It had been a terrible afternoon. Enough was enough. Rafia could no longer tolerate her brother picking on her every ten minutes, her sister whining about no one to play with (Rafia had refused to play with Barbies, she was too old for that) and her other brother playing obnoxious pranks on her. She was simply fed up of finding snails on her bed, toothpaste on her toast instead of cream, and pebbles in her sneakers. Being the eldest was a nightmare, Rafia thought. She was thirteen and had three younger siblings who made sure her life was full of drama.
Her twin brothers were eleven and grand mischief-makers. Her sister, on the other hand, was only six years old, but she could create a tantrum anyone else was incapable of. Her parents were both busy. Rafia’s mum was a school teacher and always had stacks of papers to mark or lessons to plan, along with the housework and kids. Her father was a lawyer and always worked way into the night.
Today’s grand joke included the addition of purple food color to Rafia’s shampoo. One look at herself in the mirror had been enough to stir the anger inside her and Rafia had chased her sniggering brothers all around the house, lamenting and throwing things at them. Her mother then had to bleach her hair and, for the first time in her life, Rafia went to the parlor to have her hair dyed to her usual burnt umber.
She needed to escape, and so she retreated to her usual comrade, the treehouse in the backyard. Her father had built it for her when she was only seven, and she loved spending the afternoon surrounded by the undulating leaves of the apple tree. She kept her paints and canvases there. Painting in that soothing environment had always proved relaxing for Rafia.
She spent hours painting her heart out. She slipped out of her little heaven for quick meals and would then return. In the night when everyone went to bed, Rafia could not fight off the urge to give the final touches to her last painting. She couldn’t wait till the sun will re-rise in the next morning. So she headed for the treehouse with an old lantern and started working, but soon her eyelids became heavy and she settled into a deep slumber, sprawled right there at the floor of the old treehouse.
“XXX13, I think I see a young human in danger.”
“There, over there. She’s in this little house of wood hanging from that tree. And that fire source near her, it seems it won’t take long for the whole thing to burn into ashes.”
“No, I believe it is a safe fire source. The round transparent thing at the center has the fire within it, so I think she’s safe.”
XXX22 considered for a while.
“I would still like to go and check this place high up in the tree. And oh my, the human seems to be dead I am afraid. Look at it, lying there like that next to the fire. Do make a stop and let us just check.”
XXX13 pressed a series of buttons on the control bar of the Spiral 4000, a brilliant multipurpose flying vehicle. It had the speed of light and engines much tremendous than any of those that these human species had made. Shaped like a yo-yo, it was crimson and gold from the outside, and ocean blue from the inside, layered with soft cushion material. Back in Kroutonville, their scientist engineering fellows had taken years to develop this beauty.
The Spiral 4000 could look through human buildings, water bodies and underground. It could stand treacherous storms and other disasters. It could also become invisible to the life on this planet as well as mute its own noise, a hollow hooting sound. All this was a matter of only a few buttons’ control. As the machine landed soundlessly on the dewy grass, both the creatures exited it. No human or animal was in view. They both climbed the tree and entered the treehouse.
The single room inside was littered with paintings and art supplies. Of course, the creatures did not understand anything they saw. XXX13 extended her hand and touched the gooey colored thick liquid oozing out of a small tube beside the girl.
“The human seems to use this to create patterns on that white sheet they call paper. And she uses that stick with hair on its end to apply the goo onto the paper.” XXX22 concluded.
“Interesting.” XXX13 picked up the paper to have a look at it. “She is making what she sees around her. The sky, trees, and sun.”
On all of their visits to Earth, they had never seen a house on a tree and a human putting thick liquid onto paper. Last month they had landed somewhere else and had seen an old man walking his dog in the dead of night. They had chatted for a while with the dog, hoping to get an insight into his life. It seemed he lived inside the human house, protecting his human master and fed on biscuits and meat steaks. In previous years, they had chosen different spots in the world and observed humans and animals for quite a time.
They had been sent to report what they saw, heard and concluded. The creatures started looking around, finding more paper; some empty and some with dried goo on it. They commented and laughed at some of the drawings, obviously intrigued.
Rafia heard two beautiful voices talking melodiously near her. They were very close, as though in the treehouse with her. Maybe she was dreaming, all she could hear was a continuous sweet tune, and then another slightly different one. She stirred and the voices halted. Upon opening her eyes, Rafia beheld the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen. They were tall and handsome creatures with pearl-white bodies and a blithe way of movement. Their hair was long, sleek and silver-white, flowing down their backs.
They had eyes like humans, but larger and a bit rounder, their noses were short and round with a glint of shimmer on the surface. Their lips were thick and attractive and of a cool, lilac color. Most intriguing were there pupils, those changed colors several times a minute; from celestial blue to turquoise to emerald green, then melted into a fiery yellow, later into orange, ruby red, hot pink and bright purple, and finally back to the blue.
Rafia thought it all a dream; these creatures were definitely from heaven, alluring beyond words. One of them caught her looking and nudged its partner. They came closer and watched her with wonder.
“Hello.” One of them said in English.
Rafia felt peaceful and tranquil with these celestial beings and their soothing voices.
“Hello!” she smiled. “are you angels from Heaven? Or some kind of underwater mermaids?”
The creatures looked at each other confusingly for some moments, then looked back at her.
“Little human, we’re going to ask you a few questions. Answer honestly and sensibly”, one of them said.
“Okay.” Rafia was smitten by their beauty and could not take her eyes off them. Both the creatures sat on either side of her, cross-legged.
“What are you doing in this house in the tree?”
Rafia launched into an explanation about her annoying family, the treehouse and how her father had built it and how she was painting so she could later sell the pictures at her school to juniors and use the money to buy some makeup for herself, which she explained would make her look pretty and cover the pimples on her face.
The creatures listened attentively.
“What are pimples and makeup?” one of them asked.
Rafia explained and both of them looked surprised.
We could use this makeup to make the male Krout-o-nites prettier, thought XXX22.
“Now tell me about yourselves. How is Heaven like?” the girl asked eagerly.
XXX22 exchanged looks with her partner and gave her a slight nod.
“We are not from Heaven, wherever that is. We are from Kroutonville Institute of Planet Studies, Kroutonville on the planet Krouto. It is not in your Milky Way, but part of another galaxy.”
Rafia gaped. Aliens!
“We have been given a project to observe another planet and its ongoings and make a detailed report. We chose the planet Earth and have been making daily visits to different parts of it. Tonight, we came here and found you.”
“I’m a student too! I study in the eighth grade.” And she started a detailed description of her subjects, class fellows, teachers and the education system in general. She also told them of her daily routine and how she had to cope with mounds of homework every day. Something about these attentive listeners kept Rafia chattering, maybe it was their enthralling stare or their generous smiles.
“I like your silk robes, they look very classy.” Rafia confided.
Both the aliens looked down at their clothes. It was what everyone wore on their planet, they told the girl.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t offered you anything.” The girl got up and pulled out a basket of red apples from a corner.
“No, child. We do not eat the food of your planet. Come, leave it.”
“What do you eat then?” Rafia asked, befuddled.
“Crops and fruits of our own planet.”
“Like Choples, Mininas, Bangoes, Hetties. Those are fruits. Bubunkar, Stopato, Orions, Shidettos, are all vegetables. We don’t eat dead food. And we drink balter. It is like you have water.”
Rafia couldn’t help laughing.
The aliens seemed mystified. This was a new reaction XXX13 and XXX22 were experiencing. Humans opening their mouths and producing some strange noises.
“Well, it was good meeting you, little girl. We need to go back to our planet and prepare our report today.”
Rafia offered her hand, but the aliens looked confused.
“You shake it, like this.” She took one of the hands of the alien closer to her and shook her hand, which felt cool and slippery.
“I hope you come to see me again in your future trips.” She smiled courteously.
The aliens smiled back and got down the tree. Rafia followed. “How did you come? And how will you go?”
At that moment, the aliens exchanged nods. XXX13 pointed a finger at the girl’s brain and repeated the command in her head. A bright blue laser shot out and hit the girl, who froze and closed her eyes. After a few seconds, she fell to the ground. Another command and the girl went floating back inside the house on the tree.
Both the aliens got onto their machine, ready to go home with their new findings. Every encounter with a human or animal ended this way. They would erase themselves from the memories with the help of Dr. YYZ14’s potential Laser 8700, one of the finest professors of Laserology on Krouto. They didn’t want these crazy humans on their planet too.
The human had discovered many aspects of space and other planets, but the Kroutonites knew better than to reveal themselves to humans. They were, in fact, a species much more intelligent than humans, and in the years to come, would study the humans further and further. They had no intention of letting humans come and poke around and then exploit them.
Rafia woke up, feeling a bit dizzy. It was dawn and she couldn’t remember why she was sleeping in the treehouse. She looked around, the floor strewn with her paints and supplies. She must have dozed off while painting. Rafia got down and headed towards her house. At the door, she met her mother.
“How many times have I told you not to sleep in the treehouse! Trees give out carbon dioxide at night, you could die up there!” her mother scolded.
No wonder she felt so dizzy. Oddly, she couldn’t even remember how she had dozed off right there in the treehouse.
Aniqa Mazhar is a graduate of QAU in Biochemistry. She has taught sciences to O levels and is currently planning for her MS in Food Technology. Aniqa’s hobbies are reading, watching movies, writing, calligraphy, long walks, and nature photography.