“I am but a man, a teller. A teller of the past, not a prophet of the future.” Teller
Before. Before there was dust. Before the air became poison. Before the Company! Our people lived and lived in peace. ” The passionate high-pitched voice was projected strongly from the hooded head as it swept from side to side, addressing all who huddled around the fire.
“Our land… full of life, beautiful life, a life like no other that came before or will come again.” The figure paused a moment to amplify its voice. Harsher, louder it continued. “That life was taken, taken by force, subterfuge, taken from us; from those we love…we loved.” Crouching lower it stared into each of the faces of the crowd in turn. “Now we are lost, a dying breed lost to the decades, the centuries, most of our people barren like our land.” Long majestic arms gestured openly to the crowd. “You, our young, some of the few, the only future, the only hope.”
Flames from the fire reflected off the black eyes in the same red glow. The vertical slits of colour in each set made them seem young…innocent, but somehow old beyond their years as the voice lowered again. “We must be careful, diligent, blend in but never let them in our lives again.”
Slowly standing upright from its crouched position, it allowed its voice to become one with the fire as its words washed over the children. “Those we thought our friends took from us, took the beauty, leaving only poison.”
Gesturing upwards, the voice hardened “AND FOR WHAT? An extra credit? Another star base? More power?”
The voice lowered once more and the small children drew closer still as they strained to hear, their fine fur becoming more apparent in the light of the fire.
“Poison, they poisoned our land then they left! They left sickness. Sickness that did not discriminate between men, women and children. There was little left, nothing but a dying race, a dead planet.” The voice became sombre, almost sad. “Is there anything left for us, we nomads? I do not know nor do I care. I am but a man, a teller! A teller of the past not a prophet of the future. The beauty, the pain, all are known to me, all shall be known to you.” Briefly, the eyes reflected the fire from under the dark hood. To those that observed, eyes were dark as the night, lonely, broken and unfeeling. The speech, although seeming passionate, was an emotionless ceremony practised to perfection. Yet the children were frozen, unmoving, waiting on every word.
“I do not take part, nor do I care to. I…we; we have lost so much. I am but an instrument, an instrument to link you to your past. Listen, open your mind.” The long sleeves concealing its hands exaggeratedly closed over its chest as it gestured the children closer still. The flames of the fire wavered as if in response to the moving mass of bodies. “Come closer and I will show you… the beauty, the truth, the loss, so you may know too well the pain of trusting those our race once did.”
Slim long fingers emerged from out of the black sleeves. Long nail. No! Claw-like extensions reflective in the fire’s glow. They slipped into the coat, effortlessly drawing out a box. At first the box seemed simple, but the trained eye could see that it was immaculately engraved with pictures of dragons and warriors of a forgotten time. It appeared impenetrable, with no latches or locks visible in its blackness as it absorbed the light from the fire rather than reflecting it. The hands held the box as though they had always held the box. The eyes, those black lifeless eyes started to glow, a little at first then brighter and brighter as the box hovered over the open palms. The eyes became more intense than the fire itself. The children restlessly waited, not daring to look away. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, the box opened. It fell to the floor, CLUNK, but no one heard, nobody even saw, as in its place floated a crystal. A crystal shining a million different colours. Steady, unwavering images appeared to all those who watched. Images so beautiful the children were mesmerised. Images of trees, trees of beauty, crystalline trees. Plains filled with glass grass and insects to make the mind boggle. And amongst it all, the most beautiful beings they had ever seen. Elf-like children were naked bar the natural fine fur covering their bodies, glistening in the dim light. Their facial features feline in nature.
They were playing, playing while longer, sleeker forms of them were lying under the trees, smiling with the brightest light coming from their eyes.
The children around the fire were dirty, tired and worn, their clothes in tatters. These were the children of their children and those before them, yet the resemblance was hard to see. Hard to comprehend how such beauty could end up here, so ugly, on the hull of a lifeless station, floating in the cold darkness of space. As the images intensified, the children’s eyes filled with light showing a distant resemblance to the race before them. As the image zoomed in it became obvious that this crystal, wondrous as it was, was but a small piece, possibly a shard of one of the original trees. “Strays,” The voice booming from the night was loud, military-like, emotionless, the figure invisible in the dark. “Get ‘em, now.” It was a command not a request.
The crystal’s light dimmed enough for the children to be released from its grasp. The group of children suddenly resembled the race they had just seen, bounding away from the fire with all the grace, power and beauty of their kin, but to no avail. Nets came out of the darkness, nets shot with great force, slamming into the children and forcing them to the ground. Pinning them where they were moments earlier bathing in the light. The attack was planned, controlled and precise. From the pandemonium that had started, there was now only order. All that had been there were now trapped. The teller, the only one standing, the only one not tangled in these evil nets.
The teller tried to disengage himself from his trance; the crystal light dim but still controlling him. He could see the carnage, the children lying helpless, he himself helpless to act, his throat lumpy. Movement; one had not been captured. Horror filled his eyes as he could see all that would happen again. The little one started shaking, with hot tears pouring from its eyes. The tellers own eyes swelled to tears. Suddenly the child sprang out into the dark only to be slammed into the floor by another of the heavy nets, the assailants still not visible. The teller’s eyes became enraged, hatred and anger filling them. The crystal’s light intensified again, the images dark and evil, those of a barren wasteland, of corpses on the ground, mass graves, dust clouds and swirling winds. Red dust seemed to be everywhere, blanketing the light. No life only death, then snow storms, blizzards, then a blanket of white. This could not be the same place, or could it?
The teller’s body arched forward violently as he hissed at the unknown assailants. His hand grasped the crystal, touching it for barely a second. Images flashed before them of pain, of death, of tragically wrong choices… Of ships in battle, fighting, snow, blizzards, ships falling…falling. Finally red. Explosive red! Like the light from a sun. His body glowed like the crystal, levitating in the air. His hood was thrown back with the arching action. The face it revealed was feline, majestic, masculine and proud. The eyes opened. Intense beams of light shone from them, burning the souls of all those who would dare look. Without warning, his body was thrown violently backwards, slamming into the metal bulkhead. CLUNK! His mind pained, his thoughts broken as he lay confused, blood oozing out of his pointed ears. Blackness slowly crept in as he watched. Watched as the children, his children were carried away. As the last one was carried off he opened his hand. The crystal, laying there grew dimmer and dimmer, until finally the light went out, as did his.
The smouldering fire barely lit the lean figure as he bent over the box. Picking it up he fondled it while quietly observing the area around the fire. The signs of struggle were all too short-lived, the pool of blood behind him the only sign of casualty. “Any day now I will have you, any day now.” The voice was full of boyish joy, of a man on his first hunt. Thrilled yet controlled. Standing up, the man moved off quietly, slowly, letting the box slip through his fingers and into the fire as he departed. The flames, striking back up, tried to engulf it. The box was not worried by the fire, not concerned, not changing. The man exited as quietly as he had entered, no one the wiser as to his visit, no one to see the flames spark up one last time to light the insignia on his vest.
The Company’s brand as it glistened menacingly in the fire’s last breath.