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Chapter 19 – Homecoming

Day 259, the last deception:

Full circle. Nixa and I were back on Sub-Level Six, but we weren’t alone. A platoon of armored Slixt stood off to either side of the passage with High Inquisitor Slub’bump between us. The larger-than-life planet Earth loomed in the giant window but I could no longer bring myself to feel anything for it.

The Slixt had agreed to my final request and it didn’t matter what happened anymore, as long as nobody else got hurt in the process (except for myself perhaps).

Ultimately, the Slixt valued their Rule of None more than they valued my arguments, but it was enough.

As we watched Jane and John climb into an escape pod, I found myself wanting to feel something toward them. Love. Hate. Anything. A part of me wanted J&J to be grateful for what I had done for them, but they wouldn’t speak to me even after I got the Slixt to let them go. And that was ok, because I had nothing more to say anyway.

In another few minutes I’d be back to being the only Human, for however long that lasted. What a relief.

The hatch closed with a hiss and the tunnel shuddered very slightly as we watched the escape pod blast away from the Slixt ship, falling toward the Earth’s night sky like a shooting star.


***

After that, we returned to the judgment chamber where the last scene would play out, Nixa and I watching the show on a big display above the judge’s bench. The same thing was being broadcast all over the city, and even though I knew what was coming, my knees felt weak and I needed Nixa’s support to stand.

I couldn’t listen to the speech that the Slixt leader was issuing over the airwaves. None of that mattered anymore. I was anxious for this to come to its inevitable conclusion – it would have sucked to let J&J go just to blow up the Earth right after that anyway. Even if it was what my planet deserved.

Then it happened, the Earth exploded onscreen – but at least it wasn’t real (that’s what the Slixt had promised). Of course, I’d never know for sure.

The citizens had received their warning, and the Slixt could go back to being the Slixt. Over time, the city would return to “normal” again.

I squeezed Nixa’s shoulder and she squeezed mine back. Now that everything else had been taken care of, Nixa and I walked silently, side by side into the large glowing egg at the back of the judging chamber. We were the final victims of the war, and I found myself thinking that I wouldn’t miss this life after all.

If only I had used my time better, none of this would have been necessary. But it was no longer my problem. Someone else would have to fight for the future.

I also couldn’t help but feel relieved that things would end this way, promising myself that if there turned out to be a life after this one, I would make the most of it.


Epilogue:

I woke up naked, in the fetal position, in a squishy, flesh-walled room, covered in a translucent green goo that smelled vaguely of raspberries and strong cheese. At the time, I had no idea how I got there, and any distinct memories of my life before this moment weren’t just hazy, they were gone.

I’m not sure how long I’d been screaming, but it must have been a long time, because before I knew it, my voice was hoarse, and my tears were all mixed up with goo (and some snot) and I was really glad that nobody could see me just then.

Despite the warmth of the flesh-sack, I was shaking with fear, which was just making the jelly-like walls wobble and sway even more.

Then, with a swish of cold steel and a slorpy-slushing-ploomp, the floor gave way under me and I fell down onto a cold, hard, steel floor, while the warm smelly liquid I had been recently lying in rained down on me.

That was when I saw them looking at me, with a ( compassionate ) look in their eyes. Two monsters but maybe not so monstrous after all; a Jerky one and a Wheezy dude.

Then, another of those hell-sack-flesh-pods opened up, and another monster came crashing down onto the deck. It was some kind of horrifying, red, insecti-girl, with claws for hands, stubby wing things, and a flurry of ( angry and confused ) clicking coming out of her mouth.

When the insect creature saw me, she ( recoiled ), but then she tilted her head, and I found myself smiling in spite of the sheer horror that I was experiencing. When she smiled back, I nearly passed out from shock.

The aliens above us said something, startling both myself and the girl beside me. We scrabbled back along the floor, and when she reached out for me, I unexpectedly found my fingers twining around hers.

For the first time in my life, I was no longer alone and afraid, wishing that I was someone or somewhere else, and through all of the confusion, I found myself wondering what would happen next.

Somehow I knew that this strange and oddly-beautiful creature would never abandon me, and with her at my side, there was nothing that the universe could do to harm us.






### THE END ###



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