SEVENTY-TWO, 2.0

The Martians weren’t really “Martian” in the classic sense. They weren’t from Mars. In fact, no one knew where they were really from. But then again, I’m not really a writer, in the classic sense. I read things, and I observe, but other than an occasional think piece on where you can find the best political minds of a country you’ve probably never heard of, I can’t think of a single piece of writing I’ve done that’s contributed to society as a larger whole.

You probably don’t even know my name. I don’t blame you.

Where was I? Oh, the Martians.

Difficult to know them, harder to even try. Their language, such as it was, couldn’t be deciphered, and the best that our mathematicians could figure was that the Martians were from the outer edges of the Milky Way Galaxy. But their way of interpreting the stars was nowhere near as simple as ours, so even that was a bit of a task to figure out.

We called them Martians because, well, it’s better than “aliens”, which is applied to other people from time to time. And also because it’s what people felt comfortable with calling them. Again, the language barrier kept us from learning their true heritage.

I was one of the people tasked with trying to bridge the gap between cultures. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Me, a writer, trying to interpret and communicated with an alien culture — excuse me, a Martian culture? But there were twenty of us in total, mathematicians, physicists, even an athlete from the Olympics.

I suppose the President, the man in charge, thought we’d be able to find some kind of strain of commonality beyond numbers and equations. But that was not to be the case. When the Martians left, it was sudden and without fanfare.

We’d been in the think tank for 48 hours by then, all twenty of us, and five of THEM. Six months they’d been on the planet, yet it was only recently, somehow, that the President had convinced those five to follow us and join us, despite our lack of communication abilities. They sat and drank our water through their left mouths, while their right mouths seemed to whisper to each other. Almost like trying to blow smoke without disturbing the person across from you. That’s what it looked like to me, at least.

The Martians were literally red. Perhaps that’s why we called them such? Their large foreheads and wide eyes fit the stereotypical E.T. from old comics and magazines, but beyond that, their appearance was nothing we’d ever thought to predict. Some had three arms, others six. Aside from the dual mouths and their skin color, there were hardly any other similarities between each one.

Well, their voices, of course, but those blood-curdling mini screams were a menace to all of our senses. Ask around, I’m not the only one to say it.

The morning they left was like any other. We, our “Earth Team One”, awoke in the think tank as usual. The President had locked us inside to push us to make the first communication that mattered with the Martians, and so far, we had nothing to show for it.

Then we noticed we were almost alone.

There was only one of them who remained, standing at the head of our long conference table like he was about to give the world’s best presentation. He crossed all of his fingers, as though each set of hands was in a ponderous pose, and he stared at each of us in turn. He did this for three hours, but we weren’t sure what for. He didn’t react when the President entered to inquire where the other ships had gone, how the Martians cleared our air space without any indication, and all sorts of other questions in a barrage that grew in intensity and anger.

I’d never seen the President get so angry. No one could claim they had, but this display was unseemly. It reminded me of a cartoon from when I was a kid, the one with the rabbit and the duck? You know the one, but I can’t think of the title. In any case, when the President got too close, the Martian reacted by withering out of existence.

Some say he was allergic to bad breath, but I like to think the Martians had gained control of teleportation technology and he simply beamed out. But why did he remain behind? What was the purpose? A distraction? To deliver a message?

Of course, we’d eventually find out, thanks to me, but it was still an odd way of going about it. They were more shy, I suppose. Or they wanted to make sure we were as harmless as we always claimed to be. Haha, what a laugh. I’m not one to brag, but my contribution by now has been highly recognized so it’s not quite in the vein of tooting my own horn.

After the President left in a huff, and the rest of the room was packing, I saw it, the small device on the floor that had been under the Martian just before he “left the room”. I picked it up, the size of a nickel, and turned it over in my hands. When I pressed the center of the device, the wall came alive with an equation that looked to me like Morse Code. I wrote it quickly, as our mathematician had already left the room.

It was enough, they said, and would give us key insight into the future. I didn’t care. Who wants that kind of insight, I asked, over and over. But they, and the President, were very much interested in all the information that the equation would reveal. It was locked away and studied by three physicists, who eventually broke it down, figured it out, and won a bunch of prizes and a lifetime vacation wherever they wanted to go.

Some men have all the luck.

In the end, we figured out an additional bit of tubing and energy current that granted amazing power to our already powerful ships, and that is why I’m writing this message on Mars. Again, I’m the front man, earning my seat at the very crowded table of the first manned mission to the edge of the galaxy. Perhaps it’s all accurate and I’ll get to meet some original “aliens”, or Martians not from Mars.

I don’t really care. Keep it coming, and I’ll keep writing.

What else have I got to give to you?

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