Los Querubines del Mar (pt 2)

The Queru were discovered, among many new species, during the Universal Migration. When it became obvious that climate change was not manageable with Earth’s ballooning population; planet production, discovery and upgrading become big business, and within 50 years everyone who wanted off Earth got off.  Although people were supposedly free to move anywhere, most chose to move to the planet their native country sponsored. Not only was it cheaper and less legalistic, but people, being people, preferred to continue living in a place where they would not have to adjust to a new language and culture along with a 10 hour day or a three mooned sky.

Queru inhabited Nueva Luz. All new life forms were initially called “aliens”, technically an absurdly unfair characterization, as we were the foreigners in the worlds we took over. Nueva Luz, named for its color and its promise, was claimed by Spain when they discovered it in 345 NC (New Cycle). It shone a blazing golden yellow due to the chemical composition of its surrounding gasses.

Because its color implied overwhelming heat and its proximity to its galaxy’s primary star, previous explorers had bypassed it, believing it uninhabitable.

In reality, it is an incredibly healthy planet. 80% of its surface is covered by water and most of the landmasses congregate around its equator, which contributes to its astounding, immensely developed sea- and tropical life. To date no poisonous animals or plants have been discovered and all discovered life forms rely on photosynthesis or vegetation for sustenance. It is an impossibly peaceful planet.

The Queru got so much attention initially because of their humanoid characteristics, but they soon proved an object of fascinating study in many ways. Most similar to Earth’s dolphins, they are friendly and playful. They seemed able to understand us, but we were never able to communicate with them. The Queru life span, which maxes out at five months and averages closer to three, make Queru reproduction and development both subjects of hot debate among scholars. Neither seems to exist for the species. Rather, Queru seem to regenerate through splitting.

After three or four months of life, when it is arguably in its “prime”, the creature seems to consciously decide that it has lived long enough. It grows increasingly exuberant. Its energy levels increase until its body begins to vibrate constantly of its own accord. After a day (roughly 32 hours on Nueva Luz) of this the Queru stops. Two Queru, identical in feature but varied slightly in vibrancy of color, are then visible. After two or three hours the parent dissolves, seemingly into nothing. Despite the most in-depth research, no one can figure out how a complex, multi-celled organism manages to perfectly divide itself into two complete wholes or how the adult disappears without a trace.

Occasionally Los Querubines, when sensing that their population is low, will spawn three or four duplicates upon their deaths. The process expends huge amounts of energy, though, and the parent always expires after the fourth child. The fourth child is also usually an imperfect copy, usually characterized by an elongated face, blotchy skin, sharper teeth, a greater likelihood of being despondent or aggressive, and a refusal to split at the usual 3-5 month marker, seemingly out of fear of death. They are also not usable for consumption. Several human deaths were reported when fluids or meat from this subspecies accidentally got on the market.

Initially researches claimed that the Queru had previously controlled the subspecies, called El Harén del Diablo, like slaves or pets. Until they were studied rigorously no one actually believed that the two creatures were related at all because they were so impossibly different.

It is painfully obvious where this story is headed.

We were greedy.

Not only did Queru heal our every illness, they also made us fabulously wealthy.

We would have worshipped them if we weren’t so busy slaughtering them.

Eventually statutes were put into place. Only licensed boats could fish and only during a certain part of the year. Licenses were impossible to come by without the most intricate chain of connections and even then, a bribe the size of a small planet was usually involved.

Repopulation was vital. Queru-farms were created, but their populations always died or morphed into Harén within a year. Everything we tried to do to save them only killed them faster. We were like children grasping at the miracle of bubbles, wide-eyed and open handed. We could not understand that it was our touch alone that made the slight popping noise and emptied the space in front of us.

Scientists worked madly to figure out how to duplicate the Queru, how to grow them in petri dishes, how to copy and recreate any part of them. But we were aliens and every starting point that was a standard on Earth was folly on Nueva Luz.

Queru only work whole. If one becomes imperfect it dissolves.

And then its nearest companion begins to vibrate.

For six generations, across 3 galaxies and on innumerable planets, we saved ourselves. The blood of innocents kept our cheeks rosy and our breath even. Through the minds of watery children we achieved bliss and mental youth. For six generations.

Our children are susceptible to disease. We watch their skin turn pink and sweat drip down their foreheads.  We listen to them cry and observe as they clutch their stomachs and heads in pain. We don’t know what to do.

We have only ever known one remedy.

No Queru swim into our nets. No Queru are sighted from shore. No Queru bob along the tops of the waves in the middle of either ocean. We sound the depths and they ring up empty of the perfect half-children. Our satellites cannot find them on the ocean’s surface. Neither can we.

Some people claim, with the fear all too clear in their eyes, that the Queru will return one day. That they are repopulating on the bottom of the ocean, taking their time so their faces will stay round and their skin will stay smooth. One day, hundreds of tiny heads and arms will emerge from the deep, bearing sea-flowers of every color, like tiny sheep offering themselves for a massive sacrifice. Their voices will ring out like underwater bells and chimes, muted and silver.

This is what legends are made of.

Reality is made of the increasing hordes of Harén who haunt the shallows.

They glare in our direction.

Their groundless hate is palpable.

Their tiny brows furrow whenever we draw near to the water.

Their generations are passing, too quickly for our comfort, and as they do they change. Gills are fading away from their ribcages. Harén fins slowly split in two and their skin wrinkles as it ages. They groan in the dark and squirm uncomfortably against each other. Infants have joined their midst. They sharpen sticks and play with fire and powders that burn and crackle, always with one eye on our homes, our children. And they don’t vibrate with joy at the end. They cry and scream and grasp their children by their throats and spouses by the hair, begging for two more seconds of air, one more day of hate and pain and suffering.

Once upon a time, the Queru were forced to give their everything to us and we consumed them.

Now they are have become us and they want our blood as we once wanted theirs.


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