by Pavarti K Tyler
I closed my eyes, letting the heatseep into my skin. My mind drifted to the forest where animals hunt andscavengers pick at what’s left behind. Life wasn’t supposed to be lived likemine, alone. There wasn’t much hope things would change though. The fewSualwets I’d met were afraid of me, and —thanks to my mother’s stories— I was terrified of theErdlanders.
As a child I hadn’t minded thesolitude, enjoying my mother’s attention and playing with the animals in andout of the water. But at 15 years old, almost 16… Something inside me longedfor more. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew it was out there.
The sun floated across thecloudless sky as I dozed. Our cove was the safest place on earth, solitary andundiscovered by Sualwets and Erdlanders alike. Images of floating boats andswimming clouds filled my mind until a sound jolted me from my inner thoughts.
A hoooooffff and then a swoosh.The air moved as if something had run past me. Looking down the beach I saw adark spot shrink and then disappear.
“Hey!” I called, jumpingto my feet and running toward the movement. If it was an animal it was alreadygone, but so few ventured here, skittish around my mother and I. Perhaps it wasused to groups, an Erdlander pet that lost its way. I raced after it, sandflying behind me as my webbed feet scooped it up.
I ran along the beach until Ireached the beginning of the forest. It was thin here near the sand butthickened further back, stretching out beyond my reach, colliding with a cliffwall leading up to the mountains.
I skidded to a halt, sliding onthe sand and crashing down to my hands and knees. Something was climbing thecliff!
“Hey!” I cried, moreafraid for the creature’s safety than I was for my own. No animal I’d ever seencould climb that wall.
I watched, transfixed, as it movedall four limbs in combination like a spider. Slowly the animal traversed thewall until it reached a flat surface out over the water. It was hard to seewith the noon day sun glaring down in my eyes, but it was not covered in hairthe way the wild dogs of the forest were. It had dark tan skin, like a boar,or… an Erdlander? My mother’s voice swirled in my mind: They have skin as dark as the bark of a tree and hair on their heads,thick like rope. Their eyes can be black or green. Once I even saw one witheyes blue like the bay. But don’t let that fool you; they don’t possess thewisdom of the sea, only the cruelty of the sun.
I watched as the creature hunchedon the plateau and reached into a bag I hadn’t seen slung over its shoulder.Slowly, it pulled out a handful of the now-dry paper I’d laid out on the beach.
“Give those back!” Iscreamed without thinking. Paper was precious when you live alone and it wasmine.
At the sound of my voice thecreature turned and scanned the beach. Hair covered its features but I couldclearly see a pair of bright blue eyes.
“Go!” It spoke Erdlanderwith a voice low and gruff like those of the men on the melodisks. It scratchedagainst my ears and the tone of the word was wrong, but somehow, I understood.
“No! Give those back!” Iscreamed up, taking a step in the direction of the talking beast.
“Mine!” He stood up,towering over me. The plateau was easily 50 feet up so it was difficult togauge height, but whatever he was, he was tall. I shrunk back, having neverseen an Erdlander or a man. My courage evaporated.
“Mine.” He repeatedbefore shoving the pages back in the bag and scampering higher. I watched hisretreating form until it was just a spot in the distance.
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