A First Kill

The third sun had set and the night was cooling.  The sand had been absorbing the warming light of the day and it would glow a gentle fuscia until the suns came up again.  Yousef stood up and dusted off his robes.  He looked up at the night sky and silently named the constellations he knew.  How quiet and peaceful it seemed up there.  Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and began walking towards his village.

Yousef could feel the excitement coursing hot through his veins.  He knew he decision was the right one, and to hell with what Father thought.  Grandfather came here in search of a new start, and he almost lost his life with that new start barely in sight.  The Zhukin saved Grandfather’s life, and by extension gave Yousef his life.  Yousef owed his very existence to a race of beings that must have seemed very strange to Grandfather.

The Zhukin are very much like humans, but they are so much more advanced.  Humans and Zhukins look almost identical, with eyes for seeing and a nose for breathing, but a Zhukin has neither ears nor a mouth.  He doesn’t need them because they have evolved with the ability to communicate using brainwaves alone.  They make no sounds at all.  Grandfather must have found it quite bizarre the first time he walked into a Zhukin hall and found it to be absolutely silent.

The Zhukin had welcomed Grandfather and his companions as if they were Zhukin themselves.  They were given care and food, homes and opportunity, and protection from the Zukhani.

For all the empathy and peaceful nature of the Zhukin, the Zukhani had none of these.  Zhukin and Zukhani had been closely related, but generations of evolution and the Zukhani’s own genetic alterations of their DNA had created stark differences.  The Zukhani were a violent and dominating people, and would have either killed Grandfather’s group or forced them into slavery.

Yousef was deep in thought when he noticed movement on the other side of the road.  It was a figure walking towards him, but it didn’t seem to have noticed Yousef.  Yousef was always quiet in his mannerisms and kept his movements to only those necessary.  He was well-obscured by the night.  Yousef stopped completely.

The figure continued walking and passed Yousef.  Yousef watched and saw that the man was a Zukhani.  He was also alone.  Yousef picked up a rock and silently crossed the road.  The Zukhani must have sensed Yousef’s presence because he wheeled around in one fluid motion.  He threw off his robes, revealing a pale torso and long, reedy arms.  His mouth gaped open, his teeth short and pointy, his eyes nearly closed in slits.  He held a long knife in his right hand.

Yousef cocked his arm back and smashed the rock with enthusiasm into the Zukhani’s face.  They both fell to the ground and Yousef raised the rock and brought it down in the Zukhani’s face over and over.  Dark blood, first a trickle, now exploded out of his head as Yousef broke through his skull.

Yousef sat on top of the motionless body next to the road.  He dropped the rock and wiped his face with his robe.  He stood up and looked down at the man he just killed.  It has begun, thought Yousef, and he continued walking home.


Yousef At the Ruby Sea

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.


From Here, Where

“Think about your family, Yousef.  This is not just about you.”  Father had been pleading with him for an hour and Yousef was having trouble stifling his frustration.

“I realize what I have,” Yousef replied.  “God has blessed me with a wife and our daughters but a family is not a reason to run.  It is the reason to stay and fight, if it is anything!”   Yousef crossed the room and closed the door.  He knew his daughters would be listening anxiously in the next room.  He lowered his voice.  “This is not the time to run away, father.  Please understand.”

His father stood up.  “I would understand if it were just you, Yousef.  You would stand alone and fight the entire world.  But this is not the case.  If you choose to fight now, you will having three girls fighting alongside of you.  Remember that, Yousef.”

Yousef walked to his father and stood before him.  “But not you, father?  I would not have my father and mother standing beside me as well?”

His father turned away.  “No, Yousef,” he whispered.  “You would not.  I cannot stay and watch you kill yourself.  Your mother…  your mother would do whatever you ask of her but this is something that you cannot ask her to do.”

Yousef remembered growing up in a bright and crowded house, full of the love and support that only a mother and father in love can give to a child.  He knew that his mother would wish to stay.

“I won’t ask her to stay,” Yousef said.  “But I didn’t think that I would have to ask you.”

“This is not my fight, Yousef.  Nor is it yours.  I just don’t understand why you believe that it is.”  His father walked to the window and looked out at the brilliant persimmon landscape.  “When my father – your grandfather – came here, this was a planet filled with promise and opportunity and potential.  The land was a blank canvass on which to imagine and create, to wonder what a clean and peaceful life could be, and to make that life where before there was none.  Now look at us.  We are fleeing already.  First we fled Earth, and now we are forced to leave here.”

“That is precisely where you are wrong, Father.”  Yousef was accustomed to his father’s proselytizing.  “This is still our planet, and this is my fight.  It’s your fight and mother’s fight.  It is my daughters’ fight.  I will not allow this to become just another Earth where warring factions murder each other over land and beliefs and the garbage in the air.  We must not let one man take from us what Grandfather sacrificed so much for!”