Author: Sam Matey
Nnenna Inkar Uzoma, first human consul to the Empire of Mhunghelvardh, walked out of her spaceplane onto the dais and into a fantastical wonderland. The palace gardens of Mhunghelvardh spread out below her, kilometers of alien vegetation in every color. A few meters from her face, purple tentacle-vines were gently waving in the breeze, flicking out every few seconds to snatch one of the circling swarm of songbird-sized, fluorescent pink five-winged insect-like creatures. On the other side of the slabs of jet that formed a path through the garden, about twenty pulsating yellow organisms squatted low to the ground. They looked a little like brain coral, with their wrinkly network of fluid-filled crisscrossing crevices, and a little like toads, as they were covered in pustulous-looking warts filled with gray pus under a transparent lining. They appeared roughly circular from the top, with a diameter of about a meter. Four tiny, flexible tentacle-feet emerged from under their bodies, plunging deep into the reddish earth. Nnenna inhaled deeply: she detected a faintly floral and saccharine scent from the purple creature and an acrid, tar-like tang that she could almost taste from the bed of yellow ones.
“This is…incredible.” she managed, pausing to collect her thoughts while she heard her translator locket repeat her words in the guttural Shqir Pakh language. She looked at her Shqir Pakh guide, a senior Palace Guard named An!k’yrek. “May I touch them?”
“Yes,” her translator locket said in perfect Globish. “But be careful. The purple one would eat your hand and the yellow ones would leave spermslime on your fingers. Try this one.” An!k’yrek indicated a cantaloupe-sized gray bulb poised at the top of a long, thin red stalk.
Nnenna reached out and stroked the bulb, feeling its soft, velvety contours. To her shock, the bulb instantly turned itself inside out, revealing a shining turquoise interior, with a central dodecagonal structure that seemed to be woven from hundreds of tiny golden threads.
“What is it?” she murmured in awe. Her datalens could find no match for it in the Shqir’pakh’ik’la’druhn’no biome files, but humans still knew very little about the life-forms of this world. She’d only just set foot in Mhunghelvardh, and she was already on the verge of a new discovery!
As Nnenna watched in wonder, the threads began to twitch and curl around each other, moving faster and faster until a humming began to emanate from the structure, an ethereal sound that was vaguely reminiscent of the tuning of a harp, the cry of a bird of prey, and the hiss of water on hot metal. It was utterly strange and harshly discordant, yet somehow the clashing sounds seemed to complement each other. It was the strangest and yet most beautiful sound Nnenna had ever heard. As she listened, a tear ran down her cheek.
“What is it?” she asked hoarsely.
“It is a Basin of Song,” An!k’yrek answered softly. “The rarest and most melodious of the Music-Globes family. Its singing season only comes twice in its 300-year lifespan. You are very fortunate to have been here to experience its melodies.”
Nnenna watched the Basin of Song curl back in on itself again and go silent.