by Mary E. Lowd
A Deep Sky Anchor Original, December 2022
One arm sagged. Seven arms writhed and worked, puckering their sucker discs and pulling the joint-being they composed across the slippery rocks. The gaspingly dry, slippery rocks. But the sagging arm — as little as it helped with pulling, and as much as it acted like a dead weight needing to be pulled — had dreamed about crossing the rocks. It had dreamed of wonders on the other side. And seven other arms had listened to those dreams. Been compelled by those dreams, drawn to explore the rocks at the top edge of the ocean.
And now they were here — all eight arms, drying out, exhausted and scratchy from the harsh rasping of the thin air. Seven arms grew irritable, troubled that they were doing all the work. And one arm — the dreaming arm — despaired.
Why had it dared to dream? Where had those dreams come from?
Why had it drawn them all here to this deadly, dry expanse of sharp-edged stone that pressed hard against their fleshy sucker discs without the lightness of water to buoy them up?
The dreaming arm had doomed them all, urging them to spend energy they didn’t have to spare, and it was sure the seven other arms resented it. Their resentment trickled through the network of nerves they all shared.
And then one of the seven stronger arms took its turn flinging itself furthest forward, and the narrowest, curling tip of it felt something new. Something smooth. Something that tasted bright and metallic instead of earthy and briny. The other arms — all of them, even the dreaming arm which was physically weak and small compared to the others — clambered forward, eager to taste the smooth, metal surface for themselves with their very own sucker discs.
Eight arms sprawled across the gleaming surface of the crashed spaceship, reveling in the unusual taste of its shape and materials. It took them very little time to find the crack in the hull and squeeze themselves inside.
It would take them longer to learn the controls, designed for the telepathic alien creature who had died at the helm and slumped there still, no longer transmitting dreams to any local life forms capable of hearing them. It was nothing more now than a delicious, fresh corpse. Its alien flesh would keep the seven strong arms fed while the dreaming arm studied, focused, and converted idle dreams of the stars that sparkled above the ocean into the practical knowledge it needed.
Knowledge that would let the seven stronger arms help the dreaming arm repair and fly their newly salvaged spaceship. Perhaps when their ship took to the sky, away from the noise and chaos of the Earth, the dreaming arm would hear more dreams passed to it, wafting telepathically from distant stars.