“Let me help you,” Veronica said to Percival, moving closer to him. Until this point, they had been out on a walk.
“Get that away from me,” he responded.
“Don’t be that way. I’m just here to protect you. Why don’t you want to be helped?”
“How’s that going to help me? It’s poison.”
“It’ll only hurt you if you aren’t human.”
“But I’m not human!”
“You told me you were human.”
“I never told you that! Why would you–Oh, gods, you’re one of those extremists, aren’t you?”
“Extremist? Is that what it’s called when you don’t want monsters roaming the streets? I thought that was just called ‘moral’.”
“Look, don’t point that thing at me!”
“Why not? It’s just a little insect repellent. Are you going to come out of your skin and attack me if I don’t stop?”
“You have no right to do this to me.”
“I have every right. You are a bug, and you deserve to be squashed. There’s nothing good you can bring us except lies and immorality. Too many people have walked out of my life because they were tricked away by one of you.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“You’re all the same. You’re all monsters inside, and there’s no way I’m letting monsters terrorize my neighborhood!”
Percival threw himself at her, and at the same time broke out of his skin in the way he was taught in self-defense courses. It would take a while to rebuild a human appearance for himself, but in exchange for that inconvenience a big sack of meat and skin was flung at her as a diversion.
His wings were out and open immediately, and he jumped off of her and started flapping to push anything she might spray back towards her as he jets off. Above the nearby buildings, into the sky, and away. He could call the police, but they’d never believe that she could hurt him, and he couldn’t afford to go to court over this.
He returned home, which he thankfully hadn’t told her about. It was a small, bright apartment, and once he made it inside he sat down and tried to calm his nerves. This wasn’t the first time that this had happened to him, but he wasn’t one of the older, jaded people who found it routine. It was just that he’d really liked her, and he’d wanted to trust her. He thought they could be happy together. He didn’t know if a relationship like that was even possible for him, in this kind of world.
And Veronica, although she would never admit it and pushed the fact away with the weight of loss, pain and xenophobia, had actually liked him, too.
On opposite sides of the city, they wept.
Jake Johnson is a future vagabond attending Shepherd University. He enjoys Time Hunter novellas, overcast skies, highways, dream pop and extropianism. His writing hub, at present, is at freelance-jake-at-work.tumblr.com.
Betty Rocksteady is a Canadian author and illustrator. Learn more at www.bettyrocksteady.com.