A fortuitous passage of rocks sticking up out of the deep river Anaxis had tumbled into days before carried him across the waterway to the base of the cliff he had fallen from. Anaxis searched in vain for a way back up as the sun rose and the shadow he searched in grew smaller. He was wondering how he could ever possibly scale the imposing face before him when a voice from above called his name.
“Anaxis!” the voice cried. “Anaxis, up here!”
Anaxis couldn’t see whoever was above due to the blinding sunlight pouring down.
“Who is it?” Anaxis called back. “I can’t see anything up there!”
“It’s Caraxis!” came the response. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been looking for you for days!”
“The river carried me downstream,” Anaxis shouted. “But then I found something, the most incredible thing!”
“We going to get you back up,” Caraxis called. “Hang tight, okay?”
Before the sun had overtaken the shade, a rope was tossed down to Anaxis from the top of the cliff, one with a knot at the end for him to put his feet into. He did so, and then held on tight as he was pulled up the side of the cliff.
At the top, he used his waning strength to lift himself over the edge, and found his family and much of the village waiting.
“Oh, thank goodness!” his mother said as she and his other family members ran to Anaxis’s side. “We were so worried!”
“I was, too,” Anaxis said.
“You must be so hungry,” said his father, handing him a hard loaf of huel bread. “Eat slowly. Have you had enough to drink?”
“Plenty,” Anaxis answered. “I was following the river.”
“Are you hurt?” Caraxis asked.
“No,” Anaxis answered. “Well, my toe is. I bashed it putting one of the cannar out of its misery. It had broken its legs.”
“That was your fault, Anax,” said his sister, Illox. “What were doing with that piece of glass, anyways?”
“Please, Illox,” said his mother. “He doesn’t need to hear that right now.”
“She’s right,” said Balta, who was standing nearby with a sneer on his face. “You ruined the Hunt, Anaxis.”
“Balta, please,” said Jora. “We’re just happy he’s alive.”
“Well we’re all going to be hungry this year because of his stupid science project,” Balta said.
“Balta, that’s enough,” said Valaxis.
Balta snorted and kicked the sand. “I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking,” he said.
“I’m sorry, everyone,” Anaxis announced to the crowd. “I’ve had nothing but time to think about how foolish I was. I’m truly sorry.”
“Sorry isn’t going to feed us,” mumbled one of the elders.
“The boy was lost and scared for days,” Jora said. “We should all be happy he is safe.”
The crowd murmured.
“I’m truly sorry,” Anaxis said, “But I have to tell you all, I saw the strangest thing in the desert!”
“What did you see, son?” Valaxis asked as he ran his hand over Anaxis’s mussed hair.
“I thought it was a meteorite, but it wasn’t!” Anaxis said. “It’s… it’s some sort of ship, or something, that fell from the sky!”
“What are you talking about now, you weirdo?” Balta asked.
“I don’t even know myself, Balta, but it’s metallic, and it fell from way high up in the sky, and there were animals in it, almost like us, but without any hair, and pale, and they were dead, I think, but I didn’t have the nerve to touch them. But I know just where the wreckage is. We have to go back and investigate it!”
Some in the crowd started to chuckle, while others grew more visibly upset.
“Anaxis,” his mother said, taking him into her arms, “You were out in that heat for a long time…”
“No, Mom, I know,” Anaxis said, breaking free of her embrace, “But I know what I saw! It’s still there, for sure, I can show you all! We have to make a trip there!”
“Sounds like a hallucination at best, or Gnirean witchcraft at worst,” said another of the elders. “And with less food in our stores than there should be, we couldn’t afford such a wasteful endeavor.”
“No, listen,” Anaxis said, looking around and the scornful faces of the villagers. “We have to! The wreckage had such bizarre implements inside, and they were glowing, like a fire, but not, it was absolutely amazing!”
“Come on, Anax,” Caraxis said. “We all came out here to look for you. Can’t you take it easy on the nonsense for a little bit?”
Anaxis stared at his brother in disbelief, then turned to see the same in the eyes of nearly all the others gathered.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen…”
“I’m sorry, Anaxis,” said another of the elders. “We’re glad you are alive, but we are rather cross at you for ruining the Hunt for the village this year. You have increased our hardship tenfold. The sun is glaring. We must return to the shade, to the village. We have no more time to listen to your wild stories.”
“But…” Anaxis began.
“Shhh,” his mother said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Not now, Anaxis. Please help us gather up the rope so that we can go home.”
“Mom? Dad? Illox, Caraxis? Don’t you believe me?” he begged.
“Sorry, Anax,” Illox said. “Let’s go home, okay?”
The crowd started to head back to the village, cursing Anaxis in low tones and shooting him angry looks. He was left standing on the edge of the cliff, unable to believe his news had been met with such disinterest and disdain.
“Hey, buddy,” Mills said, coming over to his friend.
“Mills… you believe me, don’t you?” Anaxis asked.
“Sure I do, Anax. But what does it really matter, anyways?”
“What… what… what does it matter?” Anaxis sputtered. “Beings fell from the sky!”
“We can’t eat them, Anax,” Mills said.
“You too, Mills?”
“Come on, friend,” Mills said. “Let’s go home. We can tell Xara about it, I’m sure she’ll be interested. Come on.”
Anaxis watched Mills start to turn away, as tears filled his eyes. He looked down at the bread his father had given him, then back at the white-sand desert stretching out from the river below.
“Well I’m going back even if no one else will go with me,” he said to himself.