By Shane Ward
My world was located inside a nebula of rich blue gas that encased our solar system. Every cycle, another nebula would enter the system and merge with ours, creating an awe-inspiring display that lit up the night sky for months. Many Cataline would wait a lifetime to see this event, and when it did occur, our world was bathed in a harmony of god-like art. Our world was paradise, filled with fields of rich green pasture and plants that illuminate the night sky as well as offer a stunning display for all to see during the day.
We’re a race that’s passionate about all things: life, technology and exploration. But when my family talked about the old days, they explained a terrible secret that our race holds about the population of this galaxy.
Thousands of years ago, an alien race landed on our planet and started a colony. We didn’t know them, but as soon as first contact was established, our exotic forms and strong telepathic scent caused the entire colony to descend on us with devastating results. Soon, ships arrived and began invading our world. Almost all of our people were raped, mutilated and tortured for not giving themselves up. In the end, mass suicides were the only way to escape. That was before a mysterious “thing” arrived and took the invading aliens away. They spent many weeks developing the first shield generator and once it was activated, they left.
We never knew who this alien race was, or their motives. But after that incident, we evolved from our scars and turned into a race so powerful we roamed the stars hidden from view.
Unfortunately, as time ticked on, the inner workings of the government went bad. My father used to hide in his office and mutter about the bad times and things that went wrong. Investigations, gangs and the swapping of power were commonplace on our world and it all tracked back to the government.
But our prophet, the great Yoyua-Ocini foresaw the troubles ahead. Throughout the years, she would often sit in the city square and make prophecies on every major event during our history. She was a saint and a highly religious figure, but no one would believe her prophecy on the end of our race. She told about the creatures from space descending on our world and killing or enslaving our race. The story was so crazy it was almost as mad as the tale about a female who was part Cataline and part alien, dropping from the sky. They called her Jasmine, if that was correct. We all saw the artist’s paintings of her and talked about it for years. There was no real proof in that case, so no one believed that tale.
Still, I was too young to understand the fundamentals of such things. I was interested in playing with my friend, How-Li, who would tease me all hours of the day. He would often call me Little-Bo, even though he knew that my name was Ellie-Soma, but my appearance always seemed to fall on his good side. He would play, pick and torment me in a playful manner, but he would always defend me when I needed it.
Now, when I am at the age to understand, he looks at me with more than just playful interests.
Still, as we played in the fields, the memories of the past slowly sank into my mind as we rolled down the lush green hill that was outside our city.
Once I reached the bottom, I looked into the sky and saw the rapid movements of transports that glided in the sky, like Septore Wings performing a mating dance. They swirled to and fro, gaining entry and exit from the huge shield that protected us from the dangers that lurked in the depths of space. It was a marvellous sight. But for some reason, the frantic movements of the vessels seemed to be of panic and I knew that our peaceful life had come to an end.
The shimmering pink glow of the shield was not as powerful. It used to be so pink that the grass on the ground would have a strange reflective tint. But that tint had vanished many years ago, allowing the natural glow of the plants to dominate the landscape.
My friend muttered some words, but I was too caught in my own dreaming to notice his idle ramblings. Did he say something about me? Did he say something about himself? I think not, as a dark object loomed in the sky and I knew he was not talking about us, but the object.
I felt panicked hands on my tender blue skin and the ruffling of my delicate fin-like clothing that grew and tracked itself up and down my arms and throughout my body.
A flash from the sky diverted my attention and uproar from the city was heard at that precise moment. I knew the creatures from the old history tales were coming, and I needed to get home.
“Ellie-Soma, we must go back to the city, the creature is upon us,” How-Li said, trying to hide his fear and look strong.
I watched as the wind took root of the nearby Acadel tree, while its green and pink leaves were pulled from side to side. How-Li grabbed my hand and drew me out of my trance-like state.
“Ellie-Soma, we must go, our parents will be worried about us. They asked me to look after you. I want you to be safe. Let’s go!”
I immediately followed his lead and we headed back to the city. I didn’t realise that we wandered so far from the city limits. The city looked so close, but it was so far.
* * *
The organic structures spiralled into the sky as god-like hands. Aircrafts weaved in and out of the buildings like natural birds that knew how to fly from pure spirit. The sunlight reflected on the transparent membranes, sparkling like diamonds, a pleasure to the eye. I was always amazed by such beauty.
The scattered farms that grew a variety of juicy fruit and succulent vegetables marked the city limits. I had often taken my friend into the lush green fields and picked the ripe fruits that grew in a careful environment. We were not allowed to venture into such places, but no one had seen us.
But as we ventured towards the city gates, I knew the panic was only beginning.
“How fast can you run?” How-Li asked.
“I can run just as fast as you. Why?”
“We need to go to your home as fast as possible. Your family has a shuttle waiting just in case of emergencies.”
I felt a rush of regret. I could not leave my friend on this planet to die but then again, I might be heading for my own doom. Then, suddenly, as I looked up, the sky had changed. What once used to be a pink dazzling sky was now blue. I was hypnotised at the shear beauty of this simple colour that basked behind the white fluffy clouds. I was used to the shimmering pink. I grew up with it. But now everything had changed and I wondered what other people must be thinking at this precise moment.
While I stared at the beautiful sky, I soon realised that I was not alone. I looked away and glanced towards the street. Everybody, from all professions looked towards the sky, as if they were waiting for the arrival of some great maker.
Then it happened. An incinerating fireball roared down from the sky with such fury I felt that our maker had descended with hatred upon us.
The heat took my breath away and I watched helplessly as vehicles were tossed into the sky and people flew around like charred rubble. One person landed on top of me, their blood dripping all over my skin. I felt violated, but a tugging hand on my arm diverted my attention.
My friend continued to pull me away from the dead person. It could have been me killed by the fireball and tossed into the air. I believed that the great prophet was on my side. Guiding me through this disaster and as I crawled out from the mangled bodies, I heard his voice.
“Ellie-Soma, are you all right? They’ve begun the attack,” How-Li wailed, in a panicked state. “Why are they doing this?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening. I must go home. My family will tell me what’s happening.”
* * *
It was difficult to get home. People scattered in all directions and destruction continued to rain down relentlessly. Horrid shadows began to hover over the city, devouring the daylight and increasing the fear the inhabitants were experiencing. Then, before I realised where I had absent-mindedly walked to, the attacks stopped.
I thought the attack ended. Perhaps our military had stopped them. But the silence was bizarre and deadly.
Then, after a few moments of eerie silence, I saw that I was right. The silence was only the beginning. I stared into the sky and witnessed the deployment of horrid-looking beasts that dropped out from their monstrous ships. Covered in hair and shaped like mutilated creatures, they plunged from the sky. Using some kind of gravity device that allowed them to float to the surface, they scattered in all directions. Their smell was revolting and it dissolved in the sweat-scented air. I felt violated by just breathing.
Trapped in a corner, I came face to face with this creature that snarled with sadistic pleasure.
My friend surprised me by pummelling the creature to death with a piece of rubble he found on the ground. He was very efficient and with great urgency, he grabbed my hand and we escaped the carnage, rape and mutilation.
* * *
It was near home that I discovered our building was damaged. An entire section had been ripped off, as if a ship had crashed into the side and tore off several floors. I ran inside, yelling for my family. I went up to my floor and discovered the area a wreck, but luckily my family was safe.
Strong, burly men surrounded the area and I overheard an important conversation.
“It’s too late, the shield has failed.”
“Is there anything you can do? We need that barrier up!”
“I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do. The reactor that powers the shield has finally expired.” I watched as my father placed his head in his hands. “I wish I had more time to fix it. I only needed a few more months.”
The burly businessman got up. “We know you did your best. With all the delays our government imposed, including the funding delay, this day was inevitable. We should have listened to the prophet and made preparations.”
“How did this happen? I thought you lot had control of this. You knew how important that reactor was for our species. Now the Krainers are running amok.”
“It’s a government mistake. Unfortunately, it’s been the death of us.”
My father stood tall. “We have one option left. Our race must carry on. We need to devise a plan to create a wormhole and send all the children we can through it.”
The burly man got up and stared at my father and I tiptoed closer to the open door. I watched intensely.
“I knew this day would come.” My father said. “I had devised a plan to send out our children to an unknown place in space. Years ago, a small probe marked ‘NASA’ was located near our home world. Analysis on the metals and organic tissue showed that this alien race was unhindered by our telepathic scent and our children would be safe. It’s a risk, I know, but it’s less of a risk then leaving them here at the mercy of those beasts.”
“But how many children can we send through?”
“It’s a matter of not how many, but how many we can save. We cannot put a limit on this. We must find our biggest ship and create this thing.” My father rustled some documents and the sounds of roaring engines and explosions rattled closer to our home.
Catching me by surprise, he rushed over to the door, grabbed hold of my arm and we left for the transport. Now was the time for us to make a move. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Once I was running through the open green fields outside our city taking in the fresh clean air and marvelling at the spectacular skyline, and now we were running for our lives in the course of a few hours. How did this happen?
Fate always had a cruel side. I watched through the transport window as hordes of escape vessels took to the sky. Ships rolled, banked and strafed in all the hellfire brought forth from above, and all I could do was sit there and hold tight. My heart raced and sweat dripped off my forehead. How-Li walked towards me as the transport vibrated slightly below his feet. He held my hand tight and sat down beside me. We prayed the plan would be successful, and then I heard my father asking a question.
“Ellie-Soma, you can fly a transport vessel can you? All the lessons I taught you, do you still remember them?”
I stared at my father and felt frightened. Just what was he saying? He’s not coming with us through the anomaly? It was the only question I could think of and I had to ask it. “Why father? Are you not coming?”
“Of course I’m coming. But if anything happens, I need you to fly the transport through the anomaly.” My father looked so big and real sitting at the front while I looked through the window towards the burning city below. I knew what was happening below my feet. I wept for my home and all my friends who would now be taken away and used in horrendous ways.
Our starship came into view. It was a dazzling display of lights, like some undersea creature made from jelly and bustling with illumination. It hovered in space with tentacles stretched forth, attacking the approaching alien fleet. Huge whips would slash at the hulls and use its material to repair itself as hundreds of transports made way for it. They dissolved into the skin and our people moved inside the ship like free spirits, desperate to get away.
But time was short. Rubble and destroyed ships floated in space like mines intent on destroying anything that moved. It was an obstacle course, one I hoped the pilot was good enough to maneuver through. I didn’t want to die; I was still young and hadn’t even born any children.
Children were the next step in a Cataline’s lifecycle and it always gave them meaning, something that expanded their love. There was no greater gift than having children and watching your legacy grow. I’ve always wanted children and to this day I always thought How-Li would be my companion—no, mate. He was a strong and well-built person, someone I could rely on. As I gazed deep into his eyes, the transport violently shook from side to side.
Panicked cries and calls for help screamed throughout the control deck and I tried to fight my way through the fallen people. We should have been alone in this transport, but spotting a few people on a rooftop, my father could not resist the urge to help. He was always a good man and to this day, never caused me to doubt him. But I still feared for my life; the transport was struck and it looked like we would not make it.
A call suddenly echoed through the ship. “This is the Starship Lifeline Six; we’ve detected your vessel. We’ll transport over as many people as possible. Get ready.”
I stood, taking in the information, but I didn’t have the time to process it before a wash of light came over me, like a tube filling with water. I’d never been transported before and I believe it was an experience that only a few had encountered. I wasn’t much of a scientist and this was out of my area of expertise.
Next thing I knew, I was standing in a room of this shimmering ship, the Lifeline. I looked around and realised that I was the first to be transported over. I did panic a little; my father or mother had yet to be transported, but as I looked around, they appeared. Then I realised that my own friend had not been transported. I saw him on the communication screen, scampering around the cluttered transport. He looked worried and bumped into other people. Debris flew in all directions and I watched my friend’s strong resolve slowly dissolve into hopelessness. He knew his time had come and I knew this too. I felt the wet tears stream down my face and watched him slowly come towards the monitor. He uttered a few words that were dissolved into the ambient noise of destruction. I watched his lips move. I cried to the officers to do something, but as I looked back towards the screen, all went silent. He touched the screen on his end and I did the same. Before I knew it, the image died.
My feet buckled under the tremendous sorrow that welled up inside me. I just lost my best friend . . . No mate . . . I never had the time to explain my true feelings . . . I was too young . . . How could this happen? I rubbed my eyes, tears streaming down my face and the overwhelming urge to cry were so powerful, I kneeled down on the floor and let the sorrow out like a tidal wave in a storm. I didn’t care about anyone. I was in . . . agony.
* * *
I was eventually allocated my own quarters. I didn’t know why at the time; perhaps it was my family’s way of giving me peace before we embarked on our huge journey. I did know that we were being chased. Once we had picked up all the civilians we could take, this vessel went into slipstream. I overheard my father saying that this ship would need to stay at slipstream for a very long time in order to reach the coordinates as quick as possible, but we were still being followed. Unfortunately, the time required to create the anomaly would take several hours. They guessed the Krainers could catch us sooner. I didn’t care. My best friend had died and all hope had gone with him. My own world, my dreams shattered as I stared through the window at the passing stars and dust. How did this happen? Are we all that’s left?
Then an image popped into my mind, an image about a hybrid life form that led heated discussions throughout the past. I didn’t know why, or why I was thinking about this person now, but she was there in the forefront of my mind. Now that I come to think of it, perhaps she was real too. The prophecy about this world being taken over and destroyed was unbelievable. Well, it was hard to believe if you could see the huge bellowing shield over your head. Now. as I looked into the depths of space, I knew that part of the prophecy was true: our prophet knew the future.
I walked back into the room. It was colder than I remembered and I ordered the control system to make it warmer. The walls were solid but had a warm glow that lit the room. The walls were made from skin and the patterns moved enchantingly around, as if we were living inside a peaceful creature. It distracted me until a transmission popped up on the data screen.
I accepted the pre-recorded message and suddenly noticed the date before it played. I was shocked, who would leave me a message 585 years ago?
I dropped my drink on the floor and felt my legs give way. I saw the creature. She was right there on the screen. She looked exactly like the artist’s paintings. She was a Cataline female, but not. Her black hair with blue highlights drew my attention first. Then my vision fell to the uniform that covered her shoulders and the rampant array of dazzling colours and lengths of natural skin that all Cataline had. Hints of pink and strange tones also crept through the assortment of features that gave me the hint she was definitely half us.
Still, I don’t know how this was possible. No other race could reproduce with us. There were secret tests in the past that eventually leaked to the public, but in the end they all ended in failure. So the main question that went through my mind was: who was this mysterious race?
Then, as if one shock was not enough, the creature spoke on the screen. “Hello, Ellie-Soma, I’m Jasmine.”
It was all slow-motion for me. She just explained that she was Jasmine. A very nice name, but not the standard way our race names each other. In fact, she looked like me. But I was unprepared for the rest of the message.
“I’m from your past, but I’ve travelled from the future. I have been trapped on your world for a few weeks and I’ve finally managed to save this message before I travel back to my time. I have the coordinates for a starship that will take you to a planet called Earth.”
Then, as an added bonus, the holographic display came online and her image appeared right in front of me in three dimensions. Like she was some child discovering how to use the recording program.
Now, I could see what she looked like in high detail, almost in flesh. I could not catch my breath. She stood in front of me in all her beauty. I could not believe how beautiful and perfect she was. One of the fears scientists discovered over the years was that if Cataline did breed with other races, the DNA of our species would be so complex, horrid deformed creatures would be born and only last a few hours. But there she stood, more vibrant than a normal Cataline.
I looked at Jasmine’s figure and felt an overwhelming desire to touch her skin. The silky fin-like clothing felt smooth and the texture of her hair was complex and dazzling. It was a completely different feeling from my own. Her skin was soft and rich, like a brand new creature created by the maker of all life. She was alive and more vibrant than I could have ever imagined. I must tell my father about this discovery; he had to know this. So I paused the message and ran out to find my father.
It was only a few minutes and as I suspected, they didn’t believe me. Until they saw the message for themselves, that is. My mother fainted and my father only watched with deep interest. He himself seemed hypnotised by this creature that was the same age as me. Work that out.
Suddenly I was tossed across the room and fell to the ground. I felt the impact with the wall and found it hard to stay conscious. I watched my father stand and rush over to me. Then everything went black.
* * *
I finally woke up to find my father standing next to the image. It was strange and he was crying. Was he crying of joy or the information Jasmine told him? Wait? I wasn’t dreaming. I thought the whole thing was a dream. I was praying that I would wake up in my own bed, in my own room and this nightmare would be over.
This was not the case. My father spoke out of happiness. “This is the best gift anyone could give me. To know that you’ll be okay.”
But I knew my father was keeping a secret; it was layered over his comment. He felt sad and was doing his best to hide it. Unfortunately, the time had expired. In the whole time while I was passed out, I learned that we had arrived at the destination, and plans were already underway to create the anomaly. The enemy was not far behind. But what about my family? Jasmine said nothing about them. I ran the message again in a bid to capture what I missed and analyse the message for any sign of deception. Even the room she was in looked real, but with a strange hint of confinement.
It would make sense for our government back then to hide her away from the public. It would cause panic and change everything we believed in. But still I didn’t think it would have done that much and they had done a good job in hiding her all these years. No one knew of her existence until this day. Before long, people began knocking at my door to see this discovery, but I ignored them and listened to her message.
The message continued from the same place, “He’s a good man. He will be at the rendezvous point and will instantly become interested in you. I hope you can accept his gesture as a sign of good faith—” The message was cut short due to a power interruption and I was left in limbo.
What was she going to say? How was she related to me? I decided to follow the advice of the great profit Yoyua-Ocini who once said, “If you can’t make your choice, open your arms and just follow the path that is laid out for you. Don’t think; just go in the direction that pulls you.”
Jasmine continued, “Your transport will be attacked before you enter the anomaly and you will have to pilot the transport. I have uploaded your destination that will see you drift into the path of a human starship, ISDF Peacekeeper.”
Even the name of their ship seemed to hint that this was a non-violent race. It seemed that we were destined to find a good home. But I could not shake her last message before that. There was some kind of incident? Then, the vessel shook.
Violent explosions rocked the ship from left to right and I fell over before having the chance to stand. The image faded out of existence. I was alone.
I heard a frantic voice over the intercom. “We’ve opened the anomaly; we must send the first ship through.”
My father grabbed me with such urgency, I nearly tripped over my own footing. We ran through the chaotic passageways to the transports and watched as more explorations tossed our people in the air like rag dolls.
We managed to pass a window and I spotted the horrid-looking creature that had followed us. It was a ship, a Krainer ship that followed us all the way from our home world. I had never seen a ship so horrid in my life. It was made out of metal and completely lifeless, I could not imagine a race that would create such a lifeless ship. It threw deadly fire at our vessel and with each impact, our ship screamed with pain.
We were always a peaceful race, our ships were made to travel through the stars and explore. Our race strived to understand the nature of new races. But our own species discovered its terrible flaw, a hindrance that now caused the destruction of our race.
I don’t know what I was thinking, or where we intended to go. All I knew was the blue translucent walls of the ship were beginning to die, knowing we had very little time. My family tried in vain to take me to the nearest transport when my father said a few words out of great haste. His voice was quick and filled with terror. “My daughter. You must take this transport through the anomaly we created. It’s your only chance.”
“But father, are you coming with us?” I watched as my father stared at me with lost hope. I saw one final stand of resistance deep within his soul, like he was to stay behind and help fight the enemy.
Fight the enemy? Now there’s something I thought I would never hear myself say. How are we supposed to fight a relentless enemy? Our ships were not designed to fight. I suppose the only thing we could do was to bump into the enemy and cause them to break up. I’ve seen many changes in recent years. Our scientists spent the last five to ten years developing weapons that could be installed onto our ships. But our ships were huge like the cities themselves. They were not designed for such destructive power. As I heard this ship scream out in pain again—a telepathic connection that we have with this vessel—I could do nothing to relieve its pain.
“I must stay behind and prevent the enemy from attacking your ship. Go! This transport needs a good pilot. I know what you have been doing in your spare time. All your training and practicing. I know about your desire to fly. Now’s your chance! You know what you must do. You’ve seen that message.”
“I wasn’t able to see the rest of the message. What is it that prevents you from coming?” As I asked more questions, I did not realize that I was taking up valuable time and in response, my father shoved me into the airlock and closed the hatch.
I saw him mutter the words “I’m sorry” before he closed the outer door. I was pushed back by the horde of people, children, inside the bay. I didn’t realise at first, but these people would be my responsibility. But my focus was on my father, who stepped back into the smoke-filled room. He muttered some more words and then took off with urgency in his steps. That was the last I saw him.
I didn’t know what to do. But then my instincts took over. I rushed through the transport towards the cockpit and fired up the controls.
They were slightly different from what I was used to, and they seemed to be a jungle of buttons and flashing lights. I had an idea of what they did, but in the end, I could only close my eyes and let my spirit control the movements of my hands.
Then I realised that this vessel was filled with children. Children. Not a single adult anywhere except me! I saw them all huddled in the main bay like slaves I’ve seen on the history displays back at home. It was very similar. Like the ride to their doom. I fought hard to hide my sorrow and uneasiness even when I knew my family might not make it.
* * *
The ship shook violently and we were freefalling into space. I saw the clump of dark cloud before me, and then the shimmering blue oasis in the middle of space which was our ship. Huge fireball blasts drilled vast holes into the side of our mother ship. The ship was a living creature, and I cried for it. How old was it? How much space did it see? Finally there was only one question left. How many were left?
But I knew that I should not waste my time thinking about the mother ship. I was entrusted with the lives of all the children and it was my father’s last wish that I took them to safety. I take a glance back towards the group of children huddled behind me. Then some controls flashed up.
A flash suddenly lit up the area inside the cockpit with an incinerating glow, and I looked back towards the location of our city vessel. I looked on with horror and listened to the shocked murmurs from the children inside my vessel.
My parents . . . No! Why am I being stripped from all my loved ones? I huddled the controls. Tears pattered the controls. I lost everyone. My mother, my father and my friend . . . my people
. . . I screamed out loud, as if my words could rectify the damage those vile aliens had done, Why?
* * *
With the mother ship gone, there was no protection. But I saw the twirling mass of clouds and nothingness as we approached ever so close to the anomaly. I knew my father wanted us to take the transport through, but I felt very unsure about it. I looked back towards the centre of the ship and saw the worried children. Then I decided to act strong. My family may have died, but looking at the huge beast of a ship approaching, I knew our time was short.
Cries bellowed out through the communication channel. It seemed that more transports had been launched, but they were heading in the wrong direction and the Krainer ship that attacked our mother ship was on the prowl, collecting survivors, and I feared for us. What would they do once they captured us?
As more cries for help bellowed through, I tried to stifle the noise as to not worry the children, but it was too late, the horrid cracking, screaming and grunts from the Krainers as they boarded the transports was broadcasted throughout our transport. I didn’t know why they destroyed the mother ship. I guess it was easier to pick off the life transports that contained hundreds of people, but no weapons. It was like a prison transport that sent innocent people right to the gates of hell. They were all loaded into a box and delivered to the enemy. I felt angry.
To make things even worse, I had no idea where we were going. This anomaly my people created was supposed to be some kind of wormhole that lead all the way to another galaxy inside another universe far away inside the darkness of space.
But as I looked at the horrid vessel that was slurping up transports, like a beast picking off food from some warm beach, I saw a light, moving towards us.
I turned the ship with rapid speed and went forward towards the anomaly . . . I regretted the decision to do nothing but watch. The Krainers were now after us. Each jolt was like torture and I thought they had grabbed hold of us in a wash of light. But as the stars continued to flow past the window, I knew it had not captured us yet.
Then, when I thought we had escaped the enemy, I was deafened by the horrendous noise that rattled through the transports bulkheads. I watched as the children tumbled over like a box tossed down a hill because that’s what we were, objects inside a box and tossed over the edge. But then, something caused the Krainers to release us.
I could feel the very essence of my father giving his life for me. He was still alive on what was left of the mother ship. I felt the final breaths of the mother ship, as it gave its life to save us from the monsters that wanted us. The impact tossed us into the anomaly and then I blacked out.
* * *
I knew I was having a dream. It was misty and warm. Back in our own world. The green fields, the rich open land. I watched myself run through the fresh green fields, rubbing through the tall grass that swayed back and forth with grace and freedom. I must have been about six or seven. The city itself calls for me, wants me to enjoy my childhood and so do my friends. I don’t know what I’m thinking, or why this freefall into my memories was necessary, but I knew fate had an answer.
The prophet that would sit in her mighty chair told me that I would face great challenges in my life. She said that I was going to be the most important person alive. I didn’t believe her, how could I? I was one out of billions of people who were more important and tasked with the jobs to keep us alive. Again, I was too young to even think about her words. My mother took me to the great lady that foretold time. She was scary at first, but then she smiled with a warm aura that filled me with calm and serenity. She took my hand and instantly knew my path. I path I didn’t know.
I see the green fields again. Insects fluttered in the sky in harmony with the huge starships, which hovered overhead without a ripple of disturbance in the air. Even the enchanting hum from the engines was soothing to a young child like me. I often fell asleep at night with the window open so I could hear the natural calls from ships and the city itself. It hummed, chimed and was peaceful, the city talked to people inside their minds, so did the ships. It was a perfect unity of life.
My friend, who was always by my side through school and difficult times, said that fate had a path for all of us and for me, a special path. I always thought we had something special. I knew from later years that he liked me, my friend How-Li was always hanging around and I could see the subtle differences in his behaviour. How I wished I could see him now. But as I slept, I could only dream and pray my people would be okay in the after world. As time drew to a close, I began to feel the air drifting past my delicate skin in the shuttle. I felt a faint image of my mother as she stood in all her glory. She looked like me, but with more radiance and beauty that I wished had been bestowed upon me. My father always called me beautiful; my father thinks everyone is beautiful to some degree. But as I watched the destruction of the city from inside my memories, I can only think about the horrible devastation that had rained down upon us.
I felt tugging on the corner of my arm. A small child attempted to wake me. I stirred and moved in the chair and finally woke up to the blackness that was waiting for me outside the window. A small child, all blue, like me, was upset. She was accompanied by other refugees who were hugging together. I watched her lips move, but I was unable to hear any words for a short time. Then after a few repeated attempts I heard her words.
“I’m hungry. I want my mommy.”
I looked at her and felt my own stomach rumble. How long had we been out? How long had this ship been flying in space? I looked at the controls and this ship had been under heavy acceleration for five hours straight. The power supply was limited and showing signs of failure and food was something I never thought of. Was there even any food on this transport?
It was minutes before I discovered the horrible truth. There was no food or water, there was nothing. When we boarded this transport, it was done out of such fright that no one saw fit to put supplies onboard and now the strain was beginning to show. We always had plenty of food back on our home world that would come from the buildings themselves. It was always available. Now, we were in a situation where that supply of food was not available.
* * *
Days had passed and the transport was only on minimal life support. We had not eaten for days and many of the children were now non-responsive. They’re alive and some have even started their cocoon cycles sooner than expected. It was a big risk.
Normally, a Cataline would evolve through certain stages in their life.
At fifteen years old, they would turn into a blue-textured cocoon and develop into a more mature, a cycle that would take two months and leave the person fertile. A process I’d already done. After I emerged, I felt like a new life form. Then at thirty-five, the process begins again producing a stronger and more colourful creature, a development I was looking forward too.
But. Starting a cocoon cycle early and without the proper care could lead to deformations and, most commonly, death. It was a delicate procedure. It was a thought I considered myself as I felt my body eat itself from the inside out. It could buy me some time and some of us had even taken the idea to eat the fleshy membranes of the ship itself. We didn’t want to, but starvation was the biggest killer.
* * *
The next day, the life support system teetered on the edge of failure and we were on the brink of death. Then I saw an object outside the main pilot window. A silver figure made from metal. I knew this and the image initially looked like a Krainer ship. But as I struggled to the front and slipped past the motionless bodies of children, my eyes focused on the slim elegant design of the ship. Words were imprinted on the main body and the entire design of the ship was unfamiliar to me. It looked like art carved from material that should not have the ability to be moulded into beauty. I had never seen a vessel like this before.
The words . . . I recognised the words. Back in my father’s study, I saw pictures of a probe that had been detected in our own space. It was written in the same words. I believe we have finally made it. I wish my father could see this. But in the end, all I saw was the darkness as I slumped to the floor and passed out through starvation and lack of air.
I woke up days later. I was in a bright warm room in some kind of bed. The sheets had caused some irritation to my skin, but I was no longer hungry and my body felt strong. I looked around. The room was compact and . . . metal. All metal. Not like a Krainer ship. I’d seen pictures of them before. Horrid pictures of pipes, wires and other items that dripped from the black walls. But the construction of this room was built in a way I’d never seen before. It was too hard to comprehend, metal crafted into such perfect unison. I was bewildered by this species.
I looked around and saw someone standing next to me. It was pink, with hair. I jumped out of the bed and panicked. Then it spoke.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe, you are onboard the Earth ship Peacekeeper.”
They’re speaking Cataline? How could that be? “You’re speaking my language. How’s that possible?”
The man pointed to a small object in his ear and smiled. “This device is a translator that allows us to talk to each other. Don’t worry, you are safe. Try and relax. I’m John, John Hendrix.”
His warm and sincere smile bestowed an element of trust inside me. Not only this, this person looked familiar. I’ve seen him before. But more important things were on my mind. “The children, where are the children?”
“Don’t worry, they are up and about. It looks like the younger ones are stronger than you realised; they’d been causing a bit of a stir on this ship.” McGregor sat on the end of the bed and looked me in the eye. “Now, we need to know where your home world is, we can take you home.”
Home. That was a place that didn’t exist now, and we dared not go through the anomaly to that space. It’s probably not there anymore. “We don’t have a home world. We were involved in a genocidal battle and we were the only ones that escaped.”
McGregor looked at me. I looked at him; his facial features were so familiar that I had to touch his face. He appeared shocked, but allowed me to continue. His skin was warm, so warm that it tingled on my fingertips, like a dance of electric that flowed into my body. I shivered then released the touch. I never experienced a feeling like that, even when I touched How-Li. This species was definitely different and, more importantly, kind.
“The captain would like to meet you.” McGregor turned and a stronger looking man walked up to my bed. He had facial hair and appeared more like a Krainer than McGregor, but he was still kind and sincere in his words. I told him as much as I could and eventually, he made the decision to take us back to their home world. He said that his people would look after us and find our home world. Perhaps offer assistance to the war that was destroying our people. But I knew this wouldn’t be possible as our world was doomed and far, far away. No Krainers had followed us either. It looked like we would have to grow and accept our new life. New life on a different world. There would be problems, but that’s what our families wanted.
* * *
I was reunited with the children after I was strong enough to leave the medical bay, as the humans called it. I saw the children playing in some kind of room that catered for children and education. I was confused at first but I soon learned that this was one of the massive colonisation ships that were used to build colonies on other worlds.
I saw the children playing happily. They would grow strong and healthy and probably blend into this society. There were many questions, but the children were alive and that was the most important part of all.
As for me, let’s say that a particular human had grown attached to me over time. He soon became close and supported me through the hard and good times. The features I saw in him were so familiar that I soon realized whom he reminded me of: someone that helped us through the timeless void of space.
But for us, we were safe. I only wish my family could have come along with us.
Shane Ward is a first time writer who first started writing in the form of Fan fiction. After a slow and progressive success and good feedback, he has decided to dip his hand into short stories and eventually move into writing novels. He is 29 years old and lives with his family on the outskirts of London. Shane does suffer from dyslexia, but that disability has not discouraged him from his passion, writing.
He would also like to thank Ernst van Rijn and Anna Karwowska for their invaluable beta reading skills in this story.