Bryan Beal


A silver rocket stands in the desert with a woman having her photo taken in front of it. In the background are hills and the day is very sunny.

Ra'arch was bewildered as she looked through the large viewing port on the side of her ship. Locals had gathered around her silvered vessel and appeared to be taking images of it. Some were even posing to be in the images. Kal'eshia had warned her of the primitiveness of the planet, but Ra'arch did not have a clear mental picture of just how backward Kal'esha meant.

Ra'arch eased her four tentacle-like legs into her ex-suit. Although the locals breathed oxygen as well, there was no telling what filth the air contained. She was taking no chances with unknown diseases. As she was putting her suit on, she wondered how locals managed with only half the limbs. They looked extremely ungainly in her eyes.

In minutes, Ra'arch was suited up and the interior controls of her suit had her body at a comfortable five degrees. The temperature outside was well over thirty. She would find it hard to even function in that heat. With light shielding over her face, Ra'arch would not be uncomfortable in the furnace of the desert.

The airlock equalised before the external hatch opened to the system's sun and its punishing light. Her appearance caused a stir as bipeds started pointing and making all sorts of interesting sounds. Some words did not make sense to Ra'arch. Her translators worked fine, but words like “Holy crap!” or “Shit on a brick!” were mysteries to her.

Everyone backed away from the ship except for the female who had been posing for her image. The human's friend had run away already, taking the female's device. If Ra'arch had to guess, the friend was a male. The males in her society would have done exactly the same thing.

Ra'arch looked at the dark haired female just a few metres below her. The female looked up at her. Ra'arch made no sound, but lifted one of her limbs, splaying the end in an open gesture. The visitor hoped it looked friendly. Research told her people that locals almost universally accepted the open limb gesture as a sign of non-aggression.

The female's friend squealed at the movement. It looked up at Ra'arch and the mouth upturned, with teeth showing. A sign of anger in her own culture, Ra'arch knew it to be the opposite here. Ra'arch scowled her angriest at the human, which beamed in delight at the returned expression.

Ra'arch stepped down the steep stairs that had extended to the surface. The hard surface was hot enough to warm the bottoms of Ra'arch's limbs. The human female remained where she was. Her eyes had got wider. Ra'arch was not sure what that meant. She decided that caution was better so she only approached a little closer. For interminable minutes, the pair looked at each other. The red suited visitor and nearly naked human beholding each other in amazement. Ra'arch wondered how the human could be so exposed to the heat and star's energy and feel no apparent discomfort.

The human said something loudly. The translator garbled it into nonsense squawks and beeps. The human female had not spoken English. Ra'arch cursed the cheap designers who thought auto-detection was too expensive. She switched the device to detect-mode and shrugged her shoulders.

The human female repeated herself.

The translator responded instantly. A language called Spanish. Luckily the idiots in design had included it.

“Hello. You are not from here.”, the human female had said.

“No, I'm not. I am Ra'arch.”, the voyager replied.

“I'm Sophia. I'm from Albuquerque.”, the biped smiled again.

“I know not this place.”

“It's down in New Mexico.”, Sophia explained.

“Ok.”, Ra'arch pretended to know where that was. “Where is this place here?”


“What do you do here, Sophia?”, Ra'arch changed tack.

“I'm here for the festival.”, Sophia pointed behind Ra'arch.

Ra'arch shivered in surprise when her six eyes beheld the scene in that direction. Thousands of people in strange costumes and garb, huge figures of bipeds and buildings that erupted from the desert floor like volcanoes of ice back home. Transportation here was like nothing Ra'arch had seen before on this planet. Nothing matched any of the research back home. She could see clusters of what looked like trees in the distance, but there were no trees in this place.

“Why are you here?”, Ra'arch asked.

“To be and to be with Earth.”, Sophia bared her teeth again.

“Why?”, Ra'arch tried to understand what the female was saying.

“What do you mean why? Everything is one. One people. One planet. One spirit, if that's your thing.”, the human replied. “Come and join us. You'll fit right in! And you need to see this place at night.”

Ra'arch considered it for a moment. Sophia was right. If there was any place on this planet where someone of her race would fit in, it would be here. The bipeds seemed to be happy, almost euphoric.

A command to her ship and Ra'arch secured her vessel. She ambled along beside Sophia towards the site and crowds. Ra'arch felt nervous, but at the same time, she could not have asked for a better chance to observe the locals from their own viewpoint. Sophia was right. Ra'arch blended in amongst the weirdness of the festival and celebration. So many local bipeds were in the weirdest of clothes and costumes.

“That yours?”, a male asked Ra'arch from his four-wheeled, human-powered machine.

The male was covered in pictures, all exposed to the sun. He wore nothing except a loincloth of some type and a large hat. He was pointed to Ra'arch's ship.

“Yes. Yes, it is.”, Ra'arch answered.

“Wicked. How'd you get it installed so fast?”, the male asked, teeth bared at Ra'arch.

Ra'arch gave a small shrug in reply.

“I hear you, sis. Caleb, by the way.”


“Rachel. Good to meet you.”, Caleb smiled as he started to peddle away.

Rachel. As good a name as any. Ra'arch followed Sophia into the mass of humanity and expression. What adventures awaited, she had no idea.

© 2023, Bryan Beal

Photo by Sasha Matveeva on Unsplash