My people came to this planet when I was just a little boy, fleeing persecution on our home world. I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember the long, dark voyage to our new home. I remember stepping off the ship into golden sunshine and being awestruck by how different this new world was. And I remember the first time I saw them, the inhabitants of our new world. I watched them greet my people from my hiding place behind my mother’s legs.
They looked like us in some ways, but their skin was a different texture and their ears were long and pointed. They had tails, sort of like the monkeys I’d seen in the zoo back home. And some of them had very sharp teeth. As a child, I was terrified of them. I heard the adults whisper about the inhabitants’ strange and ungodly rituals. I heard the older children talk about the terrible things the inhabitants did to children who strayed from the village.
Even still, they let us stay. We built our settlement close to the river. And, except for ceremonies that the entire settlement took part in, I stayed inside the village walls like the good, frightened child that I was. But childhood doesn’t last forever.
As a teenager, I let my rebelliousness lead me outside the settlement. I explored the woods until I knew each tree by touch. I tasted the forbidden plants that the older teenagers whispered about, enjoying the fuzziness that would creep over me and soften the edges of my vision. My favourite place was the riverbank, where I would go in the afternoons. I loved to sit and dream as the indigo water lapped at the shoreline, or skip ruby red rocks across the surface when the water was still.
One day, as I approached the riverbank, I saw an inhabitant sitting at the shoreline. My first response was that visceral fear from my childhood and I almost turned to flee. But at that moment, the inhabitant turned and looked at me, then smiled a sheepish smile. He was young like me and he was holding one of the forbidden plants in his hand. I found myself smiling back, surprised to find this common ground between us. My adolescent curiosity carried me forward and urged me to take the forbidden plant in his outstretched hand.
That is how I met my first inhabitant friend, Mica.
In the years that followed, I learned a lot about the inhabitants from Mica, and discovered that our people weren’t so different after all. His father taught me how to identify plants and how to extract their healing properties. His mother showed me all the best fishing spots along the river. And his siblings asked me endless questions about my people and our home planet. Over time, my curiosity grew into understanding and my understanding grew into affection.
Then I met Naia.
Naia was Mica’s cousin and her family lived in a village further inland, at the foot of the mountains. The summer I turned twenty, Naia came to visit. Despite my friendship with Mica and my affection for his people, I never expected to fall in love with an inhabitant. But meeting Naia was like finding a long-lost piece of my soul. I looked into her eyes and I knew we were meant to be together.
However, as my fondness for the inhabitants had grown, my people had become more rigid about the line between us and them. So when I told my parents I had asked Naia to become my wife, it didn’t go over well. They tried to keep me inside the village walls, first with guilt and then with force. But I was a young man in love. I think I could have scaled a hundred village walls to be with Naia. Scaling just one was easy.
That was a long time ago.
Sometimes I miss my people, but now that I am a parent, my focus has shifted to my children. I love watching them grow into amazing little people, gifted with the best of both their parents. I see how loved and accepted they are here, in Naia’s village, and I wish my parents could see what I see. Some days, I think about taking my family to visit the settlement of my childhood, but I am terrified of what my people might do when they see my ungodly children, hiding behind my legs.
This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, in which we were tasked with demonstrating changes in perspective as we age.