The missiles shatter the city of grey glass. They take the rooftops off, send the minarets tumbling, and make great flashes of light in the distance on the sloughing plains.
The alien peers through his office window at the flashes.
His neck is long.
His skin is blue and gray. His body is like an ichthyosaur’s, if the inexorable force of evolution had selected ichthyosaurs generation after generation for office labor—condensed, inoffensive, and amphibious, with the belly gently rounded and the flippers modified into clever handling paws.
His face is solemn, round, and unreadable to human eyes.
For a while after the missiles stop the alien tries to work. He assembles colorful blocks of substance into meaningful shapes. He flails with his flippers at something that might have been a keyboard. Finally, though, he walks into another office and speaks to the shadowed alien there.
His words cannot be heard over the sounds of the city and its crumbling. His gestures are slow at first, then fervent.
There is a moment of parting and a burning of all bridges.
The alien leaves his work behind.
He trudges from the city, briefcase at his side, but after a time he tosses it away. He straightens his shoulders as if finding freedom. He reaches the shore and slips himself into the water and swims down into the depths of a great gray sea.
There is a farm of swaying fungus there, and over the years—
Tended by the alien—
The fish that swim and dart among the fungus become more numerous, and the harvests thick and rich. There is no war here. There is no paperwork.
Sometimes other aliens visit him.
Sometimes he mates. Possibly he mates. Possibly he simply says hello.
He is an alien.
It is not clear.
One winter the sea freezes. It freezes slowly, slowly, downwards from the top. He works hard to shatter the ice as it builds around his crop but in the end he must retreat to further depths and huddle by a volcanic vent. When he returns the crops are like slurpees made of corn.
He begins again.
It is twenty years at least—thirty perhaps—when he is digging beside his crop and strikes the metal of some long-buried and great device of war.
He unearths it.
There is a hatch on one side. It takes him great effort to open the hatch as his hands are not designed for human wheels.
There is blood in the water by the time he wrests it open and goes inside to the strangely lighted innards of the missile sent by man.
There is soft music inside and carpets on its floor, both ruined by the sea.
In the front there is a place to sit—the which he does not use—and a terminal on which to type.
He turns it on.
He presses a few buttons. He wakes it into life.
He watches as Rick Astley sings, and the expression of the alien is not clear as he strives to understand the meaning of the ruin of his world.