working together.
And Marin was going to get rich from selling off the strange little alien's wedding display, which it would discard after the wedding anyway. She was sure the Eieviid ladies would be coming.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021


Author Comments

This story was written as part of a yearly flash fiction "contest" on my writers' group. It's always great fun to come up with a story for a random title. Hence, Splat Day....

- Bo Balder
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