Foolishly, my people thought the alien ships were asteroids on a collision course. We launched our most deadly weapons into the sky, which exploded harmlessly off the liquid hull of the invaders, raining poison onto our world. Dust flakes on my head as I walked to the sacred ground.

During the ceremony, my younger siblings held me underwater in the pool of our temple, that blue chalice just big enough to immerse my adolescent body. I was arrogant in my new development, confident that I was ready to become an adult. Then, as I let out the last of my held breath, I began to panic; nothing had happened, no painful change, no sudden epiphany, no realization of adulthood, I wasn’t ready, I was going to drown.

There, in the water, hands pressing down on my head my head and flailing limbs, I met death for the first time. I was a frightened child, drinking and choking on water, weakened, desperate, ashamed, tearing and helpless. Hope lost, I stopped, just stopped, and let myself die, lay still, peaceful under the web of my brothers’ hands. It was then I felt the closed slits in my side softly open and I became the water, not breathing with my mouth but with my body, my whole self suffused. I looked up through the shining pool to my siblings, and they were crying, dropping tears of worry and hope into the water, and each droplet spread on the surface, a rippling miracle.

Two days later, the little insectoid robots came, crawled into my home and sawed through the flesh of my family. My uncle, who slept at the doorway, was already dead when I woke up, his vocal cords severed. My father, though, screamed and thrashed, filling his bed with blood as my mother tried to tear the silver bugs off his skin, her fingers severed by their tiny metal blades.

In the pool, gazing up through the water, the faces of my siblings became like stars against the open sky, and in that moment I believed in everything. I lay there, in wonder, my body water, my eyes the open night.

Four days later the stink of blood and dust had us all covering our heads with wet scarves, debris slashing our eyes, the water toxic, the air polluted. Our schools were piles of rubble, mass graves for dead children. My mother held her surviving children in the remains of her bleeding fingers and told us that our lives were coming to an end. We fled, like ants on a hill, scurrying from our homes and schools, but nowhere was safe, and nowhere we could go was better than where they were.

Later, we were blamed for our resistance. If we had just waited, listened calmly while strange shaped ships plummeted from the sky spewing garbled language of conquest. If we had just laid down in the streets, if we had never picked up anything that could have been interpreted to the invaders as a weapon, then the metal bugs would not have crawled into them and tore them apart from the inside. If my people had not built such strange schools, they would not have been mistaken for military barracks, if we had not fought wars amidst ourselves, we would not need to be ruled.

Since the day my siblings lifted me out of the pool, I have never again felt trust so complete. Do not ask again, why I go armed to speak to you. Do not tell me that my people should surrender. Do not accuse me of being irrational till all your own family lay dead, and till your culture is beaten, erased, and chained.

Do not question me, for I know death well, and I will send him to you.

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The Past

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