One year after humans. Or is it ten? I don’t know. I do know that this planet has been abandoned. Have I also been abandoned, or just forgotten? That can’t be possible, the other Matayans have to be here somewhere.
I walk down a plant-covered passageway and try to imagine what kind of cataclysm could have driven Earth’s inhabitants away. But I don’t know the planet well enough, I’ve only been here once before, for a short time. I recall my time here then, standing on a street corner playing my sithara. Each strum of the strings told a story but no one seemed to understand. A few humans stopped and dropped coins into the sithara’s case. A nice gesture, but not what I wanted. I soon left the planet, frustrated.
But upon return to my own planet I found it being attacked, my people leaving in sizeable groups in whatever form of ship they could find. Is that what has happened here on Earth? It doesn’t look war-torn or assaulted, just empty. I wonder what happened in the time I’ve been gone. It seems mere days to me yet the passage of time here on Earth has been obviously far greater.
It occurs to me that I could have been the upheaval. Had the music of my sithara damaged them in some way? Had my leaving caused turmoil. It doesn’t seem likely but I recall the story of the rezati’s wings. Just pulling off one can change monumental things in your future.
I reach the end of the passage, where the most luxuriant greenery grows. I kneel and gently push the vines apart, looking for a clue as to what had caused Earth’s abandonment.
Insects scramble away from the intrusion, of light, of possible danger. My stomach growls so I rub my fingers together then thrust them into the leaves. I’ve never actually eaten any of Earth’s insects because very few humans did that. Instead I’d managed to choke down salty potato sticks and ground-up animal patties stuck between dry bread slathered with colourful condiments, then washed it all down with a fizzy drink they called pop.
Humans seemed to enjoy it but I’d much rather have been dining on Earth’s huge variety of insects. Now I had my chance.
Attracted to my body heat and the oils in my skin (brought to the surface with the rubbing), the bugs gather on my hand. I curl my fingers slowly into a cup, draw my hand up, then choose the biggest insect, the juiciest. I bite down, savouring the flavour. It had been too long since my last meal.
I carefully choose another insect and its taste drives me crazy. I rip into the lush greenery searching for more, wanting that taste on my tongue again. Pulling bugs from their safety, I reject a few and sample a few others. There are many good flavours, but nothing that matches what I desire. Soon, the various tastes don’t matter. I just need to fill my empty belly. I shove them into my mouth, even swallowing some whole.
When I’m finally sated I lay on top of the torn vines to rest. It only takes a minute to hit me. . . the cramps, the ache in my muscles. In my hungered frenzy, I’d eaten something that didn’t agree with me, maybe even poisonous to me. Stupid! I remind myself of how little I know about this planet, and recall what I do know: perhaps there’s a reason the people of this planet don’t consume their insects.
As suddenly as it began, the pain stops. But now I can’t move, can’t even open my eyes. I hear rustling footfalls, voices. There’s silence as fingers poke and prod at me. A dear friend from the ship calls my name. I make every effort to reply, to move a body part, even just a finger, but nothing happens.
“We must do a necropsy,” says a voice I recognize as the ship’s doctor.
“Now? Here?” his assistant, whom I knew well, replies.
“We need to know what killed her.” The doctor again. “This is as good a place as any.”
But I’m not dead, I scream, only they can’t hear me. More rustling, other noises. No! Please, no. I beg but my plea is in my mind only. Terror strikes through me, but my heart, like the rest of me is now paralysed. If their knives don’t kill me, surely this will. Tears stream down my face, or at least it feels that way. I know there are no tears for if there were, they wouldn’t do this terrible thing to me.
A knife slices my flesh.
I scream again . . .
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Kellee Kranendonk is a Canadian writer, a wife, mom, and the editor of Youth Imagination Magazine. She’s been published most recently in such magazines as Voluted Tales, 365 Tomorrows, Aurora Wolf, The Fifth Di, 101 Words, and Flash Fiction Press. Her non-fiction has appeared on the Write Well, Write to Sell websites.