What is that?
“Yes. This is Artemis,” said an unfamiliar voice, as if I should understand what that meant. The voice was low, almost a whisper as if it were trying to remain undetected. I didn’t bother to look up to see who the voice belonged to but I was aware that the person didn’t move, didn’t bother to show himself in the crowd. In the corner of my eye I could discern a man standing behind and to the right of me.
“No-one has expired here for about ten years.”
The choice of the word expired unnerved me. The response was strangely clinical, impassive, hinting at the matter-of-fact way in which matters were dealt with here. I was waiting for the arrival of the police or an ambulance and hung around until one or the other appeared.
We remained in the crowd, waiting for something else to happen but when we realised there would be no sirens or flashing blue lights as was the case with such things on our home planet, Earth, we became even more nervous. Even stranger was the absence of
public drama. No wailing or pulling of hair, nor collapsing with grief for Artemesians. We looked around expecting someone to be wiping away a tear surreptitiously or even to be stifling fear and disappointment.
“Does anyone know this person?” We wondered aloud.
Someone who had just joined the crowd offered an answer in soft whispering voice. “Naruda...What happened to Naruda?”
The tone once again was not one of compassion. Just an enquiry.
“Who is Naruda,” we wanted to know, but no one offered more information. We must have sounded loud to everyone since they turned to stare. Immediately we felt that we had breached etiquette and remained quiet for a long while.
Passers-by stopped briefly to stare, muttering under their breath as they tried to make sense of what could have happened, offering speculative answers.
“Did he fall out of the sky from his pod car? That happened only once before. Did he fall and knock his head against the stony ground? More than likely. ”
Our shock was only superseded by our surprise at the fact that everyone spoke perfect English. We stared at each other, not knowing what to expect. Perhaps that they would speak their own unique language. I enquired if everyone spoke English.
Someone turned to stare. He had unusually black eyes that seemed to stare right into my head. In a gentle, yet assertive tone he let me know that only the ancients spoke Artemesian. What that meant I dared not ask. He answered my question as if reading my mind.
“The elders of the council who govern our planet speak Artemesian when they are formulating laws. They will only translate it into English once a final draft is reached.”
That clarified it for me. I had no more questions. The stranger left the crowd without turning back.
We continued to stare at the green blood, waiting for the authorities to tell us what to do.
There was no wind, not a breath of movement in the air. It was eerily quiet despite the whispers all around us. The sound didn’t carry as it would back home. We could discern no birds tweeting, no airplanes overhead, nor footsteps on the soft ground. We looked around to see if the sound was being absorbed somehow, but it was difficult to know if there was a force-field containing the sound. Even in a desert there would be an insect or lizard rustling the sand but here, the surroundings were completely sterile.
“There must be a force-field,” we all agreed, whispering as if we were fugitives in hiding. It could also be that the soft, loose sand was absorbing the sound but it was more like a recording studio with sound absorbers all around.
A small crowd continued to form and disperse rapidly - not what we were accustomed to on Earth. While others left, only we remained as if obligated to keep watch. We hung around the scene of an accident until the body would be removed or we were told we could no longer stand there. So we continued to wait for a conclusion to the incident.
There were not many people out and everyone seemed in a hurry to get somewhere. No sooner had they appeared than they disappeared.
I tried to hide my fear but people were staring at us, strangers to Artemis. Though no one said anything to us, we knew that we stood out in our outdated Earth clothing. Everyone else was wearing a navy blue one-piece jumpsuit. Some were wearing jackets over their jumpsuits but many were not.
It had taken us a year in our time to reach Artemis by which time they were already ten years ahead of us in every way. Add to that the fact that they were light years ahead of us in technology and you get the picture.
We were trying to comprehend the in incomprehensible.