General Harold Qin waved to the crowd, a broad smile revealing his impeccably white teeth. Tears of gratitude began to well in his black, almond-shaped eyes. Nodding gravely, he retired into his bedroom, closing the balcony door behind him.
“I’m happy for you, darling.” Martha embraced the General, a whiff of her good perfume tickling the inside of his nose.
“Thank you, dear.” He twirled his bushy black mustache and glanced in the mirror. The muffled roar of the crowd could still be heard through the thick glass. “I think the lagophiles are done for. Serves them right, I say.”
His wife shook her head scornfully.
“You worked so hard to capture them...”
“Just doing my duty.” General Qin poured himself a glass of whiskey and gulped it down. Martha gazed at his rapidly moving, prominent Adam’s apple with admiration.
“I’m proud of you.” She put her hand on her husband’s shoulder.
“Don’t mention it, dear.” He accurately placed the empty glass on the drawer and patted her hand. “The mass execution has put an end to the whole lagophile movement. And it will be a warning to the separatists as well. We need to stay strong and united.” He made a chopping gesture with his callused hand. “Separatism should be nipped in the bud. I’ve been saying that for months now. And once we’re done with them, we’ll –”
He collapsed, knocking the bottle of whiskey off the drawer.
Harold? Harold? It’s me.
“Wh ... what? You again? Get out of my head, lagophile spy!”
No, Harold, I’ve told you already. I’m not a –
“You’re a Lag, then! I knew it! You talk like a Lag. Why, I’d like to get my hands on your ugly, furry mug, pull out your stinking long ears, beat that twitching nose of yours into a bloody pulp –”
I’m not what you call a ‘Lag’, Harold.
“You sure sound like one. I thought most of you either reverted or got killed by our heroes. We don’t want your kind on our planet, do you hear me?! This is my ... this is our Earth!”
It’s not yours, Harold. You haven’t created it. You haven’t even protected it. You’ve only used it. And you’ve very nearly destroyed it.
“Haha! You clearly are a Lag, my invisible friend. Everyone knows that the Lags orchestrated the nuclear war of 2121 and wiped most humans off the face of the planet.”
That’s not true, Harold. Three human empires – the West, China, and the Caliphate – dropped the bombs on each other. The ‘Lags’, as you call them, were nothing but innocent animals at that time. They were killed for their meat and fur, kept as pets, and there was even an important holiday that –
“I know who you are. A separatist! A traitor! You want to split humanity into tiny, weak factions. Shame on you! There are only a few thousands of us left. God is my witness, we’ll stay united forever!”
I’m not human, Harold.
“Then who the hell are you?”
I’ve told you before, I’m a Nsheo. We used to live on a planet you call Proxima Centauri b, but human colonists killed us all a few hundred years ago.
“If they killed you all, how come you’re still alive?”
Most Nsheos believed that there was life after death. I guess some of us believed that strongly enough.
“Alright, Nsheo. What do you want from me?”
I want to warn you. You are in grave danger.
“You want to warn me? Didn’t you say that humans killed you all? Why would you want to help a human after that?”
We have a saying – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. I thought humans were familiar with it.
“Yes. I’ve ... err ... heard of it. So tell me, why am I in danger? Who is after me?”
When I said ‘you’, I meant all of you. All the remaining creatures on Earth. You are all in grave danger.
“Yes, yes, I understand that! Where’s the danger?”
There is an enemy. Very close.
“Who’s the enemy? Lags? Aliens? Tell me!”
Enemy, Harold. Very close.
“Are you stuck in a loop or something? Tell me about the enemy! Tell me –”
“Darling, are you alright?” The white blur in front of the General materialized into Martha’s face.
“Yes, dear.” He sat up slowly. The strong smell of spilled whiskey made his head spin. “I’m alright. It must be exhaustion.”
“Here, drink this.” His wife handed him a cup. He looked at it and frowned.
“What’s this?” he asked sharply.
“It’s just water, darling.”