Earth Is A Star | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Fantasy Bookmark and Share

Earth Is A Star

EARTH IS A STAR BY: Dallas Releford Even on a cool spring night with a million stars twinkling above her and a cold moon shining its light down on her, Serena felt as if she owned the entire universe, that everything she could see was hers and that nothing could shake her little world. Alone on the prairie with wind whistling around her like a fearsome beast, she could see the great expanse known as the Plains spread out in all directions like an endless blanket that stretched on forever. Some of her kind just called it the Prairie and let it go at that. Even though she knew she didn’t really own everything, and had no desire to possess it, she did call it home. It had been her home for a long time. A full moon painted the landscape with its green glow causing drowsiness to flow over her. She resisted and kept whispering to herself that she couldn’t go to sleep, not now anyway. Down below her in a deep valley surrounded by treeless hills, Serena Merid could see her home, a long square building with a metallic round top that reflected light from the moon like a mirror. Knowing her parents didn’t like her to wander too far from the house, especially when it was so late at night, she had just about made up her mind to begin the mile journey home when she saw sparklers converging on her home. A cold hand grabbed her neck and she shivered. The sparklers were an indication of evil. She wondered what she had done to deserve such bad luck. With the sparklers came something horrible, something deadly. The thought woke something in her stomach that immediately began to make her nauseous. As she watched spellbound from the top of a hill, small dazzling lights seemed to float across the valley floor like fireflies. The placid scene looked tranquil, peaceful just like something out of a fantasy novel. She loved reading fantasy novels and science fiction too, except this wasn’t a fantasy story. This was extremely serious. Slowly, they floated from nearby woods surrounding the house while her family was not even aware they were there. Their silent approach was unheard by anyone in the house or undetected by their eyes. Serena knew who the sparklers were and what they were. They were death. The sparklers—deadly, treacherous firebugs—lighted the way for the ferocious Apache’s. They were on the warpath again. It seemed to her that they were always on the warpath against somebody. Now her family was their intended target. Weren’t they always fighting, plundering and killing? She had heard a lot of stories about them and the thought of the things they were capable of scared her almost to death. As she watched from shadows, uncertain about what to do, trying to remember everything she had heard about them, she felt a cold chill drift down her spine almost paralyzing her. Her Uncle Jody Clay who had fought in the Apache War way back in 2703 told her many stories about their atrocious behavior. Those stories had seemed unbelievable even back when her uncle told them to her, except she had always known they were the truth. According to Uncle Jody, the Apache warriors only fought at night. Their cat-like vision gave them a tremendous advantage over their enemies. To induce terror in their adversaries, they compelled thousands of firebugs to surround the enemy lighting up the area around them. To add to the terror, in the summertime they persuaded thousands of cicadas to sing their taunting songs as the Apache’s charged into the midst of their enemies. The glaring light, the melodious songs of the cicadas and the deathly, shrill war cries of the Apaches usually rendered the enemy harmless with a disease known as terror. Serena knew what was coming, what was to be and what she must do. There was little time for her to react. Her parents, her sisters and her brother would perish if she did not help them. That much was clear to her. In the dark valley below her, firebugs moved closer to the house. When they were in place with their deadly stingers poised and ready for any foolish person who might panic and dash outside into their welcoming light, they hovered, waited and watched impatiently. Serena tried desperately to focus her mind and send a signal to the large gray wolves that lived nearby, except she found it difficult to concentrate knowing her family were minutes away from death. The stress of knowing what was about to happen haunted her. The large gray wolves would help her, if she could manage to communicate with them. They were her friends. The gray wolves had made war against the fearsome Apaches for centuries and were friendly toward the colonists who had settled this land a long time ago. Serena knew they would be willing to help, if she could contact them in time. Apache meat was their favorite food. Hoping they could reach her in time, she sat down on a large boulder and tried to block all thoughts out of her mind. It was difficult to block her mind knowing the Apaches might attack the house any second. Relieved that the cicadas had not begun their weary war-songs, yet—a clear signal that a charge was imminent—she relaxed when she discovered someone’s mind answering her call for help. At first, it felt as if someone was calling her name from so far away that she could hardly hear or sense it, and as she concentrated attempting to shut out the sounds of the night around her, Serena knew who was calling her name. It was not the voice of the wolves at all. That voice she now heard was distinctive. That voice belonged to someone she had not seen for a very long time. Watching as the firebugs built up the intensity of their light from a glow to a crescendo of brilliance that was not only blinding, but also mesmerizing, she knew that the deadly attack wasn’t far away. Closing her eyes, she listened to the voice calling her through crackling static. Perhaps the Apaches had found a way to transmit a signal that would interfere with the computer chip in her head, she thought. Hah, those dumb morons had just found out how to use a keyboard, she proclaimed as the harrowing thought floated away on the wind. She had heard they were torturing scientists—when they were lucky enough to capture them—in an attempt to acquire an education in the marvelous world of technology, a world that had passed them by a long time ago. Now, thinking of nothing except the voice that was almost lost in hazy static, she asked who was calling her. For a few seconds, the only thing she could hear was the night wind whistling an eerie tune. A few birds chirped in the distance although the light in the valley—that was quickly washing her home from her sight—scared them. Opening her eyelids to reveal deep green eyes she pushed her long red hair from her face and concentrated even harder. “Who are you?” she asked. “Buffalo Bart Carson,” came the reply although she had to listen hard to confirm that it was indeed the voice of someone she knew. “What’s wrong with your communications, Serena?” “Apaches,” she answered. “They must be jamming my signals although I haven’t the foggiest idea about how they are doing it. Can you come right away and bring the wolves?” “What stage of the attack are they currently in?” The voice wavered in and out as if a strong magnetic storm was attempting to drive it away from her mind. “The cicadas do not sing yet,” she said hoping they didn’t start their eerie chatter anytime soon. “The wolves will be on their way in a minute,” he replied. “Is it your house?” “Yes. I’m on the tallest ridge to the south. You know, it is our favorite place.” He knew where she was talking about. “Why yes, I do know where you’re talking about. It’s where the buffalo used to roam. We spent many hours there watching those magnificent creatures graze. What is your situation now, Serena?” “I can do nothing,” Serena cried. Her chest felt as if it might burst. Something heavy pressed against it. “They have the farm surrounded. Their light is so intense I can barely see the buildings. It is blinding. Fear paralyzes me.” “Sometimes that is best,” Buffalo Bart growled hoping she would do nothing foolish. “I ride on the wind as soon as I can,” he added. “I should be there before the wolves arrive. They come with the wind, too.” Serena knew precisely what he was talking about. On the back of his great eagle, Claudia, Buffalo Bart would soar among the clouds until Claudia found the right air currents that would sweep them down to the Green River Basin where she was. Soon he would land that great eagle on the hill above the valley and she would see an old friend she hadn’t seen for too long. She only wished his visit was under better circumstances. The wolves were huge, furry and brave with sharp canine teeth and strong muscles. They would let the prairie winds push them along at an amazing speed taking advantage of its strong gusts. Of course, their speed was determined by the direction of the wind and tonight it was blowing fiercely across the prairie in her direction. Serena trembled so hard she lost connection with Buffalo Bart as a cool breeze passed around her. The ghosts of the plains were walking again, she thought. She had heard her grandfather speak of them, often. She had never seen them. They were as silent as the Apache, however they were harmless, or at least, she thought they were. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. Her good friend, Buffalo Bart, the terror of the plains, was leading the wolves to her rescue. They would arrive soon and everything would be okay. If everything was going to be okay, then why was she worried? Sucking in a deep breath, she expelled it slowly realizing that there was still cause for alarm. Dark clouds were quickly obscuring a green moon that hung above her giving the Apache the darkness they so adored. With that encouragement, they might hasten the attack. They were children of the dark and understood its features better than any other creature, even better than Buffalo Bart. Helpless, she listened as the first cicada begun to sing. Soon their song would build in intensity until all she could hear would be one maddening roar. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, she heard the war cries of the Apache. Serena could see dark silhouettes moving through the light toward her home. Lights suddenly blazed inside the house as the residents—her family—realized what was happening. Placing her hands over her mouth she let a mournful scream escape her quivering lips. The warriors moved closer, cautiously at first. They didn’t want to die. As they crept toward the house, something cold enveloped her. Closer. The sound of laser blasts hitting sand walls reached her ears at about the same time as her heart skipped a few beats and a cold chill drifted down her spine. Clamping her hands over her ears, she tried to shut out the harrowing sounds. The sounds only grew louder. Closer they crept like maddened cats with a rat cornered. The front door burst open. Smoke erupted from the house. Shadows were dragged struggling from her once-comfortable home into the front yard. She knew terrible things would happen to them. She was helpless to prevent it. It was a tale told many times by ancient storytellers and those of her time. The men and boys would be tortured to death. The women would suffer a worse fate, if there were anything worse than being skinned alive, having a red-hot knife slice your flesh or having your tongue slit a few times. The women and girls would be raped and taken away to serve the Apache’s. The Apache’s favored slavery very much. The men would be tortured and then beheaded. The computer chips in their heads were worth ten thousand credits at any trading post on the plains. No questions would be asked as computer chips were exchanged for coupons. It didn’t matter if the chips had a little blood on them. It could be easily removed in the cleaning process. Even stolen computer chips were a valuable commodity on her world. As the terrible scene unfolded below her she could not comprehend the horror, fear and pain her family members were suffering. Casting her eyes up at the sky toward the green moon that the Apache worshiped, she cursed the moon, her god—who betrayed her—and threw her head back in anger. And howled! The green moon of Mars was nameless and had been for the many centuries since her kind had dwelled here on this forlorn planet. Her long red hair, her deep green eyes and her milky white skin were gifts of her ancestors who had come here centuries before she was born. This world, the fourth one from the sun had changed her race in more ways than she could imagine. Serena could hear her father and brothers screaming even though she was almost a mile away. In the brightness of the light from bugs she watched unable to help them. When it was all over, she watched as the silhouettes vanished into the light. She found herself unable to believe it had happened so quickly as the light moved down the valley toward the river. When they thought they were safe from pursuit, they would stop and make camp for the night. Then they would rape her mother and sisters. Again and again—maybe a dozen times—they would be raped until they were nearly lifeless. Then it would stop. They needed servants. When the valley was quiet and her only company was a cool rushing wind, she considered wandering down to the valley, to what was once her home, to see if any of them were still alive. That absurd thought made her almost laugh. She knew that laugh would mean she was as insane as Josh Kendall, the old man who was rumored to roam the plains isolated and all alone. The Apache were master killers. They never left anyone alive when they intended to kill them. She knew in her heart that her family was dead, except for the women. Maybe she could rescue her mother and sisters before the Apaches could do them any more harm than they had already done. Perhaps that was a possibility, she thought. In the tradition of her kind she stared at that moon feeling energy pouring into her body. It was as if the moon were dumping energy into her system, like water flowing from a cliff. Sometimes, it made her drowsy when she resisted its temptation to transform her. Now, she craved, needed and desired its bountiful energy. Soon she would be ready when Buffalo Bart arrived. And ready when the gray wolves came running on all fours, panting, over the hill, through green grass behind her. She would join them for the kill. Knowing there was nothing she could do for her father and brothers, she turned her back to their mangled, torn bodies and walked to the highest peak behind her. With the wind in her face and her body drawing energy from the moon, she waited for the transformation. Transform from one thing to another like a cocoon to a butterfly, thought. Butterflies didn’t exist on her world anymore, hadn’t for a long time. A thing of beauty, she gasped out loud realizing she might never see anything so beautiful again. If only she could have warned her family that they were coming, they could all have had time to transform under the light of the green moon. They could have stood together and killed many of the Apache before death claimed them. Why, they might have killed them all. Apaches honored great warriors by granting them a swift death. Werewolves were the most respected warriors on the entire planet. Serena was proud that she was one of them. As her skin turned pale green, her muscles expanded and her human teeth became canine, she heard a great rush of wind above her. The great eagle, Claudia sailed to the ground only a few yards away. She stood watching as the proud old hunter dismounted and walked sullenly toward her. Buffalo Bart already knew he was too late. He hadn’t changed much, she thought as she studied his tall muscular frame. Maybe he had lost a few pounds, except that was all. His long gray hair still touched his broad shoulders and his deep blue eyes still sparkled like two stars. His tall frame was enshrouded in a tan suit made from deerskin. She wondered if he felt the powerful rays from the green moon as much as she did. One look at his green skin as he drew closer to her told her that he had felt it and absorbed it. He was as charged as a lightning bolt in a summer storm. “Serena,” his great voice boomed. “I see that I’m too late. Even from the sky I could hear them screaming. They shall be avenged and your women-folk shall be rescued.” “It wasn’t your fault,” she cried as she fell into his brawny arms and succumbed to his strong embrace. “I didn’t see them in time to call for help. It happened so fast.” He hugged her tighter. Her soft body against his reminded him of days when he was younger and had held many woman such as she. “The gray wolves will be here shortly. We shall follow them until we can kill them all.” Staring off across the moonlit plains, she said, “Quatrell is mine.” “And so it will be,” he agreed eagerly. Knowing she was claiming the Apache chief as her own, he gave in to her although he would make sure that she got her wish. He knew as well as Serena that Quatrell would die a miserable death. Werewolves had proactive imaginations. “Was it always this way, Buffalo Bart?” She pushed back from him and stood looking at his face. It showed signs of wear and she wondered how old he was. Wrinkles wrapped themselves across his forehead and a few formed on his cheeks. She had known him since she was old enough to remember anything. “Has it always been this way, this evil?” Buffalo Bart took her by her arm and led her to a large flat stone where he told her to sit. With his foot on the stone and his arm resting on his knee, he told her what he knew. Gazing upward, he searched the sky for what he was seeking. Pointing to a small star that was barely noticeable amongst the millions of other stars, he said, “Do you see that little star right out there that is near those two big ones?” She looked and nodded. It was a little star, a blue one that twinkled constantly. “Yes,” she whispered, “I see it. What is it? Is it a star or a planet?” Ignoring her questions, he said, “It all started out there when that star was a world like ours. Centuries ago, our ancestors came here from that star to colonize this world after it was terra-formed during the Genesis Age. Even on that distant world, there were often devastating wars.” “The Reconstruction Years,” she elaborated with a smile on her face. “Those were the times when the great men and women of Earth came here after Mars had acquired an atmosphere, oxygen and gravity.” “Yes,” he murmured. “While they built this world and colonists settled here, great wars erupted on Earth. Scientists began to experiment with anti-matter weapons hoping to make war so horrible that nobody would want to fight. Their way of thinking didn’t work very well. That concept had been tried many times before. It always failed in the end. Except, for a while, their plan did work. It worked for several centuries.” With his eyes fixed on the distant twinkling ball of light, he continued. “Most races on earth thought they had reached an area of common understanding and peace ensured by a stalemate. During this area of tranquility, they managed to colonize Mars.” “Then the inevitable happened,” Serena interjected. “War erupted slowly and ended in a blast of anti-matter bombs that turned Earth into a star.” “Yes,” he agreed. “Cut off from a world that no longer existed many of the humans on Mars perished. During the evolutionary process that followed over thousands of years old species died and new ones emerged. The Apache and other ancient tribes that existed on Earth in the old days developed on the Plains of Mars. Wolves and other animals common to earth appeared.” “Some of those animals had human counterparts—creatures who were half human and half animal—who evolved as Mars became much like old earth,” she whispered trying to be heard above the wind. He leaned closer to her. He hoped that talking about the ancient times would keep her mind off her family, at least, for a little while. Wanting to keep her talking about those times until the gray wolves arrived, he whispered. “Serena, we are the last of our kind.” The words took her like a cold hand reaching down from the night sky. It was true, she admitted. They were the last of their kind. “Yes, I thought there might be a chance we could reproduce and save our race. There was another family over on the West Plains. I suppose they too are gone now.” In light from a green moon, he studied her. Having known her and her family most of his life, he could not believe that the beautiful woman sitting next to him was as beautiful as she was. Even now with soft hair growing on her face, her neck and with her elongated mouth, she was still as beautiful as she was before the transformation. Werewolves kept many of their human qualities during the transformation. Her lips were still full and pink. Her eyes were still green and enticing. Placing his hand on her shoulder, he reached forward and kissed her on her cheek. “I suppose there still might be a few survivors,” he said hoping to encourage her. “You might find a suitable mate, somewhere, someday.” “What’s the use? The Apache will kill us all. We have been enemies since time began. The Apache killed most of the humans and they will slaughter us as well.” “Not if we kill all of them first,” he countered. “We still have a lot of regular wolves to help us. Their kind increases by the year. Soon they will outnumber the Apache. We still have a chance, a slim one.” “Yes,” she agreed. “You didn’t tell me something. What about the earth? Did anyone escape to settle anywhere else in space?” “A few,” Buffalo Bart admitted. “You see, Serena, when they fired up those anti-matter weapons, they destroyed the Earth that used to be out there. When the earth exploded into a ball of everlasting fire, it sent radiation in our direction. Some of the human scientists claimed that was the cause of our haphazard evolutionary process. Before all that happened, several spaceships were sent out from earth. Some of them arrived here intact. Those people now live on the other side of Mars. We are not entirely alone. I suppose it will be a long time before they discover us. Only time will tell if it will be a joyful experience. So, you see now that out of all that evil, there was some good.” She nodded and started to ask another question just as their attention was drawn to the sound of the giant eagle shrieking and pacing around in a weary manner as it flapped its wings. “Someone is coming,” she said. He let his eyes scan the horizon in every direction looking for the gray wolves. “They will be here soon,” he assured her. “Then, we will make those Apaches pay.” “You bet we shall,” she said with a tinge of excitement in her voice. “You said something about there might be a chance, Buffalo Bart. What did you mean by that?” “In the desert of Soledar, there exists a colony untouched by the Apaches, in fact, I doubt if they even know that colony is there. Most people have never heard of it. If we can defeat the Apache, there might still be a slight chance our race can survive.” “Are those people like us?” “Yes,” he said. “They are werewolves.” “Just like us. That has a good ring to it,” she got up from the rock and stood looking up at a ridge where something had caught her attention. “They have arrived,” he said. “Now, let’s get to work, shall we?” Serena looked up at the ridges around them as hundreds of dark figures raised their heads toward the moon and howled. The welcoming call of the wild sent chills over her body and she hoped it would do more than that to the Apache. Sitting behind Buffalo Bart on the back of the enormous eagle with her arms stretched around his tremendous waist, Serena watched as a giant gray cloud moved across the plain below them with the swiftness of the Wind God. Using his ability to communicate with the gray wolves below, telepathically, Buffalo Bart directed the leader to keep his warriors moving down the valley. Near the river that ran the full length of the Valley of the Green Waters, he could see hundreds of lights. He knew where those lights came from. The Apaches were camped where the river took a sharp bend and went southwest. Buffalo Bart, a werewolf—and damned proud of it—since birth knew the fierce Apaches feared the wolves more than any other creature. There was reason enough to fear the wolves. The climate of Mars had assisted evolution in changing the wolves in a way that was remarkable. The gray wolves had developed a language of their own and were extremely intelligent. Gray wolves had several genes that made them all telepathic. They had many human qualities even though they looked like normal wolves. From the air where he had an excellent view of the Apache camp, Buffalo Bart quickly developed his battle plan. One group, half the wolf force would follow the river heading toward the left side of the Apaches while the other half attacked from the right. When the plan was implemented, it would appear as if a giant claw had closed on the Apaches when seen from the air. The river, cold, deep with swift currents would block any attempt the Apaches might make to escape. Surprised by his own cunning, Buffalo Bart passed the plan along to the wolves. Shortly, the gray mass began to divide into two groups. Buffalo Bart prompted the eagle to sail lower. The wolves had orders to make it their top priority to rescue the women. As the wolves attacked the camp, he thought about how it had once been and wondered if it would ever be any better. In the beginning, just after Mars had developed an atmosphere, millions of humans walked this land. Radiation from the new sun changed the genes of those early people. Bombarded with radiation from two suns, the planet underwent unpleasant changes. It was said that evolution wandered in several directions creating species at random. Of all the human-like races, the Apaches were the most violent. They tortured, killed and mutilated until many races became extinct. Buffalo Bart was part of a race of werewolves that had withstood the ferocity of the Apaches the longest. Now he was one of the few that were left. Serena was the daughter of his oldest sister, Shana. Shana was down there in that Apache camp. It was his intention to rescue her and annihilate the heathens. The first wolves crowded through high buffalo grass until they were in the camp. The women—naked and terrified out of their minds—were tied to stakes in the center of the camp where watchful evil eyes monitored them. KoTo led his advance scouts as close to the center of the camp as he could. Even the alert Apaches didn’t know that thousands of hungry canine mouths were within yards of them. The massive army now surrounded the camp and hundreds were inside the perimeter. KoTo, alert and ready, raised his head and howled. Thousands of voices answered him as they attacked guards and rushed into the sleeping camp. Taken by surprise, the Apache warriors had little chance to defend themselves against such an onslaught. When the battle was over and the captives were free, Buffalo Bart and Serena walked through the camp thanking the wolves for their help. As the wolves dragged Apache bodies away to the fields where they would feast well into the night, Serena was reunited with her mother and sisters. Her father and her brothers were gone. Serena would never see them again. Smiling, Buffalo Bart directed them toward the center of the camp where twelve Apache warriors, the absolute last of their kind were tied to posts waiting for their long transgression toward death to begin. It was a slide toward mortality they weren’t looking forward to. “I’ve never tasted Apache meat,” Serena said holding her head up baring sharp fangs that glistened in the moonlight. “I’ve heard it tastes better after it has roasted over a hot fire for several hours,” her mother declared. Then she looked at Serena and snarled. “Preferably over a slow burning fire while they are alive.” Her sisters giggled even though they too had felt the hot knives of the Apache. The feast was ceremonial in nature. Twelve of the enemy was spared because they would be tortured and then slowly roasted over an open fire in retaliation for what they had done to Serena’s family and the other werewolves. As Serena watched the preparations for the ceremony, she wondered what it would be like when werewolves populated the planet. They were the last surviving, intelligent species. Except for the monkeys, apes and a few humans. Those crazy, babbling nonsense-making creatures with heavy fur that served no useful purpose except to eat all day and pick bugs from another monkey’s fur would never be intelligent. She wondered if they had a real purpose for being here. Evolution didn’t make much sense to her. It had created millions of species and the werewolves would probably not be the last to be given life on the planet. Already, there were signs that the smaller creatures, insects and things like that were becoming more numerous. No, she had been wrong. Werewolves were not the only species. They were the only surviving dominant species. Werewolves never worried about the apes and monkeys. They were not as intelligent as the wolves. They were hardly worth worrying about at all. The End
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