“Are you going to eat any or what?”asked the bearded man as he turned the strips of meat one last time over the fire. A blue sun hung frozen in the sky in an unwavering sunset. “Well come on, Smelly. Don’t you need to fatten up a little? It’s going to be a long night.” The hairy millipede-like creature was over ten feet long, but it did not so much as twitch in response to the questions.
The man stabbed a piece of flesh with a crude knife and took it from the fire, blowing on it. Taking a bite from it and smacking loudly, he looked at the creature from the corner of his eyes. “This Kaffir sure is good. So tender….” He paused to take a drink from his gourd, looking away just for a moment. In that split second, the creature lunged at the man and bit at his left leg with its multiple sets of interlocking mandibles.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” exclaimed the man as he leapt up, simultaneously clutching at his leg while dropping the meat. The creature then drug it away, perhaps with some alien form of glee if it was capable of it. “Hey! Come back here!”
The man took off running through the rubble. The creature took tiny steps with its thousands of legs, but somehow made quick time. Leaping over the stones, the man managed to tackle it and they slid to a stop next to a ledge overhanging a twenty foot drop-off. “I offered you some. I was fair. And look at you… you thief!” He grasped at the last piece of the meat before the creature could swallow it. They wrestled… right at the edge of the ledge. The man twisted one of the creature’s legs with his other hand and it abruptly let go. “How do you like that, Smelly? Huh?”
The man laughed and sat up. He dangled his legs over the edge. The millipede creature curled up around him. “Smelly,” said the man. “Did I ever tell you how much you stink?”
He looked out across the valley that was soon swallowed up by the foliage of the jungles and then gazed by up at the sunset. “That’s weird… Lyra’s out early,” he said pointing up at a circle of light not far from the sun. Strangely, the circle seemed to be growing. The man stared at it, dumbfounded… and then it arced suddley across the sky and seemed to settle in among the foothills on the other side of the valley.
“Oh my God, Smelly. Why did it have to be evening? Oh, good God, no…! I think they’re over there. Oh, God… this is it!” The man leapt up and ran back to the fire, snatching up the remaining pieces. “Here, Smelly… eat this. Have one now… and… one for the road. I think we can make it, man.”
The man started walking, but it wasn’t long that he looked back to see the creature far behind him, idly nibbling at its treat. “Oh, come on, Smelly. We can do this. This is our ticket out of here, man!” The creature froze. “Please Smelly…. You’ll come, won’t you? Come on… do it!” Still the creature did not move.
The man tried to think of something to say… opening and closing his mouth soundlessly for a moment. Then… “Smelly. I’ll take you to the stars, man. Other worlds. Starships. I’ll… I’ll take you places where it’s never night.”
The millipede-like creature stood there for a few more moments, and then… as if having made a decision, it swallowed that last bits of its treat whole and then shuttled across the rubble and down towards the valley. The man smiled as he watched it, and then followed along, trying to keep up.