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Interview with an Alien
Cooper stared at the ground. He began to shift the Martian soil beneath his feet. This was a façade, of course. He didn’t want to meet any of the stares and pointed fingers of the native Martians. He was simply trying not to attract unwanted attention to himself.
But for a human on Mars, this was impossible.
Every so often a brave Martian would walk past him, only to run quickly away as soon as he thought he was safe. Most simply crossed the street to walk on the other side and observe as nonchalantly as physically possible. As he waited out side the grocery store, one Martian spit on him. Cooper did not take kindly to this, but he didn’t want to pick a fight with a species that was two feet taller than him. So, for the most part, it was just him and the dirt.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?”
He looked up. Three adolescent Martians, about six inches taller than he, were grimly smiling at him.
“Do my eyes deceive me, G’ygr’uid,” asked the one closest to him, “Or is that an Alien there?”
“Yes, I think it is, R’dwc’oab.” responded G’ygr’uid slyly. The third Martian giggled to himself.
“Afternoon, gentlemen.” Cooper finally managed to say.
The three Martians looked at him queerly. They all blinked their pitch-black almond-shaped eyes at him. R’dwc’oab finally broke the silence.
“Are you new here, Alien?”
“Umm… No… I’ve… I’ve been here since… since we all came here.”
“We? Who’s we?”
“Umm… we… us… humans…er… aliens, rather.”
“Is that so?” queried R’dwc’oab backed by the laughter of his comrades, “Seems to me that all Aliens outside of Zone 86 are to be accompanied by,” he paused to allow room for his smile to grow, “ ‘Native Personnel’.”
The others began to laugh. “Either that, or you need a pass into any of our cities.”
He spread his arms out. He looked around and said, “I don’t see anyone with you. Do you have the identification?”
“Well, you see,” began Cooper, “My associate is inside the supermarket. They don’t let us aliens in, you know,” The trio nodded with sarcastic sympathy, “And, he, you know, has my identification, so…”
“Is that a ‘no’, then?” R’dwc’oab queried, leaning towards Cooper to the point of discomfort.
“Well, no I guess-” Cooper stammered.
G’ygr’uid suddenly lunged at him, pressing him against the wall with, for lack of a better word, unearthly strength.
“Oh, don’t worry,” he laughed, “We can help you with that!”
“HEY! COOPER WALLACE! Are these guys bothering you?”
They all turned to find an adult Martian glaring down at them. He had Cooper’s pass in one hand and a brown bag of various Martian goods in the other.
“Are you with this alien?” asked R’dwc’oab, pulling G’ygr’uid off the startled man.
“Yes, I am,” responded the Martian, as stern and as serious as he could possibly muster (he wasn’t a very threatening Martian, only surpassing the youths in age, not in size and strength), “and if you would be so kind as to be on your way and leave him alone. I’m sure he has done you no wrong.”
G’ygr’uid spit and his feet. R’dwc’oab waved his comrades on.
“Let’s go.” He said, his voice dripping with annoyance.
As they walked away, the third Martian finally spoke out.
“ALIEN LOVER!” he yelled, and they all ran away laughing.
The two stood there wordlessly for what seemed like an eternity. The Martian turned to the alien.
“My sincerest apologies, Cooper. Did they harm you?”
“Nah,” he responded gruffly, “but thanks anyways, G’lth’eig.” He dusted himself off. “A few more minutes and they might have killed me.”
“I honestly do not believe that.” Said G’lth’eig, half surprised.
Cooper shook his head. “No, no. It’s a bit of an expression. They… they just would have… messed me up… y’know?”
G’lth’eig’s puzzled look only grew. “I’m afraid not.”
“Never mind. So, where are we heading now?”
“Oh! Oh yes! We are going back to my home. There we can begin the interview. Oh, and I believe this is yours.” He said, handing Cooper his pass.
“Heh. Thanks.” He said smiling. He fiddled with the pass a bit, reading his information on the card before running to catch up with G’lth’eig.
“You will have to excuse the young ones you met earlier,” G’lth’eig called out to Cooper as he walked through his front door. “They only believe what they see on their televisions. That information is of course filtered through the eyes of the paranoid government and is thus incredibly biased.”
“Censorship, then?” Cooper questioned.
“In a way, yes,” admitted his host, “but more paranoia than anything else. It’s been a while since you humans came to Mars, but,” he explained, wandering into the kitchen and making a pot of Martian coffee, “we still can’t get used to the fact that there are humans and possibly other extra terrestrials out there. Would you care for some coffee?”
Martian coffee is about the same color as a Martian’s skin; light green, almost luminescent in a way.
“Er… no thanks…” Said Cooper wincing.
G’lth’eig shrugged. “You see, it’s much easier to assume that all humans are terrible and vile creatures like so many of us unfortunately think you are than to actually sit one down and discuss things with them.”
Cooper sat down in an armchair in the living room. “So, that’s what we’re doing, huh?”
“Precisely,” said G’lth’eig, taking a big sip and sitting down next to him. “I’m working with my company to understand humanity better through various interviews. So,” he paused, picking up his clipboard and a strange recording device, “are you ready to begin?”
Cooper looked around him and shrugged. “Lay ‘em on me.”
“Well, actually, before we begin,” G’lth’eig waved his hand to stop the procedure, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Cooper, “Do you smoke?”
“Uh… nah…” he waved them away reluctantly, more out of the surprise of being offered one on an alien planet than anything else.
G’lth’eig shrugged and lit it with what looked like a large, thin battery. He put the strange lighter away and took a long drag on the cigarette. He released the smoke with the most satisfied sigh ever produced.
“These are human brand cigarettes. My, you humans have a way with tobacco,” he said, completely relaxed. “I read once that we Martians actually enjoy these cigarettes much more than humans. I believe it said the feeling for us is more…” he waved the cigarette around, searching for words. “Orgasmic.”
Cooper shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Geez, this is gonna be rough, he thought.
Finally G’lth’eig snapped out of his trance. “But I digress.” He said, fumbling with his clipboard.
“You certainly do.” Cooper responded wittily.
There was a long pause as the two stared at each other, then his host exclaimed, “Oh, YES, I get it now! That was a joke!” he began to laugh hysterically while Cooper watched in astonishment. G’lth’eig wiped the acidic tears from his eyes.
“You are funny, my friend.” He said pointing at Cooper. He humored his host with a weak smile.
“Alright,” he continued, “Let us begin now.”
He waved his hand over the recorder and a little blue light turned on. He held up the clipboard to his face.
“What is your name?”
“What is your identification number?”
“1128475.” This number was placed right next to his name on his identification card. This was a question he was asked more frequently than his name. As a result he almost answered his name with his number.
“What is your age in Earth years?”
“What languages do you know?”
“English… uh… a bit of Spanish… a few Martian words.”
“Really? Like what?”
“Um… human. I know how to say human.”
The word for human in the Martian’s native language is P’llr’ddf. Cooper had recently noticed that words without vowels in Martian (like P’llr’ddf) are curses or ways to describe vile things like excrement or garbage. G’lth’eig was aware of this as well.
An awkward silence floated into the room. “Alright. Now we will get a bit more personal.”
“Ahem, what is your family unit like?”
“What do you mean?”
“Who does it consist of?”
“Oh, well,” Cooper reached for his wallet. “I have a picture, right… here.”
It was a Polaroid of him, his wife and his two children, both girls.
“That there is Suzy, she’s my wife. Those two are Diana and Rachael; Diana’s the one on my shoulders.” He paused. “This was taken when we were still on Earth, about five years ago. I don’t think I can carry her like that any more…” He stopped. He stared into the picture. His mind filled with memories.
“They are lovely. Where are they now?”
Cooper waited until he had the photo back in his wallet to speak.
“Um… they… they’re in Zone 86… with the other refugees, y’know.”
“Why is that?”
Another pause. “Well, y’know, they… they figured I’m the man of the family, y’know, so I was more likely to find work on Mars than a woman would.” Cooper began to tap his fingers on the armchair. “We saved up money for my release and, well, now I gotta make enough to get ‘em out.”
“Are you close to your ideal amount of money?”
“Oh, well, I could get Diana and Rachael out no problem. They’re… they’re cheap. Children are easy to pay for. Suzy…” He looked down at his feet. “No… Suzy’s expensive… She’s gonna… she’s…”
He put his hand in front of his face and sighed. G’lth’eig waved his hand over the recorder, turning the light red. He leaned forward.
“I’m sensing sadness coming from you. If you need a break or drink-”
“NO!” he said, head lurching upwards, wiping his eyes, “No, no, no, no… no. I’m good. I… I don’t like to think about them with company… I’m… ugh…”
G’lth’eig sat up. “Shall we continue?”
“Yeah…” He swallowed hard, “Yeah… let’s go…”
He waved his hand again. “How long has it been since you have last seen them?”
Dead air. “Oh… about… two years now… I think.”
“When do you hope to get them out?”
“As soon as possible.” The tapping continued. “As soon as possible.”
More silence. Cooper stared off into space. G’lth’eig flipped the page on his clipboard.
“Next question. What was Earth like before you left it?”
Cooper was still lost in his own mind. His eyes were shrouded in times he would give anything to relive
“AH! What, yeah? I’m sorry. I was… someplace else…”
“Do you want to continue?”
“Ahem… yeah, of course. Keep going.”
“Alright. What was Earth like before you left it?”
He sighed. “Uh…” A word came to his mind. “Blue… I guess.”
“And green, too.”
“AND green?” G’lth’eig’s black eyes widened.
“Yeah. Blue with water and uh… green with trees.”
“Trees? Like vegetation?”
“Yeah, lots of plants. God, it was nice there.”
The front door opened. G’lth’eig stood to face it, shutting of the recorder as he turned.
“Ah! That must be my wife at the door. H’frd’eig, I’m in the living room!” he called out.
Cooper heard footsteps approaching. H’frd’eig appeared. She was smaller than G’lth’eig, thinner, too. She was fumbling with her bag as she entered the room. He stood up in recognition.
“G’lth’eig, dear, have you seen my-”
It was then that she looked up. They were not alone. A P’llr’ddf was standing there, staring wide-eyed at her. She couldn’t speak, not out of fear but more out of surprise.
“Ah!” G’lth’eig said enthusiastically, “H’frd’eig, I would like you to meet Cooper Wallace. I am interviewing him today for work.” His words were of great pride, as if Cooper was a sculpture he had slaved over for many weeks.
His words were met only by silence. Cooper broke the ice.
“How do you do, Ma’am?”
H’frd’eig forced a slow smile on her face.
An awkward silence arrived so thick you’d have trouble cutting it with a chainsaw. H’frd’eig was the first to speak.
“G’lth’eig, can I see you in the kitchen?” She asked slowly.
“By all means.” He responded cheerfully. He turned to Cooper. “If you excuse us, we will only be a minute.”
Cooper nodded and sat down, watching H’frd’eig rush out of the room with his host trailing along.
His fingers tapped incessantly on the Martian leather.
The following conversation has been translated from Martian into English for your convenience:
“What is a human doing here, in our home?”
“I just told you. He is here because I am interviewing him.”
“Can’t you do this at your office?”
“Well, yes, but no. My boss told us we needed to connect with them personally. I thought he would feel better in a home environment rather than a cramped office cubicle.”
“Can’t you do this somewhere else, please?”
“… I can’t believe what I am hearing. H’frd’eig, are you saying you don’t like humans?”
“Um… no… not really.”
“What is it? What don’t you like about them?”
“Well, just look at them! They’re so short! Not only that but how could a creature live with only five fingers, I mean, nothing on Mars has five-”
“That’s it then. You dislike them for their appearance. Hm?”
“Well, no… not exactly.”
“Than what is it exactly?”
“I… I don’t know.”
He sighed. “H’frd’eig, look what they have been through. Their planet is destroyed along with three quarters of their population. They travel through space, hoping to find refuge on some planet, ANY planet. Then they land here. We have sympathy for them and offer them safety on our planet. However, we don’t even treat them as if they were wild animals. We keep them in the ghettos of Zone 86, not even giving them the bare necessities to survive. Not only that, but if one is lucky enough to have the money to be rid of that place, like the Human in the other room has, he gets thrust into another hostile world were every sentient being hates you and you would be considered lucky to be treated as well as dirt. They have lived through H*ll, so we might as well show them a little bit of respect. They are living, breathing creatures just like us. They have dreams. They have ideas and thoughts.” Reached his hand out and touched her abdomen gently. “They have families. THIS human, Mr. Wallace, has a family.” She looked down at his hand pensively.
“They are just like us.” He continued, “Don’t you think they deserve a little respect?”
G’lth’eig returned his hand to his side. H’frd’eig continued to stare at the floor.
“G’lth’eig…” She murmured, “I… please forgive me. I… I guess I never… thought things through properly…”
G’lth’eig smiled warmly, and tohugh she couldn’t see it, she could certainly feel it. He slowly came to her and embraced her.
“It is not your fault, dear. You just need to keep your mind open.”
She nodded with her head in his chest. He held her for a minute before she spoke again.
“I want to apologize to the… man out there.”
He nodded and released her. She drifted slowly out of the room, leaving G’lth’eig alone with his thoughts.
After a minute he spoke aloud to himself while straightening his tie.
“Well, one down, a whole planet to go.”