Part Four: The New Buds
I just cried, not wanting to listen to Blue berate me for having killed an Osminog.
I rolled over and wiped the tears from my eyes, then blinked at Blue. She seemed a bit frightened of me as she twiddled her tentacles together, eyeing me carefully. I curled up, not wanting to be seen.
“Predator! You lied! Predator!” She backed away, keeping the face nearest me her primary focus.
I looked at her face, and, despite the difference between Osminog and human, I saw flashes of my mother’s face, her disappointment as I lifted off from Earth.
“Please… Please, Blue, don’t leave me,” I cried. “Please.”
“When are you going to kill me? When are you planning to do it?”
“I’m not! I’m not, I’m not… oh, Blue, I just want to die… I just… I’m a predator.” I bit my lip, blew my nose, and looked up the sky. I’d learned nothing during these seven years off Earth. I clenched my fists.
“Then why did you lie to me?” Blue asked.
I cried, sniffled, and thought. “Do you want the truth?” I asked. “Do you really?”
“You don’t tell the truth. You sit upon your divine magic, all powerful, and I must only believe you. Yet you lie. You have always said you’re not a predator, Creature, but you lie. Predator.”
I crumpled up and said quietly with my gloves, then said, “I come from a world, far away, where there are no Osminog, only my people. We eat many animals, but we also eat plants. The animals we eat, we also feed and keep alive. We raise these animals to eat, but we are not predators. Our people aren’t predators, anyway. The animals we eat just walk into rooms to be killed, just like that predator follows where I lead it. Humans aren’t predators, since we just eat but don’t stalk, don’t hunt.”
Blue backed away. “Are you raising me to eat?”
I wiped my nose on my arm. “No. No, I wasn’t. You were and, if you’re still willing, are my best friend. But Blue, listen… it’s the truth. I’ve lied, I’ve lied – even if humans aren’t predators, I am, Blue. Humans don’t send people who aren’t predators out into the endless sky, don’t punish them with a decade of loneliness unless they’re predators.”
Blue stood still. “What?”
I cried. “I did something terrible. That’s why I’m here in the first place. My people don’t banish each other from tribes, but do something called rehabilitate, or try to make the bad person better. I became a predator, so my people stuck me and another predator in a ship then sent us out to find new information. Rehab. Isolation. Work. I was supposed to lose my knowledge of the value of money, but I failed… I killed a sentient being for some measly fruit that’s poison to me. I became a predator on two worlds.”
Blue blinked, but sank into the mud. “Are you going to kill me?”
I shook my head. “How should I know? I am a predator. I stole so much fruit from my people that you couldn’t even imagine the amount. I shared a company which made weather controlling devices and split the fruit I got in return with another Sky Creature. He handled the business, I invented the machines. But, then, I saw how I could do his job easily, how I could have been making all the money, which is similar to getting fruit. I began by pointing just a small trickle of money to me, but then it got bigger. Eventually, the Sky Creature I was working with died in a car crash and the big Sky Creatures who tell the little Sky Creatures what to do came to check on all the fruit that he owned. They saw some problems in his books, then figured out I had caused the problems. I stole a lot of government money, something that’s very, very bad. Sky Creatures could have lived longer, better, but I took it anyway. So they put me in the ship with Kyle as punishment and rehab.”
I crawled away, leaning against a tree. “I didn’t want to be a predator… I don’t want to. I don’t want to.”
Blue sat still, her tentacles wrapped around her. She remained silent, waiting for me to say something. She looked at me deadly, her dark eyes boring into me.
“I saw you kill that Osminog, Creature. I saw you do it, I knew why you did it. I understood why and felt within my blood both thankful and scared. Does that… Creature, what does that mean? What is wrong with me?”
I let my nails bite into my palms. “Nothing,” I said. “Perhaps you should leave. Leave so that, at least, you don’t learn to be like us. Many humans are predators, thousands of us, and we all float around in the sky looking for things like Osminog to watch. Though I don’t want to see you leave, it would probably be best for everyone, especially you.”
Blue crept closer, holding out a nervous tentacle. “I don’t understand what you did to your people. I don’t see why the Sky Creatures punished you. But I know you’ve protected me and helped me. I realize that I would have died over the winter without you. You gave me your fruit but got nothing out of it, so you can’t be entirely evil. The First God, the God of Balance and Justice, surely resides within your body. There is no other way you could be both Protector and Predator.”
I sniffled. Blue was capable of looking at a whole picture, whereas I focused on the bad just as most humans would. I thought of my mother, her disappointment, and how I was a terrible human. I wasn’t even human, I was…
I was a predator.
I had killed an Osminog, a person, and revealed myself to enough aliens that it was entirely possible that I had killed my entire race.
“You can’t understand, little Osminog, what I have done.”
Blue retracted her tentacle. “I have been very scared of you. I probably always will, too, have some fear. I am still scared – you killed an Osminog right in front of me. I know what you’re capable of. But, Creature, I know what that predator you brought home is capable of, too. I’ve seen many of its kind rip Osminog to shreds and eat them. I thought nothing good could come from them, but you’ve shown me that’s not true. That Osminog you killed was trying to take our fruit, eventually killing us if you think about it, and you saved us. Was it better that the bearer be killed, or me?”
“Better no one had to die,” I answered.
Blue said nothing, but stood up. “I know that,” Blue said, “But I’m not sure you could have chosen that. The Mudflapper tribe is far more brazen than my own Fleetrunners, and they may even try coming back to destroy our plants. I could smell upon their skin the large numbers of their tribe, so they aren’t going to be very concerned with risking a few more to get such a bounty as we have.”
I shook my head. “I won’t kill them.”
“Then how will we survive?” Blue asked.
I looked around, grabbed my axe, and stood up. Blue shrunk down, cowering.
“I won’t kill them… we’ll build a wall to keep the other Osminogs out. Come on, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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