Author: David Henson
I regain consciousness in a small hut made from sweet-smelling grass and blue sticks. A male garbed in the same type of grass stands over me. When he notices my eyes are open, he looks away and begins clicking and whistling. I ask about my crewmates. He becomes silent and, bending at the waist, backs out of the hut.
I take a few moments to rub my arms and legs then walk unsteadily outside. I find I’m in the center of a small spiral of huts. The village is surrounded by fields being worked by people walking behind animals that resemble horses with moose antlers. They must be morse, I chuckle aloud, trying to ease the tension squeezing my throat.
A woman with bright red, green and orange hair approaches me. Averting her eyes from mine, she lays a basket of what appears to be fruits at my feet. Then, bending at the waist, she backs away quickly. When I thank her, she drops to her knees and looks over her head. Yes, I come from the heavens I say, pointing to the sky. The woman flings herself to the ground and begins whistling loudly.
I see, beyond the field of workers and morse, the wreck of my ship. Pieces jutting from the burned-out hull make the craft look like a decaying, beached whale. I walk closer and see men in long, black robes arranging stones around the smoldering crash site. They pause and bow to me. I call the names of my crew. Silence answers.
Feeling dizzy, I return to the hut and sleep. Over the next few days, I’m given more baskets of food, a bitter juice, and something with scales, raw. I gradually grow strong enough to go back outside. When I do, a man with one arm bent behind him approaches me. He clicks erratically, his face contorted.
I touch his back and feel a separated shoulder. I hold it in one hand and grab his arm with the other. This is going to hurt, I say, and jerk. He screams then rotates his arm, falls to his knees and kisses my feet. A crowd begins to gather about me. A lame man and a woman whose face is covered in boils approach. I retreat inside my hut.
A few moments later the whistling and clicking are the loudest I’ve heard. I go back out and see a black-robed man holding a blade to a morse’s throat. No! I shout and snatch the blade. I slice my palm and raise my hand so they can see the blood spiraling down my arm. I’m flesh and blood the same as you, I scream.
The crowd prostrates itself and goes silent. Then a young woman with plain brown hair rises and walks to me. She clicks at the morse, which ambles away. The black-robed man stands. The girl takes the blade from me and gives it to the man. He places it under her chin and looks at me as if waiting for a sign. The throng rises and begins to whistle, the people stamping their feet, clapping their hands, rhythmically. The noise is deafening. Hypnotic. I feel myself wanting to be what the people of the morse believe I am. I draw my finger across my throat.
I love how this story escalated. How quickly this errant astronaut succumbed to the crowd mentality was jarring but perfect for this type of fiction … nicely done.
Thank you, Hari.