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Finding Sarah Jane
Dean Marsters’s occupation was a Finder.
Being this, he was many things; inquisitive, persistent, insatiable – personality traits that usually prompted success and reward. Dean Marsters was not accustomed to disappointment.
Yet, in the last few weeks, he had been forced into acclimatising the new sensation.
It had been two days travelling and he was now unable to bear the heat of unfulfilled anticipation any longer, legs buckling under the strain of physical stress. His body couldn’t endure further torture, the burning lactic acid out of place on muscles more often rendered immobile.
A Finder’s position was usually cemented to their desk, with satellites and maps to observe from afar. Dean Marsters did not belong in the Field.
“Keep moving.” Conrad ordered, teeth gritted, the sound with undertones of frustrated authority.
They’d come too far to allow a feeble Finder to ruin it now. He grabbed Dean by the collar, hauling him to standing. “I feel it.” Conrad said through slits of eyes, focussed on the unmarked path before them. “We’re close.”
“Will it even recognise us?” Marie asked, her voice echoing from the rear of the line.
Conrad grunted, swearing under his breath. The Commander did not answer to Finders.
“There!” The woman yelped, spying a whirl of smoke four miles away. The miniature
twister widened, threatening to cloud the horizon. Its bleakness their beacon of hope.
Now, nobody moaned or talked.
The exciting prospect of a Find was intoxicating. All three of the chain ran, hacking through the harsh wilderness. Even Dean Marsters and his heavy, achy legs had found new strength.
. . .
I had been warned to the stories of ‘light’, having spent most of my life comfortably in darkness. My family cautioned that it was beyond imagination, like nothing my limited experiences could comprehend. To be able to see the forms other sensations belonged to.
I could feel the smooth metal of our home and the sharp jolt of its electricity. I had smelt the minted aroma of wires and the coppery smell of spilt blood. I had yet to witness those experiences on Earth.
Optical receptors told my brain this was the said ‘light’, a fierce brightness that made me gasp, inhaling my first breath of Earth’s air. It whipped in choppy, choking waves, the high pressure forcing gulps of oxygen into my cavities. Oxygen. An element unavailable to my last planet.
The wind subsided and the air became brighter. Objects flung themselves to cover
my lookers and it took me several moments to realise that the gasping sound was mine again. Braving the pain, I opened my lookers to identify the objects that had shielded them.
How odd. These objects seemed somehow attached to me. I saw bilateral, fleshy sticks that developed into five shorter stumps on each side. Were these my hands? I had used them a lifetime, yet never imagined them to be so...tangible.
I allowed myself a second viewing, glancing down to where I guessed gravity lay.
Another abstract idea acknowledged on my last planet, where such things were make-believe or, at most, theory. Even now, some Earth things were elusive, such as the ‘gravity’ I speak of. Invisible forces that are only ever felt, but were as real as the body beneath my lookers.
This ‘body’ had a central trunk branching off into two longer sticks, ending in things similar to my hands. Feet...I think they called them feet. I could see them, rather than just hearing about them from my family and prodding at them with my ‘hands’ in the darkness.
There was a new movement that would have gone undetected in my former world. I
felt the wind as well as saw its consequences. But I could not feel these objects; my new sight the only detector of them. I would have remained ignorant if not for the novice use of my lookers.
I counted three moving shapes. Large ones. I’d studied them...were we similar?
Or were they another Earth species? Mostly, they were indistinguishable to me,
having never seen any of these shapes before. Or anything, for that matter.
I understood Earth had two main kingdoms; plants and animals. I knew that generically animals moved, but they all looked similar on some level. I knew about Earth and its children; predator, prey. At some point, most likely, both. Deriving energy from cannibalism, Earth’s offspring were reliant upon each other as food sources. One species –the worst- was Them...the humans.
The three shapes stared at me – did my eyes look like that? Were those the stares of
a predator, ready to attack, or prey, anticipating defeat? I did not know.
The three’s lookers were white spheres containing colourful –colourful!- dots, enveloped partially by flaps of skin. I’d heard rumours about the stones that supported their soft bodies, and saw rows of sharpened pebbles lining the insides of their mouths. Something told me these were ‘teeth’, and the stone ‘skeleton’ was deeper inside their skins.
Two were larger. Some primal instinct told me the smallest was female; it had softer, longer fur around its head and a jaw stone smaller than the others I presumed to be males. Those had broader shoulder and narrower hips, although one of them was bright red, bent-double and panting for air like I had been in the storm.
“It’s a she!” the female made a noise. She seemed to bounce upon the word, which I could inexplicably understand the meaning of. I knew that language as my mother tongue.
“She won’t know...so...show her.” Panting human gulped. The tallest one (I
guessed the leader) produced an object that sent a sharp bolt through my eyes. I
squirmed when he held it closer to me, another animal inside of it. Only its
head was in view. Was it predator or prey contained within the little light box?
Its face enlarged as the square came closer to me, its lookers staring with fear into mine. Finally, when I decided it was more scared of me than I of it, I raised my hand –my hand- wishing that I could feel for the first time one of Earth’s species.
I did not expect that. It was hard, like the metal of my home outside of this world. I imagined it to be as soft as its skin looked. I worried as its hand rose to meet mine, touching our fingertips. Had it felt me? Was it aware of my form?
“The mirror won’t work. She still doesn’t realise it’s her reflection.” The female spoke again, her voice less soprano than the glee of before. She sounded...annoyed? Bored? Somehow, the sound of it didn’t evoke the emotion of happiness I’d detected
earlier. “It’s a sorry day when the Find doesn’t even recognise its own species.” The
formerly-panting male said, now standing to its full height.
The man with the light box snapped it shut and the creature inside disappeared.
“Welcome home Sarah Jane. It’s been a long time coming.”