Yousef found a spot on the beach near the water and sat down. His father’s words echoed in his mind. He picked up one of the small, purple crystals – millions of them dotted the pink sand – rolled it between his palms, and looked out at the sea.
The ruby-colored water was calm today. Small waves crashed onto the shore. Yousef thought that they must have looked like giant tidal waves to the tiny creatures that scurried away as the water chased them up the sand. The three moons crossed the blush sky and dim stars blinked behind them.
Grandfather was the first of his family to come. Yousef remembered a photo that Grandfather had hanging on his wall. Grandfather told him it was of a place called the Red Sea. Grandfather would stare into the distance as he told stories of his childhood summers spent at the beach. Grandfather had loved the beach, but had not lived long enough on this world to see the Great Ruby Sea.
To his right, in the distance, Yousef could see the violet mountains and the low-hanging clouds that never left, floating just below their peaks. He wondered if his father was right – maybe it wasn’t his fight. The Zukhani had dominated life here for as long as anyone could remember. They controlled the lion’s share of natural resources, and were quick to violence to silence even the slightest breath of dissent.
A cool breeze pushed through the humid twilight. Yousef lifted his face to catch the sweet scent from the fruit trees that pushed their way through the sand behind him. If Grandfather loved the beach at the Red Sea, then Yousef was sure that he would have loved this place as well. Grandfather told him of the small boat that he kept moored outside his house. He would spend the day casting and retrieving his nets. After a long day on the sea he would return with dinner for his family and with extra fish to sell at market.
Yousef had never seen a boat or a fish. Father had told him that the Inferites had great vessels they took to sea, and said they could catch the massive rubicons that lived in the dark corners of the ocean. Yousef didn’t believe it.
The Zhukin had welcomed Grandfather and his companions when they had first arrived from Earth. It was a long a difficult journey; only a single battered craft had survived the event horizon before hobbling through the atmosphere of Zukhanim and crash landing in the Meadows. The Zhukins’ search and rescue team had saved all the souls who survived the crash.
A black crab raced past Yousef’s thigh. Yousef’s arm shot down like a spear and scooped up the crab. He held it close to his face and smiled as the creature’s tiny legs moved like it was still running. Yousef popped the crab into his mouth, bit down through the soft shell, and tasted the sweet flesh. Yes, he thought, if the Zhukin must fight, then I will fight beside them.