“My planet doesn’t actually look like yours. The human mind is quite limited; usually it can only perceive the familiar, so when something is not familiar, it makes it so.”
“I’m not sure I’d describe what I’m seeing as familiar.”
Sybil looked up and let herself be taken aback by the mountainous trees, adorned with branches that seemed to touch the clouds. She wished Ongue would give her a moment to let the mesmerizing view settle, but in the little amount of time she had known it, she had learned that was not its style. It immediately spoke again.
“Yes, well, it’s difficult to know what a human will see exactly. But it should most definitely be something your memories of Earth can relate to.” It gestured for her to pick up her pace, “Come, now. This way.”
Ongue was a tiny being. It stood only three feet or so off the ground (or whatever it was that Sybil understood as “ground”), and had slender limbs and fingers. Its webbed feet were the size of Sybil’s palms and, if a comparison had to be made, its faintly grey skin was akin to that of a sickly elephant’s. It spoke in a hearty tone, that seemed to boom from its tiny body. The voice sounded definitively male to Sybil, but it had been explained to her that Ongue was genderless, and that it was only her restrictive mind making that connection. Back on Earth, Sybil had had a few friends in the trans community, so she knew it was important to be respectful of Ongue’s neutrality. Still, it did make her uncomfortable to refer to an intelligent being as an “it.”
Sybil herself was quite feminine in appearance. She had long dark hair, full eyelashes, a slender jawline, and heart-shaped lips. Her olive skin tone seemed fluid, darkening in the summer months, but paling completely in the winter ones. It had always made her feel like a chameleon.
“You’re the last to arrive. The others are just in here,” Ongue informed Sybil as it held a heavy steel door open to her.
The door was attached to a very small hut, so that Sybil had to bend herself to fit through the opening. Once she entered, though, she was standing in the lavish entryway of a grandiose manor with ceilings nearly thirty feet high. Others who looked just like Ongue were busying about this way and that, not even noticing her presence.
“This way, this way,” Ongue insisted, scurrying off down the hall.
Once Sybil had been seated in the amphitheater with the hundreds of other men and women, the formal address began.
Ongue took the podium and welcomed the group to its planet. It thanked each and every one of the brave souls for summoning within themselves the courage to venture outside of their world, and into this new one. Although, as Ongue explained, this world was not new, but millions of years Earth’s senior.
“The Intergalactic Treaty that has brought us all together has been a dream of ours for millennia. Earth, although still in its infancy, has become worn and tired. The humans who refuse to acknowledge this undeniable truth will have to live through witnessing its fall, but you are all here because you have chosen to move forward. We thank you for your open-mindedness. You are wise and beautiful beings of vast natural differences. This world will be an opportunity to embrace such difference, and change.”
Ongue paused momentarily, satisfied by our nervous smiles, then continued, “time, of course, moves differently here, as well. Over the next few hundred years, you will learn to see our world as we see it. The process will be slow, but eventually, this will become your home. As you adjust, the Earthly landscape you see before you will morph into something all together new, as will your understanding of it. Rest assured, the concept of home itself will become less dichotomous, and more malleable.”
Another, shorter, pause.
“Earth, however, will always be where you came from.” Ongue stepped out from behind the podium and spoke to the audience more directly. “It was an empire,” it said, “and we are all sad to see it go. Let us take a moment of silence, as is the custom for many of you in times of grief, and say goodbye.”
Mimicking the crowd (and without hesitance), Sybil bowed her head. She had been raised by devout theists and Nationalists; false solemnness was a practice she had always been familiar with.
Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©
3 thoughts on “Perception”
Love this story!!! I am a new fan of your writing, Shyla!
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Thank you! It’s one of my personal favourites. I was reading a lot of Octavia Butler at the time (clearly!).
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