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By Jon H. DavisPublished 19 days ago 5 min read

The long dark nights and sunless days of winter are approaching as the mercury vapor lamps cast an eerie blue glow over the compound, where science never sleeps at the Aurora Research Center, Antarctica. Six high-tech habitats are situated around a larger hexagonal central structure, often a beehive of activity, but it’s mostly quiet now. Outside, the temperature hovers near five below zero.

The main building is accessible through underground passages from each habitat, which lead directly to the second of three subterranean levels, where a surprisingly, well-appointed spa is located. Scented candles, flickering in nooks within stone walls illuminate the space surrounding a bubbling Jacuzzi, its sound effervescent, blending with relaxing melodies.

Astrophysicist Rob Arnold, geo-engineer Taylor Strauss, and their guest Michelle Kay, a massage therapist, are immersed in the soothing water, enjoying a fine red wine while quietly reflecting on life and work in this remote locale.

Michelle laughingly exclaims, “So when your new penguin friend wanted a Jacuzzi, you must have been stunned!”

“We sure were,” said Taylor. “It was one of his first requests. Can you imagine? We thought the whole thing was some elaborate prank coming from somewhere beyond.”

“He wanted pizzas, some vino, and even to hear Sinatra,” added Rob excitedly. “We’ll never forget it! After all, this is no ordinary penguin.”

Just then, a penguin waddles in through an arch in the wall, hopping into the Jacuzzi with a splash. The penguin says, “Not just any penguin, I’m an Emperor!” His voice comes from a small, waterproof Bluetooth pod, dangling on a gold chain around his neck. “Oh man, this is what I’ve been talkin’ bout!”

“Manny, did you forget? We said no jumping in the pool, especially when we have uncovered glasses,” Rob scolds.

“Sorry, it’s just my instincts actin’ out; I was thinkin’ bout the day that changed my life as a penguin, like it was yesterday.”

Six months earlier Rob and Taylor were working in their lab at night, when they heard a strange sound coming from outside. Rob went out and found the injured penguin, squawking. It had been attracted by the blue lights around the compound. Taylor helped carry the bleeding bird inside.

They stitched up the wound, caused by an impact with some jagged rocks while the penguin was trying to come ashore with a belly full of fish. Its skull had been split open and was bleeding; its brain partly exposed. But when the penguin began clicking its beak rhythmically, they knew something strange was going on and decided to investigate.

With an array of equipment, they wired up the injured bird to monitor all its vitals. As Rob probed its brain, searching for an answer to the penguin’s erratic behavior, he noticed a familiar pattern emanating from Broca’s region, the lobe where speech is formed. The waveforms on the monitor appeared as audio. But when the speaker was switched on, they heard a resonant voice emanating from the penguin’s brain.

“You were thinkin’ this was some kinda’ joke. I remember the first thing yous guys asked, if I had a name? I said, yeah, I have a name, doesn’t everybody? It’s Manny, Manny Martini from Miami. Well, I used ta be. This is my third time around in this freakin’ penguin suit. I don’t think I can take it anymore. One time I did myself in by diving off a cliff and hit the rocks below, head first. Man that really hurt, it was a slow and painful death. But I wound up in one of those big eggs again. Ya feel like an ice cube in the freezer, for a really long time. Then ya just gotta get outta there, and believe me, ya ain’t gettin’ any help. There’s a bright spot and ya have ta break on through to the other side; it’s in our DNA ya know, writin’ all the rules, and also how we penguins grow and learn. But communication had limitations.”

“You wanted more proof. Gimme a break, Google me! Take a look, an you’ll see. Like I said, I’m Manny Martini from Miami. The Upper Eastside was a little rough at times. But life was good there, mostly. Until I got a serious case of lead poisonin’ one night after work. I was just comin’ home after a cleanup job, dumpin’ some local trash in the swamp. I liked feedin’ the gators from time ta time. But this night, there was a surprise party waitin’ for me, them lead slingers plugged me bad, eight times they did, right there outside my place of business. One shot went through the window, killing Mai-Ling, my manager.

We ran a little laundry-mat and a cleaning service too, but did most of that other kind of dirty work in nearby neighborhoods. It was our bread-and-butter, we washed and pressed a lot of paper, moving tons of laundry powder too. We had a reputation in certain circles, ya know, I was the man.”

“Now, I have another favor ta ask ya, hope it’s not a problem,” Manny said, more seriously. “I want my mate, Mai-Ling ta have an implant like mine, so others can hear her too. I don’t have ta be the only talking penguin around this place.”

Mai-Ling waddled out through the arch, easing herself into the water as Manny spoke. “She wants ta say thank you personally–in her own voice–for all you’ve done for us.”

“We can help, and we’re planning something special for the world to hear,” Taylor replied. “Your united voices will send a clear message. Reincarnation is not an option; it is karma. Take care with all you do in life, causing no harm to others. Or you may come back as a penguin, vulture, or a walrus, with all your eternal haunting memories, without the gift of speech.”



About the Creator

Jon H. Davis


Jon H. Davis, is a digital alchemist, and explorer, who documents the natural world and cultures with words, photos, and videos. View more of his work with partner Iris Brooks at their NLS website,

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