By Celeste Hollister
It was the cherry squid that did him in.
Outside his window, seventy stories up, the advertisement bloomed, melon yellow, racecar red. A shoal of squid rippled across the holo, a tangram pattern that morphed into a human face. Almost human, but with a Vrellan’s ruby eyes. Then a blush of shimmer-pink as the slogan scrolled onscreen: “Let’s All Share a Cherry Squid” in all caps like a scream.
Fresh cherry scent wafted on the air. Then the ad faded to black before replaying, an endless loop of fragrance and light.
“A stupid, looping nonsense,” Adam called it.
The Mobius-strip of cherry squid peeled out from its backlit blue. I said, “I think it’s pretty.”
“They try too hard to be like us,” Adam said.
I edged onto the oval of his windowsill and watched the sun plait silver into the spillways. I said, “They are like us. The scientists say we share a common ancestor. We just evolved differently.”
Adam crooked a three-pod stool against his vid-wall. He popped open a can of Dr Pepper, one from his dwindling cache of Earthly goods. He said, “You don’t believe that crap, do you? The whole Selkie Evolution thing?”
The Vrellan face floated into view, its mouth wide as it chased the squid across the screen.
“How can you not?” I asked. “His face is like ours. The eyes are the same shape. Even his teeth–”
“–One,” he said. “You don’t even know if he’s a He. And two. They don’t have bones, Barbara. It’s all cartilage. Like a cuttlefish.”
“So?” I said.
“Really?” he deadpanned. “That’s your grand rebuttal? So?”
I said, “I still think they’re pretty.”
Adam sipped from his soda can. He said, “You think everything is pretty. Besides, you’re near the uptake land, tree-lined parks and all the quiet you can stand.”
“Yep,” I said. “My neighborhood wins, and you know the reason why.”
Adam’s nose twitched. “’Cause of Mercy,” he said.
“They put families in the Sheon-ho,” I said. “You could’ve joined us. Mercy and me get the hive dome. You get the pod-apartment.”
“For now,” Adam said. “We’ve been through this. Once they sort your daughter’s visa and she finally gets here, she’s gonna have to acclimatize to a whole new culture. Us all living together — major complications.”
“Mercy’s 17,” I reminded him. “After moving to another planet, the living together thing is not that big a deal.”
The ad splashed us yellow-white. Adam ground out a sigh.
I said, “I did not ride all this way to hear you bitch about your view again.”
Adam crushed his empty soda can. “Yeah,” he said. “Whatever.”