Maddy and George: Messages through the Wormhole

By A. F. McKeating

Children's, Sci-Fi

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428
6 mins

Chapter 1 - Hello across the Universe!

Dear George,

I thought for a long time about how I was going to begin this message to you and all the words I came up with sounded wrong. I mean, just what do you write to a total stranger who lives on the opposite side of the galaxy on planet Earth? I hope we can be friends, but it's hard to get started when you've never met each other and you don't know what the other person is going to make of you or whether they'll even want to write back to you.
In the end, though, I decided to stop worrying about it. I'll just be myself and you can decide for yourself whether you like me or not. (I really hope you do!) So, I'll just jump right in and say…

Hi! How are you? My name is Maddy Kaa and I live on Samtara. Even though it's so far away, right across the other side of the galaxy from Earth, it's pretty much the same as your planet, only a bit smaller and a bit warmer. Maybe you knew that already.
I'm aged ten in Earth years, just like you. That's about eight and a half in Samtaran years. (A Samtaran year is longer because our planet takes longer to go round our two suns.)

It's exciting to think that there's someone so far away reading this message. We've got plenty of star maps at school and Samtarans have done quite a bit of space travel around and about our solar system, but there isn't any other intelligent life around here. Well, there are the Glumps on the planet Huul, which is the next one over from us, but they don't really count. They're kind of flat and squelchy and you can carry them round in a bucket. No-one has worked out yet if they even communicate with each other.

What's it like living on Earth in the twenty fourth century? (I think that's where you're up to.) I'd love to know. Maybe you could tell me if you want to write back to me. I hope you do.

I've attached a picture so you can see what I look like. That's me in the middle with my Mum and Dad. You don't need to be a genius to work out that Mum and Dad aren't my real parents and that I'm not really a genuine Samtaran at all. Their eyes are huge and black, while mine are quite small and brown, and they don't have any hair, while I've got a ponytail. I think that's what you call it. We don't have names for hairstyles, because no-one here has hair, apart from me. I wish sometimes that I didn't have any hair to bother about, because it's annoying having to wash it and keep it tidy, but Mum says she likes it. She says my hair is one of the things that make me ME, if you see what I mean. She's not the one who has to listen to other kids saying rude things about it, though. Things like "hair head" and "fur ball".

You can see that my skin is a pale pinkish brown colour, which is different from everyone else's. Proper Samtaran skin is more like fine scales and usually greenish-grey like Mum's or silvery like Dad's. Samtarans are mostly pretty tall and thin, too, much taller than most humans. In Earth measurements, Mum is nearly two and a half metres tall, which isn't considered to be especially big for a woman, and Dad's a little bit taller. I'm a tiddly 1.4 metres or the size of an average six year old here! That makes me feel quite small, although I should be used to it by now. On Earth, though, I suppose I'd be what you'd call "normal".

I know people find it a bit strange that I look so different from Mum and Dad, even though I don't really notice it. We're just us, a family, like any other and it's only when other people stare at us sometimes that I remember I'm different. As you can imagine, I always stand out in a crowd and I don't really like that.

Dad says everyone's got two arms, two legs and a head and that it shouldn't matter what you look like on the outside. It's what's inside that counts, he says. I try to remember that when people stare at me.

I hope you're not too disappointed when you see me. Perhaps you were hoping to receive a message from someone different – a real live alien! – not just another human like you. I am an alien to you, though, if you think about it, because I've always lived on another planet. Well, since I was a tiny baby anyway. And I've never been back to Earth, although I'd love to come one day.

We live in a place called Ocean City, which is very big and noisy. We've been here since I was a baby and mostly people are used to me in our neighbourhood. We're moving to the countryside soon. Mum's got a new job as the local doctor in a little village called Bluedale. She and Dad say it will be an adventure moving somewhere new.

I suppose you want to know how I ended up here. My real parents died when I was just a baby. They were both scientists and they came to Samtara to study its geography. They travelled through the very same wormhole that I'm using to send a message to you now, which is kind of eerie. Dad says the wormhole is a sort of invisible squiggle in space that lets you take a shortcut between two places that are an impossibly long way from each other. Of course, if you went the long way round, it would take years and years to travel between our planets, even if we were using one of our Samtaran spaceships. If I set off right now, I'd be an old lady by the time I got to Earth, which would be a pity.

When my parents came here, it wasn't that long after the wormhole had first been discovered and people on our two planets had found out about each other for the first time. Everyone was still excited about the idea of being able to hop from one side of the galaxy to the other in hardly any time at all. The people on Samtara and Earth still hadn't had much time to get to know each other, but they were keen to send expeditions to find out as much as they could. Being able to slip through the wormhole looked as if it would make it all so easy. Of course, no-one had realised just how dangerous it was going that way…
My parents were planning to stay here for a while so they brought me with them. Unfortunately, our spaceship, the Sunrise, got damaged and it just managed to make it out of the other side of the wormhole and across to Samtara, where it crash landed. My parents and all the other people on board, except from me, were killed in the crash. That was the accident that put an end to anyone sending anything through the wormhole, even messages. You might have heard about it. It's a shame that no-one's been allowed to travel through it since then, but at least we can transmit written messages to each other now that they've found a way to do that safely. (If you want to, that is. I'm not sure how you feel about writing to a girl who's not an alien.) Maybe one day they'll make it safe to send people again, too.

Not everyone here is happy about communications between Samtara and Earth being opened up again. Some people think you might come here and try to change us or our steal our things. The big things, I mean. Like gold and oil and all the stuff they say you've almost used up on your own planet. I think what they're really scared of is meeting someone who's different from themselves – someone like me, I suppose. But our Grand Council – they are the ones in charge of the whole planet – said no, we have to believe that you're better than that, because you are, aren't you?
Anyway, I was telling you about how I got here, wasn't I? Mum (the one with me in the picture) was part of the rescue team who came to check the wreckage. She found me bundled up, fast asleep in my sleep pod, as if nothing in the world was the matter. I was the first human baby she'd ever seen. She said I looked so small and soft, she wanted to take me home with her right then.

She wasn't allowed to, even though there was no-one else to claim me. Instead they put me in a children's home while they sent a message to Earth to say I was safe. We don't even know if anyone at the other end received it, because no-one sent a reply from Earth before all communications through the wormhole were stopped. Maybe there was no-one over there who wanted to come and get me and even if there had been, they wouldn't have been able to get here by then anyway.

The people at the home knew I was called Maddy, because that was the name that was painted on the outside of my pod. I think it's short for Madeline. My name is just about the only thing that I have from my real parents, apart from the cuddly yellow toy that was tucked in with me. I think it's supposed to be an Earth mouse. It's a bit faded now and one of the ears is loose, but I can't bear to get rid of it.

For a while, I don't think anyone here knew what to do with me, but Mum kept coming to visit me at the children's home (I didn't call her Mum then, of course) and soon she began to bring Dad with her. Eventually they managed to persuade the people in charge of the home that I'd be better off going to live with them and so they adopted me.
Sometimes I feel sad that I'll never get to meet my real parents, but I can't imagine anyone else being my Mum and Dad now, even though I don't look anything like them. Or sound like them. Or even feel like them.

My Dad teaches ancient languages at Ocean City University and he writes poetry in his spare time. He's been writing a lot of it lately, especially since my Grandpa (Dad's dad) died. He's the one who helped me to learn English, because it was the language my real parents spoke. That's why I'm able to write to you in English. We've been using all the messages and books that people from Earth shared with the people on our planet when they were still able to send things to each other. I've learned quite a lot about Earth, but I'm hoping you'll be able to help me learn even more.

Writing to you was Mum and Dad's idea. They thought it would be good for me to start learning more about where I come from originally. They got me to sign up for this writing programme, so that I could exchange messages with someone of my own age who lives on Earth. The people who organised the programme gave me your name from the list of children on Earth who'd said they wanted to take part. I liked your name the moment I saw it. George Winter. It's a great name. That's why I chose you!

I'll tell you a bit about the rest of our planet. Samtara has a lot of deserts and we travel across them on sand boats, which run on solar power. Samtara isn't all sand, though. We have mountains and fields and oceans, too, although the oceans aren't as big as they used to be apparently when our planet was cooler. Most people live in cities near the oceans.
I bet we also have a lot of the same boring things that you have on Earth, like school and homework and eating things that are good for you. In fact, they mostly involve grown ups telling kids what to do. You probably wouldn't find it all that different from Earth once you'd been here for a while.

I've read about the climate on Earth and I've looked up the place where you live. It looks pretty far north in somewhere you call England. I think my parents were from England, too, but they didn't leave many records on the Sunrise about their life on Earth, so mostly I just have to imagine what it was like for them. Do you get snow in the winter there? It must be wonderful. I can't imagine living anywhere so cold. It's mostly too warm for snow on Samtara, except near the north and south poles, and even there it doesn't last for all that long. I would love to see real snow for myself. Loads and loads of it. Enough to bury my face and hands in and build a snowman and do all the other things that kids on Earth get to do.

Well, that's me: Maddy, the alien on two planets. I suppose it's time I finished this message so I can send it to you.

Yours sincerely,

Maddy.

PS Please do write back and tell me all about yourself!


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