Down Time

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The bridge is quiet. After the last escapade, everyone’s resting in some way or other. I do my down time relaxation up here, working through the after-battle reports to assess where we can improve.
“Captain Dulles.”
I look up and back to see Scarven, our Edmari pilgrim, floating serenely in the middle of the observation dome, fronds curling and uncurling with hypnotic grace.
“Yes, Holy Scarven?”
It sculls itself about so the primary eyes can regard me.
“Scarven will do. We are both peer-ranked dignitaries, in our ways.”
I nod.
“Thank you. How can I help?”
It back-paddles to stop its drift toward me.
“I have spent many homeworld-duration years contemplating humanity in all it’s diverse forms. I have come to appreciate the loud art you call music and understand the reasons why you are enamoured of fighting. But, in this moment of quiet contemplation between police aggressions that you call down time, I find myself returning to a human-centric conundrum that has haunted me for a long time. I was wondering if you’d care to share your insights on the topic with me?”
Sounds serious. The holy fronds from Edmari having an entirely scent-based humour, so it can’t be anything light. That little speech indicates a depth of puzzlement I haven’t encountered before.
“I’d be honoured to shed what light I can.”
All twenty fronds snap-curl, then roll out slowly.
“‘Shed light’. What a deliciously apt concept and usage. Thank you.”
I’ve just made a lifelong friend. Edmari ‘collect’ words and phrases. To use an unheard verbalisation that is applicable to the sacred photosynthesis of their archetypes is considered a gift of overwhelming worth.
“Let’s see if I can keep up the good work. What’s your question, Scarven?”
The Edmari becomes still.
“Bakers bake. Cyclists cycle. Millers mill. Why do carpenters not carpent?”
Of all the possible questions that had flashed through my mind, that wasn’t amongst them. I sit up and route a priority query with light encyclopaedic collation through to the nearest datahub. When it resolves, I look up and smile.
“I’m guessing you’ve only travelled on mainstream ships, where English is the trade language. Our diversity also extends to the languages we speak. Earth has had thousands of spoken languages that have evolved or fallen into disuse over the centuries. Your late creators engineered your race as an entirety. Thus, the concept of having more than one language is alien to you. ‘Carpenter’ is a word adopted into English from a language we call ‘French’. If you like, I can request that human linguistic history be added to the exchange program for your race.”
The fronds twist and shake, then Scarven sculls closer.
“More than one language? Could there be more words for ‘happy’ than your English contains?”
I grin. ‘Happy’. Something the Edmari had no word for until they met us. Which is odd, because that is, fundamentally, what all Edmari are. Now, they are fascinated with the concept and its application to their views of life.
“Many, Scarven. I would venture hundreds, if not thousands.”
It performs a cartwheel of joy before sculling off toward its biosphere, voice drifting back to me over the cheerful rustling of its fronds.
“Such great gifts discovered during this ‘down time’ you have. Your race is filled with delicious strangeness. I look forward to many more down times.”
Think I just conceded my down time for a while.


  1. 27beestroke6

    Brilliant. I really want to meet the Edmari and see their Holy Fronds. Just enough detail to build a fascinating image in my imagination.

    • Jae

      Thank you!

      They are a unique race, to be sure. I suspect we’ll encounter them again (in tales that may or may not crop up on here).

  2. cmh8133

    Very original. I like it a lot. Maybe my cur-fave to date.

    • Jae

      Thank you for the high praise. It’s hugely appreciated.

  3. xdhz8

    Thanks, djl. Now I’ve got a “bright side” earworm :). Nice flash.

  4. SimonJM

    With fronds like that who needs anemones …? 😉
    Delightful little piece, but what shone out was the ‘glib’ “your late creators engineered your race …” That dictates absolute certainty and knowledge way beyond any myth, legend or religious tract. What sort of impact could that have on a being or race?

    • Jae

      It’s just a fact to them. Needing no evolution of belief or similar, because they know of whence they came and the purpose they were set to achieve. You could posit their stability is due to a couple of the ‘big questions’ being answered.

  5. djl

    Thanks Jae, got me humming “…always look on the bright side of life….”!

    • Jae

      Happy to donate Monty Python any time. 🙂

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