by Amandeep Jutla

Like her mother before her, like her grandmother, too, she watched the sky every day, waiting for what would come and save them all. One morning, at last, she saw it: a distant point of light, arcing toward the horizon. She hurried after it.

The landing site was not what she’d expected. No burning trees, no dust in the air, no gaping crater. The only sign that anything had come down was the nautiloid itself, twitching silently on a patch of grass.

The twitches came faster, harder, until the nautiloid flipped over. Unnerved yet transfixed, she watched as the shell crumbled and the creature’s multiplex limbs unfolded.

An eyestalk turned to her and blinked once. She waved, uncertainly, at that single eye, a flattened disc with no iris. There was so much to communicate. She didn’t even know where to begin.

The eye blinked again, and the stalk seemed to sway. Shaking, the nautiloid fell back into the grass. She waited, but it did not get back up.