I was the first to find it, the rock from the sky. It came down on fire and changed everything. At the time I had been out hunting and was getting no luck among the craggy mountains. I was heading back to the camp when I saw it crash down. The wind from its impact knocked me down and scattered my supplies. The mountain shuddered and, needless to say, I scampered down its side as fast as I could, partly to avoid a rockslide and partly to see what that — thing — was.
I managed to make it down the mountain rather quickly and in one piece, darted across the clearing and raced through the trees. Leaves whipped my face and thorns scarred my ankles, however I kept going. In hindsight, I have no idea what I was thinking. I should have left well enough alone but, at the time, something compelled me to investigate.
Finally, after running until the sun rose, I made it to the object’s landing place.
I stood there stupefied.
The object had made a hole in the ground large enough to fit a village. Trees were burned to ash. In the centre of the hole the object sat, smouldering, and I could feel it almost as if it was pulling me closer. I made my way through the ash to the object. I reached out to touch it but hesitated; an ominous feeling came over me. A part of me sensed that something huge was going to happen, and soon.
I sat there like that, holding my hands out, so close until I could stand it no longer.
I finished hunting and managed to take down an injured creature that would feed the camp for about two sunsets. It would be the first meat any of us had tasted in weeks, what with me being the only hunter (and a pathetic one at that). I was on my way back when I remembered the object. I felt that the rest of the camp should be made aware of its presence. However, when I went to pick it up the same hesitation came over me. Eventually I overcame my trepidation and wrapped it in a blanket.
“What do you think it is?” I asked the chief. He didn’t hear me. He was too busy examining the object. I repeated the question.
Looking up he said, “Thrag, it’s the answer we’ve been searching for.” I had never seen the man so filled with joy. Despite his advanced age you could see in his eyes that he felt a hundred moons younger.
Later on when the fire had been started and the moon shone its brightest the entire camp assembled around the object. At first we stared. Nobody had any clue what action to take next. Then an enterprising child named Symnie advanced toward the object, reaching out with her hand. She couldn’t have been any older than a moon so there was no way for her to understand what she was doing.
Symnie touched the object.
Everybody held their breath.
Symnie giggled and together we all exhaled.
Without warning a light show started up. There were images of orbs and simple pictures of us. There were creatures that I had never seen before, spectacularly coloured ones and creatures that appeared as if they would feed the entire camp for a year. One of the more frightening images caused Symnie to begin to weep and the entire camp to scatter into the trees — not far enough to be out of sight range or earshot, though. We were a group of cowards leaving that child there, crying. I eventually ran out, got her, and brought her back to the trees where she would be safe. A low-pitched, booming voice began to speak in a strange language.
The camp waited. And we listened to the booming voice. And we watched for what would happen next.
We weren’t disappointed: out of the object came an image of two beings. There they floated. Yes, floated. The beings were similar yet different, like two halves of one whole. Even still they were not dissimilar in appearance to us.
The booming voice continued to speak.
“Salutations de la terre! Nous sommes les humains de la planète Terre dans la galaxie Voie Lactée! Nous venons en paix!” The message then paused and continued. “Pagbati mula sa lupa! Kami ay ang mga tao mula sa planeta lupa sa kalawakan milkyway! Dumating kami sa kapayapaan!”
“Groeten uit de aarde! Wij zijn de mensen van de planeet aarde in de melkweg melkweg! We komen in vrede! … Pozdrowienia z ziemi! Mamy ludzi z planety Ziemia w galaktyce Drogi Mlecznej! Przychodzimy w pokoju! … Salamu kutoka nchi! Sisi ni binadamu kutoka katika dunia yetu hii katika Galaxy ya milkyway! Kuja kwa amani! … Greetings from Earth! We are the humans from the planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy! We come in peace! … Grüße von der Erde! … ”
We came to understand that each pause meant that the message would actually repeat, only this time in a different language. The message continued like that almost until the moon set.
The next day the chief announced that we had found what we as a tribe were looking for.
“Our creators,” he proclaimed to the camp. Then he put one hand firmly on the object. And the entire show began again. “They have given us a sign. They exist and we must find them! Then we can take vengeance on those who cast us aside and torment us!”
He was referring to the Draliths, who twenty moons ago waged a religious war against us. In short, they believed themselves to be gods and we believed ourselves to be created by the hands of gods. Many were killed on both sides of the battle in an attempt to convert the other. The Draliths, however, got hold of a black liquid which they used to burn down our village. At the time we were three thousand strong and now we number maybe a third of that, scattered out about the countryside. The chief had convinced us to go in search of our creators so we would become more powerful and defeat the Draliths. We had been wandering ever since, fearing an attack that would indeed wipe us out for good.
The chief was telling us to worry no more.
Everybody got a turn to touch the object and I, being the one who discovered it, got the first chance (second to Symnie, of course). The object was cool and smooth like nothing I had ever felt before. I could run my entire hand over it and not have to wipe my fingers on my tunic afterward due to the dirt. The object made me feel at peace. Surely this was the work of gods! For the first time since our village burnt down I laughed. I laughed so hard I cried and I cried so hard I felt alive. Everyone in the camp did the same. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from us.
Then we heard a horn.
The weight was back and it was heavier.
The raid was a scene of utter chaos. Everywhere there were Draliths with clubs, spears, knives and torches. They ran from hut to hut setting everything in their sight ablaze. Some of our people tried to stop them but only received a club to the face or a stab from a spear. The chief lay face down in a red pool and not very far away the child Symnie stood trembling. A Dralith approached her but before he reached her I tackled him to the ground and began pummeling his face with my fists and some nearby rocks. A club came into my field of vision and sent me to my back. Then the world went dark.
After the raid I sat in a pool of mud and blood and looked around. Our food was plundered, our huts burnt down and people lay dead all around. Slowly I stood up and limped over to the object. I knocked it over into a mud pit. The show started up again and I spat at the images of the esseri umani, the manusia, the humans. I cursed them. Everybody who was still alive joined in. This was their fault; because of them we believed that with their help we could defeat the Draliths. Us! Not a warrior amongst us, just women and children, frail old men, cowards and me, the pathetic excuse for a hunter. We were only spared because the Draliths knew that we would rebuild, grow more food, hunt more animals and then they would raid us again and take everything. Our chief had led us astray into thinking that we, on our own, were too weak to defeat the barbaric Draliths.
“No,” I said aloud. “We’ll help ourselves.”
I took a rock and I smashed the object. It didn’t break — it was too strong for that — but I continued to smash it. Every survivor smashed it. It was the skulls of the Draliths we were hammering on. It felt good.
• • •
It is the fourth day of the season of two suns when the humans land in the middle of the battlefield where my people defeated the Draliths. The vessel that they travel in is similar in appearance to the same object that my ancestor Thrag discovered moons ago. The humans foolishly step out of it. We tear them to pieces.
Originally published in the Capybara – A project of the Descant Arts & Letters Foundation (2011)
I wrote this in grade 10 (about five years ago) and honestly, looking back on it now I can think of a hundred things I would have done differently. Still, it was one of my proudest moments having this published and hopefully it won’t be the last.