500 Word Exercise – Loneliness
A small vessel drifted with its strange pilot through the last leg of the abyss – that’s what they called it, the expanse between the distant clusters where there was no starlight. Finally, a spark lit a faint spangle in the distance. And where there was light, there was contact. Her HUD activated on cue. One of their faces – only slightly disproportionate, for her liking, only slightly blue, only slightly alien – inconsiderately blocked out her spangle.
There were no words, of course, only expectation. They were telepathic by nature, and though they occasionally used vocal codes when sensitive information transmitted through traditional neural networks might be intercepted, they found the entire process of spoken languages clumsy and unpleasant, and certainly not civilized.
There was no “How are you today?” or “Did you have a safe journey?” as she used her cybernetic enhancements to transmit the identification engrams they had stored in her vastly inferior brain. They said electronic, organic, or verbal means of identification were too easily counterfeited, and using them was out of the question. So they dug out a sector of her face and skull and replaced it with something better.
The slightly blue, slightly alien face processed the information without blinking, and then gave a polite nod and was gone. She was alone, except for the faint, flickering spangle. She mused, as she engaged the engines towards their space, that she had actually been alone for quite some time. She was one of the Remnant, and they were so scattered that they rarely crossed paths anymore. In a generation or two her species would no doubt be extinct, which didn’t bother her too terribly. Besides her own mother and someone she’d seen at a distance in the spaceport, she hadn’t actually met any other Remnants.
But she did miss speaking. It was such a wondrous, fulfilling experience to express her feelings for someone else to hear. Her cybernetic enhancements were supposed to allow her to do so the way the others did, but unfortunately her vastly inferior brain couldn’t fully utilize the technology. So communication was limited. When they had to convey information, it needed to be so simplified to be processed that any semblance of cordiality or emotion was completely lost. It was so tedious to them that they rarely attempted communication anymore. And they had no concept of written language, and scoffed when the Remnants offered to teach them, especially since it would require actually learning the Remnants’ limited language. Thoughts were so much more efficient and transcended the boundaries of language, they said.
Perhaps that was the most disappointing part of it all. They could learn her language, if they wanted. They could speak to her, nourish her with sounds that meant something, if they desired. She could not learn their ways, their mind powers. And so she was lonely. But sometimes she hummed, or talked to her ship when it misbehaved, or when it was good. Because she was lonely.