A Contrast of Worlds by Ricky Cooper
Location: An Italian restaurant
Item: A human skull
Creature Origin: Deep Space
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A Contrast in Worlds
Clattering filled the air, wry smiles etched their lips as they lifted the cups and sipped, a hum of gratification filing the space between them.
‘It’s certainly good here; best we have found so far I’d venture to say.’
A soft chuckle tickled the air as they set their cups back on the small saucers.
‘It certainly is, but I must say the heat is dreadfully oppressive.’
‘Agreed, but dear we must remember, this place is as new to us, as we are to it. We will eventually adapt, we always do.’
A slight nod greeted the softly worded admonishment. As the heat rolled over them, handkerchiefs patted at perspiration soaked brows. The quiet whisper of silk filled the air as, with delicate motions and supple fingers, the handkerchiefs were folded and once more tucked into the cuffs of their sleeves.
‘So darling how old did you say this colony was?’
‘Well, it’s taken us one hundred and fifty years to get this far.
‘When one thinks that we didn’t even know this world existed until those signals started coming through.
‘Even as faint as they were, they gave planning a reason to brush the dust off our old search probes.
‘The probes were launched and all the while we waited and listened. The signals were getting stronger and more frequent. The inevitable conclusion was that for the first time we had found another sentient race in the universe. The prize was within our grasp.
‘So with the information collated and analysed the first ships were sent out. I know that travelling halfway across the galaxy in stasis is a crazy thing to do but we were absolutely desperate for extra space, a civilisation can only survive on one planet for so long without exhausting the ecosystem to the point of collapse.
‘ Then when we arrive the place is empty. No signals. Nothing.’
‘And with that in mind my dear, I’d say it’s a good idea for us all to pay careful attention to the signs we were left by those that came before. You know as well as I that waiting a few hundred years more will not damage things. Besides the rest of the settlers will be needing a head counsel to oversee the ownership rights in this territory.’
A warm gust of air made their heads tilt. Eyes slid closed and nostrils flared, a short guttering gasp left them both as they stood, chairs clattering against the cobbled floor.
‘Come with me, I want to show you something, it was unearthed a few weeks ago.’
Their tapping feet filled the quiet street as they listened to the bustle of shoppers and families only a few yards away, the soft tremor that shivered through their feet made one pause, a soft gasp of fright flirting with his companion’s ears.
‘Darling, fear not, it’s just that beastly mountain again, damned thing has been gurgling and smoking ever since I was transferred here.’
Glancing back over the top of the buildings around them, the monolith of fire and heat smoked and rumbled sending a shiver down his spine as he hastened his pace and caught up to his slowly disappearing comrade.
‘So where exactly are we going dear?’
A small smile broke his partners lips as they drew level. Hands clasped behind their backs they moved out into a vast courtyard. The central fountain burbled echoing the gentle call of small birds that flitted above their heads.
‘We’re heading to the one place in this heat blasted world where we can see what became of this planet’s indigenous species and I for one would wish that my partner saw them just once before he is whisked away again.’
A gentle hand tugged at his elbow as the fluttering of wings filled the air and the sky was assaulted by a swarm of feathered bodies.
‘Now that was a pleasant and rather beautiful surprise.’
A soft hum echoed from his partner as they both watched trees empty of their twittering cargo.
‘Yes my sweet, it certainly was.’
They paused studying the glittering water as it bubbled and splashed over the cut glass pebbles and turquoise tiles.
‘Apparently my sweet this fountain here, although it has been restored numerous times, pre-dates nearly everything around us; from the tiles on the roofs to the relics we are unearthing on a daily basis. Now if you look at its size, this sculpted expanse, despite its complexity, has been constructed using the simplest of hand tools. Those that made it were twice if not three times our size, tall, broad and extremely muscular.
‘Those large plots of land not far from here with their quaint little temples honouring their fallen have a very handy system of rows and markers that, I must say, has made excavation quite an easy process. It shouldn’t be long before we have sufficient information on this planet’s aborigines. ‘
With a small nod of his head, he guided his partner to the furthest side of the courtyard and through a high archway, the weather worn stone casting a fine dust upon their heads as they passed through the frescoed alleyway.
‘Ah blessed cold, that heat was making me boil in my suit.’
A liquid filled chuckle echoed down the corridor, the chill air making them both shiver as they stopped. They paused a moment to bask in the shaded avenue before heading out in the blistering, heated air once more.
‘We only have a short way to go my dear, then we can sit in the blessed cool of the air conditioned viewing halls. I think you will truly appreciate what we have found. It is the only intact example we have been able to unearth from site six.’
The small dark eyes stared fixedly at the centre of the small table, the hollow gaze sending a chill through the already frigid air.
A skull sat in pride of place, the brightly lit pedestal rotating as its menacing stare slowly moved through all corners of the compass.
‘And here we have it my dear, such a lovely specimen, the ridges and brow lines are astounding. Many of the others we found collapsed into dust the moment we pulled them from the earth.
‘I have seen the way they endeavoured to preserve their dead and it is clever if a little archaic. Nothing like we have, but it shows a clear love of preserving beauty.
‘And as you have seen they applied that to the entire world around us, cities and park lands all pristine. This world has but two main land masses and is more than ninety percent covered in water but it was in a lovely condition when we found it, the last owners were wonderfully careful with things.
‘Although I have to admit my curiosity has been peaked at what drove them to extinction, these Homo sapiens were certainly a clever lot, it’s a shame really, they would have made such wonderful neighbours.’
His partner came up beside him, scaled skin cool against his lover’s neck.
‘They certainly would have been my love, certainly would have been.’
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