This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.
Relnu looked back towards the village and sighed. His parents wanted him to stay at home to tend fields, finding a suitable wife to settle down with. He wanted more than that. He wanted to see the world, learn the wonders of the Universe, and become something greater than a dirt farmer. He laughed as he recalled his father’s words, without farmers, the rest of the world would starve. Maybe so, but Relnu didn’t care about such things. These were words you told yourself when you had to find a way to live with your lot in life. He had no interest in farming, regardless of the value it served the world.
The sun hung low above the Dabit Forest to the east, backlighting the tall trees in a stunning display of fire and shadow. The aural display signaled dinner was about to begin. He turned back to his village and sighed once more. The warm air was scented with the seasoned grains of late summer, a harbinger of the harvest to come. Before that happened, he desperately needed to find a suitable argument to turn his parents to his way of thinking before they sucked him into another season, wearing him down until he gave up.
Damn it! He thought bitterly, I am not going to give up this time.
He thought about his lazy sister and how unlikely it was she would marry someone to help farm. She was good for nothing more than darning holes in his britches. Hell, she couldn’t even cook. Why would someone marry her? Why was he the only boy? How could his family fend for themselves while he traipsed around the world searching for fame and fortune? What if something happened to his father? Or his mother? They would be forced to sell the farm and work in the factories like so many others, scratching out a meager existence while working to death for another person’s profit. If that happened, would he ever be able to forgive himself?
Damn, damn, damn! He was doing it again, building an argument against leaving when he should be building an argument for why he shouldn’t stay. His family could hire someone to work the fields—rent out his room to earn additional money. Why did everything have to be on his shoulders? He hadn’t chosen farming, he was only born into it. Damn it! If he could find his own fortune, he could send for them, pull them from their poverty and show them how people were supposed to live.
Two of his friends had already left, and two more were ready. They only waited for the push his leaving would give them. Together they could seek a future far from this village and its barren list of available women. He was a big, rugged looking man and should have no problem finding beautiful woman in the cities. He only had to look and he felt certain they would be there. The world was on the verge of something powerful as new ideas and technology set the stage for a brighter and better future. How could he stay here and miss this once in a lifetime opportunity? For what? For a few lousy acres to grow a few lousy crops?
I should have left last year. He thought morosely. It was like a web holding him. Every time he struggled to be free, he became even more deeply enmeshed. Like climbing a mountain of loose dirt, you worked hard but made very little progress. Damn it, how can I convince them? Nothing new sprang forth. In reality, he had little saved for his adventure and was only minimally educated with no skills other than farming. Was this enough to find fame and fortune? What would he do? Where would he go? His defeatist words echoed his father’s, and he sighed once more.
I’ll never leave.
He was an avid reader and yearned for the distant shores offered in those fabulous books. In those precious pages, adventures and fortunes were won, as the main main characters, always from humble beginnings, were determined to break away from their past. That was him, damn it, he was that main character. How can I convince them?
A vestigial arc of light crowned the distant forest, and Relnu stood from the rock to begin his trek home. Just like everyday he came out here, he had no more idea how to leave his life than the day before. He was stuck in a quagmire of guilt and responsibility and could find no way to escape it. He felt in his deepest depths that he was better than this, but he didn’t know how.
He grabbed a thin stalk of grass, placing the cut end into his mouth, trotting slowly home, a condemned man returning to his cell. He would sit down to dinner again, argue with his family again, and be out the next day tending fields and working in the barn. Nothing would change! He would be forever stuck in a circular rut of planting and harvesting.
A deafening boom struck Relnu, and he faltered as a frenzied percussion echoed across the landscape. What was happening? The sky was ablaze with contrails of flame as objects streaked overhead. The staccato of sonic booms beat a rhythm to accompany the parade of horrors clawing their way west through a cloudless sky. Their fiery display was so intense he could swear he felt heat bearing down from above.
Relnu lost count after a hundred and ran to his village towards the gathering people staring awestruck into the red-orange sky. Were they meteorites? It was a possibility, but he had never seen any meteor shower like this. He was nearing the outskirts of the village when another boom shook the very earth below his feet. He staggered from the shock, falling to his knees as an enormous ball of fire sank into the atmosphere. The immense bulk burned its way westward, following the smaller trails of fire to some distant landfall. If it was a meteor, it moved slow and deliberate, as if it were controlled.
Relnu stood, his jaw open in disbelief as the fireball materialized into an alien craft of astronomical proportions. He had no idea how high the monstrosity flew, but its bulk consumed the sky as if would blot their village from existence. He was awed and frightened by the prospects of anything that could create such a ship. Who were they, and what did they want?