Too Late To Be...

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Day 23

Carnuga is dreaming. He is 5 summers old, standing in the Forest of Stones, surrounded by tall grey monoliths of rock that stretch away as far as his young eyes can see. He is alone. "Father!" he cries, his voice echoing from the mute rock. Only the wind whispers back. He looks up, his breathing rapid now, to where the ragged stone pillars disappear in the stormy sky. Carques wheel high above, their propeller blades flickering against the clouds. He is alone. Alone is not safe. Hide!

Shuddering, he hugs the nearest monolith, feeling the coldness of the stone drenching his fur. Turning his face to the side, the unfeeling rock hard against his cheek, he looks down at the fur of his arm. Bright scarlet. Hide! His pelt ripples and changes, to become the grey of the stone. He closes his eyes and waits for his parents to find him.

Carnuga is 36 summers old, crouched motionless in front of a wide blue brush-bush. The bush hugs the rich mauve ground, and Carnuga waits, his fur a mixture of blue and purple, hidden and still. His eldest daughter stands scarcely an arm's length away.

"Father!" she calls, her head casting from side to side. Carnuga grins to himself, his eyes slitted as her gaze passes over him, unseeing. As she turns away, he pounces, and she squeals with fear and childish delight as his shimmering body appears from nowhere...

"Got you!! I win!"

Carnuga is 38 summers old. His eldest daughter is dead, killed before her 16th year. Killed in the War. Carnuga stands, his claws dripping red alien blood, above the slashed Earther corpse. He hears his wife calling him, but cannot see her. He stands in the Forest of Stones, above a slaughtered alien enemy, alone.

Carnuga is 39 summers old. His remaining four children sleep in alien coffins, protected from the airborne virus that has killed The People. He can still hear his wife calling his name, but he cannot see her, because he can no longer open his eyes. He is vaguely aware of a faint snuffling slurping sound nearby, but is too weak to react. Something touches his face, roaming over his features. Carnuga feels his thoughts slip into darkness, but he no longer has the will to care.

“Get away from him!!” Tipoli-Ti angrily kicks the Earther droid as its ridiculous proboscis investigates Carnuga’s prone form. The droid rolls its eyes in cretinous confusion and trundles away to suck up crumbs from the corner of the chamber. Tipoli-Ti crouches down next to her husband, and gently reaches out to stroke his furry head. His chest rises and falls ever so slightly, although his pelt is now a mottled and sickly brown.

“Carnuga…we have no more time. Our children must make their own way in the world now.” She lies down next to him on the cold metal floor, wincing as she feels the pain in her own stiffening joints. “They will live, I am sure of that now. But whether they will know of their heritage, or even speak our language…that I cannot say.”

With what feels like infinite effort, she stretches her arm across Carnuga’s unconscious form, and pulls him close.

“We have done all we can.”


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