They would compare all things Luthanian with all things Earthly. Our respective agriculture and diets. Our respective histories. Our respective architecture and religions and arts. Our plant-life and our animal-life. All the disciplines that made us human and made them Luthanian.

They had brought along experts in every field of endeavour.

The UN braved coming out of their locked offices to help, finding human experts to partner with theirs.

Well, I confess, I wasn’t much interested in the whole thing. Not at first. I just hoped they would find the answer fast. Yes, the ‘Answer’. So that the violence would stop. So that I could go back to my glory days of being an international pianist and an international lover. Famous on all seven continents. Able to play at Carnegie Hall.

Besides, I had just begun a tantalizing relationship with a new neighbour from two floors below my flat. A Chinese girl called Li Li, a genuine full-blooded Chinese visitor from the city of Xian. My first taste of Chinese womanhood, so I was eager to explore this foreign territory.

“Teach me how to say, ‘You are beautiful’ in Chinese,” I asked her.

Li Li taught me that – along with some exotic Chinese positions of love-making. So why should I pay attention to stuffy UN ambassadors in their stuffy suits and bullet-proof vests? Or to some random aliens on a mercy mission?

“Do you see the latest, Josh?” said Li Li, lying back on my amber pillow case with her beautiful dark hair spread around her face.

“No. What?”

“The UN think they have the Answer. Maybe the difference is that the Luthanians understand deep space travel, while we humans are far behind. Maybe they are just more advanced than us.”

I could see how that might make sense. But no. The Luthanian commander decided this was not the Answer after all.

He said, “You Earthlings would be just as advanced as us. Except you used your minds inventing more and more terrible weapons – like that appalling atom bomb of yours, like your drones – instead of concentrating on space travel and discovering other worlds.”

Which also made sense. But who cares? I drew Li Li close to me so that we could be transported to our own special world of pleasure.

Except now things have changed. I have been pulled into the aliens’ plan of action. I have been chosen as the Human Music Expert. My beloved mentor Professor van Jaarsveld recommended me.

“Do it for your people, Josh,” the Prof said. “Do it for your passion. Besides, you could do with some paid employment, right?”

And the Luthanians have partnered me with Kali, their musicologist.

Our job is to compare the music of our respective planets, investigate any possible differences that might possibly explain why Luthanians live in peace while we Earthlings massacre one another for no reason.

Will the Answer be found in music? Imagine that!?

Kali …

Dear heaven and all the galaxies beyond! She is the most beautiful woman I have ever encountered. Golden and smelling of rosebuds and expensive champagne. With eyes more amazing than any I have ever looked into before.

She sits here in my flat. Here in Cape Town. On this evening of 16 September 2041.

“Shall we begin our work then, Josh?”

She speaks English through a strange contraption over her throat. It looks like a gem-studded choker. She speaks English with a golden accent. I ask if she can speak in Zulu. But she looks confused. So I just smile and tell her not to worry.

She smiles back then – a golden smile that reaches deep into my chest, wraps itself around my heart and squeezes.

My doorbell rings and I am irritated by the interruption. It is Li Li, eager for a repeat of last night’s love-making. I tell her I am busy. I close my door on her surprised, hurt face.

But a Chinese woman is nowhere near as exotic and tantalizing as a Luthanian.

I go back into my lounge. Back to gazing at Kali, this Luthanian goddess with eyes as beautiful as a thousand African sunsets.

And so my story of the night of 16 September 2041 must begin – even though I am trying to put it off. Trying to think of anything and everything else rather than that night Kali and I spent together.


Tell us: Do you believe there is life on other planets? Or are humans the only intelligent beings in the Universe?