Just cause it’s a shape shifter with horns and wings doesn’t mean it doesn’t have feelings!
More Human Than Human
By Barry Quinn
“Hu-man?” the alien asked, in its stunted form of English. I guess people had just thought him Polish, or something. It certainly sounded Eastern European. But I knew differently.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “You? Are you Martian? Or Venusian? Or…?”
“None. I am… none. I am hu-man.”
I laughed. I couldn’t stop myself. “No, you’re not. You’re really not.”
“Why? Why am I… not hu-man?”
“For starters, you have horns sprouting from your head. You have pointing ears, and you have three eyes. How did nobody notice those before?” And then it hit me. “You’re a shapeshifter?”
“I…” the alien began to shake its head, but I cut it off in a heartbeat.
“A shapeshifter. That explains things. But why are you here? And why is your form wavering now?”
“You know lots… little girl. You know lots for a hu-man.”
“I’m not a little girl.” I laughed with scorn in my tones and the alien looked abashed. I never thought I’d be able to make an alien look embarrassed. But I’ve had plenty of experience dealing with aliens.
“But – how?”
“How did you… work… it out? How did you… know?”
“Like I said – you don’t look human. You’ve been here – how long? Have you ever seen a human with horns or three eyes or… wings!” I breathed the final word, for insectile wings sprouted from the alien’s back before my very eyes. They fluttered daintily in the still air, creating a cumbersome layer. Horripilation spread across my forearms, eliciting my fear. For yes, I was scared. The alien was changing right in front of me, and it seemed not to notice.
“I… no.” The alien looked downcast.
“How long have you been here?”
“All my life.”
“Why? I had no c-choice. I had no choice, just as you had no… no choice over where you were born. I was born here, along with my brethren.”
“But why is your race here?”
“The same reason yours is.”
“We belong here. We own this planet. It is ours.”
“It is ours, too.”
“But… no… I…” I was confounded. “We were born here. We evolved here.”
“As did we. We have… lived amongst humanity… for as long as humanity has prospered.”
“I – what?!”
The alien blinked its three eyes in unison, staring steadfastly at my confusion.
“You’ve always been here?”
The alien nodded.
The alien nodded again.
“Since the dawn of time? Since humans arose from apes?”
The alien nodded for the third time.
“Then that makes you human too, surely.”
“I guess so.”
“So why hide?”
“We know what humanity does with extraterrestrial life. We have… seen it.”
“You experiment. You dissect. You imprison. You torture. You kill. Why would we want that?”
He had a fair point, I conceded. “So why come out now?”
“You’re hurt,” I said, my eyes drifting down to the wound in its abdomen that I have hitherto missed. It was a gunshot wound through which a fountain of blood fell.
“And you can’t keep your form?”
“And you fear that you’ll be found? Experimented upon? Tortured and imprisoned?”
“I won’t do that to you. I won’t. Come on. Come with me. I’ll hide you. I’ll help make you better, and then you can hide once more. You mean us no harm, I am sure.”
“Why would you help… me? Help… us?
“Because you’re human too.”