Stars, moon and a slow warming

She had been in this body for a little more than a year, and the colding time was starting to return. She had trained her human to take her outside, when she gave the signal, to let her deposit waste on the edges of their yard. He always attached a length of cord to her necklace so that they wouldn’t be separated, for his safety no doubt, because the wheeled machines that sped along the smooth path up the hill looked like they could be lethal.

Sometimes, before the ceremony of the waste, the two of them would stand side by side in the dark, staring up at the sky or across into the darkness, which was quieter now with the colding on its way. In warmer times they would listen to the cricket and frog song together and contemplate the width and breadth of the universe.

Tonight, after the ceremony, he started toward the door to their abode, but she pulled him toward the smooth path. A short length of smoothness led off the main path and into the abode, and her humans owned two of the lethal machines. They had all ridden together in the machines, which were quite comfortable inside and took them to strange other worlds. The machines reminded her of other vessels, but these did not fly.

She walked her human to the top of the hill, then sat back on her haunches and looked up. The moon near the horizon was due to set in a couple of hours, and stars by the million twinkled in the cloudless sky. He sighed, and she too was overcome by a sad homesickness.

They looked up at the tiny lights in the sky, and he spoke for the first time.

“What do you see out there, girl?” he said. “Do you see your home? Are you from the Dog Star? Lord knows there are times you don’t seem like you’re of this world.”

She raised her eyebrows at that. It was almost as if he knew, but of course he couldn’t. For all he would ever know, she was born on this planet, one of many wrigglers who scattered to different homes with different humans, all of them charmed by their wriggliness. They sometimes seemed to suspect, just like her human had just now, but they never really understood. They couldn’t.

She was on a mission — a mission to bring peace to a troubled world — a mission that millions before her had been a part of. “Are you from the Dog Star?” He wasn’t capable of knowing how close he was to the truth. On the other hand, he did seem to be more intuitive than others of his species, so — no, she was crediting him with too much intelligence.

The Dog Star winked at them from all those light years away, and she had a pang of sadness because she would never be there again.

He sighed again. “Well, let’s go back to the house. It’s getting cold out here.” And she led him back to shelter.

He seemed calmer than he had when they woke that morning. One day at a time, they said. Slowly, slowly, one human at a time, the mission was accomplishing its purpose.

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