Continuing from last week, the novel narrative of a pioneer Quaker family on the Oregon Trail, ruthless bison killers, opposing Pawnee Indians, and the arrival of an alienologist from far away in our galaxy, 1842--
When Uzx came out of rest-state refreshed and ready to work again, the waiting data flow agitated until his skin hurt from many negative messages.
Rising on his owl’s wings, Uzx soared up in the early dawn, earth's minor sun almost cresting low hills to the east. Soon the wide river of flatness below him would shine like glass. Startled, he realized that he had, again, used his owl's visual percepters to make that prediction, not his real skin!
He had completed his total data skin of Neil, Naomi and their infant and other families of the wagon travelers.
Next, he planned to de-owl, return to his star ship, and then move onto a land mass down on the lower part of this globe.
Overview statistics skinned of a wonder there, a large marsupial. One with a few vaguely similar traits to my own species. Zhxxjh! That’ll be a fine enclone.
The biological details of the earthly marsupial reminded him of his own great Maternal Pouch, bless her name. This earth hopper could leap forward, but most importantly actually cared for her young in a small pouch above her large feet.
Though the female only kept a few birthed-ones in her sac, unlike his own Maternal Pouch’s dozens of tailings including himself back many years ago. Uzx felted a longing ritual, moving his appendages in tandem, virtually swinging his missing tail in a wide arch.
Suddenly, an alert rashed his inner skin!
Harsh, onrushing, tragic data flow.
According to new probability statistics felting into him from the data director, 2 groups of dissimilar humans were about to do battle near those thousands of shaggy beasts. Uzx flapped hastily backward.
When he flew over on the battle scene, the hide-obsessed Caucasians had already clearly won.
They were going around the skirmish field, knifing any wounded Pawnee still alive.
In the far distance, Uzx could skin—too far even for his owl vision—many thousands of bison stampeding away across the flat prairie.
Uzx feltdentified into invisibility and played the data flow. There near a rock outcropping below lay the prone body of the native who had shot the wagon train scout, a few days earlier.
Bullet wounds pocked the reddish-brown alien’s upper body.
Wore Wolf Teeth’s scalp was bloody, his rooster comb of hair, an erect fiber blade and its skin, missing.
At least 7 of the raiders were scalping the Pawnee dead and dying. Proud and gloating, filling the air with obscenities.
While Uzx floated on the updrafts, he analyzed the scene--realized the Pawnee war party had been caught between 2 bands of heavily armed Caucasians. Uzx tried accessing any lingering mental patterns from Wore's brain. Yes, brain images were still flowing. Uzx implemented data storage.
But surprisingly, the Pawnee warrior though near death wasn’t reliving his last battle with these pale invaders.
Instead, vivid scenes feeling into Uzx showed Wore applying garish face paint, a number of solar rotations ago, then leading a whooping war party of several Pawnee villages to attack a large grouping of a different tribe, the Arapaho, one set far to the west in red-rocked land.
Horrific images filled Wore’s mind, bloody scenes of the Chaticks-si-chaticks (Men of men), slaughtering every man, woman, and infant in triumph.
He and his other braves then hurried about the destroyed Arapaho village and tore ornaments and clothing from the dead.
Morally sickened, Uzx adjusted the scale of his feltment to access more details in Wore’s fading consciousness.
The native warrior, blood covering his hands from many scalpings, stooped in triumph and skinned off the hair of a 7-year-old Arapaho boy. Blood seeped out of multiple holes in the boy’s chest; a broken arrow stuck out of his left eye socket.
Almost expiring, Wore’s last conscious image and feeling—that of his 2 small sons, juxtaposed with him raising up the bloody trophy wet in his hand.
He grimaced and died.
While observing and duly saving the data feed, Uzx ached deep in his 3-hearts. All this senseless killing. For what? Wore Wolf Teeth hadn’t even focused on his spouse at his dying. But on what he considered a worthless tribe, the Arapaho, not of his own people, the Chaticks-si-chaticks. And scalping a child!
Yet the Uzx truly skinned even for Wore, this savage human.
Should I intervene? The alien’s fatal wounds weren’t irrecoverable. But his ship data director negated the suggestion: "Don’t medify the earth primate."
So the researcher only lingered, emotionally close to the deceased human and recorded a last brain pattern, no doubt mindless.
Then though outwardly invisible, and encloned in an earthly owl, he moved his actual missing marsupial tail in the mourning ritual of his people—not only for this brave murderer, but for all these savage humans, millions of them.
Then moving his skin flow from the lifeless corpse of Wore, Uzx felted into one of the still rampaging Caucasians who had just scalped a corpse laying half immersed in a stagnant pool by the river.
The white alien, lanky almost gangling, with no hair on his face, muttered in another communication system of the earthlings, displaying sort of a permanent smirk to his mouth.
Uzx accessed the foreign words--German--and also retrieved the battle scene from the immigrant’s point of view.
Finally, the Orxxjhian partially numbed away to escape the agony after pulling extensive life memories from half a dozen other Whites. He had skinned battles on what, maybe 13 planets, in the last 5 Orxxjhian rotations?
At times alien beings were so tactilely fascinating and tragic, but then they tended to fit into a few basic and similar patterns—all strikingly savage.
Each species of these aliens thought itself the very center of the universe—Uzx would have felt his skin chuckle at the absurdity, if he weren’t feeling so grieved down deep in his inner hearts.
Why does nearly all sentient life always think it, and it alone, is the center of everything? That’s surely a philosophical question worthy of asking the All/Ultimate.
But now I must leave this cloak of invisibility, close up the zxdjroklf part of my research project and then feltdenitify out of this owlness, return to my ship and transpose to the southern hemisphere for the next step of the Terran study.
The data director continued to explain to him, unnecessarily, "You will study in depth as to why evolution on this planet didn’t lead to advanced consciousness in marsupials. And at what point did primates begin to develop self-awareness and how and why?"
Wait! Uzx’s skin yelled, jamming the lectured felting from the ship director. We need to help! I’ve just caught raging data flow from this alien leader. The heavily bearded killer plans to continue their war, is going to decimate all life at the nearby Pawnee village.
"Uzx, stop interfering. Felt your instructions."
But surging pain cut through deep into the alienologist. It would be a white version of Wore’s massacre of the Arapaho village 3 rotations back, yet with almost the exact same bloody, hateful outcome.
Uzx numbed the felting from the data director and stayed invisible both feeling and watching the alien gang with the pale skin as they tended to their wounded, buried 15 of their dead, then mounted and rode away west with shouted “Yeahs! Death to the savages!”
Uzx flashed away to the north and came out of invisibility, his great flapping wings raising him high above--a miracle he normally luxuriated in--but now ignored as he winged far ahead of the killers toward this Weeping Water village.
It was noon on the prairie which stretched endlessly ahead, the slow-moving wide river to their left.
The long procession of Oregon-bound pioneers had stopped for lunch. Men and women stood watching the vastness of the landscape, not talking, chewing on their salt-pork.
At one point, Neil turned to the scout called Hack, “How many more miles do you estimate it is before we camp at dusk? I hear we’re stopping at a famous Indian spring. After the threat earlier today, think it’s safe?”
The scout at first didn’t answer, but spit a gulp of tobacco down into the mudded dirt and looked up at the cloudless sky, as if to ask God; then said, “Oh I reckon about 6 more mile.”
He paused ejected another glob and watched it arch away, glanced over at an elderly gent from Austria scratching his face, then finally added, “Yeah, not too far from them springs; the Pawnee call ‘em Weepin’ Water. Not much danger there. Only a small village… ‘cause a bunch of ‘em starved last c’upple a winters.
He chawed. And added, "So probably no problem.”
A short pudgy Norwegian looking worried, countered, “Well I don’t like campin’ near any savages; no way!”
Hack looked up at the sky again. “Ya wanta go thirsty? Our barrels r’ most empty. Don’t see no clouds…”
Justifying himself the immigrant turned to a compatriot and said, “Heck, yeah, we need water, but them Pawnee are trouble, gotta be careful don’t we?”
Spitting another glob, the scout nodded to no one in particular.
Another traveler, leaning against a wagon wheel responded, “Let me tell ya, them Indians killed my neighbors in the Ohio; that’s why we’re movin’ west.”
Despite his usual cautious demeanor, Neil joined in, “Yeah, we had a peck of trouble when I was coming through the gap in Tennessee, but then we killed a whole contingent of Cherokee; after that they didn't behave so high and mighty. Imagine that, them trying to keep us from taking virgin, unused land.”
But even as he spoke, the small bloody scalp, hanging like a red rosary in his partner’s hand, dripped through Neil’s consciousness, and he turned away. Guilty.
I never took a scalp! He responded to his haranguing conscience, or was it the Almighty’s convicting spirit?
Ignoring the men-talk around him, Neil inwardly did battle in the courtroom of his guilt. Not one! And certainly not a kid’s. Most of our fight was justified. Get off my back, God.
These alien savages deserve hell! They’re a blight on the land. Besides, didn’t you give us this land like ministers preach, like that Presbyterian pastor from York, Pennsylvania claims?
But Neil’s lawyer-self derided his protestations, and like a prosecuting attorney, drove home caustic accusations--You know better than that! And images of his wife’s crying face haunted him.
“Ya dumbstruck, Neil?”
“Huh?” Neil turned and saw Hack who was holding another chaw of tobacco in his grimy hand and staring at him. Neil didn’t answer.
A middle aged Scot was talking loudly now to the men, “Listen if those scum give us any trouble, the government pays for scalps ag’in...I earned 500 bucks last year in Missouri.”
Further west, at the village of Weeping Water, an elderly Pawnee man half crippled, but alert as a fox, hobbled into the circle of his tribe’s lodges breathing in gasps, sputtering, to everyone,
“Invaders—bison killers—coming this way at a gallop. Hurry! Quick we must escape.”
Immediately all work ceased. With most of their warriors gone, the villagers—2 guard warriors, some young boys, a few elderly ones, women and little children rushed about hiding valuables; And then the 2 aged guards climbed up into large rocks at the cleft. The others started up a far side of the weeping ledges to escape over the high ridge.
In the eastern distance from down river, thick dust circled up in skyward, and they could hear ominous danger coming--the thunder of hooves.
It was late in the day, the swim of sunlight almost sunk into the wide river bend ahead.
As he held the reins, and their horses plodded westward, Neil ruminated on what they would do when they got to the lush green land of Oregon Territory. I might still lawyer; there would probably be plenty of disagreements to solve as the immigrants staked out their lands and argued over each other’s borders. Then he wanted—
“Men, get your guns and assemble!” hollered their guide, Hack, as he came galloping by, words spitting from his mouth.
“By the limestone spring, there’s a bunch of buffalo hunters fightin’ them Pawnee vermin. Stop your wagons. We need every able-bodied man, now! Com’on.”
Neil tethered their horses, got his extra gun from under the mattress. He kissed Naomi, who stared back with concerned questioning. Then he joined 16 other men and rode away to help fight, glad they hadn’t reached the supposedly safe spring unawares.
Riding next to Neil, the middle-aged Scottish man muttered curses toward Hack, and said to Neil, “I told you, he ain’t no scout!”
Hovering above this tiny human village, contemplating the utter beauty of how such soft liquid flowed lightly down over rock ledges, a little of the precious water wisping outward, rain-bowed in the air of the setting sun, Uzx waited for the thundering horde of pale primates to descend through the cleft and raid into the village.
He watched 73 red-skinned natives clamber up the cliff-side near slowly weeping water from the limestone spring, up past foliage and trees, climbing carefully over each ledge wet with moisture, seeking freedom on the wooded bluff above.
One small boy--Wore’s youngest--still holding onto his play rope, suddenly slipped and fell, dropping to his death.
Uzx moaned deep in his skin. This small child’s pouchless Maternal One couldn’t save him.
Why did the All/Ultimate bother to evolve such a species as this that couldn’t protect their little ones in a great pouch of love? Why didn’t the sires of this species meet in a great feltment and skin their differences?
With great inner grief which welted his skin, Uzx sorrowed and checked again with his data director. “This skins too deeply! Must I get the data feel of this?”
"Yes, fulfill your research quota."
Uzx turned back to monitoring, but spontaneously skxxjhed almost losing consciousness--felting his own answer deep in his inner organs. He hid his near skxxjh from the ship and felted.
He would disobey the impersonal data director; would intervene in this tragedy. For he skinned the raiding party had found and shot 2 guard warriors in the rocks, ambushing them from the back.
As the remaining red ones inched their way up the ledges to the cliff top, Uzx sensed the rage of the white aliens as they roared into the deserted village.
A few of raiders lit torches and heaved them onto lodges. Other men jumped from their horses and shot up at the limestone ledges where they could see the escaping villagers.
Slugs splintered rock shale and pieces flew out. A large fragment hit an elderly woman; she lost her grip and fell 40 feet, hit one weeping ledge, then another, and dropped to her death in the shallow pool far below.
Unknown to those below, though obvious to Uzx, the wagon-team men led by their scout came to the lip of a rocky cliff above the village and stared down at the burning and shooting. They couldn’t see the climbing natives directly below.
The Norwegian asked Hack, "Where’s them Pawnee? I see only other Whites blammin' away, must be them buffalo hunters.'
Tired of these yokels questionin’ him, the scout didn’t answer, but weighed whether to descend into the cleft and join the fight. Instead, he took time to pull a chaw from his coat and stick it in his cheek.
Hearing more bullets hitting rock, Neil got off his horse and leaned over the ledge.
There below him down the rock face to the left were Pawnee climbing to escape. He drew out his colt revolver to shoot.
But a sudden uncertainty hit Neil when he saw they were kids and women. He hesitated. But not Hack who joined him, leaned over the cliff edge and immediately started firing downward. As did the Norwegian.
But within Neil, guilt flooded—images of the little scalp in his friend’s hand, dripping blood...Then a Scripture verse from his wife gouged deep. He wrestled with the bloody images and his guilty conscience. Moved his gun back and forth, but not firing.
Hack shot an old grandmother and sent her catapulting away from a ledge, screaming. The Norwegian picked off a 10-year-old.
More men got down from their horses now and took out their guns, then crept up next to the 3 and peered down.
Abruptly, before anyone else could fire, everything below them blanked out!
Fogged out ghostly pale, yet darkening, like a somber Rhode Island morning.
And then the massive expanse of murkiness rose and engulfed them on the ledge. Fog swirled around them like an immortal monster from a London-hell, fuming up out of some damp abyss.
All guns below silenced. Someone kneeling next to Neil cursed. He closed his eyes, ground his teeth, tried to look down again—white nothingness; couldn’t even see his own hand or revolver; in dread, he actually formed a prayer.
On his other side, a man spit, no doubt Hack. Even straight up above them, only a gray-white shroud. This was no natural phenomenon, not by a long shot. Neil wasn’t devoutly religious like his wife, but this evidenced the preternatural, the supernatural, an alien presence.
Holstering his gun, Neil remembered in his law studies, the court records of other alleged supernatural occurrences, many going way back to the supposed witching times of the past.
And there was the one 150 years ago up Boston way. Rubbish; superstition—nevertheless; what’s causing this strange fog?
Weird/uncanny/eerie/spectral and otherworldly!
The fog thickened and drizzle formed on their clothes. Then behind them, their horses paced about, agitated, giving forth a sudden cacophony of neighing and stamping. Neil heard men jump up and rush back into the blankness, trying to find their horses by sound.
No one spoke. Not even the middle-aged complainer. The impenetrable fog continued to ooze heavy moisture. They huddled, and had to keep wiping their faces with their sleeves. Explosive silence. Not a sound.
No voices spectraled up from down below either. Neil pondered,
Is the village still burning? What of those Pawnee climbing up the ledges of the waterfall below? And the attacking bison hunters?
From up above, Uzx observed all of the scenes with his skin, his keen owl percepters now worthless. He felted a spooked horse when it reared up, knocked over its owner, and rushed off the cliff.
Other men on the bluff pulled down and twisted reins lest their horses, too, gallop off into the monstrous pale darkness. Then in the foggy blindness they led their horses back down the rocky slope toward lower ground. There they talked low, all jittery, waiting for what they knew not.
In the village below, the buffalo shooters stood silent, filled with dread, their guns still drawn. Smoke from burning lodges darkened the dense fog. An unearthly nothingness. Dread writ large.
One older White actually pulled out a crucifix from under his shirt and mouthed a Rosary chant.
High above, Uzx swirled, and ruminated, knew it wouldn’t be possible to keep the fogging, and yet at the same time rescue all the climbing ones.
Besides, the ship data director suddenly poked him. "This atmospheric disturbance isn’t permitted. You are skewing our data."
Yes, Director, I’m feltling your demanding presence!
"Cease this interference! Uzx, while compassion overflows our Maternal Pouches, we all must remember duty to the Data Quest. Obey the research plan of your Exalted Sires. On these many countless savage worlds, evolution hasn’t reached the All-Ultimate’s timing. Again, Class 3, you are ordered to stop skxxjhing for these aliens and finish your data flow."
Uzx hesitated between his moral felting and his duty to their research mission. Below, he skinned how those Caucasoid killers were now at the base of the waterfalls and repeatedly drying their guns, waiting for a moment of clearing to shoot the rest of the villagers.
The Indians kept working their way carefully up the far side of the falls.
He hid himself again from the irate director, and skinned a statistical analysis. Will I have energy enough to hide my disobedience, continue the fog, and save--swoop up at least one small primate?
There to the lower right of 3 women, clinging to the upper ledges, another female held on with one hand to a gnarled tree root, her other arm around a crying infant close to her chest.
Oh my Ultimate! She’s Wore's widow with their baby! Agony ached to his deepest innerness, down to memories of his loving Maternal Pouch—bless her name. His inner skin lacerated into deep wounds, like when his youngest sibling, Ywqa, back on Orxxjh had been swallowed by the Zqqqqxzzlhht! Their Maternal, bless her name, managed to escape the monstrous beast, but had not been able to rescue her littlest one. Oh my little brother how I miss you! Where was our Exalted Sire then?
I will save this little one! But how?
Suddenly, Wore’s spouse with her crying infant lost her footing and slipped.
NO! Uzx shaped his male owl into a much greater size---ignoring the data director’s censure—into a gigantic winged being, an action that almost made him skxxjh, and then added a great sac on his lower region, a maternal pouch!
Then the Orxxjhian-transfomred owl swooped down through the great dark milky ocean, his feathers, heavy with moisture and his own alien-skinned tears.
Uzx grabbed the screaming infant as she fell and tucked her into his warm pouch, only regretting he couldn’t save her mother.
Without the ship’s power, that wouldn’t be possible.
Far below Wore’s woman plummeted, her black hair flinging out, and crashed into the jagged rocks, another offering to the horror of Terran life.
Lunging vertically upward, his great wings flapping fog, Uzx swept away eastward with barely enough energy to stay aloft.
If only the data director had permitted, I could have saved at least 6 more of the lost ones. But what an unusual feeling this feminineness, this mothering pouch, such warmness, so much tenderness. For a moment, the infant, startled, yet warm and succored, lay silent.
Suddenly, the director returned in his skin, having over-ridden his hiding screen, and now both commended and berated him. Yes, Uzx your Exalted Sire and your Maternal Pouch will skin wonder at your brave compassion. But you are violating protocol! Your continuing violation has been submitted to higher command. Expect a strong censure, maybe even a court martial.
Instead of responding, Uzx committed an irrevocable act-- temporarily shut down the data-flow feltment from himself to his tachyon ship and to the sire cruiser on the other side of hyperspace.
That will provide me with more energy. I’ll deal with the consequences later. No doubt he would endure disciplinary numbness from his galactic leader, the Exalted Sire, maybe even receive banishment from the Feltment.
Behind him, the huge fogbank gradually disppistated and the sun returned. He refused to allow him to felt what would happen to the rest of the villagers, with killers both at the top of the cliffs and below at the base of the falls. Terra, the planet, become terrorizing.
Skxxjhing bone-deep agony, Uzx flew on. He wondered if now would be the time when he would weep in his facial percepters if he were one of these primates. Why didn’t the All/Ultimate give us eye tears like these primitive aliens? Or maybe we lost the ability when our seldom used percepters atrophied.
He winged eastward following the wide flat river. Now the infant wailed, confused by the jarring and strange enviroment. As if mourning for all in this travailing planet. I’ll data-record this small blue sphere circling the minor yellow sun, as the Weeping World. What should I do with you, oh little babe?
On Uzx flapped into the dusk of the day. At last the perfect felt came to him where to go with the baby girl—to the only un-alien individual of this savage earth species, the one who sang tender words of wisdom, her long hair undulating softly while she worked. Though the primate female was pouchless, she was nursing her own infant girl and softly musing words of hope and glory. Yes, to this Naomi, the empathetic spouse of Neil. There dear little one, you will be safe.
Covering miles in point time, the alienologist found Naomi’s schooner in the circled wagon train. After swamping the area in fog, the mutant owl flew down into the wealth of moisture, and deep within exalted hope welled in his inner skin.
"Wise as an owl"...Uzx quoted, remembering the phrase from some Terran’s mind he had scanned, and he smiled deep to his 3 hearts.
Here, would be the ‘stable’ place for my dark-skinned infant in the midst of all this alien slaughter.
The messenger descended and landed at the entrance to the wagon’s cave-like opening, his feathers dripping heavy with moisture, feeling this earth in all its wonder and sorrow, savagery and hope.
Chapter 2: The Return of the Tactilization
Earth Year, 1862 C.E.
Orxxjh Year, 300,033 O.Q.J.X.
Their ship burst out of hyperspace in good form, as fine as any of Uzx’s previous missions across the galaxy. He skinned virtually down to the rather runty planet rotating below. Though so small, this blue swirling sphere deepened down into his feltness as he briefly relived his previous journey—all the joy and all the sorrow....
In the Light,