ANN - Chapter 2 - My New World

Deviation Actions

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Taking a brief break from digging through the ceiling above me, I looked through the hole I had made. I saw the sky—albeit periodically obscured by the faces of the Night People working on the other end of the tunnel. By the pinkish hues beyond, I guessed that it was evening (unless I was on some kind of cotton-candy, alien world with perpetually pink skies). There was a smell of salt water in the air above, and I could hear the splash of waves over the soft scratching sounds of claws digging through sand.

“Are you sure this is … alright?” I called out. “I feel kind of bad for digging out your cave.”

“Of course, Sleeping God,” said Krogallo, sticking his head through the hole to look at me. He ignored the jostling movement of the other bats still digging around him. “We cannot leave you prisoner here, after all.”

I nodded and got back to work. I had to stand on my toes and awkwardly dug one-handed over the top of the pod. While my body did not seem specifically designed for digging, it turned out that having metal arms made it an easy task. Using my robot fingers of death, I tore through vines and dirt like it was nothing. Soon, I was able to climb on top of the pod, gradually digging higher.

I tried not to make the hole too large as I finished out my tunneling, keeping it just big enough to get my body through. While I imagined that I had to be pretty heavy (based on the obnoxious noise from my earlier falls), climbing also turned out to be unexpectedly easy. It seemed that my arms were plenty strong, compensating for my weight. I scrambled up into the light of the orange, setting sun—reflected by the sea.

As soon as I first saw it, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the infinite horizon of water. I was vaguely aware of the Night People hopping around me excitedly—up until Krogallo silently mouthed something and they backed away a few steps. The scenery entrancing me was familiar in a sense—sparkling blue waters, waves, an evening sky cast in pastels, cumulonimbus clouds towering overhead.

I stood on an upraised hill, covered in grasses, shrubs, and a few trees. Around me the air seemed to flash, sparkling as light reflected off the scattering wings of large insects zipping about. The greenery rolled downward at a gentle slope until it met a brown sand beach, covered in dunes and sparse tangles of yellow plantlife.

On the edge of the beach were a few tubby animals that looked like tuskless walruses. The difference was that these creatures were rounder, smoother skinned, cuter, and slightly smaller than the ones in my imagination. Most of them napped lazily. As one particular animal moseyed into the water, I watched it swim through low waves toward a tiny distant island. Absently, I wondered if there were more walrus-creatures on those islands as well.

After a moment of looking at all I could see on the beaches, I turned around to see what was behind me. I was in no way prepared for what I would see next. The hill of grass I stood on, sparsely filled with short trees and shrubs, ended abruptly with something … enormous … and deeply green. It consumed my vision entirely—like a mountain that stood straight up from the ground. Vines and moss covered it—even small trees grew out from the entirely vertical structure.

For a moment, I had no idea what I was looking at. This—thing—reached far into the sky. Toward the top, the green plants diminished to reveal a bleached gray color underneath. It was so … high. I couldn’t explain how just the height alone filled me with unease. It made me feel sick … dizzy.

Oddly, I felt like it should have taken me a while longer to identify what I was looking at. But then—I remembered. I knew this towering structure … from the nightmares.

In my dreams, it had been new—it had blocked out the light of the sun. This mountain cliff was … a wall. No, it was the Wall.

The Wall reached what had to be a few thousand feet above the beach. Even with all the cracks and life growing from it, the ancient wall looked imposingly sturdy. I found that I could not help but imagine being at the top of it … looking down. It made me feel like every nerve in me was tingling and on edge.

So I tore my gaze away from the highest point, a little shaky from it all. My mind raced with questions—about the Wall, about the bats I had woken to, about myself.

The Night People—who also presumably had questions of their own—were watching me with awe. Most of them were standing as tall as they could, on their hind-legs like they were trying to get as close a look at me as possible. A few dozen unfamiliar Night People were there now, and the ones I knew hopped to the new arrivals and began whispering to them. I guessed the Night People who’d been present were catching up the others on the situation. At least I hoped so … to avoid a repeat of the panicked events in the cave.

Krogallo hopped in front of the others and said, “Sleeping God, I was hoping that we might have a word in private.”

I looked at the other Night People and then I looked around the island. He didn’t exactly have a private office. (Or perhaps a confessional would have been more appropriate for the situation, since he was a priest.) Also, I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer without being rude. I hoped he didn’t expect me to shoo the other Night People away.

So, I kind of just said, “Uh.”

Fortunately, Krogallo just continued on speaking, unphased. He beckoned Romalla—the younger priest with green fur. When she was closer than all the rest, he said, “Please inform the others that I need to convene with the Sleeping God about the matter of the … Golems.” The way he said that last word was almost like a whisper.

Romalla bared her fanged teeth at the word.

Krogallo continued, “Ask that those present to aid us in informing the rest of our People as well, so that nobody is startled by the presence of the Sleeping God.”

Romalla gave a curt nod and then returned to the others. When she first began to speak, most of the bats turned their faces and looked down at the sand. A couple looked at me hopefully. They all continued to talk in hushed tones, gradually hopping further away.

“Golems?” I knew that word … it was in the back of my head along with the growing number of things I knew without knowing how. They were story-book creatures—monsters made of stone.

Krogallo drew in a deep breath and said, “Sleeping God, I know you must be confused as you are—waking in a body of stone with a face of pure light. Down from the Heavens with your memory gone.”

Understatement … but right idea. I also wasn’t sure what he meant about a ‘face of pure light.’ However, I nodded—still hyper-focused on the ‘Golems.’

Krogallo continued, “Though I do not pretend to know the minds of the gods, I feel like my insight as to your purpose here is merited. You have always been the steady guardian of this island. You chose to place your stone form in the caves because you wanted to watch over your people. To see us as we slept, like the gods above watch us as we fly. The Golems … you must have come here to save us from them.”

“But what are the Golems?” I asked, noting that the way he spoke about them was putting me a little on edge.

Krogallo lowered his voice. “The Golems live in the far depths of the sea. They are evil spirits that the gods cast down from the Spirit Realm—the land beyond the Walls. They are cursed—their enormous bodies afflicted with orange-crusted stone. At all times, they emit loud noise and a foul stench … never allowed a moment’s peace; they are distinguished from one another only by the colors of their faces and the scars they wear.

As Krogallo told me of the Golems, my imagination took over. I imagined giant stone monsters that were twenty feet tall—smelling of brimstone and emitting a crackling sound like embers. Then, I looked down at one of my hands, and a thought occurred to me. I wondered if the Night People would even have a concept of metal—at least in how it was different from stone. What if the Golems were … like me?

Except … they couldn’t be just like me, because I would then be considered—at best—a ‘good’ Golem. My body was also rather silent when I wasn’t talking. And no Night Person had yet complained about a stench.

“We see them at least once in a year. Some ignore this island, while others …” Krogallo paused and grit his teeth, seeming lost for a moment. He then looked up at me, shook his head, and continued, “The others hunt and capture the Night People. They hate us because we worship the gods who cast them out.”

“But they’re my size … made of ‘stone’ like me?” I asked, not sure what kind of answer I wanted to hear.

Krogallo gave a heavy shake of his head. “They are so much larger than this form you inhabit. When you woke, I was surprised that your sisters—they who empower the Moon and Sun—did not also incarnate themselves here to fight alongside you. Perhaps they must stay in the Spirit Realm to keep the world alive by their light. Since you chose to come alone, however, it can only be because you knew that you would have the strength to overcome the Golems on your own. Thus, I too have faith in you.”

I didn’t want to believe what I was being told. I wanted to think that somewhat large and smelly armadillos were terrorizing the island. Or maybe I wasn’t here at all, and this was just another pod nightmare. However, Krogallo had no reason to lie about the size of the creatures tormenting his people; and I was experienced enough with pod dreams to know this wasn’t one.

Krogallo seemed to look right through me, as if he sensed whatever doubt I had. He said, “It may seem daunting, but trust in yourself—Sleeping God. The divine wisdom you sacrificed to save our people must have guided you here for such a purpose.”

Still, I didn’t how to handle all this new information. I wanted to ask more about the Golems.

However, I noticed that Krogallo was no longer looking at me. He had turned, hopped a few feet away, and was whispering something to several more Night People who had gathered nearby. By the way they stared at me with wide eyes and how they whispered to one another, I wondered if these were ones that Romalla had not warned in time.

Krogallo cleared his throat and said, “I apologize, Sleeping God, but I must go and explain to my people why our god—who has always slept—is now walking around our island. If you would excuse me for a while.”

Not knowing how else to respond, I nodded awkwardly. Some of the remaining bats remained and stared but did not dare to venture close to me. I didn’t want to make the bats feel like I was purposefully trying to avoid them, nor did I want to get locked in a staring match, so I looked for something specific to occupy myself with. However, most everything on this part of the island looked the same—a few small trees, some boulders, and short plants. Oh, and a gargantuan Wall that seemed to cut the world in half.

I did manage to spot a small pond, not much more than a puddle. It seemed to be one of several small pools fed by a small stream. Reeds stood out of the edges of the water. I began to make my way toward the pool. Insects sprang up and flew away as I passed.

When I reached my destination, I looked down at the water and nearly jumped when I saw an odd ball of metal and black glass, with some lines of fluorescent, blue light beneath the surface. It took me a moment to realize that I was looking at my own reflection … my head.

Part of me had hoped that I would see my reflection and find out that I was a person in some sort of space suit. But this … this wasn’t a helmet. It was what Krogallo had meant by ‘a face of light.’

The large spherical metal head was shaped almost like a pilot’s helmet—with a vertical, oval-shaped faceplate. Other than the glass face, my head was comprised of heavy metal plates, divided from one another by deep but narrow grooves. At a side-glance, it might have been confused for a giant helmet, were it not for the neck. My neck—while thick and sturdy for a metal bar—was too long and narrow to fit a human one inside.

Dejected, I felt unable to keep from staring at the alien face looking back at me.

The vertical, oval-shaped faceplate was made of a deep black glass. On this glass, lines of neon blue light represented my eyebrows, eyes, and mouth. No nose, freckles, or wrinkles were displayed—only the bare necessities to create a glowing blue caricature on the black glass. My face was … animated … so that my expressions were more like cutesy emoticons.

Large, triangular black ears adorned the sides of my head … in a bat-like fashion (which I found unamusingly ironic, given the circumstances of my waking). From the black color and the odd texture, I guessed that these “ears” were solar panels. Now that I was looking, I noticed a similar color and texture on my shoulders as well. So I was energy efficient—wonderful!

With a bitter tone, I muttered, “I sure hope I get karma points for being green.”

As feelings of despair filled me, my reflection in the pool of water frowned. Its virtual mouth curved pitifully downward, and its virtual eyebrows tilted to show sadness. Had the rendered facial expression not been my own, it might have even been cute. As it was, the animated expression looked like a patronizing parody of my true feelings of dysphoria … that this wasn’t me.

I stepped on my reflection so that I did not have to look at it any longer. Then I sat in silence, sulking as the sun slowly fell out of sight.

I found myself staring out at nothing in particular, captive to my own thoughts. What was this body I was trapped in? Why didn’t it feel like me? Where was I—earth, another planet? For someone with a greater sense of calm and collectedness, I think this not knowing would have been okay.

For me, however, there was a frantic sense of urgency building in where my gut should have been. I thought … maybe I was having a panic attack? Did I have those regularly? The only thing I knew about panic attacks was a vague mental image of someone hyperventilating into a paper bag. However, that didn’t seem helpful … or accurate.

It felt more like a claw was reaching up from my stomach to squeeze my chest. Tighter and tighter. I couldn’t move. I stood there staring for minutes. These minutes might have even become hours. I wasn’t sure. All I could do was stand there and hope for the panic to gradually simmer down into numbness. This eventually happened … though the “relief” that came felt more like emotional exhaustion rather than the diminishment of my concerns.

I realized that being alone was playing on my mind—that I wanted to talk to someone even if just as a distraction from my feelings. Unfortunately, it had taken a while for Krogallo and Romalla to explain things to the remaining Night People. I guess it made sense … if they didn’t want to start screaming the news like town criers. ‘Oyez, oyez, oyez! Read it now! Cowardly robot awakened. Soon to have his shiny, metallic rear end handed to him by the Golems! Don’t miss the fight!’

The rest of the Night People seemed rather shy—occasionally flying close to me, giving a short, awkward nod that I assumed they had been taught, and then quickly flying away before I could really engage them in conversation. I did occasionally spot Krogallo and Romalla, along with the others who were helping spread the message about me, gathering on the beach and on the short trees further inland.

To keep myself from dwelling on my worries, I watched the Night People and tried to learn anything I could about the island. While watching them, I noticed something camouflaged in the rising greenery.

No higher than a hundred feet up from the base of the Wall, were scattered a few dozen little green and brown sack-looking things. These swayed a bit, each apparently attached to the Wall at only a single point. The only reason I saw the nest-like structures at all was because of Night People who had now begun to fly in and out of them.

By the colors and textures, I guessed that the nests or huts might be made of dried plants, and perhaps hide. However, it was difficult to really tell because they were also covered in the same plants that climbed the Wall itself. I noticed multiple Night People exit some of the enclosures … meaning the structures were probably a bit larger than they seemed from the ground.

I then looked to the right and to the left, to the parts of the Wall where no nests had been constructed. The Wall seemed to extend infinitely in both directions, with no end plainly visible. There was, however, an end to the land mass upon which I stood. In both directions, the elevated terrain and the beach extended about a hundred yards before reaching the ocean.

I peered at the expanse—the Wall seeming to stand straight out of the sea for miles until it reached another distant shore. On the portions of the Wall that touched the water, there was far less green—only some elevated groves of small trees and shrubs.

Waves bobbed, gently rising and falling where they touched the Wall. Massive outcrops of barnacles and other shells were stacked in layers wherever the water touched—so much so that the lower portion of the wall looked sturdier than the top. These barnacles seemed to go on for miles.

Looking at the Wall, I gradually noticed that the titanic structure did not seem quite straight, horizontally. Instead of stretching endlessly or to a definite end, there was a limit to how far I could see along it. The Wall seemed to curve inward a little, as if it were encircling something. Or maybe I just thought it did because of how it had circled a city in my nightmares.

As the sky darkened, more Night People flew through the skies—not too high above me. Some dove at the shallow waves that crashed on the shore, almost like seagulls. Others chirped and shrieked while zigzagging in the air. If the Night People were anything like the bats I knew of, then they were likely hunting for insects using echolocation.

I noted that the Night People flew much like the bats I had known. That meant flapping and moving rapidly, in silent shows of speed and agility. Their display of aerial acrobatics was impressive, especially given how much bigger they were than most bats I knew of.

I turned to again face the ocean. While the nearest island was much further out, there was a tiny shore only a few miles away. It was a stretch of land—a peninsula, really—that extended out from the Wall by a narrow runway of sand and rocks. Unlike the landmass I stood on—a hilly island that was flush against the Wall—the peninsula stretched much further into the sea, swelling to a small hill with scattered greenery and trees. I couldn’t tell how far away it was exactly, but it had to be at least a mile or two. Among the trees, there were about a dozen small, brown triangles.

Even on a world that was somewhat alien to me, the shapes and positions of the triangles didn’t seem like natural features. They looked … built … like tents, maybe. There were only a few of the structures—all that would comfortably fit on the small amount of land.

I then noticed movement. Humanoid creatures with brown bodies were walking along the peninsula. I wasn’t certain from this distance, but it seemed like their bald heads might have been a colorless gray—like literal ash. Seeing them, I stared in disbelief—overwhelmed momentarily by confusion and shock. Were they humans? The shape seemed mostly right. I wondered if the brown color of their bodies was actually clothing.

However, the way they moved seemed a little … off for humans. Maybe they were just a race of human I didn’t know of? Or … more likely … they weren’t humans at all.

Even if those gray walking creatures were humans, I didn’t think they were people who would know anything about robots. At least, I couldn’t see any flying cars or spaceships docked at their island.

Living in tents on a tiny island. … if these were humans, they were not high-tech future humans. They wouldn’t have the answers to my questions. I doubted they would even speak to me. Even if the distant islanders happened to be friendly, there was no way they would recognize a giant robot as one of their own. And what if they weren’t friendly?

No, it was better not to risk it by trying to get to the peninsula to talk to them. I would ask the Night People about them … after I learned about the Golems. I needed to figure out whether they were really a danger to me—and if I had any hopes of defending myself or anyone else from them. Maybe the knives in my arms would help—so long as I could actually use them.

I concentrated on my arms, trying to will the knives out, but nothing happened. I inspected one of my forearms—twisting and rotating it for a few minutes in a vain attempt to find some sort of button. When that idea didn’t work, I tried shaking my arm wildly—to maybe jostle the blade loose. However, the attempt was also useless.

Okay, fine—fighting did not seem like a good option if my body wasn’t going to cooperate. If I really was in danger … there was always running away.

As soon as the thought of running crossed my head, a subconscious feeling emerged like a nauseating itchiness. It wasn’t fear, this feeling. More like … guilt. Something in the back of my mind was displeased at the idea of leaving friendly bat people behind to be tormented by a monster.

The feeling surprised me … but I felt inexplicably inclined to bend to it. Besides, I told myself, there was a technical problem with running away: water.

Even if I could fight through my guilt enough to clear-cut the entire island, make a boat big enough for myself, and tied it together with vines, I had no way to know whether it would fall apart in the ocean. Just like there was no way for me to know if I was waterproof. Considering I was a robot, sinking could mean my circuits frying. Or, if I was waterproof but not buoyant, sinking indefinitely into the sea.

Even the idea of success in escaping the island came with problems. If the Wall really was encircling something, like I thought it was, I would just keep traveling until I made a giant circle—all the way back around to this island anyways! No, that wasn’t worth the risk. The best thing to do was just to learn more by talking to the Night People … and maybe figure out how to activate the blades in my arms.

I walked around for a few minutes on the edge of the hill that marked the boundary between the inner island and the beach. I glanced around, looking for Krogallo in the sky, then on the Wall, and finally spotted him on the beach. He was speaking with another brown Night Person who seemed just a little bit younger.

I walked toward them.

Krogallo saw me, nodded, and said, “This was how he taught us. Not too deeply, just a brief show of mutual respect to acknowledge one another as ‘guys’.”

The other Night Person tried it in my direction, his eyes bright and excited.

I nodded back, still feeling awkward but getting a little more used to the nodding.

The brown bat then turned to Krogallo and asked, “Would you like me to get your dinner?”

“Later, thank you,” Krogallo said. “I would like to speak with the Sleeping God first.”

The other Night Person nodded one last time before spreading his wings and taking flight.

Krogallo revealed his teeth in a friendly-seeming display and said, in quite the excited tone, “I believe that everybody on the island now knows about your presence. There should be no alarm when they see you walking around. I instructed them to go about their business as usual, at least for tonight as you settle in. Now, I’m sure you have questions, requests, ideas. Please, share them with me.”

I scratched the back of my metal neck, mostly just nervously I guess—since I didn’t actually feel at all itchy. “I was … thinking … about what you told me. And I saw the creatures on the far island.”

Krogallo’s expression became somewhat grim. He shook his head and said, “We call them the Servants.”

“They serve you?” I asked, suddenly a little worried. I didn’t want my affection for the Night People to be tested by finding out that they were some kind of evil, upper-class slavers.

“No,” Krogallo said, his tone somber. “I do not believe they even recognize us as people. But, rather, as animals. They serve the Golems.”

Somehow, this news made the threat of the Golems seem more … real to me. There was the possibility that the Servants kept giant, smelly armadillos as pets. Or maybe the Golems were like imaginary “devils” that the Servants figuratively obeyed when tormenting the Night People. However, these explanations seemed like a stretch.

“Do the Servants … mess with the Night People?” I asked.

“Mess with?” Krogallo asked, furrowing his brow.

“Sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “They aren't aggressive?”

“We Night People have heard of the Servants being aggressive in some places,” Krogallo said, once again scratching between his toes with his large wing-claws. “We have encountered the occasional tribe of Servants who have tried to attack us as prey. And I’ve heard that a few villages have had to protect themselves from them more regularly. However, the Servants from that peninsula have never caused us harm.”

“So, you don’t interact with them at all?” I asked.

Krogallo wrinkled his face a moment before he replied. “They do sometimes lure us there with food gifts so they can collect our excrement.”

“Ew,” I said automatically—and then momentarily worried that my response might have been rude. I certainly didn’t want my disgust with collecting excrement to be conflated with a disgust for the bats who made it. After all, poo might not be a taboo to the Night People ... or blood. Or the consumption of blood to make blood poo. Oh god—I was making myself sick.

Krogallo, however, quickly assuaged my spike of social anxiety and inner awkwardness. With widened eyes and a tone that was alive with excitement, he said, “Indeed! However, their use of our excrement is not as foul as it might seem. I have been to their island and observed them mixing the leavings of the Night People with black soil. With it, they nurture plants that they eat.”

“Oh … so they’re farmers,” I said, and felt a little silly. Now that I thought about it, I was pretty sure that most fertilizers were made from manure. Though, in my defense, this was still blood manure.

“That is a good word for their plant-growing!” Krogallo said and nodded vigorously. “Far’mers … as they make little bits of food go very far. Excellent! Oh, it is so exciting to observe their ways!”

I thought, for just a moment about explaining this misunderstanding—about what a farm and agriculture were. Instead, I decided to let it go and asked, “Have they … always been there?” The idea of a small number of humans living permanently in a few dozen tents struck me as odd. The humans I knew of would have expanded quickly. I supposed that was another clue that maybe these weren’t humans at all.

“They have only arrived in my lifetime,” Krogallo replied. “They journeyed here by floating on large, hollow trees—making them move using loud stones.”

I wondered if he was talking about boats … but something didn’t add up. Why would the Servants have boats with engines, but still be living in tents on a tiny island? Were they a cult of anti-technology humans that put ash on their faces? Were they another species altogether, that had only recently developed engine-like technology? Or were my guesses wrong entirely?

I sighed. Just more mysteries to add to the growing list.

“Do not worry, you will figure all of these things out in time,” Krogallo replied, baring his teeth in the kind of bat-smile I remembered from my dreams. His stomach then let out a low whining sound, which he ignored. “For now, can I bring you anything to eat, Sleeping God?”

Actually, I felt no hunger pangs whatsoever. “No, thank you, but you should go get something for yourself.” Again, I felt guilty that I had kept him from eating. I wasn’t sure why this made me feel guilty, but guilt seemed to be an emotion that came quite naturally to me. Guilt, fear, and stress … my predominant emotional traits, even without memories. Great.

Krogallo—having missed my inner dialogue—nodded and said, “Of course, Sleeping God. I will return soon. In the meantime, Romalla will answer any questions you may have to the best of her abilities.” He gestured with a motion of his head to where I heard the sudden flapping of wings.

I turned and saw Romalla land a few feet away from us. She didn’t say anything at first. Her wide eyes made her seem excited but also somehow hyper-focused.

Krogallo spread his wings, took a few hops, and then took off into the air—leaving me with his apprentice.

“Hey,” I said, feeling a little awkward.

“Hello, Sleeping God,” Romalla said, speaking quickly. Without stopping to take a breath, she continued, “I have spoken to Krogallo about your memory loss. We agreed that the best thing to do would be for me to tell you more about yourself. Where you came from, your siblings, everything you could have questions about! We are lacking in divine knowledge compared to what you surely knew. But perhaps if you were to learn more, you might remember more!”

“Oh,” I replied, unsure of how I should answer all this. Up until this point, I had been unconvinced by any of the claims about my origins made by the Night People. But maybe it would be good to know more of what they believed … if only to avoid being offensive and to find out if there were any cultural taboo pitfalls I needed to avoid. The last thing I needed was to accidentally mock or desecrate some ritual or holy rite of my only friends in this new world. Especially since this civilization of Night People did seem like a little theocracy—with the priests in charge.

So, I replied, “said that I have sisters—the sun and moon? Or the gods of the sun and moon? Something like that.”

Romalla nodded eagerly. “Your sisters are Mulla—who powers the moon and pulls the wind along the seas. As well as Magolla—whose wrath fires the sun. You have a mother as well; her name is Ragalla—god of the sea, from which all life comes.”

While her mythology was something I wanted to know, I did feel a bit curious about what she meant about the gods. So, to clarify, I looked up at the pale moon and asked, “You believe that a god named Mulla is up there?”

Romalla opened her mouth before pausing and looking around. She stared intently at me for a moment—maybe judging whether I would strike her down with lightning? Then she said, “According to the old traditions of our people, yes. But … I think that this idea is preposterous.”

While the heresy didn’t bother me any, I felt surprised by this confession. I looked around—as Romalla had done—to see if anyone was in hearing distance, and then knelt so we could talk in hushed tones. “Go on.”

Romalla nodded excitedly, seeming even to tremble a little. “You, for example, have been in the cave a long time. Since even before our people came to this island. Krogallo found you here. But your stone form wasn’t really you, it was an image of you. And you came here from the Spirit Realm to inhabit that image!” For a moment, her tone became much louder, before she winced and brought it back down to a whisper.

I wasn’t sure about the logistical accuracy of her beliefs about me, though I could see why she thought them. As organic beings, it would make sense that the Night People would see my metal body as being artificial—just like I did. Only, instead of perceiving that I had woken up, she thought my consciousness had been transferred. In fact, that was a distinct possibility. However, the transition from my dreams in the pod to being in the cave with the Night People had felt to me more like waking up. There was also the issue of doubting my own personal agency in any of it.

Romalla looked around again and then continued, “Additionally, we hold that the gods cast the Golems from the Wall. However, they could not possibly do that if they were up in the sky. It would be a moot point. And if the gods were the sun and moon themselves, then when would they convene? It is utter madness.”

“I … agree,” I said, completely shocked (and very much relieved) to have found another non-believer, and a priest no less. “So you know that I’m not-”

“From the sky or under the ground,” Romalla finished for me, though it was certainly not what I would have said. “You are from the Spirit Realm, somewhere beyond the Gods’ Wall, from which you and your kin manage the world remotely by the power of your spirits. At least that’s where you were until you came to inhabit your stone image.”

I paused … a little bit disheartened. Still, I could at least agree that her personal mythology made a bit more sense. So I nodded and asked, “I don’t know about all that … but I mean, it’s a bit more logical. What does Krogallo think of this idea?”

“He says that it is a wise thing to ponder, but that I should hold to it quietly until I am the elder of the village,” Romalla said, sounding somewhat deflated. “Deviations from the traditional understandings of the gods are a difficult issue for him. He … has had disagreements with the priests of the other islands. Years ago, they nearly excommunicated him for claiming your divinity to begin with.”

I felt my cheeks get warm and itchy for a moment … though most of that feeling was probably in my head. Apparently, I had been causing problems for the Night People since even before I had woken up. The information was useful, though. I was a tribal deity … not one that belonged to all Night People. I suppose that meant that I might not be as welcome on other islands as I was on this one. I might even be seen as a heretical figure … or some sort of devil.

Romalla continued, “We even added you to the Song of the Night Gods.”

“There’s a song?” I asked.

“There are many!” Romalla said, again excited. “All communication of the gods comes through song. Music is what divides the priests from other Night People.”

“Because you can sing well?”

Romalla let out a loud snorting sound that took me a moment to identify as laughter. “No, it is because we can hear the music … the divine proclamations and inspirations of the gods.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. From the way she said it, what she was telling me did not seem like some kind of con that priests were pulling on the people. She seemed sincere about it.

“It isn’t constant,” Romalla said, furrowing her face and looking quite concentrated on the matter. “However, if we are high up, if we face the Wall, if the light of Mulla shines clearly, or if the gods speak particularly loudly, we can sometimes hear the whispered music of the gods. They tell us … what is good, what is beautiful, what are the many ways to live. Their language is not completely like ours, but our priests learn how to speak it. I could hear and understand some of the words when I was a child. That was how Krogallo knew that I was a priest—when I spoke a word that he had also heard from the spirit realm.”

This was fascinating to me—and again, I did not feel particularly inclined to disbelieve her. I didn’t know Romalla well, but she seemed both too smart to think that lying to a god was a good idea and too blunt to make things up. Perhaps I was wrong, but that was just how she struck me. For that matter, Krogallo was more of an eccentric older person than a master manipulator … unless they were both so skillfully deceitful that I had never stood a chance.

But what did that mean for me? It certainly did cast a little bit of doubt on my previous resolution that they were entirely wrong about who and what I was. Perhaps they did know something. Then again, the feelings inside me about being a person, as well as my knowledge about robots, seemed a bit too real to be a mere hallucination on my part. So, all in all, I was not yet close to the truth. I’d have to wait and find out more.

In the meantime, I switched the topic of conversation with Romalla to more frivolous things that didn’t require as much of my emotional energy. Life on the island, the many delicious beetles, and how to pick the perfect walrus creature—called a bloodbag—to drink from. (Spoiler, it was the ones who had recently eaten the most, but you had to wait a couple hours for their blood to get a nice fishy taste to it.) We talked until our discussion made her stomach begin to rumble, and I had to urge her to leave and get food.

I was quickly figuring out how much Night People liked to talk. But that was okay with me.

(As it has brought to my awareness that there are viewing limitations on pdf, I will be publishing my chapters in this format. If you prefer pdf, please let me know and I'll just continue to publish both ways or create a pdf attachment)…


This is my first-released novel. It is YA/Fantasy/Adventure. This is the semi-final version, before publication. Kindly-spoken constructive criticism is invited--especially when it comes to errors. Otherwise, please enjoy!

New uploads will come out every Friday. Feel free to add me on FB if you would like to be notified when new works are uploaded to DA and other platforms.…
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