I brought the alien into the sitting area of the cottage, moving the coffee table out of the way so that they had a clear place to sit. “Give me a minute to get my first aid kit,” I told them as they settled on the floor. I went to the pantry and found the bright orange case, and filled a bowl with water, just in case it needed something to drink. Not that I was really sure if they drank water or how it managed it. I put the bowl on the coffee table and opened up the first aid kit on the small couch. The alien took up most of the floor, but had carefully folded their bottom limbs underneath themselves.
“Uh…” I started, unsure what to do next.
“Need help with suit,” it said. “Helmet non-functional. Limbs. Cannot reach helmet switch.” It paused, looking at me. “Might frighten you.”
“Well, yes, the way you look might scare me a little. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frightened by all this,” I said. “You aren’t going to eat me are you? Or lay eggs in my stomach?”
“No!” it replied, rather vehemently. “Why think that?”
I laughed. “You haven’t watched many human movies about alien invasions, have you?”
“I have. Some ideas in entertainment very… human.”
“Well, I suppose they are,” I said. “So, button in the back, right?”
“Yes. Button, back of head. Remove helmet.”
“Right. Can you move around so I don’t have to climb over your limbs?”
“Yes,” it said, then they shifted carefully around, favoring one of their back legs, until the back of their head was facing me. Compared to the rest of the suit, the back of the helmet seemed simple enough, with a large green button where the suit and helmet attached.
“I just press it?” I asked, double checking.
I did as they instructed, and with a hiss and a click, the helmet detached from the suit. The alien lifted it’s limbs and carefully pulled the helmet off, revealing dark, green-gray skin and a long head. Their mouth was also long and showed a lot of teeth. Just my luck, the first alien I meet looks like one that requires Siguourny Weaver to come and kill it. I took a deep breath and did my best to ignore what they looked like. “Ok, so that’s off. Now what?” I said, trying to sound calmer than I actually was.
It turned around again showing it’s full face. I blinked. The skin looked wet, but there wasn’t drool or anything weird dripping from it like in the movies. It’s breathing sounded a bit easier now that the helmet was off, but that was only a guess on my part. It sighed and said something in irritation, which didn’t get translated. I wonder if they have a swear filter on their translator? The thought made me chuckle.
It tilted it’s head and looked at me. “Amused noise. Why?”
“Oh! I was wondering if your translator had a… hmmm… an expletive filter? The sound you just made seemed like you were annoyed.”
It made a high pitched whistle-hiss that I assumed was a laugh. “Yes. It is… filtered. Expletives not… polite.”
I grinned. “Huh. That’s something we sort of have in common, then. Although, humans tend to use expletives more like adjectives in the last few hundred years. Some of our cultures have even incorporated them into daily speech without thinking them impolite.” I blushed. “Sorry for babbling. I used to dabble in linguistics. I’m also a theologian. I tend to talk a lot.”
“Understand. We, too, have interesting… linguistics.” It tilted it’s head again. “What is theologian?”
I looked at their suit, then said, “Um, that’s a longer conversation, I think. Why don’t we get this suit off of you and patch you up for now?”
“Yes. You are wise,” it said. “Press button again.”
I pressed the green button again. A slit opened up in the fabric along it’s back and the metal part where the helmet met the suit snapped in half. It took some doing, but I managed to help it untangle it’s limbs from the cloth. Once they were out of it, they pressed the panel that had the translator and the suit folded in on itself, forming a cube of electronics. It was about the size of a small carryon suitcase and had blinking lights in green and white. I looked over it’s body– I can’t keep calling them “it”. No, I should ask about pronouns and such. I gave myself a mental kick for not asking sooner. “Um… do you have a name? And what pronouns should I use for you?”
“Name. Yes. Humans not able to pronounce.”
“I could try. Say it for me?”
“Yes. It is–” and it spoke a series of sounds, whistles and clicks. It was short, but there was no way I would be able to wrap my tongue around it.
“Ok, you were right. I don’t think I’d be able to pronounce it.” I frowned. “Maybe if I had a long time to study it, or…” I shook my head. “Does it have a meaning?”
“Sure. Some human names have a meaning to them. Regina means ‘queen’ or Noah comes from a character in one of our holy books. I think it has other meanings, too, but I don’t remember them. A lot of humans like to have names that mean something that they think will bring their children good fortune or a particular quality.”
“Understood. Name represents mathematical construct that reflects personality,” it said. “Give human name?”
“Hmmm…Let me think…” A human name? Nothing I could think of seemed to fit. “Why don’t I give you a use-name? Some cultures have names that use descriptive words instead of a formal name. I could call you Noise-Maker, since that’s how you came to me.”
It did the hiss-laugh. “Name is close to mathematical name. I approve.”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Great. So, pronouns?”
I blushed. “Uh, do you have a gender? Or no gender?”
“Gender? Ah, yes. Humans have binary gender, correct?”
“Well, biological sex characteristics are somewhat binary, but gender is… complicated. Primarily binary male and female, but we also have non-binary people, agender, etc.,” I attempted to explain.
“Gender is also complicated for my species. We have six.”
“Wow. Ok. Why don’t we save the birds and the bees discussion for later. I’ll just use they/them for you. Uh, that is, gender neutral. It’ll be easier and more polite than calling you ‘it’, I think.”
“Human pronouns do not bother me,” they said. They tried to adjust themselves, then hissed in what I as guessing as pain, since it didn’t sound like the laugh. “Pain,” they said, which confirmed my guess.
I looked at them, and the gray-green skin had splotches of yellow-green that looked like bruises all over their body. “What hurts? Are you cut?”
They moved their upper limb in a dismissing motion. “Skin not broken. One leg in pain.”
“Let me see?”
Noise-Maker shifted, laying more of their body on the floor, then gingerly held out their right back leg to me. I lowered myself to the floor with a groan and examined the leg. The whole leg was bruised and was a darker gray-yellow-green. The knee-type joint and what I assumed was the ankle were twice the size of the other legs. I touched it gently, and like human inflammation, it was warm. I gently used my fingers to prod it, making Noise-Maker hiss in pain again. “Well, if you were human, I’d say you’d sprained and bruised your leg badly. Usually, if we can feel pain in our limb, we haven’t broken a bone, or it’s not so bad a fracture as to separate the bone. All we can really do is wrap the sprain so that you don’t try to use it as much while it’s healing. I’d also give you some anti-inflammatories for the pain, but I’m not sure if any of our drugs would work or worse, kill you.”
“Yes, wrapping. Have limited medications from suit.” They gave a whistle-click and a panel on the case opened and a needle emerged. They put a finger from their upper limb on it, and then sighed in relief. “Forgot,” they said and did the hiss-laugh again.
“Glad to see that forgetting stuff when stressed is a universal thing.” I grinned and pulled both compression wraps from the first aid kit. “Ok, Noise-Maker, let me know if I’m wrapping too tight,” I said and got to work. They hissed when I started, and let me know when it was too tight as I wrapped. When I finished wrapping the leg, they seemed to relax more.
“I thank you,” they said.
I scootched back to put my back to the couch. “You’re welcome,” I said. We were quiet for a long moment, then I remembered the bowl of water. “Uh, are you thirsty? I have a bowl of water for you. Wasn’t sure what would be easy for you to drink out of, though.”
“Yes. Thirsty,” they said, slowly. “Tired.”
I nodded. “I can imagine. I suppose if you’re anything like us in that respect, whatever adrenaline-like response you have in your body from the crash is wearing off now.”
I used the couch to haul myself up off the floor so I could get the bowl from the coffee table. Noise-Maker took it carefully in their limbs when I held it out to them, almost as if they were afraid to break it. They brought it up to their mouth and, to my surprise, drank without spilling any. While they drank the water, I packed up the first aid kid and brought it back to its home in the pantry. When I came back into the living room, Noise-Maker had put the empty bowl on the floor and rested their head on the couch again, eyes closed.
“Do you need more water? Do you want a blanket? Are you cold?”
The eye on the side of their head that was free opened. “Cold? Yes. Water, no.”
I nodded, then pulled the afghan off the couch and covered them with it. “Is the floor all right?”
“Ok. Um. Well, I’ll be in the next room,” I said, pointing to my bedroom door. “I’ll leave the door open, so if you need anything, you can wake me up. Oh, um. I have a human toilet, but…”
Noise-Maker hiss-laughed without opening their eyes. “Defecation chamber unnecessary for me for several days. Will discuss after sleep.”
“Oh. Ok. Great. Good night, then, Noise-Maker,” I said.
“Best sleep, friend human,” they said.
“Best sleep, friend Elizabeth,” they repeated, and curled all but the sprained limb in on themselves.
I went into my own room and changed into a nightgown. I have an alien in my living room, I thought, shocked at my own lack of fear. Like I’d told them earlier, I was afraid of them a little, but if I was really honest, I was more afraid of the possibility of Noise-Maker being found out by other humans. Gods, let me figure out how to keep them safe until they can figure out a way to go home, I prayed, then laid down on my bed. It was a long time before I could actually sleep.