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The Not-Star

The grass loomed dark and close around me, their sharp blades scratching the bare skin of my arms as I pushed my way through the plain. The grass swayed above my head, stretching their pointed tips towards the night sky. My bare feet padded lightly on the compact soil as I wove through the grass, my spear’s rock blade pushing the vegetation aside to let me through.

I was silent as a shadow flitting through the plain.

A small stream emerged from the vegetation, and trickled gently past my feet. I paused momentarily to stoop and drink some of the clear water from a pool that had gathered in a dusty hollow.

A small kio squeaked and fled from my presence near his stream, turning to squeak indignantly at me again before disappearing into its burrow.

I paused to make sure that there was no other animals nearby; things worse, such as the striped fosi, almost invisible until it’s on you, biting the back of your neck.

It was safe. So I continued to drink. But as I did so, I caught the burning golden gaze of the water familiar-stranger. She had the palest skin in the light of the twin moons, her perfect skin only marred with thick black stripes, and her hair was a wild mass of red curls.

I hissed at the water creature, and she copied me exactly, baring her own sharp canines. I smiled, and tapped the surface, watching the face ripple and distort. I stood to leave my twin trapped in the water, and continued on my journey.

The sun was peeping over the mountains when I emerged into a clearing. But this clearing had not been here before.

I bent slowly to touch the burnt, flattened grass beneath my feet tenderly. The grass, the lifeblood of our planet. Here was 30 cycles of food wasted, not to mention a large amount of sap, which was crucial medicine.

I followed the wide trail, and eventually came to my destination.

It was a large hulk of shining… not-rock.

I had assumed it was a star, when it had burned through the sky and sunk below the grass, making the ground tremble at its impact.

But this was definitely not a fallen star.

I tentatively edged forward, and placed a hand against the side. It was burning hot, and I pulled away, gasping. A star was rock. This was definitely not rock.

It was a strange shape, with fins like the yalin in Lake Lu, and its looking holes were covered with hard tough… clearness. Some of the clearness had fallen, and was strewn around the clearing in shards which cut when I stepped on them. I took a wide berth from the dangerous stuff, trailing golden blood behind me on the dirt.

As I circled the strange object, I saw a body lying on the floor.

I gasped and raced towards it, falling to my knees beside him. But as I went to touch him, I paused. It looked exactly like the men in camp, but I saw it was not one of us. He was wearing black, all of its body and arms and legs completely covered, apart from its head. But the deciding factor that this alien was not one of us, was the fact that his pale face had no stripes. He was completely plain.

I leant down and listened to his mouth. There was no breath coming from his lips. I crossed my arms over my chest, and turned my face to the moons, wishing his spirit well on the journey into the Next.

As I continued to inspect the not-star, I saw there was a large hole torn into the side, and a light flickered inside. I jumped, unsure how these creatures had managed to capture fire to light up their not-star. But, intrigued, I crept inside anyway.

Inside, there were even more dead plain-faces.

I had almost had enough of the strangeness of it all, when I heard a gurgled cough. I jumped. I pointed my spear towards the darkness further inside the not-star.

The fire light flickered again, making my eyes burn, but I had seen another plain-face lying on the floor. He wore the same clothes as the other I had found, but this one’s hair was as brown as mud. His leg was trapped under a piece of not-rock, and his strange red blood was seeping over the ground.

The plain-face coughed again, and its eyes flickered open. They were the blue of our sky, and they fixed right on me. He was as handsome as our best men, and I felt a strange sensation; a need to help him.

He struggled to sit up as I knelt beside him, resting my spear down on the ground nearby. His eyes were on me, suspicious, and even though I felt the same towards him, I knew I would regret letting him die.

I pulled the piece of not-rock off his leg, and he shouted in pain. I took out a cloth covered in grass sap from my medicine pouch, and rubbed it over the wound, before producing my bone needle. I sewed the wound shut with grass sinew, and then rubbed more grass sap over the top of the cut. I rocked back on my heels, looking happily at my work.

I met the plain-face’s eyes again. His eyebrows were pulled down again, but his mouth was smiling. He spoke to me, and I frowned myself.

“I do not understand,” I told him, but it seemed as confused by my words as I did his.

I took the water bag off my skirt tie, and handed it to him. He pulled the top off, and sniffed the contents, making me laugh at his suspicion. He seemed startled by the noise, but he did drink the water.

There was a whirring, booming sound of not-thunder, and I jumped.

The plain-face gripped my arm, and I started again, my free hand flying towards my spear. But when I turned back to him, I saw concern in his eyes. He pushed me away from him, and waved his arms. He was shooing me.

I understood immediately.

I was outside in an instant. I saw the dark not-stars silhouetted against the rising sun, and I skidded away from the wreckage towards the grass. Once I was safely concealed, I peered back out at the aliens.

I saw that the jutting arms of the not-stars had fire on the ends, which seemed to be slowing their descent. The fire stopped when they landed, and the not-thunder quietened into the usual sounds of the land. Through the looking holes, I saw a figure sat, wearing black, both were wearing coverings in their heads so I could see their faces. But I knew if they were removed, I would be seeing more plain-faces.

The backs of the not-star fell down towards the floor, and five black clothed creatures came from each. They aimed blocks of not-rock at the grass around them, and I identified them as weapons by their stances, even if they did not look sharp at all. But I did see that there were fires in the centre of the block, but the fires burned blue like the sky.

I heard my plain-face calling to them from the inside, and some of the creatures raced to him. They emerged mere seconds later with him carried between them, and another box, which too seemed to contain sky fire. I guessed it was just as important to them as my plain-face was.

Strung between their bodies, my plain-face was looking for me in the grass. I was gripped by the impulse to step out and wave to him, to say goodbye, to wish him well, but I could not. His eyes found nothing in the shade of the grass, and he soon disappeared into the not-star. It blasted fire again, and rose into the sky.

When the land was quiet once more, I wandered back to camp. In the morning, my people would wake and hunt and clean, as if nothing had happened.

But nothing would ever be the same again.

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