I wrote about and drew pictures of Brian and Shyeskol in my teens. I wrote about the Martians, drew pictures, developed their civilization from beginning to end. I wrote this story in 1992 for my Fiction class in college, after an in-class assignment, a conversation between Brian and Shyeskol, was well-received by the rest of the class.
This story was meant to show how Brian and Shyeskol, always antagonizing each other, ended up married.
For background, Lisfer is Lucifer, Bwer is God, and I based the timeline on Christian conservative concepts of creation. In those days I thought evolution was a scientific fraud, unlike now where I see it as God’s scientifically proven tool of creation.
In those days I followed the school of thought that the dinosaurs, Neanderthals, etc. all had their own eras, but that the chaos referred to in the first chapter of Genesis was when Lucifer warred with God and everything on Earth was destroyed. Then God started over with Adam and Eve (the “Advanced”).
Martians were a gentle people, not sinners in need of redemption, since they never had a Fall to begin with.
(Some readers might find this heavy-handed religion, but please remember that I was quite young, a fundamentalist, and my entire galaxy of planets depended on the Creationist view. Also, the main conflict of the story is driven by the contrast of Shyeskol’s strict beliefs and millennia of tradition with Brian’s looser views of and desire for sex.)
Ernest Tuveson, in his “Swift: The Dean as Satirist,” which I read in 1990 or 1991 for an English research paper, suggested that Swift was influenced by concepts in Henry More’s Divine Dialogues. These dialogues have different speakers with different points of view; one was the
theory of the plurality of worlds. What about the salvation of rational beings who may well exist in distant planets–as well as in remote places of our own earth?
It is suggested that they may be creatures, endowed with reason, who have never experienced the fall. Such beings would have no need of “that Religion that the sons of Adam are saved by.”
They would live a perfectly orderly but monotonous existence, and “no Properties but those either of the Animal or middle life would be needed.”
They would have all sorts of virtues, skills, knowledge–but this is just a “middle” life, with no heights or depths. The Houyhnhnms would be like this.
I copied down this part of the essay, and was influenced by it in my picture of Martian life.
On Thanksgiving Break 1992, I was supposed to sit and just write for an hour. This story came out:
Brian and Shyeskol
Twir Yepree came running when he heard the crash. What he found in the red, rocky valley took him aback: the oddest-looking contraption, probably a time machine from the looks of it, and a funny-looking young man of maybe late adolescence.
He had dark brown hair and eyes, common enough, but those eyebrows were so thick and uniform, the nose was so squat and rounded, and the lips were so big. He was also quite tall.
He had to be an alien, but from where? Time-travelers reported seeing such people on the neighboring planet, Morik, but far into the future, maybe a half-billion Reppan years. This had to be a Morikan time-traveler.
No such Morikans had ever been seen on Reppa before. The only ones had been the Primitives, brought to Reppa from Morika by the time-travelers, and then returned to their own times and homes after doctors had studied them.
The Primitives usually had excessive body hair, even on the face, even the later ones. The time-travelers always had to be careful to pass by the Chaos period, after the Primitives and the entire Morikan globe were destroyed in a battle between Lisfer and Bwer, and before the creation of the Advanced and their world.
This was one of those Advanced, one of the culturally, technologically and spiritually enlightened, finally on Reppa, and finally available for long conversations on his life, times and beliefs. Once he learned the language, he would be an invaluable companion.
Twir called his young daughter on his communicator, and she hurried out in the carrier. She was only eight and a half years old, but already knew how to drive the bubble-shaped, four-wheeled carrier.
He’d taught her a few months before, so she could go on errands for him from the country home, and she got her license, earlier than most of her friends had. She jumped out of the carrier and went to him, gasping at the sight.
“What species is that, Yem?” she said. “And what’s that thing beside him?”
“A Morikan Advanced, as far as I can tell,” Twir said.
“A Morikan Advanced? I’ve never seen one of those before, except in books.”
“No one has, except for time-travelers.”
“I wish I could show Wem.”
“So do I, Shyesie. So do I.” His wife, her mother, had died several years before in a carrier accident. “Let’s get this guy into the carrier. He’s hurt.”
“Not bad, I hope.”
“We’ll see when we get him to the sermjit.”
They took the Advanced back to the house, then put him in the medical scanner, the sermjit, to check him. He had no broken bones, but the sermjit couldn’t quite make out his physical makeup, and had to compensate by going according to what it knew about the most advanced of the Primitives. It pronounced him to be “healthy, but shaken up.”
Brian Jefferson, finally back from that black void, opened his eyes. What he saw took him aback. A couple of people standing over him, watching him anxiously, but not doctors or nurses or anything.
They had tiny eyebrows that looked like the over-plucked ones women gave themselves back in the 1970s, and lips that looked like the cupid’s-bow women painted on back in silent-movie days. Their noses were so tiny and pointed, they hardly looked real.
The two people looked alike, though, even though one was a man and the other was obviously a girl, both with the same auburn hair and impossibly huge brown eyes.
What, had he been abducted by some of those space aliens, and put on one of their observation tables? This was so weird. The man said something with a smile, but in a language not like any he’d ever heard before. The girl looked at the man, and then at Brian again.
She looked his own age, maybe sixteen. She looked so ugly, though, with that pinched face. The man didn’t look much better, but at least it wasn’t so bad on him. Guys aren’t supposed to look pretty.
The man had normal-looking hair, short and with bangs, like Brian himself wore. But the girl’s hair was in a bunch of little braids that looked strange somehow. He looked closer when she leaned over him once, and saw they had four strands instead of three.
On each side of her head, three of them hung free, fastened with ribbons with those triangular bows, but the back ones were pulled into a ponytail and braided together, then looped up and fastened with a larger triangular bow.
The man’s face looked normal, with no makeup on it, but the girl’s face was covered with a hideous light-orange paint, and her lips were a garish red. She’d even outlined her eyes with blue. Her forehead was covered in snow-white powder, making a harsh contrast.
They both wore Beatle-collars, but the girl’s had a string bow on it. Each of the man’s sleeves had a large X across it, but each of the girl’s was encircled by a large piece of pink cloth. Her sleeves were white, as was the collar, but her shirt was pink. The man’s clothes were green and black, the lighter, green color on his sleeves and collar.
Above the table, Brian could see they each wore an elastic band covering the hips, green for the man and white for the girl, the man’s sewn into horizontal bands, the girl’s sewn into curved vertical lines that accentuated her hips.
Later, when he found the man was shorter than Brian, he would see that the man wore black pants, the bottoms of which hung over green boots with a black, saddle-shoe-like stripe across each.
The girl also wore pants, pink things with pink boots that each had a darker, vertical stripe, but she also wore a pink skirt that reached to just above her knees.
So far, the man seemed pretty normal, but he didn’t know about this girl.
“So, you’ve finally woken up,” Twir said.
His daughter looked at him with excited eyes, then looked back at the Advanced. She’d always been so curious and smart. This would be such a wonderful experience for her.
“Check his temperature,” Twir said.
She leaned over to look at the readout on the side of the table. “It’s normal,” she said. “At least, according to Primitive stats. Too bad the sermjit doesn’t know anything about Advanceds. Too bad we don’t know anything about Advanceds.”
“We should find out soon enough.” Twir smiled. “But let’s not tell anyone right away. This’ll be our little secret for a while.”
She smiled back. “Whatever you say, Yem.”
“Let’s give him something to eat, then let him rest for a while before subjecting him to the knowledge globe.”
“Why the knowledge globe?”
“So he can learn our language. Why don’t you make some of your famous bread-in-broth, and I’ll get some skij-water.”
A few minutes later, the man gave Brian a drink that tasted like strawberries, but not quite, and the girl gave him a fork and a bowl of something like bread covered in broth. The food took some getting used to, but the colored water tasted pretty good. He was starving, and he didn’t mind what he got to eat, as long as it didn’t kill him.
He wasn’t hurt too badly from being thrown from the machine as it fell over, but his head throbbed. When he sat up, he grabbed his head.
The man said something to the girl, and she rushed to get Brian a packet of white, tasteless powder, which she poured into the water, where it dissolved. Whatever it was, it didn’t take too long to get rid of his headache.
A few minutes later, he smiled at her, to show it was gone. She smiled back, and looked at the man, who said something to her. She took Brian’s hand, and gestured for him to get off the table. He did, and she led him to an easy chair.
“Aw, great,” he said, sitting down and getting comfortable. “You Martians do know how to live. I can’t say much for your women, though.–I’m glad you can’t understand me. I wouldn’t want to get your planet so mad that you wipe out my ape ancestors.”
He looked around the little room. It had blue carpeting, and walls with some wood-like paneling. Except for the rounded ceiling, it looked like a regular Earth room, four walls, windows and a couple of doors, even some pictures on the walls.
One was a framed picture, a family portrait. The girl was a few years younger, which he expected, but there was also a woman, an older version of the girl. Where was she? At work or something?
There was also what looked like a television screen, encased in a blue material, and what had to be a radio. It had four speakers, a tuner, and two decks that looked like they held compact discs.
Sitting beside the radio was a large instrument that looked like a cross between a flute and a harp with metal strings. The girl smiled at him, and picked up the instrument. She put her hand on her chest, and said,
“Shyeskol. Shyeskol Yepree.”
“What?” Brian said.
“Oh, that’s your name. Shes-kol? No, Shyeskol. Okay.” He pointed to himself. “Brian.”
“Yeah, there you go, girl.” He smiled.
Shyeskol turned on the instrument, obviously electric, and tuned it by twisting the metal strings. Then she played a song on it, the instrument like an electric flute, the music mystical, with developments that Brian’s time hadn’t seen yet.
She seemed to be playing two tunes at once, but combining them into one melody. When she finished, the man came into the room, carrying a large globe with a hole in the bottom. He put it halfway over Brian’s head.
“Hey, what’re you doing?” Brian cried, trying to get away. The man held him down, and called to the girl. Brian heard what sounded like switches being hit, then a muffled zap. He heard the switches again, and the globe was taken from his head.
He looked around, puzzled, feeling no different from before. “What did you guys do to me?” he said. He stopped, realizing the words that came out of his mouth were not English words.
“Ty hicka our language into your brain,” the man said. “Do you understand me?”
“Yeah, though I don’t know why.”
“Good, then it was successful.”
“Pretnub ecka!” Shyeskol cried. “Suhmt ishee to hear our language coming out of the mouth of a Morikan Advanced.”
“What’s a Morikan Advanced?” Brian said.
“That’s you. You’re from Morika, and you’re from one of the advanced civilizations of half a billion years from now.”
“No, I’m from Earth, maybe a billion years into the future.”
The man said, “Oh, Earth, is that what you call it? We call it Morika. And remember, our years are almost twice as long as yours.”
“Pretnu’s fear!” Shyeskol said. “This is so weird.”
“What’s ‘Pretnu’s fear’?” Brian said.
“It’s an exclamation. Pretnu’s a beautiful, peaceful region, so it takes a lot to make its people fear anything.”
“Where is it?”
She took out a map and showed him, and he saw it was Elysium.
“And what’s your name, Sar?” Brian said to the man, surprised that he knew the proper address.
“Twir Yepree, this beautiful girl’s father,” he said.
“Sar Yepree to you,” Shyeskol said, smiling.
Shyeskol, beautiful? He’d have a lot to get used to on this planet.
Brian wanted to see what kinds of television programs the Martians would have, but first Twir and his daughter wanted to learn all about him. They asked him questions late into the night, until Brian knew little more about them than that Twir was a scientist, but they knew more about him than he thought he knew about himself.
Then something slipped out about evolution. Brian discovered he didn’t know the word for macro-evolution in the Martian language.
“What is ‘macro-evolution’?” Shyeskol said, her eyebrows drawn together in her confusion.
“The theory that most scientists agree to,” Brian said, “having to do with the origin of life. You do know about micro-evolution, I see, since you have that word. It’s like that, only whole species can change into other species. You know those Primitives you’re always talking about? You know how they keep changing? They finally changed into humans–they evolved into homo sapiens.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Twir said, laughing. “I don’t know about the Primitives evolving that way, but your species has no relation to them. Don’t you know about the Chaos that preceded your own Creation?”
“That sounds like that religious theory that fundamentalists are always hitting us over the head with.”
“Religious theory? But it’s not theory, it’s what happened. Our time-travelers have documented it.”
“Do you Reppans believe in Bwer?”
“Oh, yes. Bwer is the God over all. He created us back in the ancient era. We didn’t ‘evolve’ from anything, and certainly not Primitives. Everyone believes in Bwer, except for those from the planet Egha. They’re degenerates.”
“Egha, the planet Pluto. But I don’t believe in Bwer.”
“How could you not believe in Bwer? I thought all the Advanceds believed in Bwer, and that’s why they’re advanced.”
“No, we don’t. The Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in Bwer.”
“Pretnu’s fear!” Shyeskol glared at Brian. “I thought all Advanceds were spiritually advanced, but now I see you’re just like those Eghans. How can you be like them? That’s the planet that taught us the words for rape and murder!” She stormed out of the room.
“You have to excuse my daughter,” Twir said. “Ever since Pretby got rescued from Morika, Shyeskol’s been highly upsettable about anything that deals with rape.”
“My sister’s daughter. She’s about two years older than Shyeskol. We took her with us a few years ago when we were invited on a trip to the time of the next-to-last stage of the Primitives, the ones that have overhanging brow ridges and are quite intelligent, but still not as intelligent as the last stage.”
“You mean the Neanderthals,” Brian said.
“At the time, Pretby was only about Shyeskol’s present age, and those two girls were devoted to each other. They left the group to go off and play in the forest. We didn’t even notice they were gone, because we were too busy with our own concerns. We were boring them. They stopped by a stream to drink and have some girl talk, then they stated playing hide and seek, Shyeskol told us. Pretby hid, but Shyeskol couldn’t find her, no matter how much she yelled for her. She got scared, and ran back to tell us. We looked all over for Pretby, but she was gone, and we had to go back home.”
“What happened to her?”
“A male Primitive, at about her stage in physical development, saw her and carried her off. Primitive customs are different from ours. They mate for life, which is like being married, but they don’t have a ceremony or anything. The Primitive saw her beauty–she was known for it, back here on Reppa–and wanted her for his mate, but she didn’t know what he wanted. He thought he owned her now, since he’d carried her off, so he raped her. He, of course, didn’t know why she refused, he just continued on with what he wanted to do.”
“But how did you find all this out, if you never found her?”
“Another group found her, a few years after her abduction. She came back, and wrote a book about her experiences. You’ll have to read it. It caused quite a stir here, someone being forced like that, and never being married. It took a while for anyone to even want to marry her.”
“Doesn’t rape exist on Reppa?”
“No. No sin of any kind exists on Reppa.”
Probably the most pleasant planet in the galaxy, then, Brian thought. And the most boring.
By the time they went to bed, Twir knew all about Brian’s experiment to escape the boring planet Earth and see what he could find on ancient Mars, and that Brian was considered a prodigy. Shyeskol, however, didn’t even care anymore.
After a few weeks, Twir announced his discovery to the world. Brian, however, was surprised to see how the Martians accepted him into their society, without wanting to study him like a laboratory animal, as he knew his own people would have done to a Martian.
They did study his physique, but a computer analyzed him, and he was out of the lab by the end of the day. After that, he was allowed to just go on his way.
Shyeskol took him along to her school, but he found he couldn’t keep up without getting more zaps from the knowledge globe. School was basically for bringing out the knowledge that the globe already put in.
His learning of the language was so quick because of its nature and because it was the only thing zapped into him at the time, but other subjects took much longer to learn.
Shyeskol never forgave Brian for being an atheist. Martians didn’t realize that they did sin when they didn’t forgive someone for being from what they termed a “sinful” planet. To get her back for this, Brian took to teasing her unmercifully. He often brought her to tears, and she hated him.
Matters weren’t helped any when he began to get used to Martian features, and see that she really wasn’t ugly, especially when she took off her makeup. After being there for about one Martian year, he even realized she was getting very beautiful. When he compared her to her cousin Pretby, he saw how equal in beauty they were. Her Martian-terrain-makeup even began to look good on her.
One of Shyeskol’s favorite hairstyles, also the most fashionable hairstyle, eventually became one where she needed to cut long bangs. These she separated into strands, which she then wound into little circles.
She pulled her side hair back into a ponytail held with a ribbon tied into a triangular bow. The ponytail then curled into an S. Sometimes she wore two braids instead of or along with this style. The rest of her waist-length hair somehow curled into a long version of the flip, the bottom either round or triangular.
Her other favorite style was little circles of hair all over her head. Her favorite colors of clothes were pink and white, blue and green, and blue and black, and she looked so good in them. She filled out quite nicely. Brian countered this unfairness by hating her even more than ever.
One afternoon, as Brian sat watching a Martian program, laughing at how the best plots always dealt with encounters with people from “sinful” planets, Shyeskol came into the room with the golden goblet of skij-water that he’d asked for.
The Martians loved gold: They used it to make goblets, bowls, and their simple, one-piece pens (always dipped in orange ink–strange how they never progressed beyond the simplest of fountain pens).
Brian had taught the Yeprees English, and every once in a while he liked to use it on Shyeskol, since her father was much better at it than she was, and it frustrated her so much. He said to her now, in English,
“Set the goblet down there, Shyeskol….What’re you waiting for?”
Shyeskol said, “‘Set the goblet down there, Shyeskol.’ ‘Clean this dish for me, Shyeskol; the dishwasher is not working.’ ‘When are you going to do the dusting, Shyeskol?’–No ‘please’ or ‘thank you.’ What think you that I am? A slave-servant?”
“‘Slave-servant,'” Brian muttered, snorting. “You stupid Martian girl, you can’t even get the word right. It’s either ‘slave’ or ‘servant,’ but not both.”
“Yet I am both.”
“No, you’re not. It doesn’t make good English.”
Shyeskol’s pretty lips quivered. “How is it that you expect me to know your Earthling language perfectly? It was never put into the knowledge globe.”
“So put it in there, zap yourself with it, and then I’ll bring the knowledge out for you.”
“You are so–incorrigible. How expect you for me to–”
“Are you saying you are not?”
“I know I’m not, but no, I’m not saying that. You used another word that doesn’t quite fit.”
“”Oh, Pretnub ecka! Whatever you are, you are.”
“I am good-looking, which is more than I can say for you.”
Shyeskol’s big eyes watered. “You are always so abusing with me. I am not–ungood-looking.”
“No. You are ugly. I’ve always thought so, and always will.”
“Am-ee, I wish you had never crashed your space-time machine here. Why did it have to be my father finding you?”
“So, I’m getting to you, am I?” He grinned like a demon. “Good. I was hoping I would.”
“”No. You know that I am not ugly. You know how men look at me.”
“Yeah, like you’re a slut.”
He knew there was no such word in the Martian language. “A slut. A prostitute. A whore.”
“What are these words?”
“Words for girls like you that throw themselves at men for money. Girls like you, that actually encourage guys to do to them what that Neanderthal did to Pretby.”
Shyeskol’s eyes widened in horror. This was just the tender spot Brian was looking for, the one that really hurt her.
“You have said such horrible things,” Shyeskol said, her voice shaking, tears starting to stream through her orange powder. “My father will punish you, defend me. You are so–horrible!”
Too angry to laugh at her repetitive word choice, Brian jumped up and put his hands around her neck. Her soft neck, with such a beautiful, golden, braided chain around it.
Yes, four-stranded Martian braids. Her favorite necklace, with her favorite pendant, a golden bird. It’d be too bad if he broke the chain. He thought about doing it, but didn’t want to.
Shyeskol looked at him with eyes like those of a deer caught in headlights. Her thin eyebrows wedged together, her tiny, pointy nose scrunched up, and her auburn hair began coming out of its circles.
The green, blue and purple liner around her eyes, imitating chlorophyll, gave her such a wild, but beautiful, look. Some girls couldn’t wear the current makeup well, but it always made Shyeskol look so beautiful now.
With her hair in the circles, imitating the style of an earlier era, the effect of the hair combined with the makeup was more globe-like. The feelings stirring in him were too much for him.
“You are such a wench,” he said. He moved his head closer to hers, to terrify her more. “It would be so easy to kill you, Martian. You’re so puny. All of you are so short and puny.”
Looking into her eyes, he felt drawn to her somehow. He moved his head even closer. Shyeskol’s eyes showed her shock just before his lips met hers. His hands gently loosened from her neck, and moved to her shoulders.
He knew kissing wasn’t alien to the Martian people. He moved his lips from side to side, and Shyeskol soon began to do the same. He touched her lips with his tongue, and began to slip it into her mouth.
A familiar stamping gait in the hall told them Twir Yepree was coming. They jumped apart, and averted their eyes from each other. Twir entered the room, and said, the corner of his mouth curving up,
“As you would say, Brian, I hope you two weren’t at each other’s throats again.”
Brian and Shyeskol glanced at each other, wondering how much he really knew.
Twir wasn’t blind. He could sense what his two “children” weren’t admitting, not to him, not to each other, not even to themselves. He saw the looks Brian sneaked at Shyeskol when she walked by, and the ones she sneaked at him when she thought he wasn’t looking.
He probably interrupted something just now, when he walked in on them, considering their guilty looks. He began to worry about their being in the same house together. He knew he could trust her, but Brian was an alien, and a Morikan.
From what Brian told him about Morikans, they had trouble controlling their urges. He might try to get Shyeskol to participate with him in sin, or force it on her if she didn’t. He had to keep a close watch on them now.
One night, Brian stayed up late, changed from his Martian clothes into loose-fitting, white pajamas and slippers, to read up on the dying red planet. It was a big concern of the Martians.
They’d been turning up the heat in their homes, adaptable as they were to the environment, and stayed inside more or else wore sunblock. The orange powder the women wore was giving way to colored sunblock, and even men were starting to wear it.
Waterships often went to Earth to pick up loads of that essential liquid, which was disappearing from Mars.
Brian closed the magazines, and headed down the hall of the bubble-shaped house. On the way to his room, he met up with Shyeskol, on her way back from the bathroom.
She had on nothing but a long, pale yellow, flowing nightgown, her hair falling loosely around her shoulders. They stopped and stared at each other. Brian felt such a strong physical attraction to her, and he didn’t want to control it now.
He lifted his hands, then put them down again. He lifted them up again, and encircled her in his arms. Then he was kissing her, her tongue touching his lips now. He put his in her mouth, then stopped kissing her and lifted her up into his arms.
“What are you doing?” Shyeskol cried, as loudly as she could cry in a whisper.
“The rooms are soundproof, right?” Brian whispered.
“Yes, but why do you ask?”
“Why do you think?”
Shyeskol stared at him with drawn-together eyebrows, then her eyes widened when she realized what he meant. “No, no, you can’t do this. We can’t do this!”
“Because it’s a sin, and we Martians do not want to sin.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’re so ‘moral.’ come on, I don’t have any diseases, because I’ve never done this before, and I want to do this with you.”
“No. Now, put me down.”
“Forget your morals for one night. Don’t you Reppans have desires? Don’t you want to forget about your morals now?”
Shyeskol averted her eyes.
“Don’t you?” Brian was not going to let her go so easily.
“All right, yes, I do. But I’m not going to forget my morals. No Reppan in our entire history has ever done that.”
“How do you know?”
“Just–no one ever has, and no one ever will.”
“How do you know, though? Do you think anyone would admit it if they did? You could be one in a string of many Reppans that gave in, but never told anyone.”
Shyeskol began sobbing. “Put me down now, Brian Jefferson. Oh, Bwer, what should I do?”
“Is that a prayer, or are you, a Reppan, actually swearing?”
“It’s a prayer, you big bully. Put me down. Oh, Bwer, help me resist!”
Brian could feel her body through the nightgown as he held her. He wanted so badly to see it, touch it, but Shyeskol was so freaking moral.
She now twisted around, and became such a handful that he had to let her down. She didn’t hesitate; she took off running down the hall to her room, and shut and locked the door behind her.
Shyeskol didn’t come to breakfast the next morning. Twir, concerned about his only daughter, put her breakfast on her tray, and carried it to her room.
He knocked on the door, and she let him in, tears on her bare face, her hair disheveled from sleep. She hadn’t even dressed yet. She brushed her hair for him, then sat and ate her dough rolls and drank her fruit juice in silence, still weeping.
She told him what happened the night before. He’d known this would happen. Given the strength of youthful passions, and the immorality of so many Morikans, this was inevitable.
He knew Shyeskol loved Brian. She’d told him so many times about Brian’s newest love interests, how it bothered her when he went on dates with other girls. She just never realized her feelings were so strong.
She hated and loved him at the same time, an ambivalence she couldn’t understand, but he could. It wasn’t at all common on Reppa for such a thing to happen, but he’d watched it develop.
Only one thing seemed the answer: If Brian loved her back, then they should marry, and as soon as possible. He didn’t want his daughter to be the one to break with millennia of tradition, and neither did she.
He went to Brian later that morning, and said, “How do you really feel about my daughter?”
“How do I feel?” Brian said. “Can I be honest with you, Sar? Or will you turn me out of the house?”
“I won’t turn you out of the house. I want you to be honest with me, no matter what you have to say.”
“All right. I hate her, but I don’t hate her. I have to, but I just can’t. I don’t understand it. I do know I want her, real bad.”
“Enough to marry her?”
“Marry her? I’m not sure I even want to think about marriage at my age.”
“But if you want to carry out your desires, you’ll have to marry. There’s no other way on Reppa, and there’s no girl here on this entire planet that’ll let it be done any other way. Including my Shyeskol.”
“But do I have to marry her, Sar?”
“I want to keep peace in my house. She told me about last night.”
“I also want to restore her spirits. She’s been moping around so much lately. If you love her, I want you to seriously consider marrying her.”
“Well, see, that’s the problem. I don’t know if I really love her, or if I just–want her. And then there’s the question of what I’m supposed to do when I want to go back home to my own planet and time.”
“Let’s try this, then. You two will date other people for a while, and if you still have the same feelings for each other, then I suggest–strongly suggest–you marry, or go back home.”
Twir watched what happened over the next fifteen days. Brian went out on dates and stayed out late, and Shyeskol got a few offers for dates that she accepted and on which she sometimes stayed out late. But neither of them seemed happy.
Brian knew he’d always remember that night as the worst night of his life, when he left his room for a snack and saw Shyeskol sitting on the couch with another man. He was good-looking, too, probably better-looking than he was himself. He didn’t give such an honorable description to many.
He opened the refrigerator and took out some carbonated skij-water, found a candy bar, and sat eating at the kitchen table, brooding. He could hear Shyeskol saying good-bye to the person at the door, and what had to be her kissing him.
He took a drink of the Martian soda pop, and slammed the can onto the table. He finished it, and crushed it, pretending it was the man’s head.
He tossed the can into the aluminum recycling bin, threw the wrapper into the pulverizer, and trudged back to his room, making sure he avoided Shyeksol on the way.
The next morning, when he first saw Shyeskol alone, he yelled at her, “What, are you going to kiss every guy that comes around, now?”
“If I’ve been on more than one date with him, yes,” Shyeskol said. “Why should I not? There’s nothing wrong with kissing, not like what you’d rather do.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean? That I’m the pervert, and you’re not? I don’t think so, girl. You’re just as much a sinner as I am. You know you want to do things you’re not supposed to.”
Shyeskol just glared at him, then spun around on her heel and stalked away.
Fifteen days had passed when Shyeskol and Brian finally had their big blowout. Shyeskol had been moping around more than ever, as had Brian. Twir went to Brian, who decided he’d rather marry Shyeskol now than keep seeing her with other men.
Then Brian went to Shyeskol as she stood fixing a snack in the kitchen, and Twir started walking to another part of the house to give them their privacy. This was to be Brian’s time to propose.
Twir didn’t miss the first part of the conversation, though, and pretty soon he wouldn’t have been able to miss it even on the other side of the house: The kitchen had no doors, so sounds could escape it.
“Shyeskol,” Brian said, “I have something really important to ask you.”
“Go ahead,” Shyeskol said.
“Would you–uh, I’d like to ask you to–uh…Would you marry me, Shyeskol?”
Whatever Shyeskol was doing, the noise of a spoon clanging against glass suddenly stopped. “Marry you? Uh…No. No, I can’t.”
“You can’t? But why not?”
“Because I can’t stand your being an atheist, that’s why. I believe very strongly in Bwer, and I’ve always thought my husband would, too.”
“Please, Shyeskol, don’t say I’m an atheist. Your father knows from talking to me–just ask him, if you don’t believe me–I–I’m starting to change my mind. I mean, I’ve seen videotapes of the Chaos, and I’ve read the books about that and Creation, and it just seems too much like proof. Or at least, if not proof, then strong evidence that Bwer exists.”
“But you don’t know for sure. I don’t want to marry you.”
“Please, Shyeskol, don’t be a bigot.”
Now Shyeskol’s voice rose. “A bigot? I am not a bigot! Just because I want what’s best for me, doesn’t mean I’m a bigot.”
“Well, you’re something, all right. I tell you I’m changing my mind, and you still don’t accept me. You are so closed-minded. I’m going to change my mind, all right. I’m going to change my mind about you. I hate you, you little–”
His next word didn’t translate into Reppan, so Twir didn’t know what it was, but he did know it was insulting. But after that, everything got quiet. Deathly quiet. Had he killed her, or had she killed him?
Shyeskol looked at Brian with those eyes, especially huge now that she widened them. She looked so beautiful, especially with that Martian makeup on.
She lifted her spoon, and pulled her arm back to throw it. Brian grabbed her arm, but she didn’t struggle. She looked at him, he looked at her, and next thing he knew, he was kissing her. Why did he always do that?
Shyeskol dropped the spoon, Brian loosened his grip on her arm, and she put her arms around his neck. He held her close, hoping he’d finally get her to say yes. She pulled away, and said,
“All right, Brian, I’ll marry you. I can’t live otherwise.”
Martians had a simple wedding ceremony. The local preacher, the man or woman (in this case, man) that led the worship services, didn’t perform the honors; the father did. If the father was dead and had no living brothers, and his father or grandfather was either dead or unable to perform the ceremony, then the preacher stepped in. In this case, Twir Yepree was the one to do it.
As family and close friends stood around, Twir said a simple pronouncement over the couple as they held hands and kneeled before him in the red and blue yard, and then they were married.
After this was the reception, which, for the fun-loving Martians, meant party time. No alcohol, but plenty of Martian soda pop and food, including wedding candies.
Shyeskol wore a colorful dress, made in the simpler fashion of an earlier era: a long bertha, a sash, a skirt so long that the pant-legs were almost completely hidden, feet bandaged in brown cloth, and a large cloth so skillfully placed and tied with ribbon that it looked about to fall off her head.
She wore her hair looped, and simple makeup that reddened the lips, exaggerated the eyes, and showed her natural complexion, which now glowed. Brian wore a simple tunic with a sash around the waist and a hood, pants, and brown-bandaged feet.
According to Twir, this was clothing from the Third Era, one of the most ancient.
Before leaving for home, Brian spent a few Earth-years collecting all the information he could on Mars and its past, including stories from all the eras. They didn’t leave the Yepree house.
Shyeskol didn’t allow herself to get pregnant yet, so they’d have no problem leaving on the time machine, which was now much improved with Martian technology.
They would have trouble leaving Twir, and Shyeskol would have trouble leaving the rest of her family, especially Pretby. They promised to visit often, since it would now be possible with the time machine.
Sad as she was to leave her home, Shyeskol still couldn’t wait to see what twentieth-century Earth was really like, firsthand.
As a child, I made up various planets and civilizations for my stories. Back around middle school, I developed my own alphabet for the characters and drawings I was always making for Martian stories. These gentle creatures had their own eras, fashions, customs….
They used orange to match their planet. The women even painted their faces like Mars, with orange and white patches for the poles. They believed in God, and did not sin, never had a Fall, as hypothesized by Jonathan Swift centuries earlier.
The alphabet was based on the International Phonetic Alphabet. One day, I made a document based on the Rosetta Stone: English (for the planet Spimpy, colonized by Earthlings) on the top, Martian (Shah-Lee) in the middle, and some other language (Uranus, maybe?) on the bottom.
I’m glad I made this, because several years later, my mother inadvertently tossed a whole bunch of my Martian pictures and stories, including the alphabets. Here it is: