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art by Stephen James Kiniry

The Human Guest

They arrived in a glory of light during a summer month. Glory isn't quite how we perceived it. Their ship destroyed a vast amount of our harvest. But their translator used the word glory, which we were given to mean a very fine thing.
We come in peace. May the light of our wisdom shine on your people.
The translator told us they were our friends. The translator is a box. We found it amusing that their box knew our ways as well as our language so quickly. In time, we adjusted to their comings and goings. True, their business here didn't bother us too much at first. They resembled us, but they did not think as we do. Nor did they appear to care about us. What they were after was something precious to them in our shiny rocks. Most of these rocks were the result of volcanic uplifts, thousands of years ago. We had no interest in them.
The mating time was brief last year. Winter would be early. Our women sang notes like floss on the widewind plains. It was a very sensitive period for us all. Fertile young women without mates were honored in various ceremonies. Courtships were heavily supervised by related adults. But this was merely a custom, not a necessity.
It was then that a human arrived in our cluster. He had to be very rich, by human standards, or have come from a hierarchy that allowed him entry. He was not an officer, his robes flashed brightly in the sun. We concluded he was bored. No other conditions would have permitted him to interrupt us.
He was tall by our standards, with narrow eyes. Like all the humans, his head was shaven. He boasted a clipped beard, their sign of prestige. At first, he seemed fascinated by our rituals. A silver translator box was attached to his belt, but the longer he stayed, the less he bothered to use it.
Ala was the most comely of our young. Her eyes were yellow-gold, her lips broad, a braid around her head. Ala ever had a kind word, a sharing smile. She was the envy of us all.
The human needed only a glimpse of her fine body. After she sang the virgins' song, he strode up and took her arm. When she jerked back, he slapped her face and dragged her to his camp. We dared not intervene, he was our guest. It was the last we saw of her for many days.
"I had to please him," she told us later. "No matter what he did to me." That's all she'd say. She would not smile. She was as stone.
He was done with her, but he stayed among us. We pretended to be honored though we felt otherwise. Our Ala wasn't the same. She cut her marvelous hair which had been dark and long, grown down below her waist. At last, heavy with child, she wandered off to the Darklands, and none to celebrate. We mourned her fate. If she survives, she'll raise his spawn alone. When the child is born, she'll burn his father's image in the sands of our dead oceans.
The human sat on our sacred stones. He preened his beard and leered at females, with no more thoughts to waste on our Ala. He never even knew her name.
Come burrow season, we prepared. We sharpened our talons on caddo root. When the winter gales began, the human demanded sanctuary.
"I'm freezing out here on your stupid planet! Open up your bunker, let me in!"
We bowed low, with many humble sounds and gestures. Our elders graciously invited him to join us deep within the surface of our world. We guided him down through our labyrinths to the room of Sacred Judgment. He was tried and condemned for unsociable behavior. It's been our way for eons, it will be so for eons hence.
We confirmed his sentence with the strewing of his bones.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 10th, 2011

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