Gift from the Stars
by T. Everett Cobb

art by La Joilette

Now here’s a real case of estrangement.

  Menelep tells me I am human.

     I know only that I am different. Two limbs in the air and two on the ground, I bear little resemblance to him and the other Vraharians. They are beautiful, with three graceful, sturdy legs that create such balance. Rarely do they project their upper limbs in my presence. Their faces are the most incredible things of all. From a smooth surface, their every expression grows before my eyes, and when they have finished, they turn their faces again to smooth surface. It is the same with their eyes. To the Vraharians, I am practically blind. I have only two eyes. Never have I counted how many they have. Perhaps as many as they desire.
Since my earliest memories, I have known I am different.

     “M’Vweha,” says Menelep. My name means “Gift from the Stars”. It is a wonderful name. And Menelep says it with such tenderness. “We believe you are an adult.”
      “How can that be?” I ask. Vraharians must live for twelve passes of the sun to be adults. I have lived only four.
      “You cease to grow, your brain remains the same. We assume this means you are fully grown.”

     I concede, though I know nothing of what he means.

     Human is a strange word, and causes me to wonder. Wondering is something I do often. Menelep says it must be that humans wonder, or they would not have sent their gift. I am different from Menelep, and the others. This too has made me wonder. The reason is hard for me. But Menelep helps me learn.

     I have asked him before, “Menelep, when will I go to see the others?”

     “Who, M’Vweha?”

     “You.”

     “No, you.”

     “The humans.”

     “I don’t know, M’Vweha.”

     “Perhaps I shall see them one day, I do so wish to.”

     Menelep shifts all three of his limbs, and I know he understands. He is beautiful to me. I am saddened that I cannot look like him.

     “If I came to you as a gift, perhaps I can go back. Perhaps just to see them, Menelep?”

     “Perhaps, M’Vweha.”

     I am always able to tell when Menelep is finished talking with me. He closes the small eyes on the front of his face, and the large ones above his ears come open. His expression of love makes my face take on the expression of love too, and he goes about his duties. I wonder if he sees the love in my face, as I see it in his. I am not like Menelep. And I am saddened.

     I rise early to sit with Menelep as he watches the white  sun blossom over the world. I am not patient like he is, sitting still for so long is hard for me, and the sun hurts my eyes, but I sit with him—because I love him.

     As I sit by him, I think of the humans. Menelep says the globe of the humans is small. He says that it turns quickly, and they live on every side of it. Why am I their gift? They live so far away, but I think to myself that they must be kind, like Menelep, for they sent their gift. Many suns ago I asked Menelep, “How do you know that I am their gift?”

     He said, “The reason is, M’Vweha, they sent the knowledge of their roots.”

     “What was this knowledge, Menelep?”

     He looks at me, a few of his larger eyes opening. “Perhaps.”

     I must know more. “But they have given a gift. Am I a gift of kindness?”

     “We must believe that any gift is one of kindness, M’Vweha.” He turns about then, and watches the sun above the glassy hills.

     The knowledge of my roots came in a special case from the stars, and from that faraway globe, and the name of the case is very strange. Vo-Yee-Jer. I have seen the markings on the case and know they are strange. Who could cause such symbols? Is this their language? How do they communicate with symbols which cannot speak, cannot make sound? I am fascinated. Menelep says there is more. I am the gift, he says, but there are other things. They sent languages, many of them.

     I do not understand. I ask Menelep, “Why do the humans have many languages?”

     “This is a mystery, M’Vweha.”

     “Is this a mystery because we have only one language?”

     “Partially.” But something in his face tells me he has an idea, but he will not tell. I will not disgrace him to ask. Menelep has never been afraid before, but I sense that he is now. I do not understand.

     The planet the humans live on is not like Gor. Gor is very great, and very wonderful. All her things grow in beauty, glowing in crystal and gold. This only makes me long to see their world. I tell Menelep I cannot bear to be away from them any more. I must know them, see their globe. “You cannot,” he tells me. I don’t understand.

     “They are so far away, M’Vweha.”

     “Not far for you, Menelep!”

     “You are a gift.”

     “This means I cannot see them?”

     “Be the gift, M’Vweha. Our gift.”

     “I am the gift, Menelep. But I must see them, know who they are.”

     “No, M’Vweha.”

     “But why?”

     Menelep is slow to answer, and uses the gentleness expression. I am disturbed. He says, “There is something in their gift which frightens us. Their case moves by destroying. Making chaos. We do not understand it. We are afraid.”

     I can see he says all this in love. But I am angered. I feel I must strike something, for it isn’t my fault.

     “Do not be angry, M’Vweha. We love you. You are our gift. Can you not be the gift?”

     Something in his face, in all his eyes looking at me with the expression of love, calms me. I am his gift. “Can you at least tell me why they have so many languages?”

     “This is because they do not live in harmony as we do. They have great divisions among themselves, far beyond the disagreements among us, M’Vweha. This too frightens us. We do not understand chaos.”

     I see the love in his face, and for the first time, I understand his fear. I know I am his gift. The gift of the humans. But why do I understand his fear? Perhaps because I am human, I am CHAOS. Perhaps if I can teach him of chaos, make him understand, he will let me see the humans. I feel it in my chest, this is what I must do.

     Unlike the Vraharians, my hands, clenched tightly, make suitable instruments of destruction. These will serve to demonstrate this chaos.

CONTENTS