A Story like no Other
by Otilia Tena
The weak one
“ A time when roses bloomed out of the blood that had softened the earth, an age that had gone back to the past while being nothing less than its opposite. Now, don’t look back in tears! This is the last story written on Earth and you are her children ; therefore mankind won’t fade away. “ The old man moved his fingers over the dust that covered the book: Uta Lilith was on its cover, handwritten. “ I won’t read out everything , only the foremost things in her diary.” And he began:
They had lit up the evening fire and were waiting for dinner, intoxicated with the virile smell of the flames, which caressed their nostrils. The air trembled in a sweet fog and I needed to be careful while stepping among shields and helmets. Gemma was polishing her sword; she was bright , the flames loved her, she seemed to be the fire goddess. I sat down next to her.
“ Is there any chance for me to be like you one day?” She smiled protectively.
“ You are Uta , Uta Lilith, the weakest of the Gundara; frail and delicate , your skin is like rose petals and your swinging gait is that of a cat. You weren’t born to be a warrior like us; you’ve got a cruel destiny and I shall do my best to spare you. But let me be honest with you: I am not sure I will succeed.”
“ And… what kind of destiny?”
“ Uta! Come here and help us with dinner!”
“ Go, Uta! These old witches can’t stand it to see us talking.”
“ I wish I could destroy them one day.”
“ And don’t forget what I taught you: your students mustn’t see your weakness, even if they know you are no warrior. Don’t let them take advantage of it.”
We all sat round the fire and ate. I looked at Katwa and at his secret lover. “ Oh, dear brother, how long can this story go on undiscovered? There’s one layer more and they already see through it.”
The next day I went to the highschool as usual and heard everybody talking about a new battle with the Zuyma. They all looked at me with envy and indignation , but that was nothing new to me ; and yet I sensed there was more behind it. I had got used to being the weakest of all of them , though there was hardly any chance for me to be at ease with it; I tried to imagine myself in one of those sexy warrior outfits; I knew there was no outfit in this world that would not suit me, but this one demanded inner strength as well.
“ It’s only your fault! The Zuyma will attack us again!” one of the aged women shouted.
“ My fault? Why my fault?”
“ Because you exist!”
I took the class register and went to my students. There I met the same soundless fury in their eyes and attitude. I felt even weaker than I already was , but then Gemma’s words came to my mind in a somewhat encouraging manner.
I stood next to her at dinner, since the old wicked women were still with delaying businesses in the town. “ Tell me about it.”
“ Well… each of the Zuyma will sleep with you and you will breed; so the genetic dowry of the next generation of Zuyma warriors will be an out of ordinary one. Your numerous children shall grow stronger and more beautiful than anyone else ; but you won’t live to see them, they will kill you after you finish your duty. They will have sex with you, all of them. Poor you,Uta!”
I kept staring at the flames. “ How many are they?”
“ As if you didn’t know! They all inhabit a planet.” She gave me a sad look. “ I promise I’ll do my best to prevent this from happening.”
“ Teach me to defend myself, Gemma. You all tried to hide it, but I know that many of the Gundara will fight at their side, against us. Many of our people want to get rid of me. I know it.”
“ I’m afraid you won’t be able to defend yourself.”
The night was cold and windy and I knew at once that peace had sifted.
“Promise me you won’t give yourself away, dear sister! “
“ I know, Katwa, I know; they don’t understand such things and don’t forgive either. I won’t say a word, I’m like a tomb.” I took his hands in mine and sighed. “ The thing is… you see…they already know it. Some of them will try to betray you and Kenneth in the fight.”
“ You think… some would want me dead?”
“ Dead would be better than with Kenneth. So they think.” Our faces drew closer in the dark.” Dear Katwa, give it up!”
“ I can’t!”
“ Nor can I live without you!” My whisper whistled in our ears like a wind. I choked.
Their space ship landed the next morning. I heard the hard bolt of the last of the eight iron doors which were meant to protect me throughout the battle. I felt useless and scared at the same time,my mind was constantly on Katwa and Gemma. “ Look at me! I must live among the ones who want me and my brother dead. They pretend to defend me, but how many of them are really on my side except him and Kenneth and Gemma?” I sat on top of my bed,my kneels at my mouth, waiting and waiting, until I fell asleep.
“ Uta! Uta!” A sudden shake woke me up. “ Katwa is dead!” Gemma knelt down beside my bed. “ Don’t look at me like that! Say something!”
I seized the bed sheet and covered my face. “ Dead! Dead because he loved a man, not because of the Zuyma. Where is he?”
“ The Zuyma took his body when they left.”
“ I want my brother back! His body back!”
“Sssh! Don’t scream, it won’t help.”
“ Gemma, prepare the ship! Dress me up in your outfit! I’m leaving to bring him back.”
“ Listen to me!”
“ Listen? No, I’ve listened enough! I’ve got to act now!”
“ You’ll be the perfect victim if you go there.”
“ Then you will all come with me and there’ll be another battle. I want my brother’s body back! I want…” The sobbing strangled me. Tears burned my cheeks. I knew it was useless.
“ It’s useless, dear Uta. We’ve got to brace up. Disunion is at leisure among us.”
“ And what will come out of his body?” I began to wipe my cheeks with the sheet.
“I’m scared to think about it.”
“ What are these people protecting anyway? Are they people or what? They would love to see me dead and get rid of a burden. And why betray someone just because he loved a man? Tell me, Gemma!”
She had hidden her sorrow in the silky ebony hair.
Winter and spring
Another battle was over and smoke seemed to rise out of the snow. Red stains of blood gleamed like blooming roses;my coat got soiled as I stepped further and further up to the place where Gemma lay wounded. “ Are you ok?” she asked.
“ Are you asking me if I am ok? Lord! Look at you! Can you raise to your feet?” She groaned and got up.
“ Where’s Iara?”
“Iara is fine, she was with me all the time.”
“ Oh,my little girl, mummy is coming. Is she safe inside?”
“ Safe inside, yes. Come, let me help you!”
She hugged and kissed Iara as we went inside. One of the wicked women,Gada, took care of her wound and gave her medication. Then she took her child by the hand and went home.
“ Why don’t you just go with them once and for all so we can live in peace forever?” Gada asked.
“What do you know about this,you, ugly ,old woman?”
“ It’s not a lot more different than marriage. And the Zuyma are beautiful men, all of them. Besides, you will have all and each of them.”
“ I want to believe that each of us can make his or her own destiny. With our own hands. I know I can be spared from this if I try harder.”
“ Do you really want to escape it? Have you ever wondered whether this could be your only chance to achieve something in this world?”
“This world or their world?”
“ Doesn’t matter! Maybe that’s what you are good at: to breed and die.”
“ You are pathetic! You’re just an old useless woman who has never achieved anything in life. Stop telling me what to do! I’m going back to my book.”
“ What the hell have you been writing all these months?”
“ None of your business, witch! Besides, you can’t read!”
But the Zuyma warriors were beautiful indeed; and my genes could still add to their beauty.
That night we found out that Kenneth had been sent to look for the wolf milk and hadn’t returned. They had tried to fool my brother into this stuff long ago, but Gemma had fortunately warned him. Did I say fortunately? I lost him anyway. Still I felt as if this time Katwa had gone to the dark woods instead of Kenneth to look for the damned wolf milk. So I got dressed and entered the “realm of the werewolves”. This was the name of the dark forest. I kept yelling “ Katwa! Katwa!” while fighting with old branches. I kept running and crawling. Morning came and found me barefoot, with scratches on my face and legs.
I kept teaching ; it was a difficult job with all those malevolent people around me.They could have injured me any time. My delicate skin and hair, the way I moved, everything about me stired their envy.
“ You don’t belong to this caste, you are no warrior.” These were the only words they knew.
Spring came with larks and tree buds; Gemma became more distant each day. She wanted to remain safe and sound for her little Iara.We all knew they were going to attack again. And I had this dream about her: she was holding little Iara in her arms as if to protect her and said “If anything happens to her, it will be only your fault!” I woke up and realized she couldn’t say those words for real.
“I’ll do my best, I told you. Unfortunately we lost Kenneth, you know.”
“ Listen, Gemma. What kind of life is this? After all, death is always at hand. Why try to ignore it?”
“Don’t talk like this!”
No love story
Three hours had already gone and there were still the same sounds of crashed swords and helmets that filled the air. The same eight iron doors protected me. I was writing and writing. I felt like no one would write anything any longer. But then I looked at my watch again and realized it was already evening and they hadn’t opened the doors .
“ Gada! Gada, you, wicked witch! “
“ Why are you shouting like that?”
“ Shut the hell up and open the doors!”
Gada and the other old witch took the bunch of keys and began to try them.
“ Quickly, bitches! Quickly!” I felt like choking. They couldn’t make it in less than half an hour. Finally I stepped outside and took a deep breath. I saw the space ship of the Zuyma and the men waiting for me. They held Gemma. “ Leave her and I’ll go with you!” They took their hands off her.
“ I’m sorry I couldn’t spare you from this, Uta. Take my fur with you, it may be colder there.”
“ No problem, Gemma. I want to go with them.” I took her cold hands in mine. “ Don’t forget me. I won’t forget you, you know.” She smiled like a mother to me and caressed my cheek.
So I took my book and Gemma’s fur and left out in the space with the Zuyma. “If at least I could meet a woman like me there…someone to talk to.” I felt the desperate need to befriend any person I could have met there.
“ All the rooms are to you, except the small one in the basement”, they told me when we landed at their fortress. Someone came to greet us, a sort of woman. I said: “ I hope you speak the Gundara language a bit.”
“ Of course”, she answered, “ how glad I am to meet you! They are all so different here and you can’t tell them everything, you know.” I didn’t know if I should have been scared or merely bewildered. Who was she and why did she speak like that? “ What’s your name?”
“ I am Uta Lilith Gundara. What’s your name?”
“ I haven’t got one yet. But you can call me as you wish.”
“ How come you haven’t got a name?”
“ They said to me: the woman will give you a name. That will be your name.”
“ Then I will call you Gemma.”
After some time she came to me and said: “ They are as many as the nights of your life. And you will sleep with one of them each night.”
One thing she didn’t tell me. My nights were filled with pain and groans; for them making love was like putting the sword into its sheath.
So I am about to end the last chapter of my book and I’ve got no regrets any longer. I asked Gemma about the small room in the basement but she told me I wouldn’t feel better if I entered it. It would be of no help. Then why am I not allowed to enter ? I guess no one can give me an answer. I am with child already. A child that will be stronger and more beautiful than any Zuyma, my beauty interweaved with their beauty, spreading like ingrafted roses.
All I hope is that one day someone, an old man perhaps, will find my book and will read my story out to the grand-children of my children, telling them: “ This is the last story written on Earth.”