Folk Tales and Family Legends

Daily Writing Exercise: Science Fiction. History’s rewritten by the victors. Yet another r/WritingPrompts reply. 895 words.

500 Words Story Index


“You’re old enough now to know the truth,” his grandfather said as they sat on the back porch watching the starflies blink in the growing dusk, “not just the smooth-edged lies they teach in school. I’m not the best storyteller, but it’ll have to do. Keep your questions till the end, it’s easier that way.”

“They call it the Lost Decade now, or some such stupidness? It’s changed so much since I was a kid, but that blank chapter in history wasn’t lost, it was destroyed. And I helped do it.”

“Oh don’t give me that look, I’ve got enough people calling my crazy as it is. I’ve got proof, I’ll show you later, but just listen.”

“It took us a long time to destroy every record of those years and longer still to get everyone to agree they’d never happened. There weren’t a lot of the family left by then and survivor’s guilt is powerful motivation.”

“It wasn’t natural disaster, or plague, or solar flare, or whatever lie they tell now. It was war. But it was only war to us, the aliens never noticed until the end. No, stop. Sit down. You think I haven’t told the same story to your parents? Your older cousins? There’s a reason they sent you out here, now sit.”

“Most of those ten years were a futile fight against aliens that barely acknowledged our existence as they slowly colonized the planet. Their tech was too advanced and they’d clearly evolved someplace far nastier than Earth. Nothing we tried could hurt them.”

“In the movies, interstellar contact brought war or friendship, new intelligences that communicated– treated us in some way as equals. This? This was a homeowner gently relocating bees off the porch, mindful of the sting, but unwilling to kill something so beneath them.”

“If a few bees died in the process, what of it? The colony was massive and quick to reproduce, they knew the hive would repair itself and continue. Just… elsewhere.”

“If we’d any sense we would have given up two or three years in, but we kept the fight going out of pure human stubbornness. I know it sounds a few cards short of a deck, but we thought we’d win eventually. Pursuit predators at our finest, we thought we’d invent something that could hurt them, poison them, interfere with their technology enough to make them leave.”

“In the end, it was that persistent harassment that caused the Glass Forest.”

“Hah, that got your attention didn’t it? That’s one thing the science books love to skip over, where the hell it came from. They let folks study it now. Didn’t used to, but we know enough to be sure they can’t learn from it.”

“Just a giant forest of trees and bugs and critters all turned to glass by something we still don’t understand. I think they meant to turn it back, maybe, that it was just a way to keep us still until they could figure out what we’d done. We’d suddenly gone from bees to killer bees and that isn’t something they could ignore.”

“Yeah, there were humans in there, just a few. Enough to launch the attack that finally got their attention. Was a bitch getting them out to bury– don’t tell your Mother that, she thought Great-gran died later. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t tell that truth, so you’ll have one more secret to keep.”

His grandfather wiped his eyes and looked out at the stars. “You’ll get used to keeping secrets.”

“So anyway, we’d something that worked, finally, but we only got to use it once. Because the Glass Forest was the end of everything.”

“The aliens woke something with whatever they did to the forest, something old and ancient. We’re still not sure what, or who, it is, or why it waited so long. Humanity wasn’t doing great things to the planet either, that you’ve got in the history books. At least we don’t always make ourselves into heroes.”

“But it woke up and it woke us up and it used us to tell the aliens to leave.” His grandfather held out a hand, palm up and a few starflies drifted over to dance around his fingers. “It wasn’t words, I’m not sure what it was, but we could feel it talking and we could feel them listen.”

“And they left.”

“What? You expected some epic climax? Guns blazing and starships exploding against night skies? Hah! No, that would be a lot harder to forget, but it wasn’t a boring ending on purpose. Happy coincidence.” 

“So the aliens were gone and life could go back to normal– but the thing they woke never went back to sleep.”

“I’m sure history books say we became better people on our own, started chasing green tech and hugging trees and treating the planet like we loved it instead of lived on it. But that was all it’s doing, all our doing, and you’re old enough it’s your turn too. Stick out your hand and say hello.”

The starflies swarmed the porch, pulsing in a rhythmic light that washed his grandfather into a hazy shadow and settling on the boy’s trembling palm. 

Hello, said the thing that lived in the dark green jungles and cool blue depths, that felt like everything and nothing all at once. Hello, my secret keeper. Hello.


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