Sarah gave a look around her to ensure she was not being followed, then ducked into the comic book shop.
Once inside, Sarah tapped a statue of Wonder Woman three times then pulled a hidden switch buried beneath a pile of 90’s Spider-man comics. The trapdoor opened and she quickly ducked inside.
F’delty and several other members of the underground Martian community greeted her.
The basement of the comic book shop had been expanded into a rather impressive bunker. It had fifteen rooms of various sizes and eventually lead to an escape rout through the sewers.
F’delty lead Sarah to the room he and his wife slept in. It was plainly adorned. Only a few prints of paintings depicting a sun setting over the craters of a purplish planet gave away that this was a Martian habitation. Sarah thought the otherworldly prints had an Impressionist vibe.
“I should warn you Sarah, some members of the community are not enthused about another mouth to feed. One that could be a liability as well,” F’delty said.
Sarah nodded and placed the crate she was carrying on the floor. “H-how i-i-is s-she doing?” she asked, struggling with her ever-present stutter.
“Same as always. She just lies down in her room, wraps herself in her tail and refuses to move most of the day. She barely eats. Cries often. Are you sure this will work Sarah?”
Sarah shook her head. “I’m a b-b-logger. N-not a m-miracle w-worker,” she said, “b-but it’s w-worth a t-try.” The pressure of facing attack any given day was too much for a six-year-old of any species to bear.
Another multiterrestrial joined them, her antennae drooping, “I tried getting Sru’zin to draw. She won’t move.”
“Why bother drawing if the Earthlings could storm this place any time and burn it all down?” F’delty muttered, “OK Sarah let’s go.”
Sarah grabbed the crate and followed him to Sru’zin’s private bunker.
“Hi Sru’zin!” he called out.
The young Martian Sru’zin remained on her cot, tail wrapped around her like a cocoon, antennae drooping.
“S-sru’zin…” Sarah began. Sru’zin rolled over at the sound of Sarah’s voice and gave her a weak smile.
“How is it out there?” she asked.
Sarah considered how best to respond. “Several of my int-nterviews with your people have b-been well r-r-received…in some quarters. D-Distrust of other planets is still high…but there is hope.” Halfway through her answer Sru’zin rolled away again.
F’delty tried to hug his daughter but she pushed him off of her cot.
“Sru’zin…I’d like y-you to m-meet Wojtek” Sarah said opening her crate.
A little brown dog carefully peaked out. His ears sagged and a bruise from his last owner was still visible on his head. Little Wojtek looked at F’delty and Sru’zin with curiosity, and took several sniffs in their direction but was unwilling to get closer.
“What is it?” Sru’zin asked.
“It’s what the Earthling’s call a dog…” F’delty began.
“Then maybe it should go live with them…” Sru’zin interrupted.
“…but it had a mean Earthling owner and is scared of them now,” F’delty said.
Sru’zin squirmed a little closer to the dog so she could get a closer look.
Wojtek did not like being with three strangers but started to inch away from Sarah. People that looked like Sarah had beaten him before. He allowed himself to get closer to the new green creatures and took a few careful sniffs. He wasn’t sure what they were. Maybe they would be kinder, but he wasn’t going to trust so easily. They did smell nice though. He allowed himself a few more sniffs.
Sru’zin slowly untangled herself from her tail and approached the little furry creature. Wojtek started to retreat but realized that he would have to get closer to Sarah to do that. So he curled up in a ball and whimpered.
Sru’zin walked over to him and curled up next to him and tangled herself in her tail. Soon dog and Martian fell asleep.
The next morning Wojtek could be seen sniffing Sru’zin’s antennae and permitting Sru’zin to pet her. Sru’zin finally got off her cot to show him around the bunker. She even giggled at Wojtek’s attempts to catch his own tail.
Sarah smiled at F’delty. It was a start. A bit of hope. And given the circumstances, any hope was worth having.
To be continued…
This is the story behind Wojtek’s name.
(Photo by Lena Orwig on Unsplashed)