The Salivary Reflex
by Tina Connolly
Tom and Allison had been married eight years when the K-I landed. KÃ©aille in French, Ke Ki in Japanese, Kay-Eye in Britain, but bald, stark K-I in the USA.
The K-I topped out at four feet tall. They were pink, knobbly, and rounded. They were translucent at the tips of their five chubby appendages and over the centers of their lower torsos. The torso's translucence revealed a certain organ that most of the K-I had. If present, it showed as a faint, pulsating blue through the pink semi-opacity, conveniently displayedâ€”better than looking at an x-ray diagnostic, ultrasound, or CAT scan.
Neither the biologists nor the linguists could quite interpret what the prized organ was. It was clear that, like the appendix for humans, it had once been vitally necessary for the K-I, but was no longer. Unlike the appendix, it clearly had some intrinsic or societal value for them. Even their clothes made to imitate Earthly fashions had stomach panels that were kept buttoned open to display their organâ€”or lack of it. Scientists at first thought that having the organ denoted a sex difference, but on further consideration, that seemed not to be the case.
Pink and chubby, with fuel-efficient spacecraft and impressive displays of data compression. The K-I brought quantaponics. They brought amusing holovids. And they brought religion.
It was not entirely clear how the K-I proselytized at home, or whether they even needed to. It seemed likely that they did not. On Earth, they looked for guidance in the area of dissemination, sought methods of rhetorical seduction. And they found them.
Not all countries welcomed the alien missionaries. China and Iran banned them. France allowed them to visitâ€”and buy thingsâ€”but not to preach. Japan loved them and made many ke ki anime shows, but did not take them seriously. There, the K-I eventually gave up or went native.
But America allowed them inâ€”with anger, with fervor, with fear, with pleasure. The K-I settled in small clusters and set out to do what they had apparently come all this way to do.
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"The Salivary Reflex" is roughly 4300 words.
Tina Connolly works as a face painter in Portland, OR. Her poems have appeared in Strange Horizons and her stories in Son and Foe and Heliotrope. She is a graduate of Clarion West 2006 and has a website at tinaconnolly.com.