Flash Friday 30/09/2016: A Space Oddity
“But there’s no way it can be done,” Lauren said through the spacesuit intercom. “We’ve spent so long on it that I can’t perceive it being done.”
Thomas agreed. He woke to an unfinished job for the last two years straight. When he went through his mental list, however, nothing seemed out of place. The air producers worked. The gravity generators operational. The base was properly sealed. There was only one way to know for sure.
For the first time, Thomas took off his helmet in the base and breathed the air.
“Well you better believe it,” he said with relief. “As of today, we’re officially the first two residents of Mars. Everything’s operational.”
Lauren removed her own helmet. She took some suspicious breaths. “Well, my head hasn’t exploded. So you must be right.”
“Then I suppose there’s nothing more to do than to call home–”
From the inner airlock that lead to Mars, a knock came.
Lauren and Thomas exchanged a look.
“Nobody came with the last supply shuttle, right?” Thomas said.
Lauren shook her head.
“So who was that?”
Lauren simply stared at the airlock.
Thomas didn’t believe in monsters, and serial killers had to have a huge ambitious streak to commit murder on Mars without a spacesuit. More worrying was the idea that the knocking was the structure around the airlock falling apart. Wearing his helmet again, he crossed to it and pressed the open button.
It revealed two green-skinned aliens, big smiles on their faces and what looked like miniature trumpets for ears. As soon as the door opened, they both waved.
“Ah, hello there!” said a female-sounding alien. She thrust a bouquet of strange-looking plants akin to miniature pool noodles into Thomas’ hands. “Good to see you! We let ourselves in through the outer airlock. Hope you don’t mind. I’m Zib, and this is Xom.”
“Hello,” Xom said with a male-sounding voice, shaking Thomas’ hand with a slightly rubbery one of his own. “Pleasure to see you. Hope you like it here.”
“So this is your place!” Zib said, walking in. “I so wanted to come and help, but Xom kept saying, ‘no, no! They can do it by themselves, we can’t be nosy neighbours!’. And now you’re all finished!”
“We were wondering when you’d arrive,” Xom said. “Studying Earth from afar. Learning your languages, how you lived, all your customs. It was only a matter of time until you visited, and blow us down, here you are.”
“Well, if we knew aliens lived here, we would have come sooner,” Lauren said. “None of our scans of the planet revealed advanced life.”
“Of course it didn’t,” Xom said.”We made sure to block those. Nosy neighbours peeking into our lives, never good.”
“Yet you studied us freely without our permission.”
Xom winced. “It was, uh…good neighbour practice. Neighbourhood Watch and all that. Anyway, set yourselves down, we’ll sort everything out for you.”
“But–” Lauren began, but she didn’t get much farther. The pair of humans were already being hustled to the nearby sofa and sat down upon it, as the aliens went about sorting out the base for Mars life.
“These Earth flowers are nice,” Xom said, running fingers through a vase of fake ones. “You’ll find that Mars tubes will grow without oxygen or sunlight. A lot of us don’t need those, you know.”
“Mars tubes?” Thomas asked.
“Yeah, the bouquet.”
Thomas looked at his handful of ‘flowers’. It made sense why he was gifted what looked like oversized spaghetti for a present; it was probably the nicest-looking flower that grew natively on Mars.
“Where do you keep your food?” Zib said, her voice coming from the kitchen, punctuated with cupboards opening and closing. “I’ll put dinner on.”
“Oh, ” Thomas said. “No, it’s fine, really–”
“No, no, stay seated. If you’re making a new life on Mars, it’s only natural we show you some traditional Mars hospitality. Oh, I see you have some dishes that need cleaning too.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine! You’ve spent the last two years making the place, it’s about time you put your feet up.”
At that moment, a tuneful beeping sound filled the base.
“Ah! Xom said, crossing the room to the ringing phone. “You two stay seated, I’ll handle this. Always wanted to talk on an Earth-based phone.”
“Ah, but,” Thomas began nervously. “That’s the Head of the Mars Expedition wanting his report, I’ll take it–”
Xom had already lifted the receiver.
“Yes hello?” Xom said down the phone, the receiver resting unevenly on his trumpet-like ear. “Ah! Hello. This must be the human head of the Mars Expedition I’ve heard so much about. Greetings! What’s that? Oh, I’m Xom. A martian. Yes, I’ve lived here for years. Of course this isn’t a prank, welcoming neighbours is hardly a prank. Proof? Alright. Say hello, you two!”
“Hello,” the two humans called out weakly to the handset Xom held out.
“See? It’s not ‘putting on a voice’. We’re very much the real deal. Yes, of course we ‘come in peace’, that’s pretty much granted. People are visiting? How many?” Xom listened, then asked the pair, “how big is ‘the entire department?'”
Thomas swallowed. “Do you have any hotels you can rent out?”
“Ah. That many, huh? Well, I’m sure we’ve got spare mattresses. Alright then, other humans, we’ll see you soon. What’s that? Yes, I’m sure we come in peace, please stop worrying. Okay? Bye!”
Then Xom hung up the phone.
“Phew,” he said. “Such lively creatures. Do you think all the visitors will want some Mars tubes, too? They might get horribly jealous.”
Thomas swallowed. They were about to have one of the most important meetings in human history, and one of the aliens will present them with weird tubes and the other will tell them dinner’s ready.
Still, it sure beat alien abductions and blowing up the White House, so Thomas figured the next few days will be fruitfully eventful, if not also very strange.