“That thing in your hand. It looks like an eye.”
Bennet looked down and, sure enough, in the center of his left hand, was an eyeball blinking at him. As he stared, it winked.
“What about your other hand?”
Bennet opened his right hand and no, it was normal. “What about you, Beth?” His voice was shaking. “Do you have a, uh, eyeball in your hand? Either hand?
Beth closed her eyes and slowly opened her hands. She really did not want to know. “You look, Bennet.”
There in the middle of both Beth’s hands were eyeballs, very pretty lilac ones, gazing up at Bennet. “Well, yeah, hun. But they’re very pretty. Lavender.” He even thought they looked as if the were wearing mascara and eyeliner but HOW they got mascara and eyeliner was a puzzle way too weird for the human brain. “Hmmm, maybe that permanent makeup,” he mused aloud. “But permanent mascara?”
“What Bennet?” The eyes in her face were still squeezed shut.
“You might as well just look, Beth.” He stared at the mischievous brown globular organ looking up at him, bringing it up to his face so he could, uh, look it in the eye. “It likes me,” he thought.
Life on Planet Theia had been full of surprises. The light was always very clear, spotlighting anything that Beth and Bennet were looking at as if the planet’s features volunteered answers about their nature. Beth’s early reports back to Earth were filled with rapturous descriptions of Theia’s beauty and its apparent willingness to reveal its secrets. But, after a time, Beth realized that such raptures might be a threat to this planet that was its own kind of paradise.
“You have to keep making reports, sweetie,” said Bennet. “If you stop, they’ll send a search party or, at the very least a probe.”
“You’re right. I’ll just make them a little less, you know, glowing.” Slowly, slowly, Beth’s reports reflected fewer and fewer discoveries and everyone on Earth thought the Away Team had exhausted the novelties of the planet. Just another ball of iron oxide out there spinning around a star. “Whatev'”
“I think what we do now,” ventured Bennet looking down, having come to like the brown eyeball in his left hand, “We use them. We’re scientists, Beth.”
“Just because we’re scientists doesn’t mean we can’t be freaked out. How will we use our hands with those eyeballs? Eyeballs are fragile.”
“I guess they know enough to close. C’mon. Let’s go try them out.”
Beth opened the eyes in her face and looked down at the two beautiful orbs in the palms of her hands. “They ARE beautiful!” Beth whispered staring into them. She saw their expression change to one of pride mixed with a little embarrassment. The palm of her hand even appeared to blush. “Really, Bennet, this is amazing.”
Planet Theia had been chosen for exploration because of its uncanny visibility in the early morning sky. Not the closest earth-like planet outside of Earth’s solar system, but certainly the brightest one. This shining planet was named Theia — one of the Greek Titans — Theia Euryphaessa meaning “wide-shining.” The planet exerted an unusual appeal to scientists planning scientific research expeditions — Away Teams as they were called.
Theia’s oxygen levels were about the same as Earth at 10,000 feet/3000 meters, about the same as Leadville, Colorado, plenty for human life for someone with good lungs and a strong heart. Beth and Bennet headed out of their hut into Theia’s unwavering luminosity. Bennet, who usually walked with his hands in his pockets, lifted his left hand up so the eye could see. Beth had instantly realized that she was no longer limited to frontal vision, but soon saw that it was important to give the eyes a chance to focus in whatever direction they were aimed. It took some time — and practice — before all the eyes worked in sync with each other.
“This is incredible,” she said, awestruck and bewildered. “I’m going to sit here and just LOOK.”
“Good idea,” Bennet replied, joining her on the boulder beside the trail.
A vision of the entire horizon floated sweetly along the lines of sight to the welcoming filaments of their optic nerves.
“We don’t know anything,” murmured Beth.
“No. We don’t. Not even how to see.”
“I guess we’re about to learn.”
“Looks like it.”