A Human on Board

Originally published January 13, 2017.
Contains: long-term weight gain, supernatural encouraging [arguably].

This was inspired by a Tumblr post that asked, “What if by alien standards we are really cute? And I don’t mean like attractive cute, I mean like baby otter cute.” It went on to imagine a world where aliens act towards us the way we act towards animals who are cute, including taking us on their ships the way we might take in a stray cat. One of the comments was a flash fiction story about two aliens watching a video of kids running around for Halloween, which included the following exchange:

“I wish we could have a human on the ship. I would give it all the sweets it wanted.”
“Yeah. Then it would get fat and you’d have to roll it around the ship.”

And I knew I had to write this story. The human in story doesn’t quite get so fat that he has to be rolled around the ship, but the aliens do certainly spoil him into a heavier weight. I’ll admit that of all the stories I’ve written, this is one of the least gaining-centric, as I ended up really fascinated with how the dynamic between aliens and humans would work. In my story, humans and aliens understand each other about as well as we understand our pets, and have a similar dynamic overall. Thinking about how we treat our pets was my main point of reference for writing how the aliens in this story treat their human, so there’s a certain innocence to it that you won’t find in a lot of my other stories.

Synopsis: Grahl and Hayt are two aliens who both agree that having a human on board their ship would make it a lot homier. Hayt has a particular fondness for the wide human males, finding them extra cute, so the two fly to the triangular continent on earth. There they meet and take in a mechanically inclined man as their live in human, pampering him with treats while also teaching him basic ship maintenance and generally being enamored of everything he does. Thanks to their pampering, he grows heavier too, which is fine by them; like us looking at cats and other animals, they think the fat ones are the cutest.

[Author’s note: the alien species in this story, the krall, communicates in an entirely visual way, using body language and the shifting colors of their eyes. I still wrote their dialog in English so this didn’t become one of those stories that requires a translation (and so I wouldn’t have to come up with a completely new language from scratch for a silly weight gain story). I also conceived of the aliens as genderless by our human standards of gender, so they are all referred to with the singular “they”. For clarity, I generally tried to use “the two” or “them both” when referring to both of the alien main characters.]

“Hayt, come look at this.”

“I can’t. These ion thrusters aren’t going to reverse their own corrosion until you upgrade to that model.”

“Byelk sent me a new human video.”

“Ooh!” Hayt’s eyes shifted from a focused purple to an excited orange. They dropped their corrosion reverser and bounded over to the display, their long, lanky legs moving as fast as they could.

“That corrosion reverser isn’t going to fix itself either if you drop it like that.”

The excitable display of color in Hayt’s eyes clarified into a more articulate display. “Just pull up the video, Grahl.”

With a few touches of Grahl’s long, knobby fingers to the screen, the projection soon displayed the video of a heavyset human male prancing and cavorting around an enclosed room, with a large reflective surface behind him. Hayt couldn’t help but vibrate vertically while watching, something Grahl observed with amusement. Grahl thought the humans were as cute as anyone else did, but they didn’t love the wide ones quite how Hayt did. As soon as they found a video of a wide human, especially a wide human male, they knew Hayt had to see it.

As the video played, some informational notes pulsed and shifted in blue and green hues beneath the screen. They let Hayt and Grahl know that the human was engaging in a practice that the humans referred to as “dancing”, which had evolved from a mating ritual to a practice done for sport and recreation as well, while still demonstrating the human’s reproductive viability. The notes went on to say that within the tribe this human belonged to, heavyset members of the species were not considered reproductively competitive, which made this human’s “dancing” a novelty within their species.

“Such a shame that the wider ones are so maligned by their own species. They’re clearly the cutest,” Hayt bemoaned as Grahl dismissed the display.

“Maybe it’s not our place to say that. They know what makes a human more viable on their planet better than we do. They’re populous enough to demonstrate that.”

An uneasy yellow speckled Hayt’s eyes as they adopted a frustrated stance. “I wish we could have a human on the ship. I’d let him get as wide as he likes.”

“Then you’d have to roll him around to get him from room to room,” Grahl teased.

“They don’t get that wide,” Hayt protested. “But think about it! Humans are mechanically inclined, and they’re fast learners. Especially on a ship as low-tier as ours, I bet you we could train a human to do some basic repairs. Think of how jealous that would make the others! And you can’t deny a human would help make this place feel more homey. You remember Byelk’s stories about their human looking through the windows with wonder everywhere they went? Sometimes I think we’ve lost that wonder ourselves.”

The color in Grahl’s eyes faded as they slumped over. “Yeah, you’ve got a point there. But what if we take one in and he wants to go back like Byelk’s did after a few decacycles?”

“Then we take him back. We’re not monsters, Grahl.”

With a wistful pink, Grahl’s eyes turned toward the windows in the direction that Earth lay. Even as practical as they considered themselves to be, they couldn’t deny Hayt’s points. “Do you really think we could provide for one? Our ship is pretty puny.”

“It still travels the stars. That’s more than a human could get down there.”

Grahl kept looking out the window into the vastness of space. “You think we could do it?”

“I think we can at least give it a shot.”

Looking back toward Hayt, Grahl’s eyes shifted from pink to a more robust shade of red. “Maybe we’ll keep our eye out for one the next time we travel there. See if we can find one who wants to travel.”

A spectrum of colors flashed across Hayt’s eyes as they jumped up and down, conveying generalized excitement before clarifying their gestures to convey, “Let’s do it!”

Interstellar relationships with humans had evolved to the point where in most parts of the world that humans inhabited, the krall didn’t have to try to hide themselves. Though communication with the humans was far from perfect, most were non-hostile, and regarded the krall likewise. From there, it didn’t take long to convince the humans to travel the stars with the krall, if only for one Earth cycle. Even if that was all the two could get, Grahl would have been quite happy with that.

Once the two arrived at Earth, they landed their ship in the center of the triangular landmass, where Grahl knew the wider humans were especially populous. Popular krall wisdom claimed that it was easiest to find human willing to board a krall ship in this part of Earth too. The two liked to travel to Earth to see the scenery the “blue planet” offered, which was much more varied than that of their home planet. Yet somehow, they always ended up back on the triangular continent, watching the humans there with giddy enjoyment.

“You know, maybe it won’t be such a bad thing if our human doesn’t want to stay for long,” Grahl posited as they landed the ship.

“Why do you think that?”

“I mean, we’ve never had a human before. What if we’re not cut out for it? That would be a lot less disastrous if our human doesn’t want to stay for long.”

From Hayt’s unchanging eyes, it was clear that they didn’t want to consider that as a possibility. But as their static orange slowly shifted to a more dynamic blue, they conveyed, “Yeah, you’re right.”

“I know you love humans, Hayt, but part of loving them means knowing it’s bad for you to keep one if you can’t take care of them.”

“I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me twice.”

“I only told you once.”

Grahl landed the ship near one of the human transportation asphalt strips. As the two watched the human’s metal transporters roll by, a human walking along the edge caught Hayt’s eye. He wore a blue body covering that was stained with a shiny black substance. Rumor had it that humans whose coverings were stained by this shiny black substance were especially mechanically inclined. The fact that he was wide enough to fill out his blue covering so voluminously was certainly a bonus.

“This one,” Hayt declared. “Look at how he walks, like life isn’t so great for him down here. I bet he’d be open to boarding a ship.”

“You got the greasy dough rings?”

Hayt pulled up the box and held it between their two long fingers. They knew the rings weren’t of much nutritional value to the humans, but the humans generally found them more appealing than anything nourishing. With their eyes shining a happy orange with a tint of determined purple, Hayt conveyed, “Let’s see if he’s friendly.”

Grahl hovered the ship closer to the asphalt path, trying to keep the engine’s rumblings to a minimum. Humans, they knew, were auditory creatures as well as visual. Audio waves were just an inconvenience from the Krall, something they had to be mindful of while designing engines to prevent interference. But they knew audio comprised the majority of human communication, and the humans were far more sensitive to sudden fluctuations of audio waves than krall were.

Fortunately, Grahl proved to be gentle on the approach. As the ship touched down on the edge of the asphalt path within the human’s field of vision, he stopped in place and his eyes grew wider. He didn’t run away, though, nor did he show any evidence of fear, both promising signs.

As Grahl turned off the engine, they lowered the entryway so Hayt could walk out with the dough rings in hand. As Hayt watched the ramp descend, they prepared the mantra they’d been told made the Krall seem more friendly to humans: “Everything around, none in the center,” followed by what they would try to convey normally. It seemed nonsensical to them, but the resulting eye pattern–a white background with a ring of color surrounding a small, black circle–was said to appear more friendly to humans due to its resemblance to their own eyes. Humans, it seemed, were much less threatened if they could see themselves in an interstellar visitor’s eyes.

It seemed to work. When the ramp hit the ground and Hayt walked down it into the human’s field of vision, his eyes and mouth were wide open. Soon the ends of his mouth curled upward into an expression they knew was a positive one when coming from the humans.

“Hi,” Hayt greeted in between their mantra, not knowing how much the human would understand. They held the dough rings out toward the human, which made his mouth curl up even more as he bared his teeth. For most species on this planet, that was a sign of aggression, but from the humans, it conveyed friendliness.

Soon the human strolled up the base of the ramp toward Hayt, pausing once they were within close proximity. He stared at Hayt, still looking eager but unsure how to bridge the communication gap. It was a frustration Hayt shared, but they had a plan. Krall were a third of a human’s height taller than humans on average, so Hayt had to lower their arm to put the box of dough rings within the human’s line of sight. Once the human looked through the top of the box, he looked at Hayt a bit longer before nervously reaching his arms out toward the box. In turn, Hayt extended their arm farther out toward the human, until the two made contact via the box.

The human’s hands rested on the top of the box as it looked up toward Hayt again, the positive expression on his face having dissipated. Hayt knew human body language wasn’t nearly as nuanced as that of the krall, but they understood some motions. Hayt lowered their head before raising it again, repeating the motion as they conveyed, “Go ahead, take one,”
amidst their mantra.

That seemed to comfort the human: his face returned to a positive expression, and he opened the box to take out a dough ring. After taking a bite, his eyes became thinner while his mouth remained curled upward, a positive sign.

“There you go,” Hayt tried to gesture comfortingly as they droned on with their mantra. “There can be more where that came from, you know.”

The human seemed focused on the dough ring more than what Hayt was trying to convey. Turning toward Grahl, Hayt halted their mantra long enough to ask Grahl to project a screen to their side. Grahl did as requested, and soon a blank projection appeared next to Hayt and the human. On Hayt’s side was the keypad they and all the other krall used; on the human’s side, a pallet of colors within the human’s visible spectrum. Until krall-human translation became more advanced, this was generally understood to be the best way to communicate between the two.

With several presses of the keypad, Hayt summoned some images on the screen, reminding themselves that they had to be very literal to communicate with humans. On one side of the screen, they drew the outline of a ship that resembled theirs, within which they drew two krall, a human with a blue body covering like this one’s, and the box of dough rings. On the other side, the side closer to the human, they summoned an image of earth with the same human drawing standing on the surface. They then looked back to the human, hoping the message would be conveyed.

It seemed to be, though not in the way Hayt had hopped. The human’s eyes grew wide as his mouth flattened, an expression that they knew conveyed nervousness. With a shaky hand, the human pointed toward the drawing of himself on the earth.

Hayt couldn’t help but feel disappointed. They were quite fond of this human in particular. But this was the two’s first attempt at contact. Reminding themselves that they might have better luck with future attempts, Hayt dismissed the screen and bent their head toward him, knowing humans considered this a sign of understanding. “Get home safely, human.” They then ended their mantra, letting their eyes return to their normal form. This, Hayt figured, would let the human know the encounter was over.

But as Hayt turned to walk dejectedly up the entry ramp, they felt vibrations beneath their feet, before looking up with surprise to see the human run around them, back into their field of view. He had a frantic look on his face, but Hayt couldn’t interpret the way his mouth moved beyond knowing it was an attempt at communication. With another gesture, Hayt asked Grahl to summon a display again. Once it appeared, they pointed toward the color pallet on the bottom, hoping the human would understand how to use it.

After poking around at the display a bit, the human picked it up quite quickly. It was hard for Hayt to understand his drawing, the jagged figures ambiguous in their construction. But Grahl seemed to pick up on it before Hayt, walking over to the display and recreating the outline of the ship with them, Hayt, and the human inside, before pointing to it and looking at the human. The human moved his head up and down, at which Grahl turned to Hayt. “He wants to come with us.”

“You sure?”

Grahl walked back to the control panel and looked back at the human, then to the entryway ramp, before hitting the button that caused it to close. As it rose back up, they looked back at the human, as Hayt did likewise. The human watched the ramp close and never made a move for it, his eyes wide but his mouth curled modestly upward.

Once the ramp was closed, Grahl set the coordinates for their home planet and took off, knowing they would at least need some supplies to help the human feel at home. As they did, Hayt turned back to the human and offered him another dough ring, which he took happily. “This is our ship, human.” Hayt felt silly trying to convey anything to their new shipmate. For as much as they’d tried before, they knew humans couldn’t really understand krall communication. “It’s not much, but for as long as your want to stay here, it’s yours too.”

Maybe it was just the dough ring, but when Hayt finished conveying, “it’s yours too,” the corners of the human’s mouth curled upward again.

A quick stop at the human supply dock provided everything the two thought a human might need. It was a fortunate parallel that both krall and humans depended on oxygen to survive, making inter-planetary habitation a bit easier for the humans. The human followed them around the supply dock, as the two weren’t sure how to convey, “We’ll be right back,” to him just yet.

Grahl got some soft surfaces for the human to lie in when he needed to engage his temporary unconsciousness, some nutritionally complete food, and a supply of water. Hayt picked up some toys they were assured humans generally liked; a cute, wooly body covering with a tacky design that they knew the human would look adorable in; and plenty of treats, including more greasy dough rings. The human played a much more active role in helping Hayt pick out their selections than Grahl.

“You can’t just feed him treats and nothing else, Hayt,” Grahl told them as they browsed. “It’s not healthy for him.”

“I know. I just… want to spoil him, you know? Life can be pretty dismal on that planet, and I just want him to be happy. Some of them don’t even have enough regular food to eat. If he’s going to travel with us, I want him to be comfortable.”

“Alright, alright, just try not to overdo it, okay?”

Once the two were fully stocked, Grahl pulled a giant supply cart with all their acquisitions behind them as they walked back to their ship, the human following dutifully behind. “I think we should call him Bob,” Hayt suggested.

“‘Bob’? Come on, Hayt, you can be more creative than that. How about something specific to him, like ‘Dough Ring’?”

“‘Dough Ring’?”

“Yeah. That’s how we got him to come with us in the first place. And by the time he’s been living with us for a while, I’m sure he’ll look even more like one than he does now,” Grahl reasoned, only half-jokingly.

“Dough Ring.” Hayt maintained a pensive green in their eyes. Looking back at the human, who looked back eagerly, their eyes took on a pink tone before they looked back at Grahl. “I like it. You think he’ll learn to respond to it?”

“From what I hear, they generally don’t.”

Hayt was a bit disappointed to learn that, but they liked the name nonetheless. Looking back at Dough Ring, they opened one of the boxes of greasy dough rings and passed him one, which he took happily.

“You’re really going to open a box of those when we already have an open box on the ship?”

“They’ll both be empty before you know it,” Hayt promised cheekily. Looking back at Dough Ring, they couldn’t help but feel happy watching him munch on the treat. “Look at how happy he is. How can you say no to that face?”

Grahl turned around too, a stern color pallet in their eyes, but once they saw Dough Ring eating the sweet, they softened to more pastel shades. “Dammit.”

“I told you.”

Once the three were back on the ship, they set about the unglamorous task of putting away everything they’d bought, not wanting an unclean environment for their new human. They left the soft surfaces out, planning to set them up once the other supplies had been put away.

“Alright, that’s finally all done,” Grahl conveyed with relief. “Now, where are the soft surfaces?”

“I thought you were keeping track of those. You bought them, after all.”

The two looked back to where they’d stacked the supplies previously, seeing the soft surfaces were nowhere to be found. As Grahl looked through the cabinets, thinking they might have accidentally been put away, Hayt waved their arm into Grahl’s field of vision before pleading, “Come look!”

The two rounded the corner into the living quarters of their ship. In between Grahl’s and Hayt’s stasis chambers, Dough Ring had set up the soft surfaces and was engaging temporary unconsciousness.

“Oh my goodness,” Grahl exclaimed.


“He did it himself!”

“You see? Humans are adaptable. He’ll do just fine on here.”

Grahl’s eyes were an excited mix of red and orange, before they looked back at Hayt and asked, “When do you suppose he’ll be able to learn how to work on the ship?”

“This one? I bet it’ll be sooner than you think.”

As Grahl and Hayt took Dough Ring on their trips, he showed exactly the kind of curiosity and wonder humans were often brought on ships for. When the two flew across the galaxy, he’d stand by the windows and watch the stars passing by with his eyes wide open. When he wasn’t watching the stars, he’d often shadow Hayt and Grahl as the two went about their day-to-day routine, taking care of themselves and their ship as well as him.

Dough Ring was quick to learn from the two. When they were about to engage warp speed, all they had to do was point to a seat in the back of the cockpit. Dough Ring immediately sat down and buckled himself in. After Hayt got Dough Ring food and water once, he was able to keep his food and water topped off himself from then on. Hayt was thankful they’d put the treats away in a different place from the food, as that meant they could still make sure Dough Ring only got some when they wanted him too.

Of course, Dough Ring was never lacking for treats. Hayt could scarcely contain themselves when it came to giving Dough Ring sweets. Even for something as simple as finishing his meal or sitting down for warp speed, they’d eagerly give Dough Ring something sweet in return.

“You’re going to spoil him giving him treats like that,” Grahl warned.

“Good. If we’re going to have a human on board, I want him to be spoiled.”

Most times, Grahl couldn’t bring themselves to tell Hayt not to give Dough Ring treats. The look of sheer joy on his face as he ate was undeniable, even for Grahl. Watching Dough Ring eat a treat, even they’d get an orange tint in their eyes and cock their head to the side.

At first, the three’s cohabitation passed unremarkably, other than Grahl and Hayt being constantly enamored of everything Dough Ring did. Things became interesting a few cycles later, when the ion thrusters needed to be tended to again. Hayt had never finishing working on them due to Grahl showing them that human video, so now they had to do it again.

As Hayt stood using the corrosion reverser on the the thrusters, Dough Ring walked over looking at them curiously. “Hey, Doughy”, Hayt greeted before they kept at it. As they worked, Dough Ring stood by their side, eyes fixed on the corrosion reverser and growing wider when they saw it reverse some corrosion completely.

“You like that?” Hayt asked, knowing Dough Ring didn’t really understand anything they said. Not that that stopped them from communicating anyway. In a way, it was comforting, to know they could vent to Dough Ring and he would just listen. Not make judgements, not contradict them, just listen.

But Dough Ring seemed to be doing more than just listening now. He seemed genuinely fascinated by what Hayt was doing. It made Hayt wonder if Dough Ring might be able to use the tool himself. It was a simple enough job, and if Hayt wanted to teach Dough Ring how to do basic repairs, corrosion reversal would make a good starting point.

Hayt started by turning off the tool and pointing out the parts of the thrusters that were starting to corrode. They then used the tool on those parts, demonstrating the safety latch and the intensity switch before reversing some of the corrosion. Finally, they pointed at the patch again, demonstrating the level of corrosion reversal required for a satisfactory job.

Dough Ring’s eyes shrunk as he took the corrosion reverser from Hayt’s outstretched hand. For a moment, he turned it over in his hands, examining it without operating it, keeping his hands clear of any buttons or switches. After some time passed, he pointed it toward the corroded patch and undid the safety latch. Before he turned it on, he looked toward Hayt again, this time with eyes wide open. Hayt gave the human a nod; though such a gesture could mean many things to a fellow krall depending on the context, Hayt knew Dough Ring would take it as an affirmation.

With a deep inhalation, Dough Ring turned the activation switch of the tool, causing a stream of purple energy to jump from its tip. He held it toward the wall, eyes locked on his work as the stream spread across the metal on impact. Soon he turned the tool off, revealing a portion of the thruster where the corrosion had been lessened, but not entirely reversed. He looked at Hayt with eyes narrowed, at which Hayt turned their head toward the corroded patch of the thruster again. With a nod, Dough Ring turned the corrosion reverser on again and kept at it.

When Dough Ring turned the tool off, the patch of the thruster he’d been working on looked good as new, the same shade of silver as the portion Hayt had fixed. Hayt couldn’t hold their giddiness in anymore, jumping up and down as their eyes flashed various shades of orange and red. They rushed out of the room to grab a box of greasy dough rings, before going into the living quarters to find Grahl. “Come quick! You gotta see this!”

When the two rushed back into the cockpit, they found Dough Ring staring back at them, giving Hayt that curious face he’d given them before. But once he saw the treats, his eyes grew wide again, and the edges of his mouth curled upward. As cute as it was, Hayt maintained enough self-control to not give Dough Ring a treat immediately. Instead, they raised their arm toward the corroded thruster, at which Dough Ring nodded and aimed the tool at a different patch.

This time, Dough Ring kept the corrosion reverser on long enough that when he turned it off, the patch he’d been working on was the perfect shade of silver. “You taught him that?!” Grahl asked excitedly.

“I did! Now look at him! He’s actually doing repairs!”

As Grahl kept looking on with amazement, Hayt walked up to Dough Ring and scratched the soft flesh under his chin, which jiggled at their touch. Dough Ring froze at first, but when Hayt gave him a greasy dough ring, he immediately relaxed and started munching on it. As he chewed happily, Hayt kept scratching Dough Ring’s chin and its newly sprouted fuzz, proud as could be.

Once Dough Ring finished the treat, he picked up the tool and pointed toward the corroded patch again. “Oh, he wants to do it again!” Hayt nodded immediately, prompting Dough Ring to narrow his eyes and turn the corrosion reverser on again. After one long stream and a bit of touch-up after, another patch of the thruster looked good as new. For that, Hayt thought Dough Ring definitely deserved another treat.

The two maintained that exchange rate as kept Dough Ring kept reversing corrosion: for every patch Dough Ring touched up, Hayt gave him another greasy dough ring. It was so cute that even Grahl didn’t object to Hayt spoiling Dough Ring the way they were. This continued until all twelve greasy dough rings had been emptied out of the box. Though there still remained corrosion on the engine that needed to be taken care off, Dough Ring’s eyes were narrowing sporadically, something Hayt knew indicated the human needed to engage period unconsciousness.

“Aw haw, look at him,” Grahl cooed. “You gave him too many greasy dough rings and now he needs to lie down.”

“Is that it? Aw, man, I thought this was going so well.”

Dough Ring looked down at the tool in his hand before taking it to another patch of the thruster. It was astounding; even without the promise of a treat, he was still willing to do the work. Unfortunately, all the greasy dough rings seemed to have caught up to him, as he left the tool on a bit too long, causing the patch to go past silver to a brittle white.

At that, Hayt took the tool in their own hands. Dough Ring looked at them with the edges of his mouth curled downward, though his eyes remained their overworked narrow width. Not wanting him to feel discouraged, Hayt rubbed the bottom of his chin again. This time, Dough Ring’s mouth curled upward again, and his eyes became more narrow as his head wavered back and forth.

“You did good, Doughy,” Hayt assured him as his eyes continued shrinking, his smile remaining steadfast. “You did good.”

Dough Ring had traveled with Hayt and Grahl at least a few dozen decacycles, making quite a few trips around the galaxy. The two had taught him how to do even more repairs around the ship, and Dough Ring never seemed to view them as work. On the contrary, he often seemed fascinated when he could get a look into how the ship operated.

“If he keeps this up, I bet he’ll be able to make modifications to ship one day,” Grahl posed as Dough Ring was fixing a short circuit in the projector.

“Don’t you go exploiting our precious for cheap labor like that,” Hayt half-joked.

“And what are you doing, then?” Grahl teased. Hayt merely hung their head and walked out of the room, coming back with the greasy dough rings in hand and a guilty look in their stance.

It seemed feasible, though, as Dough Ring had proved to be quite innovative once Hayt and Grahl started training him. After teaching him how to replace a section of wiring, he’d taken to using the wire severer to cut the fuzz that had sprouted on his chin.

Hayt wasn’t sure why he wanted to cut it off. It seemed to make him happy, and that was enough to placate Hayt, though they were still curious as his motivations. Nothing they’d learned about human’s biological needs indicated that they needed to keep their fuzz short the way they needed oxygen and nutrients and periodic unconsciousness. If anything, Hayt thought the fuzz would be a boon to Dough Ring. They knew externally regulating internal body temperature was also important for humans, and their fuzz assisted in that.

Hayt had been extra conscious of Dough Ring’s temperature needs ever since all the treats they’d given him started to show on his frame. Dough Ring had grown wider all over, though his stomach and chin had plumped up especially. Hayt was thrilled, for they wanted their human to look pampered. However, it meant the blue body covering Dough Ring had worn onto the ship was now tight on him. For the previous few cycles, he’d discarded it entirely, leaving it crumpled up in the ship’s living quarters. Those days, he walked around the ship in only a covering that wrapped around his pelvis.

This thrilled Hayt even more. As dough ring walked around the ship, Hayt could watch his stomach bounce with his step. Even his pectoral region had become soft enough to jiggle as he moved. Hayt hadn’t been this enamoured of their human since he first arrived on the ship, for now he was even cuter.

But Dough Ring not fitting into any of his body coverings eventually became a problem. On a trip through the Andromeda sector, Grahl turned down the climate control to save on fuel. As they passed through the emptier parts of the sector, Dough Ring wandered into the cockpit with their soft sleeping surface wrapped around themselves.

“Hey, Doughy.”

“Huh. That’s odd. He doesn’t usually bring that out of the living quarters.”

“What’s up, Doughy?” Hayt asked. When they ran their finger on Dough Ring’s shoulder and up his neck, they felt that it was colder than usual. “Oh, the climate control! He’s too cold, Grahl!”

“I thought the extra adipose was supposed to help keep them warm.”

“Oh hush,” Hayt scolded before they went to look through the storage quarters. As they did, they berated themselves for not getting better-fitting body coverings for Dough Ring. They’d observed that the humans who inhabited that part of earth valued their body coverings highly; it had just slipped their mind to get more for Dough Ring. In the storage quarters, all they could find was the cute, wooly body covering with the tacky design they’d bought when they first brought Dough Ring on board. They decided it would have to do.

Once back in the cockpit, Hayt held the wooly body covering up in front of Dough Ring. They weren’t sure how he’d take to it, but they were thankful to find he immediately dropped his soft sleeping surface and took the body covering from Hayt. With the edges of his lips curled upward, he slipped his way in and pulled it over himself.

Dough Ring’s mouth didn’t curl upward quite as much once he got the wooly body covering on himself. It wrapped rather snugly around him, certainly more than his blue body covering had when he’d gotten on the ship. It was like it had been vacuum-sealed around his body, although that was certainly impossible for something so porous. Dough Ring had simply grown so much that he was now bulging out of his sweater. His stomach especially peeked out from beneath the bottom rim, the two lobes of skin on the bottom hanging out.

Dough Ring bent over to pick up his sleeping surface and bring it back to the living quarters. As he did, the wooly covering receded up his stomach, revealing more of the bulbous mass. Once he’d turned to leave the room, Grahl turned Hayt with a concerned yellow in their eyes. “I don’t think his covering is supposed to leave that much skin exposed.”

“But it’s so cute! He’s so wide he can’t even fit. It shows how pampered he is!”

“I think his girth shows that well enough.”

Once Dough Ring wandered back into the cockpit, his wooly covering had receded enough that the divot in his stomach was now exposed. He absentmindedly scratched the bottom of his abdomen, before he looked down when his hand touched his skin. He tried to pull the sweater down, without much success.

“See? He wants one that fits too.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Hayt admitted before they put their hands on Dough Ring’s shoulders. “Just be patient for now, Doughy. We’ll get you some better coverings when we get back.”

“And some for him to grow into,” Grahl added.

“That too. We won’t let this happen again.”

Dough Ring stared at Hayt with eyes wide open, like he we trying to process what they were communicating. After staring for a while longer, he resumed trying to pull his wooly covering down. No matter how much he pulled, he never got it to cover his entire stomach.

As frustrated as Dough Ring seemed, it was still too cute for Hayt to bear. With a gentle orange in their eyes, they reached out toward Dough Ring’s exposed stomach and ran their fingers along his plump lobes. His stomach felt smooth under Hayt’s touch, the surface taut and decorated with a bit of the same kind of fuzz that had grown from his face. With a bit more pressure, Hayt could feel their finger sink slightly into Dough Ring’s abdomen. They didn’t seem to be penetrating his stomach, however; rather, his stomach was pliable enough to withdraw from Hayt’s finger before resuming its previous shape.

As Hayt’s finger approached the center of Dough Ring’s stomach, it quickly retracted away from their touch before resuming its previous shape. The edges of Dough Ring’s mouth had curled upward again, but they soon returned to a neutral position as his abdomen settled back into place. Hayt cautiously prodded Dough Ring’s belly with their finger, eliciting a similar reaction. Unsure how Dough Ring felt about the touch, Hayt took to rubbing his jiggly chin instead. This coaxed a more unambiguously positive reaction out of him, as his eyes narrowed and his mouth curled upward again.

The two’s trip took a few more cycles to complete, and Hayt had a hard time keeping their hands off Dough Ring during that time. He was so soft, so hefty, and all that was only emphasized by his ill-fitting sweater. But once they arrived back at the human supply dock, he resigned himself to dressing Dough Ring in something better fitting.

At first, Hayt and Grahl argued about what would be best to dress Dough Ring in. Grahl wanted something more practical like a full-body covering, while Hayt wanted to mix and match what they thought was cutest. Fortunately for them, once they started browsing the supply dock, Dough Ring picked out his own outfit. To Hayt’s delight, he favored coverings that they could mix and match. Grahl was sure to pick up duplicates of what Dough Ring picked out, with one in a bigger size.

Once the three were back on the ship, Dough Ring looked through the newly-acquired coverings and picked out a selection for himself. It included another wooly covering for his top half, a soft and baggy covering for his bottom half, and a pair of warm tubes for his feet. Once he was covered, he looked at Hayt and Grahl with his mouth curled gently upward

“See? Look how much happier he is.”

Hayt wasn’t thrilled about Grahl’s comment at first, but once they saw Dough Ring’s smile, even they were won over. Hayt and Dough Ring shared another chin rub before Hayt got to work helping Grahl put away the rest of the body coverings.

The ship was docked at Hayt and Grahl’s usually supply bay. Grahl had gone off to pick up some supplies as Hayt worked with Dough Ring in the ship. Both had fusion torches in hand; Hayt used the torch they and Grahl kept on the ship for repairs while Dough Ring was using a torch the two had borrowed from Byelk. Together, the two were installing the ship’s brand new self-corrosion-reversing ion thrusters, a recent acquisition by Hayt and Grahl that they were quite excited about.

Hayt worked on one thruster on the left side of the ship’s cockpit while Dough Ring worked on the one on the right. The fusion torch in Hayt’s hands was an older, bulkier model, the best the two could do when they first started flying. Byelk’s torch was sleeker and more compact, making it better suited for Dough Ring’s smaller hands. It also fused more efficiently that Hayt and Grahl’s model, allowing Dough Ring to speed through the process faster than Hayt could. At first, that made them nervous, as that meant he was no longer mirroring their movements and instead fusing on his own. But soon, Hayt was reminded why they trusted him to help with the installation in the first place, as he fused like he’d been working on ships his whole life. It made some pleased orange flash across Hayt’s eyes amidst the focused purple.

By the time Hayt had finished with his thruster, Dough Ring was already standing at their side, waiting patiently. Hayt scratched Dough Ring’s chin as they walked to the other side of the ship to examine his handiwork. As expected, Dough Ring hadn’t missed a spot, and every fusion had been torched masterfully. And now neither of the two would have to reverse corrosion on the thrusters ever again.

Hayt looked back toward Dough Ring and saw him standing at their side again, his eyes a bit wider than usual and his mouth flat. Hayt was fairly certain this meant Dough Ring was waiting to see whether Hayt approved. Of course, they did. They started with several nods, which were now second nature as a way to convey their approval to Dough Ring. When Dough Ring’s mouth curled upward, Hayt pinched their two fingers together and extended them toward Dough Ring. In return, Dough Ring balled his fingers toward his palm and extended his hand out to touch the ends of Hayt’s fingers. It was a move Dough Ring had taught Hayt a few dozen decacycles before, something he did when he was especially happy, so Hayt saved it for when they were especially happy with him. This was definitely one of those times.

“Come on, Doughy. Let’s go give Byelk their fusion torch back.” Hayt placed their hand across Dough Ring’s back and lead him down the entryway ramp. As the two took a right toward where Byelk was docked, Hayt looked behind them and saw Grahl returning from the human supply dock with a large box in hand. Both flashed their eyes white in mutual understanding, glad they’d be able to surprise Dough Ring with what they had in mind for the next cycle.

When Hayt and Dough Ring reached Byelk’s ship, Byelk was about to enter but stopped when they saw the two approach. “Ahoy!” they greeted as they climbed down the entry ladder. Though Byelk flew their ship solo, it was nearly as large as Grahl and Hayt’s, something the two often wondered how he could pull off. “Whoa-ho, what are you doing letting your human carry the fusion torch?” they asked amusedly.

“Well,” Hayt beamed, “he was just using it to install one of the new ion thrusters on our ship.”

At once, Byelk’s amused stance became one of shock and disbelief. “No way! Really?” Staring at Dough Ring, they asked, “And you’ve had him for how long?”

“Actually, it’ll be a kilocycle tomorrow. Grahl’s getting him an extra large greasy dough ring right now to celebrate tomorrow.”

“Shouldn’t you be keeping that a secret if you want him to be surprised?” Byelk asked, trying to keep their tones subtle, like a human’s whisper.

Looking at Dough Ring wistfully, Hayt watched him look back at them, mouth curled gently upward but not showing any signs of deeper understanding. “You know,” they started as they looked back at Byelk, “I don’t think he really understands krall communication.”

“But you still try anyway, right?”

“I–well, I mean…”

“Don’t be embarrassed. I do the same,” they said with amusement. “Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to get your thoughts out too, even if you’re the only one who understands.”

“Yea… yeah, exactly! Where’s your human, anyway?”

“Eh, she wanted to go back to earth. It seems I have a bad habit of attracting the humans who just want to go on a extraterrestrial joy ride. I don’t know how you got one who wanted to stay as long as yours has, but you’re really lucky.”

“Yeah,” Hayt concurred as they looked at Dough Ring fondly. “Well… better luck next time?”

“Let’s hope,” Byelk said before they extended their hand toward Dough Ring. Dough Ring held the fusion torch out toward Byelk until Byelk took it. “Is he friendly toward strangers?”


Byelk looked back toward Dough Ring and gave him a rub under his chin. Though his eyes didn’t narrow the way they did when Hayt did it, the edges of his mouth still curled upward.

“He’s a big one, isn’t he?”

“Well yeah. I’m not going to take a human on our ship and not pamper him.”

“Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong,” Byelk guessed before he walked back toward their ship. “Well, I’ll see you later. Bye Dough Ring!” they bade fondly.

By the time Hayt and Dough Ring had made it back to the ship, Grahl was ready to take off again. “What kind of greasy dough ring did you get?” Hayt asked as they and Dough Ring boarded.

“Sweetened cacao, of course.”

“His favorite kind,” Hayt concurred happily.

“What else would I get?”

“So, how big is it?”

“You know how his head is about this big?” Grahl asked, placing their hands the width of Dough Ring’s head apart. Hayt’s green eyes became speckled with orange as they listened intently. “That’s how big the hole in the middle is.”

At once, the speckles of orange expanded to fill Hayt’s eyes entirely. “You got him one that big?”

“Something like this only comes around every thousand cycles,” Grahl explained calmly, though Hayt could tell even Grahl was excited. “We ought to celebrate it properly.”

“I’m glad we agree on that,” Hayt concurred before all three strapped themselves in for take off.

By the time Dough Ring’s thousandth cycle on the ship began, he was already in the throes of his periodic unconsciousness. As he lay in the living quarters, Hayt and Grahl commenced placing brightly-colored decorations around the ship, something they knew the humans did for celebratory purposes, as well as to assert their status. The two didn’t think they had much of a chance of putting up a display showy enough to assert any sort of superior status. But with Dough Ring having been away from Earth for so long, they hoped he’d be happy just to experience those revelries again.

When Dough Ring woke up, that seemed to be exactly the case. As soon as his eyes revealed themselves again, they opened extra wide at the sight of all the colored decorations in the ship.

“Hey, he’s conscious,” Hayt told Grahl. The two walked into the living quarters, Grahl carrying an extra big plate of Dough Ring’s usual nutritionally complete breakfast along with an orange light in the middle. They’d observed the humans combusting their food on such occasions, and while that certainly wasn’t safe onboard a ship, they could at least imitate it.

“Happy board-iversary!” the two excitedly conveyed.

Dough Ring seemed confused at first, looking around the ship with eyes extra wide, until he saw the orange light in the middle of his meal. Once he understood, his agape mouth curled upward before closing again, as his eyes took on a more placid width. He kept that expression as he ate, not leaving his soft surfaces until he finished.

Grahl had returned to pilot the ship, but Hayt remained with Dough Ring, treating him to many chin rubs over the course of the day. After the two had both moved into the cockpit, they asked Grahl, “So when do we give him the greasy dough ring?”

“After one more meal, at least. It’s not good for them to get all that glucose in their system on an empty stomach.”

“Mm, he’s going to be so excited!” Hayt beamed, rubbing Dough Ring’s tummy. He’d initially shied away from that kind of touch, but by then he’d warmed up to them. Hayt was thankful for that, because now that Dough Ring was so much wider than he was when he’d boarded, it was hard for Hayt to keep their fingers off of him.

When Dough Ring first boarded, his tummy was a nice solid sphere that sat upon his torso. Now it had expanded to nearly twice its previous width, jutting out from his body like a moon orbiting a planet. But no moon showed the kind of gravitational control over its planet that Dough Ring’s bulbous abdomen exercised over him. When he walked, he often leaned back, seemingly to give himself more control over it, while also making it stick out even farther.

As Dough Ring got bigger, he seemed to be less finicky about always having body coverings that fit. Hayt and Grahl’s speculated the extra adipose insulating him against the cold made him not mind his body coverings not fitting quite as well as they used to. Hayt was thrilled about that, because they loved running their fingers against Dough Ring’s bare tummy when given the chance. The way his soft, warm belly felt was one of the most adorable things about humans in Hayt’s eyes.

So Hayt was quite thrilled that on Dough Ring’s kilocycle anniversary of boarding their ship, he had no issue walking around with cute, wooly body covering on that rode up on his abdomen almost enough to reveal the divot near the bottom of his belly. Hayt kept their fingers to the sweater as much as possible, as Dough Ring didn’t seem to mind those at all, but could get jumpy when the bottom of his tummy was touched. But sometimes they couldn’t resist, letting their fingers wander slowly to the bottom of Dough Ring’s belly before creeping off the bottom hem of the sweater. With enough warning, he didn’t seem to mind much.

Chin scratches and tummy rubs were given liberally throughout the cycle as Grahl and Hayt celebrated, right up until Grahl went into the storage quarters to prepare the giant greasy dough ring. Hayt kept Dough Ring occupied in the cockpit as Grahl put the surprise together, gazing out the windows and watching the stars pass by. No matter how long Dough Ring stayed on the ship, he never seemed to be less amazed by watching the cosmos pass by, nor did Hayt ever adore watching him any less.

Dough Ring realized Grahl had entered the cockpit before Hayt did. When Hayt saw his eyes grow wider and mouth fall wide open, they knew what he was seeing. Turning around, they saw Grahl holding a tray with a sweetened cacao greasy dough ring exactly as big as they had described. Hayt was surprised too, even having known how big it was going to be. There was an orange light in the middle of the greasy dough ring as well, this one much bigger, as it had to be to be seen at all. Hayt had their doubts about whether Dough Ring would be able to eat the entire thing before he entered temporary unconsciousness from eating too much. But either way, they were sure he’d be happy.

Once Dough Ring had walked up to Grahl, he took the tray in his hands and nearly dropped it, seemingly not expecting it to be as heavy as it was. But he caught it before it could fall off, and brought it over to his seat in the cockpit before digging in.

Hayt had never seen Dough Ring eat so voraciously, even when they gave him the smaller sweetened cacao greasy dough rings as treats. He ended up with plenty of the crumbled remains of the greasy dough ring on his hands as he ate, as well as the liquidized sucrose topping, which only helped more of the greasy dough ring itself stick to his hands. But he seemed content to stick his fingers into his mouth like the treat itself, removing them in such a way that they came out mostly clear of debris.

Though the tray under the greasy dough ring caught most of the debris, some of it still fell off the sides and onto the floor of the ship. As Hayt and Grahl watched Dough Ring eat his treat, Hayt nudged them and asked, “Who’s cleaning up the debris on the floor?”

“I will,” Grahl answered. “This was my idea, after all.”

Other than that, conversation between the two remained scant as Dough Ring enjoyed his treat. Grahl occasionally walked off to make sure the ship was on course for its destination while Hayt kept an eye on the gadgetry in back of the cockpit, standard flying procedure, but they spent as much time as they could watching Dough Ring munch on his treat. After all, Grahl had said, an anniversary like that only came once every thousand cycles.

As the two watch Dough Ring eat, it dawned on them that he had eaten nearly the entire greasy dough ring, and he wasn’t stopping. His eating had certainly slowed, and his eyes were narrower than they were when he’d started. His mouth and fingers were also a mess of debris from the greasy dough right, moreso than previously, but he no longer saw fit to clean himself as he ate. Rather he kept reaching for more of the treat, swallowing clump after clump of the sweetened cacao with remarkable determination.

When Dough Ring had swallowed the last significant bite of the treat, leaving only negligible debris on the tray, he leaned back in his seat with his eyes closed and his mouth open, still flanked by plenty of debris even after he swiped his tongue around it. Grahl walked over and took the tray from Dough Ring’s lap, giving him a few pats on his shoulders with their free hand. “Glad to have had you on board for a thousand cycles, Dough Ring,” they conveyed softly, their eyes flashing in gentle pastel hues.

Hayt walked in behind Grahl and held Dough Ring under his arm. “Come on, Doughy. Let’s get you to your soft surfaces.” Once Hayt helped Dough Ring stand up, they could see that his wooly body covering had ridden even higher up his abdomen, revealing the divot that lay underneath. As he walked, he had to take shorter steps, and the upper half of his abdomen swayed

Hayt lead Dough Ring into the storage quarters, where they brought out some scrubbing wipes and cleaned off Dough Ring’s hands and around his mouth. He seemed miffed by touch on his face, but otherwise let Hayt do what they had to do. Once he was clean, Hayt gave him some gentle scratches under his chin, causing a more placid expression to return to his face.

Once Hayt had brought Dough Ring into the living quarters and laid him down on his soft surface, he let out a long exhalation before his eyes narrowed again. Hayt ran their fingers gently along Dough Ring’s tummy, starting with the part still covered by his sweater before moving down to his exposed underside. It didn’t take long for their fingers to reach his bare skin, now that the sweater was so far up his tum.

Dough Ring’s eyes briefly widened when Hayt touched his bare belly, before narrowing again. As he slowly entered temporary unconsciousness, Hayt continued rubbing their fingers over his widened belly. There was a lot of it to cover, for it now had remarkable height in comparison to when Dough Ring had woken up. Hayt theorized all the greasy dough ring he’d eaten was propping it up now. Regardless, Hayt’s fingers glided over Dough Ring’s stomach until his eyes finally closed. “Here’s to another thousand,” Hayt conveyed to their sleeping human.

2 thoughts on “A Human on Board

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