If a space alien proposes to you, I wouldn't recommend saying yes. The long distance puts a strain on everything. I have to take three months off work just to be with family on earth during the holiday season, and most of that gets spent in lonely transit across the galaxy.
I don't get to see my family much outside of those times, except by means of long range video transmissions we beam through satellites cleverly concealed in the Mars-Jupiter asteroid belt.
Today is the first official day of the Lyuntaaz holiday cycle, but we've made a tradition out of virtually celebrating a week in advance with Mom and Dad.
Pillow's idea. My parents don't fully understand the significance. They think it's an elaborate game.
This year, though, everything changed, because Pillow was pregnant with my egg.
The first half human Abreya...ever.
One hundred percent intentional. After several failed attempts, Pillow and I had a very embarrassing visit to the doctor, and they made me a special prosthetic that allowed me to fertilize my wife. Let's just say I'd never heard the word `bifurcated' used so many times in one conversation.
At any rate, we started our celebration at 28:00, midnight, which is late morning Central Time, so that my parents would be awake enough to appreciate the festivities.
On day one, we remember the Todroc Captivity by wearing S&M-ey leather dresses and chaining ourselves to one another. The Todroc were bad Abreyas who enslaved the good Quaceb Abreyas, so we spend the day in `bondage', meditating on the subject. We pray and lighting ceremonial light bulbs on something called a Cohage, sort of a plant that blinks at you and runs on chemical electricity like a potato clock.
My wife, at this point, had a very pronounced `baby bump' and had let out her dress to avoid discomfort. She still looked sexy, from her adorable humanoid guinea pig face to her fuzzy pelt and long opossum-like tail.
Also in the interest of her discomfort, we limited bondage time to the hours of our `video conference' with Mom and Dad.
We had the Cohage and deep space communicator set up on a short Asian style table in the gathering room, a big round chamber resembling the inside of a cleaned out pumpkin. Pillow lit the ceremonial incense, smelling of skunk and mothballs.
Mom and Dad appeared on the screen, both in the custom made bondage attire we'd given them. To be honest, they looked ridiculous, they'd connected their midriff rings with a dog leash, and Dad wore pajama pants under his ceremonial Ipsego.
They'd seen my wife in person every Thanksgiving and Christmas so I didn't have to try very hard to convince them to do certain things.
It saddened me to see the wrinkles creeping up around their faces, silver gray slowly becoming their dominant hair color...the earth rotates a lot when you're flying back and forth through space.
I read the opening part about the mighty tail of the god Ponai creating the universe through a carefully planned explosion, the creation of life by his hands sculpting amino acids like clay. A brief history of the Quaceb people followed, an explanation about why they ended up in Todroc slavery.
Pillow activated the lamp of the first cycle with the ritual prayer, a petition to free us from enslavement to the sins of the past: "Ponai, coz weh brizayguhi bya brinelebli labuc bea wajobi de bea Todroc fuodze-"
She didn't get to finish. A loud chicken squawk and the widening of her goat-like eyes told me the egg was coming.
Pillow rushed to the egg laying chamber, forgetting I was still chained to the large ring on her midriff. I have no idea what my parents were thinking. In our haste, we had abandoned the communicator.
The egg chamber was essentially a padded cell. This was the first time we'd ever used it for purposes other than trying to make an egg. Although that practice is considered good luck, it's taboo to let a guest stay in there, likely because of the trapped lingering scents that only the married couple can appreciate...as I found myself appreciating at that moment.
While removing her underwear with her tail, Pillow brought out a large birthing pad. This she straddled as she grabbed onto a pair of handlebars attached to the wall.
I tried to unfasten our chains, but she only grunted and clutched my hand. "No, it's more romantic this way. The Todroc slaves-" The rest was lost in a mewling chicken cluck that reminded me of how we'd gotten the egg there to begin with.
"Uh, that's great, baby, but what about Mom and Dad?"
She pulled a handheld com out of her bodice, but dropped it when she tried to pass it to me. "Bawwwk!" A feline growl followed.
I smirked, but forced myself not to laugh. The last time I made fun of her chicken noises, I had to sleep on the couch. I fumbled with the communicator, moved the video chat to the egg room. "Um, Mom, Dad? I think I'm going to be a daddy in a minute."
"Oh my God!" Mom cried, nearly in tears, but Dad...
"You sure it's not supposed to pop out your rib cage?" He was serious.
"She's going to lay an egg, dad. In kind of a nest. My egg. You wanna watch?"
My wife, who had been doing deep breathing exercises and clucking while we'd been talking, now stared at me. "You changed your mind?"
Her people had slightly different standards about nudity and decency. In certain circumstances, you could make love in a publicly viewable place, or even in a class, which Pillow had recommended more than once. "N-no, I just don't think they understand how your yuxhauba is supposed to work. It'd be like a biology lesson."
Dad coughed. "That's okay, son. We didn't put on these silly dresses to see...that."
"I have heard humans make recordings of births," Pillow grunted, leaning on the wall for support.
"Dear," Mom said to me. "If she is about to give birth, shouldn't you be getting her to a hospital, or calling an ambulance?"
Looking utterly confident, and calm, Pillow shook her head. "It's fine."
"Are you sure? When I had David, I needed an epidural..."
"I'm fine!" Pillow practically meowed. "I'm not in pain!" To be honest, the expression on her face...didn't quite look agonized.
Mom stared at the screen with concern. "Honey, I think you should be at least getting her some towels and hot water."
Since I was still chained up, I glanced at my alien wife. I got a head shake.
"Mom, you don't do that for chickens," I muttered. "I...don't know, I guess it's kinda the same thing."
"Not quite," Pillow clucked, her legs trembling. "But you can clean the egg later."
Mom looked embarrassed. "How about we talk to you tomorrow...when you're not...busy..."
I took a deep breath. "Yeah, I guess that might be a good idea."
I shut the device off, watching as Pillow raised her tail and squeezed out a slimy green egg, crotch tentacles gently easing it down on the pad. Something smelled like...glass cleaner...and burnt tortillas. Birthing odors, I'm assuming.
"Moke-Grunku..." She always called me Moke-Grunku to butter me up. It basically means I'm a manly, well endowed flying beast. "We can always speak to each other openly and without fear, can we not?"
I swallowed. Many Abreya couples have a live-in relationship coach called a Nennop to ensure openness and trust remains constant. I had opted out of this because they have been known to coach you, even in the bedroom. "Yeah, honey. You can talk to me about anything."
"Good." Her face flushed green with embarrassment. "Moke-Grunku, I must apologize. The baby might not be yours."
The egg rolled into a carton-like depression in the laying pad as she removed the chains...then her Ipsego, settling into a brooding position. "Ladeketo-damuqegu (it means handsome lover), I was...seeing someone before we married."
"How long ago!" I shouted.
She flinched. "Please do not yell. We have separated. You are the only one who can care for this infant."
I didn't like her evasiveness. "Pillow. How long?"
"Before you and I became serious. Our gestation periods are not the same. It is possible his chromosomes stayed in me well after my marriage to you. Please do not be angry at me. I only want you."
"But you're saying this might not be my egg."
Pillow whimpered like a puppy. I could tell a few choice words would bring her to tears. "Does it matter? You are the only father this child will ever know."
My stomach sank. she may have slept with...the other male, but it wasn't like he was hanging around, or volunteering to be the dad. And she didn't just marry me to have a babysitter `baby daddy.' She got passionate with me, was crazy about me. Plus, if she "gestated" again, and had mine, I myself would be the deadbeat dad. "Okay, fine. But if this one's not mine, I want us to start right away on another one."
She blushed green. "Poniki! Any other orders, your highness? Perhaps a hot apple pie?" Pillow wasn't always the best with slang and colloquialisms.
Now it was my turn to be embarrassed. "Pillow..."
She gave me a pleading look. "Kigo. I'm sorry. It's just that I just squeezed this thing out, and it wasn't very easy. You should not blame me for being crab-like tree."
"Crabby," I corrected.
"Yes. Crabby tree."
"There's no tree involved in that expression."
My wife's chest had four nipples, but she didn't have breasts like a human female. It more resembled the flatter chest of a female dog, especially with all that fur surrounding them. I'd gotten used to the way they looked, especially now when she wasn't wearing anything.
Her pink mouse-like ears now matched the green in her cheeks. "Take out the brooding pad and strip to your underwear." She said please, "Obes," as an afterthought.
My face flushed hot. "Okay?"
Getting excited, I did what she said, spreading out the little cushy mattress thing for her, pulling my Ipsego over my head so that I stood before her in only my matching leather briefs.
Her minus sign shaped pupils locked onto my human ones, eyes narrowing in a mischievously sexy way.
She didn't do what I expected. Instead, she set the egg down on the little mattress and told me, "Here. Hug this to your body for a couple hours. I'm going to take a nap."
With that, she curled up on the padded floor and dozed off.
Mom, understandably, was worried. Just had to call me while I was brooding. I'd answered the device without thinking about my semi-unclothed state. "I'm sorry, am I...interrupting something?"
"No," I groaned. "Just warming an egg. Pillow birthed it just fine."
Keeping the camera eye away from my body, I got up and showed her the egg real quick.
"That looks like something from Gremlins."
I gave her a sheepish grin. "Yeah, well, I hope something cute, cuddly, and vaguely like me is inside." I avoided mentioning details of its questionable parentage.
"What about Pillow? Is she okay?"
"Yeah." I showed her my peacefully slumbering wife.
I didn't just brood for a couple hours. I held that egg so long that my arms and legs went numb.
I awoke to my wife licking my face. It seemed the rest of me had fallen asleep.
"Umuacik," she thanked me, slapping me on the rump.
She pulled the egg close to her body, and I took the opportunity to stand up, stretch, get the feeling back into my limbs.
We'd discussed the use of an incubator, but Pillow didn't believe in them. You know new mothers, on any planet, are sticklers for tradition until they have their second child.
"Can you cook me some Bub Tig? I'm starved!"
"You're confusing me with a professional chef. I don't know how to cook it."
"Then make me a Zabied Burrap pizza. There's Burrap in cold storage."
"I thought the Quacebs ate meagerly while in Todroc captivity."
"I just laid an egg. We can do that next week."
"It's going to take awhile for me to cook it."
She let out an exasperated sigh. "Then make me a sandwich. I don't care, I'm hungry."
I prepared a couple nice ones, though obviously we're not talking about the same kind you'd be able to make on earth.
The food here is the one thing that makes me the most homesick. Even the thought of a damn Big Mac and bland McDonald's fries sets my mouth watering. On Pathilon, the bread has got stuff resembling noodles strung through it, and a lot of it tastes like stale, oily or moldy bread, celery, or refried beans. Mom compares the flavor to dog food.
Burrap meat resembles green, pink or purple uncooked steak when it's fully cooked. It smells like old bagels, tastes like someone mixed ground up kimchee with pumpkin pie and canned tuna.
I added some alien garnishes and stuff for Pillow, in addition to the flavor neutral lettuce type leaves, but I myself applied liberal amounts of mustard and Siracha sauce. I'd resorted to stockpiling such condiments every time I arrived on earth. Oftentimes I'd even get them for Christmas.
We ate around the egg, then Pillow showed me how to properly brood so I could take over when she went to work, and the ways you could brood as a couple.
While I prepared food, she'd been busily talking to family and friends about our new egg. This she continued to do as we maintained the egg's temperature.
"Can I please be excused?" I asked her between calls. "I need to use the little earthling's room."
She snickered. "When I'm working, you'll have to use an obnurd so you can stay near the egg."
"Is that...like some kind of diaper?"
"Oh boy," I groaned.
When I returned from the restroom, we resumed egg practice.
Pillow leaned over the egg and kissed me, her alien tongue splitting into four squirming parts in my mouth.
She pulled back with a frown. "Ugh, Siracha sauce."
I had to chew ruspola, something that tastes like soggy Lays potato chips and plastic, with a hint of chocolate mint, before she could kiss me again.
We looked up instructions on a maddeningly slow form of lovemaking you can do while brooding, without harm to the egg, practiced a little. I won't go into all the details.
Day two of Lyuntaaz involved the Quaceb flight to the desert. At 28:00, Pillow brought the Cohage and com beacon into the egg room, donned a white Ipsego, but she made me wear the traditional feathered mantle of the designated brooder, and just my briefs. Clothing could weaken the egg's exterior, you know. I'd been lucky she'd even let me take a shower.
"You're probably aware that we skipped a day in the Lyuntaaz schedule," Pillow said to my parents. "Yesterday evening, we were supposed to coat ourselves with mud, and walk about with it for an entire day before taking the ritual bath..."
Mom didn't look heartbroken. "...Or just mix up some mud and smear a little on our dresses, and then we wear white." She tugged on her white outfit. "Yes, we know. How is...the...baby?"
Pillow glanced at me. I was, after all, warming the egg.
"It's fine. I can kinda feel it moving a little."
"Son," Dad asked. "What are you wearing?"
"Um, very little. This is the traditional Lyuntaaz egg warming cloak. We're not supposed to scratch up the egg."
The brooding Quaceb has to read the wilderness day's prayer, so I got that particular assignment:
"Ponai, zavalu hrua kaleduqe kai riko con gik, kai con mez kaleduqe nuxik, shnarf con bea nux de hrua sapebmi jub ruhd xaimaupaga nemamkals guki zea fu'pxea bea briyamwap de zadyac gagfad ulbtal gik de rua kimeruce. Andere."
Again, a prayer of repentance and a lifting of heart evils. I held my wife's tail with one hand as I read, because I didn't have a tail of my own to connect to it, and that's part of the ritual.
The day generally involved fasting, prayer and hanging upside down by one's tail for prolonged periods, even eating upside down. We'd decided it best to let my folks just illustrate the upside down thing with the religious dolls they make for Abreya children.
The moment our little observance concluded for the day, an old friend showed up at our door. Glombo Abbokinase.
Tall, plump around the edges, hazel goat's eyes and striped fur. Clad in pink, he stared at us in our Lyuntaaz garb, but made no comment. We weren't the first to do something like this.
I'd helped Glombo with some earth studies at Arimadex, their planet's best university, taught him how to play baseball and soccer.
Since I was on the egg, Pillow had let him in, brought him to the egg room.
I smiled. "Hi, Glombo. How have you been?"
Glombo smiled back, but the expression looked...pained. "I'm glad it was you."
Note: These stories were prompted by prompts at the Reedsy website. I wrote them myself. I never won anything, but their legalese says that they technically own this story, and I have to credit them whenever I post my own stories from there anywhere.