Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Not Looking Down

by Luc Reid

This continues the series “Outcasts on Earth,” which also includes the stories “The Winter Life,” “Secret-Runner,” and “Of the Third Sex, in a Park.”

I think it is our bulging compound eyes and our tentacled upper mouths that cause humans to fear us, whereas it should be our overpowering intellect and our masterful coordination.

But we have thoroughly investigated Earth and found it not worth acquiring, so my kind has left. Only a handful of us have been ordered to remain, vigilant for signs of human interference in our resource networks or for unexpected opportunities that would make invasion a reasonable investment.

Oh, Loathesome Gods of Dust, how I wish every day to find an opportunity.

I think humans would not treat us well even if our visages did not frighten them. We vary in size, but I am considered tall and am only just above a meter in height. Earth is pestiferously inconvenient for me.

Desks and counters are generally set above my eye level. Switches and knobs are often out of my reach. I cannot get leverage to open windows. I cannot reach faucets to make water flow. I have great difficulty climbing up onto Western-style earth toilet seats when I have to shed grillnkh. I cannot see in movie theaters unless I sit in the front row, and then I have to tilt my upper head back so far that my muscle hinge aches for hours after.

At this particular time I am standing at a junction of streets in an Earth city. They have a primitive means of keeping pedestrian activity isolated from vehicle activity whereby the pedestrian presses a button, and after an inexplicable pause, signal lights tell the vehicles to stop and the pedestrians that the way is clear. The button for these signal lights, of course, is just out of my reach. I am straining to reach it now.

“I feel you, brother,” says a human voice, and someone jabs the button with an umbrella. I turn to see a human sitting in a chair that has been fitted with four wheels, the ones in back much larger. He tucks his umbrella into a backpack slung behind him.

A moment later, the permission to walk is granted symbol appears. “We may walk now,” I say.

“We may?” he says. “Aah, I’m just not feeling like walking today.” He rolls forward into the crosswalk.

I follow, unable to help fhuuling in amusement despite knowing how it disturbs some humans.

“Holy shit, son,” says the human, laughing. “How do you even do that?”

With my lower mouth, I smile in the human fashion. How strange to like one of the people you crave to destroy.

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