The earth was destroyed. No matter how I busied myself in the chores, the thought kept coming back to my mind in a periodic cycle like the chimes of the innumerable clocks on the planet I once called home. I am on a little spaceship like a few thousand others, moving towards unknown destinations in all directions of the galaxy. I pushed these thoughts away and went to check my monitor for the exploration routine as I had for ten years. But that day was different.
I ran the routines and stared at the familiar messages run past the screen when suddenly I jumped.
“Planetary systems: 1 systems detected.”
“Distance: 2 light years.”
“Suitability for life: 68%”
I sighed and fell back on my seat. So it was me that fate chose, to find the planet that will be the Medina of long lost inhabitants of earth. I programmed my ship to route to the planet, went to my bunker, and opened the last bottle of wine. The planet appear on the screen and slowly grew larger. It was beautiful.
The atmosphere had the right amount of oxygen. Good sign! As I walked for a few miles, I saw some trees in the distance but as I went towards them, they appeared.
They looked like humans, but what kind of ugly distorted humans! They had eyes, but no mouth! The flesh where their long trunk like noses ended connected straight to their neck. On seeing me, they started hopping from side to side in a rhythmic fashion, while their feet made tapping noises on the ground. As I tried to shout at them in vain, they grew nearer, still hopping, wielding their strange weapons. As fear grew inside me, I started mimicking their tap-like dance. Suddenly they stopped and looked at me curiously. Encouraged by this, I did some of the moves of tap dancing I had learnt in high school. At this, they grew very excited and started hopping vigorously in all kinds of new and weird kinds of tap dancing moves. So these pathetic creatures communicated using dance!
I spent a few days learning basic phrases like “I am hungry”, “I am going to sleep” etc. as I collected information about the planet. “Tap dance all you want little fellas”, I thought, “soon a thousand ships will land on this planet and burn your asses off”. One day I was studying the soil as a few of them arrived with a new and obviously important person. He looked very amused to see me and asked me a few questions. Finally he asked me “Why are you here?” I respectfully danced “To study you”, even though I didn’t exactly remember the dance for study. You see, I had not heard (seen) any other word even closely resembling the dance for study, so I figured it’ll work out. Big mistake.
They started doing the dance that unquestionably communicated a lot anger. One of the tap-talkers approached, and before I knew, used his blade to cut my right hand off. The world went dim as I looked in horror at the blood gushing from the stub on my right shoulder.
I now spend my days in a cellar. I have no hands and legs and am hung from the wall with metal chains attached to my shoulders and thighs. They have kept me alive.
In due time, I found that instead of saying “To study you.”, I had said, “To kill you.” Obviously the word was so offensive to them it wasn’t ever used in daily life, so how would I know? Thus I learned my lesson, even though I have little life left in which to use it. You must be careful with language. And dance.