I wanted to get to the top of the leaderboard at 4theWords… so, ah. Here’s a story about noodle monsters to AlphaRaposa‘s prompt.
Content warning: Not a happy ending.
It was easy to overlook them, you know, not to take them seriously?
We landed on Toros V, in the Aothen System, not the first team but the first permanent installment, at the settlement they were already calling Sternport.
We didn’t ask why they were calling it Sternport, and that should have been our first clue. It was Faebindor on the survey maps, after the three surveyors – common practice. But all the Lead Team called it Stern’s Port, Stern’s Fall, Sternport. And we thought it was just a Lead Team tradition.
The Lead Teams are a funny bunch, you see: they travel from colony to colony, getting the place set up, getting a living home for those like us, the permanent installations. They do a lot of the grunt work, a lot of the scientific discovery, the ground work for what comes next. And, just when the colony is starting to look like a place to live and not like raw planet with a couple plascrete houses – boom, they’re on to the next place.
They die a lot, too, or so I’ve been told; Lead Teams have only a 68% survival rate. They’re adventure-seekers.
And doing all that, they’re living in homes that will be ours some day, planting crops that we’ll eat, drawing maps that we’ll use. They get to put their own mark on places, and they like that. Once, in a space station, one told me “Most colonists live on one planet, and they carve out a wide mark there. Us? We leave shallow marks everywhere“
So you can see why them naming the place Stern’s Port didn’t really catch in our minds.
But oh, damn, I wish one of us had asked just a couple questions.
Their team looked light, leaving Toros V. I noticed almost everyone was carrying one of their grave-tokens – weight-and-cubic-allowance-light tokens carved of bone, plaques the team took with them to remember their dead. I remember one wide-eyed girl, probably born nine months to the day after the Lead Team set down, carrying two tokens around her little neck.
We bowed to them, because they do the hard work, and we always honor that. And then we got to work having a life. It wasn’t ’til months later that I really started to wish we’d asked some questions.
The Lead Team, you see, they make the place livable, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Colonists, you go into that life knowing you’ve got a few years of really hard life.
But that old-timer was right, you carve out a wide, deep mark when you’re the first permanent installment on a planet, and yeah, that’s why I was there.
So we’d been there a couple months before we got exploratory, and probably half a year before we really used the maps the Lead Team had left us. And there, in a valley barely a day’s walk from Sternport, there was a beautiful, luscious, green valley.
It was fresh-looking and alive, and there were plants and fruiting-like trees and the adorable little mammals that everyone called rabbits, even though they had six legs and four ear-things. But the sky was weird, seeming to flicker and shimmer when you looked at it right.
When the sun went behind the clouds, we saw it. Them. Dozens and dozens, hundreds, maybe, of these… things. Furry flying worms? “Noodles,” Sasha declared. Sasha loved creatures. She had already started domesticating the four-ear rabbit-things. “They’re noodle-dragons.”
They were lovely, too. They are lovely. They’re iridescent in the shadows and nearly invisible in the daylight, running from the length of my arm to the length of Main Street, feathery-furry with wide mouths that look like they’re smiling. They make this chirring noise when you get enough of them together – and they’re almost always together. As far as we can tell, they don’t like being alone.
And they like to adopt people, too. They adopted Sasha immediately. So while she was learning all about their noises and their movements, their colors and their calls, I went digging, to see why the Lead Team hadn’t told us about these things.
I found it. I’m a farmer, a dairy farmer, by trade, but everyone on the colonies multi-tasks. We have to. And I’m a historian when I’m not herding goats.
Sternport, we’d thought they said, but they’d started out with Stern’s Fall. They’d been telling us right from the beginning. The Sterns had died within a month of the Lead Team landing.
I found out ten minutes after Sasha died.
That’s the thing about these creatures. It’s easy to underestimate them – pretty, cute-sounding, and shimmery. And they like to make friends. But they like to take their friends up high, high in the sky…
And when the sun comes out they don’t just go invisible, they go insubstantial, too.
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