Laika

Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

The tentacle monster lived across the hall from me, swimming, drifting lazily in the clear, yellow liquid that filled its enclosure. I called him Otto because why not, and I assumed it was a he. Yes, I’m chauvinistic that way, I guess. Otto saw me looking at him and came towards the glass wall closest to me. He pointed at me and contorted one of his tentacles. How are you? I looked around my enclosure. I had no major complaints. The book selection was a bit random but what else could you expect from a scavenged book collection. I responded back with a simple thumbs up.

Otto made another sign. I know.

What, I signed back.

Otto took two of his tentacles and waved them in front of him, his two tentacles mirroring each other, starting out wide, curving down and inwards, closing the gap but not completely and then curving out again. This was one my signs. I had taught him this one. A female mate.

I signed back a thumbs down. This was the worst news I had heard in ages. Otto seemed confused. I did not have the words, literally, or the sign language to tell him how much I was dreaded the arrival of the female. You would imagine that after having lived alone for many months in my enclosure, with the trees and plants in my enclosure (and who knew if they were even real), I would actually be looking forward to the arrival of a woman, for the company, for the mating, for the removal of my sadness and loneliness and emptiness. Except it wasn’t like that at all! Movies and TV shows back on Earth would have you believe that when an alien species captures you to put you in their petting zoo, it’s going to be awful. It’s really not!

As the sole human in the Galactic Zoo, I was special to them (I called them the ZooKeepers — super-creative, I know). Why would I ever want to give that up? The ZooKeepers weren’t malicious as far as I had understood them. They tried to take care of me. They were slightly misinformed but they experimented with what made me happy (I imagined my happiness made their customers happy) and eventually figured out what I needed. It had been slow at first but I had finally gotten them to understand some rudimentary sign language from my end. The food was still some synthetic garbage tasting stuff and the water was just water, but I had trees and sunlight (or at least what felt like sunlight) in my enclosure, the smell of freshly cut grass in the morning, lots of scavenged books to read and many different kind of toys and games. It was a more comfortable life than I had back on Earth, to be honest.

And to top it all up, I had the rather interesting, unique life changing opportunity to co-habit with actual goddamn alien species and try to learn about them. I still couldn’t talk to any of the other alien species in my part of the park but some rudimentary sign language had worked here as well. I was getting quite good at communicating with Otto for example. It wasn’t a bad sort of life.

Especially, when I was the center of the attention of the Earth exhibit. The sole human.

And now they had gone and captured them a woman. That would take the attention away from me. And who knows what she would be like. No, things were fine just the way they were at the moment. I didn’t want a companion. I wish I knew enough sign to tell the ZooKeepers that. But I didn’t. So, I fretted about this until the doors of my enclosure opened and the ZooKeepers dragged in the female earthling. Except, it wasn’t a woman. It was a dog. I named her Laika.

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