Flash Friday 13/03/2015: Strange New Worlds
Frederick stepped out of his academy-class spaceship, peering around the alien landscape. Drawing a small device with a screen from his pocket, he pressed a button on its side, speaking into the microphone built into the side.
“This is Frederick from research vessel Conquistador. I have landed on the unexplored planet and am ready to perform my duties. Although, this being my first exploration of a planet without intelligent life…I am afraid of what is out there. Or worse, of getting lost.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” a voice came from beside Frederick. “Have a guide.”
“Thank you.” Frederick glanced over the brochure given to him. He went to continue talking into his device, then stopped, turning to the voice’s source with a frown.
The helpful alien tilted its green head. It looked like someone had crossed a human and an elephant, with green rubbery skin and a slightly pudgy look to it. “Something wrong?” it said, its snout wobbling.
“Well…when we scanned Telda-13, it said that it was an unexplored, undocumented planet.”
The alien nodded with enthusiasm. “You’re right.”
“So, what am I holding?”
“A guide and general map of this area of Telda-13.”
Frederick blinked. “A map.”
“Of an unexplored planet?”
“Yes, yes. Can’t have you getting lost, now, can we?”
Frederick looked at the brochure once again. “I don’t think you and I share the same definition of ‘unexplored’.”
“I assure you, we have plenty of unexplored regions in this area that you can visit. Why, there is an ancient tomb just on the outskirts of town nearby, just waiting for intrepid explorers such as yourself to go in and discover what’s inside. Witness such amazing and interesting sights such as the Tomb of the Unshaken King, unseen and untouched since his burial. There’s a photo of it in the brochure.”
Frederick peered inside of it. “A photo?”
“Of a tomb left unseen since it was placed?”
“You learn very quickly for an alien!”
Frederick shook his head. “This isn’t adding up at all.”
“Oh, but it will! Everything will make sense once you enter it. You’ll discover a new ecosystem of beetle that developed itself in the unique conditions that an abandoned — and totally undiscovered, if I haven’t mentioned already — tomb can offer. Just imagine! A whole new species of animal, ready for you to discover a name. They’re called stab beetles, by the way. They bite.”
Frederick frowned. “What else is in the tomb?”
“Well, then you go through the unexplored atrium, have a photo taken with the long lost murals, and then exit through the undiscovered gift shop.”
“And I suppose I can purchase little stuffed dolls of unfound artefacts and time-lost stationary?”
The alien smiled. “So, I see you’ve done this before.”
“Well…” Frederick went to debate the whole idea of an undiscovered discovered tomb, but he decided wiser for his sanity to change the subject. “What else is around this part of Telda-13? Anything else left…unfound?”
The alien nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes, yes. Most definitely, yes. Why, the tomb is just scratching the surface. You’ll find that since the last civilisation passed away, this planet has been totally uninhabited.
Frederick stared, long and hard, at the enthusiastic alien. “So you don’t live here?”
“Oh, no. I don’t live here. Not at all.”
“Oh, good. Because I thought, for a moment, that you were saying–”
“I take a car here from the town just down the road. I tell you, traffic is a killer.”
The only tie keeping Frederick from walking back to his ship and leaving this mad place well along was the report he’d have to file to the academy. He chose to speak into his device again. “It appears that this unexplored planet has already been explored. On top of that, the people inhabiting it are claiming that it is, in fact, uninhabited. I believe–”
A green hand snatched the device from Frederick’s hand, speaking into it himself. “Yes, he’s right, you know. Very, very uninhabited. Why, not far from here, there’s a lovely uninhabited town, where you can sit down at a café and order a latte from the undiscovered natives.”
Frederick snatched the device back. “You’re starting to give me a headache.”
The alien buckled. “Sorry. I get so excited.”
Frederick tucked the device in a hard-to-reach pocket for the alien. “So why are you calling everything ‘uninhabited’ and ‘unexplored’ when it’s very clearly habited and explored?”
“Because no human has been here yet. You’re the first. So that means, to the humans, we’re an unexplored planet without any documented inhabitants. I mean, we’re unexplored to someone out there, right? But, glad you came. Been wanting to take someone around the great, unexplored library.”
“And I take it you’re very familiar with it?”
The alien nodded. “Borrowed a nice fantasy epic from it yesterday.”
Frederick looked around the planet again. To think he had to write a report on this, of all things. His peers would all be keen to read about the uncharted regions of this new planet, only to find that his report consisted mostly of a few pieces of alien memorabilia and a shirt that read ‘I explored the depths of Telda-13 and all I got was mild disappointment’. Everything he’d put in the report has probably already been fully documented by this alien race, probably to the point where he could probably cite his entire report from their own observations.
Wait a minute.
“Excuse me,” Frederick said.
“Hm?” The alien had begun to wander off as Frederick thought, but turned to listen. “Something wrong?”
“That…’long lost’ library you had — do you think I could explore it? Perhaps take a view of the undiscovered Biology section, maybe brave the wild, untamed depths of the Geography selection, too. Do you think that’s alright?”
The alien gave a thumbs-up. “I knew you were an explorer at heart! Come on, then.”
Frederick followed the alien to the nearest town. The report just got a lot more interesting.