So there I was, scrounging away for scraps in some alien building. Trapped inside a world that had no identity whatsoever. It had been so long ago since the shattering happened. Couldn't even tell exactly how long anymore because of the varied day and night cycle. But it didn’t matter, not like I would be able to return to my original world anyways.
Those sure were some days leading up to that event. Reports of strange monster sightings. Unusual weather causing havoc across the globe. People and places suddenly disappearing one day, only to be replaced with something else entirely. Just the weirdest things you could think of, like the whole planet was turning into one messed up sci-fi novel. I managed to see all the signs early and put together a bug-out kit in case the worst happened. It had been a huge help now but I definitely didn’t make it with my current situation in mind.
About one week later things started to look really rough. I had just survived a freak flooding in my city and decided it was time to check on my parents. Phone and internet was out so I planned on trekking to their place. It wasn’t that far away but I would never be able to start the journey in the first place. At almost noon on the spot my whole world shattered. As in, literally shattered to pieces. Cracks formed in what I assumed was our fabric of reality, and soon after everything fell apart into a rainbow void. I remember falling and falling while sights and sounds I couldn’t describe flew past me. Finally, I passed out and awoke in this strange new patchwork land.
My arrival point was on the shore of your average looking beach, except the sand was bright purple, so not really your average looking beach. Everything I had on me before the trip was still in my possession, which was was a huge relief because I needed all the supplies I could get. I didn’t plan on swimming through the green ocean so I began my journey exploring the adjacent alien forest. The trees were extremely tall and covered in orbital layers of teal leaves, eventually tapering off at the top. It was almost serene at first with no city noise or sights around, and definitely no mass hysteria from the world ending either. But my little scenic trip through the forest ended quickly when I was attacked by these weird bird creatures. Fifteen minutes in and I already had to use my shotgun in self-defense, definitely something they don’t tell you about in the travel brochure.
Following that forest led to a variety of landscapes that you could only dream of. This new world I found myself in was like a garbage dump of ideas, and every one was stitched together forming one huge patchwork blanket. There was no rhyme or rhythm to how different places were stitched together either. One moment you could be walking through a barren wasteland of metal then all of the sudden find the yourself in some kind of swampy dirt. A huge mountain could be missing one half and cut off by a huge alien structure, or the ground had shifted from a weird concrete material to sparkling ocean. Every new region led to something new, I wondered just how badly the universe messed itself up to result in this.
What was really boggling was the lack of other people despite all these signs of civilization. There were scattered buildings and small settlements here and there to explore, but I had not found a single soul since my arrival. Nothing resembling anything intelligent that is, just lots of alien wildlife. Things were getting pretty lonely for me the more I wandered, but thankfully I had my trusty shotgun by my side. My first encounter with those birds was a harsh wake-up call because a lot of that aforementioned wildlife was not friendly in the slightest. There would be no alien dog companion for me just yet.
At the moment I had found myself in some kind of warehouse on the edge of a ruined city. Before this I had trekked a long way across some spongy plains in desperate search of supplies. Do you know how hard it is to walk on ground that’s essentially one giant sponge? The only reason I traversed the springy biome was because I saw buildings from this city on the other side, and I was desperately low on food. This was most certainly not a city from Earth, but was still a welcoming sight compared to everything before it. Finding a place like this meant there was bound to be ample supplies in store. The hard part came from deciphering what was sustenance and what should be avoided. It wasn’t easy, but right now scavenging like this was my only chance of survival.
The moment I wiped my brow I heard something rustling outside. That couldn’t be good. I tightened the grip on my shotgun and slowly approached the nearby window. Ah, my 870 mariner shotgun, built to withstand all the elements with its nickle-plated finished. The gun possessed an eighteen inch barrel, six round magazine tube, and a custom fitted pistol grip plus folding stock combo. It felt good in my hands, real good to be exact. I was glad I had it with me.
It didn’t take long to find the culprit once I peeked out the window. About halfway across the street was a furry looking creature scraping through a pile of junk. But my serious face actually lightened up at the sight. This wasn’t some normal furry creature looking for scraps. No, it was humanoid and wearing clothes! Finally, after all this time I spent wandering alone, I had somebody to interact with. Everything changed for me from that point on.
I eased up and got a closer look at the humanoid. It was covered in fur and had what I could only describe as a very sharp head. Sharp like a wedge of cheese. That happened to be first thing that came to my mind due to how hungry I was. Two pointy ears accented the rest of its sharp head, situated just above the eyes. The front and sides of its angular snout had a nice cream color that filled down its neck and into its chest. On the top side was a pleasant burgundy color. This flat color followed all the way down its back before stopping at the base of a somewhat fluffy tail. From what I could see of its arms they were also covered in burgundy fur. Everything else that wasn’t burgundy kept with the cream coloring, including the rest of the tail and most of its legs. Speaking of legs, they appeared to be digitigrade with no shoes in sight and was using its two decent sized paws to skitter about the rubble.
Attached to the back of their head was an elegant and well-kept mane. It was very similar to actual hair, especially with how they had it tied up in a strange ponytail with the band near the end. Whatever it was, it kept itself well groomed. The alien was wearing some light shirt in the shape of an average tank top. There appeared to be a jacket tied around its waist, right above a pair of faded shorts. On its back was a sack filled with all sorts of supplies and scrap. Definitely a resourceful one, picking up every single item in the pile and examining what was worth keeping.
All signs pointed to it being female, from its curvy body to the slight mannerisms in its movement. But who was I to judge an alien like that? For all I knew it might not even have a gender so to speak. At least not something comparable to an organism from Earth. I kept my expectations low for the moment, figuring out if it was male or female could wait. Right now I needed to come up with a plan for introducing myself because I pretty much had only one shot at this. If I messed anything up then I risked scaring it off. I was still hopeful nonetheless. Perhaps it was just like me and yearned for some company of the intelligent kind, even if we were aliens to one another.
My daydreaming was interrupted by the alien freezing. Its ears perked up and its face focused on something in the distance, with the slight swaying of its tail stopping mid swing. I crept along the wall over to the door, slowly opening it up to inspect what was going on. In the direction it was looking at was some sort of beast that reminded me of a huge wild boar. Yet instead of fur it was covered in white scales and bony plating. In place of legs was a plethora of weird floppy tentacles spread about its underside. To top it all off, the front of its face was covered in a multitude of sharp horns. The horrid beast was puffing and squealing just like a pig. This wasn’t good.
The furry candidate for a friend slowly backed away, but the beast wasn’t letting up. It swished its tentacles rapidly in the dirt and began accelerating forwards. That thing was fast for its size. If my soon to be acquaintance had a weapon now was the time to bring it out. I saw them hold up a metal tool and prepare for the worst. At this point it was obvious it didn’t have any ranged weaponry and the tentacle boar was approaching fast. But I wasn’t going to sit idly by and watch a fellow intelligent being get attacked by some wild animal. After a quick check to make sure my shotgun was loaded, I kicked open the door and rushed towards the beast.
“Hey! You stay away from my, uhh, potential furry friend!” I yelled and fired off a shot. My aim was a tiny bit off and the pellets impacted the dirt in front of it. Looked like some of the buckshot ricocheted into its face. The creature stopped its movement and squealed in pain. Meanwhile, just a few feet away, the alien had flinched not only in surprise to my appearance but also to the tremendously loud bang from my shotgun. Guess I forgot how loud this thing really was.
The alien looked on in a combination of fear and spectacle as I pumped my shotgun to chamber another round. The spent shotshell ejected to my right, landing just a few inches away from the alien’s feet. Glancing over I could see it picked up the smoking shell and studied it intently. My attention returned to the ugly beast after it roared in anger and began its charge once more. Another trigger pull sent a volley of buckshot at the beast’s face. The shot was dead on but this time it didn’t flinch. One more pump followed again by a loud bang sent more pellets downrange, but it was to no effect. The buckshot failed to penetrate the monster’s hard plating and it kept coming. Now things definitely weren’t looking good.
“Alright, time for plan B!” I said and turned around, running towards the alien and grabbing its funky paw hand. It had little time to react as I dragged it down the street. A yelp similar to a dog’s came out of its mouth, with more yipping and yapping to follow while we ran. This definitely wasn’t the way I wanted my introduction to go, but now was no longer time for pleasantries.
The two of us turned a corner and ran alongside the building on our right. At that moment I saw exactly what I needed for plan B. There was a small channel adjacent to the building, deep enough to keep us concealed for the moment. I jumped down and dragged my terrified friend along with me, who let out a tiny screech as we safely landed. This was a crapshoot but hopefully the beast chasing us wouldn’t have known where we went. That thing wasn’t behind us when we took cover, so now it was a matter of how fast I could reload before it found us out.
“Hey, how you doing?” I calmly asked towards the alien obviously scared out of its mind. While it yapped away in some language I couldn’t understand, I started to unload all the remaining shells in my shotgun.
“Hold these for me, will ya?” I said as I repeatedly pumped my shotgun, an unspent shell ejecting with every motion. Each shotshell landed in the lap of my unnamed accomplice. It looked completely dumbfounded by the current situation, but thankfully the growing pile of shells shut it up for a moment. A slight whimper came from within, probably wondering what I was up to. My plan was simple: load up with the few slug rounds I had and hope they could pierce that beast’s impenetrable plating.
I ejected the last round of buckshot from my gun and left the pump cocked back. Then I got out a handful of slug rounds from my pack and loaded the first one directly into the chamber. Pushed the pump back forward and I had a round ready to go. Oh, that never got old. Now I loaded the rest of the magazine tube normally, leaving me with seven rounds itching to be fired. The fuzzy compatriot of mine watched all that reloading in awe. I wondered if it even knew what a gun was to begin with.
At that moment the scuttling sound of the beast had finally drawn near. My friend was about to speak up but I covered its mouth before anything came out. We both sat in silence, waiting for the beast to crawl past. I could tell it was investigating the area right above us for a moment. Sweat was dripping down my forehead like buckshot pellets. Luckily the beast moved on and I let out a sigh of relief.
“Stay right here and don’t make a sound,” I said directly to the alien. I knew it couldn’t understand a thing but this gave me the confidence to continue on with my plan. It sat in silence as I clambered out of the gutter and back onto the street.
The frightened individual rested in its temporary bunker after the pale creature ordered a bunch of gibberish at it. From what it could piece together after these rapid chain of events, this other creature was trying to protect both of them. That terrifying boom stick it had was some sort of projectile weapon for sure. But it didn’t understand why the pale one gave it all these red cylinders to hold.
Its train of thought was interrupted by the pale one yelling something from above. “Hey, freakshow! I got your daily dose of lead right here!” After that followed a methodical rhythm of loud bangs, presumably from the boom stick. It tried to cover its ears in time but was too late, the first crack already ringing painfully through its ears. Finally the pain stopped, and there was only silence. It hunkered down and softly whimpered to itself, unsure of what might have happened on the street overhead.
“You alright?” it suddenly heard from above. Looking up, it saw the pale one’s arm waving back and forth. The arm then extended out and dangled in front of its face. It wasn’t sure what to do, but the red cylinders were still in its possession. Perhaps the pale one wanted them back now. With some hesitation it handed over the shiny tubes one by one.
“Oh. Uhh... thanks,” came out of the pale one’s mouth. After all the objects were handed back the arm was still dangling, waiting for more. It just looked back up at the pale creature, unsure of what was wanted next.
“Pfft, do I have to come down there myself?” I asked and leaned into the channel, gently tugging on its arm. The alien finally understood and let me aid it out of the hiding spot. It was actually a lot lighter than it looked, must be all fluff or something. We were both back on our feet (or paws) and brushed ourselves off. Down the road laid the corpse of that rotten beast. Its plated face contained two separate holes about an inch in diameter each, with some bubbling gray liquid was oozing out of each. I had missed my first shot but the second one knocked it down instantly. The third shot was to make sure it stayed dead. I’d say spending three slugs to stay alive was a decent trade.
After reloading my shotgun once more I slung it back around my shoulder. Now I was face to face with the alien before me in a situation that was less stressful. This close I could see a few more finer details that I missed before. I was jostled slightly when I gazed directly at their front facing profile. Its head becoming even pointier than could be imagined, very different compared to the side profile. Reminded me of those silly front facing animal pictures of sharks and lizards.
The furry individual took note of me flinching and turned its head to the side. I don’t know if it was slightly embarrassed or what, but now I was able to pick up on a few key details I missed early. It was about two or three inches taller than me and a lot skinnier. Those funky legs definitely boosted it up a notch. Its head could be described as having canine features, but the acute face it had was clearly foreign. Dark blue eyes peered back at me while I studied its features. The tip of its snout was somewhat concave, with the ends of its nose and lower jaw halting to some sharp points. Its horizontal mouth stretched all the way to its eyes almost and an elongated set of dark lips lined its maw. Very long snout indeed. The alien panted some and I could see it only had about six distinct teeth inside with a long tongue to back them up.
As I examined the rest of its body, I noticed a big tuft of fur sticking out from its breast region. I also noticed that it didn’t seem to have anything resembling breasts in their overall shape. But the curves and scrawny frame still exclaimed feminine to me. Its arms, legs, and even weird finger paws all were dainty in size and shape. The tail was kept up most of the time, curving slightly away from the ground. One more small detail that caught my eye was a lack of fur around its left wrist. Instead were some bandages wrapped around the region. Poor thing must have hurt itself badly if they lost that much fur fixing it.
I caught myself ogling too much at this furry soul before me and scratched the back of my head. “Ha ha. Sorry for the rude introduction. All this must be very surprising for you.”
It tilted its head to the side slightly. Ah, the universal sign of confusion. This thing couldn’t understand a word I said and vice versa. Making friends with them was going to be tricky.
“Oh man, what do I do?” I said to myself. What’s the first step when coming in first contact with an alien race? All the movies and books made this look easy, but they usually had universal translators to bypass such an occurrence. That kind of convenience wasn’t going to be on my side today. An idea finally popped into my head after a few seconds of silence.
“Albert,” I said and pointed at myself multiple times. Yep, Albert was my name. Too many times was I called Einstein in school whenever I did good on a test. Einstein wasn’t even my last name! “Albert,” I said again but more slowly this time. Then I pointed at it, hoping for a response.
It wrung its paws together and turned slightly. Maybe it was still embarrassed about this whole ordeal. I knew I was nervous, but the ice had to be broken if I wanted to become friends with this thing. Finally, after a few grunts and mumbling, it spoke out to me. “Lyka,” it said and mimicked the pointing motion I did back to itself. Its tail swung back and forth excitedly.
Lyka. Sounded like a pretty name, and the way it spoke was also very elegant. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Lyka,” I said and reached out for a handshake. Not entirely sure if this was going to work or not, but a kind gesture was worth a shot. Lyka observed my empty hand for a moment and then something unexpected happened. Instead of confirming my handshake it reached for something in its pocket, then placed in my hand what appeared to be a small plastic card. Something that greatly resembled a driver’s licenses. On it was the same silly front facing profile that Lyka owned. All of the text was completely illegible to me of course, but I was still happy to see something as normal as this.
I handed back its card and planned on doing the same since I still had my wallet. But when I slid my licenses out a small family photo that was hidden underneath flew out too. The picture was on the ground before I could notice, and Lyka picked it up without a second thought. It examined the glossy photo before speaking up again. “Albert?” I assumed it asked as it pointed towards my face on the paper image.
“Yeah.” I nodded back. “Albert and family.” It had been a while since I looked at that photo. The thought of my parents unearthed countless memories of my past. From playing with my parents out in the backyard as a child to showing them my university diploma at graduation. All those memories were still there, thankfully. I just wished I had the chance to tell them goodbye before the shattering happened. The flashbacks made me tear up slightly, where were my parents now?
Lyka handed back the family photo and I traded over my driver’s licenses for it to look at. Felt like I was exchanging insurance information for a car accident or something. Funny how some things never change, if only I had a car in the first place. Lyka flipped my license over as many times as I did with its, then handed it back. “Albert,” it repeated but this time with what I hoped was a smile. I cautiously smiled back.
Then from the same pocket it pulled out a family picture of its own and came over to share. The quality of the picture made me think of something you would see from the mid 1900’s. On it were four fluffy individuals. I instantly picked out Lyka from the picture, but the two individuals behind it were much taller. Most certainly its parents. The taller parent had the same cream undertone but was dark green instead of burgundy. It was wearing something that looked like overalls and nothing more. My guess was this one was Lyka’s father, especially with how buff it was. Both of its hands were on Lyka’s shoulders.
To the right of this huge furball was the other parent. It had a light shade of red for its overcoat. Looked similar to Lyka in terms of shape but was still taller. Its outfit appeared to be some kind of sky blue dress. This one was probably Lyka’s mother, which gave me more reason to believe Lyka was a girl.
Standing underneath this motherly figure was a tiny pipsqueak. It had bright green fur and reached up to Lyka’s waist in height. There was a juvenile grin spread across its face and all it was wearing was a red shirt and shorts. I didn’t have any clues on what gender that one was, but my best guess was it had to be Lyka’s younger sibling.
The odd family photo brought a smile to my face. It was almost awesome to see something so foreign yet so relatable at the same time. Unfortunately I couldn’t say the same for Lyka. It was staring intensely at the photo, and very soon started to tremble. No longer was it keeping its tail up. Before I knew it tears were rushing from its eyes and turned around to hug me. Its head rested on my shoulder and both arms were fully wrapped around me. The sudden hug made me wince in pain. That wasn’t a big tuft of fur on their chest, it was a bone or something. Whatever it was felt like a spike piercing directly into my chest. Had to grit my teeth some to endure the unpleasant experience.
Meanwhile, Lyka kept sobbing into my shoulder and held on tightly. I could hear weird ramblings in its language with my name sprinkled in. Probably saying stuff like: “I miss my parents, Albert!” and: “Oh, I’m so afraid, Albert. I just want to go home!” The poor thing was severely distressed.
“There, there,” I said and patted Lyka’s back. “Everything will be alright. We’ll make it through this together.” Lyka probably didn’t understand the words themselves but clearly understood the message. It realized how uncomfortable the situation was and backed off from me. Glad to get that pain off my chest. But Lyka was still sniffling over its missing family. Its ears pointed back like an upset dog and the constant whimpering didn’t help either. Lyka looked pitiful, so I brought it over to my side and did my best to comfort it in a way that wouldn’t hurt my body.
“You got to stay strong, Lyka,” I said and clasped their hand tightly, holding it up in the air. “Stay strong for your family, Lyka.”
Lyka stared back and appeared to lighten up. The stream of tears had stopped and its frown turned into a smile. Its tail resumed the calm swaying motion of before. I smiled back and kept holding on to their fluffy paw… hand… whatever it was. We both stood there in silence holding on to what little faith was left.
Right on cue just to ruin this moment was my stomach growling. Lyka looked down to investigate the noise emanating from my lower torso. I couldn’t help myself and laughed at the rude interruption, but Lyka didn’t seem to mind. Guess now was time to begin our little team up.
Our new partnership was off to a good start. Lyka was a very resourceful critter and her backpack was full of shiny knickknacks from across the lands. Unfortunately most of it wasn’t something we could eat, but its skills as a scrapper still proved useful in finding edible resources. I wondered what kind of life it had before the shattering.
After scrounging the neighboring buildings for food we stumbled upon a place that looked very interesting. It was about three stories tall and had windows all across each floor. The building itself appeared to be made out of a yellowy porous material, but that wasn’t the only oddity. A humongous tree with dark blue bark and purple leaves was merged with half of the building. This was a strange sight to behold, as if somebody made the tree appear from thin air inside the building. Following that, the tree itself was almost twice as high as the building. Looking closer we could see that there was no structural damage to be found where the tree intersected with the building. It made a perfect cut where bark met brick. We crept inside the front door to see what it was all worth.
The room we entered appeared to be a lobby area of sorts, with seating all around and a receptionist booth on our right. That’s what it looked like to me at the very least. Directly in front of us was a straight hallway running across the width of the entire building. A simple stairwell leading up to the next floor was on the opposite side of us connected to the hallway. On our left was a multitude of the dark blue branches creeping in from the hallway. There was no way we could easily explore that side of the building.
I slowly made my way to the hallway and invested the first door on the right. What my eyes saw was relief like no other. This first room had all the similarities to your average apartment. A small living room connected to the kitchen, and a single door opened up to the bedroom. And topping it all off was a complete bathroom connected to the bedroom! I couldn’t hold my excitement in any longer. Looking at all the amenities made me jump for joy. Meanwhile, Lyka was peering in from the hallway, probably wondering why I was acting all strange.
Without further delay I opened up every single door and cabinet I could find. Each one greeting me with all kinds of alien supplies in funky packaging. I began ripping open boxes and plastic containers, sorting through all their contents for anything resembling food. First priority was simple food that wouldn’t spoil easily. After that was checking for sealed containers of water. If it was sealed properly then there was barely any chance of contamination. Of course, that was only if the liquid inside was actually water.
Lyka finally set foot inside the apartment and investigated my work. At that moment I had in my hands something like a cardboard box. Printed on its sides was some little humanoid holding rectangular bars. Rectangles were always a good sign. Tearing open the top revealed layers of brown rectangles inside a clear plastic bag. Lyka watched as I opened the bag and sniffed the cracker-like plate. It didn’t smell bad at all, so I gently licked the surface for my first taste test. A wave of happiness overtook me and I began munching on the alien cracker. This was food, actual food! And we were in a gigantic apartment complex filled with the stuff!
I turned to Lyka and waved a cracker while another one disappeared into my mouth. There was some hesitation but it soon took the snack from my hand. It repeated my steps, sniffing the bar a few times then licking it for good measure. The tongue that slid out was quite long indeed. After licking a few times Lyka tossed the cracker into its mouth. Its ears perked up and a smile ran across its face. A new fan favorite I could tell. I wonder how long it had been since Lyka ate something that wasn’t scraps.
The crackers were divided up between the two of us and we did our best to sort through the alien kitchen. With the dry food out of the way I opened the door to what was probably a fridge. There was no power to this place so I hoped nothing had rotted inside. My fear came true as a fowl odor assaulted the air around us. It was an unpleasant smell like no other and made me gag a little. I slammed the fridge door shut. Investigating the rest of that would have to wait. Didn’t want to ruin what little appetite I had.
What was a slightly awful smell for me must had been horrendous for Lyka. It clutched its mouth in response to the odor and started gagging way more than I did. That nose it had was much stronger than mine and probably couldn’t cope with a smell as terrible as this. Lyka’s face drained of color and quickly rushed out into the hallway. I had little time to react, but I absolutely heard Lyka puking in the lobby area. Poor thing. When it came back I had a fresh bottle of water waiting for it. And not some alien water, it was some I had brought with me in my pack. Well, it wasn’t alien to me, but it was definitely alien to Lyka.
I swished the liquid around and opened it up for Lyka. It still looked absolutely sick but quickly took the bottle and started chugging. A few drinks later and Lyka was looking better. A weird “merp” sound came from its mouth and handed the bottle back to me. Was that how its kind said thanks? Lyka rested on the dusty couch in the living room area after that and I continued to toil away.
Sorting the rest of the apartment took some time but with enough hard work I had ransacked the entire place. After doing all that I realized that I never properly tested the plumbing. I walked over to the kitchen sick substitute and messed with the valves. The piping shook for a second before a bland stream of water poured out. A good sign. This amount of water was a blessing to behold. Sure it might have been alien tap water, but a bit of boiling could solve any potential hazards. At least I hoped it could.
To prepare for the worst, I plugged up the drain and let the sink fill up. If anything happened to the plumbing then we would at least have some water to spare. Following that rule I went to the bathroom and did the same there. My plan now was to do this with every sink in the complex. I wasn’t for sure how long we would be staying here, but more security for our supplies was always worth it. Lyka followed me into the bathroom and watched the sink fill up with me. The two of us stood there, staring at the rising water level until it reached the cusp of the bowl. I then gave Lyka a thumbs up and smiled, only to realize that probably wasn’t a universal signal for a good job. But they surprised me once more and copied my hand with a thumbs up of their own. The blank face Lyka had told me it probably didn’t understand what this motion meant. Progress was still progress, however.
The two of us continued throughout the apartment, exploring every nook and cranny we could find for supplies. This place had been untouched for a very long time it seemed. More food and water for us, I suppose. Along the way we filled all the sinks that worked just in case. Even with all the bottled water we had, it never hurt to take extra precautions. Also, having some spare water for other needs like cleaning was very helpful. Lyka must have thought the same, because as we were finishing up a sweep of the third floor it barked something at me then shut itself in one of the rooms. I waited for a few seconds, and as I was about to open the door I heard running water. Guess it wanted some privacy for whatever. Fine by me.
It was starting to get dark so I brought some supplies up to the roof and created a small fire. The nights around here got a bit cold and I had some water that needed boiling. After getting the fire going and placing some bottles on a pot I went back down to check on Lyka. There was still water running from the apartment it was in. After taking this long that didn’t sound good.
“Lyka?” I said with a raised voice at the closed door. No response, just more running water. “Lyka!” I yelled and slammed open the door. Tons of terrible scenarios began running through my head as to what may have happened. I was surprised how many I thought of in the five seconds it took to reach the bathroom. My eyes were then met with probably the best and worst case scenario.
Lyka was taking a shower and had completely stripped down. Its ruby back was facing me when I rushed in, but turned around just in time to see my dumbfounded face. It screeched in response to my intrusion and covered its privates up. Instinctively, Lyka wrapped its tail around to help block my gaze from its furry crotch. I probably stared for too long in that moment and saw way more than what was sociably acceptable. Whoops. I shook my head to break from the trance and quickly turned around.
“Sorry! I’m so sorry!” I said and left the room in an instant. Talk about an embarrassing first encounter. How stupid was I to think Lyka was in trouble? However, that encounter unintentionally gave me some more insight. From what I saw, Lyka had two barely visible mounds of flesh on its chest sandwiching that keel-like sternum. If there were any nipples they were hiding underneath all that fur. The juicy info came from down below in their crotch region. It appeared to have genitalia resembling a vagina, but in that split second I saw there was also something else. Like a tentacle connected to the very top. I say tentacle because it curled when Lyka saw me, like it had full control over the thing. My mind was racing over what that thing was. Some weird limb? A completely unique organ? Was Lyka a hermaphrodite or something? I hoped not, because thinking about it just made me more confused.
I pushed the thought aside and focused on other things to clear my mind. All of Lyka’s supplies were on the ground when I was in there and I didn’t see any towels. Wanting to be the best alien friend I could, I went to my stuff on the roof and brought back a fresh towel for Lyka to use when finished. Then I waited outside the apartment door. Wasn’t long before the shower shut off and a very long snout poked through the doorway.
“A-Albert?” Lyka sheepishly said. Its fur was somewhat wet and matted down.
“Yep, I’m still here,” I said and tossed the towel over without peeking. “Use that to dry yourself off, I won’t watch.”
Lyka stared at the towel for a second before shutting the door. A few moments later and they came back out barely clothed, only wearing a tank top and what imitated some light pink undies. The towel was draped around its head and all its fur was puffed out. Once again I couldn’t help myself but laugh at its measly appearance. Like a wet dog dried off after a bath, Lyka was the furriest thing in this world.
After my laughing fit I noticed just how much Lyka was shivering. It was getting pretty cold so I brought it up to the fire I had made. The two of us sat on the rooftop underneath the starry night sky, our shadows bouncing off the gigantic tree’s silhouette. Similar to the landscape it hovered above, the night sky was a patchwork of shapes and colors never seen before. Some stars moved about sporadically while others pulsated with much intensity. What a sight to behold. If only the current circumstances weren’t the reason why we could observer it.
I adverted my gaze back down to Lyka. All it was doing was looking at the crackling fire before us. Thankfully it stopped shivering so much, but it still looked somewhat depressed. I wondered what was going through its mind at this moment. So many things to think about like family, survival, and the awkward moment we had minutes ago. That was something Lyka or I wouldn’t forget I knew for sure.
With the fire illuminating our rooftop retreat, I began cleaning up my shotgun. Those few rounds I fired earlier barely made it dirty, but if I was to entrust my life with this gun then keeping it spotless was of utmost priority. Got out my cleaning rod, a fresh piece of cloth, and a bottle of gun oil. Once I unloaded all the shells and double checked the chamber things were good to go. Lyka watched from across the campfire very intently. It definitely liked mechanical stuff, but right now it was too busy drying off to come over and pester me. Probably for the better, I didn’t want it messing something up with my shotgun while cleaning.
I finished oiling the barrel and set it to my side. The rest of the parts weren’t that dirty so I gave everything a nice scrub then lightly oiled them up and put it all back together. When that was done I wiped off my hands and sighed to signal my task complete. Lyka noticed and a few sounds exhaled from its mouth. Some more words I couldn’t understand. It then got up and moved over to my side. “Albert...”
“Yes, Lyka?” I asked as it lounged on my shoulder. Lyka was very warm now all thanks to this campfire, which felt pretty comfy if you asked me. The moment it rested on me it started humming a simple tune. Naturally it didn’t sound like any tune I had heard before, but it was still relaxing to listen to.
Crackling from the fire accompanied Lyka’s serenade as the two of us sat there under the stars. I went over my mental checklist for the night. We sorted as many supplies as we could, filled all the sinks with water, and found a nice place to sleep for the night. What else was there to do? I guess work on breaking the language barrier between us. Had to start somewhere and now was probably the best time.
Reaching around into my nearby backpack I pulled out a notebook and pencil. Lyka’s ears perked up again, interested in what I had planned. Along with the stationary I also took out the family photo from my wallet. I might have not been the best artist around these parts but I did my best to recreate my immediate family tree. There were grand visions of a perfect drawing in my mind, unfortunately what actually ended up on my paper were a few mediocre stick figures. I was definitely way over my head for this. Lyka on the other hand was genuinely curious what the little people were and didn’t take it too long to figure out I had drawn my family.
“Mom,” I said and tapped on the drawing of my mother, before tapping on my other parent. “Dad.” After that I drew a line connecting them with an arrow splitting off towards me. “Son. Albert.”
I wrote down labels for my family and repeated them a few times, hoping that Lyka would understand my linage. It stared at the page for a few seconds before bringing out its family photo from early. There was a pause as Lyka held the picture in its hands. I’m sure that tons of memories were creeping back up in its mind, but it pushed on through and tapped on the photo then on my paper. Some garbled words came out of Lyka’s mouth as well. I knew what it wanted and took the picture from its hands. Some intense drawing later and I had recreated Lyka’s family tree the best I could. Instead of stick figures with circles for heads it was stick figures with cheese wedges for heads. And fluffy tails, couldn’t leave that important detail out.
Lyka was pleased with the childish imitation of its family tree and clapped at my drawing skills. Glad to see somebody appreciated my hard work around here. There was slight caution in Lyka’s next action, but it eventually grabbed the pencil out of my hands. A few moments later and it had labeled every family member on its side. I then went through the same process I gave to Lyka now with it as the teacher and me as the student. Things were starting to get pieced together bit by bit.
We spend the rest of the night sharing information between the two of us. Stuff like giving names to everyday objects and trying to guess what each alien word meant. Even learned what their species was called, something that sounded like “sergal.” All this learning was a blast and a well needed break from the survival business I was used to.
Although it was getting close to bedtime (indicated by Lyka yawning), I still had one more hurdle to get over. I wrote the word “male” beside my dad and I, then “female” beside my mom. Trying to figure out Lyka’s gender was going to be tough, but I had a few ideas in mind. First was to see if it could understand why I shared one term with my dad but not my mom. That didn’t go so well as Lyka stared back with a blank face. Totally saw that one coming. I took the next step and drew some comical cock and balls on the male stick figures. Then I repeated the terms out loud, making sure it recognized that the male drawings had something the female didn’t. My disappointment was immeasurable when Lyka hit me with the same blank stare.
I sighed, but not all hope was lost. There was one last trick up my sleeve and it required the use of some “forbidden” gestures. A tiny bit of preparation was needed first. Beside the word female I drew a circle, and beside the words male I drew a flat line. Now for the juicy part, I brought both hands out and pointed towards my left hand with my right. “Male,” I said and shook my pointing right hand. Then I formed a circle with my left hand’s index finger and thumb. “Female,” I said and shook it as well. Lyka was unsure where this was going but kept a watchful eye on my hand motions. Finally, to wrap it all up, I rapidly moved my right index finger in and out of the circle made with my left hand. Took about ten seconds of repeating this motion for Lyka to finally understand.
The reaction I got was beautiful. First, Lyka’s ears pointed straight up and its eyes grew as big as golf balls. Its tail straightened up instantly, and I knew it was blushing underneath all that fur. Then embarrassment turned into what sounded like laughter. Or more of a cackling with some yips thrown in. Lyka was clearly amused by the steps I went through to explain how I was a male. It laughed for a solid minute before calming down then reached for my pencil. This was it, time for the big reveal. I closed my eyes in anticipation as it jotted something down. A few seconds later and the deed was done.
When I opened my eyes I let out a huge sigh of relief. Lyka had drawn a circle by her character. In that instance it felt like a thousand pounds were lifted from my shoulders. Not only was Lyka a girl, but I also predicted the correct genders of her parents. The only one that threw me off was what turned out to be her little brother which I swore was going to be a sister. With that trouble out of the way I knew I could sleep easy tonight. Except not really, because there was still that weird tentacle thing she had going on down there. Oh well, one mystery at a time I suppose.
Before we went to bed there was actually one more thing I wanted to do. I pulled out my phone and turned it on. Didn’t have any way of charging it so I left it off until needed. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a signal around here, how surprising. But all of its other functions worked just fine like the camera. I wanted to save this moment and celebrate our new alien relationship together. What better way to do that than with a selfie? Lyka’s eyes lit up as she viewed the strange electronic device in my hands. Her kind probably didn’t have this level of technology yet. I bet she was wondering what marvels awaited inside this sleek rectangular device.
I turned to Lyka and pointed the phone’s camera at her. With one tap a small click came from the speaker, revealing on screen Lyka’s puzzled stare in perfect condition. I showed her and she was surprised to see just how high quality the picture was. Made me smile seeing her so happy. Then I pulled her close and took a proper selfie together, with an end result that was almost too much for the zippy fur ball. The both of us had fun the rest of that night taking various photos of ourselves, enjoying what limited charge time was left on my phone’s battery.
Suddenly, interrupting our nighttime photo op, Lyka froze with her ears shooting up. She scanned the area for a bit before creeping over to the edge of the roof. I wondered what that was all about as she continued scanning the pitch black landscape. But my question was soon answered as I heard the sound of bells ringing off in the distance. That was one more thing Lyka’s kind has over me: better hearing. I grabbed a bottle of dirty water and doused the flames. Couldn’t take any chances with whatever this noise was. The bells came closer and closer with every passing minute, until we eventually saw the source of the unusual ringing.
Down below in the street was some cloaked creature. Tied to its back were multiple bells of various shapes, ringing with every step the creature took. And it took a lot of steps because the thing had four scrawny limbs poking out from its round frame. In front were two similar limbs holding a set of crooked walking sticks. More bells adorned the rods and continued jingling with the rest. That was my eyes could make out of the strange creature below due to the darkness. Whatever that thing was had a goal in mind and continued walking down the street with no rest in sight.
The two of us stayed silent. Despite wanting to make friends with every intelligent being around, something told me to not bother with this one. I took out my phone and snapped the best picture I could of the strange wanderer. In that moment the thing stopped and I swear it turned around to face us.
“Shit,” I whispered and hunkered out of sight, pushing Lyka’s head down with me. That thing was starting to creep me out. Who knew what it was capable of? Sure, I could probably take it one on one but I wasn’t looking for a fight at this time. We kept our heads down and waited. After what felt like an eternity the bells picked up again, the thing restarting its journey away from us. I slowly peeked my head above the roof’s edge and snapped one final picture of the strange creature’s back. At that moment I noticed a weird wooden plank was tied to its back. Judging from the picture it appeared to be a sign with odd drawings all over it. I couldn’t make any sense of it, marking another mystery added to the ever growing pile.
That was it for our rooftop escapades. No more fire meant no more reason to be up here, it was already late enough as is. I gathered all our things and escorted Lyka back down to the third floor. Ended up booking the night in the same apartment that Lyka took a shower in. Being the gentleman that I was, I let my furry friend take the only available bed. A dusty couch was already an improvement for me compared to most previous nights.
Before Lyka retired to her temporary bedroom, she turned to me and spoke up. “Albert...”
“What is it?” I could tell she was trying her hardest to think of something special to say back.
“Albert. Good,” she said and wagged her tail. So she did remember something from our short language session earlier. Teaching her might turn out to be easier than expected.
“Yes, Good,” I said and nodded back. With little time to react she went in for a hug, piercing my sternum with hers once more. “Ouch! Please… warn me next time you want a hug.”
Lyka let out a small giggle then closed the bedroom door behind her. What a sweet sergal thing she was. I wondered how long it would be before we could have an actual conversation together. It was nice to have something fun like that to look forward to. I needed all the reasons I could get to keep going in this shattered world.
All that work today had me drained. I walked back to the main room and hopped onto the couch which was a huge mistake. Tons of dust flew up in the air and gave me a coughing fit. Whoops again. As my coughing died down I laid my head back and tried to get some sleep. Too many thoughts were rushing through my mind, like what we would do in the morning. Should we stay here a while longer or move on and look for greener pastures? If we stay, should I consolidate all the supplies or just leave them in each apartment? If we go, what do I need to bring? And what was that mysterious creature wandering in the night?
That last thought jolted me out of my dreams, a reminder of something important that I forgot to do. I got up and checked the door to make sure it had a working lock. If there were more strangers out there then I had to make sure we were safe in our sleep. To be doubly sure about our security I moved the couch over, blocking the door from swinging open. Now if anything tried forcing its way in then I would know. I hoped the couch screeching against the floor didn’t wake Lyka.
With the barricaded door giving me some peace of mind I finally drifted to sleep. My dreams were as nonsensical as always, except with Lyka invading every now and then. The only part I remembered well was near the end where a bunch of spiders started crawling on me. Each one made these weird mechanical clacking noises. Creepy. So creepy in fact it woke me up and was met with something I should have seen coming.
On the floor in front of the couch was my shotgun broken down to all of its components. Lyka was sitting down on the other side of the mess, desperately trying to piece everything back together. I was no expert on alien facial gestures but could tell she was extremely frustrated. She just couldn’t resist getting her actual paws on something as mechanically complex as my shotgun. The weirdest part was Lyka using her feet to work with stuff as well. I didn’t notice it earlier but they appeared to be extremely dexterous, maybe as dexterous as her actual hands. That explained why she didn’t have any shoes on all this time.
Lyka failed to notice me wake up, so I let out an exaggerated yawn in hopes of spooking her. A sharp yip came from her mouth and she froze. Gotcha. I sat up and examined the mess before us, thankfully not too much damage was done to my precious gun. To be frank, all I cared about was that she didn’t accidentally firing the thing. That would have been quite the rude awakening.
I rolled off the couch and approached my disassembled shotgun. Lyka shifted from a surprised look to a shameful pose and adverted her gaze from me. I was slightly miffed at her for taking it apart without asking. However, another yawn from me indicated I was too groggy to be upset this early.
“Lyka, it’s alright,” I said and scooted over to her side. She went from ashamed to puzzled in an instant, probably wondering why I wasn’t mad. “Let me show you how to put this back together, okay?”
First I checked that the trigger assembly was still functioning. Looked like Lyka couldn’t figure out how to remove the pins holding it in so it was good on that front. Then I reassembled the bolt, placed it back on the forward assembly, and slotted it all into the receiver. What really surprised me was how she took out the magazine tube spring. You needed something flat to remove that part and I didn’t see any tools lying around that would fit the bill. Maybe she used a claw to do so. I put that back together then finally inserted the barrel. To top things off I let Lyka screw back on the magazine tube cap and my shotgun was finished. After pumping it a few times to show everything was in working order I could see Lyka was delighted at our work. Being friendly really does go a long way.
A brand new day meant brand new opportunities, and I wouldn’t be alone for them anymore. With Lyka by my side who knew what we could achieve out here in these shattered realms. Before this, I didn’t have any other goal besides survival. But now, with somebody to look out for, things had changed. We needed to find a place worthy of a home. Sure, we could stay here in this apartment complex a little bit longer. Although if we did that then we would eventually run out of supplies. Alien graham crackers don’t magically respawn around these parts. It was time to leave this place for now.
We wouldn’t be mindlessly wandering out here either. I had taken a closer look at the sign in the picture of the strange creature. With the power of image editing I increased the brightness and saw a bit more detail. The sign had a few arrows pointing in the direction of the creature’s movement, and in the center was a V-shaped symbol surrounded by two jagged lines. Reaching far back into my memories I recalled seeing this same type of symbol before painted onto various walls. It didn’t make sense then but now it might actually mean something. The optimist in me wanted to believe it meant the location of a town or sanctuary. Following the path of that strange creature was our best bet in finding out.
The morning suns greeted us as we stepped back out into the street. Wait, where there always two suns in the sky before? It honestly didn’t matter as long as we weren’t being scorched by them while outside. Our bags were filled with supplies ready for the daily trek. Had to help Lyka make a few sacrifices from her collection of metal scrap so we could carry more edible scrap. She definitely had a knack for that kind of stuff and these lands were filled to the brim with it. I wondered what kind of profession her family specialized in before the shattering tore everything apart. My guess was they were mechanics of some sort.
“You ready?” I asked Lyka, turning to meet her pointy front facing gaze. It’ll take me forever to get used to that. Lyka didn’t respond verbally, instead she just smiled back before playfully sticking out her tongue. What a jokester. “I’ll take that as a yes then.”