Wednesday, June 8, 2016

All Hail Uld Jacke

The chanting of the children was both haunting and beautiful. The words and music were among the oldest of of tales they possessed. They were no longer meaningful, or at least they'd lost their original meaning.

"Trycke Hor Treete. Trycke Hor Treete."

As he watched them and listened, light began to stream from Uld Jacke's head, The children gasped, as they did every year. Even he caught himself wondering, though he knew well where the light came from.

"Zmeell Mai Foete. Zmeell Mai Foete."

In all of his studies, he knew only that this was thought to beg the oldest gods, Jack chief among them, to provide them food for the rest of the year. He wasn’t sure if he believed it or not. In the three decades he’d been the mayor, though, he made sure this happened without fail.

“Keeveh Mai Samhting Gootoo Weet.”

After each stanza they would complete one revolution around Uld Jacke, the greatest of all Pump Kings. The people came here after centuries of traveling. Every place they’d gone, they’d been chased out. Finally, after so long, they found a home where there was no one to run them off.

Or so they thought at first.

Uld Jacke stepped towards the children, his bulbous head grinning. Stick-like arms flung out and hard candies scattered. The children broke the circle, giggling as they ran to pick up the treats that were all too rare.

The creature, though in truth all of his people thought of them as no less human, closed with him. “Greetings, mayor.” The voice was a bit hard to understand as Uld Jacke’s mouth wasn’t made for forming the language of the people.

“Oh Great Pump King, a blessed harvest to you.” The old man bowed to the much taller native. “Tis a great treat for one of you to make this visit.” He was more than a little nervous, since Jacke was usually no more than a creature of straw and gourds.

“You know we have left your people alone for your many circling among us.” Uld Jacke squatted so they were on eye level.

Was this the “but” his people had waited so long for? “I do, dear Jacke. And we are grateful. We have made our home here.” The last sentence held perhaps a little more strength than he intended.

Uld Jacke held up a hand. The light in his eyes became green. The people knew this usually meant humor. It was hard to be certain since the concept was difficult to translate. “This is not a time for us to say goodbye. You are many now. We have always been few. You and yours are welcome to stay as long as you want.”

It was the mayor’s turn to laugh. “You will forgive me, Uld Jacke. We have heard this many times in the years upon years upon years that we have been traveling. It’s not that we don’t honor and treasure the friendship we have with you. It’s just,” he paused for several heartbeats.

“It is hard to unlearn such lessons.” The broad head nodded and the fire eyes became red. Understanding and perhaps empathy, and not anger. “We are good to our word. We do not make decisions quickly, but now in every one of your homesteads one of us is meeting one of yours and delivering this message. There is something coming, and we cannot defeat it alone.”

Of all the things he’d expected to hear, that was not among them. “What can we offer your people? You who have been here for so long and whom we have so much respect for?” There was a caginess in his words. He didn’t know if Uld Jacke or his people could detect such nuance.

The red changed again to flickering green. “We know your people possess their own abilities. You have couched them in terms like magic and other such superstitions. Together we can stop this force. We make this offer to you.”

“I cannot make this decision on my own. And we would want to know what happens if we refuse.”

Uld Jacke nodded, the massive head seeming like it would fall off at any moment. “Of course. If you refuse, we will do our best to fight without you. If you agree, we will stand a better chance. We have time, and we will provide you with more information as it becomes available. We know you gather soon for your wintering. You can decide then, and we will have two seasons to prepare. Now I must go.”

The mayor nodded and watched as Uld Jacke retreated to the circle. Once he’d gone, the old traveler looked up into the strange sky. He’d been among the first born on this planet. Still, he’d been told and seen the stars of their Mother in pictures so often that he still didn’t recognize the ones above his head as his own.

Something stirred in his heart. As he watched embers fly up from the fires to the skies above, their distant cousins seemed to shift. This was his home. Their home. And Uld Jacke’s home. He could not speak for all of his people, but he would defend it. They would not run. They would not turn a cold shoulder on the blessings of the friends who’d welcomed them from the cold of space. Whatever force came against them, they would face it whatever the consequences.

Art Source: The Pumpkin King by RadoJavor on DeviantArt
Story and Characters (c)/by Scott Roche

#SF #FarFuture #ScottRoche #Travellers


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