“Yo! Roger!”

XR137!, who in another mental state and time was named Roger, kept shuffling through the park, ignoring the call that was clearly directed toward him by some scruffy guy, who was unshaven and red-eyed. Humans. They always called him by the wrong name, and some days—like today—it was unbearable. Humans: their lack of understanding, their inability to imagine that there were other life forms in the universe. You’d think with that self-absorbed arrogance the least they could do was care for their little planet. And their disrespect for him as another—superior—race was appalling.

“Hey, Roger! Man!”

XR137! tried to shuffle faster; if only he could inhabit his real body, free himself from this vile and transient body, vile vile, but no, it was a weight around his soul.

XJ0*3 suddenly appeared to his left. All light and glowing, her tentacles floating around her, XJ0*3 was sitting on one of the park’s wooden benches and eating a bowl of noodles, with no apparent bowl. In the sunlight, she looked magnificent. She had no need to shout at XR137!, her thoughts just appeared among his—vivid and shimmering like a fine curtain of iridescent particles, not unlike the Northern Lights that Roger remembered from his childhood, a lonely child visiting his aunt and uncle’s farm. Life had been easier then, his body moved effortlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. Not like now when everything about his body hurt. He shuffled to a stop.

Our mission, XR137!, is to study the human race. They are a sad and lonely race, forever separate from each other, trapped in their bodies and thoughts. Speak to them, XR137!. Make contact. Interact! Soy sauce ran down her long digit-like tentacles that held the noodles. There was a tiny flake of red onion near her orifice.

“Yes, yes, of course,” returned XR137!. He was humbled. Once again he had forgotten his mission. This lovely creature who was his superior officer had to remind him over and over.

As he gazed at her, XJ0*3 faded, first the tips of her tentacles and then slowly from her edges inward, until nothing was left except a glowing half-eaten noodle, which suddenly, abruptly disappeared.

Slowed to a stop, thinking about the planet and his mission, he’d forgotten about the shabby grizzled man who had been pursuing him.

“Yo, Roger! Where you been, man? Nice scarf, dude.” The man grabbed the red-and-black-check shawl that Roger had found in the free box and wound tightly around his neck. The man clapped Roger on the shoulder. Pain shot through his back. XR137! hissed.

“Sorry, man, did I hurt you?” The man stepped back and hesitated.

What was this human’s name? XR137! couldn’t remember, but he did remember that the human had a name—

“Hey, man, I scored a chicken salad. Some girl on the Ave. gave it to me. Said she wouldn’t give me money but she bought me a salad. I hate salad.” That’s what the man was carrying in his hand, the other one, the one that hadn’t grabbed Roger’s shoulder. Roger’s eyes narrowed in on the plastic container half-full of ragged green leaves covered with an icky white fluid. He began to salivate.

“You want some, man? You can have the rest of it. I hate salad.”

The container seemed to float in the air before him. XR137! gathered it into him, one arm resting on its top, the other below. He backed away from the man, then stumbled over to the bench where he had last seen the beautiful XJ0*3. He sat down where she had sat and, with shaking hands, pulled open the container.

The grubby man had followed and sat down next to him. XR137! hissed again, but this time into the soggy green leaves. Milky looking fluid—poppy seed dressing, he remembered, whatever that was—sprayed onto his sad clothes.

“Hey, man, did Mike tell you?” the man leaned into him, his breath was rank. All of him was rank. “Mike scored some pot. We’re going to smoke it tonight, in the alley behind the record store. That new woman at the record store? She always closes the backdoor early.”

XR137! closed his eyes. Tempter! Vile tempter, vile vile, XR137! sputtered inside. Little do you know I could blast your wanton and smelly carcass to the far reaches of the solar system, to the ends of the universe—to the garbage dumps of Tsfosng of the Five Suns where tar bubbles sticky and sulfurous over the surface of the planet. How would you escape the pain, tempter? As the black sludge burns away at your skin? Or better yet I could sell your stinkpot of a body, vile excuse for a life form, to the Evil Empress of Bogogj, who would slowly and endlessly torture not simply your wreck of flesh hung on porous bones but also that meager force you call a soul. Vile vile tempter.

From the corner of his eye, he caught the luminous glimmer of XJ0*3. She was moving down the sidewalk, barely visible, more like a displacement of atoms, as if she were shifting them from another dimension.

XR137! choked on his lettuce.

“Hey, Rog, you OK?” The tempter smacked Roger on the back.

Tears began to run down XR137!’s face. If he could only stop the pain. The tempter’s foul weed helped, and he knew he would be behind the record store that evening if only so he could sleep through the night without the aches that made the ground beneath his bruised body an unending torture.

No doubt about it: the human body was an imperfect domicile.