Author’s Note: So, the alien refused to be quiet. I was just going to leave the selection for the day as the other bit, but he wanted to go on with his story. He was rather insistent on it.
The region of space known as the barrens had not been so devoid of life in the past. When he visited before, it had teemed with more life than filled the planet of humans at its most dense. This place had been a solar system full of advanced beings, races now lost and unremembered. This was the site of one of the worst massacres known to the universe, one of the reasons that his kind were as feared and hated as they were.
He came often, always reminding himself of what his kind was capable of. With no parent to guide him or any of what might be called his siblings, the first arrival of hunger could be devastating. The need to rid themselves of that feeling, the euphoria that followed be sated, it all led one of them to give in to the next call of the hunger, over and over until there was nothing left at all.
Once he had stood in a lush, fertile valley with an ecosystem just beginning to develop. He had not understood what he was then, and when he did… He stood over a crevice that plunged deep toward the very core of the planet, a crack that split the ground, leaving it almost forever scarred by his actions. No life would grow there again, not the blades of grass or the trees he’d been admiring when he first felt hungry.
That world was gone, too, though he could not remember having finished its destruction. He should know if he had, and he wanted to believe that it had not been him, but that did not mean that he was blameless. He was not.
His gaze returned to the nothingness before him. He could harm no one here. He could not consume anything. The barrens was empty. Nothing remained within its boundaries to be consumed.
The being that had done this could have gone on to destroy the rest of the galaxy or even the universe, so mad with hunger as it had been, and it would not have stopped on its own.
“We are monsters,” he said, looking out at the emptiness before him. He missed the smells of the fourth planet from the sun—the strange looking fruits that made all the rodents so happy when they managed to eat one, rushing about, scurrying here then there and back again. He missed the marketplace where everyone talked at once.
Once he had thought all he needed was that one world. He’d lived there in peace for long enough to fool himself. He thought of the way he had passed one day and then another without needing to feed. The world had been so nice for that.
He should have perished with the rest of them, but he was too much like the one who had found the fifth planet, taking it and so many other things with it before he realized what was happening around them.
He could not save them. He would not have known how, even if he had not been as trapped by the pull as they were.
Two hungers, two feedings…
He lowered his head. He had sworn, after his first feeding destroyed so much, that he would never allow that to happen again, but he’d lost control when he felt the pull on him—he knew what it was having directed his hunger against himself many times—and his own hunger had answered in kind.
How much of the barrens had been lost to him and how much to the other, he could not be certain. He had no way of knowing. His species was possessed of an endless capacity for destruction, and once fed, all they were aware of was the need for more food. He did not believe the other knew much of what it was like to employ restraint.
The other had not wanted to stop.
Nor, to be honest, had he.
Now the barrens stretched across space, a blight and a void, a place that most travelers bypassed if they could for it attempted to kill all hope within them. That desolation haunted those that passed through it. He did not avoid it as many did.
This was his doing, at least in part. His failure. After the valley, he’d sworn that this would not again, but it had. He’d been careful, so careful, but one little boy and his ball had almost ruined everything. This could have happened again.
He should stay here, always, stay in place where he could do no harm to anyone. He would, if not for the hunger. The feeling would become too intense for him to resist, and he had to distract himself. That was why he’d tried to stay among the humans. They had the same sort of curiosities to explore as that fourth planet had once held.
He would like to return, but he did not know that he dared. Another trip to the human world might result in another area like the barrens.
If he were capable of tears, he would have shed them for this place and the many lives that had been destroyed by the hunger of the vortex.
He was not capable of tears.