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Short Story 2: Alien or Not? That is the Question.
It had been about two years since the alien started living among humans. The humans did not know that he was an alien. They just thought he was a weird person.
The alien had started attending college with other fellow human students. He did not speak to a lot of them. What he rather wanted to do was to observe how humans interacted with each other. Where he was from, the only way to communicate was through silence. Somehow, they were able to interact without noise. Here, there was too much noise. Humans seemed to like making noises when they interacted. They called this ‘speaking’. Even if they did not speak, though, humans reacted to things with noise. They shouted, cried or sang.
This situation made him think that there was a sharp contrast between humans and his own people on his planet and he wanted to see why humans were so different from them. This had motivated him to come to the human world.
When he first came here, he was lost in the crowd, not knowing what to do. The only way he knew how to communicate was through silent signals and that did not work here. He had learnt a bunch of words to get by but nothing that would enable real conversation. He was desperate. So, he decided to learn the language of humans better and eventually he started talking a bit more. That started to help him in his quest.
He somehow had always thought that humans were not so different. He did not know why he had this thought. But once he started talking to humans, this thought was strengthened even more. He was convinced that there was some silence, some silent communication, in all of this noise. But where was it? What was it? Why could he not detect it? He had mastered silent communication on his planet after all. He must be equipped with right material. But his ability failed here.
This curiosity led him to enroll in college. He thought that he would have closer and continuous contacts with people, which would help him understand the issue better. However, although it had been about eight months since he started the school, he had not yet uncovered a single trace of the silence he thought existed in humans. Until today.
He had made one good friend several months ago. They had started with simple greetings. Later, they started hanging out outside of school as well. This made them better friends. Now, they even ate together all the time. So, they were even better friends.
This closeness made the alien brave enough to ask the question that was bothering him to his friend. He was looking forward to their lunch today for that reason. That is why he was very uneasy in classes today. He was unable to sit still. His pencil was his friend during this wait time: he kept playing with it the whole time.
Finally, the time came. His friend had noticed his uneasiness and asked as they were eating:
‘Hey, what’s up? Is something wrong? You seemed very uneasy today in classes.’
‘What’s wrong? Tell me.’
‘I actually want to ask you something.’
‘How should I start?’
‘I don’t know. Just say the problem. Don’t be indirect.’
‘Ok. You know I am weird, right?’
‘I want to learn why you chose me as your friend while you could have chosen any other cooler students. There are many cooler people, you know. What made you choose me, the weirdest in the class?’
‘What? What kind of a question is this?’
His friend laughed loudly.
‘No, I am serious. I want to learn.’
‘Because I want to learn a bit more about what friendship means.’
‘Well, this is a big question. Why do you make friends with someone at all?’
The friend thought for a while and then said:
‘I honestly don’t know. You just feel close to your friends. I just felt closer to you than anyone else in the class. And because I felt closer, I got the sense that we would get along well. I don’t have any explanation other than that.’
‘Yeah, feel. Meaning, there is no thought behind it. Again, I don’t know why I felt closer to you. I never thought about why. Isn’t this what a feeling is?’
The alien did not know what a feeling was but he agreed:
‘So, tell me, why did YOU choose me as your friend?’
‘I don’t know. I just thought that you were more approachable than others.’
‘See! You were the same. But you are phrasing it wrong. You didn’t think; you felt. That is how you knew you would relate to me better than others. Emotions are secretly so powerful. They form most human relations, good or bad, and they keep them going or break them. Sometimes in irrational ways, because emotions do not always come packed with thoughts and analysis.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
There was some silence after this. The friend was examining the alien’s reaction. The alien was thinking that he was starting to understand what his friend was referring to, vaguely. That is, feelings. Things you don’t analyze but are powerful enough to guide you in life. But he still wasn’t sure he knew exactly what his friend was talking about. That is, he could not detect an exact target that he could call an emotion. So, he added:
‘I think I should understand feelings more.’
‘We all should.’
There was some silence again. A brief one. Then, the friend asked:
‘Is that really what bothered you this whole time?’
‘Ah, you ARE weird.’
They laughed together and then continued eating. The heavy talk was over.
The alien was finally relieved. He had found his answer: In addition to their noises, humans communicated with emotions as well. And they did so very often. That was their silent language. He had also discovered that he himself also had that language, which was how he had connected to humans in the first place and known that humans were somehow similar to him (or him to humans). He was not an alien after all. But he did not really have a full grasp of what feelings were yet or how much of them he himself had. He decided to work on that in the remainder of his stay in this world.
As the alien walked back to his place after school, he was finally smiling at humans on the way. He now had a better understanding of these creatures and he even felt like one of them. He was actually one of them.