**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
After lunch, Arnie and Alix went in the supply coach to buy more grout, some crushed limestone and pea gravel for Staash. The variety delighted the Sakum’mal. Hw washed it down with a gallon and a half of water. Still, Cristina was gravely concerned for the sand-morph’s health. The relatively dry environment of humans was extremely bad for him.
Alix picked up a humidifier while they were out and positioned it near to Staash. He said it helped but Alix doubted it was enough humanity. Staash loved the dampness found in musty caves, something no human dwelling could imitate for long without producing mildew that was harmful for humans. It made him wonder how the two species could really ever share the world, which was Cristina’s overall goal.
Arnie went back to the house to fetch everyone to share the dinner Emma had spent most of the afternoon preparing, a roast with assorted vegetables and fruit and garden salad. Afterward, Everyone else bused their tables, while Arnie and Alix swept the floors. Chase and Neville mopped them. All four of them wiped down the tables and made everything in the front room nice and clean for Emma and Arnie in the morning.
The ladies rinsed the pots, pans, dishes cups, saucers, bowls, glasses and flatware before loading it into the dishwasher to be sterilized to the city code. Emma added detergent, programmed the timer and activated the machine. While the dishes were washing, they cleaned, swept and mopped the kitchen, wiped down the counters and, in the end, helped the men carry out the trash to load it into the matter reactor to be converted into energy and stored in the batteries to supplement the energy needs of the building.
When the dishes were finished, everyone put them away. Then both Emma and Arnie thanked everyone or their kind, considerate help. After saying goodbye to Cristina and Alix, Arnie took everyone but Emma home in the supply coach. Emma stayed after for a few minutes to get the place ready for the next day’s business before she took her private coach home for the night.
Alix ensured everything was locked up while Cristina joined Staash upstairs. When he had shut off all the lights downstairs, Alix joined them. The Sakum’mal was sitting on the end of the couch, staring blankly off into space while Cristina was taking a shower. The world viewer was switched off, so he did not even have that to focus on. It seemed very strange. It did not seem normal even for what little they understood about one another.
“Are you okay?” Alix asked him.
“What do you mean?”
“Here or not, what difference?” Staash attempted to clarify.
“We care about you,” Alix said. “Otherwise we would have never brought you here.”
“Caring made separate my kind. Now, last Sakum’mal survivor. All colonies dead. Staash not belong here. Nice and polite friends, Staash perform. They thank me. Nice, but Staash different. Never be human. Not want different. Alix never Sakum’mal. Not wait either.”
“You’re here to foster better understanding.”
“What point? Sakum’malien dead. All dead.”
Cristina emerged form the shower with a towel wrapped around her. Having overheard the last part of the conversation she was emotionally touch, wiping a tear away with the back of her hand.
Alix looked at Cristina who seemed to have nothing immediately ready to say. Then he spoke. “I can fix some of that, you know.”
“Staash appreciate effort.”
“Then what’s the issue?” Alix asked.
Staash stared at Alix for several moments then, Alix not Staash looked away.
“Okay, I get it,” Alix broke the silence. “There has to be a better answer, a greater solution that allows everyone who died eighty years ago to live and produce offspring. Even you could have some children and grandchildren by now.”
“Produce children not necessity for Staash,” he said. “Other Sakum’malien vital to peace and existence. Sakum’malien social more than humans. Hermit concept only human. Barely understand. Exile worse than death, friends and family forever away.”
“They did that to you and yet you want to go back?”
Staash lowered his eyes. “You are friend but not Sakum’mal. Cristina speaks language. but not Sakum’mal.”
“We love and respect you,” Cristina said. “I admire your gift of poetry.”
“Sakum’malien no think Staash poetry special.”
“Be that as it may, it was amazing to me,” she said.
“You liked it that much?”
Cristina responded with a smile.
“Arnie did too. Emma, Neville and Mary were very impressed. Chase and Julie cried, too – same as me. Everyone was entertained,” Cristina said.
“Staash thanks all. Feel appreciation. Not what Staash really need.”
“Did the Sakum’malien ever appreciate your poetry?” Alix asked.
“My kind, have hope. Always hope.”
Alix nodded. “I can take you back there, anywhere, anytime you want, even before you ever met us. Between Cristina and me, I think we can make it so you’ll never remember any of this or even know in five days you and everyone else will die.”
“Staash prefer know. Told others. Not believe. Staash outsider, different…”
“You would die, too,” Alix said. “Same as it was before Cristina and I came and met you.”
Staash slowly nodded his head. He knew that sobering assessment was correct. He hung his head and after a time he began to sob after his fashion, feeling sorry for himself and his plight.
Alix looked to Cristina for some brave words of encouragement but she was as tapped out as he. Staash’s situation touched them both in a way they could never think of subjecting him to his original fate.
Suddenly Staash looked up, appearing inspired. “Cristina come warn everyone. Make message credible now.”
Cristina looked toward Alix and shrugged. Certainly it was a thought that had occurred to them before and they attempted it, but maybe Staash knew something they did not about communicating to the masses of his kind. If such a thing were possible it made a good deal of sense. Of course, Cristina would be the logical one. She understood and spoke some of Staash’s language. But she would need Alix to go there and return.
There was the lingering question that haunted them before, what sort of world would they return to if the Sakum’malien survived the sterilization of the planet?
“We need to think this through,” Cristina said in response to Staash’s cold, seemingly emotionless stare.
“What point parading Staash?” the Sakum’mal asked. “Only one here now, ever! No other come. Resurrection dead ones pointless.”
“If we return him and help him prove to the others…” Alix began.
“They wouldn’t listen before. What if they won’t listen at all, ever?”
“They have to,” Alix said.
Cristina went into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. “I need to learn Sakum’malien,” Cristina said before sipping from the glass. After downing the entire glass she continued, “I need to be fluent in it to deliver a message.”
Staash stood, coming toward her, his eyes pierced her soul as he said, “We start right now, then.”
Cristina pursed her lips. “I do not learn as quickly as you do.”
“Begin now, finish sooner,” Staash replied eagerly.
“Unlike you I cannot speak with multiple, simultaneous voices. As you already appreciate, your language is more like what we call music. But each of you is like a small choir. Do you understand?”
“Much Sakum’malien pretty only, meaning little. Leaders speak, nice sound, empty.”
Alix laughed. “Politicians are the same, regardless of the species.”
Cristina smiled. “So I don’t have to sound exactly like you.”
“Close enough good.”
“Even so there is another element that I cannot even begin to express. In order to even attempt to speak it I would have to have several instruments covering the tones I cannot reach with my vocal range alone.”
“We need the band, then,” Alix said.
“I thought about that before. I cannot begin to fathom how to reproduce it though, something that is so natural to Staash that he ignores like we use articles in speech to make the metering flow properly in the cadence of our speech.”
“He usually ignores them in his English.”
“He knows they serve not purpose to the meaning and our metering is as alien to him as our words – more so actually. Sakum’malien has a different rhythm.”
“I would have to make several trips and frankly taking you there was enough but bringing you and Staash back wore me out.”
“I know,” Cristina sympathized.
“It’s maybe possible to take everyone there, but all our equipment? Besides that, how would we power everything?”
“It would be unfathomably complicated,” Cristina agreed.
“We could record our band performing the instrumentals and vocals,” Alix suggested, and then responded in kind to the smile that brightened Cristina’s face. “Use overdubs on the vocals so that all you need to do is sing the last part as the lead.”
“Okay, then nothing really changes all that much. We go to New Milan, just as we planned. Except, instead of parading Staash around for a media circus–”
“That the Colonial Authority would probably discredit anyway,” Alix interjected.
“Yes, well Staash can help me write the music to approximate the voices that I need to communicate the warning to the Sakum’malien. When the band has recorded it we take the recording and a portable player with us when we return to Staash’s home.”
“It’s a great plan,” Alix approved.
“If we succeed,” Cristina began, but then paused for a long, thoughtful time.
“Does that change our lives?” Alix asked the question she could not immediately answer and did not want to contemplate.
After several lingering moments she finally responded. “The real question is when we come back will the world be different?” She finally found the nerve to express her greatest personal reservation. “ If what we do is important enough, what happens to us doesn’t matter.”
Alix looked into her eyes, “If I’m with you nothing will change. What is shared now between us, that’s inviolate.”
“Are you sure?’
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Alix said. “We’re connected by our souls. How can it be different than it is. Just the situation changes, you know?”
“I don’t want to lose you,” Cristina said.
“I would die before I let you get away,” he said to her. “As for everything else, who knows? I suppose it’ll depend on how many of the Sakum’malien listen and survive the sterilization.”
Staash did not understand every word that Alix and Cristina were exchanging but just enough. “You take me back, now?” Staash requested asked.
“Not yet,” Cristina said. “Alix can take you back anytime and it can be just like you never left if that’s what you prefer. So that’s not an issue.”
“Others see Staash away. Then return. Otherwise no one believes.”
Cristina nodded, conceding the point.
“You and I have a song to write, a message to the Sakum’malien warning them of the impending disaster. Then we will teach the music to our band so we can record the music, making it sound as close as possible to what your language sounds like.”
Staash understood but also held out some reservation because there were parts of the language that could not be reproduced in any way by a human, as they exceeded the spectrum that a human could perceive. They would have to address that if it turned out to be necessary. It was a common enough element of their language but sometimes the same or very similar messages could be delivered without the use of the higher forms.
Regardless of the challenges ahead, Staash was eager to begin. He immediately went to the table and sat down, waving Cristina over toward him. “Learn everything Sakum’malien,” he said.
“I want to but what I need right now is to learn a message to give to those you left behind.”
Staash nodded. “Human speak but speak not with words alone. Body talks as well.”
“Of course. Most of what we say to one another is through observation of gestures and what we even call body language.”
“Sakum’malien and human not so different,” Staash revealed, then focusing on her eyes he linked to her telepathically. “In mass communication, the physical element is added. Mathematics is part of this, positioning and angles of bodies speak volumes to the masses that observe, even to the point that the message is very different than what others that do not perceive the fullness of the expression can never know.”
Cristina stared at him even as her mind raced with the possibilities of what he had just revealed. She tried to fathom how it was possible, but then, Staash turned toward her and uttered a simple phrase in his language, a phrase that involved the entire spectrum of expression for him. Suddenly she understood how the language fit together into one complete form of expression. It was compact and ingenuously simple. Her real challenge was figuring out how to record a message of the same clarity and delivering it with the same impact.