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by Michael Bard
Michael Bard -- all rights reserved

It had been so long, but the time had been so glorious. Running through the fields of my second childhood with my companions. A century of play and innocence before the memories of my soul and my first life returned and I left for adulthood.

I had returned Home as my mother had returned here before me. Each of us had a duty to perform, so small a duty for the gift of our second life amongst the Maythlin. We wore their bodies but our souls were human. That was our gift to them, and our curse, for only on the single visit could we truly be Home.

I'd landed far away from Quebec, far away from my memories of standing on the cliff and watching the sails of the approaching English fleet on the river below in the early morning mist. I'd landed far away in the worn and aged mountains of Wales in an isolated valley. I didn't want to leave, I didn't want to find what I needed to find. There was time, centuries of life still ahead of me.

With a sigh I leaned down and loped away, my four horned limbs scrabbling on the ancient rock as my fore arms grabbed for balance. My ears twisted at the clacking sounds as my inner lid blinked in the cold air. I stopped at the edge of a cliff and looked down over a green valley, the scent of sheep dung, grass and pine; all fresh and glorious in my three pulsing nostrils.

This was Home.

I stood there for a while, sniffing the air, sniffing the faint scent of humanity, the scent I had known without knowing and had never forgotten. The mountains behind me slowly curved away from the Sun. My eyes adjusted to the dimming light, and my ears to the quiet below. I couldn't stay -- it was too lovely and too beckoning. I could lose myself so easily...

Shaking my muzzle I pinched my nostrils shut holding my breath, barricading myself against the wondrous scents of Home, and slowly made my way down the cliff, feeling for footholds with the grasping fingers around each horn-foot. The crumbling wall made it easy, but I concentrated anyway and made it to the bottom with a clearer head. At least until I opened my nostrils and pulled in the rich scents of Home, scents of sheep and insects and grass and pine and trees and sweat and hope and fear and love and humans.

All I could do was stand with quivering nostrils gulping in the air. Home.

Oh Maker! Why did I have to leave it?

It was then that one scent overwhelmed all others. It was close, sweet, filling, and it meant that now I would have to finish the cycle. It was a woman, and she was what I needed.

I took one last gulp of air, one last free moment of memories and dreams, and then hardened my hearts and made my way though the tall grass toward the scent. I could hear the quiet movement of the sheep around me, the odd rustling as one detected me, but otherwise all was silent except for the wind and the scents.

Too soon I was standing above her. She was asleep on the grass, her face tanned. She looked so human...

Forcing myself away from her, I reached into my pouch and pulled out the micro-injector. A soft hiss, and then it was done. The shielded, molecule-sized device moved into her and linked itself with a matching device inside my womb. We would be bound, secretly, undetectably, across any distance by a microscopic tunnel through what human science would call a wormhole. When she finally died her electro-chemical essence, what human philosophy would call her soul, would be taken to my womb where it would be reborn in a Maythlin. Reborn to share the Maythlin knowledge and dreams, and those of the thousands of other races they knew of. Reborn to run in alien fields, to grow, to play, and to eventually come back here.

One visit Home and then eternal exile.

Exile in a universe that had infinite wonders yet to explore. Exile to a life that could continue without end.

Exile never to return home until many millennia hence when humanity might finally be ready for open contact.

I felt tears drop from my eyes and fall upon the jacket she was wearing before I turned and fled to my landing craft and back to the ship.

If only I could stay with my tears.

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Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard.  Please send any comments or questions to him at mwbard@transform.com