At the gentle tone of the chime at the door to her
cabin, Susan looked up, roused from her quiet contemplation. "Come
in" she announced after a moment's hesitation, watching as
the doorway glided open with only the slightest sound to reveal
one of the ship's newer crew-members. Having come on board several
months ago, the small rrakith complement, a minority to the human
crew, were still settling in to life aboard a terran starship.
Things had gone very well though, both races working together,
slowly learning about the other, and but for a few bumps here
and there, the situation was going smoothly.
Susan smiled when she saw the Rrakith standing there
and rose from her chair to greet her. "Hello Vashi, what
brings you by?" she asked, smiling at her workmate and friend,
keeping her teeth hidden, an automatic response now after dealing
with the Rrakith on such close terms. "Why don't you come
in" she added, motioning to the couch.
"I'd like that," the Rrakith responded
to the invitation and followed her into the sitting area of her
cabin. Sitting down on the couch, brushing her tail off to her
side in a instinctive fluid motion, she turned to face Susan in
the chair she'd sat back down in. "You weren't at work today,"
Vashi said, "I was worried at first, but then they said you
had time off for a holiday."
Nodding, Susan looked at her alien friend. They'd
been working together for a few months now, placed together because
of their similar backgrounds and work experience. Things had been
difficult at first, each trying to figure out how to deal with
the other, so different, so foreign, but it had been their work
which had given them common ground, a starting point for their
relationship. Slowly getting used to each other, they'd learned
a lot in a relatively-short time, and had become closer. Susan
was familiar with a few of the other Rrakith on board, but knew
Vashi the most, she felt comfortable with her and had taken her
for a friend.
"So you were probably wondering why I had the
day off while most everyone else was still working?" she
asked, smiling slightly.
"Ah, yes I was Susan," Vashi responded.
"They said it was a religious holiday relating to the new
year... but I thought the terran new year was still three months
away. I thought I'd gotten your calendar right." As she finished,
her voice and expression showed her obvious confusion, looking
upon her friend for enlightenment.
Chuckling softly, Susan answered her with "oh
yes... I didn't think of that. I could see how that could confuse
you." Pausing, looking into her friend's eyes, different
for their feline appearance, but showing the spark of thoughts
and emotions not too far from her own, she continued. "I'm
sorry Vashi, I'm not laughing at you, it's just something I've
taken for granted, that most people know of and I didn't realize
that you wouldn't be used to that. You see, for my religion we
keep a different calendar for holidays."
"A different calendar, but I thought all of
Earth used one standard calendar?" the Rrakith questioned,
her ear twitching slightly in confusion and interest.
"Well that's true, we do use one standard calendar
on our world, but there are some instances where there are others
too. For example, with my religion, we use the standard calendar
for all of our daily lives, planning and scheduling things like
everyone else, but like I said, for holidays, we use the original
calendar of our people, dating back several thousand years."
Taking a breath, she continued her explanation. "Our
calendar is lunar, not solar like the standard calendar, so the
two of them don't sync up, and they were started by different
cultures too, so that explains why our new year precedes the standard
terran new year by a few months. We celebrate the standard new
year of course, like I said we just use this calendar for our
Tilting her head quickly to one side in understanding,
Vashi smiled back at her, "okay, so this holiday is for your
"Well not exactly, our new year's celebration
was ten days ago. Today is Yom Kippur, which in English translates
to 'The Day of Atonement.'"
Making another affirmative response, Vashi's ears
dropped as she parsed the meaning of her friend's statement. Her
eyes widening just slightly, she let out a small mewl of surprise
as she realized the transgression she might have unknowingly committed.
"Oh Susan, that sounds like a very serious holiday. I'm not
disturbing you am I? Perhaps I should be going..." she replied,
her voice trailing off as she saw the single book placed on the
small table in front of them, assuming it to be religious in nature.
She was getting ready to rise from the couch when
Susan reached out her hand to steady her. "It's okay Vashi,"
she spoke softly, "this is a very important holiday for us,
probably the most important one of the year. We do spend it in
prayer and meditation, but of course I can have some time for
a friend, especially on this day I could not be rude to a guest.
Please stay a little while."
Looking back at her human friend, seeing the sincerity
she'd learned to recognize on her face Vashi relaxed visibly.
"Are you sure it's okay Susan? I don't want to disturb you"
"Yes, it's alright. I've got awhile before I
have to leave for temple, and of course I have time for you."
Her tail twitching slightly, Vashi looked at her
quizzically, hesitating a few moments before asking her another
question. "Ummm Susan, if you don't mind... if it's not too
intrusive, could I ask you about this holiday, this day of atonement?"
As if she'd anticipated her friend's interest, Susan
was quick to respond. "Oh of course that's okay, I'd be happy
to try and explain it to you. As I said, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah,
our New Year's Day ten days ago, and now at Yom Kippur we look
back on the way we conducted our lives for the past year, atoning
for the sins and wrong-doings we've committed, asking God for
forgiveness and looking ahead to the new year."
"Hmmm," Vashi mused, "that's similar
in some ways to our Year's End celebration, looking back on the
past and connecting it with the coming year ahead of us. We get
very reflective during that time too."
"Yes it is similar in that aspect Vashi, but
there's a deep religious aspect to it too. On this day we believe
that the gates of heaven are open and we may send our prayers
for forgiveness to God and can atone for the transgressions of
the past year."
"You mean you can only ask for forgiveness once
a year?" Vashi asked, looking a little dubious.
"That's how we believe it, that once a year
we come before the Lord and submit ourselves to be judged for
the previous years actions, sending our pleas to him, asking to
"But what about the other days of the year Susan,
why can't you ask for forgiveness then?" Seeing her friend's
troubled expression, she quickly added "I'm sorry, I don't
mean to attack your beliefs, I just don't know if I understand
Letting out a small sigh, Susan gave her a slight
smile. "It's okay Vashi, I've had this discussion a few times
before, and I can understand
It's hard to explain it completely,
and I know it must be tough for you, especially since this is
probably the first time you've dealt with a differing theology."
Seeing her friend tipping her head slightly in the
Rrakith version of a nod, she continued. "Okay, maybe it
would help if you explained how you see things from your point
of view. What is your relationship with your God
Goddess?" she asked, barely blinking at the small gender
mistake she'd made, used to it by now, similar mistakes made countless
times before, by both herself and other humans, as well as the
"Okay, that might make it easier for us to understand,"
Vashi replied. "We all have a bond with the Goddess, letting
us communicate to Her through prayers and meditation all the time,
on a personal level, as well as through religious ceremonies."
"The same is true with us, we can pray to God
any time, asking Him for help in troubled times and sending Him
thanks for His aid. Now, how do you view sins, how does your Goddess
deal with them?"
"There's no punishment like I've read about
briefly in some of your terran religions, but of course anything
we do that hurts another pains and disappoints the Goddess. We
are each accountable for our own wrong-doings though, and when
our lives are over and we've passed from this existence, before
we can join with the Goddess in the eternal communion, we must
free ourselves of the ties to this life, which includes the weight
of the transgressions we've caused against others in our lifetime."
"So before you can join with your Goddess, or
in our terms, enter into Heaven, you must atone for the sins you've
committed, is that correct Vashi?"
"Yes, that's right Susan, but we can also atone
for our sins during our lifetime, reducing the weight upon us
as we go along, working to live better with our fellow rrakith
which would now be expanded to include humans" she added
with a smile and a flick of an ear. "In doing so we can best
prepare ourselves for meeting the Goddess, reducing the wait we
must spend preparing for Her after we've died."
"Ah yes, we have similar beliefs too. Our God
is not a vengeful God, but He will punish the wicked as well as
rewarding the good. This simply means that in order to get into
Heaven, you must have accepted the ways of God and have asked
for forgiveness for any sins and misdeeds you've committed. A
person who has truly sought forgiveness and tried their best to
live a worthy life will be forgiven and will be welcomed into
Heaven. In fact, like your beliefs, according to our tradition,
the soul must spend some time purifying itself before it can enter
heaven, so again there are the similarities."
Seeing her friend move her head slightly in agreement,
she continued. "I bet the way we see things isn't too different
from one another afterall. We've been able to see common threads
in the various religions in our world, and I'd be surprised if
things aren't similar with you." Picking up the book from
the table, Susan looked at her confidently. "This is my people's
holy book, the Torah, if we were to compare it with your religious
texts, I bet we'd find they had a good deal in common."
Taking the book offered to her and solemnly holding
it, opening it up to quietly glance at its contents, Vashi's attention
was captured for several moments before returning her gaze to
look at her human friend. "I guess you're right Susan, it's
just all so new to me
Forgive me for asking this again,
but why do you only have one day a year when you can offer up
your apologies to your God?"
"It's just what we believe Vashi. This day is
set aside for reflection on our conduct of the past year and it
gives the opportunity to atone for our transgressions, as we ask
God for forgiveness. Why is it only one day a year? I think because
it's such a special ceremony and it carries a lot of weight. The
rest of the year we try and do our best and can talk with God,
but on this day, it reminds us of our duty to God and our fellow
man. The asking for forgiveness is very special, and we devote
this day to it, if we observe today with sincerity then we can
be confident that God has forgiven us. It also gives us a chance
to focus on the transgressions we've committed against members
of the community, seeking forgiveness from them as well."
Pausing, she added "does that make it easier to understand?"
"I think so, again it's a lot to take at once
but then ever since I came aboard there's been a lot of new things
to try and get used to. I think you're right about things being
similar between us
it's just a little strange looking at
them from a different viewpoint."
"Very true, learning about you has had some
difficulties too, but it has definitely been worth the trouble,"
Susan said with a smile, winking at her friend.
Returning the smile Vashi looked silently at her
friend, and then turned her attention back to the book she held
reverently in her hands. Pausing, thinking things over in her
mind, she finally asked "so your people, I mean humans in
general, have several different ways of looking at your God? So
many different viewpoints
"Yes, as I've said we tend to be very diverse,
but the truth is the same, no matter which angle you look at it
"So your God, is He a man or a woman?"
Vashi asked, fumbling with the concepts of the genders. "Do
you have two separate Gods like you have your different sexes?
So different from our Goddess
" Saying that a small
shiver, barely noticeable, ran through her as she contemplated
"Hmmm, that's a bit literal." Susan replied,
thinking for a moment, finding her own thoughts becoming slightly
muddled as their two races' vastly-different sexualities were
brought to her attention once again. Even after covering the subject
several times, that totally-alien aspect of the Rrakith still
floored her, if only for a couple of moments.
Recovering her composure, she continued "for
us God is a being beyond the physical realm, so His gender is
hard to think of in concrete terms, though traditionally we refer
to Him in the masculine form. However, for us we see God as having
both masculine and feminine aspects and qualities. While you see
the Goddess in Rrakith terms and we see Him from a human perspective,
I still think we're talking about the same almighty being. Why
She chose to cast you as Rrakith with your form and us as Humanity
with our differences, we cannot say, perhaps She's fond of variety
and wants us to live in a interesting and colorful universe."
"It's a lot to try and grasp isn't it?"
Susan asked, pausing to look at the slight bewilderment of her
"Yes it is, even though we've been aboard for
a few months now, there's still so much to learn. There's a lot
about you that is so different, yet also not so totally different
that we can't find a way to see it through our eyes, with some
work." Then giving Susan a small, almost sheepish smile,
she continued "it still is so new and different for us, and
a bit overwhelming at times..."
"I understand, it's been hard at times for us
too Vashi, taking the slow steps to learn about you. We might
have had a slightly easier time at it though, on Earth we're used
to dealing with different societies and over the years have been
able to work together and learn more from each other. From what
I understand of Rramatharr, your culture is more homogeneous than
ours, so this is the first time you've had to deal with such wide
diversity." Smiling, she added "of course even with
our practice, meeting up with you was still a big surprise, and
we've still got a good deal of work to bring our two worlds together."
Tilting her head in agreement Vashi replied "thanks
for the understanding Susan, and for sharing your thoughts on
religion with me. I know I've still got a long ways to go too,
but you've helped me out a lot and it's been good getting to know
you. Things can be a little lonely here, with such a small number
of Rrakith on board, and it's been very nice having you as a friend."
Taking her friend's hand which was offered to her
in her own, Susan smiled at the alien form in front of her which
had become familiar over the past few months. Feeling the soft
fur on the back of Vashi's hand, she looked into those feline
eyes, the face so catlike in appearance, yet not so far from human
in the thoughts and emotions it conveyed and the mind and soul
it was a mask for.
"It's been nice getting to know you too Vashi,"
she answered. "We've both go a ways to go, but I like the
thought of making the trip together."
Enjoying the moment of silence between them, Susan
broke the mood noticing the time on the clock readout on the wall.
"Oh wow, I didn't realize it had gotten this late Vashi.
I'm due at temple shortly for the final services of the day, I
hope you'll forgive me, but I've got to leave now."
"Of course I understand Susan, and thank you
for taking the time to talk with me, could I walk with you to
"I'd like that, and if you're not busy later,
how would you like to get dinner with me? I've been fasting all
day and am starting to get a little hungry." Seeing Vashi's
agreement she continued, "okay, the service will last until
about 6:00, then I'd like to take some time and get washed up
and stuff, how about I drop by your quarters around 7:00?"
"That'd be fine, would you like to discuss things
more with me then?"
"Yes, I think I'd like that, maybe you could
tell me more about your beliefs... come on lets go." With
that they left the room, walking together down the hallways of
the ship like two close friends, the friends they'd become.
Copyright 1996, Will A. Sanborn -
The Rrakith copyright 1996, Will A. Sanborn and Bernard Doove