Welcome to the fifth of twelve. For my New Year’s resolution I decided to write twelve short stories this year (one per month) and post them to my blog on the last Wednesday of each month. This month’s story is called “Alien Emotions”. Enjoy!
Komir’s Log, Cycle 1
Ship experienced a catastrophic engine malfunction. I was forced to set down on an uncharted planet.
Landing was rough, so I had the ship perform a scan of my body. Everything seems to be in order. No bones have been broken and my antennae are undamaged. My wings and back are experiencing some soreness, but that should pass.
The climate here is humid and hot. While it is not what my kind are used to, I do not imagine I will have to adapt to it. Repairs should only take a matter of a few cycles.
It is just as well. Orbital scans told me there is nothing of interest here.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 2
It appears my conclusions on this planet’s value may have been made in haste.
As I was conducting my repairs this cycle, I heard a distant rumbling noise. The star had nearly fallen below the horizon, but I decided to go investigate.
I stepped through the trees past my ship and came to a large beach. And there, a little ways offshore, was a series of islands floating in the air. Even from a distance it was clear they were not a natural phenomenon.
I do not know what the rumbling was. It ceased before I was able to determine its location.
Further research is warranted.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 3
Repairs to the shuttle are progressing as expected. The ship should be fully functional within a couple of cycles.
The floating islands, however, are a perplexing enigma. I set the ship to run geological scans while I worked. They appear to have small ecosystems of their own, with cave systems and plant life. There are six different landmasses in total, five smaller ones surrounding one large, central island. And it appears that they are connected by small, metallic walkways.
But there is something far more interesting about them, something I already suspected.
The ship’s scans have revealed a strong energy signature coming from the central landmass. I imagine it powers some type of anti-gravity well that holds the islands aloft. However, the geological scans were unable to penetrate the rock of the central island, leaving me with no clear idea of what the device looks like or what its power source is.
A thought occurred to me during meditation: my orbital scans prior to the ship’s engine failure revealed nothing of this nature. This leads me to conclude that the device is shielded in some way.
Perhaps it was hidden to deter investigation. I should proceed with caution…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 4
The islands are inhabited.
With the ship’s geological scans proving fruitless, I decided that perhaps it would be best to inspect the central island myself. My theory was that whatever shielding surrounds the device grows weaker as one gets closer to it, which would explain its invisibility when scanning from orbit.
The water around the beach and the islands was shallow, not even making it up to my knees.
I ran my hands along the rock and used the machines embedded in my fingertips to commence a close-range scan. It would appear that the device has a cylindrical shape, and I have detected the unmistakable presence of an anti-matter power source.
It was not long before I noticed I was being watched.
There were only a couple of them: tiny, blue creatures that wore brown cloth around their waists. They stood on two legs and were barely larger than my finger. I paid them little attention as I worked.
Still, I observed that they seemed to show no fear. Curious…but irrelevant all the same.
I have uncovered the source of the rumbling: periodic earthquakes that rack the floating islands. I cannot be certain of the cause, but the ship’s scans have determined that during the quakes the energy signature within the central island fluctuates. My theory is that the device powering the anti-gravity well is starting to fail.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 5
I have had to halt ship repairs for the time being. Evidently one of the native animals took interest in my vessel as I slept and began clawing at the panel where I was working. It managed to remove a power cell and ran off with it. I will have to create a substitute.
My scans of the islands have proven to be more revealing. Near the large cylindrical device there is a rectangular recess with some type of device behind it. I have theorized that it is an access point or panel, but could not find a way to reveal it.
I can only imagine it requires some sort of code.
More of the little blue creatures showed up. There were six of them this time, and it is clear that they are indeed sentient beings. However, clearly they are not the ones who created the device, as they are far too primitive. They seem to inhabit one of the smaller islands, living in small straw huts bound together with some kind of strong, green fiber.
I took more notice of them this time. As I observed before, they stand on two legs. Each foot has three toes, compared to my two, and their hands have six fingers compared to my three. Their eyes are a combination of green and orange, and are considerably large for their body size.
They are unimportant to my work. Still, they should be cataloged.
Perhaps I will collect one of them for examination during the next cycle.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 6
Even now, as I write this, I am unable to explain what happened.
I was continuing my examination of the central floating island when I spotted one of the little island beings. He appeared to be by himself…a perfect opportunity to obtain a specimen for research. I waited until the right moment then grabbed him before he could get away. I turned around, meaning to carry the little creature back to my ship.
Then I realized that was exactly what I intended to do. And I stopped.
There was nothing wrong with my body. My feet were, without doubt, capable of movement and my legs were undamaged. There was no physical explanation for what happened to me. But regardless, as I stared at the wriggling creature trapped between my fingers, I found myself unable to carry him away. It was only when I set him back down that I was able to return to my ship.
I meditated, but even with clarity of mind I could still not explain my sudden inability to act. Even as I emerged from the meditation machine, I found myself in a troubled state of mind. I am concerned that my time on this planet may be affecting my brain somehow.
The ship’s scanner revealed no problems in my cranial structure.
Log Addendum #2
I saw something while I slept.
Bolts of electricity shot across the sky and water drowned the world. There was a terrible, thunderous roar. A pair of blazing orange orbs appeared high above me in the gloom.
Then, a colossal hand of gray reached down from above.
I woke up, feeling a tightness in my stomach and a desire to get as far away from some unseen danger as I could.
Was it a dream? Why was I having a dream? Our species have no time for such things. They are useless flights of fancy that stand in the way of logical thinking. We are taught to push them out of our minds from a very early age.
But still…I dreamed.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 7
In between working on repairs to the ship, I meditated on the recent incident.
I still cannot explain what happened, why I was suddenly overcome with the compulsion to let the little island creature go. The logic of the situation dictated that I would take him back to my ship and catalog his species for the database.
But I just could not do it.
And then I realized…it was not that I could not do it, but that I did not want to do it. In that moment as I held the creature in my fingers, I felt something. It was like pain, but not actual pain. It did not have any discernible, physical origin.
The word “emotion” floated into my mind, which makes my body involuntarily shudder.
But maybe that is the only explanation for what happened. Maybe I was afflicted by an emotion.
I should delete this log. If the High Council ever sees it, that will be the end of me.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 8
I decided to forgo my work and called up the ship’s database entry on The Outcasts.
We, the Faloss, rejected emotions as trivial and primitive many revolutions ago. They were detrimental to logical progress and held us back. Even as youth, we are separated from our birthers before too long to prevent us from becoming attached to them.
This is what we believe. The Outcasts do not.
They rejected tradition and left our home planet behind long ago. It is unknown where they went, but it is presumed that they have created their own colony planet where they would be free to pursue their interest in the blasphemy of emotions. Numerous attempts to track them down have all ended in failure.
This is not something I have ever written about in this log before, but a long time ago when I was scanning a dead planet, I came across a ruined Faloss ship. There were no survivors, but I did discover a data cube left behind by the crew. I retrieved it and took it aboard my ship, connecting it to the main database. I immediately recognized the mark of The Outcasts and quarantined the cube, placing it in a container that cut off all remote access going in or out.
But I ask myself something now: why did I never report it to the High Council?
That is the procedure. “Anything you find on an Outcast vessel must be turned in to the Council for examination.” And yet, I never did this. Did I forget about it? Or was there another reason?
When darkness fell this cycle, I pulled the cube out of quarantine storage and set it down next to the database access terminal. It was almost as though it was taunting me, corrupting me with its mere presence. I could almost see a pure aura of blackness emanating from the hideous thing.
No…I must not get lost in falsehoods. I am an observer and a recorder, not a dreamer…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 9
Repairs to the ship have been completed. I managed to create a substitute power cell to replace the one that was lost. I entertained the idea of searching for it, but even if I found the cell it would likely be too damaged to be of any use.
After I completed the repairs, I found I still had time for more research on the floating islands. I carried a scanning device out to the central island and placed it on top of the spot I determined to be the access point. Despite it being an advanced device, it appeared to have no more luck than I did determining how to trigger the panel.
None of the little creatures showed up this time. I imagine they are rather wary of me now…
But I digress. As I was waiting for my scanner to give me results, I examined the central island and saw something I had not seen before.
A bronze statue, depicting a kind of being I have never encountered.
The creature is shown as being rather muscular, with four fingers on each hand. Instead of toes, its legs (of which it has two) each end in one large appendage, almost like a set of tree stumps. On its head, there are two glittering blue jewels that likely represent the being’s eyes. The statue is painted a deep black, giving it an imposing visage.
But the most curious thing was not the creature himself, but what he was holding.
A representation of the floating islands sat in the statue’s hands. As I took a closer look, I was impressed by the accuracy of the rendering. The shape of the islands, down to the little peaks and valleys, were recreated in surprising detail. I could even see the railings on the metal paths that connected each island. The statue itself was depicted as staring down at the islands, examining them with care.
I can only surmise that the being shown was credited with the creation of the islands, although for what purpose I have no theories as of yet.
But something about the statue troubles me as well. According to the scale, the islands fit easily in the being’s palms, which would make him as tall as a mountain. I cannot comprehend a being that massive in size. It seems like an impossibility.
Perhaps the statue is merely figurative, offering thanks to a deity of some kind.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 10
The little creatures showed themselves again.
It is clear they are not as trusting as before. The three that appeared kept a good distance away from the cliff. I also noticed that they kept themselves within quick reach of a cave entrance on the central island, an obvious avenue of escape should they need it.
My research has been without luck. The scanner fed all manner of data and numbers to the panel, but received no discernible reaction.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 14
I have decided to name the planet Vitellius, after the ancient water god of the Faloss. It seemed fitting, considering the planet is roughly eighty-five percent water.
I have alternated my days between exploring the continent I landed on and studying the islands. The periodic earthquakes appear to have gotten more frequent since I began my observations. And every time, it coincides with a dip in the energy signature. I am now certain that the two are linked.
The anti-gravity mechanism is failing, which means that eventually the islands will fall back into the ocean, taking the creatures that dwell there with them.
But why does this trouble me so? The state of the islands has no impact on me. And yet, I am affected by this knowledge. Is it simply because of the potential scientific information that could be lost?
No. There is more to it. I must meditate.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 15
My terminal tells me that empathy is a forbidden word which is defined as “a false assumption that one can share and even understand the feelings of other beings, even lesser ones.”
I think I am beginning to understand what happened to me that cycle…
Nevertheless, I went to work on the access panel again. This time, only two of the little creatures were watching me. However, they appeared to be less afraid than before, as they had returned to their former spot on the cliff.
This time I brought a powerful laser to try and drill into the rock, to see if I could unearth the panel through more forceful means. I set it up on its three legs, aimed it in the direction of the access panel, and switched it on. For a brief time, it seemed like the laser was having some effect on the rocks. But then, another earthquake struck the island, this one more powerful than any I had yet experienced. My ship later confirmed that it was indeed the strongest one it had recorded thus far.
I cannot help but wonder if my laser was somehow the cause.
The earthquake only lasted a few seconds, but I lost my footing and fell to my knees. As I was getting back to my feet, I saw something that gave me pause.
The quake had caused one of the two little creatures watching to fall over the edge. The being managed to grab a small handhold and was hanging on, but it was clear he was going to lose his grip. The other one was trying to help, but could not reach far enough.
He was terrified, furiously scrabbling at the rocky cliff to find another handhold, but to no avail. The creature kept slipping lower and lower down the cliff. Eventually, he was going to fall.
I cannot say what compelled me to do it. But I did it all the same.
I stepped toward the two of them and, as gently as I could, placed my finger under the struggling creature. Using it as leverage, he managed to push himself back up onto solid ground. After a moment he got back to his feet, turned around, and stared at me.
But I did not pay him any attention, as I saw that my laser had fallen off its tripod and was damaged. I picked it up and made my way back to the ship.
It was only later that it started to trouble me. I meditated until the planet’s star had sunk below the horizon, but I still had no answer for it. Why did I bother helping the creature? What possessed me to do so? They are of little to no consequence.
And yet, I felt some kind of…connection with the little thing. I understood his fear.
These logs are dangerous. Perhaps I should start encrypting them.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 18
More of the creatures have been showing up each time I go over to the islands. It appears that their curiosity has grown since I helped one of them.
No progress on the access point yet. It appears to be as stubborn as I am.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 22
I have been writing in my log less and less. I tell myself it is because of my work, but I know that is not the only reason…
I have finally made some progress with the access point, although entirely by accident. I was removing the scanner from the rock wall when it slipped from my hand. I let out a short gasp of surprise and managed to catch it before it fell into the water. When I looked back up, I saw that a rectangular portion of the rock wall was sliding away, and a red and gray panel was emerging. A green hologram spat out of it, displaying a blue symbol.
However, a moment later, the symbol flashed red and vanished.
It took me a little time to connect my utterance to the reveal of the access panel. I had initially concluded that my scanner had managed to find the correct sequence to reveal it. But when I reattached it, nothing else happened.
Then I understood. The mechanism isn’t activated by numbers or data, but by vocalizations.
This presents another problem: I have no idea the pattern, frequency, or period of these vocalizations. It could be multiple separate tones or one extended, oscillating frequency that I need. Nevertheless, the prospect of making progress is a good one.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 26
Normally, when we Faloss meditate, we do so with the aid of a sensory deprivation machine, which blocks out all unnecessary distractions. But lately, I have been attempting to do so by simply sitting down on the beach near my ship.
I enjoy the feel of the wind on my skin and the sound of the water hitting the shore.
But…why? Why do I enjoy these things? Are they inextricably linked to emotions? Do emotions make these things feel good? I am frustrated because I cannot come up with an answer due to my conditioning as a youth.
Conditioning? I have never called it that before…it sounds terrible and wrong…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 29
During my meditation, I heard a splashing noise. I opened my eyes and saw that one of the sea creatures had poked its head above the surface a little ways off the beach. It was an ugly fish, with sickly brown-yellow skin and hideous eyes of yellow and black. Its mouth held razor-sharp teeth that it likely used to gorge on prey larger than itself.
But it had its eyes fixed on the islands, as if waiting for something.
Moments later another quake struck, shaking the islands and creating a distant rumble. The fish seemed to grow excited at the prospect of the earthquake, swimming closer to the islands until it was almost under them. The earthquake ended moments later and the fish swam around for a little while. But eventually, its head dipped back below the surface, evidently disappointed.
I had a revelation moments later: it was looking for food.
The fish considered the little blue creatures living on those islands to be prey. It was waiting to see if one of them would fall off. No wonder the creature holding on to the cliff had looked so utterly terrified.
I began to wonder: the statue…the being that I assume created the floating landmasses…did he do it specifically for them? Did he feel some desire to help the little creatures, to safeguard them from their predators? It is the most likely conclusion, because otherwise they would likely never have survived as long as they have, existing in a world where so many things consider them to be prey.
Sympathy…empathy…these words hang on my mind.
As I write this, the Outcast data cube sits next to my terminal. I once again pulled it out of the quarantine storage area.
What does it have to tell me? Should I listen?
Or should I just toss it into the nearest star and forget it ever existed?
Komir’s Log, Cycle 31
Work is slow. I cannot focus with everything that is on my mind.
I have spent the last two cycles wandering the island. I have found that it helps to ease my troubled mind. It has been fruitful too. During my walk I came across a massive crater in the ground. I can only assume that this was either the result of a meteorite impact (which I doubt, due to the lack of surrounding damage) or it was a chunk of land removed for the creation of the floating islands.
For some odd reason my mind conjured up the image of a gargantuan black hand reaching down and scooping the land out from under itself…
Thoughts like that have been a constant for some cycles now.
That reminds me. Against my better judgment, I installed the Outcast data cube and began reading it.
“We are the Outcasts,” it began. “This is our text, our story, our history.
After the purging of emotions so long ago, much of the Faloss race have reached the conclusion they were nothing but a detriment. We represent the few who do not believe this. We have experienced the power of these emotions…how they can drive us and inform our actions.
When we travel the stars and happen to look down at the worlds in our path, a decision must be made. Do we ignore them and continue on our way? Or do we expend time to learn about them?
Some of these worlds may also be inhabited, populated by creatures that might be less advanced than us. How we act toward them can have serious repercussions on their development. Many of us have read distressing accounts of Faloss scientists who, without hesitation, drastically altered a planet’s climate in a simple attempt to gather data or resources.”
I stopped reading there. There was a pain in my chest I could not explain.
My mind was drawn back to one of my last expeditions…I encountered a planet rich in minerals that were essential to our ship drives. So I landed, set up equipment, and began mining. I took far more than I needed, but I figured the abundance would please the High Council.
The planet was inhabited as well…some type of primitive reptilian people. But, as protocol dictated, I did not pay them any attention or interact with them in any way.
It is only now, looking back, that I realize what I had done. The process of retrieving those minerals had a detrimental effect on the world, drastically altering the climate. The cycle I left, I noticed some extreme weather on the horizon. I did not think much of it at the time, but it was more severe than anything I had seen since I landed there.
Did I devastate that planet simply to get what I wanted?
Did I doom an entire species to extinction for my own selfish reasons?
It is impossible to say…but I must cease writing here. I have no desire to continue…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 32
I killed a fish. I crushed its skull.
I found myself sitting on a rocky outcrop with my feet dangling over the water, meditating on what I had read on the Outcast’s cube. My eyes were wandering near the floating islands when I spotted something: a brownish fin circling the same spot over and over again.
I squinted, unsure of what was happening at first. But then I saw it.
It was difficult to discern, but one of the little creatures from the islands had fallen into the ocean, likely due a recent earthquake. I remembered how I had seen the sea creature poke its head up, its eyes watching the floating land to see if any food was going to fall down for it.
This time, it got what it wanted.
It is difficult for me to describe what happened next. It was as if I had become consumed by something…a powerful sensation that flooded my entire body. I felt like I was burning up inside, even though my body temperature was well within its normal range.
My hands started to twitch. My mind was filled with the image of the fish gorging itself on the little blue creature.
And then, I acted.
I dropped off the cliff into the water and made my way toward the spot where the fish was circling. It did not take long for the fish to notice my approach. It attempted to swim away, but I was too fast, snatching the creature out of the water and holding it aloft by its tail. It wriggled and squirmed, swinging its head around in an attempt to escape my clutch. When that failed, it switched tactics and attempted to sink its fangs into my thigh.
I took my other hand and clamped its mouth shut as hard as I could. It was not until I heard the cracking of bone that I realized what I had done.
As impossible as it was, time itself seemed to slow down. The fish had ceased moving and hung limply from my hand. I could not help but stare at it, acutely aware of what I had done. The burning sensation gave away to a thick heaviness that weighed me down.
I cannot say how long I stood there, but it felt like eternity.
My eyes drifted away from the dead thing in my hand and down to the water. I could see the little island creature swimming toward me. I doubted he had any idea what I was going through at that moment. Rather, I think he was just in awe of me.
I tossed the fish aside, letting it fall into the water and float away. Then, I bent over and scooped the little being up into the palm of my hand.
It was clear the creature was terrified. He was shivering and wet.
I carried him back to the islands. Time had scarcely passed after I set him down before he took off, running as fast as he could back to his village.
I pitied the creature. That was a certainty. But that was not the only thing that drove me to act.
That burning feeling…I had never felt anything like that in all my existence. I was starting to understand sympathy and empathy. I had learned long ago that fear was something all creatures experience. But this…this was the strongest thing I had felt yet. It had stripped me of all control.
I must meditate some more. There is an answer somewhere…I just need to find it.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 33
Anger. They called it anger.
Once again, despite all the reasons I should not, I read more of the Outcast’s scripture. Much of it was of little interest to me, just a treatise on the Faloss’ history with emotions. Growing weary of it, I started to skim through the text at random. There is an impressive amount of written work stored on the cube, so much so that I would have to spend many cycles just to read through all of it.
However, one particular part caught my eye. It was essentially a catalog of common emotions.
And there was the entry on anger.
“Anger”, it said, “a feeling of displeasure or hostility. Anger is usually directed towards a particular target. This target can be an idea or a location, but is more commonly focused on an individual entity like a living creature (such as another Faloss).”
That was what I felt. I felt a sense of hostility toward the fish because it was trying to harm a creature that could not defend itself against it.
Anger is powerful.
But anger is dangerous as well…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 34
“Nature does not make mistakes. Nature selects. Nature breeds the qualities that are necessary for survival.
The Faloss lived with emotions for most of their existence. So why do we now believe that they are dangerous? How did we come to the conclusion that they were useless trinkets to be cast off and forgotten?
Nature is variable. Nature is always changing. Nature is cruel.
But nature does not make mistakes.”
This passage from the Outcast text was on my mind as I wandered the continent, the wind blowing through the trees and prickling my flesh. For my entire life, I had believed as all other Faloss believed: that emotions were unnecessary. I still thought this, even as I left my home world to explore the stars.
But now? Now I am not certain. Is it not possible that we made a mistake? Is it not possible that we suffered a lapse in judgment? These “emotions”…they do not feel wrong to me. They feel natural…like they were meant to be a part of my being.
I have decided to name the tiny island beings “Tekkets”, a word from the old Faloss language that roughly translates to “little dweller”.
I have not been back to the islands yet. I feel like they would be too afraid of me now.
Or maybe I am too afraid of myself…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 35
In an attempt to further my understanding of empathy, I tried to imagine myself in the mind of a Tekket as I meditated. This brought me back to the dream I had after I nearly walked off with one of them between my fingers. I remembered the monstrous, cruel hand that came down for me, a distorted reflection of myself.
Was that how they saw me then, as a monster? Was I some hideous alien tormenting them for my own gain?
But now…what do they think of me now? Surely the circumstances have changed?
There is only one way to find out…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 36
I finally returned to the islands this cycle. As I approached, my eyes caught sight of a single, lone Tekket standing near the cliff. He spotted me approaching and reacted with what I can only describe as excitement. He began to run toward me.
In fact, he almost ran right off the cliff. Instinctively, I found myself reaching out with my hand to stop him.
But what happened next amazed me. The little creature grabbed my finger without fear and started nuzzling it. So I picked him up. He was unfazed, his curious eyes watching me as he rested his head against my thumb.
He only became nervous when I brought my other hand closer and the micro-sensors embedded in my fingertips began to shoot out tiny blue lights that swept across his body. He started to quiver and closed his eyes. And, out of some kind of compulsion, I whispered to him. I told him not to be afraid. I assured him that I would never hurt him.
There was no way for him to understand what I was saying. But…it worked. He calmed down and stopped shaking.
After my scan was complete I set the little creature back down and went to check on the progress with the central island’s access panel. My sensor device had made some decent headway in the last few cycles. I now know that to unlock the power source, the panel needs five distinct vocalizations. The device has discovered two of them so far, both in a low-frequency range.
I could attempt another way of accessing the panel again, but the risk seems too high. I still cannot be certain if my laser triggered an earthquake or if it was just ill timing on my part, but discovering the access code seems the safest way to proceed.
And I do not want to even think about what would happen to the islands, much less the Tekkets who live on them, if another method failed catastrophically.
The little one watched me all day, sitting cross-legged on the cliff. I cannot understand why he has taken such a fancy to me. The others who came to watch were almost impassive by comparison.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 38
The little one has met me every cycle and I have continued to scan him. I am interested to know more about their development.
It is clear that he is a child in their species, as the data indicates he is undergoing rapid growth and change. My scans have also revealed an interesting facet of their bodies as well: a pair of vestigial gills. It would seem that Tekkets were an amphibious species at one point in their evolution and that aspect of them gradually atrophied as they spent their lives on the islands.
I am beginning to think that the little one is the same Tekket I saved from the fish. It is impossible to say for certain, but it would explain his implicit trust in me.
No more progress on the vocalizations yet. But I suspect it is just a matter of time…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 39
I carried him on my shoulder.
After I finished my scans of the little one, I had another moment of indecision. There was a pain in my chest. It was as if my past self was rearing up before me, reminding me that these creatures were only to be used for data gathering purposes.
But I was determined that I would never be that same Faloss again. And, almost as if to prove it to myself, I set the little one down on my shoulder.
There was no reason to stay with the scanner, as it would work on its own accord. Therefore, I took another walk around the continent. The little one was clearly pleased to come along. He curled up close to my neck and stayed there for much of the time. I have to admit…I am filled with pleasant sensations just reminiscing about it. The closest emotion I can find to it in the Outcast scripture is “happiness”. Is that what we have been missing for so long? Yes, anger was powerful and terrifying…but happiness? Happiness is nothing of the sort.
This feeling led me to a profound, yet obvious, realization: I saved his life. He would not be here if I had not interfered. He would not be here if I had not heeded the call of my emotions.
Then, a more chilling thought struck me…if I had been the same person on that day as I was when I landed…what would I have done? I ask myself: would I have acted? Of course, I already knew the answer to that.
I would have watched.
I would have observed.
I would have sat there and gathered data while the little one was eaten…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 43
I am starting to slip in my work. I need to regain focus.
I had forgotten to check on my scanner for the past few cycles and when I returned I found that it had lost all power. After setting the little one down on my shoulder I grabbed the scanner and returned to the ship to charge.
I wonder what he thinks of all these things…my ship, the scanner…this world he lives in. I wonder what he thinks of me…the gray-skinned giant who looks down at him with solid, orange eyes. The little one’s gaze constantly wanders. He reaches out and touches things whenever he can. Just this previous cycle, I found him fiddling with my wings, running his fingers over them. But it does not bother me. I let him do these things, because I understand being curious. Curiosity was what kept me here. Curiosity stopped me from leaving the moment I had completed the repairs on my ship.
Is curiosity an emotion? If it is…then that means I was always broken, even before my “awakening”, as I’ve come to call it.
No…I am not broken. What nonsense is that? I am me.
Water is falling from the sky. I can hear it pelting the outside of my ship. I hope the little one is safe and warm. I had to end our expedition early today because of the arrival of the dark clouds. I did not want him to be caught out in the open when the storm began. I could have sheltered him in my ship, but I believed he would prefer to be among his own people.
I am me…what a strange choice of words.
We Faloss are not a hive mind species. But the concept of being an individual is not often talked about. Everything we have done, will do, and will continue to do is always thought of in terms of what is best for the species as a whole. When Faloss like me go out and observe planets and cosmic phenomenon, we do so with the intent of furthering our collective knowledge.
But this…what I have done here on Vitellius…that was for me. That was for me alone.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 45
It appears that the little one has things to teach me, even if he does not realize it.
I moved my ship over to the beach this cycle, as a way to consolidate my efforts. When I brought the little one over, I set him down as I worked. I tuned the ship in to the sensor device’s frequency so I could observe the results it found in real-time, as well as how much power it had.
After that was done, I began reading more of the Outcasts scripture. It had not seemed like much time had passed, but when I looked in the little one’s direction, I saw something that amazed me. He was picking up clumps of sand from the beach and sticking them together. Fascinated by this almost ritualistic act, I left what I was doing behind and sat on the beach watching him.
He was creating a representation of some rectangular structure with high towers. He shaped it so that it appeared like it sat on top of a high cliff. It did not take him long to notice me watching, which seemed only to encourage him to work even harder.
I wondered why he was doing this. Was it out of some kind of longing? Did he hear tales of the old cities the Tekkets used to live in? Was that what he was doing, creating a remembrance of history? After a moment of thought, I did not believe this to be so. He did not appear forlorn while creating it. Rather, he was enjoying himself. It was a pleasurable activity for him.
There is a word for this…but I cannot remember it at present. I will have to consult the Outcast scripture once again.
It was not long before I felt compelled to imitate his action. I picked up clumps of wet sand and started to create. It was a strange feeling, as though I was being totally consumed by the task. I took more and more sand, building my construct higher and higher still. I felt immense pleasure, almost as though this simple act of sticking wet sand together was enough to trigger the emotion of happiness.
The star was falling below the horizon, signaling the approach of darkness, when I finally finished.
The structure I created was a model of the Faloss Council Tower, an immensely tall structure that stands in the center of our capital city. It is an imposing building, ending in a sharp spire at the very top. In reality, the tower dwarfs the height of an average Faloss by many dozens of times, although the one I had created only reached up to about my waist. I reached out and ran my finger along the spire at the top. The real tower would feel cold and metallic, but the one I had created was soft and malleable, specks of sand tumbling off and falling to the ground as I rubbed it.
The little Tekket was impressed with my work as well. I reached down and scooped him up into the palm of my hand. I brought him close to the side of the tower and he reached out to touch it. His eyes lit up, like little green and orange jewels. He pointed at the top of the tower, then looked at me.
I lifted him up between my fingers and set him down on top of the tower, next to the spire.
The two of us spent the remainder of the cycle watching Vitellius’ star slide below the horizon. I stood on the beach while the little one leaned back against the sandy spire. His little size meant that he could walk around on top without fear of the tower breaking away underneath him.
He looked at me. I looked at him. We were happy.
The sky was nearly black, the white dots of the stars shining down, when I finally carried him back to the islands.
The scripture called it “fun”. The word was an adjective describing something that is pleasurable or entertaining.
It’s like there are pieces of me missing that I am trying to put back into place…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 47
Four of five vocalizations now. I believe the scanner will finish its task within the next few cycles.
I must go. The little one is waiting for me.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 48
I was not watching. I made a mistake and…he almost died.
I was distracted by my own creation. The sand model of the Council tower managed to withstand the weather of the last few cycles. I was reshaping it, adding little recesses in the side to represent the windows the Council would use to look out over the city.
After a while I wondered what the little one thought of my work. But when I turned around he was not there.
In that moment I felt a sense of panic and fear. My eyes went back and forth across the beach in a frantic fashion, but I could not see him. I turned my gaze to the ground, hoping to see some trace of where he had gone.
I had scarcely began looking when I heard a loud roar.
I raised my head and turned in its direction. And there, barely visible, was the little Tekket. He was sprinting out of the forest beyond the beach, terrified by something. Loud, crashing steps followed along behind him. Soon enough, the creature they belonged to emerged from the trees.
It was some big, quadrupedal thing with an elongated mouth. It had dark, grayish skin and was nearly as tall as me. A long tail swished back and forth as it walked, eyeing the tiny creature attempting to run away. It did not seem at all concerned that its prey would escape, as its head was bent over, sniffing the little Tekket with its flat snout. The creature rose up and licked its mouth, savoring the moment. Rows of gnashing teeth opened up as it went it for the kill.
I snatched up a rock as fast as I could and threw it directly at the creature’s eye. Fortunately my aim was true and the rock dazed it just long enough for me to close the gap. I tackled it to the ground and held it there. It thrashed back and forth, its tail tossing up sprays of sand.
I grabbed another nearby rock and raised it above my head, intent on bashing the creature’s skull in.
But as I watched its reptilian eyes dart back and forth in fear, I hesitated.
This creature was not any more evil than the fish was. It was a simple-minded being looking for food. It was not its fault that the little Tekket looked so appetizing. It was born that way, conditioned by nature to regard the tiny creature as sustenance.
Much like I had been conditioned to regard emotions as useless. Only in my case, there was nothing natural about it…
So I dropped the rock and stood back up, letting the creature roll back onto its feet. But before it could do anything else, I gave it a swift kick to the chest, sending the creature scurrying back into the forest.
I spent the rest of the cycle sitting on the beach, holding the Tekket between my fingers. He kept shivering, his eyes darting back and forth like he was afraid the monstrous creature would show itself again it any moment. I nuzzled him in an attempt to calm him down. but it did not work. His body continued to quiver with fear.
When I finally returned him to the islands, he ran off without even looking behind him…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 49
I feel…empty…like I have been drained of all feeling.
I realize now that I was a fool. I was being selfish. The little Tekket made me happy, so I kept him with me because I wanted to continue being happy.
I knew how dangerous this world was for them. But I ignored it.
Maybe this is why our people cast off emotions long ago, because they knew that it led to bad decisions. Maybe I should never have interfered with them.
Maybe I just made things worse…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 50
Fifty cycles. I have been here for fifty cycles.
It is hard for me to fathom that right now. The planet clearly has nothing more of interest for me aside from the device that powers the floating island. And yet, I am still here.
I have calculated that this planet’s revolution around its star lasts roughly two hundred of its cycles. Interesting, considering that my home planet’s cycles are longer and it takes nearly four hundred of them before a revolution is complete.
It is not an important distinction, but it distracts me.
It keeps away the dark thoughts that otherwise plague my mind…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 51
My carelessness could doom their entire species.
Even with real-time monitoring, I slipped and allowed the scanner to run out of power again. It has been without power since the cycle my little friend was nearly eaten. I am charging it even now.
The earthquakes are worse now, more frequent and more powerful.
I have to get back to work. I have already interfered, so I might as well finish my task.
I owe the Tekkets that much at least…
Komir’s Log, Cycle 52
The scanner is back in place, doing its job.
The little one hasn’t shown up ever since that incident. I cannot blame him. He must be terrified of stepping foot outside his home now.
And it is my fault. I failed in my responsibility to keep him safe.
This is the most potent sadness I have felt yet. It weighs on me cycle after cycle. It is strong and pervasive. And it never seems to end.
Is this how I am going to feel for the rest of my existence?
I cannot deal with this.
I cannot live like this.
Perhaps I should forget these emotions while I still can.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 53
I was meditating on the beach when it finally happened.
The scanner found the last frequency for the access panel and the device revealed itself. The first indication of something happening was a distant rumbling. At first, I believed it was just another earthquake. But when I opened my eyes I saw that the central island was splitting open like an egg, revealing a bizarre orange and gray contraption shaped like a massive drill.
And in the center was a clear cylinder full of glowing light.
I was correct. The device was indeed powered by anti-matter. This was good news, as it should be easy for me to replicate another power cell for it. The bad news is that I have no idea how to switch them out without the device losing power completely and sending the islands crashing into the ocean.
But I am tired and I must sleep. I will work on this issue in the coming cycle.
I am shaken by the dream I just had. In the dream there was a loud rumble and a thunderous crash. I ran out of my ship and found that the islands were gone. They had fallen into the ocean and were swallowed whole by the hungry water.
In their place stood a mountainous creature.
The one who created the islands.
The one the Tekkets venerated with their statue. He had smooth, obsidian skin and eyes of blazing blue fire. He gazed down at me with intense authority.
He was judging me.
He was judging me because I had failed.
I woke then, in the fit of fear, shaking and cold with the rain drumming against the metal hull of my ship.
Failure is not an option. I must succeed, even if just for the sake of my own mind.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 54
They were…waiting for me.
I went back to the islands today to investigate the device and determine how I could re-fuel it without powering down the entire mechanism. The Tekkets were standing on the cliff. There were at least a couple dozen of them. They waved as I approached. They were happy to see me.
But that was not the most stunning development.
As I was examining the device, my attention was drawn back toward the statue. And it was there that I saw it:
Another statue…but of me.
Just like the other statue, their depiction was very accurate. They had large orange jewels for my eyes. They gave me three fingers for each hand and two toes for each foot. They even captured the pattern on my wings, veins like those you find on tree leaves. It was not fully complete, as it still had the metallic brown color of bronze. I imagine they are going to begin painting it soon enough.
But, like before, the most fascinating thing about the statue wasn’t its accuracy.
In one of my hands, I was holding a fish by its head and my eyes were turned toward it. And, kneeling at my feet, was a representation of the quadrupedal beast that had nearly devoured the little one. Its reptilian eyes were turned up toward me in a gesture of submission.
They were venerating me with this statue, just as they did the island creator. I did not know if I was comfortable being thought of as a deity.
But maybe that was not the case. In all my observations, I have never noticed the Tekkets treating the statues like objects of worship. Maybe it signifies a kind of respect. Maybe they are thanking me for the things I have done.
However, the fact remains that my work is not yet finished.
My investigations revealed no backup power source for the device. This means that I will have to rig up some kind of secondary power supply and patch it in to the device to keep it powered while I work.
If I had not arrived here when I did…I do not want to think what might have happened to them.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 55
I have created a second cell. I siphoned some of the anti-matter from my ship. As it turns out, I did not need as much of it as I had originally thought. The anti-gravity device is very efficient. One cell should be enough to power it for several hundred revolutions.
This makes me wonder…is the island creator still alive? Does he know what I am doing? Or did he pass long ago, never knowing what became of the little ones he had saved?
Komir’s Log, Cycle 56
I now have a backup power source. I created one using my sensor device and the laser that had once attempted to cut through the rocks. However, I am concerned, as it is an unwieldy combination and could be highly unstable.
The next cycle will be the moment of truth. Will I succeed in my aims? Or will I just make things worse? My hands twitch and my breath is shaky whenever I think about it.
But regardless, I must continue. This is not a time for hesitation.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 57
I did it…by the stars, I did it.
I was afraid I would not succeed at first. Having an audience of Tekkets only made matters worse. They showed up in far greater numbers than they had the cycle previous.
They knew something big was happening.
The moment I hooked up the backup power source it emitted a horrible droning sound. I knew it wouldn’t last long so I immediately removed the anti-matter power source from the device. The moment I did, the islands began to quake, worse than they ever had before.
It was as if everything was falling apart around me, like I had failed before I had even begun.
But gradually, things calmed down. The backup power source worked. I could not help but sigh with relief.
I retrieved the new anti-matter cell from my ship and placed it inside the device. Initially, it refused to work. I tried activating it several times, but to no avail. I could feel my heart beating fast. My hands twitched and I found it hard to focus. I had believed that anger was by far the most powerful emotion…but it seems I still have a lot to learn.
After attempting to re-insert the cell several times over I had an idea. I went to my scanner that was still attached to the rocks and had it replay the sequence of sounds that revealed the device.
There was a moment of silence after it had finished.
Then…it started to work.
The anti-matter cell began to glow brightly, and a loud clicking told me it was now locked into place. There was a loud pulsing drone that indicated the device was fully functional again. I disconnected the backup power source just as the rocks began to slide back together. As I did so, a strange sound reached me. It was a whole chorus of little voices.
They were cheering. They were cheering for me.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 60
Everything appears to be well with my re-infusion of anti-matter into the device. There have been no more signs of degradation or earthquakes. Nevertheless, I must stay here for a little while longer to ensure that everything is fine.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 62
My ship has not recorded a single earthquake. It is done. They are safe.
Komir’s Log, Cycle 64
I am leaving soon.
I spent the last couple of cycles with my little friend. He seems to have recovered from his encounter with the predator and is once again happy.
It rained. We sat together in my ship and watched the water fall on the beach. He was on my shoulder, once again curled up against my neck. For the first time since I came here, I felt truly at peace.
I have made my decision. When I leave this planet, I am going to seek out the Outcasts. I want to learn more about the history we have lost.
But before I leave, I am going to place a device on the center island that will enable me to monitor the power of the anti-gravity device, even when I am light-years away from here. I do not know if the island creator will ever return. But in the event that he does not, I will keep a watchful eye on the Tekkets for him.
And if I pass on…someone else will have to take my place.
Saying goodbye to Vitellius is going to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am certain I will return from time to time, simply to pay the Tekkets a visit. But I can never return to my home world. If they discover what I am now…they will surely execute me.
Maybe time will change their minds. Maybe it will not. I am strangely indifferent about it.
When the star rises…it will be the last I see of it for quite some time…
As I slept, I saw the island creator again. He was happy.
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