A Tale of Two Species: The Cliffhanger
It is clouded. It is always clouded. I walk lazily towards the main door of the house and try to open it. “Zeki, sweetie come here”. I turn and scuttle towards the woman’s voice. Mom. Standing near her is a tall and well-built man who kneels down and gestures me to come closer. “Zeki. I want you to remember this. You are smart, alright? VERY smart. But the world shouldn’t know.” I begin to protest, “But, dada wh–”
Dad suddenly grabs me and starts to run. We aren’t in our home anymore. We all run. We get inside a room. Dad turns towards me, stern. “whatever happens do not-” BANG.
He isn’t anywhere around. I begin to panic when a pair of soft gentle arms hug me.
“I love you, sweetie. You are my b–” THUD. Mom is gone too. A large cloak appears, creeping towards me, slowly, whispering, “Zeki…Zeki…”
“Zeki! Dude! Wake up man!!”
I jolt up straight, sweating, and look up at Sean who starts shaking his head. “That nightmare again huh. I don’t know man, you’ve been having nightmares ever since you started talking to those creeps. You should try therapy or somethin’.” I shake my head in disagreement. It took me a while to get back to consciousness. “Dude, we’re gonna be late so better hurry up.”
We suit up and head out to be greeted by the vast cold dry red desert. I wish I could take a deep breath of fresh air, but all I would inhale is the oxygen from my suit’s tank. We walk slowly, really slowly, into the communication chamber, the gravity on Mars is only 62% of earth’s gravity and it does take time getting used to it….and these Martians.
How is life even possible on Mars? In most ways, they are similar to us. Their bodies are scarily identical to human bodies, except that they are extremely pale. No, they are not green. They would almost pass out as humans if it wasn’t for their colour. The atmosphere of Mars is mostly carbon dioxide so their metabolism works in such a way that they somehow breathe carbon dioxide. Also, the atmospheric pressure is only 0.006% of Earth’s, combining this with gravity only half as powerful, theoretically they should be huge. But they are also further away from the Sun and they have very little energy resources, so this sort of neutralizes the previous advantage, or something like that. And water? Well, this planet’s poles are home to humongous ice caps, and yes, they are adapted to get water out of ice which shouldn’t be cumbersome considering the rest of the hurdles. Underneath these ice caps are where their colonies are. And that is where we had arrived. One of the more interesting adaptations of these Martians is that having such scarce energy resources, should they get unusually high resources for some reason, they can either store it in their body for extended periods of time, or use it at that instant and increase their strength, endurance and sensory responses multiple fold, something like a “Super-Martian”. This adaptation is something I was always sceptical about, because I have a wild theory, and if it turns out to be true, we might be in pretty deep waters.
We found the presence of life on Mars only about a decade ago. Since then, we tried communicating with no success. And thus, our Mars journey began. And I happened to be the imbecile who volunteered to try communicating with the Martians, because I was apparently relatively good at it, but primarily because I tend to be lonely and thought that a different species might at least give me some badly needed companionship. These Martians are capable of telepathy, and they can understand our language and expression and vice versa. But, as the human brain is not accustomed to telepathy, I began experiencing side effects which were mostly my memories, but twisted and fragmented, or so I think. I don’t remember going through those memories, but my gut tells me that they aren’t just dreams.
I get inside the talk room and slump on my seat, waiting for my communicating “partner”. It’s a different Martian every week. So today is a new one. My third one. He/she (yeah, they have two distinguishable genders too…I think) will probably be like the previous two, I expected, drop dead spooky. I was so wrong. She…was drop dead gorgeous. I couldn’t stop gawking, she was unbelievably prettier than many from Earth! Dear lord what the hell is wrong with me?! “Calm down Zek…” I tell myself, “you’re better than this…you even underwent emotion control training…okay, forget that…all you gotta do is mask your emotions from her…that’s it…” I calm myself down. She occupies her seat opposite to mine.
I give a smile. She returns a blank expression. I break a little. She moves her arm to place on my forehead, that’s how this works. “She’s gonna touch me…CALM THE HELL DOWN…okay…” The instant her fingers touch my forehead, we establish a connection…her voice slowly cracks up, waiting to stabilize…
What was that?
We look at each other. She was as blank as before. I try to speak first…slowly, “I am identified as Zeki. Zeki is my name. Do you have a name?”
“Okay, Sli, do you have a role to play?”
“Yes, society role” Damn, they pick up really quick. Apparently, they discuss what we communicate every time to the entire race. And it turns out, they somehow understand our colloquial expressions too which is eerily awesome. “What is your role in the society you live in?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
I get hit with what felt like lightning. Flashes of images I couldn’t register shoot past me. A scream. A wail.
“Sacrifice. I am an o-” There is a clatter outside the room, followed by a deep growl. The Martian turns pale. I didn’t know they could turn paler.
I sensed her fear for a fraction of a second before she removed her hand and broke our connection. The next moment Sean barges in and starts dragging me out of the room. “Sean, what’s going on?”
“Later. Now come.”
Behind him, I could see a fairly big Martian, definitely man, trying to grab the Martian girl while our commander, who was watching over our communication session, stood behind, no expression shown.
“Later. Let’s get out of here.” He’s never this serious. I follow him all the way to our rooms in silence.
“Well?” “Well, your crush appears to be an important person…and wasn’t supposed to be here. Right now we’re given the day off. And we’re to stay here until tomorrow morning. So, I suggest you quit pondering about what happened and get some rest, we don’t get such miracles here.”
Part of me agreed with him, but another part knew for sure that there was something going on beyond my knowledge. But I was tired so I retire to bed and almost immediately drift off to sleep.
My eyelids barge open. Deep breath. At least it was a different nightmare. “HEEEEELLPPP!!!” the scream is deafening but Sean doesn’t seem to have heard it. He continues snoring. The voice seems to come from outside. I creep slowly, making sure Sean is asleep and go outside, carefully closing the door behind me.
“Help…….” It comes from the left. I follow the desperate cry which has an uncharacteristically ‘directional’ flow. It leads me outside the base so I wear my suit. The voice echoes everywhere before I could identify its direction. “Zachary…”
“How the hell does it know? Could it be…?”
I walk quite far away from the base. It suddenly stops. Then it starts again, louder and more deafening, coming from multiple directions. Left. No right. Behind me. Left. Above. Right. Left. Silence. I feel someone behind me. My heart pumps furiously while I struggle not to shake. I turn, slowly. “What the…”
It’s the female Martian, Sli. She touches my forehead. “Lower your heartbeat, Zachary. Time is short.” As if that’s a voluntary action. But I try to calm myself down. I muster up my energy, “What just happened? And how do you know my full name?” “Forgive me, but I am capable of more than telepathy.” Great. Martians can now read minds. “Do not be afraid. I shall…….it appears that our time has been further shortened. We have to leave.” This was now getting more absurd than ever. Where we heading to in this barren world?! But before I could ask, she comes close to me, a little too close and does what seems to be an embrace.
Everything around me suddenly starts swirling rapidly. I can’t take it. I feel dizzy, drained and battered. “Make it stop…please…” those words don’t come out of my mouth.
It stops. She leaves me and I drop to my knees. I suddenly feel much heavier, albeit familiar. I was sweating. I rip the suit headgear off not realizing I wouldn’t be able to breathe. But I could. Sli suddenly falls to the ground as if a heavy boulder was dropped on top of her. “Sli…” Realisation hits me. I stand up. There is wind. I see a familiar landscape.
“Why am I…on Earth…?!”