We hear the static first. It echoes down from the sky, sizzling and snapping in our ears. We shake our heads, all fifteen of them, to make it go away, but it will not stop. Instead, it follows us into the mouths of caves and across the long white expanse of our home. We escape deep into the tunnels we have dug under the surface, places we hide from the sun when it is too hot.
But we cannot hide forever — we begin to miss the sun on our backs, trapped in the cool stone that stretches on and on in darkness, and return to the surface and the static.
We are forced to endure the way it disrupts the still quiet of the planet, the way it adds its noise to the scraping as we move across the surface, pulling with our arms, pushing with our legs. Sometimes, when we sleep, the static is familiar. It reminds us of things long past, small boxes with thin metal rods poking towards the sky. Catching different static back then, turning it into something we listened to with joy.
But we don’t know where to find a static-catching box, and thinking on dreams hurts our heads.
So we ignore the whine and buzz in our ears the same way we ignore the hunger in our belly. Pretend it isn’t there, that we do not care about it, hiding in the tunnels only when it is too unbearable to listen.
Then, it changes.
The static becomes sound spoken by mouths and throats, calling back and forth in crackly, rough voices. It reminds us of when we used our mouths and throats, when we spoke to each other as separate things.
We burrow deeper into the earth, fill our mouths and bellies with stones that will never sate our hunger, but the signal is stronger now, and no matter how deep we go, we can no longer escape it.
The voices bring back things we had banished from our dreams: great rising cities of steel that cut wide swathes across the white surface of our homeland; the confusing, scattered time when we were all separate, our memories overlapping; the small thing with teeth that tunneled beneath our skin, hurting and burning and taking until we found one another and became whole again. We are reminded of the first time we burrowed into the ground and filled our mouths with stones, hurt for reasons we could not explain as we watched great ships throw themselves away from home and towards the planet that hung in the sky like a raindrop frozen mid-fall.
One day we wake, and the voices are so loud they feel as though they are right next to us, shouting in our ears. We follow them, irritated, across a long stretch of barren white land, until it feels as though their voices are coming from right above us.
We look up and see the ship. It is very small, like a star in the sky, but it is coming towards us from the raindrop. We watch it for a long time, until it feels too close.
Then we hide in a nearby tunnel and watch.
Eventually, the ship is so close it must stop moving, so it tilts, puts down little legs, and stops on our home with a puff of dust. Then the front opens and a creature steps out. The creature is small and white, and its head is covered by a perfectly round orb that reflects the light into some of our eyes. But it moves as though, underneath all that fat and white and glass, it is like us. A body.
It has been a long time since we have eaten something that was not stone.
We creep towards it slowly, hiding behind rocks and then the ship. The creature does not notice us — it is so busy jumping around and picking up rocks, slipping them into some unseen pouch.
We like rocks, too.
When it finally does see us, it is too late. The creature tries to jump away, but its movements are unsteady, uncoordinated, and we quickly get hands around its limbs.
The creature screams as we try to bite through the strange white skin it wears. Our teeth are flat, and our nails are worn and cracked, but we have many of them and so much time. We scratch across the orb on its head and pull at the strange tubes that snake around its body. The creature shouts, yells out to the static, which yells back until one of our hands pulls at the boxes on the creature’s back. The static cuts off abruptly, leaving us in beautiful silence.
Once the strange white covering has been broken, we sink our teeth into the soft body hiding inside, biting, tearing, eating it quickly. The creature is fatty and delicious and stains our mouths red. For the first time in so long, we are full.
Later, lying in the shade of one of our caves, sucking marrow from bones, we watch the strange ship, waiting for it to do something. But it is quiet and lonely. Empty.
This time, when we sleep, the creature’s memories have caught in our belly and give us new things to dream about: places saturated in blues and greens and browns. They also bring sorrow and a longing to return to places full of life, full of noise and vibrant colours.
We burrow deep into the earth, make a new series of tunnels to try and drag ourselves away from the feeling, heavy like a cave-in on top of us.
Until one day we wake and hear static, ever so faintly, whisper around us.
We crawl back to the surface and eagerly wait for the voices.