Excerpt from Assimilation by Mary Stanley, Student Anthology Diversity 2019.

Ferris stood at the edge of the gutter and looked out. Heaving metal skyscrapers grew out of the horizon. Smog blanketed the rooftops, the sky near indistinguishable from the silver cityscape. Behind the polluted clouds, the sun glowed a stale yellow. 

Ferris comically waved the air into his nose and puffed out his chest. A mixture of stinging chemical spills and industrial fumes clogged his airways. 

‘Ah, just like the slums back home.’ 

Chuckling, Garvey patted Ferris’ shoulder, urging him to follow. They headed down the street, towards Intercon. 

Ferris and Garvey manoeuvred around the construction sites squeezing the perimeter of Intercon. Traffic on the old road was immovable and verbal abuse, drilling, and beeping buzzed around their heads. There was the occasional crackling of metals being welded into place, the stench of burning steel saturating the air. 

Ferris spied some androids working on the construction sites. Their naked charcoal and silver frames glimmered under orange warning lights. He waved at them. They almost waved back. Almost. They turned away upon seeing Garvey beside him. Ferris lowered his hand and kept walking. 

Intercon was a rigid one-storey building wedged between budding skyscrapers and elevated highways made of Exfractian metals. It was painted a depressing grey with a white lemniscate logo, like two clover leaves, above the sliding doors. 

Dirt and fingerprints clouded the glass and the doors whined as they slid open. The android security guard nodded when Ferris walked inside, Garvey in tow. Intercon’s interior was painted hospital white and furnished with the bare minimum. 

There were no free seats in the waiting area. People leaned against the walls or sat on the floor. Ferris stepped up to the admission screens and input their information with his knuckle. A numbered receipt slipped out and Ferris snatched it up. 

‘When’s our appointment?’ Garvey asked.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ Ferris shrugged, ‘they’re always fuckin’ late.’ ‘How long is the wait going to be?’
Ferris examined the crowd in the waiting area. He chewed his lip. ‘Hours.’ 

They headed over to the phone booths and took a seat, facing the waiting area. The humans there veered away from extra- terrestrials of any sort; their eyes unnaturally focused on the floor or the walls, bodies hunched away from any alien presence. 

Ferris took the phone down and held it to his ear. He put on a high-pitched nasal accent and spoke into the receiver. 

‘Greetings –’ 

Garvey took the phone and placed it back on the hanger. ‘C’mon, not here.’ 

‘I’m just messin’ around.’

‘Well, don’t. They’ll find any excuse to kick us out.’

Ferris arched in his seat and whined, ‘What am I meant to do, man? It’s so boring in here, I’m gonna explode from … boredom.’ 

‘You’re not the only one here,’ Garvey countered. ‘We’ve got to be patient.’

‘Patience isn’t in my programming,’ Ferris stood. ‘I’ll get lunch from Fatman’s.’

‘It’s going to be dinner by the time you get back.’

‘Do you want anything, yes or no?’

‘Just get the usual,’ Garvey waved at Ferris.

‘Alright,’ Ferris nodded and deepened his voice, adding an accent, ‘I’ll be back.’

He clicked his tongue and gave a thumbs up. 

The 2020 Sydney University Student Anthology is now open for submissions on the topic of climate change, so send us your artworks, poetry, short fiction and non-fiction. Submit here.