By H. C. Turk
My part is exploratory in nature. Just because we've managed to transport ourselves to an alien planet doesn't mean we have to move in. The thought of never returning home terrifies me. If the rest decide to colonize, we won't be commuting across parsecs of duration space. I would never see my home again. All right, my home is not the best place in the world (or the universe), but at least it's not alien. Though I have a say in the ultimate decision, it's only one voice.
If they decide to settle in, I, I would have to mutiny.
Of course, as scientists we are very advanced, as proven by our profound location. However, gross spaceship locomotion doesn't mean we can achieve similar results on a cultural scale. A semi-human scale. Standing in our tennies, breathing perfect air, we try to measure them. We think we're in a village, but those structures of local materials—wood and stone and metal—might be hollow sculptures, for all we know. They might be storage units for items the populace collected and then it deteriorated and blew away or the bugs ate it. They don't seem to be defensive mechansims, because we aren't being blown up while examining them.
What do you mean, "they"? We haven't found "them." These structures might be a new type of natural product created by the environment, like rocks or trees. Just because they're hollow doesn't mean they're nests. I certainly don't want one to become my nest.
We've been here for some time now. Our quarters are tents, because the ship isn't something to sleep in. It's more like a pair of shoes for several people. You wouldn't sleep in your shoes. The tents are great, not flexible or subject to the vagaries of local weather, which is mild and not at all alien. Yes, much of our whole crowded planet could live here, if they brought their own tents. Mass colonization would require creating an entire infrastructure for supporting non-alien human life, wouldn't it?
"Yes, but you can live indefinitely in a cabin in the woods," my peers tell me, the inferior bastards. "You don't have to be connected to the rest of society, unless you need to listen to the radio or pop into town now and then to buy a new pair of shoes."
"Our shoes last forever."
"I never listened to radio."
Well I listened to radio, when I lived on Earth, and I like a new pair of shoes now and again, even though these last forever, when they fit.
Forever. That's how long they've decided we'll remain here. I can't grab my ball and go home. It's not my ball. I can't return by myself, because that would be stealing their only transportation. That would be stealing their shoes.
A part of me understands the glory in remaining: the very first people in the history of mankind to live on another planet, one of Earth's oldest wishes.
No, it's a modern wish. An immortal wish is to live on a paradise, not in a planet.
It's time to decide; we're running out and can't pop into town to replenish. It's now or never. Returning would be very costly.
Running out? We have provisions to last as long as our shoes.
That type of running out is not what I mean.
It's time for all of us to decide, but we can't, because one of us is dead. The horror is incomparable, alien. In our modern world, people don't die easily. Our medicine is too good. They have to suffer from a spontaneous accident, or carefully planned murder. Or ghastly alien slaughter. That's new. We are living in a new land—no, no, we're only visiting. I don't want to live here. This can't be my home. It's too much like home. The land is open here, though foggy. No, that's a different type of haze; this is an alien land. An alien pasture in the wilderness that reminds me of home. I don't want this to be my home.
A part of me could love this place. The ambiance created mutually by the pasture and the haze and the buildings enthralls me. But those structures are not plural, and not alien, because I'm viewing our spaceship, which could take me home, even though it seems I have already arrived. My home, in the wilds with my cabin, has no alien haze caused by rotting corpses.
Why are the aliens killing us? We're leaving, so they don't have to reject us. But we don't see them and our technologies don't inform us of any aliens. If they're killing us because we're leaving, doesn't that mean they want us to stay? But if they want us to stay, why are they killing us? Evidently we are dealing with an alien mentality, and that senselessness makes perfect sense.
We have to hide. We have to run to our shoes, but can't expose ourselves without getting murdered.
No, no, we have to run to our ship.
Too late; the entire party is dead. At least, the part that made the bad decision, which was very human of them, and thus inappropriate for an alien existence. When you travel to an alien planet, you become alien to them.
Now that the aliens are gone, I can have this place to myself. If it fits.
- - -
H. C. Turk is a self-taught writer, sound artist, and visual artist living in Florida. His fiction has been published by Villard, Tor, and The Chicago Review.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
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