They speak in colors. After all these years, she is still not used to this, although she tells herself she should be. Nor is she entirely comfortable with what each color means to them: dark orange for love, bright orange for a change in weather, lime green for friendship, dark blue for food, yellow for work, with quite literally a thousand pixelations in meaning between those shades, and another thousand thousand meanings when the shades are combined, or flicker to new shades. They flicker back and forth to each other now, triggering one of her migraines. She tries to smile, remembering that they have, to an extent, learned to understand some of her facial expressions, and might be disturbed by a frown. (If not as disturbed by the flush that sometimes overcomes her when she thinks of a particular moment with one of her old lovers, a flush that to them meant plague. Disaster. Danger.) She shuts her eyes. Unless they were talking directly towards her, in slow, measured pulses, she could hardly follow the conversation anyway; she has never quite mastered the rapid combination and progression of shades, the yellow yellow red pale green that means so much to them, and almost nothing to her.

Her own communication is limited at best, to the thousand odd shades that she has saved on the hand sized computer she has brought with her. She has learned, to an extent, how to flip rapidly through the colors and screens—rapidly for her, slower for them—and they are patient with her as she tries to explain: I am hungry. I am thirsty. We do not want to hurt you. We came to learn of the stars. Music. She once tried to play music for them—her computer was loaded with 10,000 songs—but their colors only flickered in bewilderment. They are, she has realized, almost completely deaf—a very loud sound might produce lightning colors and flashes, but a whisper will not be heard. They found her videos bewildering. She no longer plays them; they remind her too sharply of home.

She clutches the computer to her chest for a moment, then reluctantly places it down in the weak sun of this place to charge the battery, wondering again, futilely, how they manage to flash colors brighter than anything she has seen, beneath a sun only half as bright as her own. Surely, she thinks hazily—physics has never been her best subject; she was brought here as a communicator, a biologist—dimmer light should mean duller colors. And yet. Her eyes sting as their colors continue to twinkle, to flash.

More approach. They are beautiful, beautiful, and yet she finds herself weeping as their colors dance before her eyes, longing for the sound of a human voice. Her skin turns pale as she sobs, and she sees more colors flicker about her, but she cannot stand the endless conversation.


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