I found a little black book in the jumpsuit pocket of an astronaut I killed. A bit hard to open with tentacles, but I had my three fingered claws busy holding the victim's severed femur to my mouth, and didn't want to get blood on the pages.
A gold plus symbol glittered on the cover. I stared at the object until all eight eyes crossed each other. I turned it upside down and sideways, but it didn't have any pictures.
I showed the book to my sister, Tubrang, currently chewing on a second victim's brown hand. "Can you figure out what this thing is?"
She set the bloody hand down. "It's called a book. Humans look at them."
The humans' glowing machinery noisily puffed out big clouds of steam. I'd discussed destroying them before, but Tubrang found them soothing.
"I'm not stupid. I've seen books before. They usually have pictures, like the Flying Thing, or The Machine That Makes Hot Brown Liquid. Or you can take apart a machine and see the thing in the picture within it."
Tubrang tured the book around. "Not all of them have pictures. Some are Noise Books. Those only have pictures on the outside."
"They...look at a symbol and know how to say a noise when they see it. I've seen them doing it sometimes. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how useful it would be for us to do that."
"You seem to know a lot about it. You think you could tell me what that book says?"
"Maybe after we eat." She tossed the book aside and gnawed on the hand. The book hit a steel grate, echoing thunderously in our huge concrete dining chamber. "How's the leg?"
"A little fatty."
"I'm not sure why some of them are like that and not other ones."
"Maybe that book can explain."
"It's a very odd book. It has numbers in it, but I only see a plus sign on the cover. It doesn't appear to be a numbering book."
"What's a number?"
Tubrang waved a tentacle at the giant symbol painted on the wall. "Like those. They generally mean an amount of something. Like the number of floors in this structure. I know because I counted them."
"Can they tell you amounts of humans?"
We ate until stuffed, leaving the remains of our victims behind as Tubrang showed me to the room adjacent. Its door hung sideways in the frame because we hadn't known about Door Buttons.
Lots of bright light. It hurt my eight eyes, but Tubrang said you had to be careful with the stuff or everything stopped working. Machines of all shapes and sizes filled every available surface, only half of them working.
Tubrang pushed a round thing on a desk and a box shaped machine flashed on. "I have been playing with this for some time. I know how to make something called a Search."
"Search," I repeated.
"The machine talks. I can make it say things and show me pictures. It says Search a lot. I think it is what it is called."
"That's the name of the machine?"
"Maybe, I don't know. It's an action inside the machine, though."
"So you can speak to it and it speaks back?"
Tubrang sighed. "Yes and no. I don't think it understands my voice. It works better when you push buttons."
With the book firmly suckered in her tentacles, she moved the Round Thing and pushed symbols matching the one in the book.
The first results did not impress me, long screens full of words, pictures of the book, pictures of serious looking humans inblack outfits, bearded guys in funny hats and brown robes, dirty pottery and rolls of paper. Tubrang couldn't explain any of it.
It got more interesting when she skipped ahead and looked up the word "God."
The device displayed pictures of frowning naked humans with weapons, a fat figure made of metal, a robed human with a long flowing beard, wooden things with elongated heads...we examined those for quite some time.
"What do you think a God is?"
"Not sure. I'd definitely like to meet one and see if they look like this. Or what they actually look like."
"You think they are edible?"
"I imagine so. They seem to be human."
We looked up the word `firmament' and got a diagram of a flat planet.
"What are those fluffy things?"
"I think those are called clouds."
"I've never seen one."
"I think they make clothing out of them, and eat them as food. Humans come from a strange place. They have large amounts of Clear Liquid and many Green Things everywhere."
I pointed a tentacle at a box below the diagram. "I think clouds are like what comes out of the machine outside. I do not think they are edible or wearable."
"Yes, but it says God put it in a crate." She showed me a picture of a wooden box. "God crated firmament."
Tubrang growled in frustration. "We were missing a symbol."
She added one, and images of humans doing constructive things appeared, turning goop into pots, assembling fabric, making symbols on paper, and running a stick up and down a thing with strings.
"Creeate," said the computer.
We repeated the word.
"This is boring," said Tubrang. "If you want to read this thing, I'll show you how to use the machine."
She repeated the letters, lining them up like we saw in the book. Clicking the circle with the little attached stick performed the Search.
We both stared in shock at the results.
Instead of getting just a picture, or words, or a one second recording of someone making noise with a stick, a...theatrical performance appeared on the screen.
It took us a moment to realize that the succession of images actually indicated motion in time, but when we figured it out, we both uttered gasps of surprise.
A deep human voice said a bunch of stuff, and a pair of giant hands shaped a ball in space.
Green stuff and liquid appeared.
Non-human living things ran around the green stuff, floated in the liquid, flew into that firmament thing.
Then came humans. Just two, without space suits or anything on their bodies.
Tubrang teasingly bopped me with a tentacle. "See? This is where our food comes from."
I stared as the humans played with dirt. "Is this what they do when we're not busy eating them?"
She shrugged. "What good is dirt? It's not edible."
But then it showed things growing out of the dirt, and we both stared in amazement, especially when the humans ate the things.
"So that's how you keep them alive," I said.
"You want one as a pet? Yo are crazy."
I didn't answer. I guess I wanted to have one to make stick music.
Tubrang became impatient, moving her claw to shut it off. I growled at her.
"Fine. Enjoy your dirt people. I will go put slime on the larva."
A strange story. A human got in trouble for eating the wrong plant. The more I watched, the more curious I became.
Little did I know this would lead to some very unusual decisions that would alter the rest of my life.