Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
The air is rent with screams, alien klaxons and a violent thundering that threatens to crush Kaam with raw acoustic power. All is dizzying confusion, a chaotic kaleidoscope of hauntingly familiar images, intertwined with deep inscrutable wells of emotion, all imbued with significance now lost to her. Searing light and smoke sting her eyes… Noxious smells burn her nostrils and lungs… Flashes of faces filled with concern, love, fear… A baby screams. Voices call out to her.
Kaam has the same dream once a year. Each summer, just before the nine shimmering Dawn-Runners race across the blanket of night like a Wulv pack on the hunt, she wakes from the dream, sweating and shivering, her heart filled with an ache, an emptiness. Tonight is no different.
Kaam’s night terror disturbs Maa-Kel’s slumber, but only briefly. Her adopted mother drapes a thickly-furred forepaw over her shoulder, nuzzles a whiskered muzzle into her neck and licks her cheek gently with a moist purple tongue before drifting back to sleep. Briefly, Kaam basks drowsily in the warm security of her downey nest listening to the comforting rumble of the sleeping pack, bedded down in a huddle within their shared cave. Maa-Kel’s fur is redolent of sweet, gallu-grass and Kaam can easily single out Haaman, Graan-Ka and Goom nearby by their distinctive male odours.
The voices call.
With nimble care, Kaam scrambles stealthily over the sleeping mass and creeps outside into the jungle. Away from the pack’s warmth she begins to shiver in the cool pre-dawn air. She lacks the Wulv’s thick, blue fur and has only near invisible fuzz covering most of her body, except her head, from which cascades thick, golden hair, longer than any Wulv’s, hanging in intricate braids down to her knees. Kaam has only two legs and two arms, unlike a Wulv, who has four, leanly muscled legs for running and jumping and two, small dextrous arms and hands for manipulating tools. But, though Kaam is slower and can’t jump as high, she is strong and lithe. Her fingers are more clever and she can climb much better than any of them. Tonight, she clambers easily up and over the ivy-blanketed, hexagonal pillar stones, which rise like millions of flat-topped, rock-crystal columns, forming steep stairs to the ridge over-looking their jungle valley.
Squatting on a towering pillar, Kaam watches the bright Dawn-Runners tumble across the morning sky as image/feelings from her dream, likewise tumble through her mind. Maa-Kel once told her about their arrival. At first, there was only one large Runner, round like a Maku fruit, but after blooming into a fiery flower it became the nine. A day later, the pack had found her; an infant, unharmed and alone in a mysterious, broken sky-egg. They called her, Kaam – The Fallen Bird.
Kaam’s dream-people all look like her. Was she a Dawn-Runner, a fallen bird come from some other place? Or was she cast away? Would her people ever return for her?
She fills her lungs, tilts back her head and howls a mournful serenade as the receding constellation slips beyond the horizon. Her song is quickly joined by her pack and echoes throughout the valley. Soon, neighbouring packs add their voices to the woeful dirge.
Every year she hears them call and every year she sings back to them, but her song never seems to reach the deaf ears of the Dawn-Runners.
Maybe next year they will answer. Maybe next year.