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The Last Tukrali

The Day the World Burned

By Kat ThornePublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 12 min read
Top Story - August 2022
22
The Last Tukrali
Photo by Yoni Kozminsi on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Proud determination filling my heart, I was determined to put that theory to the test.

5 steps to goal… three… one…. Cheers erupted all around as I nudged the Lingling ball one last time, and it sailed smoothly between the goalposts. Eight years of early morning drills and sneaking out for late-night scrimmages finally culminating in this one perfect moment, as I shoved my team to victory in the final seconds of the game.

My teammates swarmed around me, chattering excitedly as they shook me in rough displays of appreciation. Grinning so hard my cheeks protested in pain, I ducked through the mob of congratulatory reaches and jogged to the sidelines, brushing my feathery black tresses back from my glistening forehead as I searched for the water bottle I had left on the bench.

I greedily chugged the refreshing liquid and mopped the sweat from my brow with a spare rag from my bag as the rest of my team trickled in behind me, making room for the next teams to take the field. The semi-final game was officially ours. Only one more match today stood between us and the grand honor of being named the Independence Day Tournament Champions. I breathed deeply, forcing myself to visualize the win as I bent down to return the rag to my duffle. I winced as a dull pain twinged at the base of my skull.

“Great job out there,” a delicate voice tinkled. I froze in recognition, before slowly lifting my gaze to meet Nameah’s deep lilac pools, mesmerizing against the perfectly pale mint color of her flawlessly smooth skin. “I think you have a real shot at winning the championship match today.” Syllables fell from her lips like delicate chimes, entrancing me with their lyrical beauty.

“Th-thanks,” I stammered, cursing myself internally at my inability to string two words together in response. Coherent thoughts always scattered the second I saw her eyes.

Nameah was that girl every girl dreamed of being. The stunning beauty with the perfect proportions neatly framed by dark wavy locks, whose color was only slightly paled by the shiny onyx of her lips. Her delicate frame and elegant grace were sure to spark envy in anyone who encountered her, but jealousy quickly faded as soon as anyone got to know her. It was impossible to hold a negative feeling towards someone so caring and thoughtful.

I’d first met her on Harvest Day six years ago. Eager to prove my worth exceeded what my scrawny stature suggested, I’d come ready to prove that I could cull more Jurje’a nuts from the Gunamo orchards than anyone else my age. So confident was I in my abilities that I sought out the largest and strongest of my grade, and insisted they put their money where their mouths were, much to the amusement of my peers.

Fifty to one odds, and I was convinced that I was on my way to riches and glory, a Cinderella story in the making.

My cocky confidence soon proved unfounded, as I struggled to carry the large nuts that my larger classmates hoisted with ease. Embarrassed, I drifted towards the far edges of the field, in an effort to conceal my failures from the judgmental laughter of my peers. It was there that I stumbled across the raven-haired beauty, sprawled carelessly against the base of a tree, sipping the sweet nectar of a nut she’d cracked open.

Upon seeing me, she gracefully rose to her feet, her gaze sweeping across me and my paltry haul. I cringed, bracing myself for the mockery I was sure was about to unfold. Instead, she’d offered me a lopsided grin, and wordlessly tipped her wheelbarrow into mine, merging our loads, before sauntering off through the trees.

She’d captivated my daydreams ever since.

“Kyro, I need you to help me with my flower crown,” a petulant whine interrupted from my side.

Flushing, I whipped my head around to glare daggers at my younger sister. “It came unwoven, and you do braids so much better than me.”

Feeling the crimson spreading quickly across my cheeks, I sheepishly turned back to meet Nameah’s eyes, now dancing with barely concealed laughter. “Well, I guess I should let you get on that,” she giggled, spinning to trot back to the array of modest wooden bleachers where the other girls were gathered.

Groaning, I turned back to face my little sister. “You really couldn’t have waited five minutes?!” I barked at her, unable to contain my annoyance.

Regret settled in as I saw tears start to well in her soft violet eyes.

“I’m sorry, Kyata, I shouldn’t have snapped,” I sighed. “Let me see the crown.” I tugged the woven lilies free of her tiny fingers, and sank to the ground so I could nestle the blooms in my lap as I repaired the fraying strands. Sniffling, she sank into a cross-legged position beside me.

I deftly re-wove the milky Syrenite blooms, restoring her headpiece to its former glory. “There!” I said, settling the crown back upon his head. “Just as good as it looked this morning!”

“Thanks, Kyro,” she replied dully, head bowed as she focused on the blades of grass she was twisting between her fingers.

Remorse washed over me as I regarded the forlorn expression upon her small face. “I really am sorry, Kyata. I didn’t mean to be so harsh.”

Lifting her head, tiny purple eyes peered up at me. “It’s ok,” she sighed. “I know it’s not your fault. You can’t help the way your brain works.”

Grimacing, I rubbed a subconscious hand across the back of my neck. It had been six months since the tumor was discovered, and it appeared its side effects were only getting worse. Sudden mood shifts, vertigo and memory loss had all become frequent unwelcome visitors in my life.

The Tukrali were a simple farming folk, and the medical care available on our planet was simply not equipped to deal with anything more than the occasional broken bone or bout of the flu. Our medicine woman could offer me nothing more than a pitying shrug, and some pills and compresses to dull the pain.

The cost of a flight to a world with better healthcare options was more than my parents saw in a year, and although they had insistently started saving as soon as my diagnosis was pronounced, I knew deep down that they were fighting a race against the clock that they were bound to lose.

Guilt bit into me as I contemplated explaining the real reason behind my abrupt attitude, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Going along with the explanation of a mood swing felt so much easier than admitting my feelings for Nameah to my little sister. Kyata had never been good at keeping secrets, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being forced to endure my friends and family’s teasing winks and knowing glances once she inevitably spilled the beans.

“It was just a mood swing,” I lied, averting my eyes. “I swear I’m feeling better now, you don’t have to worry.”

“I don’t want you to forget me, Kyro,” she whimpered, tears welling up in her violet eyes. Reaching a chubby hand into the pocket of her dress, she withdrew a crumpled envelope and shoved it into my hands.

Confused, I unraveled the packet, and opened it to reveal the contents. Dozens of crisp bills lined the interior.

Completely baffled, my eyes snapped to my sister. “Kyata, where did all this come from?”

She squirmed uncomfortably, refusing to meet my gaze. “You need the money to get better.”

“Kyata, you don’t even have a job. Where did you get this?!” I demanded, my voice rising in anger.

“Well…” she trailed, resuming her task of fiddling with the grass. “The Sor Kvahn were here last week, to do their monthly purchase of the harvested Gunamo nuts and Syrenite juice, and Mama had to meet with them, but the sitter was busy, so she said that I could accompany her, just this one time.”

I gawped at her in confusion as her rambling continued. “When we got to the docking station, Mama was very busy with the exchange, so I just kind of wandered, looking for something to do till Mama finished her work so we could go get the strawberry milkshakes she promised me. And I swear, I didn’t go looking for anything in particular, but I found this one ship tucked off to the side, with nobody around it, and I just wanted to see what a Sor Kvahn ship looked like inside…”

“Really, it’s not my fault the latch was left open, they really should lock their ships when they’re away from them. But I opened it just to see, and there was this little blue box tucked beneath one of the seats, and I was just so curious so I decided to open it, because I thought one little peek wouldn’t hurt, nobody would even know I was ever there! And right there in front of me was all this money. I knew I should have left it alone, but you’ve been so sick, and Mama and Papa have been so stressed with trying to save every penny, and I j-just want you to get b-better!” she concluded, small sobs racking through the end of her rant.

I stared at her in horror. “Kyata, what have you - ?”

My thought died unspoken as a loud bang interrupted.

Startled, I whipped my head towards the noise, only to see smoke rising from the center of the garden beside the field. Before I could process what was happening, a second bang rung out, even closer than the first.

I turned back to the field in horror, to find the friendly game replaced by thick billows of smoke, only partially hiding the bodies laid out where children had played moments before. The dismal scene suddenly grew darker, and I shook my head to clear my vision, before realizing that the sudden darkness wasn’t caused by side effects from the tumor, but a large shadow being cast overhead. I raised my gaze to find a large black ship hovering above, the sickly green emblem of the Sor Kvahn emblazoned ominously on its side.

Panicked screaming broke through my thoughts, and I frantically cast my gaze around, trying to understand what was happening, and how I should react. My eyes landed on Nameah, cowering beneath the bleachers, terror evident in her eyes.

Adrenaline surged as my instincts took over, and I quickly began to stride toward her, determined to protect her from the fiery blasts. I’d only made it three steps when a direct strike eviscerated the flimsy wood she hid beneath, and the girl I’d loved in secret for years was left in pieces.

A booming roar of air from behind me knocked me to my knees, and I forced my attention backwards, fighting through the shock I could feel setting in. I whimpered as I spotted my sister’s body sprawled behind me, golden blood bubbled from her parted black lips.

Forcing myself to my feet, I gathered her in my arms, and sprinted quickly towards the safest place I could think of – a small cave hidden by bushes, which was tucked in the hill beside the field. My sister and I had discovered the little hideaway last Spring, and she’d solemnly made me swear to never share the location with any of our friends, insisting that this should be a place for only us. For once she had been able to honor a secret. I prayed now that this tiny space would be enough to save us.

I darted through the rain of explosions, forcing myself to tune out the wails and screams of those around us. I couldn’t bring myself to look down at my sister in my arms. I knew the sight might break me.

As the acerbic smoke began to fill my lungs, and my eyes began to water with the efforts to keep from choking and inhaling more of it, I reached the tiny entrance. Forcing my way roughly through the bushes, with my sister cradled in one arm, I made it inside just as the dizziness took over.

I laid my sister on the hard floor of the cave, and quickly collapsed beside her. My vision tunneled around the tiny bud sprouting just past the tips of my outstretched fingers, and then I saw no more.

*****

An irritating ringing whined in my ears, and I unhappily winced, trying to force the noise away so I could return to the blissful darkness.

The clamor grew more insistent, until I begrudgingly opened my eyes.

The sight of the stony floor beneath me brought the memories rushing back, and the shock startled the ringing from my ears. I scrambled upright, frantically looking about for Kyata.

Her tiny form lay just a short distance away, and I raced to her side. I moved to shake her awake, but I knew as soon as my fingers grazed her clammy skin that my little sister was no more.

Sobs broke from my lips as I cradled her lifeless form to my chest, wishing I had the power to undo it all, or at least to trade her life for mine.

I was always supposed to be the sibling that died young, this was never meant to be her fate. Kyata was the child who could never do any wrong, the one my parents gazed at fondly as they yielded to her every whim. No one could resist her sweet demeanor, and innocent angelic eyes. She was the one bound for a full and happy life, free of the stresses that had always plagued me.

Eventually my tear ducts could produce no more, and guilt-stricken sobs faded to painful red eyes, and a dull ache in my chest I knew would be a permanent part of my existence from this moment on.

My eyes fell on the tiny white lily lying a few feet from my sister’s corpse.

I sadly plucked it from its stem, and wove it between Kyata’s dark locks, humming her favorite lullaby as I worked. It was the best I could manage for a final goodbye.

Heart heavy, I forced myself to stagger to my feet, and exited the cave to see the damage that had unfurled. Not a soul could be seen among the wispy tendrils of the remaining smoke. I called out, hoping someone would hear me, but the only response was the echoing of my own voice, lilting eerily above the soft crackling of the cinders.

I trudged slowly across the field, following the dirt path to where my home had stood.

Nothing remained of our village but soft burning indigo embers, rhythmically pulsing from the charred ruins of our lives.

A loud bang echoing through the hazy atmosphere startled me from my melancholic trance.

Eager for any sign of life, I rushed towards the noise, out into the space where the Gunamo orchard had once stood tall. Among the spindly remains of our livelihood, I spotted a shiny metal pod, partially buried into the earth, dark smoke billowing from its impact.

Suddenly, the hatch popped open, and a grey hand emerged from the ship. The wrinkled hand was quickly followed by a shock of short orange hair and a set of steely eyes, before the entirety of a Kvahnite tumbled from the tiny ship.

Startled, I took a half-step back, unsure how to handle this new arrival.

His eyes swept across the field, before landing on me. Pulling himself quickly to his feet, he strode in my direction.

I stared at him as the man came to an abrupt halt in front of me, his eyes raking over me in an assessing manner. “Is it just you?” he asked abruptly, as his fingers fiddled with the shiny trinkets adorning his chest.

“I… I suppose so.” I stammered, still trying to puzzle out his intentions. Perhaps he’d been sent down to do the final sweep, and eliminate any survivors?

The stranger’s stony face twisted into a grimace, as his eyes glanced across the ashen remains of our planet. He sighed. “What’s your name, boy?”

“Kyro,” I responded softly after a moment. I was still uncertain of the man’s intentions, but I realized that if he had in fact been sent to harm me, knowing my name could hardly make a difference.

"I'm Cap - " the stranger started, years of conditioning seeming to force the syllables from his tongue before he registered what he was saying and paused. "I'm nobody. Not anymore."

An awkward pause stretched between us as I tried to figure out how best to interpret this odd introduction. ".... I guess you can just call me Cas."

I remained silent, lost as to how I was meant to respond to the man's bizarrely casual demeanor.

Turning to survey our bleak surroundings, he drawled, "Now how do you suggest we get off this deathtrap, Kyro?"

************

Author's note: This story has two companion pieces, Mission 52 and The Terrible Tragedy of Tukralu

Sci Fi
22

About the Creator

Kat Thorne

Just muddling through life, trying to be the good sort of chaotic energy.

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Comments (7)

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  • John Cox4 months ago

    This story begs the question ‘Have you written the adventures of Cas and Kyro? If so, please let me know.

  • Steven Dean2 years ago

    Good character building and nice job setting the scene. Enjoyable story! Please let me know what you think of my story, when you can!

  • Miles Pen2 years ago

    Loved the story! Kyro and Kyata are great characters. I want to read more! ... would love to hear your feedback on my story if you get a chance! Best of luck -- Myles

  • Thanks for sharing 😊 It was a great read. All the best and happy writing.

  • N. S. Robbins2 years ago

    Great read. Very nice pacing too. I like how you weaved in casual details to create an alien setting. Intriguing developments kept me reading. Thanks for sharing your creativity.

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    fantastic. Well deserved top story. Love it.

  • Skip Maloney2 years ago

    I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the familiar (a sporting event) and the strange (sci-fi details). Good 'voice' in the narrative, nice pace and in the end, leaving us with a desire to learn more, not to mention how Cap (or is it Cas?) and Kyro are going to get off the deathtrap. Good luck in the contest.

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