The Hytairan shook his wide head and peered closer at the monitor before him, reading slowly over every word. He lifted one long turquoise finger to tap at the lit screen. Gray eyes the size of softballs closed halfway as he leaned in closer, trying to make sense of the words that had started to blur together. He sighed and lifted thin hands with seven equally sized digits to his face to scratch his hairless cheeks. He had been staring at the same page on the screen now for two hours and he was no closer to deciphering the cryptic meaning.
“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…” he spoke, a thin nasally sound escaped through the small trunk attached to his face.
What kind of history was this?
Nearly a century ago his people, the Hytairans, had been traveling the furthest they had ever gone through their known space and were exploring new galaxies. They had been searching the stars for 543 years when their best interstellar ship the Zyfora had sent back a series of communique:
To: Senior Advisors, Feloyn Space Inst.
-Minor damage to systems-
-3rd from star-
-Unsure possible life-
To: Senior Advisors, Feloyn Space Inst.
-There is life-
To: Snr Advsrs, Feloyn Spc Inst.
All of Hytair had held its collective breath for another message. It took nearly ten days, but the news that was received sent a wave of excitement across every city. There was intelligent life and though no-where near as advanced as they were, these aliens were on the cusp of interstellar travel themselves. The initial meeting showed both sides showing caution and for nearly an hour they had regarded each other warily. After neither side showed signs of hostility the Hytairans approached the aliens. The Hytairans were starting to run low on their air supply and were becoming desperate, they skipped past all formalities and pulled out their translators to quickly discuss with the alien scientists the molecules of their planet’s atmosphere.
They amazingly breathed the same unique make-up of air.
Grateful, the Hytairans accepted the offered trip down to the surface of the planet that the weird smaller creatures called humans had said was ‘Earth’. For a month these humans helped to shuttle the stranded Hytairans back and forth from their damaged ship, helping with repairs and anything else that was needed. They allowed the crew members to acquire any material they required if they had it. After the Zyfora was deemed space-worthy again, the Hytairans readied themselves to return to their home planet to deliver a full report, promising to return within five years.
True to their word, five years passed and the Hytairans returned with a galactic fleet of spaceships the exact day of their departure. They brought with them other-worldly gifts and delegates from their home-planet to discuss opportunities for both sides. Each race soon found themselves enjoying their growing friendship and both sides continued to flourish. Trade routes were established between the two planets and the Hytairans helped the humans to start their own explorations of nearby star systems. They were cautious however and still kept most of their technology a secret.
Ninety-nine years had passed, and the centennial was quickly approaching. The Hytairans had decided it was time to take a closer look at the human’s history and put together an appropriate ceremony to celebrate 100 years of comradery. They knew humans loved the anniversaries of special occasions and what other occasion was there more important than the meeting of the Hytairans. However, being the thoughtful species, they were, they wanted the celebration to be meaningful to the humans, so they had sent a small team to go over the history books.
This was the first team to ever delve extensively into Earth’s written past, and Gorthak, having graduated top of his class at the Interplanetary University in the Trelar system was excited to accept the position at the newly made outpost on Earth. His task was to pour through the vast amounts of documents the humans had stored their histories on. He had soon learned to enjoy the quiet that surrounded him when he went to the library. Every paper he had read thus far had been tedious and boring, with the occasional oddity thrown in.
Who would have been able to guess that humans were once able to turn invisible, fly, cast lightning bolts from their hands, or at one point come back to life after being dead? He had been looking through a rather interesting book withdrawn pictures one day and found that during that era, those who reanimated after death wanted to eat those who survived. He wondered how they had managed to overcome that terrible point in their past.
Gorthak had been growing increasingly frustrated with the confusing texts and scriptures he was currently looking over. He frowned and closed the document on the screen in front of him, “Dr. Seuss, hah! A doctor of what? Different colored fish and food? Though, I do wonder whatever happened to that talking cat.” He clicked on another link on the screen and a smile appeared on his thick dark blue lips, “Ah, good, this one is much longer. Ok, … King? A king?! Oh, for sure good history!” He opened the device laid next to the human computer and flipped it open. His thin digits flashed over the translucent screen as he typed the notes in.
“King, History book,” he looked again at the title of the document, “What kind name this?” he shrugged his narrow shoulders. For a Hytairan he was one of the tallest and thinnest. He prided himself on keeping his figure well-maintained as did most others of his kind.
Gorthak settled into the overstuffed computer chair to read quickly through the King’s writing and found himself coming up with more questions than the writing provided answers. Who were these people? What exactly was this being tormenting them for so long? From the description in the document, he started to grow fearful of the implications of this history. He knew there had been wars and dark periods in their history. But this? This was surely the ravings of a madman! What King would be okay with unleashing some evil being on his people?
He shrieked and flushed a deeper hue when a hand slapped down on his shoulder and a cheery feminine voice said, “Heya Gorthak! Watcha reading today?”
Natalie Hopper had quickly become his first human friend when he had come to Earth. She had made herself available to him whenever he needed any help and he always enjoyed talking to her when she was around. She reminded him of one of those tiny furry creatures she called a mouse, with her short curly brown hair and the top of her head barely reaching his chest.
“Nat!” Gorthak took a deep breath, the racing in his two hearts started to slow. “You frightened me like a young Tabjaw who wasn’t expecting the Dinkur to be behind it,” he laughed heartily and returned to his normal coloring.
Nat looked at him, confusion clearly written across her face at his analogy, “Uh, right, heh. I just came to see if you needed any help today?”
Gorthak wiped his trunk, still amused at his joke and glanced at the lit monitor, “What is your opinion, of… this?” he asked pointing to the document he had pulled up.
“Oh! Yeah! That one is very good! Very descriptive. Would you like me to get you a copy of this and a few of the other ones so you can read them tonight? I know how quickly you read,” Natalie smirked at him. She was honestly jealous of his ability.
Gorthak was troubled at her cheerful reaction. How could anyone be cheerful over something so disturbing? He was going to ask but decided to hold off and read more of this King’s history. Maybe there was something he was missing.
“I suppose that would help. Yes, thank you,” he smiled at her.
Nat returned the smile, “Great, I’ll be right back. He is one of my favorites!” she called over her shoulder as she skipped down a long aisle lined with many books.
“How she know where she going?” Gorthak mumbled and returned to his reading.
Natalie reappeared thirty minutes later, precariously carrying a large stack of books in front of her and dropped them onto the desk beside Gorthak with a loud thwump. The lady sitting at the desk near the entrance looked up over her thin frames and holding a finger to her lips she shushed Natalie. Natalie ducked her head and mouthed the word ’Sorry’ at the librarian.
If Gorthak had eyebrows they would have been raised high up on his forehead as he looked at the thick books Nat had delivered. “Thank you, I will be sure to return these tomorrow,” he said solemnly.
Nat nodded her head, not doubting his ability for a second, “Alrighty Gorthak! I will see you then! Call me if you have any questions.” She patted his shoulder once more and turned walking away to continue her duties.
Gorthak quickly closed the computer down after she had left. He wanted to return to his rooms and continue to read in privacy. The growing pit of concern had continued to enlarge after seeing the sheer size of the volumes Nat had said were some of her favorites. Had he misjudged his friend? Surely not. Natalie had always been kind and helpful to him. She had taught him how to acquire sustenance that he found pleasing. She had shown him the weird mechanics of their showers. Sweet Natalie who had introduced him to her other friends. Or had it all been a huge charade?
What was this creature the King had been so careful to record every detail about? He had even gone so far as to show the true character of each heroic person named. How did he get those interviews? Or was it just a good King portraying the heroes in a great light? He had to know more.
Gorthak stood and grabbed the blue ‘bookbag’ Nat had given him, carefully placing all the books inside. These were precious documents. No student from Hytair would ever be as careless as to damage written recordings. History was everything to them. Every babe, child, and elder knew that the written word held a lot of meaning. It was why he was so excited to be one of the first to be able to look through any human document he wanted. The humans had been careful before on which texts to show them. He was beginning to understand why.
He strapped on the book bag like Nat had shown him and walked up to the librarian. Her dispassionate brown eyes gazed at him as he approached. “Can I help you?”
Gorthak nodded, “Sorry to bother wise one. This book here by the King is curious. Do you carry any more like it?”
She slowly raised an eyebrow at him, “Yeah, okay, one second.” She turned towards her computer and typed in a few words. She clicked a few buttons and a small card was ejected from the side of her monitor. She grabbed it and handed it to him, “Here you go.”
“Thank you, Madame,” he bent forward at his waist as he accepted it, remembering one of the more pleasant entries he had read earlier mentioned a similar action happening between the people.
A smile broke across the librarian’s face, “Come again any time Gorthak, it is always a pleasure to see someone so highly interested in so many different topics. Yesterday you were reading about World War 3.”
“Well, human race interesting. Very much so. You are different from us, by a high degree,” he smiled warmly his trunk lifting slightly as he raised a hand to wave at her, “I see you later!” She returned his wave and Gorthak hurried his step and exited the library.
He paused, allowing his large eyes to adjust to the brightness. One thing that was different was the humans living schedule. He much preferred wandering around at nights, but it seemed life was busiest here during the day. He wanted to live as they did as much as he could, so he did his best to acclimate himself to their lifestyle. Gorthak reached his long arm behind him to open the side pouch on his pack and grabbed out a hat one of Nat’s friend Charles had given him. He stuck it on his round head and grinned. He enjoyed how the wide brim shaded his eyes from the sun for a moment and then hurried down the sidewalk, towards the Hytairan Embassy, as the humans called it. He much preferred calling it an outpost.
As he wandered through the city towards his destination, he allowed his large eyes to take in the tall glass buildings lining the road. Each building was owned by a different company and it seemed to him they were always competing. Why did the humans feel such need to be better than their others? Why did they not see themselves as one whole race as the Hytairans saw them? They all looked the same despite some of them being different shades of color. On Hytair the more colorful the better! He was not sure he would ever understand that aspect of humanity as he crossed the threshold into the enormous domed outpost.
It had taken 50 years to fully complete the dome and the buildings inside, but it was worth the time it had taken. Every inch of the domed interior reminded Gorthak of home and he visibly relaxed. He bent down near a light green, strange looking flower and inhaled deeply. The scent made his eyes close in bliss as he remembered the blue fields he used to run through where these flowers grew abundant. He sighed and stood, hurrying towards his quarters. Now was not the time to be distracted, he wanted to talk to his teacher Curnio.
Curnio had taught Gorthak everything he knew about the human history. He had been on earth for over 20 years before Gorthak arrived. If anyone could give him the answers he sought, without offending the humans, it would be Curnio. He reached the tall building that housed his rooms and entered, quickly climbing the stairwell up. Knowing his teacher would never concede to being awake during the human day-cycle, he was positive Curnio would not be up at this hour.
“Curnio!!! Curnio I need you now lazy lump, get up!” Gorthak rushed to the closed door and pounded on it repeatedly till it cracked open and two equally large blue eyes peered blearily out at him.
“Whuchu want?” the gruff voice asked.
“Curnio. I stumbled across writings of King. I brought with me more of his writings. Something not right. There much here that tells more treachery then anyone on Hytair could imagine,” Gorthak blurted out. He knew there was no time to waste. Their High Leader Kiratom was due within the week.
“Gie me minute. Gotta dress,” replied the voice still half-asleep.
The door closed abruptly.
Gorthak hurried into the kitchen area and poured water into the thing called a tea kettle. He opened the cabinet nearby, pulling guran leaves out. Guran was quite similar to tea, except it was much spicier. Hytairan food and drinks tended to be on the spicier side. Quickly he brought the leaves to steep and skimmed them out, pouring two small cups full of the reddish-brown liquid. He walked over to the table and placed them down gently. After he had situated the drinks to his liking, he opened his backpack and pulled out all the books Natalie had given him. He wanted his teacher to read the one that had troubled him the most first and placed it on Curnio’s side of the table. He then pulled out another book from the bag for himself. He set it on his side of the table and scratched his chin as he read the title.
Curnio exited his room in a flurry of flashing robes, still pulling the garments over his own thin limbs. He finished and walked over to the table, settling himself on the chair beside it. “Alright, Student of mine, show,” he held out his hands and Gorthak placed the book into them.
“You start here, on this one, I believe, and I continue on further with this one. If we both read, we shall be soon done.” Curnio nodded his assent and they both leaned close to the books, large eyes quickly absorbing each word on the page. Every few seconds the sound of a page turning from one or the other would pierce the silence. They sipped their guran and Gorthak would occasionally get up to refill their cups. When one would finish a book, it would be set aside with the notes they were both diligently keeping.
Three hours passed before they had finished each document and Curnio finally leaned back a worried expression on his face. “Things that roam this world and the depth of their abilities are things we must find out. Delegates must have not known these writings. How could they? We must stop Kiratoms entourage from Earth. If we find this stuff now, someone grew careless and they are planning.”
Gorthak nodded, his hearts increasing in speed as he spoke, “Must I do? What?”
“Act as if no wrong was found. They not understand our whys or whens. I make sure our people leave planet quickly. We rendezvous with Leader. See what he wish to do.”
It was not an easy wait for Gorthak. Five days had passed since he had told Curnio about the wretched histories of the humans. Curnio had asked him to continue to read as much as he could and the more he read, the more discouraged he became. He had hoped it had just been one delirious King. Unfortunately, he saw that the depravity was everywhere. Thousands of voices had joined together in their writings and it could be no coincidence that their accounts were all eerily similar.
Curnio burst into their apartment, “Come, we leave now! Kiratom is close, we get there in 12 hours at shuttles fastest speed. Told humans we go to meet our Leader to prepare.”
Gorthak nodded and swallowed hard. He was afraid of the implications of what he had found, and what his leader would choose to do. He liked the humans of the Earth now and was not certain they should be held accountable for the past atrocities and weird lifestyles of their ancestors.
“Are doing right thing?”
Cunio, who had been gathering his bags, stopped and looked at Gorthak, “Son, listen, you did fine job uncovering, you did. You may saved thousands us. Now come, we go.”
Gorthak nodded his large turquoise head sadly. His shading rippled darker with his internal struggle. He had not said goodbye to Nat, or the nice librarian, nor any of his other human friends he had made. They couldn’t all be bad people. Though who knew if in a few days they would still be alive. Kiratom was not known for being as understanding as other Hytairans.
Gorthak followed Curnio outside into the empty courtyard and onto the awaiting shuttle. The outpost was eerily quiet, everyone else had quietly departed over the past few days. They had managed to slip away unnoticed. He glanced around a frown appearing on his face as he imagined his kind working hand in hand with the humans he had been so intrigued by his whole life. Why did he open that document?
He sat down in his seat on board, buckling himself in and closed his eyes reliving the past week and how things had changed so quickly. He didn’t realize how tired he had been. He had been working hard to compile as much information as he could to show Kiratom that it was no surprise to the other five Hytairans on board when he drifted off to sleep.
His dreams were troubled. Visions of war with the humans kept assaulting him. One minute he would be running in a green Earthen field with Natalie and the next a large Hytairan military force was invading, cutting the humans down one by one. Was this what the future held?
Gorthak shot straight up in his seat, breathing hard and looked at the teal hand on his arm.
“We have met up with them,” Curnio spoke quietly.
Gorthak nodded and unbuckled himself from his seat. He stood, stretching his long thin limbs out. Now was the time to tell what he had found. A ripple of dread ran through him and encircled his three stomachs. He fought down nausea that threatened to expunge anything in his stomachs onto the metal flooring and took a few deep breaths. He grabbed his bag and hurried to catch up with Curnio. Frowning, Gorthak slowed his pace when he reached his mentor. They walked beside one another in companionable silence.
This would be the first time Gorthak had ever had to deal with the Imperial Kiratom. He glanced down at his dark gray robes and, in an attempt to smooth some of the wrinkles, ran his hands down the long folds. He hoped that Kiratom would be too interested in what he had to say to notice the disgraceful state of his attire. Hytairans prided themselves on always being well-kept.
Gorthak blinked a few times entering the circular command center of the headship Zytar. This was the grandest ship they had ever built. It was a larger clone of the fabled Zyfora. Their engineers had spent nearly 80 years perfecting its design. This was its maiden voyage and it had been accompanied by a fleet of twenty of their other strongest ships.
Gorthak trembled as he looked at the fifteen other Hytairans. All were various shades of blues, yellows, and greens and were standing around the central table. They were distracted, peering down at a hologram of the Earth. Along the circular walls, there were huge translucent command screens attached. Each one was zoomed in on different cities.
“Gorthak! Report!” rumbled a deep commanding voice from the tallest Hytairan at the head of the table. To Gorthak, Kiratom resembled everything a good and fierce leader should be. He was intelligent and loyal to his people. Nothing would stop him from protecting every last citizen of Hytair.
“Sir, I afraid this past century the.. the humans.. deceived us,” the words poured from his mouth and the Hytairans listening all shimmered darker colors in their anger and fear. He had just finished describing the history of the document he held when Kiratom cut him off.
“Silence! I have heard enough. A.. what did you call it, Kloon? I must know what this thing is,” he breathed deeply through the maroon trunk on his face. His face was a cloud of anger as his skin rippled through different shades of red.
“I not understand. None of other scholars come across these histories before. How?”
Gorthak splayed his long thin hands wide in front of him, “Assumptions, have few, Sir. I think prior scholars only ask for certain histories, so humans not show these. I peruse their documents myself. Noticed the odd writings. Did not appear best interest for us.”
Kiratom nodded, “The era of .. what did you call it? The wooking.. bah forget! That truly show depravity depth of humanity. Eating own kind?” A shudder rippled through the leader’s thin shoulders. “Lorat,” Kiratom turned towards a yellow Hytairan, “Call their ambassador near outpost. I demand meeting with human leader. We ask humans what these histories mean! If have to blockade humans, wretched souls, this quadrant, we will.”
Lorat hurried to his station in front of one of the huge screens and extended a hand to push a button on the wall beside it. A keyboard swung out with dozens of other buttons on it and he quickly pushed a combination of different colors. The monitor flashed black briefly before pulling up a telecom to a human secretary sitting behind a desk.
“Greetings!” the cheerful voice floated out of the speakers overhead, “You must be Kiratom’s delegation. We are excited you have arrived so quickly! If,”
“ENOUGH,” Kiratom angrily interrupted the secretary, her mouth falling open in surprise. “We arriving three hours, prepare landing zone. I wish talk your leader. It is utmost importance. I suggest he there when landing happens. Your ambassador could not bother pick up call herself, you deliver message. Lorat!” He waved an arm and the yellow Hytairan shut the communication system down. “Let see if honor request humans do.”
Gorthak paced the floors of the Zytar as it hurtled through the outer reaches of the Milky Way. He kept questioning his decision and all the things he had read. How could the humans have lied to them for so long? Where were these creatures they had described so easily? How long ago did these things happen? Why?
The Hytair’s ship slowed as it approached Earth and settled into a close orbit. All but five of the Hytairans on the Zytar gathered onto the shuttle to depart. The rest of the fleet surrounded the lead ship in preparation for what may lay ahead. Their crews stood ready to protect and destroy when and if the time came. These individuals had not had to fight any space battles in their lifetimes but at Kiratom’s insistence, they had kept their skills sharp with routine practice drills.
The shuttle door closed after everyone had been seated and detached from the Zytar. It pulled away, clearing the large spaceship, and headed towards Earth. Gorthak watched out the window as they neared their outpost. He watched the trees grow larger as they continued their approach and sighed as the shuttle touched down, landing at their outpost a few minutes later.
A small group of humans was gathered when the door opened and Kiratom strode off to stand in front of Earth’s Ruler. He peered down with his large stormy eyes into the bright blue ones that returned his stare calmly.
A small man compared to the mighty Kiratom, Todd Whern barely reached the alien’s shoulder. He had never seen one of their kind so angry before and he wondered who or what had insulted them. He was a 3rd generation Ruler of the Coalitions of Earth, having been born into this life he was ready to tackle any problem and figure out what had happened. He would try to find any means to appease the Hytairans. They had become a vital part of humanity’s life and he did not want to think what would happen if friend quickly turned enemy.
“Kiratom! What seems to be the matter, dear friend?” Todd’s voice was warm with his greeting.
“Whren! Explain yourselves!”
Todd furrowed his eyebrows, “I am not sure what you mean?”
“This!” Kiratom threw a book at the surprised man.
It landed at his feet and he bent over to pick it up. He flipped it over and looked at the cover. His confusion increased, “I am not sure I under…”
“WELCOME TO EARTH!” interrupted a shouting, very cheerful, very feminine voice.
Those assembled turned and Gorthak screamed as he took in the creature in front of them. He had not been expecting it to have a female voice, nor sound so happy, but here it was. In the flesh, so to speak. That thing that was described in the document so well.
The monster was holding a bouquet of brightly colored balloons that it quickly let go when it noticed eight Hytairan laser-pistols pointed at it.
“Uh….. help?” it squeaked.
Todd who had been staring dumbfounded at the display in front of him shook his head and came to his senses hearing the small plea. “What is the meaning of all this!? Why are you wanting to shoot Natalie? She is friends with your Gorthak there. Granted, I was not expecting her to appear dressed like she is,” he turned to look at the shaking distraught woman. “Why in the world are you dressed like that?!”
Natalie was barely able to whisper out, “I thought he liked the story…”
Gorthak spoke quickly, eyeing the costumed Natalie warily, “That not Natalie!!! That something truly evil. All described here in your histories!” His voice rose, desperate to get out the words before anyone else could intervene. “I go through many documents and first I thought everything was as predecessors said. Humans truly a race like our own. I go further than they, though. I found histories you not wish seen!” He looked at the clown, “And if that truly Nat and she that demonic thing called clown, then she no friend mine!”
Kiratom glared down at Todd, “Explain, well.”
Todd looked from Natalie to Gorthak, down to the book in his hands. He repeated the process a few times replaying the events in his head. His face was a study in emotions as he tried to work through what was going on. Suddenly his eyes went wide and he stared down hard at the book in hand then at Gorthak. When he spoke, his voice was barely able to contain the laughter that wanted to burst out, “Gorthak,” he cleared his throat and approached the turquoise Hytairan, “I must ask you, you call this our history,” he motioned to the book in hand. “Why do you call this novel history?”
Gorthak’s hearts fluttered in his chest at the question. Why was the human Ruler looking so amused? Insulted, he snapped at the humans in his irritation, “What you mean why?! It there with all other documented histories!!”
Todd’s lips twitched, “I think there has been a misunderstanding here, gentlemen. Please, lower your weapons. There is no danger,” he walked over to Natalie who was frozen in fear and he reached up to grab a handkerchief from his pocket. He started to wipe down her face and after a few minutes of vigorous scrubbing, he stepped away to reveal Natalie’s pink-tinged face.
“See, it IS Nat, it was just face-paint. I am guessing, in all our excitement of finding another sentient species, we have made an error in judgment and for that, I must ask your forgiveness,” as he spoke the Hytairans lowered their weapons at a hand signal from Kiratom. Gorthak looked back and forth from Nat to their Ruler, feeling as if he had gotten something all wrong.
Todd held up the book turning it over to show it was a copy of Stephen King’s IT and said, “I am guessing our ancestors never took the time to explain the differences between fiction and non-fiction?”