The Hermit: Morning

Noise-Maker turned out to be a heavy sleeper. I woke up around dawn from a dream where I was searching for something, but I couldn’t figure out what I was searching for. I rolled over, moved my legs to the side of the bed, and sat up. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and nearly screamed when I looked out my bedroom door to see the alien sleeping in the living room. Luckily, I managed just to gasp and take a few deep breaths. Right. Of course. I brought an alien into my home last night, I reminded myself. Nicer than some folks I’ve brought home over the years. I chuckled quietly to myself, shook off the fright, and stood. All right, Liz. Get to the toilet before your bladder explodes. 

I obeyed the mental command, giving myself a sketchy wash in the bathroom sink before I put on my clothes for morning prayers. I found the basket in the kitchen, replenished my supplies, and made a note to ask Brenda for some more beeswax. I didn’t like to scrape the old wax from the stones to melt and repour candles until the equinox, and that was still a month away. I added some apples from the fridge to the basket, then quietly went out to the garden for flowers. Once I had everything, I walked down the path to the Shrine.

The morning was cold, thankfully, for a late August morning. I could feel the Autumn change coming, and the morning’s air had that Fall bite to it. It made me smile, since that meant it would soon be time for a lot of my favorite holidays and foods. Do aliens eat pumpkin pie? I wondered, then shook my head again. Why are you thinking of Noise-Maker as if they were some relative from out of town? They’re an alien, even if they can talk to you! For all you know pumpkin pie would kill them!

Yes, but you will show hospitality, regardless, said The Dagda in my head. 

“Of course I will!” I replied out loud. “Why wouldn’t I?”

They’re an alien, said Uriel. They are not of Earth. 

“Yeah, and what about it? They are a sentient being who ask for my help!” I grumbled as I walked into the circle. I put the candles on the altar and lit them, refreshed the water and flowers, and lit the incense. I stared at all the statues of Spirits on the altar. “I’d do the same for any of you if you’d decided to manifest into a physical form! They may be different from me, but I’m not going to turn them away. Not from this house. Not from this Shrine!” I folded my arms, annoyed.

Calm down, lovely, drawled Melek Taus. We were just making sure you remembered who you are. I felt a caress on the back of my neck which made me sigh and gave me goosebumps. It’s been a while since you’ve had any guests here. Shame you haven’t brought Brenda around, he said with a sultry chuckle.

“She’s monogamous!” I said, blushing.

Shame, Melek said again, then left me alone. I sighed, brought the chair out from behind the altar, and said my morning prayers. None of the other Spirits came to me, and after their little test, I was grateful for the peace. I sat in the quiet after the last prayer, feeling out the land. Finding nothing to concern myself with, I stood and went back to the house. 

I heard movement in the living room when I came in. I peeked around the doorway from the kitchen, to see that Noise-Maker had propped themselves up with the couch, their wrapped leg sticking out a little awkwardly, with the other three lower limbs curled beneath them. “Hello,” they said, acknowledging me.

I came fully into the living room. “Good morning. Did you sleep all right?” I asked.

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Do you need breakfast, uh, food? Water? I’ll need to have food myself shortly.”

They waved an upper limb again, which confirmed that it was their way of shaking their head. “I have calculated my needs. I am similar to the movie beings in that I am a predator species. I will need many… kilograms… of food every eleven of your days.”

“Many kilograms? How much do you know about the animal species of Earth? I mean, do you have an idea of what would be suitable? Are we talking rodents? Cows? Sheep? Goats?” 

They looked thoughtful for a long moment. Long enough that I sat down in the arm chair on the other side of the room. They were very still, and I worried that something was wrong. I was just about to get up to see if they were all right, when their head turned to me suddenly. I jumped. 

“I apologize. I was accessing data about Earth and the species available here. From what our scientists were able to ascertain from our satellites and drones, many of your species would be suitable for our nutrition, except for the flying warm-blooded species. They are not… nutrient-dense.” 

“Nutrient dense?” I said, laughing. “Birds are candy?”


“Hmmm… how do I explain candy to a carnivore?” I thought for a moment, then said, “Candy has a little bit of nutritional value, but is definitely not nutrient dense. For humans, these are usually made of something high in glucose. Mostly, candy is made for pleasure. They taste really good, but if you eat too much you might feel sick.”

They laughed. “Yes. That is an accurate assessment of the flying species. They will most likely taste good, but would cause stomach upset.”

I giggled. “So, will you hunt yourself, or do I need to find a way to get you livestock?”

“I can hunt,” they said, with a glint in their eye. 

That made my stomach clench. Crap. I’ll have to set some rules for Noise-Maker, or there will be big problems! “Ok, so, um… you probably should hunt at night. And you can’t take the livestock. Anything animal surrounded by a gate, fence, or pen, or large groups of the same animal in a field. If you kill the livestock, they’ll find you faster because people will start wondering where the cows went and start looking. Gods know we don’t need Farmer John to take it in his head to go coyote hunting because his cows are missing! There’s plenty of woods though, and since most people live in the city-states these days, many large animal populations have returned. Hold on,” I said and went to find my map. It was a satellite map I’d had printed of my house and the surrounding lands, so that I had a paper copy if I ever needed it. I laid it out on the floor. Noise-Maker tilted their head and leaned over. “Ok, you see this area here outlined in red? That’s my house and the land around it. You can hunt my land, for sure, but I’m not sure how much you’ll find. Probably mostly small animals. Over here is the farmer’s lands where your ship crashed. John’s probably already raising hell with the city-state agencies about the damage to the fields and animals. You’ll want to avoid all his lands. The woods in this direction are all city-state preserves, which, if you keep a low profile and don’t get too greedy, you could probably hunt successfully without any issues. You’ll want to avoid all the roads, though. They keep cameras on the roads.”

“Why are you protecting me?” they asked.

“I promised my gods that I would protect all those who come to me for help. I made that vow a long time ago. You asked for my help, so I will do my best to protect you.”

They stared at me for a long moment, then put their forelimb on my shoulder. “I thank you, friend Elizabeth. I will memorize map.”


“Yes,” they said and tapped their head. “We utilize logic to memorize data. Computer data storage is mostly for archival purposes or for data sets that are very large.”

“Oh. Wow. Ok. Well, I’ll leave you to it while I make my breakfast, if you don’t mind?”

They waved their forelimb in the negative again, then moved their body into what would have been a loaf position if they were a cat, with their bad leg sticking out. They tilted their head, focused on the map, and went very, very still. 

Huh. Interesting, I thought. I watched them for a moment, then went into the kitchen to make myself some oatmeal with apples. 

When the oatmeal was done, I ate a bowl of it at the table, not wanting to disturb my guest. I cleaned up the dishes and put away the left overs, then went back into the living room. I sat in the arm chair across from Noise-Maker, amazed that they hadn’t moved for nearly an hour. After another ten minutes, I got restless, and went to kitchen to read the news on my tablet. Strangely, there was nothing on the news about Noise-Maker’s ship, even in the local forums. That was the biggest surprise, especially since John was usually pretty vocal about everything that disrupted his orderly little world. Then again, I thought, the city-state has no problem deleting anything on the internet that it doesn’t want seen. I let out a sigh. Typical

“Where are your mates and young?” asked Noise-Maker suddenly from the living room doorway, making me jump.

I came back to the living room, Noise-Maker going back to their seat next to the couch. “Uh. Well…” I began, as I sat in the armchair again, but didn’t know exactly how to answer them. “I live here alone, Noise-Maker,” I told them, more tersely I meant to.

They blinked and moved back a little, stretching out their legs. “I apologize if that was a rude question. It was a thought I had while memorizing that I stored for asking.”

I rubbed my hands over my head. They’re just curious, Liz. They didn’t meant to hurt you. I felt my eyes tear up, and I wiped the tears away. “Uh…” I said again, coughed, then started over. “It’s a complicated story, Noise-Maker.”

“You are a…” they said, but the translator didn’t translate the word. Noise-Maker made a few clicking sounds and tried again. “You are an Alone-By-Choice person?”

I frowned. “I suppose that is mostly accurate. In our language, we call such people hermits.” The translator trilled and I stared at it. “Why didn’t it translate the first word you said?”

“The initial word is…” they began, thought for a moment, clicked, then continued, “The translator has inaccuracies. It will learn as we converse.”

“Oh, I’d wondered. It seemed to be better at translating this morning compared to last night. Fascinating.” I tried to keep a smile on my face. I had the feeling that Noise-Make had meant to say that the original word was impolite, though.

Noise-Maker hiss-laughed. “Yes. It is a good device.” It sounded almost as if they were talking about a dog.

“Is the translator an artificial intelligence?” I asked, trying to steer clear of their original question.

They cocked their head and stared at me for a moment. “It is an intelligent tool, yes. It is good to treat all creations with respect, is it not?”

“I believe we should, and I do the best I can, but not all humans feel that way. A lot of humans only see what can be gained from tools like your translator.”

“Is that part of the fear I smell from you? That other humans will not treat me with respect?” 

They smell fear?

They are a predator, child, said Hecate.

I frowned. “To be honest, Noise-Maker, I fear that other humans will kill you and hurt you. Not everything in our fiction is a lie.” I stared at my hands. “I’m sorry, but I won’t lie to you and give you the idea that all humans are good. In fact, most humans barely tolerate different skin colors, let alone a completely different species. You’re better off seeing if you can get some sort of signal to your people and getting the fuck off this planet. Honestly, your people shouldn’t have bothered with us.” I got up and left the cottage.

The sun was higher in the sky and the dew had evaporated. I took several deep breaths to calm myself. I had very little faith in my fellow humans, not to mention a lot of anger at them, and I didn’t know how much I really could protect Noise-Maker, especially at my age. I knew what I’d vowed to do, but, right at that moment, I wished I’d never made that vow.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply