A Cosmic Dance

Sep 13, 06:29 PM

Written in response to the challenge: In 500 words, imagine a scenario in which the only way out is to dance. Dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut.


he earth was destroyed. I was on a little spaceship like a few thousand others searching for life. The ship had twenty to begin with, now only I remained. I had lost all hope. But one day, as I ran the exploration routines and stared at the familiar messages run past the screen, something new appeared.

“Planetary systems: 1 system detected.”
“Distance: 2 light years.”
“Suitability for life: 68%.”

I sighed and fell back on my seat. So it was me that fate chose, to find the planet that will be the Medina of long lost inhabitants of earth. I programmed my ship to route to the planet, went to my bunker, and opened the last bottle of wine. The planet appeared on the screen and slowly grew larger. It was beautiful.


As I walked for a few miles on the planet, I saw them. They looked like humans. They had eyes, but no mouth! The flesh where their long trunk like noses ended connected straight to their neck. On seeing me, they started hopping from side to side in a rhythmic fashion. As I tried to shout at them in vain, they grew nearer wielding their strange weapons. As fear grew inside me, I started mimicking their tap-like dance. Suddenly they stopped and looked at me curiously. Encouraged by this, I did some of the moves of tap dancing I had learnt in high school. At this, they grew very excited and started hopping vigorously. So these pathetic creatures communicated using dance!

I spent a few days learning basic phrases like “I am hungry”, “I am going to sleep” etc. as I collected information about the planet to send to the other ships. One day I was studying the soil as a few of them arrived with a new and obviously important person. He looked very amused to see me and asked me, “Why are you here?” I respectfully danced “To study you”, even though I didn’t exactly remember the dance for study. You see, I had not seen any other word even closely resembling study, so I figured it’ll work out.

But they started doing the dance that unquestionably communicated a lot anger. Before I knew, one of them used his blade to cut my right hand off. The world went dim as I looked in horror at the blood gushing from the stub on my right shoulder.

I now spend my days in a cellar. I have no hands and legs and am hung from the wall with metal chains attached to my shoulders and thighs. They have kept me alive.

In due time, I found that instead of saying “To study you.”, I had said, “To kill you.” Obviously the word was so offensive to them it wasn’t ever used in daily life, so how would I know? Thus I learned my lesson, even though I have little life left in which to use it. You must be careful with language. And dance.

Rahul Jha