I heard it first as a shrill, piercing sound in the back of my head; like an eagle flying far overhead. Then, it grew louder, and I looked up from the mass of crabs in the basket. I glanced briefly at everyone around me. They all remained unperturbed. In fact, it seems they didn’t hear anything. Had they all suddenly gone deaf?
My dog, Amoxtli (“protection” in my native Náhuatl), was the only other one to notice. He was trembling; his yellow-gold eyes spiraling in fear.
I turned again to the sky again. Something came roaring from the east; from beyond the mountains and over the buildings of the town. It streaked overhead – a whitish glow that left a deep orange ribbon against the pre-dawn blueness.
Amoxtli started moaning. He was genuinely scared – and he didn’t frighten easily.
What was that? A star? It couldn’t have been a bird. The orange ribbon started to deepen in color, and I thought it would fade. But then, it began turning red. Blood red.
I swallowed hard, and my heart was pounding.
Amoxtli was reaching towards me with a paw. ‘Please hold me,’ he seemed to be saying. He was terrified. And, so was I.
“Cuetlachtli,” I heard someone say.
I didn’t pay attention. I was concerned about that sound – and the red mark in the sky.
“Cuetlachtli!” It was my father. “What’s wrong with you?!” He rarely shouted at anyone. His voice was strong and deep enough to command respect. When he did shout, someone was in serious trouble.
I grasped one of Amoxtli’s paws and caressed his tawny face. What did he know?
My eyes swept onto my father. “The crabs are crawling out of the basket,” he said, pointing downward.
I looked at them. Yes, they were starting to crawl back out. In fact, they seemed to running for their lives. But, I didn’t care. “Did you hear that?” I finally asked.
“Hear what?” my father replied.
“That sound!” I pointed upwards. “Look at the sky!”
The bloody streak was fading.
Everyone nearby had ceased gathering crabs and turned to me. They looked angry. I had disrupted the work. But, I didn’t care. I knew that screaming light meant something. I looked eastward, once more over the mountains.
The sun hadn’t fully risen. The sounds of the waves had replaced the clack-clack of the crabs and the light conversation. All else seemed silent. Everyone’s eyes burnished into me.
But, when I looked again over the distant mountains, something else startled me. Peering into the cream-orange horizon, I saw an object. Something was moving against the sky. I realized, after a moment, it was a large beast; a strange-looking creature with pointed ears and eyes on either side of its face. I’d never seen anything quite like it.
Then, I realized there was something else with it, or behind it. I studied it more closely. It was sitting on the animal; it was a man. He was an equally strange-looking man with an odd, dome-shaped contraption on his head. He held a large narrow object in one hand.
As I stared at him, he lifted up the object and pointed it forward – pointed it at me.
I squinted. What is that? Who is he? Why is he so large – hovering above the mountains?
Then, another thundering sound, another screaming light flew out from that object in his hands – towards me. The sound of it hurt my ears. And, the bright flash almost blinded me.
“What’s wrong with you?!” my father yelled.
I wish I could tell him. I really wish I could tell him.