I remember colors … one at time, coalescing in front of my vision like the moon’s many shades. First came orange and its radiant energy. Then green and the rush of life inherent in the living color, which in the moment perplexed my feeble mind. Red came next, thumping new blood through my veins. Blue razed my menial awareness and brought the touch of a beginning, one I still fall short of understanding to this day. Hundreds more came after, each with their own awakening, exhuming plebeian cognitions of this quiet earth … the one, in time, we called Prima. If all living things came to be the way I did, the way all our people did, then we are truly related, brothers and sisters of the stars above and the ground below. It is with great esteem, yet caution, that I say this, for one does not kill their brother or their sister, like we sacrifice the doe, to survive—yet they stave the drive to live and accept mortality earlier than expected. Perhaps, kin we once were, but now only exist to mutually survive each other.
The day my eyes opened to this great world, the commencement of our race, was not day at all, but a night with a silver moon and a prevailing wind from the south. All the colors which forced life upon me, giving me the imbedded and rudimentary tools to cope with existence, flashed for what some called a thousand lives, yet felt like a blink of the eye. Evermore did a voice say, “live … live … live until the dawn of the other has come … the day when you have reached your sum.” The words still echo faintly, in the deepest hole of my memory, lingering like the lone cloud that shields the sun.
The grass under my bare side was the first thing I felt. Its virgin blades frolicked against my skin, fueled by the warm gale. I trembled, though I was not cold. I cowered, though I knew nothing of fear. Others, few others, as bare as I, woke around me with no sound but that of the First Breath. The ground pulsed beneath, a turquoise hue, with no coherent origin, and housed us in the middle of a copse. The trees glowered like sentinels dutifully binding us to our spot. The stars uncovered our shame like prying eyes and the moon hovered over all like the god, we for so long, thought it to be.
In my dumbfounded state, I could only observe with less than a child’s understanding, the others appearing similarly. Something innate, deep within, told us we were the same, and that each other could be trusted, but this could not be said for beyond the pulsing ground beneath us. We sat and listened to the sound of the quiet earth for hours. The rustle of a bush, the breaking of a branch, and the silencing of prey fluttered by our perfect ears. All was meant to harm us. Why? We had no answers, we had only misguided instincts to distrust everything that was not us.
The first touch, from another that is, occurred that first night. The howls of wolves echoed along the mountain ridges and thrust through the trees like sharpened arrows. Our bodies clambered together as the sound was the most hideous yet. A carnal rage of insidious delight played in the yelps, the timbre of which I’ve yet to hear again. How helpless we were, bundled tight with eyes affright, waiting for whatever could possess such a shriek.
The great predators stalked from all fronts, their paws eluded every leaf and their pants muted, yet their intent so palpable, it strangled our hearts. As I looked into the dark of the surrounding woods, yellow eyes focused their glare on the ones they had called for. A pitiable moan emanated from our group as they began to see what I had. The hunters broke through the verge and glimmered in the sliver moon’s light. The majesty of life’s beginning held no candle to the terror of its end. We knew not what life was or what it could become, but we feared its abduction and clung to it like a mountain to its roots. With each step, their hackles rose and teeth flared.
All of us intertwined in the middle of the glowing patch of ground, crying, shivering, and shedding the first of many tears. More than twenty wolves had encircled, waiting for the alpha’s order to attack. When he gave the sign, indiscernible to others, they rushed forward. I shut my eyes as we braced for whatever fate bade. Someone rustled out from the middle of the group and ran. I opened my eyes and watched as he eluded the first wolves and went for the forest. However, he did not make it. Two took him down and the others followed. The crunching of bone and slobbering over fresh meat caused the bile to rise, gaging the back of my throat. We remained bundled together, weeping and moaning, eventually falling asleep to the music of murder.
We awoke in darkness with the same silvery moon, the same stars, and the same glowing patch of ground encircling our coterie. The tears of others coated my arms and head, for they even wept in slumber. The gales returned as did the sounds of night. Our embrace tightened as the time passed and waited for our enemy to emerge. If we knew of prayer, we would have prayed, if we knew of hiding, we would have hid, if we knew of hunting, we would have hunted, alas, we were ignorant and so we waited like all fools do.
The howls came, echoing off the mountain ridges once again. We bundled together in our fear without a thought among us, the feeling driving all. The yellows eyes crept through the forest, more boldly than before. They surrounded our pathetic mass and encroached. Before they could get too close, one of ours, jostled out of our collection and made for the trees like other had. Like the other, they caught her within steps. The mangled sounds of screaming and feasting put us into another weeping slumber.
The night, always the night, greeted us again as I was the first to wake. One by one the others roused. We counted off the steps of the gloom without numbers as the sounds, the gales, and the dreadful yellow eyes arose in sequence.
We bundled even tighter than before as our enemy grew closer, salivating as if they could already taste us. They strode through the trees unconcerned with the clamor or lack of stealth, whatever respect they had for their prey vanished. The moans and tears of my kin commenced. With every step of the enemy, our group fidgeted as if all planned to run. I watched as the wolves stalked, coming closer and closer. The others unwound themselves from each other and prepared to flee. I remained seated, still bound to several. After a few more steps, they too, fidgeted away from our bond. One ripped his arm away from mine and my hand braced my fall. The glowing grass pulsed at my touch.
“Be still!” I commanded, the words coming from something beyond myself. I raised my hand and looked at the glowing ground beneath it. Could it be? Was it the earth who spoke through me? I replaced my hand and uttered the only words I could. “Be still!” And everyone went still.
The wolves remained unimpeded, although surprised that no one had fled, they still closed in. We interwove ourselves with each other and waited for our fate. I felt the tears of others drop onto my skin and I closed my eyes, staying the weeping spell. A cacophony of yelps screeched like a broken instrument. I opened my eyes to a shocking sight; not blood or death, but the wolves cowering on the edge of our glowing patch of ground. Every few seconds one would move closer and as soon as it grazed the rim of the turquoise light, it whimpered as if something injured it from the inside. All of us grew silent and the tears stalled as we watched in utter confusion.
Our enemy tried and tried to pass, to break the barrier that kept us from them, yet each time they cowered and stumbled away.
Hours passed and we remained unharmed, simply watching as our enemy grew tired and frazzled. They began to nip at each other as the hunger and frustration gnawed at their resolve. I locked eyes with the largest of the pack, the alpha. He stared at me, not like prey, but one who had been defeated. In that moment, I knew we’d survive the night. He turned to his pack and gave the sign to retreat and one by one they did, leaving us to the majesty of solitude.
We hung in a state of tempered euphoria, happy that our enemy retreated, questioning in our own minds if they would return.
Day never came, in the beginning, one night rolled into a darker one and so on and so forth. The wolves came for the next few days, testing for weaknesses, goading us to leave the safety of the glowing ground, none of it worked. They came fewer and fewer as the weeks went on, most of the time it was only a few stragglers or juveniles who failed to learn their lesson. We watched and studied their movements, their technique in stalking prey—that is when the first hunger panged.
The sensation was new and altogether frazzling to our simple minds, we only knew that we felt angst and needed something to quell it. It took several days for us to prompt into action. Ufas, Imbad, and Attur made the first move. They had watched families of squirrels make homes in the closest set of trees and this mere act of watching a defenseless creature seemed to entice their bodies to act. When the forest grew quietest, the three sprinted toward the unsuspecting victims. They dug out palm sized stones imbedded in the dirt and launched them at the prey, killing nine squirrels. Collecting their bounty, they rushed back to the safety of our glowing patch and began to divide the kills amongst the entire group. There were twenty of us originally, two killed, so it became eighteen, that meant one carcass per pair. Sharing came easy to the clan, far easier than it seems today. It was necessary in the beginning, we had to lean on each other for survival or the whole would fail. Attur brought the last squirrel and placed it beside my feet. He was the tallest of the group and his shoulders could have supported an ox’s yoke. He ripped the critter in half and we feasted for the very first time. Years later, I would call this man husband, and you would call him father.
Hunting became a ritual, each time the original three ventured further and further out to find bigger and tastier game. Over the period of the never-ending night, several others would venture out and gather everything from berries, shrubs, water, and even the giant sivorous leaves for shelter when it rained. There was one night when we’d had our fill of meat, with reserves for later in the night, we laid down and watched the shooting stars blaze across the deep purple sky—tranquility moved through our tribe for the first time.
One particular night, when the clouds unleashed their worst, we thought it a horrible thing, that was until the most magical spectacle occurred. The thunder jarred us and the lightening terrified us when it struck an oak nearby, causing it to burst into flames. At first, we cowered from the blaze, but in a matter of minutes it entranced us. Something primitive, primordial, stirred in our core, deep within we knew that this was powerful and would launch our race into some future steps of evolution.
Your father and our two other hunters wasted no time and carefully retrieved the blazing log and brought it under our modest shelter. There, we watched its flames jut and pitch about in its own rhythm. As it died down, your father instinctually retrieved more wood to keep it lit. It worked for days, weeks, and months, the same fire was kept alive by those ignorant of what to call it, and its breadth of power.
In days, we learned to prepare meals over it, use it as a guide during hunts and to harness its warmth on cold nights. When I say we felt as though we had everything we needed, I mean we truly believed we had everything life could offer. The first of us, still living, often reminisce about those glorious days when we experienced the true magnificence of an uncluttered mind and a body that had all it desired. The nights when our bellies were full and the gales calm and warm, we dreamed with eyes open while nestled together, staring at the stars. I don’t care to reminisce much, other than to teach or inform, but if ever there was a time I would like to visit again, it would be then. It is hard to comprehend now what we didn’t know then, yet in our ignorance we believed that we would live on the tiny patch of grass forever, together—naked, and content.
Oh, how time makes fools of us all.
One day, months since we’d seen even a glimpse of the wolves, your father and his hunting party, which had grown to seven, returned in a panic with no food and two of our kin torn and bloodied. We did everything we could to try and save them with our meager knowledge and supplies. A constant flow of tears blinded me as I worked on one. It was futile. The young men died, choking on their own blood. A catatonic spell rendered me incapable of tearing my eyes from their corpses. An hour earlier, they’d laughed and shared in the bounty of kinship, and now—they laid forever still as unrecognizable carcasses. I’d never seen, or would ever see again, your father distraught as he was that day.
We sat in the never-ending night, eating in silence, watching in silence, and wallowing in the mire of our loss in silence. If anything showed us how vulnerable we truly were, how benevolent life had been to us up until that moment, it was that day. Our enemy did not leave, they did not cower and surrender to our fortune. They rose up and struck back like the monarchs of the dark they were. They studied their enemy, timed their strike, and executed with predatorial precision.
Your father and the others chose to remain within the confines of our safe ground without an inkling of venturing out on another hunt. We rationed the food we had, not because it was the smart thing to do, yet loss is the ultimate appetite suppressant. Our once splendid existence plummeted back to the terror of the first days. Fear—it remains the worst sin against life. It destroys joy and buries hope so that the person is trapped in a balancing act of misery and apathy. The future is an enigma that taunts the present’s levity for the fool he is. It wields life like a sword, cutting down anyone who’s arrogance exceeds their wisdom. A pitfall if there ever was one—for wisdom is often greatest abettor of pride.
With food running short and stomachs voiding, we bemoaned the loss of our independence. I watched as others claimed the last scraps of meat past its prime and berries more pruned than a crone’s lip. Our enemy had forced us into an impossible decision; starve—or brave the countryside to stave off starvation—either choice would end in death. No one dared a look other than desperation. How many days could we go without food? Of course, we had no idea. What could we do? Would this be the end?
The call of an eagle drew my attention to the sky. Its graceful body, built perfectly for flight, glided down to the forest beside our camp. The moon glimmered off its pearl feathers, covering it from covert to crown. It cascaded down with its talons flexed wide and landed on a high tree branch. I watched as the raptor proceeded to tear apart its catch for the night, sprinkles of blood coating its copper beak. It trembled as the branch lost its rigidity and fell to the ground, the bird taking flight before it dropped more than a foot. I starred at the severed branch lying there. It had already begun to die, separated from its host, the one that gave it life and nutrients to carry on; soon it would be a fragile imposter of the once stalwart limb. It reminded me of us.
I leaned back and placed my hands face down to support and the glowing patch of grass pulsed at my touch. It caused my eyes to turn to the branch once again. That is when I saw it; the severed end bowed with a thick sharp edge. Without provocation I stood up, my mind stopping me from moving. What if it was a trick? I thought. The last time I had the urge to move or speak, we turned our fortunes, yes, but soon after it became worse than before. Was some force baiting me into further deception? Would whatever I was going to do lead us into an even dire situation?
For the first time in my short life, I left the haven of the luminous ground and collected the stick. Every eye turned to me as I came back. The words came from the same unknown source as before.
“Fight!” I hollered at my kin. “Fight for life!” The cogs of destiny turning, evident in their faces.
Your father joined me first, soon followed by the others as we screamed into the pitch.
Each of us broke off a branch and carried a sharpened point into the wild where, for certain, our enemy tracked every movement. Your father and our hunters carried torches with the Original Flame still burning. Every sparrow’s flutter and rabbit’s pounce caused our muscles to tense.
Before I could move the wolves ransacked us from all sides. Screams and yelps thrashed out as the ripping of muscle and the puncturing of hide ensued. I thrust my stick in every direction, hoping for it to land in the belly of our enemy. A growl from behind caused me to spin and I prodded my weapon into the neck of a juvenile. A mess of blood and attacks flurried all around me. Your father screamed into the air, the entrails of countless wolves coated his face. He attacked anything within striking distance. His ferocity dwarfed our enemy’s and for the first time they saw it. Others followed his lead and let go of the fear and defended their lives like they knew what losses they would be. What was left of the pack backed off and surrounded us. We braced for another strike, but instead they proceeded to slink away into the bush. As the last one disappeared, we erupted into a cheer unlike any before or after.
We embraced and cried for we had conquered our demon. Your father ignored everyone else’s attempts and presented himself before me, soaked in the fluid of our enemy and seeking my acknowledgment. That was the day I knew I felt something for your father, something greater than for the others. If I had known the sensation or the word, I would have known to call it kismet. His eyes burned for me as the others celebrated and he cast a look that I will never forget—a look that meant he felt the same for me as I did him.
This pivotal time in our development spawned the Great Enlightenment. It seemed like every night we made a new discovery of the world around us or within ourselves. We built the first city in a matter of days, never stopping until completion. Everyone had a home, everyone had a neighbor and the final piece was at its center, a shrine to those we lost in the early days, wreathed by a ring of the Original Flame—one that must never extinguish. We all laid our heads down in domiciles of wood and stone without a sliver of fear in our hearts. However, we could not sleep for long. For something powerful came through the windows early into our slumber, something that would change the world forever. The sun. The blazing sphere dimmed out the moon and stars, ascending for the first time. We all woke, entranced by the fire in the sky. We joined together in the center of our city and wept for we had conquered the night and were given day as a reward from some unknown scion of the heavens. Your father pulled me into his arms that day and I knew I was his and he was mine—forever.
We never spent another night apart. We grew as a city, as a race, in the midst of a carnivorous world we knew so little about. We cherished the daytime and all that it allowed us to do. It was safer, where we moved around without fear and built our towers and monuments. However, us first born, were in love with the night. It holds a precious memory that none of our offspring will ever fathom. I wish I could comprehend the stirring in my soul that ignites when the sun slinks low and the diamonds cling to the murky blanket of the sky. In time, the night grew less perilous as our old enemy, the wolves, became our most trusted companions, even our compatriots in the battles against the more treacherous beasts of this earth.
Our society formed and our toils gained direction. Your father became First Protector, a mantle, as you know, he has since passed. I became First Leader, a mantle, as you also know, I have since passed—for rule should always remain in the hands of buoyant minds.
Why is this story important for you to know? Why does something so far below our current state of awareness and advancement matter? Because you must never forget the meaning of our name. Amedrials is our race, yes, but what are we? We are the sons and daughters of the stars … warding over the night … and all that is good.