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Grave Importance
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Ideal With It
A Little Harmony
Out of My League


The World Made From A Wish
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Of Mana and Ether
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Sisters of One Mind
An Open Book
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Paths of a Fashion
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Zzz... (Old, Iffy, Unsorted)
Focus
The World Was Made From A Wish
A Curious Kind of Tree





The Final Front

Most would have considered the past decade or two one of the most exciting periods in humanity's history, and the reason why was obvious.

But I didn't quite see it that way. Those extraterrestrial visitors hardly felt like "aliens" to me.

They just felt like more of the same.

——

Maybe I was just getting old.

As a young girl, I was more thrilled than anyone I'd ever known about the prospect of making contact with alien lifeforms. I would have (figuratively) killed for it to happen in my lifetime. Those remained very vivid memories even in my thirties.

But looking back on that time, I had trouble figuring out what excited me so much. And I wasn't sure if that was just because "well of course aliens are exciting, how can you expect me to explain why?", or because I'd forgotten how that felt.

I should get to the point. First contact did happen in my lifetime, when I was a teenager. And it sucked.

I thought I'd be happy with anything. Even if aliens had literally come here to enslave and/or massacre humanity, I'm pretty sure I would've been ecstatic as I perished.

But the Xynniax were just sooo... boring.

Whoever's reading this - you probably know the Xynniax. They're basically humans with purple skin and varying numbers of limbs, heads, eyes, etcetera - a lot of them even have the same number of those as humans. I can easily picture my teenage self saying "That's so predictable," as I'm pretty sure she did.

What really got to me was how seemingly no one else even bat an eye, the Xynniax included. Alien lifeforms visit us from a distant planet and they're nigh-identical to humans? Gee, that's funny. Guess we won't question that at all.

It didn't end there, of course. The Xynniax were part of a trade federation - aliens had a "trade federation"! - which led to the arrival of many more alien races. None of them caught my interest in the least.

It got to the point where I willfully ignored everything going on between the humans and aliens. It all looked like trade agreements and junk, so I didn't think I was missing much. I had Hazel to fill me in if there was ever anything important.

Right, I should talk about Hazel. My wife essentially managed to get in on the ground floor of this brave (boring) new era of space exploration, eventually working her way up to a pretty high-ranking position in the field.

Incidentally, while one might assume such a job would mean Hazel spent a lot of time out in space, she deliberately avoided long missions for my sake (not that I wouldn't understand). She had really good job security, it seemed.

Anyway. Through her, I could know a lot about new discoveries being made and new technologies being shared by aliens to humans. I only really cared to know the latter; people were gradually incorporating it into their lives anyway, and as a freelance programmer it kind of behooves me to be up to date.

Yes, there was a definite influx of technology - and as a result, publicly-available space transportation was a reality close at hand. So one day, Hazel told me she could use her connections for us to go on a test tour of any planet I wanted.

Whether that was a mistake or not, I still don't know.

——

I was on my tablet, scrolling through the site Hazel had linked me. It wasn't yet public, but once it was launched, people would be able to reserve trips through it. Hazel said we wouldn't be going through the site, but rather, it was just convenient for seeing what our options were.

As I looked at each one of those options, a few questions kept coming to mind. Would Hazel like to go here? Would I like to go here? Why was she asking me, anyway? Nothing seemed appealing, least of all the cheesy postcard-style photos of the planets' native races.

All of a sudden, as I tapped to go to the next page, it failed to load. The internet had gone down.

I silently fumed as I switched over to the wireless sketchpad app to talk to Hazel. It was an ancient thing I'd thrown together years and years ago, but we still felt it was the best way for us to communicate, since I was so bad at sign language.

Now, I wasn't sure what I was intending to say to Hazel, but I certainly said something.

"Hey, how long have we known each other?"

"Almost two decades, Ver. =)"

"Right. I'm not mad at you, but why did you ask me to pick the planet for our trip?"

"Oh, well! O.O I didn't want to force anything you wouldn't like, you know?"

I bluntly wrote, "Well I don't like any of them."

Again I was wary of sounding rude, so I decided to explain further. "It's not your fault. You just know I'm pretty disenchanted with alien planets. =("

I thought on it some more. "And I was just thinking. People were always terrible at predicting the future. It was always fun to look back and laugh at how wrong they turned out to be."

"So why did they become so accurate all of a sudden? Why does it all feel like a sci-fi movie from decades ago?"

"Aliens, space travel, it just feels cliché now that it's here. When I was a kid, I always wanted something different and exciting for humans to learn about. I still want to believe that's out there."

"But I'm sorry to say that none of these planets have that."

I stared at my messages, surprised at how suddenly impassioned I got. Hazel still hadn't sent a reply.

"Oh but the internet went down so I didn't look at all of them yet."

I heard Hazel come in from the other room just as I finished scrawling my addendum. She patted me on the back and sat down next to me.

"It's okay, Veronica. =)", she wrote. "I kind of figured you'd say that. There is another option."

"What option is that?"

"Bring Your Wife to Work Day! =D"

I looked up from the tablet at Hazel's face. It was pretty "=D"-ish, actually.

"*Unofficial, I assume?"

"Official as I can make it. ;)"

I sighed, rather exaggeratedly so Hazel could see. "I'll come to keep you company. But I still don't feel like I'm going to be impressed."

She reached over and squeezed me. "You might be surprised."

——

"I don't have to wear anything special, right?"

"I'm running this whole thing, so no, I wouldn't make you do that."

"I meant, like, something I HAVE to wear. To be in a spaceship."

"Obviously I would have told you about that by this point. =)"

I looked up from the tablet to remind myself that yes, we were in space already, then quickly looked back down.

I was incredibly nervous, and I couldn't pin down the exact reasons why. But clearly being in space was one contributor. Maybe it was for the best that aliens were lame, I thought, because it seemed impossible for me to get used to this.

The ship was plenty comfortable, all things considered. There was breathable air, regular gravity, soft sofas like we had at home... but something just felt off, and I couldn't feel as safe as I did at home, even with Hazel's many guarantees.

She was aware of this, of course, and tried to take my mind off the suffocating vacuum of space for which no amount of separating steel would be enough. She shook my shoulder and pointed out one of the windows.

I walked over. Not too far from the ship, I could see strange white creatures with long ears slowly propelling themselves through the cosmos, leaving some kind of trail behind them.

"What are they called?", I signed to Hazel.

She wrote on her tablet and showed it to me. "Spacedust bunnies!"

My palm met my face. "Of course they have a human-oriented pun name," I mumbled to myself.

"Look," she explained upon seeing my disgust, "they're just bunnies in space. They didn't make up the name."

The name wasn't the only problem I had with it, of course. I groaned and went back to sit down.

Hazel came over to me with a blanket not long after. "What for?", I asked.

"You should probably get some rest."

I took the blanket and laid it over myself, but just as Hazel turned away, a sudden realization made me freeze up.

"Where... are we going?", I squeaked aloud.

Somehow, I hadn't even thought to ask. But if it was far enough that Hazel recommended I go to sleep... that was cause for concern, I felt. I hurriedly pushed the blanket aside and went to sign the question to Hazel.

I found her at the ship's controls. I didn't know anything about how to pilot one of these things, but as far as I could tell, she was sort of... casually leaning on them so as to steer us left.

I was startled by a surprisingly loud feminine voice from a place I couldn't identify. "Captain, please stop casually leaning on the controls."

That didn't stop Hazel, of course, so I tapped her shoulder. She turned to me, but seemed to guess my question and made sort of a dismissive gesture.

I thought about it and realized, if she really had full control of the ship from those, it seemed to me that our course should be getting drastically changed leftward. But it didn't seem to be.

The booming voice spoke again. "Captain, please stop trying to steer left. It's not working."

I sighed, and wondered if the people who made this ship had the deaf in mind at all. It seemed an especially weird oversight considering Hazel's rank.

But at any rate, since the computer seemed to be taking the ship on a set course, everything appeared to be fine, even if I was unsure what Hazel was doing exactly.

At least until red sirens started flashing.

"Captain, you are clearly incompetent or dead," the computer voice boomed. "The crew is encouraged to replace their captain with a less braindead one."

Hazel looked up with what seemed like mild annoyance, whereas I was now freaking out. I shook Hazel's shoulders - harder than intended, since I was shaking so much myself.

"This is perfectly normal," she signed, before slamming a hammer I hadn't noticed her carrying onto a nearby console and sending sparks flying.

"That's not normal!!", I screamed.

I felt the ship lurch - and I think I was lucky to pass out right then.

——

I woke up lying on one of the sofas, with Hazel's arms and a blanket around me. As I staggered to my feet, she gave me a smile and a thumbs up.

I stumbled over to my tablet, trying to get my head in order. I tried to think about what I should say to Hazel - "what the hell are you doing?" was floating around the top of my mental list.

But as I sat down, I must have woken up a bit more, because I felt overwhelmed by space again. Nothing was really different from earlier, per se.

Yet after the noise and chaos which I could only imagine continued after I passed out, the deathly silence was particularly unsettling.

When I did finally open the app, I found Hazel had left some messages already.

"Two things: First of all, I'm very sorry. =( Things didn't go exactly as planned. But it's all okay now, so I hope you can forgive that mishap. =)"

"The second thing is that I really mean it - we'll be okay. I can get us back home anytime you want; now, even. But also, we have supplies to last for months. So we're safe to explore for a good while."

I stared at the word "explore." I was so rattled, I'd actually thought it said "explode" at first, but luckily Hazel wrote very neatly and I second-guessed myself first.

I supposed it made sense. I didn't know a lot about Hazel's job, but she was supposed to be some kind of space explorer. Although I questioned how "safe" her job status would be with this kind of behavior.

I tried to calm myself and lifted the stylus. "Was breaking the computer really necessary?"

"Yeah, actually. =| It wouldn't let me steer off-course."

"Why did you need to go off-course?!"

"Because the course was set for somewhere you probably would've found boring. =( I was going for a surprise, but it got messier than intended. I promise it won't happen again."

"Are you sure you won't be fired for this?"

Hazel didn't seem to think that was worth answering, just making a slight chuckle in response.

Even though the ship was being kept at a reasonable temperature, I shivered and held the blanket around me tightly.

"All right, Hazel, I'll go with this," I wrote. "But as you can probably tell, I'm still more than a little afraid."

Hazel wrote out a message, then hugged me right as she sent it. I looked down at the screen mid-hug.

"Afraid is the last thing you should be. =) I know what I'm doing."

——

Hazel told me I hadn't been out for long, so her recommendation to get some proper sleep still applied to both of us. That was easier said than done, however.

To be honest, I was rarely good at getting myself to sleep, period. Even in my own home, some nights felt downright oppressive, and out in uncharted space the feeling was greatly amplified.

The sheer silence in particular was bothering me. So I decided to talk to myself, figuring it wouldn't wake Hazel.

"It's weird how silence is relative," I said to the ceiling. "It doesn't mean nothing's there, or even that nothing's making a sound."

"And space is... very silent, of course. But I always knew there was something else out here. ...Even if I was disappointed in what it was."

I turned slightly toward Hazel. "Still, you never know what else there might be, right? I'm glad you believe that too."

"...Of course I trust that you know what you're doing. But I'll just have to hope - or wish, if that's what it takes - that we can find what I'm looking for out here."

After I said that, Hazel seemed to softly smile. I wondered if I might be bothering her after all, and decided to stop talking and try to get to sleep.

It went surprisingly easily - because somehow, I was feeling better already.

——

I heard the sound of my tablet vibrating as I woke. I had no idea what time it was. Not the time at home, nor what time it was "supposed" to be according to the ship's lighting. So that felt weird.

I checked for messages.

"Rise and shine! =D We found a new planet, so I sent a probe to fly over the surface."

You can just "send probes"? That seemed... wasteful, I guess. Aren't those supposed to be expensive?

It made me wonder where this "vacation" was in the grand scheme of things. Finding a new planet in some distant section of space Hazel wasn't even supposed to steer into...

Goddess, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was actually really exciting.

I looked around for Hazel and saw her at a console. She was watching a screen, which showed -

I saw it right away. It was... it was...

I didn't even know what to call it. And I loved that.

It was nothing like any animal we knew of back home, humans included, and it was far from being any combination of them either. To most, it would seem more like a disgusting pile of goop than a living creature, but I knew better.

"What do we know about this creature?", I clumsily tried to sign to Hazel - actually, I just pointed to the screen to express the latter part.

"Absolutely nothing," Hazel replied, smiling.

So it was a completely unexplained alien species, and we were likely the first of any other race to see it. This was almost too much for me to handle, but this time in a good way. I hadn't been particularly mad at Hazel, but this would have completely made up for it.

As my mind slowly caught up to accepting that this was really happening, I reached for my tablet. "What do we even do first?!"

"I'd like to leave as much of that up to you as possible. =)"

That had me feeling overwhelmed again. "What if I accidentally do something stupid?"

"...Well, I reserve the right to talk you out of anything that seems like a bad idea. But hey, we both know you're not stupid."

I thought about the possibilities, although I was limited by my lack of knowledge regarding what was feasible. I threw out many ideas simply because I didn't want to suggest them and get an embarrassing - if surely very kind - explanation from Hazel about how nonsensical they were.

I felt the vibration again. "Maybe you could come up with a name?", Hazel proposed.

I stared at the creature on the screen again for a while, but just shook my head. "That doesn't feel right," I wrote. "I can't just make up a name for her whole species after mere minutes thinking about it."

Hazel looked surprised, and I noticed she hesitated for a second. Then she just wrote "Well, take your time. =)"

I wasn't sure what that was about. And I didn't feel like all the time in the world would give me the right to name an alien species, so I assumed she meant to take my time in deciding what to do in general.

But eventually I just gave up. "You've encountered new species before in your job, right? What do you do then?"

Hazel's face lit up, and she quickly tapped on her tablet. Moments later, she spun it around toward me, holding it between her palms with a wide smile like she was posing for an ad. The screen read:

"My First First Contact: A Guide for the Rookie Explorer"

——

Since I was useless at coming up with my own way, we decided to do things by the book. Specifically, this was the very guide the Xynniax used for us; though maybe it had gotten some human contributions since then, I wasn't sure.

While Hazel had the book open on her tablet, we wrote messages on mine and passed it back and forth, much like how we conversed before I came up with the app.

""Step 1: Establish that you mean no harm." <- Excuse me?"

"You don't mean any harm, do you, Ver? =)"

"No, but... how?"

"Xynniax Universal Translator. Give me a sec."

She switched programs. "Okay, say something in some other language."

"I don't know any other languages."

"You shouldn't admit that, you're a programmer! ;)"

I looked up at her with a glare, and she giggled to herself... so I could forgive it. "Yeah, yeah. I meant natural languages."

"Then just say something to be translated into Xynnian." She fiddled with the settings on the program.

"...Something," I said, covering my mouth in a fake yawn so Hazel wouldn't know I had made that lame joke. The tablet then spoke in that alien language I'd heard from time to time - like everything else, I always felt it sounded too much like one of ours.

"I don't know if that was accurate, but whatever, I'll assume it worked. Still, how does this help"

As I was writing, Hazel quickly reached over for the tablet, so I stopped writing and handed it to her.

She handed it back. "I just realized! You do know another language, liar! =) Say something in sign language."

I looked her in the eyes, but she didn't break out into laughter or anything to suggest it was a joke. I signed "Are you serious?" in the general direction of Hazel's tablet, then moments later heard it repeated aloud by... some generic, androgynous voice.

"Whose voice even is that?", I asked. Hazel shrugged, then I realized I was asking the wrong person and blushed with embarrassment.

"I guess that is kind of impressive," I wrote, "but how can we possibly expect it to know a totally new language?"

"We can always try. It has a pretty good track record."

I was honestly hoping it didn't work, though. If it did, what I was hoping would be an exciting journey of discovery could turn out to just add more onto the pile of childhood dreams crushed by irrational happenstance.

But it was also a quandary. Now that I was thinking about it, basic communication could be troublesome to establish, so having it from the outset could make the rest so much easier and less prone to misunderstandings.

So... I wasn't sure what I wanted. It might be nice if the translator worked, but at the same time...

I looked up and noticed Hazel had picked up her tablet, and was typing something on it. Then she put it down and wrote on mine.

"I just broadcast a peaceful message. Let's wait and see if they respond."

I stifled a laugh at that. "Now you're just being presumptuous," I wrote. "There is no possible way they have the same kinds of communication protocols."

Hazel looked at the message and decided not to reply. Then I thought about it. Communication protocols... Maybe I could check.

"Is this configured to broadcast to the planet now?", I asked.

She nodded.

"Ping," I said aloud.

Moments later, there was a chime. "472 ms," the androgynous voice said.

Oh, come on, I thought.

——

Beep.

"Hello! ;'p; Are you flapping meat in your mouth?"

I stared at the first message from the aliens, then shook my head.

"This thing's broken," I wrote.

Hazel shook her head vigorously. "It's working fine! I think that's an emoticon. =) And maybe it doesn't know certain idioms?"

"Idioms are a part of language too! You can't have a "universal translator" that just ignores them! What would this one even mean?"

Hazel sighed a bit, as if she had wanted me to figure that out myself, then wrote her theory. "They're probably asking if you're fluent in their language."

It seemed more probable than literally asking if that was how we spoke - how would they know? But on the other hand... "If that's an idiom, does that imply they speak in a similar way to us, with a single mouth? ...By flapping meat?"

"Never mind that, at least for now. I think this proves the translator works well enough."

I shrugged, not entirely convinced of that myself yet. "...So what's next, then?"

"Well, answer the question, obviously. =) But after that, step two in the guide is "request to talk to their leader.""

"Of course it is," I muttered.

The conversation went on, and the translator seemed to hold up surprisingly well. There was no reason to believe theirs was an existing language already known and supported, so I really didn't understand how it was working. But it was something I was willing to accept.

The particular alien who got the message turned out to be something of a tinkerer whose main hobby was building... well, things that picked up our broadcast, obviously.

While they wouldn't admit it, it seemed they were also somewhat of an outcast, and was one of rather few who believed there were other lifeforms out there.

So... I made an alien's day, I guess. Not a bad start.

Before we could bring the conversation to the leader question, they asked us something else.

"You're in a ship above the planet, right? Could you come down here so I can see you? ;'O;"

I looked toward Hazel, the look in my eyes implicitly asking "Can we?"

"Do you want to?", she asked.

I thought about it. It hadn't been lost on me that we had found someone so much like me out here. Granted, a younger, more hopeful version of me, but the point still stood. I couldn't deny that I wanted to meet them a little.

But I wrote to Hazel: "Maybe later, if we can actually survive down there. I think talking to their leader is more pressing right now."

Once I'd written that, I typed out the next message to the alien. "I'm not sure yet, but I'll try. Until then, do you have some sort of leader I could talk to?"

The reply came slower than usual, because it was a long one.

"You mean Princess Zalastra?! O';OOO;; I'd never be able to get anywhere near her, in any sense, ever! Her outfits are just too pretty!"

The message went on and on about how regal and beautiful the princess was and how the alien thought themselves a loser who could never get in contact with her - but I sunk deeper into resignation the further I got.

They had a "princess." Even way out here, with aliens who used emoticons like... like that, there was still that notion of "female." And just like all the other aliens, I could only assume it was paired with "male."

It. Didn't. Make. Sense.

Something had to be going on here.

The very end of the message stuck out at me, though.

"...But I'll try for you, because you're my friend! =) (That's how you do it, right?)"

I started writing to Hazel. "1. Why do they have a princess? 2. Did you teach them that in your first message?"

I handed the tablet to her, then got it back. Under the first question, it looked like she started writing something, then crossed it out and wrote "Why not?" Under the second, she just wrote "=)".

That didn't help at all. I was confused and conflicted by all of this, and if even Hazel didn't have the answers...

I just wanted to go home. So that's what I told Hazel.

She nodded, sent a final message to the alien, and closed the translator. Then she sent me a message:

"I'll explain everything when we get back. It's about time I do."

——

"So what do you think it is, Hazel?"

It was a night nearly two decades ago. Hazel had invited me over to her house to play. Unfortunately for her, something else was my occupying my mind that day, so I wouldn't shut up about it.

Scientists had spotted some kind of space junk slowly approaching the planet. "Space junk" was all they called it, and the approach wasn't even a dangerous one - it was hardly news. But it was to me.

"The last couple times this happened, they said it turned out to just be a bunch of rocks. But I bet those "rocks" were really some alien's trash! If this one turns out to be a probe, then they'll see!"

I handed the notebook to Hazel, but she just looked at my message and smiled at me. I pushed her to answer my question, but soon gave up on it and laid back down on the grass.

Since I was so convinced the junk was an alien probe or something of that nature, I felt I had to watch the stars to keep a lookout, as they'd surely arrive any minute now.

All of a sudden, though, it struck me that Hazel probably didn't care. She didn't seem to have any opinion on the matter.

I sighed, sat up, and picked up the notebook. I decided I'd explain myself to Hazel; we were already getting to be very close friends, and I wanted to make sure she understood.

"Okay, I know it's not very likely. Maybe it'll just be junk like all the others were. If aliens haven't come here yet, there's basically zero chance they ever will. Which probably means they don't exist at all."

"But what else can I do but believe? Sometimes I just feel like there's no place for me here. There needs to be something different out there. There has to be a place where"

As I went on writing, I felt an increasing urge to cross it all out. I also couldn't decide whether to write "where I belong," or "where we belong."

Before I could make up my mind to do any of that, Hazel quickly sat up and grabbed the notebook.

"I saw a shooting star!", she wrote. "Did you make a wish?"

Ugh, I thought - just when I hadn't been looking.

But then I realized the more important thing: that Hazel had seen what I'd written. I blushed, but tried to hide it and act like I didn't realize.

"Yeah, I kind of did," I wrote. "I hope it counts."

"I'm sure it does. =)"

——

We made it safely home, and were once again looking up at the stars.

I wasn't sure what this conversation was going to be about. I tried to get a least a little bit more info out of Hazel on the way back, but she wanted to save it for a full, proper explanation.

It had, apparently, been one in the making through all our years of friendship and marriage. So I could stand to wait a little longer, she said.

I was snapped out of thought by Hazel's first message since we got home. I sat up and read.

"You remember making that wish all those years ago, right? How you wanted it to be an alien probe? ...Well, so did I, if only because I knew it would make you so happy. I believed it with all my heart. And to our surprise, it turned out to be true."

"Yeah," I wrote, reminiscing. "Too bad the aliens were such a disappointment, though."

"I'll get to that later. But I think I can say with certainty, after all this time, that I made that wish come true."

I gave Hazel a puzzled look, and she just kept writing. "You told me yourself that a) you had expected the same thing on previous occasions and been met with disappointment, and b) you found it unlikely your hopes were reasonable."

"But that time, you told me about your wish. And that time it came true. (And there was, in fact, no shooting star - sorry.) I saw the connection there, and I've been confirming it ever since."

Hazel gave me a pause to take this in, though then added, "Not to imply our relationship was founded on that. You're a wonderful woman in any case. =)"

I wanted to be sure I was reading this right. "So you're saying you can grant my wishes by... what, believing they're actually true?"

"Yes, essentially. Neat, huh? =)"

Kind of an understatement, Hazel.

"There's certainly something special about the two of us, though I don't believe it's limited to us. It's everywhere if you know where to look, all the way back to our world's creation."

"...You mean the story of the Goddess? How so?"

"Well, let's start with us. We'll call you the "starter," since you make the wishes. And I'm the "ender," because I confirm them."

She illustrated this with little doodles of our heads and an arrow from me to her; wholly unnecessary, but undeniably cute.

"From what we know about the Goddess, she was the only survivor of a world she herself ended. ...That makes her both."

She again illustrated this, with the arrow both coming from and pointing back to the Goddess. Not sure what her depiction of the Goddess was based on, though.

"As such, the Goddess could simply grant her own wishes. That was how she made our world. But then she let the world create itself."

Hazel seemed to pick up on the fact that I was completely lost on that last part.

"Never mind. I'll stick to more relatable examples. =) You were disappointed by the results of your wish coming true. I think this is because your wish, like most wishes, was too vague."

"Vague?"

"You thought you would be happy with any aliens, right? Thus, while your wish was granted, all the details were left ambiguous. The ones who shaped that ambiguity... were the first humans to come into contact with them, or so I believe."

I stared shocked at the message. "You're telling me all those aliens are so humanlike because humans expected them to be that way and the universe said yes?"

"Yes."

I sighed. "Well. That explains too damn much. Isn't that kind of like quantum mechanics, then? Not determined until it's observed or whatever?"

"...If you want to think of it that way. But be aware you seem to have, to some extent, reality-shaping powers. So be careful with ideas like that. =)"

It was starting to make a surprising amount of sense for something that had baffled me for years and years. I wondered how long Hazel had kept this to herself.

"Why did you never tell me about all this before?"

"Looking back on it now, I probably should have. But I was determined to use my knowledge to make your dreams come true... not fully realizing how you might have changed."

"You said you wanted to find something new and exciting out there. And I figured, if we had made aliens exist once, we could do it again."

"Yet getting to know you over the years since, I came to realize you appreciated comfort and familiarity. It seemed contradictory that your deepest desire would be for something totally alien."

"But when the opportunity for this trip came up... I just wanted to see if it would work. So I took you out there to see what you really wanted, unfortunately ignoring your boundaries in the process. ...Though I'm not sure what to make of the results."

I'd been thinking deeply as I watched Hazel's messages come in, and finally I had a reply. "I wasn't wishing for "anything but this," necessarily - I was wishing for "somewhere to belong." And that's something I already found in you."

Hazel smiled, put down her tablet, and hugged me.

I wasn't done writing, though.

"But you know, as much as it freaks me out that we apparently wield the very power of creation? We already drastically changed the course of human history by creating aliens."

Hazel picked up my stylus and added, "And those ones sucked. =)"

"Then today, we literally made a friend."

"Which is good!"

"So why stop there?", I wrote. "Making alien planets sounds like great vacation material."


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