Guitar Photographer

When I Met an Outsider

Excerpt from Orphic Tales

“Morning,” I exchanged a few greetings to fellow employees. There weren’t many of them early in the morning, only a few researchers and overnight medical staffs. I walked past the main hall encased in glasses structures and whitewashed walls. A melodious Mozart played as the institute’s background music. The scent of coffee from the brewing machine spread from the pantry.

The last time I remembered, there was a demand for a better lunch menu. To my surprise, almost half of the employees agreed to the petition. Here at St. Mark, there was always a sense of community in the institute. The kind that exerted a welcoming hug saying, “we are all in this together.”

I watched the lounge with its comfortable sofas. One tired researcher filled a table with his stack of papers.

“Hey, Greg.” I waved and approached closer. “How’s the result on Thetra?” Thetra was a new type of insulin Greg’s team made.

“Not bad. But it’s not good either. I tried to figure out if I can get Stella on the team.”

“Stella? But isn’t she working in the cardiovascular?”

“Yes, but if I could only make her interested in diabetes it would be great.” Greg sighed before turning from his messy notes to me, “what about you? How’s the enzyme?”

I sat across the table, “we passed Phase II and the Med Company is ready to take it to the next stage. I have no doubt it’ll work.”

Despite the technology advancement, humanity was still concerned about health. It was both the most valuable thing in our lives and the highest investment our city pledged to. We have reduced waste to 0.003% yet we couldn’t reduce our mortality rate. High hopes fell on scientists who would find the next breakthrough. Our hands, our minds, and our works held the steer to navigate the future of health.

Around noontime, I received a call at my desk. I wondered what could be so important that it neglected the recess time. It took me by surprise to hear that the Chairman invited me to a meeting with the Synthetic team. My heart quickened as I paced the hallway. The bronze colored partition slid in and I could see familiar faces in the room. They usually gave speeches at the annual meeting. Now, I no longer saw them from afar.

“I’m most pleased to welcome Miss Katinka Dostoyevsky to join our Synthetic team.” The Chairman said

Quick nods passed among the crowds and I took a seat right in the front row. My heart blossomed with the reminiscent of the participation classroom.

“It has been our interest for many years to excel at genomes research,” The Chairman continued. “I’m looking forward to the exciting findings of our diverse study subjects. We want to further our reach in studying the outsiders.”

I couldn’t believe it. I’m about to meet the alien race! Here in Mars, we called alien as the outsiders. They resided outside our little red planet. I skimmed through the crowd and I found Professor Langley. He was the leading researcher in outsider’s genetics. Martians believed that knowledge about outsiders was critical more than ever.

Estranged and exclusive, the outsiders had always been fascinating objects to me. The Academia rarely talked about the outsiders’ physiology. Old Earth fiction books mentioned their presence even on Mars, but that wasn’t true. The outsiders came from space and visited us one day. Somehow, they took interest in Mars human civilization. Increasing number of outsiders landed on Mars spaceports from day to day.

As we walked through the facility room, I imagined my first outsider. ‘Are they temperamental? Are they articulate? What knowledge do they have? Would they be cooperative?’ Lines of questions streamed in front of my eyes. It was like a personal questionnaire in my mind. Some theories said that the outsiders have existed for more than a billion centuries. Some tales said that they could foretell our future. An excitement vibrated inside of me. I was about to encounter a different kind of living being.

We entered into a glass-walled facility. A glowing interactive wall visualized a flowing waterfall while playing Mozart. Mechanical beeping sounds communicated to one another. An enhanced D2–00X displayed the outsiders’ health statistics. There were three electronic signals on the screen, noting the periodical heartbeat activities. I can’t believe it… the outsider had three beating hearts!

She reminded me of a lost extinct hippopotamus posing at our National Museum. She was sitting there, with scaled skin and one claw in the middle of her stomach. Her head bulged larger than the rest of her body.

Blue sky emerged at the back of my mind. The gentle wind blew across a golden meadow with the sound of a motor in the background.

The outsider stared into my eyes and asked, “when did your species have your first flight?”

The mental image widened and there were two legs that rushed against each other. A glimpse of silent laugh lasted in the imagery.

“The 20th century. It was man’s greatest achievement.”

“Wilbur!” Orville shouted from beneath. The excited cheers and the thunderous engine sound drowned his voice. People were celebrating the Wright Brothers ingenious creation.

“What an impressive species, you are.”

There was an upward curve on the outsider’s lips. She displayed the kind of smile that extended welcoming to foreign guests. It was a meeting I could never forget.