At age four, I curled up in a ball and hid in the dent in the cave. Fear was contagiously spreading among us, but there was not a thing we could do about it until the leader came back. Despair bolted from person to person; mind to mind until all of us were infected. This is the apocalypse; the aliens will kill us all: these thoughts rapidly ran thought all our minds until they were the only thing we could focus on. When the leader came back, fingertips bright orange from the urmianu, and we found out that the sky vaporized the unidentified flying object before we could. There were no happy thoughts, just silent relief.
A week later, we sent a message to the people of the planet Aetrh, where the object came from. After ten years, no responses ever came.
I sat on top of a hill when the sound of meal time spread across the land. The sound bounced from blue hill to blue hill and was immediately vaporized if it tried to bounce through the indigo clouds that blanketed the sky. I slowly got to my hands and feet and started to crawl toward one of the numerous holes in the hills. Inside, my family sat down to the eating wall. I took my place at the side of the wall and we scooped the soft blue substance from the wall into our mouth. My family and I chewed the substance then swallowed. Then, we repeated the movement without hesitation.
Even as I sat next to my own family, I felt self-conscious. My legs were longer than my arms, my skin was white, my hair was tow, and my eyes were blue. My family-however-looked exactly the like every other Manuh: same-length extremities, transparent skin, albino hair, and turquoise eyes. They pretend not to notice the differences, but I could tell they did by the tension and disappointed faces.
Meal time ended and everyone else went back to meditation and philosophical thinking. I did not onlywant to know more about the universe we live in, but to experience more. The leader knew almost everything about the planet Aetrh and could teleport there, but he did not because it was considered “useless” and “dangerous”. All Manuhs denied the chance to experience other planets; they were satisfied with their knowledge of them.
The gentle wind blew through my hair. Since the wind only blew a few times a month, I rejoiced every time it blew.
Suddenly, the alarm rang and I scrambled to my extremities along with everyone else. I crawled inside the shelter where I last hid when I was four years old. Everyone else piled in, except for the leader.
The despair and fear were twice as strong as before. Old rumors resurfaced and attacked. The time in the shelter was the longest experience in my life.
After what felt like days, the leader came to the shelter. The aliens from Aetrh landed in the flat clearing a few hours away from the shelter. We were to leave them alone unless they attempted-or successfully-harmed us.
The others left to their holes and spread rumors about the aliens amongst themselves. Despite the danger, I climbed up my hill. Why had they landed in the clearing? Since there were no hills, how could they make a shelter? From my spot on the hill, I could see the aliens. They were building a cave-like structure out of an unrecognized brown material, but that was not the thing that amazed me.
The aliens were all different shapes, sizes, and colors despite all being the same species. Some were longer than others while some were wider than others. The skin of the aliens varied from light to dark.
All the aliens were traveling on their legs instead of crawling. I decided to try that too. I wobbly got up on my legs and took a shaky step. The ground immediately sunk after I placed my foot down and I tumbled down the hill. I got up on my feet again and took my first successful step. Step after step, I slowly got to the top of the hill. The wind blew in my face as I raised my arms in victory and the corners of my mouth lifted up.
What if I left the rest of the Manuhs to live with the aliens? All of them are unique, so I could easily fit in. I did not belong with other Manuhs anyway. I quickly traveled down the hill and toward the aliens’ shelter. I slowly sped up and as I did a wind blew in my hair, but this wind was artificial and predictable. The other wind is natural and spontaneous.
I reached their shelter while all the aliens were going in. I followed them inside. In the in shelter, there was an elevated platform in the middle of the room -that took up most of it- that was made of the same brown material as the shelter. Next to it, there were two thinner platforms-one on each side-that was made of the same material. On the middle platform, there was an assortment of weird items. The aliens were stuffing it in their mouths, so I assumed it was food.
Everyone else sat down on one of the smaller platforms, so I did too. I put one of the items in my mouth; it tasted like ashes. Even though it had a revolting taste, I forced myself to swallow.
“I can’t believe we are one of the first people on Neptune! It’s funny how we used to think it was completely made of gas. Oh, by the way, my name’s John. You?” the man-John-used his mouth to make noises I interpreted as communication.
The fact that amazes me was that people could share entire ideas just by making weird noises with their mouths.
I did not understand the sounds John made, but understood his message-as a whole-and his tone. As soon as I heard him speak to me, I felt like someone had just told me what every sound meant in their language, but I would have to search through my mind to find the right ones. “Larnecio,” I slowly answered. My voice startled me, for it was the first time I heard myself vocalize.
“Larnecio. That sounds Italian. Are you Italian? That would explain your weird accent,” John replied while putting more food in his mouth. A few small pieces flew out while he vocalized.
“Yes,” I was pretty sure I was not Italian, but I did not want him to know the truth.
“Great! I always wanted to meet an Italian! I’m American, by the way,” the corners of John’s mouth turned upwards.
“Why are we”-I gestured to everyone in the room-“here?” I was nervous since this was the first time I asked a question. I assumed it was okay to ask questions, since he asked me so many.
“To explore and expand the knowledge of mankind,” John answered while sipping clear liquid from a container. After the horrid experience with the food, I decided not to try any.
“Do you not already know about this planet?” I questioned.
“Is it not dangerous to explore when you do not know much?” I was shocked by this philosophy.
“Then how would we know more?! The only way we can find new things is to explore!” John stared at me like I was an alien, “Are all Italians like this?”
I felt a burst of joy inside me. I finally found a group of people-or aliens-that think the same way I do and I feel like I belong with. I found myself liking these aliens more every minute.
“Would you like to see a picture of my home?” John asked. I agreed. He pulled out a piece of flat material with a picture on it. I gasped. The picture was filled with colors I’ve never seen-or imagined-before. The ground was a fresh bright color that would never exist on Nuptene, or Neptune. There was a block the same color as the shelter I was in and the sky was a lighter shade of blue, the color of the ground on Nuptene, with white clouds in it.
“Attention all men!” a voice boomed through all the noise. Suddenly, the whole place was silent. “Line up in front of me to get your weapons!” the voice continued. John got up and went to line up. The voice belonged to another man with dark hair growing from his chin. Weapons? What weapons? Panic rose inside of me. My stomach growled, so I secretly pulled a chunk of material from the floor and put it in my mouth. It would do for now.
John returned to his seat, “Look at this.” He held out a dark long tube that looked harmless. “What are you planning to use it for?” I gulped. “Not much really. We’re only allowed to use it to kill aliens, if there are any, and executions,” John looked disappointed. I felt like a block of urmianu dropped into my stomach.
I did not know what to do. Should I stay with the aliens? Or should I warn “my people”? The weapon did not contain any urmianu, so I thought it was harmless. But what if other things could kill us-Manuhs-besides urmianu? I’ve only knew these creatures for a few hours. Would I abandon the people I lived my whole life with for them? These thoughts fought in my head until I was the only one still sitting at the table.
After a few hours of thinking, I decided to warn my people. My people did not mean harm and these foreigners did. I got up and walked out of the shelter. The noisy crowds of people did not notice as I passed by them. I was on the outskirts of the clearing when someone yelled, “Hey you! What’s your name?” I turned around and saw the man with the chin-hair angrily staring at me. “Larnecio,” I replied. “Larnecio, repeat rule number one of the colony,” he demanded. I was silent since I did not know it. “Rule number one,” he spat, “Never leave the colony alone. The punishment is immediately execution. John, come here!” John bashfully appeared from the crowd to the place beside the man. “Shoot her immediately,” the man demanded. John sadly looked at me, “Sorry Larnecio.” He faced the tube at me and pushed a button.
A small, dark object flew at me quickly. I suddenly panicked. What if urmianu was not my only vulnerability? Will anyone ever remember me? The object flew right through me and I felt no pain at all.
There was a long silence from everyone. The chin-hair man cut it off, “She’s an alien! Seize her!”
I quickly turned around and ran like the wind toward Manuhs. The aliens were unadjusted to the sinking ground and constantly lost their balance. The aliens that managed to run with the sinking ground tripped over the fallen aliens. I quickly reached my people and they knew what happened. The leader carried as much urmianu as he could and we all ran toward the clearing. When his hands were as orange as the urmianu, he would pass it to someone else and so on. We quickly reached the shelter and the leader dropped the urmianu. The aliens shot dark objects at us, but it was useless. I grabbed a piece of urmianu and threw it at them. It hit the chin-hair man in the head and he screamed in agony as he burned to ashes. Pandemonium broke out among the aliens as they ran in random directions screaming. We threw more and more and only stopped when the whole place burned to the ground. My throwing hand was throbbing and as orange as urmianu. I shoved my hand into the ground and hoped I did not die. After a few minutes the throbbing stopped and my hand turned back to white.
I realized that the leader was missing and there was a pile of ashes where he last stood. He sacrificed his life for us; for the mistake I made. We all wept for him.
Everyone left the scene long ago, but I. The wind blew and scattered the ashes of the leader and the remains of all the aliens. I missed John, but he sacrificed me to his people so I did the same. I was still curious and wanted to experience more, but curiosity and foolish actions may cost someone their life. Nuptene slowly erased all signs of the alien invasion, but I would remember them, when the wind blows.