He found it while rooting through a pile of garbage. He’d been reaching for the bright red gleam of a Coke can when it caught his eye.
At first glance it resembled one of those fancy personal communicators his bastard father-in-law always had with him, but as he turned it over in the light he could see no company markings.
He flipped it over and gently pressed the screen with one claw, an automatic reaction; he never expected it to work.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when the screen turned blue and it flashed to life.
It made a soft beep and displayed an array of buttons on its surface. Alien letters; he pressed a couple and watched them flash up in the tiny message box.
It was an impulse, and a foolish one, but he found himself carefully typing, his fingers still clumsy, not yet adjusted to his new hands.
He pressed what he hoped was the transmit button and watched the little light blink in response. Tucked it into one of his small binary hands and took it with him.
Though the device was fickle, flashing on and off at odd moments, he sent several more messages that day.
While sifting through a pile of deflated rubber balls.
MADE IT OUT OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM YET?
When he saw an MNU truck carting away a load of unregistered eggs.
HOW’S THE KID?
When a large prawn knocked him down and stole the bike tire he’d found.
WHERE ARE YOU?
When he uncovered a water damaged magazine with a beautiful blond woman on its cover.
YOU BETTER NOT MAKE ME WAIT TOO LONG.
As he sat on the roof, looking up into the vast emptiness of the sky.
…ARE YOU OKAY?
He received no response that day. Or the next. Days turned into weeks, until finally in a fit of anger and embarrassment, he tossed the device into a wooden crate of junk and refused to look at it.
He was awoken in the dim early hours of the morning by a soft beeping sound that he couldn’t place. Sitting up in the darkness, his eyes tracked the pale blue flash of light.
He scrambled over to it and groped for the device, squinting sleep-blurred eyes as he tried to focus on the message blinking on the screen.
He slumped back against the wall of his home and stared at it. He felt suddenly light headed, his stomach twisting itself into knots. His vocal capabilities didn’t allow for it, but he wanted to laugh. His chest heaved in sympathy and he could hear himself making small hiccupping clicks, like little sobs or mad giggles.
Another message flashed across the screen.
WIKUS, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?
His fingers shaking so badly he could barely type a reply, Wikus whispered to the darkness, “Yes I’m alright, you bastard. I’m just fine.”