I Wanted You to be Happy by Alexandra Grunberg
The asteroid was not the end of the world, but it followed soon after. The asteroid was not even the cause for the end of the world. It led to the right conditions for revenge, but revenge does not come without reason. The asteroid meant the world could end. But the reason for the end of the world, was me.
Do you remember how we used to dance, Odina? How everyone laughed as you languidly spun beneath my suspended arm, our fingers intertwined? You seemed so happy, then. You always seemed so happy.
There was life on the planet. We thought it would be hard to find, but it was everywhere, and it was everything.
Everything in the metaphorical sense, with the implications of not just life, but intelligent life, and of how our place in the universe and our sense of superiority had been irrevocably altered. But everything in the literal sense as well, because this life, whatever it was at its most basic nature, could manifest as anything.
They were so terrifying when we landed, transforming into a giant monster, one thousand necks or more, ten thousand teeth snapping far above our heads, higher than the ship, higher than a skyscraper. Its multiple necks writhed in the pale blue smoke that engulfed the planet, making the monster seem larger than its already large size.
The idea came from the pilot’s imagination, a film he saw when he was a child and thought he had forgotten. But the aliens remembered for him. When we did not leave, they gave up trying to scare us away, their curiosity piqued by these persistent invaders. They changed again, into a form pulled from another crew member’s mind.
“Are all the aliens this beautiful?”
You blushed, and the reporters laughed.
Your gaze dropped to your hands, to your fingers flexing inward, outward. I thought you were exploring the capabilities of your new form. But I see now that you were exploring your prison.
You were all so beautiful.
Objectively, in your curves, in your long hair, in your demure smiles, in your gently welcoming hands. Subjectively, in a way none of the other members of the team could have known, in a way so specific to me: you looked just like Catherine.
I missed her so much.
I should have always known you were the strongest, the most talented of your kind, the most dangerous, because you were the best at what you did. You were the most perfect representation of her. I couldn’t leave you behind.
I didn’t think your species loved you, would miss you, would unleash hell to help you get revenge. I didn’t think about any of them. I only thought about how much I wanted you.
The team was excited to bring you home for their own selfish, scientific, curious reasons. I just wanted Catherine back. I was happy to settle for Odina.
“Why don’t you think the alien transforms anymore?”
“Would you want to look like anything else when you could look like this?” I responded.
Everyone laughed, even you, but I don’t think you knew what it meant. Maybe you were just trying to communicate with me, us. Maybe you were screaming.
At first, I thought you didn’t change because you wanted to look like Catherine, and you were happy. It did not take long to realize that you could not change once we left your planet, but I didn’t want you to change. I was happy.
I could not let you leave. I could not bring you back on our next journey to your planet, to find more of you, take more of you. I didn’t want to let you go. I didn’t think about how small our planet was compared to yours, how simple our species was compared to your variety, how terrifying our form was when compared with infinite possibilities.
At least, I did not care, because I was happy, and I could pretend you were, too.
Everyone on Earth thought you were happy, with your laughter and smiles.
Everyone on your planet knew you were miserable, and I didn’t think there was anything they could do about it.
I was wrong.
“Dance with me, Odina.”
You sat in the corner. I told myself you did not understand. I watched you staring out the window, looking at the stars. The expanse of space was overwhelmingly beautiful. I told myself that was why you cried. You can cry, and still be happy. I wanted so badly for you to be happy.
“Dance with me before I leave.”
You turned to me, and held out your hands, like you wanted to dance, but more like you wanted to come with me.
The asteroid hit just after we took off.
We all knew it was coming, but it was supposed to burn away as it traveled through the atmosphere. It was too small to make much of an impact. But it did not behave like a normal asteroid. It was something else entirely. A piece of history. A piece of your heart. A gift from your family who truly loved you.
We saw the smoke from the impact site rise and grow, turning the air the familiar blue of your planet. And then the monster rose out of the smoke, one thousand necks and ten thousand teeth and a million more nightmares made reality pulled from humankind’s imagination. I saw one thousand eyes accusing me, blaming me. We could not hear screams, but we imagined there was much screaming, before there was no screaming at all.
You destroyed the world.
But the reason for the end of the world, was me.
Alexandra Grunberg is a Glasgow-based author, poet, and screenwriter. Her fiction has appeared in multiple magazines and anthologies including Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and Cast of Wonders. You can learn more