by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Every Day Fiction, June 2017
Star Shaker’s scales glittered and shone with rainbow colors under the spotlights. Her barbed tail swayed, and she flapped her tiny vestigial wings as she sang into the mic. With the backdrop of stars behind her, she looked like a mythical creature — a celestial rainbow dragon — not merely a pop-star reptilian alien with a good stage crew.
The crowd roared and cheered in their myriad voices. All kinds of aliens had turned out for Star Shaker’s show. They filled the entire atmo-dome, probably doubling the mass of the tiny asteroid that had been hollowed out into a space amphitheater. Star Shaker should have been thrilled, but she’d started to feel like the audience was her enemy — an enemy of a thousand distant faces, none of them real to her, and each of them expecting her to be the perfect artifact they’d seen on their holo-screens and mind-feeds.
As Star Shaker’s keening alto rose to a warbling soprano, she raked her hide with the claws of her free hand, shedding rainbow scales like a cloud of petals. A perfectly timed puff of wind blew the floating scales out over the crowd where hands and paws and talons of all sorts reached and jumped to grab the shimmery souvenirs — little pieces of Star Shaker they could take home and treasure.
At the end of the song, Star Shaker bowed deeply, taking a moment’s breath before launching into another song. During the relative quiet — those few seconds when the crowd hushed, waiting to hear which song she’d sing next — Star Shaker heard her Robo-weiler guards growling at the side of the stage.
Several performances ago, an antlered alien had broken onto the stage and nearly mauled her, all the while professing undying fandom. So, Star Shaker faltered at the warning sound of her Robo-weilers, but when she looked over, all she saw was a small mammalian alien girl scrabbling for more of the shed scales where some had fallen on the edge of the stage.
The alien girl had long spikes on her back like an echidna or porcupine, and she had decorated them with the little pieces of rainbow. She shimmered like a miniature Star Shaker. Or maybe more like a disco ball. Either way, she was adorable and warmed Star Shaker’s cold-blooded and weary heart.
Star Shaker waved her Robo-weiler guards back and came over to kneel down beside the spiky alien child. “What’s your name?” she asked and then held the mic out to her.
“Galaxy Shaker!” the child squeaked. “And I’m going to be just like you some day!”
From nearby in the crowd, a larger spiky-backed alien called out, “Her name’s Qara, and she knows all the words to every one of your songs.”
“Is that so?” Star Shaker asked.
The child nodded her pointy brown-furred snout.
“Would you like to sing with me?”
Galaxy Shaker was fairly vibrating with excitement and didn’t even wait for Star Shaker before bursting into a squeaky rendition of the opening words to her most popular song. Star Shaker usually saved it for the finale, but it wouldn’t hurt to mix things up.
It turned out that Galaxy Shaker knew all the dance moves too; though they looked different performed by a little spiky ball than by a sinuous reptile with a long tail and wings. Galaxy Shaker danced and sang beside her hero, not missing a beat. The crowd roared like they never had before, even though Galaxy Shaker’s squeaky chirps drowned out Star Shaker’s smoothly undulating vibrato. It was far from a perfect performance, but it overflowed with heart.
When the song ended, Galaxy Shaker wrapped her furry arms around Star Shaker’s scaly knees in a tight hug. Star Shaker grinned down at the fuzzy little ball of spikes, showing off her sharp teeth and forked tongue. She looked fierce, but she felt happy.
Star Shaker leaned down and whisper-hissed into the girl’s ear, “You can sing with me any time,” before standing back up and yelling into the mic, “A huge round of applause, please, for the first ever performance of GALAXY SHAKER!”
The spiky-backed little girl might have to work up to galaxies, but the asteroid shook with applause.