The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.
I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.
Hope you enjoy.
The Goatmen of Aguirra (Part 7)
805015:700 – I am exhausted. Gomer could no doubt have made the trip from the blind to the top of Alpha Tower in an hour, maybe two. Rarely have I seen an animal so uniquely adapted to its environment. Because of me the trip took a little over a day, and I’m considered in good shape.
Gomer led me up and away from the blind in what I think was a slow pace for him. As the incline increased, he dropped to all fours and moved like a North American billy high in the Canadian Rockies. His toes act exactly as flattening rubber pads, thick soled and slightly prehensile, that spread and grab the rocks for support and balance. Walking bipedally, it wasn’t unusual to see him leap against a rock wall, one foot flatten against it like a hiking boot and filling minute crevices to obtain purchase, and push off and forward with his other foot literally grabbing an outcropping which normally would block the way. All this and maintaining forward locomotion! At another point he had gone around a rivel ahead of me. When I came around he was suspended upside down from an upper ridge with no apparent support. His attention seemed fixed on the steppes leading to the other Tower.
I gasped and his attention was broken. I heard two pops and he fell – a drop of several meters – twisting in the air like a cat and righting himself. The place where he “stood” under the ridge was moist but evaporating quickly, and there was moisture under his footprints now as he walked. It was then I noticed the extremely pronounced musculature and venous markings between his knee and ankle and ankle and pads, markings and musculature which previously hadn’t been apparent. I’m guessing these creatures have evolved the ability to control the contour of the soles of their feet and excrete a mucous, thus creating a suction cup.
He looked towards Beta Tower. “Tomorrow,” by which he meant today, “they begin their Passage.”
The climb only grew more arduous and I told Gomer to stop often. He didn’t seem bothered by this. Perhaps he considers me a juvenile?
A curious thing did happen, once. I started to slip and Gomer stared at me. I flailed at the edge. Suddenly he was between me and the precipice, gently butting me back into the direction I should travel, his butting as gentle as a mother covering her young in a blanket yet as forceful as a cat chastising her kits. From that point on he always walked between me and the fall line of the Tower. When the path wouldn’t support two abreast he fell to all fours and moved over the edge until more trailspace became available and he could again join me on the path. One could believe they evolved from quadripedal spiders until you see their eyes.
Later, at a particularly difficult pass for a biped, I told him I could go no further. He sat and, of course, stared. Eventually I could draw a breath without rasping. My legs, I knew, would ache for several days due to the lactic acid build-up in them. In addition, the rarified air was forcing me to hyperventilate in order to force enough oxygen into my system and I was starting to feel the cold through my suit.
I looked up at him, silhouetted by the setting sun, the sky clear above but a gentle mist settling over the Tower. On three sides of us were gray crags and skettles of rock. Underfoot and in occasional mounds were bluish green scrub plants. To the other side was the high plains of Aguirra and, far away and below, the lowlands were the colony would one day be. A wind blew, smelling of O3 and summer storms and my attention went back to him. As the wind blew, his fur ruffled and filled, swirling around him and protecting him, bleeding away the cold the way a hirsute man’s pelt bleeds away water as he rises from the sea. All the while his impassive, immutable face stared down at me, the only change in it being the nictating membranes that covered his eyes when the winds blew directly into them.
I saw myself clearly in his eyes, then as if surrounded by clouds and mists when the membranes came over them, then clear again, and wondered how he saw me.
The winds started to grow more violent and I realized that, indeed, another storm would soon be pummeling the altiplano and all that grew out of it. What oxygen I had been able to glean before seemed to be robbed from me as the pressure dropped and the winds increased. The pain in my lungs was tremendous as they struggled to ventilate me, my blood to irrigate me. My heart began pounding in response to my body’s demand for more oxygen.
Why hadn’t I thought to bring O2 shells with me? I could feel my vessels dilating within me to carry rich red life where it was needed and my brain felt as if overcome with fever as oxygen starvation took hold.
On my knees, the Goatman standing on a rock a meter or so over me, I leaned towards him and reached, genetics moving my left hand forward more than any understanding of his culture, and fell unable to speak, unable to look up at him due to the setting Astarte’s rays piercing into my skull.
His three fingered hand swamped about my wrist. I was suddenly aware of his strength the way one is suddenly aware of a powerful undertow, being caught and going under, panicking, either to drown or to ride the wake and rise later, eventually making for shore.
I remember feeling the nails of his fingers against my skin. They were hard and cold, like the hooves of a cow in a winter field, but his fingers and palm were warm, near hot in this fairyland through which he guided me. His grip was strong but not violent as his fingers wrapped about my wrist and up my forearm.
He brought me forward, his muzzle a few scant centimeters from my face, and stared intently at me for a moment, as if inspecting me, unsure of what I was or what he was with me, then pulled me closer still until his lips engulfed mine, and he breathed. He pushed his own air into me, filling my lungs with oxygen his body didn’t use. His free hand he placed on my belly, feeling my respirations through my suit, monitoring just how much to exhale before letting me breathe again. His eyes never wavered from me as he did this, as he resuscitated me, all with one long, shallow breath like a diver rising without tanks from far beneath the sea.
My body and brain, craving the life he gave me, took too much too fast, I think. I remember him ripping the flesh of his arm with one of his horny nails, making a gouge just wide enough to cover my lips, then making a fist until he bled. He gripped me by the neck then and held my mouth over his wound, holding me there and squeezing his fist. I fought at first but there was no point. Even at my best he was many times stronger than I. He held me there until I drank one, maybe two mouthfuls of his blood.
The skies turned red and I felt myself falling completely into his arms after that. I don’t remember if he picked me up, led me, or carried me. I remember nothing until waking up some moments ago. I checked the equipment and all is functioning within specs, so I’m assuming Sanders and the others got everything on holos.
When I awoke, there were several females surrounding me and I was covered with their hairs. I can only guess that, realizing I was going into thermal shock, they lay around me to keep me warm. I was in a depression in the rock surface, not exactly a cave, but leeward, deep enough and with enough of a leading overhang to keep one relatively free of wind and rain. The rock surface itself was covered by plaited hairs, I think serving as a rug. Branches and leaves of some strange tree were woven into walls and roof around me.
I am in someone’s hut, I suppose. Someone important, no doubt.
My first impression is that the females are built like diminutive males. All about me have narrower muzzles and foreheads, thinner necks, slightly shorter legs, and less massive shoulders than the males I’ve seen previously. They have four teats clearly visible due to hairless areas in their undercoats. This is not evidenced in the males. The females around are obviously of different ages although I have no way of knowing what their exact ages are as yet. Also, there is neither reddening nor swelling of the female’s teats. This leads me to believe there are no nursing kids in this camp, unless none of these females are mothers. I can say that, as a whole, they stink. They exude an odor similar to an overripe, rotting melon which seems to lodge like a wedge in my sinuses slightly behind and immediately between my eyes. This odor is stirred or freshened when they move and they move a lot. It’s damn near killing me.
Shortly after awakening, they brought me a heavy, bluish green porridge. I buried my head in it as doing so alleviated the scent of these women. It filled my nostrils like a fine but foreign liqueur, was sticky to my lips and tasted like sweetened cauliflower; all in all quite invigorating. I drank three good size bowls before it occurred to me I might be depleting their stores. They continued to offer, however, so I continued to drink five more bowls full. As I finished the last bowl I realized my breaths were coming easier. It wasn’t until I had finished the last bowl that I realized how much better I felt. The porridge, I think, is sedative, elixir, and re-oxidant. Small wonder!
Gomer came while I ate. He assumed the kneeling position I’ve described previously, my little aikidoka, and waited. His nictating membranes rose from the corners of his eyes slowly, near eclipsing his irises, and his lids lowered. I did not know if he could even see me. His nostrils flared and he breathed slowly, evenly, the calm power in his body a mockery of the lack of it in mine. A moment later he got an erection which he stroked slowly and shamelessly. The females left, taking their musky scent with them. Do the females control the matings here? Again perhaps through some vomeronasal sense? Are their matings ritual, ceremony, or purely atavistic? That they have a culture is obvious, how much that culture has stripped them of their genetic coding is not. Do they divorce? Do the females take the young and leave the males lonely and far away? Perhaps that was the hallucination I had. For that matter, what is going on with Robin and Jeremy? Sanders, I’m sure, will know. By-the-Book Sanders who, probably even as I enter this, is asking for a psych addendum to my files.
Gomer has spoken. The translator was not hooked in so I had to ask him to repeat. “You talk when there are none who will hear you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your sounds are not our sounds. There are none here to understand.”
“The sounds are for myself.”
“You sing your own history.”
What an interesting phrase; to sing one’s own history. Yet it seemed so true, so accurate. “Yes, I do.”
“Share them with me. Teach me to sing your songs.”
Ah, so social contagion finally rears it’s ugly head. That I could not allow. “There’s nothing to share. I make it up as I go along.”
Gomer, who was kneeling while we talked, sat back at that. He stared at me with those damning eyes and unreadable face, then picked up the last bowl I’d been given. There was still some porridge sticking to the sides of the bowl and, lifting the bowl to his face, his tongue flipped out and rasped the bowl dry. He seemed to bow then, placing first his left hand on the ground before him then his right so that a triangle was formed between the first fingers and thumbs of each hand, then bowing at the waist, next sitting up and placing first right then left hand on his hips and finally rising. He took the bowl with him and left.
What have I said?
Could it be that his culture has no concept of stories or songs for entertainment? Are all their traditions oral? If they have writing, I have not recognized it as such. Are all their oral traditions morality lessons, history and folklore? Are none of them purely for entertainment? Robin would be proud. I’ve happened upon a planet of Presbyters.
Or at least a plateau of them.
Before Gomer came I was commenting about the porridge and the effect it’s had on my breathing. I’ve also noticed there is no pounding in my ears and my heart isn’t racing. At these altitudes, I am not surprised to discover they feast on plants which are both water and oxygen retainers.
Continue on to part 8