The Human Outlands
Part I: The Voyage
Being a lone alien among humans for the first time was terrifying. I’d gone to Johannesburg with my mothers and clutchmate or school for cultural trips before but now I was all alone. Stuck in a bus full of humans after a long plane ride from South Africa to America.
Several of them stared at me as I walked through the lane, trying to find an empty seat, like I was some strange foreign creature even though I’d been born on earth after my parents had escaped Ithar’s destruction. I could feel pressure building in my chest, telling me to run and my spit gland opening up, ready to spray any potential aggressor.
But I didn’t listen to the feeling, instead I found an empty seat around the midsection of the bus and sat down on the huge seat. The bus wasn’t really meant for me, Humans are freakishly tall compared to us Itharii; most human adolescents were at least a head taller than I was, often even taller than that.
I took out my meds and popped a pair of pills into my mouth before taking out my tablet starting to doodle away, trying to ignore my surroundings.
In a few hours I’d be at the school; Humans had these heroes with strange powers and I’d become the first Itharii to have powers after I’d found something weird in the Ocean, so it was only natural I joined them; after all I had to use my gift for good and humans had perfected the way to do so.
After a few minutes a big bulky human male came toward me, sitting down and leaning toward me. He was large and pale, with spiky hair.
“Hey, do you sell dust?” He whispered.
“What?” I answered aloud without thinking.
“Dude, keep it down, do you sell dust, you know your ‘pssh’” he said, using his finger to imitate a spray. “I’ll give you a twenty.” He said, showing me a bill, which I didn’t know the value of.
I knew some humans liked to expose themselves to our toxin spray, which was something really I didn’t get the point of. Why would anyone want to get exposed to poison? It was just one of those weird things human did.
Before I could answer, another human, a female this time, grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to his feet.
“Seriously? You’re harassing an Itharii for drugs here of all place?” She said and he looked around, noticing everyone was staring at us.
The human male left. “Fuckin’ bitch.” he muttered under his breath.
“Sorry for the jerkwad, I’m Annabelle Yeun.” She said, sitting down by my side and offering her hand, which I knew was a human thing. I took it and shook it, touching a human for the first time. Human skin is weird; it’s smooth, porous and filled with thousands of tiny hair.
“Where are you from? I’m from San Francisco.”
I only knew where that was because we had a community there; unlike my clutchmate Kulaat, I wasn’t very good at geography, I’d always been better at languages in school.
“South Africa, Vaal reservation.”
“First time in human territory?”
“No, but I’ve only left Vaal with my parents before.”
There weren’t a whole lot of humans in Vaal, since we had been given a large part of the river sides except for the immediate area around the dam for ourselves to build our reserve. We did however get tourists who were curious about us, they were a bit scary, but they were valuable for our community.
There was a moment of silence and I went back to drawing.
“You’re really good.” Annabelle said, looking at my work.
“Thanks. I just wish I had a drawing program that could handle zaru.”
“What’s zaru?” She asked.
“The color?” She looked at me like I’d said something weird and it took me a moment to remember that humans couldn’t see it. “Itharii see four primary colors; red, yellow, blue and zaru. Which I don’t know if you have a name for.”
“What does it look like?”
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like explaining how sound is to someone who can’t hear.” I looked around until I spotted someone with a right kind of shirt. “What do you see his shirt as?”
“For me it’s zaru colored.”
“So what should I call you, I mean pronoun wise?”
“I don’t know, I don’t speak english outside of school.”
“Well, are you a boy or a girl?” She asked.
“I don’t know yet…”
Many Itharii my age already knew what they wanted to be, my clutchmate had already settled on becoming female, but I had no idea… Did I want to be larger and lay eggs or did I want to be taller, grow a crest and fertilize them?
“Wait… You guys aren’t born as one or the other.” Annabelle said to herself. “I swear I knew that. Sorry, I’m an idiot.”
“It’s okay, I mean there’s loads of things I don’t know about humans… And I’m not very good at telling what you are.”
“You mean like if we’re a guy or girl?”
“Yeah. Like I know human females have bumps on their chests and males don’t… Females tend to have long hair but sometimes they don’t and males do. Some males have hair on their face, but not all of them do… But I can never tell what your little ones are.”
“I’d love to give you some tips but it’s really just a thing we can tell easily without thinking about it most times. Anyhow, any idea what I should use?”
“I don’t know, I wish you had a Tzi in English.”
“It’s what we call little ones before they choose what they want to be; it doesn’t have a gender.”
“Yeah, English doesn’t really have that, except for objects and calling you ‘it’ is kind of demeaning.
“Actually, ‘They’ can be used as a gender neutral pronoun.” Someone said from behind us, their voice all gruff.
I turned around and saw someone, although I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be; They were huge, having to duck their head so they wouldn’t hit the ceiling when standing up, using the back of our seat as support. They had pitch black skin with thick ropy muscles, horns came out of their head and they looked at us with their golden eyes.
“Sorry to but in, but I thought you might appreciate me telling you about singular they.” They said. “I’m Rowan.”
“It’s fine, I can be a they.” I looked at Annabelle and she nodded. I then looked back at Rowan. “I’m Ahti. Are you an alien too?”
“What are you then?”
“I’m a mutant.”
Humans are weird; some of them, called mutants, could do really weird things like make fire out of nowhere and some didn’t look like normal humans but were still humans.
The three of us chatted a bit; Annabelle had apparently been sent here by another hero because something had happened in her home town. Rowan on the other hand was like me; they just wanted to help people, they’d applied and been accepted.
After a few hours however, I fell asleep propped up on Annabelle’s shoulder. She didn’t seem to mind. Earth had really long days, I might have never been on Ithar, but I was still made for it’s much shorter days.
“Ahti, we’re here.” Annabelle said, shaking me up gently.
I got up and stretched up. The other students were beginning to get out of the bus and reclaim their luggage from the outside compartment. I followed the group and did the same; I’d brought a lot things with me but thankfully Rowan helped me carry my bags; they only had one and they really big so it wasn’t a problem for them.
I stuck close to them an Annabelle as a man in a bird suit came to welcome us and give us a speech; I wasn’t good at knowing who was who when it came to human heroes, but he had to be important because the others seemed impressed by him. Once his speech was done, The bird man began listing off names and people went to their assigned group. Of my two new friends, Rowan was called first, he put my bags down and joined his group.
“Ahti Tkara. Class three.”
I picked my bags as best I could and joined the same group Rowan had, which made me really happy; they might have been scary huge but they seemed nice.
“Hello classmate.” Rowan said with a sharp grin.
“Last but not least; Annabelle Yeun for Class three.” Birdman called.
“We’re all in the same class!” I said when Annabelle came to our side. I couldn’t help but flap my hands with happiness; something humans often seemed to find weird. But I didn’t get how they could not flap when excited.
“I can tell, this is going to be a fun year.” Annabelle said.
We’d just arrived and I’d already made two human friends. It was going to be the best!