Enemies

Separated by brick and mortar, in the darkness of our cells we could still hear each other through some fissure in the wall. I think it was put in by an industrious rodent, for several times I have heard, though the shadows veil my eyes, the squeaking and scampering of such creatures.

“You awake?” I asked.

A short series of expletives followed.

“Think they’ll let us go?”

There was no answer.

“Think they’ll kill us?”

“If they’re generous,” he replied.

“If not?”

“How long can you live?” he asked.

“Humans, eighty to a hundred years. What about you?”

“Significantly longer.”

The silence returned.

“Do you have music where you’re from?”

“In a way. . .” he said, his voice trailing off, “but not like yours. When we sing. . .we never sing.”

“I heard that you only sing when you’re,” I tried to think of a polite term, “in love,” I prodded.

“If you know so much, why are you asking me questions?”

“Well, it will be a dreary forty more years for me if you and I can’t share a few folk songs to pass the time.” There was no reply. I asked him, “Have you ever sung before?”

“Yes,” he growled.

“And was she beautiful?”

“More beautiful than the sky.”

“I wish,” I said after a pause, “that you had kept that in mind before launching out into space and chasing me half-way across a nebula.”

“So do I,” came the response.

“If,” I said, “you could get back to her. . .” I fell silent. Finally, I asked him, “If you could get out, would you leave me here to die?”

“No,” he said. “Regulations say that I am responsible for any prisoners under my care. I cannot leave without you.”

“Even after crashing on a savage planet and being thrown into some dark pit, you wouldn’t just leave me here the first chance you got?”

“I couldn’t.”

Jumping to my feet, I pushed my cell door open. Sighing, I said, “Then let’s see if the lock on your door is as simple as the one on mine.”

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