Zeth stepped carefully under the cover of night as the menacing shadow flew behind the trees of the deep oasis. His hand tightly squeezed the spear in his hand, ready to strike the predator at any moment. The hairs on his back stood on end to sense any shift in the wind, and his ears perked for the slightest rustling of grass. In such a black night, eyes were all but useless. Zeth sniffed the air and caught a foul smell from the lurking shadow, not unlike the fetid, yellow rocks that dot the desert.
He continued slowly along the oasis until his feet tread over something peculiar: A circle of deliberately placed stones surrounding a pile of sticks and leaves. As Zeth knelt down to examine it with his hand, a cold, mighty wind blew past, and he jumped backward in primal fear. The shadow had flung itself directly behind the stone circle, looming over Zeth with a malicious presence. Zeth crept back, aiming his spear at the shadow, primed to thrust at the obfuscated creature. It made no sound, nor did it advance at all towards him; merely hovering there in silence.
Suddenly, a great spark cracked from the sky, crashing to the ground, and set the wood within the circle ablaze. Zeth jumped away in a panic, then quickly spun back around, aiming his spear once again. He was paralyzed by the sight of the creature, now illuminated by the circle which was set ablaze. It was an amorphous black mist that reminded him of a small, swirling sandstorm. As soon as Zeth caught sight of it, however, it dissipated all at once, leaving a flickering fire, isolated by the stones.
Zeth was fascinated by the fire, which the stones kept from spreading wildly among the trees. Then, inspiration came, like an invasive thought crawling into his mind. He broke off a branch from a tree and fastened loose foliage onto the end of it. Zeth gingerly extended the branch toward the fire, allowing the tip to become engulfed. The fire which caught on the torch frightened him at first, fearing it would seek out and burn his hand, but to his amazement, it burned steadily and warmly.
When the sulfurous smell from the shadow had finally gone, Zeth picked up another scent; something familiar and decadent. He aimed the torch in its direction and shone the dim light on a predatory beast, prowling on all fours, snarling with hunger. It was a black pelted beast with a thin, forked tail, tall ears which could listen for miles, and a drooping snout housing dozens of sharp teeth. Both Zeth and the canid beast poised to strike with spear in hand and gnashing teeth respectively.
In a swift motion, the beast pounced, but Zeth punctured its flank with his spear. With a yelp of pain, it clamped its jaws onto Zeth's spear arm, loosening his grip. He fell on his back by the weight of the beast, claws scratching at his chest. Torch still in his hand, Zeth pressed the flame into the beast's neck. It released his arm and staggered away from the burn, though Zeth continued his assault, bearing the torch harder into its neck. The beast struggled, but continued to snap its jaws at Zeth's face. Once more, a thought invaded his mind: It cannot bite without a jaw. Though the idea came into his mind, Zeth knew the thought was not his own. Regardless, he felt compelled to the action with renewed strength in his wounded arm. Zeth placed his knee on the beast's chest, dropped the torch, and forcefully ripped open its jaws with his bare hands.
The blood pouring into the ground reflected the torchlight, still burning. Although he was triumphant, Zeth trembled at the sight in disbelief of what his hands had done. His fingers were wet with blood, pierced from where the beast's teeth dug inside. He hardly had strength left to retrieve his torch, but his brother and sister would need the precious meat to survive. Osiir, his brother, was sickly when Zeth left for the hunt, and if he were to return empty-handed, Osiir would surely perish. With trembling hands, he reached for the legs of the creature, intent on slinging the body over his shoulder. The fur pricked the tears in his flesh and Zeth grunted in frustration, pacing in thought.
A cold wind blew again, extinguishing the torch, leaving only the campfire to light the area. Zeth darted his vision at the corpse, which was being consumed by the shadow which had earlier escaped. The black mist enveloped the beast both inside and out, causing it to twitch and contort. Its limbs twisted into unimaginable shapes, compacting into tighter dimensions. The shadow tore the flesh clean from the beast's skin, morphing only a muscular frame with a single broken jaw dangling from the neck. Bone crunched and snapped until the beast's entire body all but disappeared into a dense, black singularity, pulling Zeth and all the surrounding trees into it by a mighty wind.
Then, in a single instant, it stopped, suddenly growing into a strange shape which Zeth had never seen before. It was rectangular and as wide as his chest, yet compact enough that he could lift it with two hands. Zeth, still dumbstruck in wonder and awe, brought the shape near the firelight. He found that the tome opened at its seams, revealing hundreds of thin layers which all turned in the same direction. The pages, all held together in its thick, leathery binding, contained symbols and scribbles incomprehensible to Zeth, yet as he admired the artistry, he began to understand their meaning. Its messages came, not from deciphering of the markings, but as whispers in his mind, much like the invasive thoughts during his battle with the beast.
Visions flashed before Zeth's mind and secrets he never knew possible were learned. He saw communication between his kinsmen in deliberate vocalization; carving of such language into symbols by stone on clay; endless fields of crops, watered by a great river, feeding entire civilizations; great structures of stone which housed great monarchs; weapons more deadly than the spear that spit fire at lightning speed; machinations of man that soared through the air like birds; a cosmos that stretched out for an eternity; planets which grew life more alien than he could imagine; magic secrets of wielding life, gravity, and even time.
Lastly, Zeth was given a premonition: Four creatures, similar to he and his kinsmen, tearing through the empty void of space. They arrive on a planet teaming with life, and with technological superiority, rule that planet as gods. And the journey had already begun the moment Zeth lit his torch in the shadow's fire. He had stolen the flame from this Whisperer of Secrets, and in return, it had stolen the food from Osiir to satiate Zeth's appetite for knowledge.
Zeth closed the tome, no longer afraid, now filled with confidence and understanding. All the secrets of the universe held in his mind. He would return home to share this knowledge with his sister, Yizs, though he would require a light to find his way. Zeth took the discarded beast pelt and draped it over his back, letting its face hang atop his head. He knelt by the fire with the tome tucked safely under his arm. With his free hand, he waved over the crackling flame, then swiftly swept it out from the wood and stone. The fire continued to burn steadily above Zeth's open palm. His fingers motioned for the fire to dance, twirling in circles, expanding and contracting. He played with it like a new toy, amused by his own power.
As Zeth started off on his journey for home, the Whisperer of Secrets flew out from the shadow of the trees, up toward the empty void of space. It was curious to see what might come of this enigmatic species now that all had been revealed. Only a single message was whispered across the cosmos to any of its fellows that might hear: "Behold, man has become like one of Us."
Written by RCainTales