I have always lived a humble life, even before the humans forced me into submission. I was an Envoy to the Deities, responsible for consulting the Fountain of Ancients in which the Forebears reside. In my meditative state I could commune with the Forebears who, in their infinite wisdom, have access to the Well of Insight where it is spoken that every future possibility can be perceived. Also in my duties I relayed the messages of the people to the Deities who, as powerful as they are, by Ancient Laws set by the Dreamer himself, cannot intervene with Onsaii affairs unless asked, and only the Winged can perform this sacred ritual.
Perhaps the most sorrowful duty that it was my obligation to perform was assisting in the Lamentation Ritual. Unlike humans, Onsai do not cry. Our aversion to salt water is an unfortunate weakness, and there have been numerous cases where the humans have used it for their own amusement. Whips coated in salt water are a popular means of punishment, I myself having scars laced across my back.
Crying, also, is something that humans have a tendency to conceal or prevent, as though it is a sign of weakness. It would appear to me as though it is fashionable among them that they should be emotionless machines with no care or devotion to their own.
The Onsaii Lament, however, is the most hauntingly beautiful expression of grief in any creature that it has been my privilege to witness - though I may be somewhat biased.
Onsai are very different to humans. Our skin is ivory in colour, with hues of soft azure and lilac. Our hair is turquoise, a colour that the humans cannot reproduce naturally. There are those among us that have been blessed with the gift of white feathered wings. These are the few who have the capacity to become an Envoy, though it is not compulsory and requires rigorous and vicious training, which is certainly not for the weak-willed.
When the humans began their cruel slavery routine the Winged were in high demand, as we are regarded as being somehow rarer and therefore more treasurable. Onsai, in particular the Envoys, are naturally of a peaceful nature, unlike the gluttonous humans. This led to a massacre in the beginning, before they deemed us useful for manual labour.
Despite their natural inclination toward materialistic values, not all humans conform to the stereotype. The first settlers certainly were kind to us.
It was on a flushed dawn in the bloom season that they first set foot on our world. They had sent many scouts over our part of the Land, so by this time we were used to the noise of machinery. Thanks to the guidance of the Forebears, I had managed to calm the initial panic and reassure the Onsai of my village that they were merely here to observe.
I have always woken before the dawn, even in my early childhood. Its soft purples are more pleasing to me than the more favoured harsh amber of the dusk.
I was in the herb garden upon their arrival - harvesting fresh Ponyu to treat an infection that blossomed in the wound of the village's chief hut-builder. The StarGlider began as the scouts did, with no more noise than an ill Firaplex, but it did not pass overhead as the others did. It plunged from the sky at a frightening speed, appearing to expand all the way. Then it began to slow, landing not far from where I was. I raced to reach it. I thought it was sent by the Deities.
From the StarGlider a young human woman emerged, with honey-coloured skin and fiery curly locks, her bright green eyes gleaming in the rising sun. We stared at each other with uninhibited awe.
"Wee didduhnt pikk yoo upp onn owuh heet skannuhz. Yoo muhst bee uh cohld bluhddehd speesheez." She said to herself. I flashed her a grin. Hesitantly she grinned back and I pulled her into an embrace. She was so warm. In Onsaii culture it is common to hug someone as a form of physical greeting but, being human, she was shocked at this. But she didn't pull away. In fact, she held me even tighter.
After a moon, we came to understand each other fairly well. She spoke a little Onsai, although her human vocal chords struggled with a lot of the sounds, and I was quite used to speaking basic English. However, the rest of the village had no knowledge of their existence. I was frightened that they wouldn't be able to understand human culture.
The human's name was Willow, which she told me sounded beautiful in my Onsaii accent. She was very kind and an expert in plants and animals, which made her the perfect candidate for one of the first settlers as she could study the local flora and fauna and figure out which were safest to eat.
There were only a handful of others who had come to the Land. Among these was a grumpy but soft-hearted hulking geologist, Lorenz, as well as two farmers, Rain and Sol. Their families were there and others too, though many did not seem to wish to commune with me.
I entrusted to the settlers the Yoban Region of the Land, in which there were too many salt-water lakes nearby for the Onsai to feel safe. Willow acted as a go-between and often studied the Ceremonies I performed from a concealed spot I had set up. Sometimes I visited their settlement to see how they were doing, but the villagers were anxious when I was away so I could not be there for more than a day or two.
I miss those days.
I didn't know. Not until many moons later. I hadn't been able to reach the settlement lately and Willow was the only one who could travel between them, as the rest were too concerned with their duties. She kept me updated on all of them. There were some newborns and Lorenz's son had decided to be a geologist too. The other humans hadn't arrived yet, despite the constant attempts to communicate with them.
I didn't have any visitors at the time. Most villagers were participating in the Sukayio Festival, the one day in a millennium in which the Onsai can speak with the Deities without the assistance of the Envoys. This, regrettably, was the one holy rite that I could have no involvement with. I wasn't even allowed to observe. Willow had not been to the Temple in a week or two, which was not unusual, especially recently. It seemed to be taking her longer to get around.
Sol burst into the room with no care for whether or not I was alone. For the first time, I noted how his dark brown hair was streaked through with silver.
"Sol," I spoke calmly, for it was plain to see the panic in his eyes, "Please take more care. I could have been in a Ceremony or with a villager. You know they will not trust you as readily as I -"
"My God, she was right." He breathed, panting heavily. "You haven't aged a day." I furrowed my brow.
"Sol, please, I don't know what -"
"Can you not see?! These grey streaks in my hair, you think I want them?! Why is it that you, you get to live for so long while we wither away and die?" He collapsed onto the floor in a sobbing heap.
He was the only one left.
Willow told me tales of babies, laughter, merriment.
They were dying of starvation and old age.
I can't believe I never noticed how she was fading away.
Becoming smaller and more wrinkled every time I saw her.
I would have happily taken her place.
So it comes to today. The day that I free my species and my life force is released to the Deities. May they bless Mama and Granaem in their unrestricted lives.
I tremble with fear. I only volunteered so that they wouldn't force anyone else. Especially my brother. Some suppose that it was brave of me, but wouldn't anyone else do the same to save their own family? Mama is in floods of tears now that the time has come, though she'd never admit it. She is a proud woman and strong. I know she will be okay.
The spy looks thrilled. I'm not supposed to know of him, but I recognise him. He originates from Kappa, or rather New America as it's been named now, where they are of the school of thought that we should be wiped out completely. We used to live there, before we were lucky enough to escape the massacres. He makes me feel uneasy. I don't know why he's here. I get the feeling he's changed something about the machine, to make it different from the original plan. Please, Deities, let Mama and Granaem be alright.
I step into the machine. The machine that will kill me. I'm not supposed to know of that either, but people tend to let such things slip when they believe you are too stupid to understand.
The door slides shut and a strange calm washes over me. I will sacrifice myself. For the sake of my brother. He has been through too much for such a young boy. For the sake of my Mama. She has been separated from Granaem for too long. For the sake of my species. We have to repair the damage done by the humans. For the sake of myself. I need to join the one I love, with the Deities.
After what seems an age, a violent shaking lurches me around, smacking me against the walls of the machine. I cover my head with my wings however I can do naught for the rest of my already battered form.
Then it begins. A ferocious, wrenching pain all over my body, as though I am dying again and again. The machine has ceased its motions, or perhaps I just can't feel them now, for my lithe frame is wracked with harsh, wordless screeches. A pain so potent I can no longer tell whether I am lamenting or blood is spurting from my mouth.
"Let me out!" I scream, over and over, my voice becoming hoarse. For though I know that it's hopeless, some tiny part of me is of the delusion that if I scream loud enough then they'll halt the machine, let me out and I can return to my family. That today is not the day I die.
I awake on the floor of the machine. With weak limbs, I make a feeble attempt to rise, but it's to no avail.
I sit there for who knows how long, hunched over, willing myself to stand.
I shove my shoulder against the door. Somehow, I manage to heave it open.
I stumble out and lie on the ground, my eyes closed.
Not even the faintest whisper of wind.
"Mama . . . Granaem . . ." I croak, craving warm, tender arms to hold me.
But none come.
Finally, I manage to haul myself upright. My legs feel weak and my wings bruised, but I am alive.
I blearily succeed in prising open my swollen eyelids, but am blinded by the light for a few moments.
I fall to my knees, clutching my chest.
I let a scream rip through me.
No one is there to hear.
Not one hoped-for tear is in my eyes for the lifeless dust before me.
I dream of her.
My sweet love.
A weeping Willow in a field of dead grass.