Title: Without Words
Prompt: Lost in Translation
Wordcount: 329 words
Holding a conversation without words was difficult, Paula decided as she read through the day's exchanges with the aliens.
People had always said that Maths was the universal language we'd use to talk to aliens. So far as it went that was true but it was certainly lacking something. Sure they could discuss facts and figures. She had data on their appearance and their home planet (sulphuric acid oceans - the thought astounded her). She could tell you the composition of their atmosphere and the wavelengths of light and sound they could sense, but moving beyond that was proving difficult. With another human you could point at a tree, say tree, then hear what they called it and build up a lexicon that way. It had taken a month for them even to agree on what plants and animals were.
Now her team had been asked for advice on the deal the aliens were offering? How could they make that call? In the end it wasn't about what the aliens could offer it was about if they'd make good neighbours. How was she supposed to figure that out when she didn't know anything about how they thought?
"But we do know something about them," George said when she complained about it in bed that night. "We know they respect boundaries. They could have just taken Venus – it's not like we could stop them."
"That or they just figured humans were too trigger happy to risk it. We couldn't have stopped them but we could have been annoying." She turned over and punched her pillow. "It's so frustrating. I want to know about their society! Do they have art? What about music? These things are important but we don't know how to discuss them. Oh!"
"What is it?"
"I should have thought of this earlier!" She bounced out of bed and found her phone. "Their visual ranges are a bit different than ours but their hearing is almost identical. We'll send them some music and hope they get the point."