The Valley of Hebhaz by Jordan Lanni

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SUMMARY: A man's genetic mutation dooms him to watch his civilization disappear.

Olkit Lufhar tapped madly upon the touch pad keyboard attached to the wall with a dirty, dingy cord. He glanced over his shoulder toward the open end of his home that overlooked the sweeping valley of Hebhaz. The sun was setting quickly, the twin moons would be rising soon. Shadows lengthened across the deserted ruins of Rukal, the only city upon the empty planet of Munot. But that city was far from Olkit's home.

The man looked down at the stack of papers on his lap, a dusty and crumbling stack that he was afraid to move too much. _Not much time left._

A small bird ruffled its feathers as it prepared for a night's sleep near Olkit's console, not far from his right hand. Its nest was comprised of metal chords for structure and soft ferns for comfort, and he had worked hard to ensure the bird's comfort and safety.

"Comfortable, Astor?" The bird blinked at him between preening sessions, almost in acknowledgment. Did it? Olkit couldn't tell for sure. He simply knew better than to stroke the bird's soft blue feathers. He couldn't risk the life of his only friend.

Olkit examined the sleek shininess of the reddish skin on his hand. He looked no different from anyone else, if only they had... _no, it's no use._ Shaking bad memories from his mind, he returned to the papers, turning to the next page. He lifted it up against the light on the wall in front of him, the writing faint and scribbled: "The Yaelian Era, Part II of Volume XVI."

He turned to the sleepy bird. "Hmm. Know anything about this, Astor?"

The bird blinked, disturbed from its sleep as he chuckled mischievously. "You know, I never considered myself a historian until recently, by compounding and digitizing our past. I feel... accomplished, feel like I finally made my people proud."

The sun's long rays finally turned from a rich orange to warm blue and he felt the creep of night upon him. He stretched in his seat.

"I think the Yaelian Era can wait until tomorrow." He placed the paper on the stack, carefully moving it to a secure shelf on the wall. He had gone through such lengths to attain these ancient manuscripts, and he was almost positive this was the last of the historical documents left in the city.

He arose from his chair. His home was in the typical Munotian country style of generations before, small in size but spacious in layout, with lamps suspended from the ceiling emitting a fierce yellow light. Rugs hung from the ledge of the open end of the structure. These rugs were colourful, bright, beautifully constructed and a true testament to a people's folk craft.

He took advantage of the bed in the corner, and sprawled upon it. Upon his back he could admire the twilight turning to a midnight blue velvet cloak of night through a cut-out in the roof. Warm summer nights were always beautiful. He laid motionless upon the bed for what seemed an eternity, as he enjoyed the enveloping silence. Only the sound of Astor's gentle sleepy breathing broke the stillness. After all of this time, Olkit believed not even crickets had survived.

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