by J. C. Conway
The boy and girl ran into the shallow river water splashing and laughing, throwing and kicking water at each other. His mother the shaman and the other tribal elders communed far up the meadow. Today was the first flowering.
“Here it comes!” shouted the girl stopping and pointing.
He spun and saw it. Samwise, the second sun, rising. He knew this would be the last first flowering they would ever see, and he wanted them to feel and smell and taste all of it.
They looked at each other, smiling and giggling. She started counting backward from twenty. He joined her. Samwise climbed. The second shadows grew.
“Three … Two … One!”
They both inhaled, holding their breath waiting. At the far end of the meadow it started—colors—a cacophony, splashing over the bluish green grasses, rushing toward them. The flowering plants of Mandala, their native world, burst to glory.
There was nothing more beautiful than a two-sun morning during the close cycle.
The two children were immersed in a sea of bright colors—every color—sweeping this way and that, flopping in the wind.
The adults would be enjoying this sight from the ridge, seeing the whole valley at once. But this experience—laughing and playing inside the explosion of color—was better, he thought.
Other children played throughout the meadow, running, tumbling, holding hands and spinning in circles. They would all hold onto this happiness, he knew. It would sustain them in the years to come—the love and joy of this world, of their families and of each other. Not even his mother the shaman understood the turn that was about to occur. But that was as it should be. From Earth—yes, he believed Earth existed—through the Great Traverse, to this moment, it all culminated to this beginning, and his solitary vision. But all that was for later. Now was for spectacular fun.
He grabbed her hands, and the two spun, leaning back, feet splashing in the water. Soon now, very soon, they would let go and fly, splashing into the stream.
He tilted his head all the way back so it was upside down. The colors of the Mandala flowers swirled. Was he dizzy enough yet? He pulled harder. Wait for it.
But she let go early, before he said “go!”
He flew back—sploosh!
“Hey! What’s the big idea!” he shouted.
But she wasn’t looking at him. She was staring up. He followed her sight. Three air ships approached fast, descending. They were just meters from the color-splashed fields in seconds.
He’d seen airships before—there were the ships from New Hope, the city just one three-day walk to the west, and there were the rare off-world trade transports. But these had the markings of neither. In fact, he saw no markings of any kind. And he’d never seen an airship approach the meadow, or any place near their home.
“What are they?” she asked.
“Airships of some kind,” he muttered. Of course, he knew she knew that. But what else could he really say about it?
“But why are they here?”
“Come on!” he said, jumping up. “Let’s go see!”
He dashed toward the closest ship. He glanced over his shoulder once. She followed, less eagerly. He shook his head. No sense of adventure.
The nearest vessel stopped to hover just twenty meters above ground. It was huge—and the sound of it was amazing. He knew of these things—at least a little. Those ships were burning massive energy to maintain their position.
Large doors opened and small skimmer craft shot out. Their high pitched whine almost drowned out completely the thrum of the larger ships. He turned to see if she’d caught up. But she was running.
Then he saw the adults sprinting from the ridge, waving their arms. He felt their worry tickle his spine.
His shoulders dropped. For all their wisdom, they never saw the bigger picture. They didn’t appreciate that this was just another surprise in the glorious illusion of reality.
He turned to watch the strange maneuvers of the crafts just in time to see a net descend upon him, surround him, and tighten.
Suddenly, one knee was in his ear and the other under his arm. The rough netting scraped his skin. Things echoed in that harsh barrier like nothing he’d envisioned before—bleak and miserable, people suffering at their own hands, barely aware of their actions and less aware of the consequences. Their blindness almost hurt.
He glimpsed the bright color of the field as it rescinded below. Then, with a thud, it was gone and he lay in darkness, restrained and alone.
Copyright (c) 2011, J. C. Conway