“Please. I can explain.” Anant whimpered. He was on the verge of tears. He looked around and all he could see were unknown faces and unknown creatures. The council was made up of creatures that he had never imagined or seen anywhere. The languages they spoke were incomprehensible to Anant. Yet, all of them were able to understand him perfectly. However, no one was giving Anant any notice. For them, he was simply sitting in chains and was a formality to be completed.
“I CAN EXPLAIN.” Anant spoke loudly. All eyes turned to him. A creature — male or female, Anant couldn’t identify — started speaking in squeals. It was sitting on a high chair and looked near regal. Anant looked at him gawking. The creature squealed at another creature who grunted in multiple ways and came closer to Anant. He picked a band and placed it around Anant. The band had two earplugs that were thrusted in Anant’s ears.
“You better be able to explain this. Your life depends on this Mr. Anant Yadav.” The creature on the chair spoke. Anant realised that it was the band that was helping them understand every language.
Anant gulped and realised for the first time that he didn’t know what he had to explain. He didn’t know why he was there.
“Can you please tell me why am I here?” Anant spoke in a small voice.
“You have been charged with holding large quantities of dihydrogen monoxide. Is it true?” The creature on the chair said. Anant guessed that the creature was angry about this.
“Yes. But what’s wrong with water?” Anant asked.
“That’s what it’s called on my planet — Earth.”
As soon as the words Earth were said by Anant, they were echoed by everyone around.
“He’s from Earth.”
“How did he reach this far?”
“What are we supposed to do now?”
“Should we contact Earth?”
“This is a disaster.”
“SILENCE!” The creature on the chair said. Anant imagined how it might have sounded as a squeal and grinned involuntarily.
“What is your name?” The creature asked.
“My name is Anant.”
“My name is Ytr.” The creature — Ytr — said. “You’ve put us in a terrible position Anant.”
“Why so? And what is wrong with water.”
“Dihydrogen Monoxide is the most powerful and perhaps most hated drug all around the galaxy. Almost every species has lost a great deal because of this substance. Therefore, this substance is banned throughout the universe with the punishment for holding this substance is life imprisonment and selling it will bring instant death penalty.”
“Wha?? How?? I mean, how can water be dangerous. It is life giving.” Anant spoke. He saw a few head shaking while others looked uncomfortably at each other.
“Anant. Water is not life giving. It’s the deadliest substance in the universe. It is able to break any and all compounds and thus is almost like a poison. However, in small quantities, it creates extreme hallucinations. Even a drop of water is enough for a member of my specie to be drugged for a whole day. A whole glass and death. The amount you have can destroy millions.” Ytr said and shivered. Anant guessed that Ytr had seen the effects first hand.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know. My whole species — the Earth’s whole ecosystem depends on water. I can’t even believe that it’s not the same for everyone else. What do you use if not water?”
“That’s a tale for different time. For now, we have to decide what to do with you.” Ytr said.
“What do you mean?”
“How to punish you for this. Typically, the punishment is imprisonment.”
“But I didn’t know.”
“Yes, that’s why it is complicated.” Ytr said and nodded to the guard standing next to Anant. He yanked off the band from Anant’s neck.
Loud screeching, tapping, grunting and barking filled the room. To Anant, it felt that he was in an animal pound where the animals were being tortured. This went on for more than an hour before everyone fell silent.
Anant felt the band coming into his neck again.
“We won’t punish you.”
“We will however, wipe your memory and send you back on your way to Earth.”
“Why? I am an explorer. For decades, my planet has been searching for other inhabitants of the universe. We would love to be in contact with you and all the other species.” Anant said, for the first time, hopeful and smiling.
“We have known about Earth for some time now. It is a banned planet owing to the high amount of dihydrogen monoxide present in it. In fact, your whole solar system comes under a protection zone. No one can travel in that region.”
“But.. But.. You’ve known about us.”
“Yes. However, exposing our planets to yours is too risky. Thus, we have quarantined Earth and will keep it this way. We have discussed on the matter. And don’t worry. Once your mind is cleaned, you won’t remember a thing about this.” Ytr said and smiled politely.
“But we have a right to know that we are not alone.” Anant shouted.
“It’s for the greater good.” Ytr said and placed his hand on the table. That was taken as the sign that the meeting was over. Anant’s band was taken off and he could again only here gibberish.
“We have a right to know.” Anant once again shouted.
“We have a right to know.”
“We have a right to know.”
“We have a right to know.”
Anant woke up shouting these words. He was in his space ship as it was heading back to Earth. His mission had succeeded. He had recovered new samples that proved that humans could transition to other planets. He had hoped to find other life forms but for now, he knew that was a distant dream.
He looked at the screen and Earth was now visible.
“Home — here I come.”