Arcas' Bones (5/12)- Survival
The thick and bulbous-headed lizard perched on the window sill of the old shuttle that the professor and his assistant, Esmeralda, now called home. It regarded Dr. Linnaeus with the same curious expression as the little pink lizard he had seen on board the vessel that brought them to the island nealy a week ago. Although they shared similar physical characteristics, this particular specimen was much larger than the one on the vessel. It had a long flesh-colored body and a thick pink head. It rarely moved but preferred instead to remain still and follow the professor’s movements with its reptilian eyes.
Dr. Linnaeus tried to ignore the languid creature and concerned himself with more pressing matters. It had been a week since they had arrived on this island, designated the unglamorous code name of AIS-23, but which he- at Esmeralda’s urging and prodding- renamed the Crazy Lizard island. He supposed it was an apt name given the wild and unpredictable nature of their reptilian hosts, so he went along with his assistant's suggestion. It had also been a week since they had last seen any outsiders. Neil and the rest of the crew had gone in search of Dr. Levine, who had been kidnapped by a neighbouring tribe. So, it was up to Dr. Linnaeus and Esmeralda to fend off for themselves and complete their mission.
His previous field trips had taken place in relatively “advanced” societies. Of course, the idea that cultures progress from a primitive to an advanced stage- usually depicted as up-down hierarchies- went out of fashion in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, it was a useful metaphor to understand cultural development. From that standpoint, it could be said that all contemporary cultures in the solar system were fairly advanced. Even societies in the belt, known for their traditional folkways, relied on genetic, atomic, and sub-atomic technologies to survive. Self-cleaning clothing, quantum showers, food generators, hydro teleporters, rocket boots, hovercrafts… from the most menial to the most high-level task, technology was throughly embedded in the fabric of day-to-day life across the solar system.
Prior to the trip, one of his main worries had been the ability to quickly adapt to the new technology that the Arcasians had surely developed in the intervening 300 years. After all, the colony had been home to some of the greatest minds at the time of its creation. But instead of a high-tech utopia, he found a culture that barely knew how to use metal tools and had no written language to speak of. Their society, for lack of a better term, was 'primitive'. The consequences were immediately felt by the professor and his assistant. It was shocking to them, the amount of time that they had to spend even on the most basic tasks such as food procurement and hygiene. These menial tasks consumed most of their waking hours, which were limited by the 7-hour cycle of the Arcasian day.
They divided their labor along traditional gender roles. Esmeralda was in charge of cooking and cleaning while Dr. Linnaeus performed tasks that required physical strength such as clearing out the surrounding area and repairing the shuttle husk. The repurposed shell had grown rusty, infested with insects, and overgrown with shrubs and vines. Dr. Linnaeus and Esmeralda took turns rushing to and from the river as they made use of copious amounts of water for cooking, cleaning, sustenance, and personal care. Making the place livable while maintaining some semblance of hygiene was quite the endeavor. Discarded pieces of old technology littered the area, remnants of a long gone era: broken coca-cola bottles, dissected VR goggles, a cryo-food generator that had been used as an improvised oven, and even a pixilated travel poster of Venus, “the Pearl of the Inner System.”
Taking care of the necessities of survival left them little time for research. They soon realized that if they wanted to get anything done, then they had to sacrifice some of the niceties of life. They reduced their food intake to one light meal in the morning, snacks to keep their energy up throughout the day, and a slightly more elaborate meal in the evening. Their showers consisted of quantum jelly scrubs and the odd trip down to the river. Their hair soon began to acquire an amber sheen and a matted appearance closely resembling that of the Arcasians. They also realized that their battle with insects and other critters was not going to be won, so they let them crawl over their supplies and gear. This manageable neglect allowed them to concentrate on the main business at hand- gathering ethnographic data from the Arcasians, which they quickly found out was not going to be an easy task.
His lizard friend, still perched on the window sill, regarded Dr. Linnaeus with a cool demeanor, as the professor added a layer of liquid foam to smooth out and protect the floor. He noticed that the creature belonged to a different species than its smaller counterpart on the island. The aggressive lizards were a mottled gray color and grew no larger than 2-3 feet. They were quick to chase him if he turned his back on them and made themselves quite a nuisance as they tried to access the food supplies. Dr. Linnaeus noticed that in spite of its languid appearance, the pink lizard did an admirable job of keeping the gray ones at bay. If one of them dare stray into the courtyard the vigilant lizard would swell up, turn a brighter shade of pink, and fan out its gills with a hiss. This behavioral display had the desired effect of sending the intruder scurrying away. Also, the animal liked to pluck insects out of the air as they tried to enter the hut. So overall, the pink lizard was turning out to be a rather useful member of his research crew, and for its invaluable service, the professor rewarded him with pieces of dehydrated meat, which the animal ate with gusto.
The door opened and a dishevel-looking Esmeralda stepped in quickly closing the door behind her. She stood leaning back against the door with an exhausted (and exasperated) look on her face. He didn't have to ask. He could hear the shouts and yelps of the Arcasian children outside. The ethnographic work had barely begun, and she looked like she already needed a vacation.