Maybe this isn’t Mars. The days don’t feel that much longer or shorter. Although isn’t Mars supposed to have similar days to us?
I can see the sand dunes outside the door across the room. It’s got a clumsy gate but they leave it open during the day. It’s not actually that cold here.
Moreau came in and tried to think at me again this morning. I yelled at him and spit on him. He turned toward the hallway and another one of those smaller tripod machines came in. Its eyes were a little lopsided but not like Moreau’s. The thing on top of its ‘head’ was similar to Moreau’s ear, that structure on top of his head that for some reason felt like the seat of his thoughts.
It scrambled halfway across the room toward me and then approached me cautiously. This time I froze. Yelling at Moreau made sense but this thing was even harder to read than he was. I knew Moreau didn’t want to kill me but what if this thing did? Was it even big enough to have a Martian inside? I could have been dealing with some kind of blood extraction robot.
I was prepared for it to pull one of those needles out of somewhere or extend one like a cat claw but instead it just held out one of its tentacles. There were three on each side of its metal face. Just like the actual Martians. It held out the tentacle until I finally gave in and reached out to touch it. It was surprisingly warm and soft. The metal was woven in interlocking patterns that reminded me of chain mail. They expanded and contracted and tugged on each other to move the way muscles do. As I held the tentacle it turned around and squirmed in my hand, but made no advanced movement toward me. We stayed like that for a few minutes and then it drew the tentacle back.
I mumbled something about how if they were gonna hurt me they might as well do it already.
The tripod aimed its ear toward me. Just straight up swiveled it around without moving the rest of its mechanical body. I half expected it to shoot me or something. Instead another thought came to me:
[There’s a planner sticker depicting a pair of glasses.]
How do I explain this? The thought came from the tripod but it was also pulled from me. Like my brain was trying to make sense of the imagery it was giving to me. In this case I saw a picture from one of my textbooks. Not an advanced one. It must have been from a long time ago.
That word sticks out to me. And this feeling of an introduction, that sticks out to me too.
While this was going on Moreau was apparently gathering more plants because he came back in with a dish for me. He handed it to the LATERAL who handed it to me. I took it quickly and dug in.
I told the LATERAL that if it didn’t want me to die, I would need a lot more than one of these a day. It cocked its body at me and thought at me again:
[There’s a planner sticker that reads “BLAH.”]
Talking wasn’t going to help me get anywhere. I don’t think up until that point any of them even realized that my talking was an attempt to communicate. It must have just come off as some weird alien behavior.
I decided to try and construct my own thought in their language. I thought hard about the sentence I said earlier and what it meant to me. Then I pushed it out of my head the best I could:
[There’s a planner sticker reading “BRUNCH!” with two happy, sunny-side-up eggs illustrated on it.]
I don’t think the LATERAL understood me. I mean its face didn’t change but confusion radiated from it. It aimed its ear at me and repeated my thought back:
[There’s a planner sticker identical to the “BRUNCH!” one except it’s been crumpled up and scribbled on.]
It understood that I was saying something but not WHAT I was saying. Whatever in my brain was helping me understand them wasn’t in the LATERAL’s brain. I would need to treat this in a way that wasn’t related at all to English.
I thought of the pure feeling of hunger and want. Then I thought of the number quantity three. I put them together and tried to send them out as a thought to the best of my ability. I guess I just thought about them really hard and hoped that the LATERAL or Moreau would somehow pick up on it.
[There’s a planner sticker reading “Pay Day” with a dollar sign.]
Thankfully they did. Moreau brought me another plate, and then another.
I wanted to ask them about the blood, or why they were keeping me here. But I was too hungry. And by the time I’d eaten everything they had gone off to do something else. Maybe I’ll try and talk to the LATERAL who comes by to close the outside door every night.
[Emily has drawn the tripod she describes as a “lateral.” It has large bug eyes, three legs, and is reaching out a tentacle toward her.]