Burn, Parasite

They arrived unheralded on a cool, gray, April morning.

Made no efforts to hide. None, either, to communicate.

Landed quietly in a constellation of low hills, amid the maples and alders of the Pacific Northwest. Took time picking a spot while news anchors ad-libbed about extraterrestrials and frightened citizens flocked to supermarkets and gun shops.

Over the ten months that followed, Earth’s new guests attacked no one, stole nothing. They also ignored all inquiries, diplomatic, scientific, journalistic. Kept to themselves, growing and eating their own strange worms, grooming each other’s feathers, watching the sun set each evening from perches high in the trees of their new home.

In the end, we didn’t attack them because they were menacing. We attacked them because they were reticent. No cures, no new alloys, no theoretical insights. No help whatsoever, really. So we drove them off with pitchforks and guns and flamethrowers.

Not once fighting back, they rushed to their ship and fled to space.

We later came to understand how frightened they must have been. Although they had fuel enough remaining to escape Earth’s gravity, they puttered out 3 km/s short of the delta-v needed to leave our solar system. Thus adrift, they assumed a helpless orbit around our sun.

In early thermal scans, their ship shimmered with heat from the life inside. Over the next fifty years, the craft chilled until it barely stood out against space at all.

A list of short stories published in other venues, most of them longer than microfiction and with links to the journals that published them, can be found here


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