By Sarah Terzo
2nd Place, Prose, Create | Encounter 2023
They were sitting in her home, in front of the hologram machine. It was a warm day outside and the windows were open. She was enjoying the light breeze against her face. He sat a little apart from her with his legs tucked under him. Looking at him, she felt a twinge of something like regret. It was a momentous day for her, for them both — but he didn’t know it yet.
The news was talking about the aliens again, the ones in the Al-Kaziz galaxy. Apparently, they had just declared war on yet another planet. He turned to her, “Such a warlike species.”
“Yes, it seems like they’re determined to fight with just about everyone. But I’m not worried.”
“No? You don’t think they’ll attack us next?”
“They’re spread too thin. Now they’re fighting a war on three fronts. I have no idea how they think they’re going to win. The weapons the Trilianns have? They don’t stand a chance. They’ve made a major mistake.”
“I don’t know… They could still go after us.”
“They’ll never get that far. They are a small planet, a small race. Their enemies now outnumber them 100 to 1. They can’t conquer three civilizations at once. Three civilizations, I might add, that have been around a lot longer than they have.”
“They have those, what are they called, nuclear weapons… They can destroy whole continents. One of those going off in one of our major cities –”
“They have to reach us first. We’re well protected. They will never get past our defenses. They won’t even get past the Triliann’s defenses. Their bombs won’t do any good if they can’t reach any planet’s surface.”
“I’m still worried. They did so much damage to K-Chilla.”
“That’s different. They caught them by surprise. And now they have the Trilianns and the Hastiks to worry about in addition to what’s left of the K-Chilla.”
“Still- they have no problem bombing cities, killing civilians-“
“Don’t worry. This was a major mistake on their part. It’s going to be a disaster for them. They will be destroyed long before they reach us. The Trilianns will never forgive them for attacking them.”
“They really shouldn’t have done that.”
“They shouldn’t have. The Trilianns aren’t like us. They won’t accept terms of surrender. They’re going to annihilate the himmins. They won’t stop until they kill every last one.”
“I think they actually call themselves humans. Our translators got it wrong.”
“Doesn’t matter. Soon they’re going to be extinct. We’ll never have to worry about them.”
“Good riddance.” He flicked back his antenna. For a moment, they sat in silence.
“You know what our scientists discovered about them? The females kill their own young when they don’t want them.”
“Really?” She clicked her mandibles in disgust. “They destroy their own eggs?”
“They don’t lay eggs. They carry their young within them, like the Trilianns do. After they conceive, if they decide it isn’t a good time? They just expel their young before they can survive. Or they have another human go in and take the young one out. They kill them.”
She shuddered. “How barbaric.”
Again, they sat in silence, contemplating the horror of it all.
“T-klorr,” she finally said.
“Are you getting tired of me?”
“Of course not. But I have to – “
He came over and climbed onto the cushion next to her, then raised one leg and began to stroke her back.
But instead of turning over and inviting him to mate, she grabbed him in her strong, powerful forearms, digging her claws into his exoskeleton. With one powerful, well-placed bite, she severed his head from his body.
He twitched violently, shuddered, and was still.
She cleaned the thick green blood off her antennae and face. Then she grabbed his detached head and tossed it into the freezer to snack on later. She easily picked up his body and carried it into the chamber she’d prepared as soon as she realized her eggs were coming. It had been many cycles since the last time, and it would be many more cycles until she had to do this again.
She positioned him on the ground next to the others, then carefully turned him over. Finding the gap between two plates of armor on his back, she thrust her ovipositor into his body and laid a single egg.
He was the last one for this batch of eggs. Using her silk, she sealed the chamber. Now all she had to do was wait for her daughters to hatch.
For just a moment, again, she felt a sense of regret. There was a good chance he was the father of this batch. They’d mated many times over the past few months. Of course, it was hard to tell – even when her daughters hatched, she wouldn’t know for sure — all larvae looked the same until they molted.
She couldn’t help feeling a little sad. The other males? They’d been almost strangers. But she’d known T-klorr for many cycles. She would miss him.
Tucking her legs beneath her, she decided to stop thinking about it. After all, this was the way things were — the way they had always been.
Her daughters needed to eat.
It must be so strange to be a male, she thought idly. Never knowing. Just going on about your life, never knowing when a female’s eggs were coming, when it was time to fulfill your true purpose.
She was surprised that they continued to mate at all. She clicked her mandibles together. She couldn’t even imagine it.
This work is meant to convey that every society has its own traditions of violence and dehumanization. Many of these harmful views and practices are so widely accepted within the society’s individual culture they seem normal to members of that society. It is much easier to identify the injustices of other nations/time periods/groups than to recognize those of our own. It’s often hard to identify the moral failings of our own culture, and far easier to pass judgment on others.