Grave Awakening

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Cultural Exchange

Twelve. Twelve dead idiots who didn’t check who else was downrange. Twelve shortsighted, wiry individuals who didn’t know trigger discipline or to hold a moment before firing to make sure their target was still where they were aiming. Twelve wonderful examples of the thirteen he only met on this world and would fit perfectly into the police forces back at home, though it was a toss-up which state. He knew at least three he would have top pick, but it would be an all-out brawl between them for the honor of having them in their ranks.

So maybe it was no wonder why he was treated so roughly. They must have been local heroes- nay, saints for how they kicked his ribs and bashed his back with the hafts of the spears. Their caterwauling and hysteric shrieking must have been such beautiful songs of pride and remembrance in their language for tears streaked down all their faces, pattering like rain as he simply laid there, feeling it hit him from on high. The ceremonies were quick to end, though, and his arms and legs were bound in thick rope before he was picked up. It took only two of them, one holding him by the shoulders and the other by the hips, and he had a rather exceptional view down the one’s pale yellow tunic. If only it wasn’t male, but he made an interesting discovery: it seemed the males of the species did not have nipples.

He was taken up the road to the mound, surrounded by whispering voices. Nick was tempted to tell them that they didn’t need to bother, that he couldn’t understand them anyways, but the spears pressing into his jacket and, in turn, into his ribs were a huge incentive not to bother. Don’t know why he was being treated like the bad guy here; all he did was fall back. They shot themselves, and all he got out of it was an achy, tingly spine.

He was dropped on his achy, tingly spine. There was not even any warning that they were. He saw the path had changed from the cobblestone to more a dirty, sandy top, and he was met with it as they both shrugged him off. The ground puffed as he hit it, back cracking on it and took what air he had with it, blown out as a wheeze into the dust rising from his descent. He sat up- slowly, of course. The spears had found him again, but they were at least gentler than the initial prods. So now he couldn’t even feel them quake; take away all his fun.

But what about these people? What could he gleam from them as they continued to talk in hushed whispers... Well, he didn’t want to seem racist, but they all pretty much looked exactly the same. The same could be said if you brought enough whites together or otherwise, but he was having a hard time even seeing hair color apart. He did, after scrutinizing for a bit. Some had pale silver, others had soft chrome, and even others had plain white... Other than eye color being a bit different, ranging from blue to green to purple, they were all pretty much copies of each other.

Maybe if he had more time to investigate he could see more differences, but it wasn’t long before one barked out and silenced them all. He looked up into that one’s beautiful lilac eyes, the irises thinned to slits, their black lips curled into a scowl, and he knew that had to be the most beautiful woman of the tribe... Shame the fingers, toes, and bicep fluff showed it was a male. They spoke directly to him, said what he could only assume was, “What are you, why are you here, and would you like some salty fish balls?” Sadly, it was only assumptions, so he answered the best way he could.

“Me llamo Nick,” he said, and they gasped, pushing the spears through his jacket. Apparently that was not what they wanted to hear; he shook his head, and nodded his head up. “Nick.”

The thing narrowed its eyes, and Nick could see the gerbil dead on the wheel inside, its carcass flopping as a stray wind blew the wheel in there back and forth. Every so often there was a strong enough gust that got it turned around, and this was one of those times. He pointed at Nick, said his name in a question, and Nick nodded that, indeed, he was Nick.

“Rylo Dest.” The thing said, slapping his own chest as he did, but he didn’t stop there. He gestured to the mound and out towards the road and the fields that awaited. “Leyshun. Nesel fe, niest spehil Reylo?”

“Earth, and no. American, so bastard English.”

Rylo held up his hand, and said something else, which he could not comprehend at all. All he knew was that it was a question, given the inflection at the end and he wasn’t a college girl back on Earth. His smirk had turned into a smile a moment... taken as Nick gave no response nor reaction, and it seemed, “for the love of...” was the same no matter where you were, uttered under its breath.

Another spoke up, arguing with Rylo, this one a haughty little spitfire and very much female. Childhood friend, most likely, or rival? He noticed their tone had shifted to being more familial, even if the words slung between were not. The other’s attention was pulled to their spat, so entranced by their bickering that the one to his right didn’t even notice that he was using the spear to saw at his ropes. The first band snapped, and he was able to squeeze out of them, however he was, also, enamored and enthralled to see where this debate went... What could he say? He loved watching other people’s drama.

The female finally had enough, though, and, against the wishes of Rylo, stomped up to Nick. She reached for his collar- and her and the others cried out as his phone flashed, making them back away. He eased himself to his feet, still tied up, and turned the camera around, showing a photo of the girl that tried to manhandle him. They looked from it, to the girl, then back to it, and Rylo attempted to still them again with four more barks. Meanwhile, when the girl saw herself on that phone, she shrieked... for a minute. Then her eyes rolled back into head and she swooned, collapsing onto the ground. Which only added to the chaos, but, more importantly, to the fun.

Rylo stomped up to him and snatched the phone away... and Nick could see the shiver run through him as the screen was black. It was becoming quite the challenge to hold back his laughter, especially as he turned the phone over in his hands and ran his fingers along its sides, as if trying to find a way to open the shadow prison box. Rylo looked up, and shoved the phone back to him, which it didn’t take a master of the language to understand his fervent pointing between it and the collapsed woman meant that he wanted him to shove the phone up her-

Nick sighed, shook his head, and pointed at his legs, tapping his foot to further imply his message. Rylo growled, shaking his head, and pointed even harder at the phone then at the girl.

“Nick.” Nick said, gesturing to himself, then gestured to her, but that only made Rylo growl even louder. His finger shook as he pointed at that phone again, then at the girl... Nick sighed again, and pressed the power button, illuminating the screen. “Fine.”

Rylo smiled, but was lost to awe as he saw the phone shift to the home menu. So many colorful widgets, so many provocative ideas for such a simple mind; he started to demand again as Nick pulled up the picture of his lady friend... deleting it. Nick turned the phone off again, and all forgot him as they watched Rylo crouch down to the girl, coming to. It was, like, it was melodramatic and overreacting and had nothing to do with him taking the picture at all... No. Wait. That’s too plain... It was like magic!

Please... There’s no such thing as magic, he thought, standing on an alien planet almost a galaxy away from Earth while having no heartbeat... He shifted his feet, cleared his throat- louder the second time, finally getting Rylo’s attention. He gestured to his feet again-

But the girl had other plans.

She shot up off the ground, growling deeper and angrier than Rylo had been, and shoved Nick onto his back. She screamed in his face, spit flying as she clawed at his hands, making it very clear what she was demanding, while Rylo was trying to pull her off, voicing his concerns. However, that didn’t stop her from getting the phone, and crushing it in her hand. The others gasped as the black, liquid crystal dribbled from between her clawed tips, mingled with her blue blood, raining down on him.

She said something to Nick directly, her tone mocking, matching the nasty sneer that mired her face, replaced with anger again as she wrenched at his jacket, tearing it off. She checked every single pocket, removed his wallet, his headphones, his extra charger, and his pens and markers and scattered them on the ground around before tossing it aside, eyeing his pants n-

“Kunas!” Rylo shrieked, and finally had enough. He pulled her off, shoving into the crowd, but wouldn’t relent, still shouting at her as he gestured to the remnants of the phone in her hand... If Nick had to wager what he was saying, he was arguing that she shouldn’t have destroyed the phone because that would have only angered him further and incurred more of his wrath... Or, since had shown some semblance of wisdom and the spark of seeking knowledge when he looked upon it, she shouldn’t have destroyed it before they could learn more about it and the strange person who carried it.

Either way, Nick was now out of a phone, which meant his only real connection to his world, a more technology-advanced but just as savage world, was now gone. He would never hear his music again, nor look at old pictures and grovel and sniffle about the yesteryears or have to remember birthdays for social media for people he didn’t give a single care about anymore or- so nothing of value was truly lost. Besides, he was making new friends. Look at Rylo here, standing up for him against his own people, a person, a being he only just met and was surrounded by twelve dead kin... Nick was starting to wonder if he should reevaluate this relationship.

The one known as Kunas spat at Rylo, then turned to the crowd, wrenching two spears from them. She stomped over to Nick, handing him one, and started to say something in their language- when she came down with a case of death. It was downright contagious, Nick swore. Ever since he died, anybody that came close to him just had the uncanny habit of... dropping dead. It took her a moment to do so, but that’s because it took him a moment to shake the spear out of her head, but he was at least kind enough to collect her spear before she ran herself through with that in her drop. He hummed, angling the haft, and snapped it so that the head was free, using it to trim away some of the hair off the top of his head.

“What?” He said, the stone tip hissing against his hair- “Wow. That’s better than any razor I ever used. Why don’t they make stone blades... Anyways, you saw. She handed me the spear, and she had one herself; was I wrong in thinking it was to the death?”

He knew he might as well have been speaking to fish, but he needed an excuse to give them a sample of his language and his culture. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission, after all... Rylo seemed to get the gist of it, though, and calmed everyone. Others yelled at him, probably called him a sympathizer, a race traitor, but he had the “right” of it. Nick was a foreigner, with different customs and language; he simply needed to know he was accepted and allowed to learn their ways so that he could kill them with some actual weight on his conscience. As it stood now, though, what was he supposed to feel? They weren’t even human, so it wasn’t murder.

Rylo scoffed, and readied his spear towards the crowd, and, though he didn’t understand the words, he understood what he said: Anyone who has a problem with my choice, fight me. A few started to move... but none truly approached him. Instead, the crowd dispersed, grumbling, and Nick could have sworn he heard a few curse Rylo’s name. But Rylo would not yield, he did not break his stance, not until every single one was gone. Only then did he take a deep breath, and straighten himself, raising the tip and resting the haft of the spear on the ground.

“Huh,” Nick said, walking over. “Don’t know what you told them, but t-”

The world spun and shattered all at once, and Nick hit the ground. The side of his face stung, teeth still reverberating from that crack, and it wasn’t long before consciousness faded, with his last sight being Rylo hoisting him onto his shoulder... and the look of pure hate and disgust on his face.

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