Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an interpreter. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a farm in the future. The story is about pride.
I talk to plants. It’s true. Actually, they talk to me. I am an interpreter for the plants. I tell their stories. I am the only one I know who does this work. I ply my trade among the planets of the fourth star in the Pleiades. My small interplanetary craft is fast and efficient, so I can cover a lot of territory. The plants pay me in their way, so I am never hungry. I barter some of the produce for my other needs. And the plants are always grateful.
All right, maybe not always. There was a time…
I had traveled farther than usual that day at the request of a local agriculturalist. It seems that a large plant type life form was rebelling and causing some disharmony in the local economy.
My landing was carefully calculated to be within walking distance of the biodome, but still far enough to keep from disturbing the immediate area. Since the vibrations from my ship could add to the chaotic emotions already in play.
The agriculturalist was waiting just outside the biodome. Zefra was obviously agitated when I reached her, so I paused to help soothe her ruffled feelings. She could not introduce me to the belligerent life form if she was not in a good state. She explained that the plant in question had just insulted her intelligence and thrown rotten foliage at her. She had been tempted to kick the plant in its genitalia. Unfortunately, the plant in question was too valuable to sustain that kind of damage so she had managed to restrain herself long enough to leave the biodome before venting her anger. Still pacing, Zefra continued to rant about “Ranc,” which turned out to be short for Ranunculus Vitae, a variation of a plant once found several parsecs from here on a small blue planet circling the star Helios.
“He’s such a self-sanctimonious, self-important, self-aggrandizing, egotistical… did I say self-important?! Well he is! He thinks he’s the most significant lifeform here!”
I allowed Zefra to continue on for several minutes in this vein so that she could gain control of her feelings again. Then I began to massage her aura and bathe it in cooling light. Finally she could speak without spitting. So I asked her what had brought on this latest outburst.
“I offered him some fertilizer,” she replied simply.
“Surely there was more to it than that? It’s not as if he can make his own.”
“Then you will have to ask him. It’s not as if we speak the same language,” she snapped a bit too sharply.
“I plan to do so as soon as you are serene enough to perform an introduction,” I replied gently trying to smooth the latest flare in her temper.
After a few moments working on her, she visibly relaxed. “Very well, I think I can do it now.”
Her aura had traces of pink but no more red. I continued to surround her with serene vibrations until I was sure she was settled enough to enter.
“Then let us proceed,” I said quietly.
Zefra walked beside me to the portal and then opened an airlock to allow me to enter first. As I stepped in, the aromas of damp soil, grass, and a faint smell of rotting vegetation assailed my senses. It was warm and moist and I was still in the airlock. It must be a jungle inside. I pulled a biosuit off one of the hooks and put it on, while she did the same.
The biosuits on this planet completely covered the wearer from head to toe so that there was no chance a stray cell or organism could shed from the wearer and contaminate the ecosystem. A single cell with its strands of DNA could cause incredible changes in the lifeforms in here. And humans are notorious for shedding skin cells and hair constantly. And to think some humans once worried about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food. They would shudder at the rapacity of the lifeforms here, eager to glom onto even the smallest fragments of DNA and RNA and incorporate them into their own.
The newest versions of biosuits were seamless and form-fitting. They were a shimmering silvery pearl color, which stood out against green, red, blue, yellow and most other hues, to make the wearer easier to locate once inside. Although the suits also had a chameleon option that could be activated if necessary to protect the wearer. The air system and filters no longer distort the voice, and the suit can read vibrations from the vocal chords. So everyone sounds “normal” even when they are completely encased in biofiber.
Zefra initiated the decontamination cycle. Luckily, the suits also help maintain body temperature. When we went through the second airlock the temperature was just over 317°Kelvin, which is easily 20 degrees warmer than most humanoids find comfortable. My personal comfort zone is right around 297°K, so I was doubly grateful for the biosuit.
This biodome was small enough that we could walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes. Zefra pointed out the interactive map on the right arm of my biosuit, which handily showed where each biosuit was located, in addition to the other more stationary lifeforms. My biosuit appeared to be indicated in the map by a tiny replica of me. I could watch myself moving about the biodome in a small four-dimensional version that floated just above my forearm. From the noise and Doppler vibrations in the interactive map, I could find my way to Ranc without Zefra’s guidance, but protocol still dictated that she lead the way and introduce me properly.
Much of the vegetation was blue although the flowers they produced were every color of the rainbow and often more than three colors at any given moment. I heard a little heckling from some of the smaller lifeforms, plenty of chatter, and one particularly pretty pink, aqua, and silver plant form wished me well. Zefra did not react to any of their talk so I assumed that she, like most humanoids, could not discern it from rustling foliage. I used to be that way, too. But once I learned the basic plantoid language, I heard gabbing everywhere. The soft rustling of poets became incessant chatter. Eventually, I learned how to turn the babble into a conversation and my opportunities expanded to support my current interstellar reputation. And at that moment, I was sure I was the best and the only way to resolve the conflict here.
We moved slowly as I did not want to add ripples to the pool of vibrations swirling around us. It seemed to take forever until we reached Ranc’s location. Although we could easily follow his distorted wavelengths, I had no desire to increase his agitation.
When we were finally facing each other, the waves of red and black streaming from him were almost violent enough to knock us down. Without meaning to do so, I started trying to still the pulsations flying in our direction. When Ranc felt the pushback he became angrier. I realized what had happened and ceased my efforts immediately, hoping he would back down.
Ranc was not going to be pacified that easily. He turned his focus on me throwing all the vibrations in my direction. Zefra had already put up a shield. She wasn’t taking any more plekth from a non-humanoid.
It was so loud and so bright, I was going to have to put up a shield, or risk losing my senses all together. I dropped to my knees and finally laid down flat on my belly with my arms covering my head and ears. I didn’t know how much more I could take before I would be forced to raise a shield. I tried to send the signal of introduction and then I blacked out.
When I came to awareness again, I was still lying face down on the ground, but the vibrations were calmer and no longer buffeted my senses. I risked uncovering my ears and lifting my head to look in Ranc’s direction. He had assumed a military bearing, unbending and unemotional. So I started to get to my feet. A loud crack dropped me back to my hands and knees and made it clear Ranc did not want me standing upright. This was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be when I first got the call.
I attempted to signal my introduction again, and was rebuffed. Still on my hands and knees, I waited. What did he want me to do? How was I going to get his attention? Wait! I already had his attention, how could I get him to listen to me? As I was considering my options and trying to figure out how to reach him, I missed the change in his aura. Ranc was laughing at me!
Keeping my head down, I signaled, “Service.” Ranc roared with laughter.
Head still bowed, I tried again, and signaled, “Beneficence.” Ranc doubled over with hilarity. Not an easy feat for a plant form twice my height and four times my girth.
When Ranc finally calmed down, I tried a third time and signed, “Honor” and set Ranc to laughing again.
Zefra messaged me through the map to start backing away while Ranc was distracted. Unsure how to proceed and still shaking from the sound and light waves that had originally knocked me off my feet, I went to chameleon mode and did as she suggested. Moving slowly, I crawled backward, still on my hands and knees, I did not look up until I was out of reach of his force field. Then, still camouflaged, I raised myself to a crouch and slowly moved to the airlock and out into the chamber. When Zefra had closed the inner seal and decontaminated the chamber again. I sagged onto the nearest bench with my head in my hands.
“I have failed you,” I told her dejectedly.
“Not at all,” she replied.
I looked up, puzzled at her response.
She explained, “Ranc is now in a fabulous mood.”
“Yes, but, I never found out what he wanted,” I protested.
“Oh yes, you did,” She smiled.
I gave her another quizzical look.
“You are the court jester.”
With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php
And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.
What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.