It was a fact that on Planet Xeron 12, the gods ate small children. It wasn’t that these celestial highness’s gained extraordinary powers or insights from the experience–small people simply tasted good. Naja Krait wasn’t about to lose her only child to the greedy, Elysian mouths.
She drew the string on her bag of mushrooms and headed up the meadow path. Above, five moons orbited within the clear blue sky. Every twelfth year, and for only the second time in Naja’s life, the powerful sixth moon came into alignment. A tiny rip formed within the cosmic fabric that bound the universe as one. And it was through this very gap, so the storytellers said, that the invisible gods had spotted the children of Xeron 12 and found they tasted very good indeed. They had begun with infants, the smallest and weakest of the peaceful race, but bland and without crunch. The gods quickly shifted to six year olds; the perfect combination of fat, flesh, and hardened bones.
Naja’s child, a daughter named Kimini, small for her age and inclined toward reflection, had yet to show the speed and agility necessary to pass the preparatory games. When other children practiced darting and dodging patterns, while they formed survival foraging bands and fuliginous emittance units, Kamini preferred to sit at the edge of the green water pond and sketch lily pads.
This afternoon the rip would form and for weeks howling storms would race across the planet. Every six-year-old in the ancient community would quiver and hide. They would dodge invisible fingers that searched for them within the nooks of the land. But still Kimini sketched.
Naja reached the end of the meadow, took a left over a small rise, and descended to the green pond and her daughter who sat blissfully unaware, it would seem, of the imminent disaster.
The small child looked up, the reflection of the green water still rippling in her eyes.
“It’s time to go. They’ll be here soon and you won’t be safe out in the open.”
A wrinkle passed over Kimini’s forehead. “Who?”
“Who?” Naja dropped her bag of mushrooms. “The gods, daughter. It’s your year.”
“But look.” Kamini pointed to a cluster of lily pads, their wide green leaves overlapping. Within each lily, a flower had formed, small, white with yellowish edges.
Naja kneeled next to her. “Child, they’re beautiful. But you should be afraid. Soon the gods will descend and you may never see the flowers again. Only by running now, can you come back later to draw them all you want, every day each day until you’re an old woman.”
Kamini shook her head. “But I have them already.” She held up her parchment. Within her drawing flowers danced and weaved in another world’s breeze, each petal distinct and vibrant. Lily leaves swirled and dipped within the thick, green water.
Naja sat back on her heels. The drawing in her daughter’s tiny hands seemed more alive than the pond before her.
“Here,” said Kamini, and handed her mother another parchment. Purple and orange fish darted within slender reeds and knock-kneed roots. A moss-covered turtle, its shell sparkling with starlight, paddled its way across the drawing until it butted up against the border.
But it was her daughter’s third drawing that made Naja gasp. The invisible gods, clear as if they stood before Naja, fumed and pondered within a spiraling mass of planets, moons, and suns. One of them, older, his chin resting in a massive palm, turned and stared straight into Naja’s eyes.
Just then a giant snap reverberated through the sky. A crack appeared in the heavens and a shadow as black as obsidian screamed across the land.
Naja held Kamini tight. “They’re here,” she whispered into her hair. “Stay still child.”
The air wavered as the invisible gods descended. Space and light bulged and roiled over the pond. Naja trembled and she covered Kamini’s small body with her own, hoping the hungry deities would pass right over. For hours the screams of the universe tore through Xeron 12. Winds bent the trees sideways, the waters of the pond heaved and roiled, and small bushes whipped through the air. But still Naja clung to her daughter. She lay her body flat on the grassy bank, and willed herself to protect them both.
Gradually the roiling air calmed, the winds of the universe quieted through the celestial rip, and the land fell silent. The storms should have lasted for weeks but the gods had vanished. Naja lifted herself up and found herself alone. Kamini was gone.
“Kamini!” She hoisted herself up and turned in a circle, searching for her daughter. The grass lay flat and the pond reeds bent over completely submerged. She scrambled over the bank of the pond and into the green water, slashing through it toward the reeds. She dove under the lily pads, searching amongst the roots and leaves and came up gasping for breath.
She arched her head back and screamed “Noooooo!” into the sky. And stopped. A black crack stretched across the blue and the six moons lined up perfectly; each one larger than the next until the giant sixth moon filled half the sky.
Something fluttered high above; a parchment, swaying back and forth like an autumn leaf slowly descending. It wafted down to settle upon Naja’s toes. One of its corners flickered in the breeze.
Naja picked up the parchment. It was the drawing her daughter had done of the ancient god, his chin resting on his huge palm. Within that palm, perched with her legs swinging over his smallest finger, sat Kimini, sketching.