One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is to try my hand at writing fiction, specifically science fiction. The following story came about at my summer writing retreat with some amazing people at Firefly Creative Writing. The writing prompt was to find something in the cottage, and incorporate it into a story; I felt that a fish poacher (not unlike this one) seemed like a good jumping off point.
It was fun. I think I might write some more.
It was a dismal and grey day in Alaska the day the aliens landed. The aliens didn’t know it was a grey and dismal day, they were just happy that their long journey was over. They emerged from their craft in the non-corporal form they took for space flight, and looked for a life-form to emulate.
It was too bad that they landed where they did, that they hadn’t at least done a fly-over of this blue-green planet. They might have landed in New York City, London, Tokyo, Beijing. Things might have been so different. But no. Circumstances and coincidences shape the destiny of all things. The Sularg ship had been programmed to alight on the first land encountered before awakening the crew, and land it did, beside a slow moving river in the Chugach National Forest in southern Alaska.
There were five of Sularg on the ship, one complete pod. They floated beside their ship for a moment, taking in the environment, the oxygen-rich air, the breeze that made them bob and swoop to stay together.
This could work, thought-sent Childak, their leader by virtue of being the oldest by one slinoon. The rest of the pod thought-sent agreement and they began to slowly fan out from the ship for the next stage of their programming, to find the first suitable form for them to adopt. Traldak drifted toward the river, senses extended in the search for a suitable form. This planet is so rich she thought-kept, so much life and diversity. She probed each life type she found, trees, plants, insects, searching for one with enough complexity and sentience to hold their sparks. It wasn’t until she sent tendrils into the ribbon of water that she found anything close enough.
Here, she thought-sent, calling the rest back from their own discoveries. They came to her, leaving bears, wolves and ravens undiscovered. They each sent their own thought-tendrils into the water, and thought-sent agreement. A bit rudimentary, Childak thought-sent, but it will have to do. They were the only species on their planet with any sentience to speak of, and so it did not occur to them that might be others to keep look for on this one.
Childak sent the tendril back to the ship, and they drifted over the water waiting for the organic computer to sequence the information. A few moments later, they found themselves with mass again, and fell to the water. Garndak, who hated waiting and had been still sending tendrils out had seen something moving in the trees and had begun to drift toward it.
Wait please- he had begun to thought-send when the change happened, and he found himself landing on the sandy bank beside the river. The shock of the new body contracted all his tendrils back into himself, and the thought of what he might have seen was pushed from him in the as he gasped on the gritty dry ground.
What- thought-sent Childak.
This isn’t right- Garndak replied.
The pod pushed an interrogative at him.
This body is failing – Garndak thought-sent. He could feel salmon instincts well up in him, and he felt the muscles contract and release rythmically. There was a tinge of panic edging into his movements as he tried to pull something into his body, something he needed for survival.
Where are you?- thought-sent Childak. We’re fine- he added unhelpfully.
Fortunately for Garndak, his flopping had brought him to the waters edge, and his next movement sent him into the water.
He floated for a moment in the blissful coolness, letting this new environment soothe his skin. He pulled great gulps of the liquid into his mouth and out through openings on his sides, revelling in this new feeling of right-ness. The rest of the pod were near him, nothing moving but mouths and gills, and eyes that rolled to see him.
Are you all right? thought-sent Traldak.
Yes, he sent back, then sent his experiences to Ferndak, the podmate most interested in different life forms.
Interesting, replied Ferndak. -These bodies are meant for only one of this planet’s environments.-
Childak, who took his position and his age in the pod rather too seriously, throught-sent with a touch of irritation, Well now we’re all here, let’s get on with the mission.
How? came Coogdak’s challenge. Have you figured out how to move yet? Coogdak loved nothing more than to take Childak down a peg or two.
Before Childak could reply, Garndak sent, I think I’ve got it. Watch, and demonstrated the muscle spasming that had caused him to move on the riverbank. He used the same power that instinct had caused him to use, resulting in him swimming far beyond them. He experimented with the fin extensions from his body to turn and rejoin his pod.
He thought-sent the procedure to the pod, and soon all were practicing moving the bodies they had chosen.
This is fun, sent Ferndak as she swooped past Garndak. These are the best bodies ever!
Childak, who secretly agreed with Ferndak sent a time-to-go message, and they began to move downstream for no other reason that their bodies were becoming tired and it was easier. Soon they encountered the salmon that Traldak had seen, that they had all based their forms on.
Childak swam over to float in front of it, so he could look it in the eyes
Take us to your leader, he thought-sent with a formal tone. We have information to share to help your planet.
The salmon merely regarded him, fins gyrating slowly to keep it in place.
Didn’t you hear me? Take us to your leader!
Still no response.
Childak tried again with the formal opening, the one he had practiced by himself during the voyage. Coogdak thought-sent a smirk and smothered laugh, which irritated Childak as it was meant to do.
Childak ignored Coogdak and tried a third time. We are travellers in space and time. We can teach you better ways to travel, to live, to manage your planet. Don’t you want that? Hello?
Coogdak thought-sent deeper amusement. Exasperated, Childak sent the equivalent of ok smartass, you try.
Coogdak swam forward to the salmon and used simpler language. Where are your leaders?
This the salmon could answer. The Sularg had no way of knowing that salmon had only rudimentary language concepts that consisted of five “words” – food, spawn, where, upstream, downstream. The salmon understood “where” and helpfully replied “downstream” since the strangers were already pointed that way.
Downstream they went, asking each salmon they encountered. Childak shortened his practised speech to two words, where leaders, as it seemed to the only thing that got a response. And the response was always downstream.
The Slurag followed the current, which sped up now and then when the river narrowed. They revelled in this fluid environment and these bodies so very different from their own back home. They flipped and frolicked as they got used to the muscles and fins that propelled them. Once, Coogdak discovered that he could temporarily leave the river by swimming fast then flicking his tail just so, to leap from the water into a different place. The heavier gravity always sent him back into the water before the salmon body he wore became distressed in the air. He showed the rest of his pod, and it became a game to see who could leap the highest and for longest. The five of them were so delighted with this and so taken with the competition, that they sped past a final school of salmon that would have answered “upstream” to Childak’s question, the only way the salmon knew to warn these strangers of the air-breathers and their nets around the next bend in the river.
“That looks delicious,” said the woman. She and her husband were out for their anniversary dinner at The Kincaid Grill, the best restaurant in Anchorage. They had saved for months so they could splurge.
The waiter lifted a piece of salmon from the large fish poaching salver and placed it on her plate.
How fresh is it, her husband asked as the waiter carefully ladled a dill Bernaise sauce over the salmon he had just plated.
“Very fresh,” he told the man as he repeated the procedure. “Chef likes to go fishing in the morning, and caught five of them this morning. He said it was the damnedest thing, they practically jumped into his boat, like they wanted to be caught and go with him or something.”
With that, he bid them bon appetit and left them to their anniversary dinner.