Flying manta rays! The Triband
In the last few weeks I’ve had ideas for four brand-new conlangs. Triband is probably the most interesting (or at least the most innovative). It is my first ‘alien-language’, a conlang which was not intended to be spoken by human beings but by some extraterrestrial species (this kind of constructed languages are also called ‘exolangs’). Of course, there is plenty of exolangs out there. Many of them can be pronounced by humans but either have bizarre grammars (Kēlen, Sylvia Sotomayor’s verb-less language comes to my mind) or employ uncommon phonologies (such as those of Klingon). On the other side, there are also conlangs which are spoken by creatures with completely different means of communication, such as the Rikchik which say things to each other by making signs and gestures with 7 of their 56 tentacles (what else can I say?). The Triband language is also ‘spoken’ by an alien species which is very different to ours. So different that I think they deserve a science-fiction-ish introduction…
The crew grew more and more excited as the ship got closer and closer to the Planet we had named Nikoté (nee-kaw-tay) and those anomalous radio-signals strengthened. Those signals, those peaks in the smooth electromagnetic noise which fills the space, were the only reason for us to be there, so far from home, so far from any other human being.
The star (whose prosaic name JB-60257 would be changed if we found what we wholeheartedly wanted to find there) was not a pale dot of light anymore but something slightly bigger that we could already call ‘a sun’. In a few hours, we would finally arrive. One of the antennae on the ship aimed at the planet (a barely visible dot far away) and beamed a powerful radio signal. We crossed our fingers longing for an answer but it was in vain. We weren’t disappointed though. We would have been too optimistic if we really thought such an answer would be detected by our gadgets.
Now, Nikoté was right below us. Its seas weren’t unlike ours. Its clouds, just a bit more yellow. The spaceship equipment determined that atmosphere was slightly denser and was neither completely breath-able to humans nor toxic. A human being would certainly be able to live in Nikoté for some days without a spacesuit nor a mask for days and be completely unharmed (but such a thing couldn’t be guaranteed for longer periods). The planet’s surface was full of plants (or similar things, at least). The existence of life in that planet was known well before the start of the mission, but to see it was really comforting. But, honestly, we would have been much happier if we saw artificial light in the night-side of Nikoté… ‘Maybe they don’t need it’, I thought.
We descended slowly, stealthly, so as not to disrupt the apparent calm in a yet unknown world. Our landing spot reminded me of an African veld or a savanna, full of exotic vegetation, much more exotic than anything we had ever seen before. There was nothing that suggested the presence of intelligent beings… until our gadgets started receiving more and more strange signals. In no time, we were surrounded by the first curious passers-by: animals which were as strange as the rest of their habitat. There was a large variety of them, which ranged from Y-shaped worms to a pair of beings which we first considered to be shrubs. Then we began collecting specimens, worrying not to harm them as much as we could. I remember well how I captured a creature which could be said to be a a cylinder with many legs (or tentacles, maybe) and how everybody congratulated me once I caught with a net a being which was so bizarre that it reminded me of platypuses. It looked like a flying manta ray with butterfly-like eyespots in its back. Four tentacles surrounded its mouth and it tried helplessly to break the net. In its front side it had a pair of short feet (which, as I guessed, helped them gaining speed so as to start flying) and three lighter-colored bands. The other animal I had caught also had five of such markings, so I decided to provisionally name them pentaband (the cylinder) and triband (the manta ray). I wanted to give them less prosaic names in the future… at least to the manta ray, as the cylinder was rather dull.
Suddenly, I heard the vice-captain’s voice yelling to the skies. I turned to him instantly, so worried that I was on the verge of being terrified (I, as well as everybody else, was then in the middle of an emotional tempest). ‘What happened?’ everyone asked at the same time. The the vice-captain indicated one of the gadgets and, suddenly, our illusion went off as the flame of a blown out candle.
Months ago, a radio-signal was detected by an observatory on Earth. A strange, anomalous and certainly artificial signal from a still undetected world orbiting an otherwise insignificant star. No matter how much they checked it, the signal was true. There, in that point far away, the human beings may have been able to find what they were looking for since the first time they sailed to the stars. There, the first contact awaited. But now, that possibility had vanished it was all disappointed. Just as the Vice-captian was horrified to find out, the animals we had captured emitted radio signals, the same kind of signals that had been detected. There was no modern technology there, just bizarre fauna. Everything had been in vain.
The star was about setting down for a sad alien sunset. The beauty of the exotic panorama and the fact we were the first to see it was sort of a relief for us. Far in the horizon, something new appeared.
-It’s just yet another beast – I thought, even though deep in me something resisted to believe we were alone.
The thing was getting closer. It was bigger than the other creatures we’d seen. It was also faster. It was… mechanical! The sun had almost completely set down when we saw how a few creatures descended from the vehicle. Before leaving our colony, we had undergone a training which prepared us to come across any kind of creature. Nonetheless, I still kept the childish idea of finding humanoid aliens which we could easily understand. Those beings, the first technological extraterrestrial species humankind had ever met, were far different, however. They had no head no eyes. Their skin wasn’t green nor they had bug-like antennae. They rather looked as bizarre ducks which ran for a meter or so before starting flying and becoming more similar to flying… manta rays!
‘Tribands’ I whisperer (thus establishing the name my fellow shipmates would adopt) and ran towards the creature with three light lines in the chest which was still struggling with the net, in order to free it and say I was sorry in some way he or she wouldn’t be able to understand.
Soon I’ll be talking about these creatures (which are way more elegant than my drawings) and their speech.