To Be the First Person
by Shwetha H.S
Space and Aeronautics Research Organization waved a green flag at their ambitious project of earthling relocation and habitation. Since the officials had already tried with a plant and a guinea pig, they decided to try with humans. Based on a set of criteria, they chose a few participants from all over the world to go to Painoa, a planet with a climate like that of Earth. Judith was in the first batch. Whether there were more batches after hers is a matter of separate discussion. A petite brunette with short hair, Judith scooted around and never procrastinated. She had a habit of competing with people who had no idea they had to compete with her. Not that they were incompetent, but they had no desire to outdo every living being in all aspects of life. Her competitiveness was so rabid by nature she repeatedly tried to have a better wedding plan than her own fiancé that he called off the wedding. She became famous as the “mad fiancée” among the gossipmongers.
The project provided trainers to train the chosen ones on how to conduct themselves once they land on Painoa. They instructed the participants on dos and don’ts of eating, breathing, defecating and usage of different apparatus on and off the spaceship. Participants again learnt how to stay alive, but on another planet.
Judith was keen to learn, which she ought to be, but she asked questions subject to common sense. This irked sagacious humans of her batch. She argued that she merely clarified facts. According to her fellow trainees, she was being stupid.
The officials requested the group to choose a reasonable person with whom they can communicate on and off the earth. Judith raised her hand to contest. She was unanimously voted against, which led her to call them quacks. They did not want a bad point-of-contact at that phase.
Months passed to let that glorious day in Judith’s life arrive on which she waved goodbye to the Earth and earthlings. Fellow voyagers hoped she would not be the same on the shuttle as she was during their training, but they were mighty disappointed. Though the project officials had informed them it would take a long time to reach Painoa, Judith soon grew restless. She knew nobody was eager to mingle with her, which made her think they envied her because she was better than them. This new notion took her higher on the snob ratings. They yawned loud and wide, and pretended to have fall asleep with an immediate effect as if they had narcolepsy whenever she passed by. Unlike on earth, to be with less physical activity became a labour. They had little to do. But whatever she
did, she got on everyone’s nerves.
Everyone blessed the day when they landed on Painoa. None died on that journey. Most of all, they were happy to move away from Judith. The group wondered about everything they saw from the flight deck of their space shuttle. They chose not to be prejudiced by their training on the Earth because even the trainers did not have a first-hand experience on this planet. The officials on the Earth briefed and instructed them to step out one after another in alphabetical order of their first names. Judith cursed those who stepped on Painoa before her because she could not be the first one. When her turn came, she hurried in her spacesuit, wobbled and tripped on the verge of their space shuttle to hit the ground. A dainty duct supplying oxygen snapped. Within a few seconds, she gasped and died. She became the first human to die on Painoa.
A few members of the group abandoned Judith’s body, but others unwillingly performed the last rites. To show the farsightedness of the officials back on Earth, there was a clergyman in their batch. They dug out a grave for her body at an ideal place in the vast vacant land, buried the body without the precious spacesuit, and took an oath to live by her example and not to die by ignoring the instructions. Her story became the first fable of Painoa.
Like all afterlife experiences, which only the dead could explain, it was an unknown fact that on Painoa the soul stayed with the dead body. When Judith died, her soul was inside her spacesuit until opened before the burial. Her soul heard what others said and saw what they did, but could neither talk with anyone nor touch anything. She learnt the ugly truth the hard way. She had gained a new insight about herself though inutile. After a few days of mourning for herself, her soul tried to wander away from her grave but failed. She tried, again and again, yanking her soul away. It dawned on her that she might have to stay anchored at her grave until her body completely decomposed. She was only not aware of the duration. This was not a part of training on the Earth. The afterlife on Painoa turned out to be similar to the truth that after death, you will be on the minds of your near and dear ones every waking moment only for as much time as taken by your body to decompose. But the truth was she had no near and dear ones. So why was Painoa taking so long to separate her soul from her body? Painoa was being a pain. ***