Art by Mackenzie Hollman, 2021
The light was blinding. Eitra no longer felt the pain in every bone of her body, yet was overcome with an inconceivable amount of fatigue. She no longer felt any pain in her leg. She blinked, eyes trying to adjust to her surroundings, but all she could see was an endless, white light.
She thought she was dead. In fact, she had accepted it at this point. She’d gone away into the blinding light, ascending into the stars like those before her, forever destined to shine in the night sky. But no, this was not life after death. Something told Eitra that this wasn’t it. Something wasn’t quite right. She could feel it. Life after death wouldn’t feel so bitter.
Her eyes finally adjusted and she became aware of her surroundings. She glanced at her leg, surprised to see it miraculously healed. Everything around her was white: the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the simple, white gown she wore. It was the same unnatural white as the creature’s armor.
A soft hissing noise was released from the far wall as it collapsed in on itself, revealing more blinding whiteness beyond her simple, square room. Then a figure appeared through the opening.
It was one of the creatures.
Eitra scrambled to the wall furthest away from the opening, instinctively grasping for her dagger at her side, but it wasn’t there.
The creature took a few steps towards her, then stopped, looking at Eitra for a moment. Once again, she felt as if it was studying her.
The creature’s armored hands reached for its void of a face. Another hissing sound was released and the darkness appeared to lift off the creature’s neck revealing what was underneath: a face. Not the same void that was there before, no, that was now held in the creature’s arms. It was a face like Eitra’s: A nose, eyes, mouth, everything. In fact, it appeared to be a man’s face. His skin was riddled with a few wrinkles and scars. His hair was grey and unkempt. His eyes were a dark blue.
“Hello,” the creature, no, the man said. He spoke in their same tongue, yet his dialect appeared to be strange and foreign.
“Who are you?” Eitra stammered. “Why do you wear the skin of that dreadful thing?”
The man smiled lightly, “I’m afraid that I am that thing. In fact, I was the one you carried with you to your city.” He looked down at the dark face in his arms, “We wear these for protection. They’re helmets of sorts”
Eitra sat in silence, staring at this man, “Where am I?”
“You’re on our ship,” the man replied simply.
“A boat, you mean.”
He smiled again, “No. Not exactly… You haven’t quite seen anything like–like us before.”
“But you look like me.”
“In some ways,” the man said, “we are both, in fact, human. Our tests have confirmed that.”
Eitra scowled, “Why did you take over my village? Why did you kill my family?”
The man hesitated, “We did not kill them. We took them away.”
Eitra’s heart leaped in her chest, “Where are they?”
“They are safe here, on this ship,” the man answered. “They are being taken, with you and the others, back to our home.”
“Your home?” Eitra looked around her. “This isn’t your home?”
The man laughed, “Oh no, this is only our way of getting home. We take it to the sky and to the space beyond it and, well, it travels back to our home.”
Eitra stared at the man, “You’re from the stars.”
The man squinted, “You are a smart one, aren’t you. The old man–The Historian, you called him–told us you’d have potential.”
“What else has that old fool told you?” Eitra snarled.
“He’s told us about your planet. About its history,” the man said. “In return we gave him knowledge of the future.”
“Planet?” The word was unknown to Eitra.
“Yes, the place you live. A small orb floating in an endless galaxy of stars,” the man wasn’t making any sense now. “In fact, we’re going back to my planet now. In this ship. It’s my home.”
“Why do you want to take over our–our planet? Our own home?” Eitra asked. “Isn’t yours good enough?”
The man hesitated, “Our home isn’t exactly safe anymore. We’re planning to take some of your people back to our planet. We’ll run a few tests, ask you a few questions and, well, then we hope to live with you on your planet.”
“Do you think we’ll welcome you?” Eitra asked, “After you destroyed our homes? After you took our people away? Is that how you plan to go about this? With violence and terror?”
The man paused, “We have a right to your home you know. In fact,” he pressed, “it’s not exactly your home. It’s ours.”
“Because you’ve taken it by force?”
“Oh no, not at all,” the man said. “Because we once lived on your planet. Tens of thousands of years ago. We left after it was too dangerous to stay, too many fires and storms and diseases. We left to find another planet to live on. However, we’ve recently discovered that it’s become inhabitable again, our old planet, your planet. You and your people are proof of its safety.
“Granted,” he continued, “the planet has evolved significantly since we once lived there, millennia ago, but now, we hope to return.” He smiled, “It’s like the old fool said, our past has become our future. Poetic, isn’t it?”
Eitra sat in stunned silence, unsure if the man was playing tricks on her or was outright crazy.
She desperately wanted to leave this place. She wanted to go back to her old village, lay in deep red flowers surrounding her house, and stare up at her ancestors in the stars with her father.
The man began to leave the room. “Our people will be happy to know,” he said as he walked out of the room, “that it is once again safe… to live on Earth.”