They walked through the throng of humans, undetected, unnoticed.
The humans were dressed in animal skins and processed vegetable matter, their hairless bodies helpless against the elements without it. They passed on either side, rushing, wrapped up in their own individual little worlds.
“Oh, look at them all!” she said, fascinated, as they brushed past. “There’s so many!”
“Seven billion,” he said, his arm around her shoulders, a gesture of security and affection.
They were disguised as the most unassuming demographic of human in that area. Suburban Caucasian, nondescript, aging male and female. Not dressed up, not ostentatious.
They strolled through it all, taking it in.
Before they’d come, she’d chosen a shopping center as their destination. This was where the humans came to exchange goods.
The air smelled like fried dough and charred animal meat. The meat and dough were loaded with chemicals that made them easy to transport and store.
There was all sorts of light flashes; loud, flamboyant displays designed to grab the attention and intrigue the appetite. The noises the humans made to each other filled the air like confetti, voices blending into one kaleidoscopic sound.
They passed a play area with giant plexiglass items strewn about a pen surrounded by a shallow wall. The items were big and puffy with soft edges.
Juvenile males and females screeched and ran and dashed about on the giant play items, enjoying themselves, newly alive and newly aware. Their parents sat on the shallow wall, keeping watch and chatting to each other. A few parents played with the juveniles.
“Look at all the little ones,” said the female. “Look at them!”
She was incredibly excited. The sounds and the smells alone were worth the trip.
Near the playpen was an eating area where all the smells were coming from. Humans sat at tables made of metal and plastic and they ate and drank their chemical-food from plastic trays and cups that were a cross between plastic and paper.
“So many of the adults are fat,” said the female, watching a large couple waddle by. “And so many colors of skin and hair and cloth!”
He bobbed his chin up and down, a gesture of affirmation.
“It’s the food they eat,” he said. “Smell the chemicals? Only a certain percent of the food is actually real, organic material. It’s because there’s so many of them.”
“They seem so busy, and yet there’s a sense of happiness about them…”
“A mall is a good place,” he said. “They only come here when they want to have fun.”
They kept walking, wanting to see as much as possible. They would be allowed to stay only minutes, just enough to get a feel for the world. Then they’d need to leave again. In and out, just like that. But they were very fortunate to have secured the trip.
“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” he said. “We’ve been watching them a long time. They’re still quite young as a species. But if they don’t self-destruct there’s a good chance they could join us among the galaxies someday.”
“They are,” she said. “Beautiful, that is. What a species. Feel the love they have for each other, all the families? Feel the casual contentment? Even the ones behind the counters, the tired and frustrated ones — there’s a sense of hope there, a sense of the future…”
She looked at him. Her disguise’s eyes were getting wetter, a sign of deep emotion welling up and spilling over.
“I love them,” she said.
“I love them, too,” he said. He took her hand, squeezed it, a gesture of affection. He stretched the corners of his lips up, revealing his teeth. A sign of happiness, of comfort.
“Will they really all be eliminated if they don’t meet standards?” she asked.
“Possibly,” he said. “But not for a long, long time. They have plenty of time to figure it all out.”
She squeezed his hand, returning his sign of affection.
“I want them to feel how I love them,” she said. “They’re always telling us how savage they are. How mean, predatory, ruthless. But I don’t feel it from them. I feel only a genuine desire for life and love.”
“They certainly can be savage,” he said. “But we have picked a very peaceful area and a very peaceful time. They wouldn’t have lasted this long without the passive camaraderie you’re feeling right now. They are governed by the same natural laws of dominance as the rest of us. But they are emerging from that state, and God willing, they will make it to a better place.”
He looked around at all of them, rushing by, wrapped up in their little lives.
“At their cores,” he said. “…they are beings of good.”
The two of them walked through the sounds and the smells, and they watched everything and loved every second of their brief visit.