The Tribe

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

I regret the day I ever step foot on this planet. I regret ever thinking that there was anything worthwhile to explore on its surface, or within the geological cavities that lead to its deepest depths, I regret ever advocating for a voyage to this damn world, but most of all, I regret all circumstance that brought me into contact with the native, humanoid population of this planet.

happened not three days ago that we (my partners and I, two others) were captured by them after they had found our camp. They must have followed the sounds of our equipment through the dense jungles of the area. We had captured a young boy to study him, taken from his small, sleepy village of huts made of straw and wood. Admittedly, it was perhaps not the most propitious method at obtaining information when one reckons the predicament that we would find ourselves later on, but a young boy would offer us little resistance, and at such a young age it was reasonable to think he did not occupy any grand position, yet, within the group. We sedated him so that he would not feel any pain, and we took him. No parent would ever consent to their child being taken away, of course, but we did so nevertheless without their knowledge on a commitment to return him without harm. The extent of his utility to us went no further than the DNA we wished to extract, which was of itself not at all an invasive, or lengthy procedure. He was to be returned before the day’s end.

They had us quickly surrounded. I went out for a breath of air and to enjoy alone a moment of solitude. The procedure was underway, which would have ended almost as soon as it began, but no sooner had I stepped out that I realized that the villagers were suddenly among us, observing our camp from within the forest, all of which were hidden behind the thick trunks of the large trees. My partner Cognitus - a young, handsome scientist always sought after by his younger, female students - emerged from the station-camp to tell me something of the extraction, but before he could deliver the news, he was struck by an arrow that penetrated his shoulder. Emboldened by the attack, they all came forth from the dark interior of the forest and into the light of the sun to ensnare our camp. Not long before the incident, I was saying to my partner - the one who laid injured before me - that the course of human history was on the verge of a great revision. I had even considered abducting a live specimen to bring on our return back home, to expose to the world the follies of human thought, moreover, to prove that I was right. I stood a petrified statue as they walked around the camp, almost sniffing the place like wild beasts would when searching for familiar scents, and I caught a glimpse of their faces in those frightening moments.

During that brief exchange, they looked to me rather dumb, bovine even, primitive, their clothes simple, practical, uninspired. Sounds came out of their mouths as words held together loosely by a tenuous grammatical structure. Theirs, it seemed to me, was a society that was more tenuous than its speech. There was no hierarchy; there were no real leaders, only random voices among them that sprang up from time to time, louder than all the others, and it was by those voices that the rest of the unconscious herd conducted itself. Quick visual surveys of them immediately suggested to me that they always lived in large groups. It was a necessity for them. We were kept in cages for 2 or 3 days thereabout, and during that time they would constantly look to one another for approval. They sought a nod or an approving glance from another member, and that member had the tacit expectation of receiving confirmation for his confirmation. Never would they act without such consents and approvals. They were incapable of doing so it appeared, so they would always visit our holding cells in pairs, sometimes more if the occasion required it thus. They had a common, peculiar red and blue sartorial style that varied little from one individual to the next.

They searched for the missing child until they found him beneath a web of machinal arms and a glass shell amid many other examples of complex machinery and lights that were, I would imagine, beyond their comprehension, so they ignored all else and walked toward the slumbering boy. To release him, they broke our equipment with clubs, stones, and by pulling on anything they could with their bare hands. I saw the strangest image then: a version of man, much more primitive, holding pieces of broken technology in his calloused hand as he turned to me.

“My God,” I murmured.

We were not spared, no matter how much we had hoped that they would have pitied us and our grave mistake. We were subsequently captured and taken back to their village. My friend was carried there, hanging from a long wooden stick, while my colleague who went by the name of Logicus and myself were made to walk back the long distance of about fifty to sixty miles.

Logicus, to whom we would endearingly refer as simply Log, said to me that Cognitus was badly hurt and that he required medical attention immediately. It was only a matter of time, he added. The moment I spoke, I was whacked, and hence I never again spoke the rest of the way. My friend would make it to the village, teetering, however, upon the edge of his life.

"I wonder who will come for us now?" I said to Logicus, to which he replied with The uplifting news of his sending a distress signal into space which could be received by a ship as far as the orbit of Jupiter, although he warned that it was possible that no ship was near enough to receive the distress call sooner so that a rescue vessel might take some time to reach us, about which I sighed and nodded my head.

By evening of the same day when we, at last, had arrived at the village, our friend Cognitus was nearly dead. His body was transported to a large open space within the village - a public square of sorts - and I called out to those that carried him to leave him be, but my effort was quickly thwarted, and again my voice silenced. They made us watch the grotesqueries of their customs. In the middle of that large space were wooden logs arranged near one another in a small cluster, and from within this pyramidal stack of logs, a tall wooden staff stood. Tied to the pole, a member of the tribe set fire to the logs by the flame of a torch. What I concluded to be some sort of mystical shaman, a great magical man of the village, stepped forth prominently to regard the flame and began waving his scepter around and around, chanting meanwhile. A ring of dancers had afterward formed around the burning wood, and those that had carried my friend watched as his body - nearly a corpse by then - burned in the fire.

I cried out, begged them even, to stop the madness, alas not a word of mine was heeded. Logicus averted his gaze, but I could not stop looking into the world of those small, red embers that were thrust into the air by the flame. It was hard to imagine that his body would eventually become one with the plume of black smoke that rose up from the fire and into the air. Meanwhile, the magical man chanted, and the dancers danced, and the celebrations began. There was jeering, hissing, screaming, and shouting of all sorts of things at his burning flesh.

They beheld the charred remains of my friend and their faces glowed and were fat with satisfaction, after which they took us to our quarters where we would remain for the night.

They were the queerest things their customs, one of which, I supposed it to be thus, was for the aggrieved party to enter the detention quarters of the accused and scream at them as loud as was physically possible. My partners and I sat there, silent, unable to comprehend the meaning of such an act. I deduced that it gave the woman, the parent of the poor abducted child, some consolation to see me locked in a cage as if it were cathartic to witness before her my sufferings. She spoke to me in that proto-language of theirs as well, but her speech was too laconic for me to understand completely. All I could gather from her simple, emotional, monosyllabic words was a general impression of hatred and disgust toward me and my partners for taking her child in the name of science.

I attempted to apologize to the woman and I stuck out my hand through the gaps of my cage hoping that she would take it, but she quickly ran for a nearby rock and then threw it at the two of us, and then she again continued to yell. She roared like the beasts that lurked the darkest crevices and corners of this untamed world, and her dark complexion grew darker when her yelling reached greater heights. Once her voice gave out, she retreated with her child and we were alone. I’ll always remember it: her eyes welled with tears rooted in the hate she felt for us. Forgiveness had become something foreign to her, something to her as unfathomable as the infinite is to the limited human intellect. I wondered if their culture even knew of it at all.

3 days had passed, and these that had captured and held us as prisoners had tied me to a wooden pole like a mule, in the same public square, while a few others among them dragged my friend to another pole some feet away, one of two that stood adjacent to each other and rose many times taller and more imposing. They dragged him by grabbing on to tufts of his hair and pulling on these, while the others, having formed a long corridor of bodies along the path of his escort, threw wild screams and spat at him as he was dragged on through. One among them broke loose from the rank that the group had formed to give him a good kick in the stomach. A cowardly strike that was almost impossible for my partner to avoid, and when he did try to shield himself from other attacks, his hands were held back which left him exposed to more heinous beatings. A few more joined in the punitive frenzy, and, by the end of it, he had reached the large wooden pole a beaten and bruised body, nearly identical in resemblance to a cadaver. He had almost died before they were able to kill him.

“We’re sorry, we are truly sorry!” he yelled, supplicating to them for mercy, but they ignored him.

His mouth had become another bloody orifice, his teeth turned red from the blood that would not stop trickling from his lips in small, intermittent streams. His cough sometimes would carry with it globs of blood that he spat unto the dirt floor as he was moved toward the wooden pole so that left in his wake was a trail of little red droplets. Hatred was their master, and it suppressed what little humanity they had, if they had any to begin with. All they wanted was blood, and they were not going to stop until it was well and spilled.

“Help me, Zará, please!” He instead cried out to me, but there was nothing I could do. We were sentenced by their improvised, rudimentary tribunal to death on the second day of captivity which had afterward dissolved just as quickly as it was formed once judgment was passed. The pole to which my partner was taken rose from the ground about ten feet and adorned at the tip by a large bird head, its beak piercing the skies like the tip of a spear. My partner was put up against it and his hands were then tied behind him and his feet wound up by the ankles. He had before him the entire crowd eager to eviscerate him. Then appeared a man who interceded and produced a small slip from his blue loincloth. He read the contents of the slip out loud to the others, and to my partner.

“Stranger, bad,” he began, “he offend us. He commit crime. He must pay. Strangers no good. Some say death to them. We listen to those say death.”

A collective war cry followed the brief declaration and the tiny brown man with the slip walked away. There was nothing now that stood between my partner and his fate. The crowd moved to encircle my whimpering friend. I was no longer able to see him directly as my view of him had been obstructed by the bodies of the ravenous crowd that hungered for revenge upon the poor man, and I knew that once they were done with him they would soon turn their bloodthirsty desires to me.

I began to hear him cry out for me again, and yet there was nothing that I could do. My custodian - a large, muscular brute wearing a blue and red rag of a mask over his face - kept a vigilant eye over me and a hand on my shoulder. I suddenly heard another voice yell "stop." I could not determine the source of that defiant sound as it came from somewhere near the front of the group, nearer my friend.

"Do not do," that soft voice said, "we must not do. Creature express remorse. We must not become them. Revenge this way not right. Revenge this way corrupts. Today, creature's blood, tomorrow blood-lake. Soon, blood-ocean. It no stop. This act, make more like this, and we fall sick. We must not do, or we become sick village. Healthy justice, not sick justice."

A murmur began to grow amid the crowd, a word erupting finally as a loud roar, "kill! kill!" it cried, and the beast of a hundred fingers lunged after the lone soul that dared to intercede on behalf of its prey. The village had turned against one of their own with cold indifference, silencing the voice that went against the popular opinion of the beastly crowd.

In two minutes thereabout, my poor crewmate had met the same end. The dispersal of bodies revealed a red and blue cadaver, bloody and badly bruised. There were stones at his feet; hands were covered red; drops of his blood dripped from the tips of dirty fingers.

I was mortified not at what they had done, but that they had done it without remorse, and all I saw were empty eyes without the light of humanity within. These that attacked him appear as any other at first sight, but they soon reveal their true nature when provoked, one as wild and savage as anything I've ever met in my years as an explorer. No other species comes close to rivaling the savagery of these natives. They turned to one another with faces of satisfaction, smiles here and there smeared in the blood of another, one of them their own. I saw them rejoice all the more when one among them extracted an eye from his socket and held it up to the crowd.

The man gave the eye to the woman of the abducted child and never have I seen such serenity, such tranquility come to another. It was as though the many wounds of her injured heart at once healed, simultaneously. Her child stood beside her, secure, under the dark arm of his mother.

Their collective gaze casually shifted elsewhere until it had settled on me. The large brute behind released me, but still, I was not altogether free. He gave me a push to shove me forward into the clutches of the beast that awaited me eagerly.

"You want to have at me?! Alright, then come at me, you bunch of crazy animals! You brutes have no humanity, you lack the compassion and understanding of a human being, so I should expect nothing less than for you to tear me apart! Go ahead, and do it quick! Do it quick damn it! Satisfy your morbid sanguinary desires with my blood. I was wrong to think there was anything worthwhile on this planet! There is nothing here but savagery and irrational brutes. Look at how you have murdered your own! Kill me. I deserve punishment for such an erroneous presumption. A fool I am! Kill me and then afterward burn in hell the whole of you!"

After my impassioned speech, one hundred hands propelled themselves forward to seize me. I saw only the look of an angry animal before me, a behemoth begotten of that chemical affair between lust and hate.

A light descended on us, followed almost immediately by a rain of rapid warning fire from a gun mounted on a rescue vessel I at once recognized as that which came from my homeworld; its name was emblazoned on its side: The Martian Logos. The beast dissolved into smaller components to avoid being struck, and I was thus suddenly alone as The Logos kept the irrational natives away with its mighty gun. A rope fell over its side whereupon a soldier of the elite rescue force -trained for all sorts of planetary rescue missions - thrust himself over and repelled himself down toward me.

"We came just in time!" He said to me, struggling to speak loud enough to be heard over the sound of the ship's whirling engine.

"Come, grab hold of me! I will take us back up!"

I attached myself to that man and I hung on to his belt as we were both reeled in by the crew on the ship.

On the ship, I was fortunate to be diagnosed by the crew's doctor with nothing else but the symptomatic consequences of sheer shock. No physical injuries, although a few seconds more and there would have been no body of mine to diagnose. The crew's captain approached me after my diagnosis and found me lying in bed. I beheld him for a moment: A grin that he desperately tried to suppress nonetheless appeared and ran the length of his face; his eyes danced like ballerinas and had a gay shine to them; and he obsequiously offered me anything I wanted, wringing his hands as he asked.

“Forgive me Doctor, but when I got word that it was you whom we had to rescue, I --- “

“No need to worry, my friend. I am eternally grateful for you and your crew.”

"H --- How are you feeling Dr. Thustra?"

"I'm doing alright," I replied him.

"It was a matter of seconds that separated you from death. Luckily we received your distress signal and the corresponding coordinates while conducting our scheduled drills in this area of the solar system. Otherwise, the nearest rescue vessel would have to have come from one of the moons - Phobos I should think - and that would have had you waiting a few months, minimum."

"There were a few others with me. Two of them."

His demeanor instantly began a transition toward regret, and a general sadness for the loss of my two fellow scientists manifested itself upon the features of his face until it affected even the tenor of his voice.

"I am sorry for the loss Doctor. I wish we could have responded sooner to your call."

"Not to worry," I assured him, "these men died wielding the banner of science. Their names will forever be remembered. Of that I will ensure myself on our return to Mars that it is so."

"Well, that should be a simple task. I know of your work. You were the first to have posited the existence of humanoid creatures on Earth, and you were right! Tell me, do you think they truly are related to us in some way? Does this mean that the Great Cosmic Migration theory is correct after all?"

"Don't speak of them! As far as you and I know, there are no humanoids living on that forsaken planet. As far as you know, I am a quack, a charlatan! I was wrong and deserve only the most brutal of scientific reproaches."

"B --- but sir, as you can see I am trembling with excitement. I am a great admirer of your science and research. What I have witnessed would not only catapult your name into the great annals of history, but it would vindicate all those that were ostracized for believing the same as you. Even the old scriptures tell of a race - our ancestors no less! - that came from another world to Mars. What if these are they who came? Forgive more saying so Doctor… but you are mistaken on this."

"No more! No more captain. I appreciate your interest in the subject, but, please, I wish to be alone, if you don't mind," I said in a fit of frustration, an adamant request which the captain politely obliged.

"As you wish Doctor. Accept my sincerest apologies. Please excuse me."

On his exiting the small resting quarters, I spoke to him this, "Captain, you and your crew would be wise to forget what you have seen and tell no one. There is nothing to concern oneself over. Nothing worthy of another voyage here. There is no intelligent life there after all. The scriptures, the sacred writings, whatever word was printed or spoken that spoke of our past, it is all wrong. If the people of Mars witnessed what I have witnessed, they would suddenly find themselves horrified, offended even, to have even the most remote association attributed to them with those… things down there. We are not like them, Captain. We are nothing like them. Whatever they are... I know they are not human."

Submitted: July 15, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Leon Casillas. All rights reserved.

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