Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“Good morning, children,” said Nek-orf La’Erer.
“Good morning, Mx. La’Erer,” replied her students in unison.
“We have a lot to get through today,” she said without preamble. “So, we’ll continue where we left off yesterday. Tjen’er, you were about to show the class the specimen that you collected during the perihelion break. Where is it, by the way?”
Jumping to his feet, Tjen’er sheepishly explained, “It’s in the hall, Mx. La’Erer. It’s rather large, you see. I have it on an anti-grav sled.”
“Well, go fetch it Tjen’er. We’re all waiting to see it.”
“Yes, Mx. La’Erer,” replied Tjen’er as he scurried out the door. A moment later, he guided the anti-grav sled into the classroom. In the center of its rectangular tabletop rested a large liquid filled transparent cylinder. Despite the fact that the contained was sealed, a faint whiff of formaldehyde permeated the classroom. Suspended in the liquid was a strange looking alien creature.
The creature displayed bilateral symmetry, noted Mx. La’Erer, which was not uncommon in extra-terrestrial life forms, especially the lesser evolved varieties. It had an abnormally large head, a compact torso, and four appendages, each one longer than the torso. Mx. La’Erer motioned the children to gather around the specimen. “What’s it called, Tjen’er?”
Tjen’er consulted his notepad, and sounded out the words. “It’s called a ‘human’, Mx. La’Erer. They live on a planet called Earth in the spiral arm known as, er, Orion–Cygnus.”
“Take a marker,” instructed Mx. La’Erer, “and write the word ‘H-U-M-A-N’ on the cylinder so the class can see it. And while Tjen’er is doing that, I want each of you to tell be something you can deduce about this creature. Pi’ige, you go first.”
“It’s all soft and puffy, Mx. La’Erer, like it lost its shell. Maybe it’s molting?”
“Perhaps, Pi’ige,” cautioned Mx. La’Erer, “but not all creatures have external skeletons like us. Some have internal structures called bones. Sjov’v, what can you add?”
“Its mouth is stuck open, so it must be a girl human,” offered Sjov’v with a broad smile. The boys in the class began hooting and laughing, but stopped abruptly when Mx. La’Erer’s eyestalk panned each of them. “Sorry, Mx. La’Erer,” they all said in unison.
“Tjen’er,” asked Mx. La’Erer, “maybe you can help Mz. Sjov’v? Do you know the gender of your specimen?”
“No, Mx. La’Erer, they all looked the same to me.”
“Well, we might as well find out before we go much further,” she stated. “Let me look it up in the Xenobological Encyclopedia. Let’s see…hmmm…Humans. Here they are. From the order of primates. Their family group is Hominidae. Hmmm, this doesn’t seem right.” She glanced up at the creature for a second, then continued scanning the encyclopedia as the children looked at her expectantly. “Tjen’er,” she finally said, “I don’t think you brought back a human. According to the encyclopedia, that’s got to be a chimpanzee or an orangutan. It’s way too small to be a human.”
Suddenly under the spotlight, Tjen’er felt his slam dunk “A” plummeting to a “C”, or worse, because of shoddy research. On the verge of panic, he rapidly paged through his notepad. “Give me a second, Mx. La’Erer. I know I wrote it down correctly. Oh wait. Here it is. Sorry, Mx. La’Erer. I’ll fix it.” He picked up the marker and approached the cylinder. He reached up, and above the word “HUMAN” he wrote “B-A-B-Y”.
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