The sequel to Thass Rit.
By Kalin Ringkvist
(Read all of Alien Children on Kindle)
(Read all of Alien Children on Kindle)
“I’ve told you many times, never go outside the shield alone, and never without asking me first!”
Zandrae could now feel the tears pushing out, and she fought to hold them in. “Please don’t yell at me, Mama.”
“What am I supposed to do with you?” her mother said, more quietly. “You don’t listen to me.”
“I listen, Mama,” Zandrae defended. “I just forget sometimes. I’m sorry. I’m not perfect.”
“What do I have to do to make you remember? Am I going to have to take away your night light for the night?”
“No!” Zandrae shouted. “No, Mama, please no! I’ll remember. I promise. I won’t go outside the barrier without asking you first.”
Her mother stared down at Zandrae, sitting up in her bed. “Are you sure you can remember?”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure. Please don’t take away the light.”
Her mother paused a long moment. Zandrae remembered a half-dozen times when her mother had threatened to take away the night light, but never had. Zandrae prayed this would be like the other times, but her mother had never been this angry with her before.
“Okay, I won’t take away your light, but I need a solemn oath from you that you will not go outside the shield without my permission.”
“I promise: I will not go outside the shield without your permission.”
Her mother nodded. “Okay, thank you. There are so many deadly things out there, Zandrae. I worry about you so much. You could get eaten alive, or get some kind of poison, or find yourself lost. I don’t understand why you would want to go outside anyway.”
“I was curious,” Zandrae replied. “I never went where I couldn’t see the town, and I didn’t eat a thing.”
“Nevertheless, it’s dangerous out there and you are not to go out again.”
“Okay, Mom, Okay.”
She nodded and flipped a switch on the wall. A small strip lit on the ceiling, and the main lighting went out, leaving a dim room with a plenitude of shadows. “Good night.”
Her mother left, closing the door.
Zandrae stared at the ceiling, beginning to cry. She had been so happy earlier. She’d made a friend. She’d wanted to tell her mother about him, because her mother was always concerned that Zandrae didn’t have enough playmates. Now she regretted ever mentioning the fact that she had gone outside, and almost regretted leaving the safety perimeter in the first place.
It took her nearly an hour to fall asleep. The dark shadows frightened her slightly more than usual, and she couldn’t stop thinking about Aoshi, the friend she had met on the outside.
______ ______ ______
She waited three days for the incident to blow over with her parents. On the fourth day, though, early in the morning, she left home and walked to her uncle Abuc’s home. She knocked and he called for her to come in.
“Are you going outside the shield today, Abuc?” Zandrae asked.
“I was just getting ready to go right now,” Abuc replied. “Why do you ask?”
“I want to go with you. My mom says I can’t go out by myself, so I want you to take me.”
Abuc shook his head. “That wouldn’t be a good idea, Zandrae. I’m going out to see the Reghsalas. I’m not coming back until evening.”
“Oh, please Abuc. I can stay out all day. That doesn’t bother me, and I’d like to meet some of the Reghsals.” She decided it wouldn’t be prudent to mention that she had already met one. She hadn’t told anyone yet.
“Reghsalas, Zandrae,” he corrected. “They might be offended if you mispronounce their name.”
“Reghsalas,” she repeated carefully. “Does that mean you’ll take me? I’d really like to learn as much as I can about them.” Zandrae had discovered that using education was a good way of convincing adults to agree to things.
Abuc stared at her. He did not reassert his original position.
“I won’t be a problem,” Zandrae promised.
Abuc paused a moment. “Have you asked your parents yet?”
“I wanted to talk to you first.”
He waited another moment and sighed. “Go run and ask them.”
“Thank you!” Zandrae shouted as she darted out the door.
______ ______ ______
She reached out a hand as she walked and touched the perimeter shield, feeling the exciting tingle as she passed through. The sensation enveloped her body for a quick moment, and she was outside. The shield that surrounded and protected the colony would not allow her back in. To reenter she and Abuc would have to go around to the other side of the colony to the one entrance gate.
They walked along the path that led into the forest. Along the way Zandrae asked Abuc about the various plants. She wanted to know which were edible and which were dangerous. Abuc seemed to enjoy explaining these things to her. He had an extensive knowledge about this wilderness. It surprised Zandrae a little to find that most of the plants they came across were in fact edible, and only a select few held poisons. The way her parents spoke made it sound like every living thing outside the town was on a mission to kill her. Now she had a clearer picture.
After nearly half an hour of walking, they came to the village of the Reghsalas. They stopped for a moment without entering, and Zandrae stood staring at the creatures. They were short; most barely taller than she. Their long arms jutted from a point low on their torso, almost at their waists. They wore no clothing, but their thick brown fur provided the same effect.
Most of the Reghsalas gave Zandrae and Abuc quick glances; a few waved. She saw one coming forward. “Abuc!” it shouted. “You bring uss another wits you.” The creature indicated Zandrae, speaking in a hissing dialect, barely intelligible.
“Hello,” Zandrae said.
The Reghsala reached out a hand enthusiastically and took Zandrae’s, shaking vigorously for a quick moment. “I am Imuma. You are?”
“I’m Zandrae,” she replied.
“Zssandra,” Imuma repeated. “Zsandrae.”
The three began walking into the village. Zandrae studied the structures, little wooden buildings with roofs of large broad leaves. Abuc and Imuma began talking, but she found it nearly impossible to follow, since Abuc now spoke in a heavy accent, much like the Reghsalas and they didn’t seem to take much care in forming their words so she could comprehend.
She looked around, searching for Aoshi, the young Reghsala that she had met several days earlier and played with for a few hours. They all looked the same, though. She could only see four varieties of the creatures: the adults, children, males and females. Beyond that, she could not tell them apart.
Imuma looked at Zandrae for a moment and carefully said, “If Zsandrae wish to exssplore Reghsala village by hersself, she may.”
“Would you like to?” Abuc asked her, glancing down. “It would be okay as long as you don’t leave the village.”
Zandrae considered this for a moment. “No, I think I’ll stay close to you for a while.”
“It won’t be very exciting,” Abuc told her. “I’m just going to be teaching them our language.”
“There are many young Reghsalas, Zsandrae,” Imuma said. “We are friendly Specssies.”
They entered an area near the center of the village with short logs lined up on the ground for use as seats for a small crowd. They stopped. This must be where Abuc teaches them, Zandrae realized. “Maybe I will walk around a while,” she said, and began to slowly wander away.
“Check back with me occasionally,” Abuc said.
She walked away, glancing around at the little huts and the aliens. Once in a while one of them would try to say hello to her, usually mispronouncing it, but she could not help but be amazed by their friendliness and their enthusiasm for the human language. Zandrae didn’t have the faintest idea how to say hello in their language.
After wandering around the village for half an hour, the initial awe of seeing these strange aliens in such plenitude began to wear off. She decided to go back and see what Abuc was doing. But as she turned, one of the Reghsalas came up to her, saying with extreme care, “Zandrae?”
She peered at the alien, just a hair shorter than her. “Aoshi?”
“Yess. It’ss I,” he replied.
She grinned, unable to help herself, and Aoshi took a sudden step back. Zandrae snapped her mouth shut, remembering that showing teeth was not a friendly gesture in Reghsala culture.
“I not know iss you,” Aoshi said. “Human’s all look like ssame. You come withs Abuc to vissit?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I’m staying for a few hours.”
“You want come see my–my–” He paused. “Place.”
“Your home?” Zandrae asked.
“What?” He shrugged and grabbed her hand, and led her down the path between the huts. A minute later they turned and Aoshi pulled open a flap on one of the structures and led her inside.
The hut had a dirt floor, and a mat of leaves laid against one wall. A burnt-tipped spear stood in the far corner. The simpleness of the place surprised her, its only purpose being a dry place for Aoshi to sleep.
“I build myself,” Aoshi told her.
“You did this all by yourself?” she exclaimed. “No help at all?”
“Well,” Aoshi replied and made the Reghsala sound equivalent to a laugh. He extended two claws on his left hand and pinched them together, showing Zandrae. “A little help.”
Zandrae watched Aoshi as he walked to the corner and picked up the spear. “You come along and hunt with I?” he asked.
“I don’t think I can. Abuc told me not to leave the village. I need to check back with him anyway.” She started backing out of the hut.
“No?” Aoshi confirmed. “I am go now and find food.” He headed toward the door, carrying the spear.
“Well,” she said. “Why don’t you come with me and I’ll ask.”
Aoshi’s face seemed to light up. The Reghsalas did not smile to show happiness and Zandrae was still having trouble interpreting their expressions, but she knew that a contortion of the cheek muscles was a good sign.
She went back to the meeting place, followed by Aoshi and asked Abuc if she could witness Aoshi’s hunting techniques. “I want to learn about it,” she said. And to her amazement Abuc agreed after only briefly questioning Imuma.
About a dozen Reghsalas had congregated in the area in front of Abuc. One of them had been attempting to read from a book that he now held on his lap, but paused for Zandrae’s interruption.
“Be back in no more than two hours,” Abuc told Zandrae. “Don’t eat anything, and set your wrist compass to direct you back to this point if you get lost. Don’t let yourself get separated from Aoshi.” Abuc nodded to the young alien. “Enjoy yourself.”
Read all of Alien Children on Kindle