Star dwellers

When they came my koda-da was still young and a warrior. Someone said they had been sighted even earlier. But as strange as they were, nobody cared back then; those beings were few and far off, and they landed in a mountain region where nothing can be hunted and nothing can be grown. They were only interested in rocks and their insides; they dug into the mountain’s belly singing and whistling. They came and went, flying like wingless beasts.

Someone became obsessed by them. How could they fly? Where did they live? From what kind of place behind they sky did they come from? They called them star dwellers, since you could see them turn into small white points as they flied in the night sky, vanishing in a land hidden to our eyes.

Who kept asking those questions, back then, was made fun of. My koda-da’s generation was later called “the people of the great foolishness”. Foolishness was believing that those beings weren’t invaders; madness was mistaking their disregard for everything that grows above the naked earth for quiet tolerance. For peace.

When I was little and my ko-da first wore his stone blades, the star dwellers came by tens and then tens of tens. There were different kinds of them: the bigs, tall as trees and fat like boulders, with thick grey spider legs; the mediums, who were still twice our size, and the smalls, who flew around legless, eyeless and mouthless in their ball-shaped bodies. Our scouts began reporting how deep their wounds in the earth had become, how everything trembled around them. Some distant villages had to move to escape the earthquakes.

Not a day passed without one of them soaring in the sky; not a day without one of them descending from the stars. They became many, each similar to the other. For most part they kept to themselves: they landed and dug, searching some shining between the rocks, leaving behind mountains of moved earth and high smoke columns, leaving behind others to keep up their tireless work.

My ko-da was among the ones who decided it had to end. The warriors gathered from every village and war drums thundered for nights. His generation was called “the war people”.

But as far as it went, they could be called the people of foolishness too. My ko-da went back to the earth while I was still scaleless. The claws of a big star dweller crushed him as he was trying to maim it. They told me that the big didn’t even seem to notice his death; they never noticed. Ten warriors kept fighting on, and eventually did manage to kill the star dweller. Eight more corpses were left behind that day.

If it mattered, I cannot say. I can say that the star dwellers didn’t stop. As I grew their digging moved across the land, leaving behind scorched, grey and sterile earth. Earthquakes ate up forests and villages. Warriors died as my ko-da, trashed by the sheer indifference of a stronger enemy.

We were the ones who shouted for peace, when fields become littered with the blood and chitin of our youths. We had no time left to fight: we needed to move the villages somewhere else, strong arms to farm far off fields, strong legs to run away. Before earthquakes and hunger could ate us too.

Now the skies are calm. In this land, a tiny plant grows for each four seeds planted; in this land, the water is bitter and tastes of dust, and yet the skies are calm. I didn’t see a single star dweller in the past two days, but I harbor no false hopes. My generation will be called “the people who fled”. But after this far off land, there is only the endless salt waters where the most silent animals live.

Some of us talks about building shells to cast upon the water, but anyone who has witnessed the storms knows how mad that sounds. I harbor no false hopes. Sifting the soil, I can see the same shiny rocks the star dwellers desire so much.

My generation is the one who fled, but my son’s will be the last.

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