Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

Buck was flying, diving from heights he had only achieved in a spacecraft.  The dizzying freefall was at once exhilarating and frightening.  He tried to unfurl his wings but it was as though they were stuck to his back.   

Then, suddenly, Wilma was at his side, reaching out for his hand.   “Buck, what’s wrong?  Why are you doing this?” 

He tried to reach out, touch her fingertips, but he couldn’t.   The ground hurtled toward him, closer and closer.  “I’m sorry,” he called out and then as the ground rose to meet him, Buck awoke.  The breeze caressed his sweat-stained face and brought to his ears the crackling sound of a small wood-burning fire.  Rising up on one elbow, Buck peered into the darkness, trying to see beyond the flames.  Guessing it was Hawk, Buck extricated himself from his sleeping bag and stood up.  Gazing overhead, he saw the Southern Cross winking brightly.  They had camped on the inner slopes of Rano Raraku, a dormant volcano where the ancient moai had been quarried.  Buck pulled on his jacket and walked to the fire.  The slight sound of someone walking away came to his ears.  “Hawk, wait.  We need to talk.”

The footsteps stopped.  

“Hawk,” Buck repeated.  

The birdman returned to the fire and stood quietly, saying nothing.  

Buck sat down and then gazed intently at his friend.  “Hawk, I’m sorry.  I really am.  I wish there had been some other way, but I couldn’t think of anything.”  Hawk moved closer, but although Buck felt he knew his friend well by now, the face across from him was unreadable.  

“I cannot deny my feelings of anger.” 

“For what it’s worth, Hawk, I would feel the same way I feel now if it had been any entity, but it’s worse because I was the reason for the death of one of your own people.” 

“Part of my anger is because of that reason.  That you . . . were . . . a part of his death.”

Buck said nothing.  It was of no consequence that Hawk had caused the death of many humans.  It was of no consequence that Garo-tura was trying to murder the entirety of his race; Buck could not get the surprised and shocked face of Ava-iki out of his mind.  He had felt Garo-tura’s thoughts and his emotions and his deep passions.  No matter, also, that the Tane-rapanui had tried to hide them, Buck had felt them in a way he had not experienced before.  And he felt guilty.  

Hawk sat down on a large rock across the fire from him but said nothing for a moment.  The flames of the fire, though small, still danced their reflection across the prone figures of several moai.   “Buck, there is also understanding,” Hawk said.  “I, too, felt a necessity to kill my enemy.  My reasoning was vengeance.  Yours was an action to save those of your race.”  He leaned forward.  “Who am I to say whose motive is better or less, or even who is right or wrong.  All I know is that I feel pain in what happened so long ago.”

“As do I,” Buck said.  

“And that pain does not go away quickly,” Hawk added.

Buck nodded and they both sat looking at the fire for a while. It reminded him somewhat of the time they had spent on Janovus’ planet, and yet it was different.  Before was the semi-awkwardness of deepening friendships.  Now there was almost the hurt of betrayal, a barrier of hurt, and that by itself, caused him pain.  Then something Hawk had said passed through his remembrance again.  “You said that was part of why you were angry.  What’s the other reason?” he asked.

For several moments Hawk didn’t answer and Buck began to think that perhaps he had offended his friend even more.  

“There is a part of our history that has been obscured over the years.  Up to now, I had only told you small bits of the history of our people,” he began.  “Whether the history is totally true, I do not know.  Many hundreds, even thousands of years ago, we were a people with wings.  We lived in the mountains of a large land filled with sky and sun.  It was so high that it was said a Tane-rapanui could fly to heaven from that place.”  He paused.  “Dr. Goodfellow believes that refers to the Andes Mountains.  All I know is that we were free and the sky was our home.  We played in the sky; we hunted from the skies.  We were one with the air currents.  We were companions to the winged giants of the peaks, knowing their language and sharing their songs.”   

Buck wondered about the “giants.”  Were they the giant condors?  He said nothing though, simply letting Hawk tell the story.  

“Then humans came, making their homes on the high plains that had been our hunting and growing lands.  We attempted friendship and for a while there was peaceful coexistence.  We shared the lands of our antiquity.  Then something happened.  Legend says the humans became jealous of our wings, wanting them for themselves.  They wanted to mate with our people, that perhaps their children would be blessed with the ability to fly, but such did not happen.” 

Buck wondered at the detail of Hawk’s narrative, knowing that his friend had told him once that he only knew generalities, the details of which were in the realm of mythology.  Could this have come from Sky Mother or from the influence of this island, as it seemed to have done with him?   But he didn’t say anything, waiting for Hawk to continue.  It could be as simple as not wishing to tell the full history to those once considered enemies. 

“First, it didn’t happen because our people would not willingly intermingle.  So a few humans kidnapped some of our women, clipped their wings so they could not fly and then mated with them.  Some of the captives threw themselves from the cliffs.  Those that did not carried mixed seed in their bodies, producing children who were neither one race or the other.  These were the miru-moruku, the cursed ones and they were rejected by the humans, being wingless.” 

Hawk sighed, as though the telling was painful, and indeed, as Buck understood the implications, he could see why.   But still he said nothing. 

“That began the era of distrust, anger and fear.  More of our people were taken.  Our young men and children were stolen by clever groups of humans, who still hoped to produce winged progeny.  Finally, we chose to leave our lofty home. The humans were ever more numerous and more aggressive.  Our people reproduced more slowly and in fewer numbers.  No matter where we went, though, still the humans came and finally we retreated to the isles of the sea.  The miru-moruku were welcome, and considered a part of the Tane-rapanui, but there was still unhappiness.  The winged ones were superior, having as they did, the means of total freedom of the skies.  The miru-moruku wished for that which they could not have.  Never were their children able to inherit the wings of their grandparents.”

“Did any of the miru-moruku intermingle with their winged relatives?” Buck asked. 

“Yes, some did, but that which gave wings was denied them, even several generations later.”  Hawk paused again, then took a deep breath.  “Still, there was peace for some time until the seafarers came.” 

“Humans, too?” 

“Yes, more humans and these were even more aggressive, who only saw us as enemies taking up the land we were on or as children of their devil deities.  And they were still jealous of our wings but now they knew they could never have them.”  Hawk stopped talking for a few minutes, stirring up the fire with a bit of driftwood.  Finally, he began again.  “So then began the holocaust of our people.  The pureblooded were hunted and killed.  We retreated to ever more remote islands.  There were those who believed that without the wings we would be left alone.   The miru-moruku were not hunted with the same vigor as the winged ones. In many places they were left alone, although I suspect it was a fearful peace.  And they bred with the miru-moruku to achieve that purpose.  Some doctors were able to achieve the same result with expectant pureblooded of my people.” 

“But there came a time when the winged people left, disappeared to an even more remote place, only telling a few of the healers the clues of their whereabouts.  Many years passed.  The miru-moruku considered themselves Tane-rapanui, keeping the customs, language and beliefs of their disappeared brethren.  Finally, the day came when even the miru-moruku were oppressed.  The land was scarce, the people too much in abundance and the humans wanted even the magic land to which the pureblooded Tane-rapanui had fled.  They still wanted what their ancient stories told them existed—flight.”

Buck sighed, wanting to dispute his friend’s story; the aggressiveness of his own race.  It was a curse and a blessing, Buck thought.  It was something that kept his people progressing, even bettering themselves; and yet it was a curse in that it caused untold heartache from wars and conflict.  

“Just before the great conflict where our people, the miru-moruku, never half so numerous as our human neighbors, would most likely be slaughtered, they set out in large canoes.  What they didn’t have room for, they left.  What was most important was the saving of the Tane-rapanui.  The songs of my people celebrate as well as mourn that journey,” Hawk said.  He smiled softly.  “Until recently, it was believed that this was a mythological allegory to our journey to the stars, but it was only a precursor.”  He sighed.  “It is said that many died, but because the old storytellers had passed down the secret place of their brethren, they finally reached Rapanui.  There they found the winged people building monstrous starships from technology given them by star voyagers.  Our people knew that if they did not leave the planet they would eventually be totally destroyed.” 

“The miru-moruku were offered the same choice and they took it, working side by side on the ships that would give them freedom.”  He paused.  “The history says that all who wished to go did so.  There were few who stayed.  But because they had lived apart so long, the miru-moruku chose to sail on their own ships, leaving last after the others had gone.”

“This is an even harder story than what you have told me before, Hawk.  If it’s too painful….” 

“No, Buck, you have been in the mind of one of the winged ancestors.  It is necessary to tell you this.  And it helps to explain the reason for my anger.” 

Buck simply nodded.

“And the story is more complete because Sky Father recited the history to me,” Hawk further explained.  “And it became more clear after coming here.”  He gazed deeply into Buck’s eyes.  “I dreamed earlier tonight.  I dreamed after your journey to find the cure for the garox.”  

“I have dreamed, too,” Buck murmured. 

“We flew among the stars, for the most part losing track of each other, although some ships did stay together for the first part of the journey.  When our group found Throm there were no humans then.  We built our homes, we kept our culture and we remembered, although indistinctly because shortly after our people settled our planet our history teller died before all the history could be passed along.” 

“Didn’t you have written records?” 

“Yes, but the histories we refused to record in writing.  And our people, even with written records, were still a people who enjoyed the oral traditions.”  Hawk stirred up the fire again.  “So we simply remembered that our long ago ancestors had been winged, relegating the half lost truths to demented myth.  Those remembrances became our dreams, because somehow we knew there was no hope of ever being winged ourselves.”  

“Because your genes were tainted,” Buck added, saying what he knew was so difficult, almost impossible for his friend to say.  

Hawk nodded.  “Yes.”  He was grateful that Buck had put it in the same terms that he had felt when he had suspected the truth and then had finally found out.   Indeed, it was the same term that Sky Father had used when he had been reciting the history after they had arrived on Rapanui.  

“And that’s why it was so hard for you to watch the OEI?” 

“Yes,” Hawk repeated.  “It was hard enough to have lived with the old myths, almost never spoken, except in whispers, vehemently denied, that there was human blood in our people’s ancestry, but to hear it from a speaker of history, and see what our ancestors were all like was almost more than I could bear.” 

Buck gazed intently at his friend, then he got up and sat closer to Hawk.  The Tane-rapanui didn’t move.  “Hawk, I know this past year and a half has been hard for you.  I know sometimes I have made it harder, but I’m sorry that helping me brought you so much anger and pain.” 

“Do not ever think that I regret helping you.  Even if I had known everything that would have happened in advance, still I would have gone to get Sky Mother.  And even though you belong to the race that I have hated for so long, you are a brother in spirit.”  He paused and laid the small piece of driftwood on the tiny campfire.  They both watched silently as it caught fire and blazed up.  “How did it feel flying freely?” Hawk asked hesitantly, plaintively. 

Buck paused.  He had wondered, after his experience, if that had been part of Hawk’s frustration—the fact that he, a human, had experienced free flight.  Buck felt he could only answer honestly.  “It scared the hell out of me more than anything, at first.  It was such a brief time and I think most of the time I was feeling Garo-tura’s perceptions.”   He paused.   “I think the idea of just having wings added power.”  Buck gazed at Hawk.  “Am I making sense?”

Hawk nodded.  “You are making perfect sense.  In my dreams I have felt the power of wings propelling me through the sky.  The feeling of using muscles that I never use now.” 

“Exactly.” 

Frowning, Hawk said, “Buck, I do not think you should go with us to find the others.” 

“I have to, Hawk.  I caused the death of one of their own.” 

“You only did that which you found necessary in the situation you found yourself in.  They would not understand that, though.” 

Buck sighed.  “I feel I have to.  If nothing else than to show them that not all humans are horrible sadistic creatures.”

“He speaks truth,” a soft voice said in the darkness.  It was Sky Mother.  Both men stood in deference and offered her a stone ‘seat.’  “But do not make this decision lightly because Hawk’s concerns are very real.  It will be very . . . dangerous for a human.  Us they pity, you they hate.” 

“I know.  I felt it and there has been about five hundred years for that hate to fester,” Buck replied.  

“Or to temper,” Sky Mother added. 

“If only I could convince Wilma to stay behind,” Buck mused aloud.   He looked up at Sky Mother.  “Could you talk to her?” 

The bird woman nodded.  “Yes, but her determination is as immovable as these stone moai.”  

Buck sighed.  “Right now I plan on going.  All I ask is that you let me know anything I need to know in dealing with your people.”  He looked directly at Sky Mother.  “Anything you see in your dreams.  Whatever.” 

“I will, Star Warrior companion,” she assured him.  She lightly touched a finger to his arm before she rose to her feet.   “Now it is time that we rested.  My dreams are stronger here.  Our history is here and I wish to absorb as much as I can of this ancestral place.”  She gazed up at a nearly full moon.  “I can see our ancestors flying up through the sky in their majestic ships, silhouetted against a moon such as that.  I can see such a moon hanging over another place.  One that way.”   Sky Mother pointed toward the east. 

“Chile,” Buck murmured, remembering what Hawk had said about tall mountain peaks. 

“I know your ship is leaving Earth soon but before we leave, my beloved and I would like to see the place of our first antiquity, Ta-make-make, the home of God.”  

“But we don’t know where that is,” Buck protested.  “From what Hawk told me it’s somewhere in the Andes, but where?”  He shrugged. 

“Perhaps when the time comes we will know.” 

As he got up, Buck smiled.  “Knowing you, I don’t doubt it.”

 

 

Chapter Twelve

Chapter One
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