When the World Was Young
by Kit Campbell
In the early days, when the sky was clear and we were still part of nature, there were no mountains and no valleys. The world was flat and unmarked, unscathed by the passage of time. The first people spent their days next to quiet rivers and hunted across verdant plains, and life was peaceful and meaningful.
I know what you are expecting, child. You are expecting a classic creation myth, full of gods and the forces of nature, pulling at the land and mankind until what we know now comes into existence. This is not that sort of story. Oh, I wish it were, but alas, our past cannot be explained away so easily.
In those days, we had few cares. We hunted and scavenged when hungry. We slept when tired. We admired the scenery around us and, at night, watched the streaking of the stars across the sky. In the winter we gathered together for warmth, and in the summer we lay out in the flowers.
Who can say when things began to change? Who can say when exactly it was that they came?
They were prepared. When they came, they blended in, just another light in the night. They could have been here for ages before we became aware of them, these foreigners, these visitors from the sky. At first, they were distant. They made sure to visit only places where mankind was not, but as time went on and man began to wander, we started to find signs of their visits. Strange scars in the land, places where everything had died.
We had no idea what to expect.
Who knows how long this had been going on before we finally became aware of their presence. When the first man finally saw a silver disk in the middle of its mission of theft, how could we explain what was happening?
And theft it was, child. For the visitors had come for a reason, and that reason was to rid this world of all its wonder, to suck it up into their ships and take it to whence they came. They came for our water, our minerals, our animals, and our plants. As time went on, they became bolder. They no longer waited for the cover of night or the safety of empty plains.
They took as they wanted, wantonly, in the sun.
At first, our ancestors did nothing. “We have plenty,” they said. “We are happy to share with our new friends.”
Though no man ever saw the face of these so-called friends. Legend says we shared because we did not know what to do instead.
But as the devastation grew, discontent spread through man. Eventually, we could no longer sit back and watch as things perished around us.
The visitors came for the plants, stripping the land down to the dirt, and at times, they took even the dirt. Man shook his fist and yelled, but the visitors paid us no mind.
Whole herds of roaming beasts were taken. Man used their hunting weapons, forged from techniques passed from generation to generation, but they had no effect against the glowing silver disks.
The visitors continued their ravaging. Man began to despair.
After many days, one man decided to track the silver disks. He set off from his kin and camped under the stars, waiting, watching the sky. When a disk finally came, he watched it strip yet more of their precious resources then followed as it spun back through the night. The disk was fast, but its path was uneven. It zagged across the landscape, occasionally pausing to pick up more for no apparent reason, allowing the man to keep it within view.
They traveled for days. The man sometimes wondered if the disk was purposefully letting him track it. Surely it would notice the lone figure down on the plains.
Finally, they came to a strange depression in the ground. Here the disk stopped, floating down. Several disks were gathered here, their lights dark. For three days, the man watched and planned as disks came and went. While in the depression, they did nothing.
On the third day, he descended.
The disks made no response as he walked among their towering hulks. He reached the center and held his hands up. “Friends!” he cried. “I have come to pay you homage!”
Everything remained as it was. For a long moment, the man thought he had traveled for naught. Perhaps the disks had no thought for mankind; of all resources, none had ever been taken.
Then one of the disks lit up. “Why have you come?” it asked in a strange, metallic voice.
“We have been impressed with your deeds,” said the man. “Truly, you are a powerful and fearsome being.”
“Indeed,” said the disk. “What of it?”
“Several of our wisest have gathered together and decided we would have you be our gods. We would aid you in your mission, but you must do one last thing to prove yourselves to us.”
It remained quiet in the depression. The man waited.
“What is this thing?” the disk asked finally.
Mankind had lived in peace for a long time, and knew every detail of their land. “To the far west,” the man said, “lies a rich vein of ore. We use it to forge our weapons. If you can remove it from the ground, you will truly have proved your worth.”
“We will do this thing,” said the disk finally. “Lead the way.”
Who can say why they agreed to this challenge? Many theories have been championed, but now is not the time for those.
The man left the depression and headed west. As he walked, the entire mass of disks rose behind him, spreading out across the landscape. Again, many days passed. As they went, the disks would occasionally drift off to continue their destruction. Other men joined the lone man, and he explained his plan as they walked. By the time they arrived, the people numbered several hundreds.
“This is the place,” he announced. “Do this thing, and we will be your slaves.”
The disks whirled, lighting up. They spread over the vein and, one by one, turned on. Trees, plants, and dirt rose into the air and disappeared into the disks. But that was all – the vein remained in the ground. For, as the man knew, it was buried beneath a thick layer of hard rock. The disks paused in their assault, flitting about in a confused manner.
They rallied, a low hum permeating the air. Still, there was no movement from the ground. The hum intensified, becoming more of a squeal. Slowly, ever so slowly, the rock began to rise up, stretching into the sky. The watching people felt their hearts fall.
The rocks climbed higher, unevenly, with some disks managing to pull harder than others. But the rock did not leave the ground, and it did not expose the rich vein below. One by one, the disks began to falter, their squeals dropping away to sudden silence. They would hang in the sky for a moment, listing strangely to the side, and then fall.
The remaining disks pressed on, but more and more dropped from the sky, until there were none left. They crashed onto the exposed rock, bouncing across the plains and leaving deep trenches in their wake, until they were nothing more than yet another scar in the land.
And so, my child, that is why there are the mountains and the valleys. No gods, no forces of nature. So it has been told.