I woke up in a hospital on a different planet, with a different arm and leg. I would have hoped to keep my limbs, but they were beyond saving. I would have hoped to have landed on a planet with humans, but that didn't happen either.
The escape pod did its job, just not the way I wanted it to.
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"What was the situation?" the nurse asked. "Did they have you surrounded?"
"Why do you care? You live in peace," I replied, not wanting to look at the grey, scaled skin and all four piercing eyes. "The war will never reach your system."
"It's safe to say that the war is done growing," the nurse murmured. "Your people…I am so sorry. I can't imagine what it's like-"
"To fight a losing battle?"
I snapped at her, turning to see some expression that would make me feel better. Yet, there wasn't a wrinkle, a widening of the eyes, there was nothing. I had no way of knowing if she was mocking me or comforting me.
Yet, my words must have struck a chord, she looked away and then left without a reply.
I turned back to the window, looking down at the street below from the hospital bed. Their structure was so similar to ours, in streets and architecture. I suppose with gravity being universal on planets like these, societies form the same way.
Yet, even the enemy looked more human than these creatures. The attackers from Z-15 had skin, two eyes and could make expressions of joy and anger; just not fear. Yet, you could read them, understand them.
I felt I was surrounded by the unpredictable and it terrified me.
Worse, I had an arm and leg that weren't human. When I first looked down, my eyes drifted across my black skin till it reached a silver border of scales. The way they curled onto my skin in a jagged nature, it felt like it was consuming my arm.
Bitterly, I cursed them. The doctors, their insanity. Their foolish experimentation. On earth, they give you a prosthetic of your choice, if you want one at all. Yet, in my unconscious state, they simply went with what they normally did and gave me an arm and leg I couldn't tolerate.
I was unable to move them and unable to care beyond the window my bed was against. All I did since was watch the cars, the people and their ways.
"H-Here," a voice said next to me.
I turned around, seeing the nurse, but it wasn't her voice. Lowering my eyes, I saw a kid, one of them, eyes as wide as expressionless and in her arms a doll which she held out to me.
I was going to shake my head, but something caught my eye. I picked up my glasses from the side table and leaned closer. The doll was me, childishly made, yet it was me nonetheless. New arm and leg included.
I saw something else. The kid was shaking. I scared her, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell from her face. It was that slight shiver of fear, perhaps even repulsion, that told me what the kid was thinking.
What humanity I had left responded and I forced my best comforting smile. Of course, in a world without expressions like mine, I believe I made it worse as her shaking persisted a little stronger.
"I'm sorry," I told her, my false smile fading. "Thank you, you did a great job."
I reached out and took the doll slowly, meekly, and saw that her shaking had stopped. For the briefest seconds, I thought I calmed her, but I realized in the next moment it was my arm.
I had taken the doll with my scaled, four-fingered, alien arm. I dropped the doll in surprise, my grip not being so great in the first place. Yet, the child bent down, picked it up and handed it to me again. I watched the fingers of my new appendage curl around it.
I was disgusted.
“You are progressing nicely,” the nurse told me several weeks later. Although time seemed to move slower on this planet, it might have been a few months relative to human time. “How do you feel about taking a walk to the park?”
“I couldn’t make it to the park,” I told her. My leg didn’t fail me, my heart did. I was a quivering mess. I no longer felt like a soldier. “I need to get back to earth, please, try to make contact.”
“Sir, we can’t, you know they have cut all communications during the war effort,” the nurse told me again. “I’m sure they will be able to track you down when they choose to reactivate your pod’s tracker. Until then, you are safe with us.”
It’s been so long, I no longer had the patience to contain myself. I needed to ask them the questions I wanted an answer to.
“Do you feel anything?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you pity me? Or do I disappoint you? Or do you hate me, or my people? Do you feel any emotion?”
The nurse was silent and expressionless.
“Of course I do,” she told me slowly. “Am I doing a poor job of showing it?”
“I...I can’t tell. I don’t know if you’re humouring me, or angry with me-”
“I am not angry with you. I am concerned, worried. We have just as much emotion as you. I guess you have no way of perceiving it, but it’s true.”
Her voice didn’t even change in tone. I could only take her words as fact. I would have given anything to see that child shaking in fear again, but even that was hollow.
“Let’s try walking to the park,” the nurse told me in monotone. “It might bring your spirits up.”
I refused. I made my decision. Worst of all, I think I heard her mutter something about fighting a losing battle.
Two years later, I received news that Earth lost the war. It’s hard to say how I felt. Once more, I was hoping for a better outcome, but it just didn’t work out that way. Losing battle or not, no soldier wants to hear they have no home to go back to. That they have nothing left to fight for.
Yet, on a planet of peace, where the fights were silly ones over silly things, I made a new home. One within my mind. One where I would stay until time caught up with me.