Two weeks after what she called her relocation, Laura had gained an audience with Rjebni. They had sat across from each other in the dining room whilst the others wandered outside under the fake sun and in the fake Earth air.
She gazed into the deep, dark eyes and asked the question. “You have proof of the afterlife?”
The alien hands whirred, as was their wont. The words entered her head silently. “It is both a good thing and a bad thing. But we have proof, yes.”
“How did you find your proof?”
The hands stopped rotating for a moment, and then: “The universe is the proof. Our studies are the proof. There are many dimensions, of which we exist in but a few.”
“You grow old and you die and you enter the afterlife.”
Rjebni smiled the strange alien smile, his meagre lips forming a perfect circle. “We do not grow old as you grow old, we do not die as you die, but we enter the afterlife as surely as the suns move around the planets, and the planets move around the suns.”
Laura frowned. She did not understand that bit. “You do not grow old?”
“We remain the same. As we are born so we stay. It is simple.”
“You were born as I see you now? There are no children. There are no elders of your kind.” She sighed. “You remain the same.” Then she added, “But you do die.”
Strangely then, Rjebni leaned across the table and grasped her hand. His eyes bored into hers, holding her as if she was cast in iron.
“You have seen the growth tanks,” Rjebni said. “Thus we are born.”
“But how do you die? If you remain the same, how do you die?”
“When the time comes, we stop. Like all things in the universe. When the time comes, they stop.”
A tear sprung to Laura’s eye. “And do you know – do you know when you will – stop?”
“Not to the nearest of your minutes, nor to the nearest week, but we know, yes, within reason.”
“Within reason.” Laura swallowed hard. She wanted to ask Rjebni, but she didn’t. It would appear intrusive. These Gliezans were more alien than she thought and she wanted to know more, much more.
Rjebni released her hand and rose from the table. The audience was over. “We are all part of the universe and its systems,” he said. “We live within its walls and we learn what we can. We live, we learn, that is our purpose. I will see you, Lady Laura.”
When he had gone, Laura was struck by a single thought. Growth tanks or no growth tanks, the Gliezans comprised of both male and female. And they were rearing the hybrids through a childhood, if that is what it could be called. That she did know, and at least that was consistent with Earth. And then another thought. Or maybe it was all just for the humans’ benefit; to make things seem more akin to the human views on nature. To make them feel more at home.