Her eyes. Kali’s Luth-born eyes.

Here in my lounge, as twilight falls, her eyes dance before me. Dance to music never composed, wrapped in their starburst wonder. Edged by golden arcs. Even as Kali’s chords shimmer between us: the chords of Luth.

But they are very like our Earth harmonies, these chords of Kali’s, as her fingers brush lightly over her stringed instrument, which is very similar to our Earthly guitar.

And I am convinced once and for all: we could go on like this all night, on into another blood-soaked day, comparing the chords and scales and melody-lines and rhythmic patterns of our respective planets. Comparing dynamics like fortissimo and crescendo. But we would not find any reasonable Answer buried in the music.

Just as no Answer has been found in comparisons of the transport or architecture or botany of our respective planets. No, the difference must lie elsewhere.

Well, for a while the cookery experts thought they had the Answer. Pepper! There is no spice like pepper available on the planet of Luth.

“Perhaps,” said our Earthly expert. “Perhaps it is the burning sensation of pepper in our foods that makes us so aggressive here?”

But then they found a tribe on some Pacific island where pepper is unknown. Yet these Pacific Islanders were as savage and violent as everywhere else. So that was the end of pepper being the Answer.

They are scraping the barrel now, the United Nations, in their desperate search. Well, what little remains of the United Nations! Several more floors of their massive building have been taken over to manufacture bandages for all the wounds being inflicted a million times a day.

The Answer lies in her eyes! I swear it. But how can I prove it?

Kali puts down her instrument. She says, “Josh, you want me I think. You want to bed me, yes? You want for our bodies to become one?”

Her eyes rest lightly on my dark Earth-African skin where my shirt buttons are unloosed. On my gold-linked chain that Mama Dlamini bought me back when I was a teenager – still learning the art of pleasing women.

“You have earned this, Josh,” Mama Dlamini said as she placed it round my neck. Oh, so long ago! “Yes, you are a credit to Zulu manhood at last. Wear it with pride!”

And I have, ever since. As a reminder of my status as a fine and potent lover.

I haven’t told you about Mama Dlamini, have I? My best teacher ever – though she couldn’t play a note of music.

I look into the wonder of Kali’s eyes with their quiet confidence, their restful faith. Oh, and what I would give to have those eyes looking up at me from my amber pillows in the bedroom next door! My nerve-endings quiver with longing and frustration.

There is a gunshot somewhere in the darkness outside my Cape Town flat. Somewhere beneath the shadow of the majestic mountain. Wrapped in its ceaseless mist. A gunshot followed by an unsurprised scream followed by shrugging silence. Echoed no doubt in a hundred other average towns of the planet. Violence: the number-one hobby here on Earth.

So many fighters! So few lovers! How have we allowed our world to descend to such dark depths?

My desire for this alien woman moves through me like the waves of an ocean, swirling round the keys of my piano and turning them to sand beneath my fingers.

I press down another chord on my Steinway baby grand – C minor – with its desperate sadness. I keep the sustaining pedal down so the harmony swirls around the room. The chord gives voice to my longing. I would give anything – anything in the universe – for our bodies to become one.

But this cannot happen. This must not happen!

“Please,” I beg Kali. “Don’t say that. Don’t speak about that. You know the Regulations. You know Regulation Number One.”

She looks steadfastly into my eyes without shyness, without blinking.

I tell you, the Answer is there in her eyes. And anyone looking for it elsewhere is a fool.


Tell us what you think: Josh is supposed to tell what happened the night of 16th September 2041. But he keeps going off the subject. Why?