Prompt: A strange light appeared in the sky.
A strange light appeared in the sky. I recognized it as my father’s blue aura and felt my breath hitch. I stood in the village, surrounded by miles of desert, as I watched the light grow brighter. He plummeted downward, toward the human city of Etinae, and finally met with the ground. I winced as I heard the deafening crash. The ground shook beneath my feet.
I sat down on the cracks of the ground. The dark clouds overhead matched my mood. Mom ran out of our mud house, kneeling next to me as the tears began to pour down my face.
“He did what he had to do, Elani,” she said as she began to brush away the hair in front of my pale face. I leaned into the taller woman, sobs escaping from my dry throat.
“No!” I cried between my whimpers. “He’s a traitor.” I could barely hear my voice above my cries as the sky began to downpour onto us. I felt uncomfortable in my mother’s arms, whether from my goat horns sticking into her neck or the fact that my mom didn’t know how to properly hug, I couldn’t tell. The ground began to turn muddy from the rain.
“Come inside, Ela,” Mom whispered as she helped me up off our village ground. I followed, leaning heavily against her as I stumbled into our home. It was within an alcove underneath the Donace cliffs, along with the rest of the village houses. It shielded us from the sun, rain, and dust of our desert. It rarely rained, but when it did, the whole village was just a little colder.
Once inside, Mom dried my tears and produced a colorful blanket from a hand-made yucca basket. She wrapped it around me. My hunter-green aura shone through the thick cloth. She used her magic to produce a weak flame in her hand, lighting the fire pit in the middle of the room with it. Where a family of four used to sit, only Mom and I sat around the blue and orange glow.
“Why did the humans kill Nivaan?” I asked, staring at the flames instead of my mother. I missed my older brother more than I could put into words. I had a vague idea of why the humans did it; they hated the Animas people to their bones. But I knew there was more to the story than everyone let on.
Mom sighed as she stared at my innocent face. “That’s something you’ll come to understand in time,” she said, reaching to her right to caress my face. I looked back up at her and saw tears welling in her big brown eyes and her horns transferring from lavender to a dreary blue. Animas horns changed colors with mood, and we were no exception to that rule. I could tell mine had transferred, too. Probably to a cool gray, like my father’s horns colored when he was upset. The difference was that I was miserable while he was plotting to take out the entire human race.
“I hope Dad knows that there are Animas living in Etinae. Not just humans,” I said, thinking of how many lives he destroyed a mere five minutes ago. It was funny, really, how quickly someone could change the course of the entire future, but yet everyone else went on living.
“I hope so, too, Elani,” she whispered in response. She pulled me against her. I gave into the odd hug, closing my brown eyes as I breathed in her scent—yucca and quala flowers. The peaceful crackling of the fire and my mother’s warm embrace lulled me to sleep, pulling me away from my new reality, without the two most important people in my life.
I awoke to the bright light of the dawn shining through the one opening of our sandstone house. I was lying next to the empty fire pit. I sat up, looking around for Mom before I realized she must have gone to the local farms to help with this year’s crops. It was entering into early August, so our village had to stock up on the harvest for the winter. As powerful as Animas magic is, we couldn’t grow food through our hands. It was easier for us to farm than the humans because of our magic, but we still abide by the laws of nature.
I crept through the opening, greeted by the smell of burning trees and dust. I knew it was my father’s destruction that had added the ash and extra dust to the already polluted air. I walked briskly toward the Chief's house, where the majority of the daily activity went on. It was the biggest house in the alcove and had multiple entrances. My father used to be Chief Alpheus’s second in command, until Nivaan’s death. After he quit, I had overheard Dad talking to Mom about his plan—had heard her beg him not to go.
I could see everything falling apart in my village at that very moment.
I crawled back inside, this time into Chief’s house. I smiled at all the playful banter and work going on inside the house. It made everything feel so normal, so right, even when my world was crumbling. Chief appeared from the doorway into his personal home, and his brow furrowed upon seeing me. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply as he approached me. I looked up at him as he stopped next to me and put a gentle hand on my shoulder. I strained my neck in order to see him clearly.
“Elani, let me say how sorry I am for the loss of your brother, and now the disappearance of your father. I had hoped the humans were better than this,” he said, his gold eyes filled with deep remorse. I nodded as a response, faking a smile before I made my way to a group of girls my age. They were weaving a variety of different objects -- shoes, baskets, clothes, blankets.