The cold winds were rising. He shivered and hugged his knees. Legions of clouds swirled and foamed, swallowing the moon. Nothing moved in the frigid wasteland. A tepid, trickling liquid found its way down his forehead, landing in a puddle in the dust. Weren’t they coming for him? How much longer would he have to wait?
Remembering nothing, he brushed the blood away. The boy looked up instinctively, but the clouds were a great wall of jet, blocking out the sky. The wind was screaming through the canyons and plateaus. Stumbling to his feet, he pressed his palm against his forehead; his tears were frozen against his cheeks.
On the nearest mountainous spire grew a lonely tree – a gnarled hand reaching out towards him. Pebbles cascaded down to the empty gully below. Something had moved. Eyes wide, he wiped his blood-stained hand on the rags that were his clothes and prepared for the worst.
Who was he? Why was he here? A cough of thunder shook the rocks. Something moved between the branches, black as death. “Who’s there?!” he yelled in a language even his tongue hardly remembered.
Only the hissing gale gave response. He leapt from stone to stone until he had gained so much distance from that tree that he could no longer see it. Still, he felt as if he were being watched. It was a strange feeling for the boy who had spent his whole life alone in this wild world.
Fading spots of sunlight broke through his mind. His eyes were closed, his arms wrapped around his shoulders. His lips trembled uncontrollably; there was ice in his chest. Once, there had been more warmth, more light… more of his kind. But those memories were as fractured as these hills.
Opening his eyes, the boy beheld a shadow racing towards him, swimming through the fierce winds. Thick as smoke it came, elongated and emaciated, with bony wings and empty eye sockets. Reaching out for him, its fingers were as dead as that tree.
Gasping, his breath frosting the night, the boy raised a hand to shield his face. His fingers were shaking. The shadow passed right through him, like a breeze sighing through cherry blossoms.
When it was over, he was on his knees, gazing at the churning, midnight sea overhead. His blood ran fresh through his eyes. Breathing hard, the boy let it wash over himself. The heat was comforting.
A sudden, guttural growl made him flinch. There, to his left, a grey-and-black spotted four-legged beast was perched on a rocky outcrop, its eyes shimmering lifelessly in the darkness. When lightning punched through the soot-drenched cloudscape, he noticed its fangs – two curved daggers so long they couldn’t be contained in the monster’s maw. It eyed him desperately, its ribs poking out from under its dirty fur. The boy knew what that meant.
The beast was on him in a flash, but he was faster. The boy jumped away, using all of his energy to run and fly and climb and live. There was a voice in his mind, whispering to him soothingly, obliviously, but he couldn’t make out the words under his own panting. The predator’s hot breath was on his neck, and the boy knew he could not let up. He would not. They were coming for him. It couldn’t end like this. His parents would never know what happened to him if…
They came to a sleet-covered spire, where the grass cracked like glass beneath their feet. The boy lost his balance as he slid across broken ice before falling forward. Screaming, he rolled over and was met by a blur of silver. Kicking, punching, crying, he tried to fight the thing off, but it was no use. The beast was hungry. It would have its due.
They went tumbling off an icy cliff, and hollering, the boy grasped onto the four-legged fiend’s fur. From such a height, he knew he could not hit the ground and live. The beast clawed at him wildly, and though he felt its gentle paw-strokes across his skin, he did not let go.
When they crashed onto the ground, the animal did not get up. It had been below him. His knee hurt. His forearms were dripping blood. But he was alive. Crawling off the furry animal, the green-skinned boy sat up against a nearby rock and sighed. He wiped his nose and raised his head to the sky again.
Where are you? Why did you leave me here? I want to go home.
Suddenly, the clouds opened up, and he caught a glimpse of the stars, which hung like suspended jewels on a jet-black canvas. The winds died for a moment, and all he knew was silence. His icy puffs came quick and hard. He didn’t want to be alone. Somewhere out there, he knew…
The predator stirred, causing the boy to crawl as far away as he could. But he was too tired, too hurt to now put up much of a fight. The beast rose, crimson droplets falling from its old fur. Its lower jaw hung partially detached from its head, swinging grotesquely. At once, the storm clouds returned in force, silencing the stars, and cold droplets began to fall – more hail than rain.
A black bird landed on a nearby rock and cawed.
The beast studied the boy with weary amber eyes, let out a soft whimper, then turned and limped away, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. Shivering, the boy hugged himself and tried to stand. The wet cold bit at his open wounds.
Lightning painted the sky. That was when he saw it. The light shone on it unnaturally, and the boy realized that the large mass in front of him was not just another jumble of rocks. Its hull was white, and it had a glass window and four spiked legs. It looked like a fat animal, but it had no fur, and he knew it wasn’t alive.
Hail clinked off the stalwart machine, making music of the miserable night.
Something in his mind told him he knew what this machine was. His head was pounding; his wound ached. The bird shrieked again. He stood and approached the white-metal behemoth cautiously. A flood of memories came to him then – of sunlight and laughter and someone holding him dearly and whispering in his ear. He clutched his chest. In his mind, the boy could see his father looking down on him sadly, his antennae twitching, murmuring something to him that he could not hope to remember.
The boy reached the underbelly of the object, which was as huge as a hundred of those furry predators. A quick pulse of excitement flooded his heart, and he knew what to say.
“Piccolo,” the boy whispered anxiously.
The metal creaked under the roar of the hailstorm; a platform descended from the underbelly of the spiky monstrosity. The black bird took flight, screeching in fear. He gasped. How did he know to do that? He didn’t remember. Running up to the descended platform, he said the word again.
It brought him into the belly of the beast, where the boy could taste the staleness of the air. Low red lights shone inside the metal space ship he knew somehow was his. How he knew… he did not know.
“Dad?!” the boy called hopefully. He began to run, continued to shout, searching, searching, hoping.
It was as his voice bounced off metal walls with cold indifference that he came to realize he was still alone. It was warmer in here – neither rain nor wind could penetrate this place. For that, he was happy. And yet… That old familiar feeling, a shiver in his chest and spine, returned to him, and the boy collapsed on the floor, his arms and forehead throbbing.
As his eyes grew heavy, the boy pleaded silently and uselessly to be somewhere altogether different. His eyes drooped, and once again, his mind reminded him of the sun and green grasses, tall, leaf-covered trees, and a man looking down on him with a soft and loving gaze, which the boy knew would keep him warm for the rest of time.