23 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
” Umbaga has come face to face with two very alien people who note that some of his physical features are very like those of their own males… “

“I think he’s rather sweet,” murmured Aurora, taking a very small and slightly nervous step towards Umbaga, trying not to look at all threatening.

“Just you be careful,” growled Melvin, lowering his weapon slightly. “You know how many stories there are of our kind being slaughtered on alien planets by monkey-men with no brains?”

“My dearest,” replied Aurora, “he’s carrying no weapons, he’s almost naked which means he sees no point in covering himself and, by the look of him and given a bit of a shave and shampoo he might well be taken for your cousin!”

“My cousin’s a girl!” retorted Melvin, “and there’s no way he’s one of them! But look, we’re stranded temporarily on this planet and we’ve bumped into a native who could be a member of a vast civilization. And that could be a threat to us. We’ve got to be careful how we handle this fellow, and that’s a definite fact!”

“I really believe he’s safe,” murmured Aurora.

Umbaga was beginning to feel left out of a conversation that contained no syllables that he recognised and which was obviously considerably more complex than any conversation he’d been privy to before. Why, whenever he spoke to Juju or one of his neighbours there were few words, just enough to convey a single thought usually, and rarely any discussion afterwards other than affectionate salutations … very affectionate if the brief conversation had been with Juju. There was no need for any more. The essence of the conversation had usually been a single idea and it therefore required a similarly limited number of words.

So, “Me Umbaga,” he repeated. And to make absolutely certain that the two dressed so oddly in fine material understood, “me Umbaga,” he repeated, doggedly.

“Umbaga?” repeated Aurora, and to Umbaga the sound of his name on her lips was like a brief symphony of heavenly music. Never had his name been uttered with such beautiful lyricism. He grinned at the strange woman and clapped his hands together in a single rap of applause.

“Me Umbaga,” he repeated again, and pointed at himself after he had uttered the first syllable of the brief sentence.

“So Umbaga, what a fine fellow you are and we’ll leave you in peace as soon as I’ve got our ship fixed, so be a good fellow and leave us in peace until then,” muttered Melvin. “It got damaged flitting past the rim of a black hole in order to gain extra speed,” he added, knowing the strange little figure wouldn’t understand, but wanting to impress him anyway

“Tush, Melvin,” said Aurora, smiling at Umbaga, “this young fellow has no intention of doing anything to interrupt your work, and he hasn’t a clue about black holes! But we must remember why we’re here…”

Melvin grimaced. “I never wanted to come to this third rate planet in the first place and the sooner we get away the better,” he mumbled, “Don’t forget what we’re doing in this sector of the Galaxy: we’re looking for the home planet, the place where our species evolved, and if we hadn’t suffered the turbulence of that near-disaster and being almost sucked into a black hole while we slept, and found ourselves in this back of beyond when we were woken up we might have found the mother home already and won the prize.”

“It’s not the prize but the history I’m interested in,” said Aurora, frowning. “And as for finding the original planet where mankind evolved, we’re expecting it to be ultra-advanced with a civilization that’s reached the pinnacle of evolution, aren’t we? After all, it’s had homo sapiens on it for longer than anywhere else and we’re expecting it to be superbly advanced, with supermen and ultra-women at every corner. But what if it isn’t?”

“Meaning?” asked Melvin, slowly.

“Meaning that there’s such a thing as regression,” replied Aurora thoughtfully. “We’ve all been led to believe that mankind has been on an upwards path, starting low and moving ever up the evolutionary ladder towards ultimate perfection, but what if that didn’t happen on the home planet? What if our ancestors had used up all the natural resources, which could be why some of them left in the first place, and started to sink back into the slime from which they had evolved in the first place, and became … like this fellow here?”

Umbaga was still standing where he had been since the woman first spoke and he was listening with awe at the conversation, a series of words and statements that he knew he would never be able to understand because everything about the two strangers spoke of unbelievable complexity. But the sounds the woman made as she spoke, the purity of her vowels and the non-threatening perfection of her intonation … Juju might be able to make a stab at working things out, but then, she was a woman and women were good at that. But he … he was lost and confused and merely waiting patiently until one or other of the two sophisticated strangers did something he could begin to understand.

Aurora looked at him, then turned to her male companion.

“I’ve an idea,” she said slowly and thoughtfully, “you didn’t see the fellow’s wedding tackle, but I did, when he urinated over there, just behind him. And it reminded me of something….”

“What? A slithering snake with a forked tongue? Something from your worst nightmare come to threaten you?” asked Melvin sarcastically. “Just like you to get an eyeful of what’s-his-name’s privates and treasure the memory!”

“No,” murmured Aurora, “I saw if perfectly well as you can imagine and to me, so far as I could tell, it was very like its equivalent part on your body! And his name is Umbaga, and it might be best if we used it so as not to make him feel left out.”

“Well, if his tackle evolved to do the same job on this planet as mine did on ours…” muttered Melvin, “I suppose you’re about to say it’s enormous and you wish I had one like it!”

“You’ve always been sensitive about size, but no,” grinned Aurora, “as far as I can remember it was pretty much identical to what you keep in your underwear, and I find that most peculiar.”

“You do?”

“Well, yes. Don’t you?”

“Not really … parallel evolution will find similar or even identical solutions to ordinary every-day things like urination and the need to dispose of waste liquids.”

Aurora shook her head. “You didn’t see it and I did,” she said quietly, “And don’t forget that I’ve seen yours no end of times, you’re always flashing it at me! If I say Umbaga’s is the same as yours then that’s what it is: the same. In fact, from memory I’d say this fellow must be biologically identical to human males as we know you and that can only mean one thing…”

“So you think the human race regressed … from us to that wretch over there?” asked an astounded Melvin. “Surely that’s not possible!”

Umbaga wanted to say something, to add sounds of his own to a conversation he had no chance of understanding and would have done just that when clear and precious, cutting through the morning air, came a very familiar voice.

“Umbaga! Umbaga! You man of mine! Where be you?”

He swung round and there was Juju, holding baby Idju in her arms, striding towards him purposefully through the woodland from the direction of the clearing.

“Umbaga not come home!” she said, loud and accusingly, “Why Umbaga not come home? Why Juju have to risk all to find you?”

© Peter Rogerson 21.10.16



  1. slpsharon October 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm #


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