Annie’s skin crawled with the stares of the morning commuters. The sole shocking abberant among the massed perfection of evolution’s prime product. Ever since Annie’s body had failed to take on the accepted adult form, horror, scorn and disgust had dogged kir every step. Ke was pitifully frozen in between male and female, having enough of both and not enough of either to be considered a person.
At the academy, where near miraculous scores had effectively separated kir from any hope of peers, to the Institute, where the unfortunate delay of maturity was now no longer expected or anticipated. The Department Head’s studied tolerance had faded to an embarrassed awkwardness. No one knew what to do with kir.
Ke slunk deeper into the oversized coat ke adopted in an attempt to lessen the impact of kir appearance. Kir mind, at least, was private. Would they, ke wondered, recoil in similar horror if they heard kir thoughts?
Through the window of the transporter, dew glistened on finely trimmed hedges and lawns. Wide tree lined avenues converged on the main business district. Each city was a perfect copy of the other: an efficient and aesthetic layout that never changed, even across galaxies.
Kir nearly silent sigh drew more glances. The seats around kir were vacant as if the other travellers feared contamination. Could ke ever be more alone, than in this perfect world.
A few hours later, Annie wryly remembered that thought. It would seem isolation was to be kir lot. Ke had been promoted, it would appear. A great honour, mumbled Professor Xythy, never meeting kir eyes. Ke was assigned, with immediate effect, to the Xenobiology Unit of the Federation of Sentient Beings. Ke would be the sole representative of kir species in a multi-species team, offworld.
Annie barely contained the snort of dark humour that rose up in kir throat. Of course, Professor, indeed Professor. An unlooked for recognition for someone so untried and inexperienced. No, no matters to tie up, Professor. No loved ones, no family to say goodbye too. Ke could be on the shuttle in five hours as requested.
With the assurance of the Department’s continued support and approbation ringing in kir ears, ke was handed a manifest, listing the equipment to be entrusted into kir care. A woefully slim folder of kir expected duties and reporting deadlines was pressed into kir hands.
Kir booted footsteps echoed, hollow, in the deserted hallways as Annie left the University, for the last time. Paradoxically, kir mood lifted. We are free of each other, at long last! The unspoken words brought a smile to kir lips.
Unconsciously ke widened kir stride, stretched kir spine to its full freakish length, squared kir too-broad shoulders, and raised kir too-narrow chin. For the first time in a long time, the wide berth that was afforded kir passage went completely unnoticed.
Copyright Kim Magennis February 2015