– A week!? – This is me, and I am not glad.
– Seven days. – My host.
– A week…
– But what do you mean by “a week”?
– Seven days.
– A week then, that’s it.
– I won’t be able to go back for a week?
– No, you won’t.– That’s impossible, I…
– Stay calm. The time is a bit different here. You arrived in a other part of the universe.
– Could you be more precise?
– Seven days here…
– One week…
– And only a few hours on Earth.
– How do you know that?
– Our databases.
– You told me I was the first Earthling…
– We’ve done some research since you arrived. We are travellers too and we have relationships with other worlds which have given us information. When I went out of the room a few moments ago…
– It was the Major, eh?
– Yes, he gave me all sorts of information and recommendations. Among this information, he told me that the Great Council won’t be able to meet before seven days, due to a diplomatic shifting on Yurdiva.
– Oh you see, Yurdiva.
– It’s one of our partner planets…
– So for one week I have to wait until those ladies and gentlemen come back from travelling…
– Diplomatic shifting…
– And I have to stay calm…
– Yes, for 7 days, if possible.
– All week long.
– We don’t have any weeks here.
– We have days, moons, and gold rings. There’re 20 days in one moon and 15 moons in a gold ring. Would you like to see our moon? It’s in the sky at the present time. There is a moon rise, a moon set, it changes shapes during its cycle.
– We have one like that too. But where I live, time is not counted in moons.
– And what do you count by?
– Months, years. One year is 12 months.
– And what about the week?
– Er, a month is at least 4 weeks. Or a little bit more, but not always.
– It sounds complicated. There are a variable number of days in a month?
– From 28 to 31.
– And how do people get through this?
– With calendars. And your gold ring?
– It’s a shiny planet which crosses our sky every 15 moons. It stays for one moon. Now we are at moon 5.
– You told me I can see it.
– Yes, it is time you go outside. This disembarkation room is austere, isn’t it?
– To be honest, I had no time to think whether the place is austere or not.
– Shall we go?
– Let’s go. Oops.
– What happened?
– Nothing. Headache. A very fleeting one. It’s done.
– Let me help you with your first steps.
– It will be ok. Don’t worry. What do you think I did when you went out earlier?
– I asked you to rest.
– But I felt like moving.
– Are all humans like you?
– How am I according to you?
– In my world, generalizing is very impolite.
– I was just asking a question.
– I have no answer.
– So what did you do? A stroll around the room?
– I simply walked. By leaning first on anything I could. And then without the hands. Bingo!
– Any dizzy spells?
– Just the first moments. I didn’t release my supports before it went away.
– But when I came back you were sitting where I left you.
– Yes, I ran to my seat when I heard you coming back.
At this point, my host shakes his head.
– She ran.
– She’s right here.
– Let’s go outside without further delay.
– Excellent idea.
I have to say a huge surprise is waiting for me outside. I begin to whisper.
– Star Shining in the Vastness of the Universe, what are all these people doing here?
– They came to see you.
– Aren’t you going to say hello?
– It’s very embarrassing.
– Believe me, it can only improve your image.
– What about my image?
– You came without a body.
– I’ll end up knowing it. What do I have to say?
– Hello, will be a good idea.
– Won’t it be a little short?
– Sorry, I had no time to write you a speech. Come on.
Our whispered private conversation ends there and he says out loud:
– Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honor to present you our Earthling visitor.
He gives me a poke in the side along with an insistent “your turn”.
– Hem. Hello, everybody. My name is Beth—I hear whispers in the crowd—and I come from the planet Earth. I was told that here the names are longer, but where I live, it’s different. I just came outside to see your moon, that fantastic moon in your sky—and I point to a big, round, bright and ginger disc high above.
I came here accidentally. I wasn’t aware of the existence of such a world, where travelling without a body isn’t the done thing. In mine, there is no other way to travel—whispers in the crowd again, strongly disapproving this time. But this is because we don’t know how to use the disembarkation body. We live in a part of the universe where this hasn’t been discovered yet —an “oh” of surprise—. But I can tell you that this is a sensational experience. And talking about sensations, I think I am hungry.
And the crowd laughs gently.
– Ladies and gentlemen, this was Beth from planet Earth.
“Oh’s” and applause. People applaud here too.
– I’ll take you home to have a snack, says my host.
My satisfaction is brief.
– What’s that?
– Our means of transport.
– Are you kidding?
– How do you move around on Earth?
– With shuttles
– Is it a mechanical collective transport?
– It is.
– We don’t need a shuttle.
– Because we’re not going that far.
– Oh, and when people don’t go far, people use… these things?
– Yes. They are horses.
– That? A horse? This might be a saddle, here the reins, stirrups, but this thing below, this hairy thing looks like an enormous… cat.
– Translations are sometimes rough. It seems that here the function was the point: your horses are transport means, with saddle, stirrups, and reins.
– Er, they are more for pleasure if you live elsewhere than in a city.
– I think our cats are quite different.
– Let me guess, small pets eating and sleeping all the time, and asking to be caressed?
– Yes, we have one at home. I’ll show you. Come.
And then he jumps on his horse.
– No way am I getting on this!
– Come on. Don’t you want to test new feelings with your new body?
– The Major asked me not to damage it.
– Oh? Are you going to do what you’re expected to?
– Am I mistaken, or is this sarcasm? I find you very Earthling, mister. By the way, it is mister, right?
– Yes, obviously.
– Nothing’s obvious to me here.
– The plait. Only men have hair long enough for a plait.
– And so the smaller persons with shorter hair are women?
– You understand everything. Get into the saddle!
– I am not very determined.
– Let’s try. Come on!
– Let’s go easy…
– We’ll go slowly. Put your right foot in the stirrup in front of you, and use the pommel of the saddle to take your place.
– Ok, ok. He’s not that tall.
– She. Nobody can ride the males. They are unpredictable.
– Don’t you sterilize them?
– Nothing. In two minutes, you’ll call me a barbarian. Just forget it.
– It’s what you do to transportation animals on Earth?
– We do it to lots of animals.
– I won’t call you a barbarian, but aren’t you a bit savage, the Earthlings?
– Savage? Oh that’s much better. Shall we go now?
– Giddy up!
I have to say that this so-called horse is very comfortable while walking.
– Fancy some speed?
– Frankly, I don’t know.
– Try the psychic bond.
– Yeah, and what’s this the psychic bond?
– You have to feel the mind of your mount. And when she’ll begin to run, your body will be able to anticipate each movement and stay stable.
– I can do this? I am an Earthling.
– Your body is connected with your mind like we are. You’re like us in this body. You can have this psychic bond. You… don’t need to be told twice.
My horse begins to run at full speed the moment I think of leaving my host behind. I have to slow it down, because only my host knows where we’re going. And here he is, caught up with us.
– I see that merely making the psychic bond was not enough.. You controlled it. We need lots of training to have that kind of connection, you know.
– So much weird stuff has happened to me today. I think of something, and then it happens. When I was just a mind, and now too.
– It isn’t like that on Earth?
– Not at all. Fancy a race?
– You’re impossible.
– You’re smiling.
And then he darts off. I have to stay a bit behind him because I still don’t know where we are going. But I can’t stop going ahead from time to time. It pleases me and my mount too. I can feel it.
Finally my host stops.
– Here we are.
– Is this your home?
– It’s… It’s…
– You don’t like it? You find it ugly?
– Not at all. On the contrary. It’s magnificent. The whole universe is inhabited with artists. Believe me. We are amateurs on Earth. I have to etch that in my memory to be able to draw it later.
– Draw it?
– Yes, that’s my little hidden talent; I am good at drawing. I’ll be able to show the Earthlings what I saw here.
– To show the Earthlings?
– Yes, I’ll have an experience to share.
– Beth, I have to say…
– Oh, I don’t like the face you’re showing now.
– It’s almost certain that you’ll forget anything you’ve done here, upon your return to Earth.
– It’s the time stuff, isn’t it? It passes differently here, so memory can’t remain the same way.
– That’s it.
– What are you two doing?
The door just opened and out comes a short-hair specimen. Very… pregnant.
And, believe me or not, but they are now purring.
– What are you looking at? he asks. If you could see your face!
– You have just purred, I answer.
– It’s perfectly normal between spouses, the wife says.
Oh my head…
– And I, in this body, can I purr too?
– You’re not a complete male, but you have the mind, the feelings, so, a priori, you certainly can, he answers. And his wife adds:
– You have to find a good girl to be stirred with.
– Sweetheart, this is not a man.
– Of course this is.
– Believe me, I am not. On Earth, I’m a girl, but there wasn’t the right model to fit me on the shelf.
– Ha ha, he’s funny.
– She, corrects the husband.
– Really? You’re a girl? Poor you!
And she pushes me inside.
– Over there, that’s the cat.
An Earthling cat would laugh out loud if it saw that; it looks like a rat. A big one. But a rat. With a shorter muzzle. Oh, and now it’s yawning. Cat’s teeth, though, as far as I can see.
– Beth is hungry.
– That’s me.
– Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain, she presents herself.
– Very nice name.
– Yours too.
– Don’t you find it ridiculously short?
– You’re not from here and I like the sound. It’s easy to imagine that all the universe isn’t like us.
And I personally like Fragrant Flower from Isadora Plain.
– What do you want to eat? she asks frankly.
– Well, in fact, I don’t know anything about your cooking…
– Oh naturally. Silly me. I’m going to see what I can cook for you, and you’ll tell me what you think of it.
And I have to say, after the meal I thought lots of good things.
– Sweetheart, Beth’s going to stay seven days among us. Do you think she can have our guest room?
– Sure. Beth, will you follow me? I’m going to show you your bedroom. It’s upstairs, she says, pointing to some stairs.
– Sure, really? I ask, embarrassed.
– Absolutely, she answers.
– On entering the room, I have a shock. I haven’t seen myself yet, and I am facing a mirror.
– It’s the first time you’ve seen yourself, isn’t it?
– Yes. I noticed the clothes.
– Military. Closer fitting.
– We call them overalls on Earth.
– Here too.
– I don’t have any hair.
– That’s military haircut: shaven.
– Oh, I didn’t have the time to see it on the Major. He wore a cap actually.
– Do you fancy having a cap too?
– I dunno.
– If you don’t know, it means you want one.
– You’re reasoning sounds strange to me.
– I try to imagine myself without any hair.
– And in a man’s body?
– No chance. Look at me, in my state? she answers with a smile. I’ll leave you for a moment. Come downstairs whenever you want.
I nod, lie on the bed, and fall asleep.