Chapter 1 – Incarnation – A Frightening Discovery
“I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. When it has gone, I will look with the inner eye at its passage and nothing will remain. Only I will be standing there.”
(Bene Gesserit Mantra- Against Fear – from the Dune series by Frank Herbert)
I awake on a sand dune in what appears to be a desert. The sun is rising in a direction I sense to be “east” but another “sun” appears to be setting in what I take to be a northerly direction. There is no discernible sound except the constant rasping of dry sand being pushed by a cool breeze across the top of the dune I’m lying on. High above me what appears as a flock of seven black vultures circle. I am naked and totally alone in a landscape reminiscent of some surrealist painting.
Thirst is the first sensation I become fully aware of and my lips feel dry. I look at my body – long and supple and skin uniformly light tan and oily smooth. My hair is thick, reaching almost to my waist, and of a rich, dark honey-gold hue. From what I can see of myself, I would be about twenty-five years old. “My eyes are green” I say to myself, though I don’t know why that matters.
I stand up in the cool breeze and over to the west I see curving black shadows of low hills starkly highlighted; etched upon the landscape in the slanting rays of the rising sun. Intuitively I begin my trek in that direction, the sand here hard under my feet. Much life beneath the surface of this parched land, I sense; old networks of grass roots holding the subsoil together. Not so long ago, I think, this was not desert country.
As the sun passes its zenith, not as hot as I had anticipated it would be I reach a small valley from which emanates the smell of wood smoke. Without yet any ability to sense fear, I slide down through scrub brush and dry grasses to come upon a dilapidated camp made up of stick and mud huts and comprised of a small band of small, ragged, bony women and a half dozen naked, emaciated children.
A low cry of alarm goes through the camp when they see me and the women nimbly surround me, holding spears – more like long pointed wooden sticks – to my ribs. I am surprised to discover I speak their language, somewhat. We can at least communicate on an elementary level and they reluctantly accept me. One of the women brings me a tattered rag that had been a robe and I greedily drink the water they offer from what appears to be a worn plastic jug. A quick survey of these surroundings, the drying brush, the sand flowing over dried reddish clay, makes me wonder how they got the water.
By physical comparison, I am much taller than the tallest of them, with longer arms and legs. My skin is darker. Despite their semi-nakedness under a desert sun, their skin remains white, as if it does not tan. Despite the rigours of life etched as with acid on their sad faces I judge that not one of them is as old as I. Just young girls barely in puberty and young women aged by some terrible process.
Their initial fears somewhat abated, they come forward and begin to poke and pinch me. They measure my height with their arms and there is much grunting. The children, really just babies, three in their mother’s arms and two just old enough to stumble around, are aloof and listless. Malnutrition is obvious.
I ask them who they are. In a pidgin I was to become very familiar with they explain they are the remnant of a small group of escaped female slaves from a city which I gather is somewhere far off to the east, beyond the desert. As they speak, it’s as if a switch is thrown in my brain. I understand now, as my memory reluctantly kicks in, not only who I am, but where. I have arrived, full-grown, on a world I long ago dubbed “Malefactus.” This is the world I would “tame;” the world I studied and agreed to manifest upon in an attempt to change its mores. I am the reincarnation of the Avatari Al’Tara.
As I remember in waves of fuzziness of brain, I am here to participate in a drama that has to do mostly with the people of this land and only indirectly with the environment. Let it suffice for the moment to describe a few basic physical characteristics of Malefactus as necessary details to fill in unacceptable blanks in the flow of the story.
For a panoramic view, think of your Earth before your skies were filled with various types of pollutants and imagine much fewer stars in skies that are rarely dark due to the positioning of two suns. Temperatures from day to “night” do not vary much, though the east-to-west sun gives heat whereas the south-to-north one doesn’t seem to give any. From its orbit one can only conclude it must be an artificial satellite though the sheer size of it makes one shudder to think who or what would have made it.
Where I stand I see rolling hills to the south, mostly covered with dried scrub brush that had grown from hard soil but recently become covered in sand. Among the brush are clumps of coarse grass waving stiffly in the steady breeze so there must be water under the surface. To the west from whence I walked, are more sand dunes and shallow ‘coulees’ slowly eroding and filling with ever-moving sands. To the north lies almost pure desert, its sands a dull grey. To the east are taller hills or low mountains, rare rocky bluffs protruding from the sand and highlighted by shadows cast by the directly ascending sun which indicates we must be close to the equator here. Everywhere you see and hear the hiss of ever-moving sand filling cavities, creating higher dunes.
I ask one of the women trying to feed an infant from her flattened breasts what the strange sun I’d seen earlier is called. She replies, “No name for things or people but we hear, remember. Men, they say it Albaral. They think it great power.”
“What does that mean?” I ask. As I do, I motion to her to give me the infant and putting it to my own breasts I find I can produce milk. The woman heaves a sigh as she looks at herself and offers me a weak smile. Hopelessness and utter misery. I can already sense the death of this place. They have nothing left and no place else to go.
My question about name meaning makes no sense to them.
“Why should mean?” [in my mind I add “anything”] “Men give name. Albaral carry great evil power, help men capture, kill escape women. You have thing call name?” As I listen to them I note their ability to communicate verbally as very limited; that they possess only a rudimentary form of language but that what they have is practical. As they waste no movement, they waste no sound. They have an array of gestures and signals much more meaningful than mere spoken words.
“I’m Antierra.” Which in their language means, “She of Earth.” My explanation remains meaningless to them. The one who asked shrugs and turns away.
I try to explain more of who I am but say too much and too fast. Then I test their ability to read by squatting down and writing my name in the sand. The one I take to be the leader jumps forward and quickly erases the marks.
“Not do this. Evil, evil! Markings that speak be from evil one who kills. Make markings, die terrible death. Gora fool!”
They take the infant from me and it gives a short cry, quickly stifled by the mother, and they move away from me, making throaty sounds, pointing and gesturing. The words I get indicate they believe I may be an evil spirit sent to find them for slave hunters. They are deciding whether to kill me or let me stay. The mother of the infant points at my breasts and sees me as a source of food for her child. My life is spared – I’m useful. But they are nervous around me.
“She has spirit eyes!” they say to one-another.
I ask them what they mean and they explain that green eyes are those of the Great Desert Beast, a female spirit or totem animal or some such form of divinity, I cannot establish exactly what they mean. They say this Beast is thought to protect the weak but unpredictable and dangerous in its ways. No real people have green eyes, they say.
They may well think it true I am the human incarnation of their Desert Beast because two days later the miserable camp is discovered and overrun by a squad of men in camouflage gear equipped with lasguns and stun wands. Bounty hunters. The women fight desperately but sticks against guns? Most are killed and the few who survive the attack are taken prisoner. The children are systematically slaughtered in front of the remaining mothers – and the women do not make a sound, but I can feel their pain rip through their guts and tear open their hearts as it does through mine. At a complete loss as to what I should do I kneel in the sand with head bowed to await my fate. I watch the women and children’s blood seep quickly into the sand and leave black marks on the surface. I dare not look up but I sense the flock of vultures circling lower.
 Gora: derogatory word to describe female slaves. Proper word for woman is ahya.
[End blog post #2]