They came from planet Earth. That’s what they told us. The word sounded foreign on our tongues, “Earthhhhh.” It was hard for us to get our mouths to make the scratchy, whispery “th” that was nowhere in our language, which is all silky and smooth and full of long “ooohs” and “ahhhhs”. We communicated with the Earthlings mainly through gestures and misunderstandings, trial and error, even our gestures were different. Apparently, on Earth you communicate the affirmative by moving your head vertically. The misunderstandings diminished exponentially once we figured that out.
One Earthling was especially skilled at translating our gestures. She seemed to understand that when we came close to her face and exhaled in a deep sigh, we weren’t trying to intimidate but to welcome, and she soon tried her own, stunted version of the meeting ritual. Soon she had taught her fellow travelers, and the streets of our planet were filled with Earthlings and our people breathing deeply on one another.
Marcia, that was her name, was good at imitating our breathy language, and seemed to really want to learn the meaning of our words. Within a month, she spoke more fluently than a three hundred-year-old child, and we were all impressed that she had learned so quickly. We made little effort to pick up the Earthlings’ language after that. It was too harsh and rough on our lips, and we had Marcia to translate for us in the interspecies meetings that were held twice daily in the Planet Center.
Still after the first month we were unsure of the reason behind the Earthlings’ presence on our peaceful planet, and Marcia, try as she might, was having extreme difficulty explaining it to us.
“We want to see,” she said.
“Because it’s there.”
“Because we can.”
“Because…” She stalled, apparently lacking the vocabulary to go further.
“Do you wish to take from us? Our resources are many.”
She appeared confused, and denied any intent to steal, borrow, or barter.
We believed her. After all, this was our Marcia. Our friend, our curious ally, our translator and representative. If only we’d known how soon we would come to regret it.