The End of Their Ways by George Allen Miller

A tribe bombarded by a mysterious force from the skies must adapt to survive; by George Allen Miller.

Finally, the madness ended. An ache filled Garuch's mind from the onslaught of images that had bombarded the village. Around him, the tribesmen shook themselves in the wake of the terrible storm. He helped as many as he could to their feet. They were weak now but each one managed to stand with his help. Garuch took a deep breath and remembered the old tree deep in the woods where he played when a child. Thoughts of running along the stream and chasing fish in the water filled his mind and made him smile. With all his strength he pushed those memories, thoughts and feelings outward. The people heard him, some smiled, some cried, but all shared the warmth and pushed the feeling of calm outward to the next.

"Garuch, I would speak with you."

Heads spun and Garuch's feelings of warmth ended the second the sound pierced the air. Behind them all, standing alone in the doorway of her home, the old crone, Merduch, the elder, she who had witnessed the dawn of time and laughed when the mountain fell, stood proud and strong. She bore her gaze into Garuch's skull, nodded once and turned into her house leaving the stunned crowd in silence.

Garuch lifted the last of his people to their feet and marched to the old crone's doorway. He flung the door open and burst into the home. Old metal hinges broke as the wood crashed into the wall. Splinters scattered on the floor and several of the boards snapped and cracked. Garuch let his anger flow out of him and flung it inside the home.

Merduch sat in a chair rocking back and forth with a strange object in her hands. Deep wrinkles etched their way through her rough thick gray skin, each one a testament to her ancient age.

"You'll fix my door when we're done." Merduch puffed from a pipe. Smoke rose upwards cobweb covered rafters. Tables, with a dozen different items half of which Garuch could not identify, lined the walls.

Garuch remembered the day when his father taught him to hunt. The method was complex and Garuch did not understand. Even after hours of lessons, the process was beyond the mind of one so young. Frustration, confusion and a feeling of disappointment filled his mind and his heart. Garuch inhaled once and sent the feeling of that day, combined with images of Merduch speaking just moments before, outward.

"Yes, yes, I know you don't understand. Stop sending your thoughts to me. We must learn to make the words like the demons from above." She pointed to the heavens, let out a snort and spat twice on the ground.

Garuch shook his head and grunted.

Merduch laughed. "You don't even have to send that feeling, Garuch. It's obvious." She stood up from her chair and walked across the room with the strange object clutched tight in her hands. She reached out led Garuch to a chair opposite her own.

"It's not hard to make the sound. We know the words. They have sent their message long enough that we can speak it now."

"No." Garuch said. He startled himself that the word came so easy. He had not intended to speak but the action came without thought. He shook his head and twisted his hands together in pain. The damn old crone had made him do it. He might as well leave the tribe and eat the flesh off dead beasts in the field.

"Don't be so foolish, Garuch. Making sounds is a physical action. Do you lament our ability to make tools? Homes? Clothes? We must grow as a people. We must change or the aliens will kills us all."

"Aliens?" Garuch said. With each new word a further sense of dread filled his mind. He pushed his pain outward but Merduch waved him away as if he were a petulant child.

"Yes, it is what they are. That is the difference between us, Garuch. You fight the images. I watched and listened. And I know how to make it stop."

Garuch sat forward and his eyes drilled into Merduch's. Saving his people was more important than making the sounds of animals. "How?"

Merduch lifted the object in her hand and handed it to Garuch. He turned and twisted the strange thing several times. It was rounded like a bowl and had two small raised areas on the bottom like feet. Garuch recognized the material. The dull gray metal came from the eastern mountain where it was mined by the hill tribes. This must have been what Taluch, the maker, had been doing all those nights next to his furnace.

The room filled with feelings of fear. Garuch rose to his feet and looked out the open doorway. The people were scared and their feelings spread through the village like wildfire. Garuch reached inward and felt the message from the sky was coming back. Barely any time had passed for the people to recover from the last.

"Put it on, Garuch."

Garuch looked to Merduch and down to the metal bowl. What did she mean put it on? Put it on where? He looked to her and shrugged.

Merduch, for the first time that day, reached her mind out to Garuch. He felt her impossible age and her worry for the tribe. She had been guiding the people since she was as young as the newborn day and she only meant for the best, for the people to be safe. In that moment, Garuch knew how she had learned the alien's ways and how their message hurt the people. And in that moment he knew exactly the purpose of the metal that was not a bowl.

"No!" Garuch kicked the bowl and it rolled away to the far wall.

"We have no choice! Do we die?" Merduch stepped closer and pushed Garuch in the chest.

A tiny, scared, and beautiful feeling filled the room. Garuch turned to see his daughter, Saltuch, standing beside the broken door. She was barely three feet tall and her big brown eyes looked to her father for protection that he could not give. Her arms wrapped around her torso and her tiny body shivered in anticipation of the message from the sky.

"Another way," Garuch said.

"What way? Soon they will never stop their images, words and endless stream of their history. Then what? We'll all die in the dirt holding our heads and begging for mercy from beings that do not care and cannot hear us." Merduch looked into Garuch's eyes. "Will you let your own daughter die?"

Garuch felt his shoulders fall. She was right, of course. If the choice was death or life, then it's not really a choice. He walked to the far wall and picked up the dull grey metal object. The message from above had become more frequent. At first, it was only once a day. Now, it was all the time. Soon the ugly creature would be back and belch his sounds with his pathetic brown grass blowing on his bulbous head. But this time, perhaps, his people wouldn't have to suffer. Garuch placed the metal object onto his head, over the two buds behind his brow and he was thrust into silence. His daughter, his people, and the entire tribe, even Merduch, he could not feel any of them. Garuch found himself surrounded by total emptiness of feeling and a different fear rose from deep in his mind.

Garuch pointed to the object. "More."

"There are enough." Marduch lowered her head and turned to walk back to another room in her home.

Garuch took the metal object off of his head and placed it on his daughter's. He could not bear to see her in pain. He lifted her in his lower arms and hooked his claws onto her carapace. Saltuch, his beloved child, hooked both sets of her arms into Garuch's thick skin. With his upper arms he stroked her head plate and tried to reassure her with his love that he knew she couldn't feel.

If Merduch was right, and of course she was, this would be the last time he would feel the creatures that called themselves human. And the last time he would ever feel the love of his daughter again. The squishy ugly creature with grass on his head began his talk.

"Greetings! My name is Doctor Richard S. Wittle with the Large Earth Radio Telescope. We detected non-random radio signals from your solar system and we are responding with a high-powered tight beam broadcast, aimed directly, we hope, at your planet. What follows is our history, culture, and who we are. We look forward to hearing your reply and becoming friends!"


  1. A challenging array of ideas and images are covered in a short piece and they are well integrated in the evocation of this strange world.The scenes demand emotional engagement from the reader. I enjoyed reading the story and was left with further questions, as is the way with good short stories,
    thank you,

  2. this, for me, is like a commentary on the way we are going. not content with doing untold damage to our own planet we are reaching out to ' become friends' with other 'civilisations' and then the pattern will repeat itself.
    as Ceinwen you have conveyed a lot in a short piece.
    well done

    Mike McC

  3. Ideas expressed are strange but appear to be true. This is the power of writing. I got fresh ideas and yes, I do agree with Ceinwen and Mike. The ending is, somewhat inconclusive, hence leaves behind some questions and imaginations on reader's mind.
    Well done