Not for Human Consumption

“And now look at me.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but understand me when I tell you that you–all of you–are unique.  Where I’m from, guys your size don’t communicate, they spend their days soaking up the sun and watching the world pass by from the branch of a tree.”
Virrn tilted his head.  “You are the first I have seen alive who was not watching us from behind the clear walls.  Excuse us for not knowing how to respond.”
“Look,” Kate said, shifting her weight to accommodate her bad arm.  “Let’s just agree to give each other a little leeway.  I guarantee you protocol for me is going to be a lot different than what you’re used to.  I forgive you.  And I promise I’ll try to behave.”
“You are willing to concede much.”
Kate let out part of a breath.  “Story of my life.  There’s a lot more where that came from.”  She peered back toward the tear in the hull and the scattering rays of light that broke through the trees and found their way down to the metal walls.  “Do you mind if I ask what you have to eat around here?  It’s been at least three days since I had something filling.”
Virrn leapt from his perch on the haptic display and leapt onto Kate’s arm.  Their eyes locked.
She recoiled momentarily.  “Is that a no?  I wasn’t intending to take your food.”
“You are sad.”
You are observant,” she said, unsure how to respond.  “And blunt.  This is me giving you leeway, by the way.  You’re a little more forward in your speech than I’m accustomed to.”
“What did you do to become sad?” Virrn asked, crawling farther up her arm.
“What did I do?” Kate wanted to brush him back down her arm, but decided against it.   “I didn’t ask for it, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“It found you?” Virrn opened his mouth wide.  “What did you do?”
“I–Nothing everyone else I know hadn’t already done.  I played the game and lost.”
Virrn tilted his head.
“A metaphor.  Sorry.  Relationships.  You’ve most likely seen them in some form if you were paying any attention at all during your education.”
Virrn crawled past her elbow and turned back.  “What was it like?”
“While it lasted, there’s nothing that can compare to it.  Now that it’s over?  I’ve spent the last four months wishing I could remove my heart and eat it.”
“A metaphor?” Virrn said.
“I think so,” Kate replied.  “Most days, anyway.  You catch on quickly.”

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