Chapter Seven

She leans against the side of the cave and stares at the opening that is growing darker and darker. She cannot deny the rush of excitement that she gets in the idea of running and fleeing to the ancestral plains. The idea of being caught only makes it more tempting.

She should be worried, perhaps she should be shaking or trying to hold back tears. But the idea that she can finally be herself, that she can finally wear her own skin, even if it is not all of the time, it is like a drug that she cannot let go of. She could do anything. She could be anything.

She still cannot be entirely sure who she is. Beings used to know who they were, they had to write an essay about themselves; their personalities, their abilities and dreams, and their actions most of all. But now things are simply left to chance. And her chance is that she is a Hirpoun and she has her Sight. She is one and then two things. But they are simple things, they are broad things that are the headers for categories on papers. They are the shelves that things are put on in stores; but they are not the things themselves.

She feels fierce and capable when she is in her natural form. Her Sight confuses her. And her normal form makes her feel weak. Now that she knows what she is hiding underneath her skin, she morns it more and more each time she thinks of hiding. She is tired of hiding. She is tired of seeing her race hide. It does not matter that she was not alive during the exterminations or the mass hunts that happened afterwards, she is still cloistered enough in her own skin.

The sun is falling and sinking, but she stays were she is. She will have to wait until it is entirely dark. She will have to wait until she is sure that she will have a chance to run. And if she is caught, what will she do then? She can only hope that she will not be. Perhaps whoever has arrived on the ship will kill her if they see her, and perhaps they will use her for something far less thoughtful.

She wonders what it would be like to watch new settlers arrive. Would they settle down in the old houses and ignore the fact that the previous occupants are most likely dead? Will they walk around the town and pretend that it was built just for them? Or will they tear it down and build their own? Will they fear the things that have happened in the houses and along the streets? Will they know any of those who have died?

She doubts that they would know anyone. The settlers to ‘new’ planets are usually beings who will not be missed. They are those with good bloodlines that will give them a chance to survive in a new world, but they are still the inane ones. They are the ones who are simply average. They are the ones used to produce.

There are always some who are sent to be servants, they are the ones who may survive and they may not, but it hardly matters. Their race will be represented and that is all that needs to be done. Of course, some of them are the rulers of the ships until they step onto solid ground.

She grinds her teeth, Marie is one of the second group. She is one of those humans who simply ended up in the wrong household run by a family of natives who were hiding. But she is done hiding. She is done being one of the scared Hirpoun who dread the day when they are found. She has her Sight, she has already seen much more than most would at her age. She may not know what any of things she has seen mean, or even if they are real, but they are what they are to her.

Her birthday has always been the largest day of her life and one of the only days that her family has consistently celebrated. She has always looked at it as a reminder that she is in fact real. She is not an idea of her own imagination or something that she sees by her Sight. She is real. And yet, it often seems as though she is not. She is sleepwalking and daydreaming through the hours.

Until… until she changes into her natural form. And then she is living. And then she can hear the wind and smell the ground and climb a mountain in half the amount of time.

The sky darkens farther. She ventures to stand up and flex her hands as she waits for another minute, and then another. The dried red wine sun sinks beneath the horizon and leaves a black void behind. She takes a breath and slips into her natural form. Her head almost touches the ceiling of the cave as her legs lengthen along her fingers.

She steps towards the edge of the cave and starts to peek out, a light flashes across the ground and she draws back with a quiet curse. She forgot to think about the lights that used to rove across the borders of the town at night. The council of beings must have managed to get all of the previous defense measures working again.

She wishes that she had paid more attention to what the defense mechanisms were when the town was still young enough to have a large number of occupants. But she never thought that she would end up being a fugitive hiding in Sa’s cave. She curses again and slinks back to the side of the cave. She should have known that it would not be as simple as she thought. She will have to watch the lights and make sure that she can escape in between them. And if she cannot… She shakes her head. She is not going to go there. Not yet at least. She will pay attention to what might not be possible when she has to.

Until then, she must watch and see how many defense mechanisms are still working the way she remembers. And if there are any new ones… She scowls, she was hoping to leave Sa’s cave tonight. But it seems as though she will have to use the night to scout. She simply has to hope that she will not end up being stuck for another night as well.

She finds a place at the edge of the cave that is out of sight from the town and leans as close to the rock as she possibly can. She wills herself to become as inconspicuous as possible. Her eyes are much sharper in her natural form, and she finds herself staring at a fence. It reaches around the town at the base of the mountain on her side and the edge of the landing pad where a ship is crouching like a steel bull.

The roving lights spin across the razor wire of the metal fence, and she swallows thickly. At least she is already on the outside of it. Otherwise it would be very hard for her to get out. She clenches her teeth and her hands, did the unnamed gang make their way back into the town before they saw the repairs to the fence?

She is even more of a fugitive than she thought if they did not and they have not been captured. Perhaps it does not make a difference, there are only so many times that she can call herself a fugitive before the word becomes meaningless. At least she is not a fugitive of the planet. She belongs where she is.

Everyone else who is in the town are outsiders, they are the ones who have walked in to pretend that they are simply walking home. She belongs on the planet, she belongs in Sa’s cave. It is not her fault that she is trapped. And even if it was, she will not be trapped for much longer. She will leave Sa’s cave tomorrow night once she has managed to find a way through the lights and defense systems.

Perhaps she would still be able to outrun them if she is caught, but if the sensors pick her up and she is able to outrun them, then everyone in town will know that she is a Hirpoun. Many of the sensors were made to pick them up. Many of them were made to catch her race and mark them as the devils and demons that they are thought to be.

Even if she manages to leave, she will not be safe. But she cannot be sure if she will be safe ever again. If the ship truly came with new settlers, than she will always have to live on the outside. Unless the new settlers die just like the old ones and the town returns to its dilapidated state in her lifetime.

Her turns her hands around on her wrists, her natural form will live longer than her normal one. But she will still die eventually. And she will die much quicker if she is caught. If only she knew where to find someone else of her race. If only there was a group of beings like her that she could join. But she is alone as far as she knows.

She is alone and her only skills are the ones that she will be hunted by everyone for. The thing that she is carrying is not a mistake. It seems as though it is almost something that she was supposed to have. But the debtors are looking for it, and so they are looking for her. The unnamed gang will look for her when they choose to. The settlers will hunt her if they see she exists.

Even if something happens, she will still have Sa. But she rarely understands what Sa is trying to show her. She finds herself thinking about the sinking city and the family who watched again. It almost seems connected to something now, it feels as though whatever happened is not gone. It is hidden somewhere underneath the rocks or behind a door that no one can find. But it is not gone. And whatever it is seems as though it will come back.

Perhaps Sa shows her warnings. Perhaps the things that she sees are not simply random. She saw the fire that would ravage through town before it happened, and she saw the bus that would pick her up on her first day of school. But those were two incidents that could have simply been luck. And yet, she has seen Sa as well.

A light flashes across the ground in front of the cave. An electronic twang rings across the rocks, and then there is a thunk and everything falls silent. She shivers as another light runs across the rocks. At least now she knows that the fence is just like the one that the settlers talked about putting in decades ago. And she least she knows that the sensors still work.

The light runs across the rocks again and she stares at the darkness. She has a chance, it is not a very good one, but it is a chance. She will not have very much time, and she might be seen, but she may be able to climb higher into the mountain and find her way down out of the reach of the town’s defense systems.

She pulls closer to the rocks next to her and tries to make herself as small as possible. She has a chance, and the settlers will never see her if she can help it. They will not see her until she follows through with the plan that is starting to form in her mind and decides to reveal herself in the best way possible.

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