Fiction Friday: Second Encounter (September 10 2010)

The first time I saw a human, my world broke in two. The horror of a rape is difficult to describe, if you have not been so unfortunate as to experience one yourself, so I shall not attempt to explain the fear I felt at seeing a large group of humans under a sunny sky. In the dark it had been impossible to see much, so I took the opportunity to watch these humans, safe as I was in the buab tree.

It became apparent quite quickly that these humans were female, and engaged in the task of food-gathering. Some carried babies on their backs as they picked pea pods, and an occasional voice was raised in song. They spoke with each other in an unfamiliar language, smiling and laughing, and I felt a pang. My people were far away and their distance from me was a constant pain. The terror that gripped me eased somewhat. These humans were a darker hue than their kind to the north, a shade of brown not too dissimilar from my own. Where my skin was reddish brown like the buab tree, theirs was a golden brown and their hair was a glossy brown black. The northern humans were a pale, washed-out hue, more like the ghost tree. We called them ghosts, too.

A small group of older girls carrying sticks broke away from the main group, heading towards my tree. They stopped and knelt by some broad-leaved bushes and began poking their sticks in the dirt. Every now and then one would use her hands to help prise up a pale, dirt-covered tuber. A scatter of shrieking younger children spilled past the older girls, causing a ripple of sharp words yet carefully concealed smiles. The children were rambunctious and fearless, sure of their place in the world. They had none of the caution of the young of my people.

I shifted with care, aching but aware of the proximity of the humans. The buab tree might have thick foliage, making it a perfect hiding spot, and of course my skin blended perfectly with the branch I was lying on, but the closeness of the girls meant I could not afford to make a stray noise. Soon enough the baskets were filled and they stood and stretched, and as one strolled back towards the older women who were still gathering pods. The wave of children swept around my tree, arrowing towards the women then fanning out again, small legs scrambling through the dirt and the plants. My belly rumbled and I wished they would hurry up and leave. They would not miss a few vegetables, and I sorely needed the food.

The day waned, and the air grew cooler. Delicate clouds, gossamer threads of burnished gold, drifted across the darkening sky, shades of purple and pink. Slowly the human women and children moved further away, until they were swallowed by the dark vegetation. I waited a few more moments before scrambling down the tree, almost falling in my haste.

I hit the earth and paused to ground myself before slipping into the field. Grabbing what pea pods I could find, I scavenged a few berries, shoving them into my mouth as I went, and when I came across the broad-leafed plants the human girls had been poking at I laid my hands on the ground and sensed the tubers that had been missed. Humming wordlessly, I sank my hands into the unresisting earth, removing the tubers and placing them beside me. I ran my hands over the earth, thanking it, and apologising for my intrusion. I pulled the hem of my tunic up and dumped my gathered treasures on the fabric, hugging it to my stomach, before making my way back to the base of the buab tree.

The first moon was now visible, glowing starkly silver in the dusky sky. I shelled the peas and ate them raw, and brushed the dirt off the tubers. I nibbled at them experimentally and was pleased to discover them edible, as I had no way of cooking them. Belly full for the first time in days, I buried the pea pods and scaled the buab tree. I found a wide, slightly indented branch and settled myself, gazing through the leaves towards the silver moon. Time slowed, as I tracked its creeping progress towards the zenith, and when the copper moon peeked above the horizon I was well ready for sleep. I clutched at the periapt my grandmother had given me, a carved stone amulet that hung on a fibrous cord around my neck, and felt the energy of my element coursing through me. Renewed, bonded with my people through our moon and my element, I slept.

Morning found me bidding farewell to the buab and skirting the field of the humans, heading south, always south. I used my earth sense to warn me of danger, and hid long before I could be detected. It was slow travelling but necessary. About mid-morning I sensed the approach of a human through the earth, and hid myself under a hollow log. I was chafing at the delay, as I could sense my pursuers gaining ground, distant though they still were. My mind wandered. A dull sensation in the pit of my stomach could not interrupt my ponderings. Finally I realised my earth sense was screaming at me: the human was too close, and a face appeared at the opening of the log.

We stared at each other for long moments. Her mouth hung open in wonder, and I suppose mine was frozen in fear. She broke the impasse, speaking a single word I did not understand. My silence was all that answered her. She frowned slightly, and her face was gone. I didn’t know what to do. She was still standing beside the log, so I couldn’t escape.

“Can you understand me now?”

I could, and that shocked me. Humans didn’t know our language, nor we theirs. The musical voice continued softly. “I won’t hurt you, but maybe I can help you. You need to come out though.”

I debated my options. All she had to do was raise the alarm and I’d have no chance. I had to take the risk. Shaking, slow, I crawled out. I put one hand on the earth, one hand on the stone around my neck, breathed deep and stood. Fear snaking its way around my body, I confronted the enemy of my kind, a girl my height with brown black hair and golden brown skin. Her eyes were the colour of fertile earth and the look in them was compassionate and curious.

“You are Miira?” Her lips didn’t move but I could hear her voice, and I stepped back in consternation. I had heard of the humans who were said to see into a person’s mind, but we all thought it was a silly tale.

“Don’t be afraid, I mean you no harm—but there are others who will. They are looking for you. I can help you, but you need to come with me now.” She looked around the forest, and back at me. “The birds still sing so we have time. Please?” She held out her hand.

I closed my eyes, and reached my hand out. She took it, I opened my eyes, and she led me at rapid pace through the trees. After a mad dash we crossed a mossy creek, and rounding a boulder I saw a small waterfall, the focal point of a verdant glade. She ushered me along and when I hesitated she took my hand again and pulled me through the white rushing screen of water. The shock of the powerful elemental force, not my own, shut down my senses for a moment. When I came back to myself I was in a tiny damp cave, hidden behind the roaring falls. She stared at me a moment, decided I was fine and bade me farewell.

“I will come back with food when it’s safe. Stay in here, they can’t find you behind the water.” She slipped through the water and was gone. I sat down with a heavy thump, and shook my head. If the first time I met a human broke my world in two, the second time shattered it into tiny pieces.

________________________________

Prompt: Use one or more of these words in your story (but resist the temptation to look them up first!)
• Periapt
• Vilipend
• Embrangle

This week I decided to try out first person writing. I’m very comfortable with third person so thought I would challenge myself a bit. This world is from a story that teases my brain, wanting to be written, but I am not sure I’m up to the task yet. I’m hoping that if I explore some scenes through the eyes of the main character, it will make the writing of it easier. As far as the prompt goes, I only used periapt, a word I was already somewhat familiar with, unlike the others. I admit I played a “guess the meaning through the context” game, but I didn’t look the words up myself! My Virgo brain rebelled at the thought of using words incorrectly but I still haven’t looked at the dictionary definitions (am about to!)

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