The waves wish-wish-wish against the dock. Three slide out of the water, all long legs, short arms and small featureless heads. They slink smokelike through the dark air until they reach a small house on the dry side of town, slipping with ease through the breezy gap under the door, past the growling dog and up the stairs.
A brief silence broken by the ah-ah-ah of a last breath taken with stolen lungs, and a roiling black wisp flows from an upstairs window and lurches back to the dock.
Four slide into the water.
Look, if I’d known you weirdos thought these things were so bloody delicious, I would have disguised it as something else.
It’s not my fault, I’d only just got here and I didn’t have everything figured out yet. It was the right size and shape and I didn’t think it could be food because it’s enormous and you have tiny jaws and can’t swallow anything bigger than you can fit in your mouths. I didn’t realise how your food works for quite a while (knives are cheating, you know) because the only thing I’ve found here that’s edible are cats (which are everywhere. At first I thought I’d fallen on my feet – this is a cat joke, but you might not get it because I’m not very good at your humour – but boy, do people notice when they go missing). I thought it was perfect: an inedible plant, no-one’s going to think anything of that, are they? I could leave it unattended while I was hunting because if someone happened to stumble into someone else’s nest and happened to see a plant they couldn’t eat – as opposed to, say, a white translucent egg with something strongly resembling a squid growing inside it – they’d just ignore it, right?
He asks for music to be playing as his birthplace dies.
The human female doesn’t question and he doesn’t elaborate. She told him – on one of the long nights of the long voyage – about firework displays she’d attended as a child, and it was her description of the sparks blooming in time with the martial music that gave him the idea. After all, it is a kind of entertainment, even if the part of him that will enjoy it is the reason he’s long since stopped looking in mirrors.
She’s amused when he puts in his request. “You want to fiddle while Rome burns?”
He doesn’t understand even when she tries to explain, but as he looks out of the viewer at the pretty red and blue world below, he realises it doesn’t matter. It’s not as if he will have the chance to get to know these contrary people with their unfathomable vernacular and peculiar history. There will be no place for him in the new order, in spite of their promises, because these people are not trustworthy. He accepts this.