Kia’s life revolved around the monsters that stalked her tribe every night. The Dark killed at will and there was nothing that Kia could do. Until one night, Kia’s anger overwhelmed her fear. Her life went on a different path, one that she could never have anticipated. Defender of her tribe, Kia bided her time until she discovered a weakness in the Dark that promised everyone freedom.
Darkness Rising is a moody science fiction story set in humanity’s ancient past where one woman’s life made a huge difference in humanity’s development and in first contact with a mysterious alien race.
By Meyari McFarland
Kia watched quietly, nibbling on her bottom lip as Chinara took a fresh incense cone and gently set it on the family altar. Her hands didn’t shake the way Fola’s had when she put the dates on the altar. Chinara’s hands were steady. Her voice was calm as she prayed to the Gods to grant them good weather, bountiful harvests and freedom from the Dark. It felt wrong for her to be so calm. She should be angry, like Kia.
Outside, Kia heard the strange echoing sounds of impacts that always came from the Dark’s ravine. They were such a normal part of her life that she barely noticed them. Since Mother and Father had been taken by the Dark the sounds seemed louder, more threatening. Kia had tried banging rocks and wood together but nothing made the same hollow booming sound that the Dark’s hammering did. It was if they hammered on something completely different from the familiar wood, rock and earth that surrounded Kia.
“Will you set the flame, Kia?” Chinara asked.
“Can I?” Kia asked, surprised. “I thought I wasn’t big enough yet.”
“It’s just the three of us,” Chinara sighed, her smile so sad that Fola put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I think it’s okay as long as you’re careful.”
“I’ll be very careful!” Kia exclaimed.
She scrambled up from her cushion by the fire, coming over to take the little lamp from Chinara. It was heavier than she expected. The rosy quartz crystal base chilled her fingers and filled both her hands. Fola poured a puddle of oil in the hollowed out center of the base. Kia let her tongue poke out of her lips between the gap where her front tooth had fallen out, concentrating hard as Chinara carefully lit the little puddle of oil for her.
“Just set it on the altar, Kia,” Chinara said, “right between the dates and the incense.”
“Okay,” Kia said.
Kia had to stand on her toes to set the lamp on the altar. She was very careful to make sure that the lamp didn’t slosh to the sides, spilling the oil and fire. Chinara smiled as Kia stepped back, resting her hands on Kia’s shoulders. Fola patted Kia’s shoulder and smiled too but her smile was wobbly and sad, not confident and reassuring.
“Do you know the words?” Chinara asked.
“Uh-uh,” Kia said. “Say them for me?”
“Of course,” Chinara laughed. “Just repeat after me, okay?”
She took a deep breath as she stared at the lamp for a long moment. Chinara carefully picked up the incense cone and touched the tip of it to the flame, holding it there until it began to smolder. A long thread of smoke curled towards the ceiling of their cave. Kia watched with Chinara and Fola as the smoke built in the dark spot over the altar before slowly flowing like an upside down river towards the smoke hole that led outside.
“Protect and defend us,” Chinara said, looking back down at Kia. “Keep us safe so that we may bear the flame to the next generation.”
Kia repeated the words along with Fola, her tongue stumbling a little on ‘generation’ but Chinara didn’t seem to mind. She tugged both Fola and Kia back over to the cushions, sitting with Kia in her arms. Her arms were thinner and harder than they had been before Mother and Father went to the Dark. Chinara’s belly was flatter, too. It made her hip bones poke into Kia’s side but she was warm and that was nice enough that Kia didn’t complain.
A wail sounded outside, faint and distant. It sounded so far away that Kia wondered if it was out on the plains instead of in one of the other caves. No one lived on the plains, though, so that didn’t make sense. It was too dangerous out there with the Dark and lions and crocodiles and hippos. Chinara’s arms went hard and tight around Kia’s back, tugging her so close that Kia protested.
“Hush,” Chinara whispered.
“Chinara!” Fola hissed. “What do we do? There’s no one to defend us now. We’re all alone.”
“Hush!” Chinara repeated. “We stay quiet. We stay still. We don’t go out at night. We’ll be fine.”
“Should have gone to live with Duna,” Fola muttered but she said it very quietly.
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