An Approximate Account of the First Contact with the Aheno During the Third Year of the Administration of Datu Siksin Sr. of Awanggan
Just in case I hadn’t made the title explicit enough, this account shall not cover the Great Aheno Invasion that came about during the third year of the Administration of Raja Lapya of Ambar, which occurred subsequent to the Contact in question; nor shall it cover the Royal Aheno Visitation following the signing of the Interspecies Peace Treaty during the sixth year of the Administration of Datu Siksin Jr. of Awanggan.
If you were expecting an opening like “They came from the West out of a dense cluster of stars like a volley of meteors, enrapturing the entire tribu, and before we knew it, we had been caught in their talons of conquest,” then you may close the book and go read I Married An Aheno or something. We’ll have none of your romanticizing of history here. My job is to accurately depict, to the best of my capacity for research, an (approximate) account of the titular invasion. And that I shall do, without resorting to kitschy pabulum.
It was a luminous late morning the time the Aheno’s ship broke into Earth’s atmosphere. Only when it had grown large enough in the sky to have blocked the sun’s rays did mankind notice. Their single spacefaring vessel (of course they’d bring only one venturing into a planet for the first time; what kind of sentient race would bring their entire fleet? Sentido kumon, people!) looked to be built from toothpicks and gum but if such a craft was capable of traversing the vastness of outer space, then I reserve no right to criticize its architecture. Being silhouetted against the morning sun was an ingenious scare tactic; to our ancestors the sun was a god, which meant that cutting off its rays was tantamount to declaring dominance over the land.
Response was varied. The highly devout, petrified, dropped to their knees in supplication. Scientists, atheists, and conspiracy theorists showed the utmost curiosity and tracked the vessel’s progress but others resumed their lives albeit with the mildest of apprehension. There was no mass panic. Our ancestors were no stranger to foreign visitation what with the established trade routes keeping economy more or less afloat. Teachers, students, brokers, secretaries, drivers, enforcers, clerks, and clergy—the system was too stable to have been jarred by a single ominous shape. But the system never expected what would transpire once these otherworldly beings made contact.
In the span of an hour, and by precisely noontime, the vessel had grown so large it had to land far from the shoreline of Awanggan so as to prevent damage to infrastructure and the shore’s ecosystem. It sat there, right on the point where the horizon curves downward, like a leafy seadragon larger than any ocean liner or oil platform man had ever envisioned. Datu Siksin Sr. had closed off the shore so that he and his royal guard could receive the newcomers, as they didn’t appear to be hostile. The Aheno rode to shore in a small tender boat carrying their captain a few other notable officers. The Aheno were humanoid, no doubt, but there was something about them that our ancestors thought wasn’t classifiable as human—or at least, not classifiable as homo sapiens as we knew it to be; on average, they were taller by a head and their skin gleamed like capiz under the sun.
No surviving account today has ever shed light on what had been said when the Aheno stepped on Awanggan’s sands. Whatever the first Contact had agreed upon, Datu Siksin Sr. of Awanggan, and Ferdinand Magellan, captain of the Aheno vessel, have taken it to their graves.
A quarter of the populace who had caught wind of the arrival of the sky-borne vessel was gathered by the perimeter of the city proper but as the reception went on, the number of onlookers dwindled; they probably decided it would’ve been on the news anyway, and that they had more pressing matters to attend to, like deciding where to have lunch. And just as foretold, the Aheno made front pages the following day.
Needless to say, the articles chronicling the subsequent press conferences with the Aheno showed an acute lack of understanding of basic quantum and astrophysics, so attempting to locate these scientific concepts in the guise of prehistoric babble was like trying to extrapolate how Australopithecus afarensis could have reacted after her first glimpse of the Internet. Here is an approximate summary of the article: The Aheno claimed to have come from a time in the universe’s distant past, meaning to say that they had come from a space-time in the early phases of universal expansion. They had discovered a way to exceed the speed of expansion (using processes involving dark matter and quantum entanglement that are too lengthy to be explained here so bear with me) and travel to places that not even light can reach. It was in this new area of space-time the Aheno were able to find a planet that had evolved in close symmetry with their home planet. They described Earth’s civilization back then as a mirror image of Aheno civilization a few thousand years previous.
After spending a week on our planet attending various cultural events, the Aheno left, promising to bring back technology that could enable us to skip thousands of years of scientific discovery. The prospect was unfathomable yet undeniably exciting. During the time the Aheno were gone, speculation had gone rampant. All kinds of science fiction literature proliferated like—romance literature, for lack of a better metaphor. Mankind awaited the return of their foreign saviors, strange and magical beings who were capable of elevating our race from the stupor of savagery.
Not everyone was as enthusiastic. But that is a tale for another time.
History Enthusiast and Pundit, Self-Proclaimed
Under any normal circumstance prior to the writing of this—whatever you wish to call it—would I have given you my name without the merest hesitation. It is difficult, coming to grips with reality after having learned that your origins were a complete fabrication but no matter how I phrase it, one cannot skirt around the fact that I, as a baby, had been adopted. The statistical likelihood of it, eh? I’d attempted to step back and look into recent memory for any sort of portent that could’ve saved me the shock but when the life that’s presented to you is far more enticing—and far more convenient than the truth, sometimes, you cannot help but be swept along with it. Of course, I know better than to let this revelation break me. The separation of my parents several years previous may have emotionally distanced me from them but I still do put them in (relatively) high regard. I’d like to say I’ve outgrown my teenage angst even though I’ve recently just hit the twenty mark, so I won’t let this be the final nail in the coffin, not while there are people who still care about me. Family can be a bitch, but it’s often the ones that hit the hardest that are the most important.
Not to say things have drastically changed inasmuch as I still respond when called by my name but I can’t help feeling a tinge of displacement—like I’ve another life yet to be explored, a life that doesn’t deserve a name born of stars: Estrella.
It has been a recent trend in Awanggan to strive to reach back into one’s roots—a difficult enough excavation given the centuries of Aheno technology and bloodlines stacked on top of one another like sedimentary layers. One fruit of such a trend was the passing of a law that granted citizens of Awanggan, no matter the heritage, the right to name their children in the ancient tongue, a right that took five hundred years to gather enough constituents for its existence to be acknowledged by the Royal House, and another five hundred years for the bill to be passed. I was one of the first batches of newborns lucky enough to have benefited from this new law. So it was always told of me by my chatty grandmother that on the darkest night, in the coldest December, as a star shone brightly as it never had in centuries, defying the violent glow of the bustling city’s heart, I was born to Metra and Abi. There I lay, in my mother’s arms, amid news gone viral of the star’s sudden burst of brightness. It was called Estrella. Subsequent studies on the star led to the discovery that it had actually entered its supernova phase.
Accidentally being named after a dying star was a tragic association I nonetheless accepted and thus, the name had stuck, as did the bullying that followed during my formative years. “It could be a metaphorical supernova,” I defended. “You know, close to the end of my life, I’d ignite something within me that sends ripples throughout the universe. I’d like for that to happen.” It was never gonna happen, who was I kidding? Still, I’d learned to love the name. I relished the thought of having been born under the brilliance of a supernova. But I guess something shattered when I learned that everything I’d been told was a lie.
“Iha, I am impotent,” said my father Abi, who had seated me down in the living room for a little talk. My mother was off at her new home. She could have at least joined him in this revelation but in hindsight, I guess she was probably too afraid to witness my reaction.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to his statement. “So—I can’t have siblings? Isn’t it too late for that anyway? You’re like forty five.”
“I’ve been impotent since before you were conceived,” he said, looking me straight in the eye, his chiseled hair and sagging face more distinct than I’d ever cared to have noticed. It didn’t take much mental gymnastics to guess what was coming next.
“I’m adopted?” The words distended my throat as they exited and slugged me like an uppercut. He nodded. Dad would never lie to me about something like this. He’d never made such a terrible joke, so I believed him. “Not even Tubed? Just plain adopted? Mom isn’t barren too, is she?”
“That wasn’t an option back then, anak.”
“What do you mean, not an option?” I was getting agitated. “It’s been around for—”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean your mom was against it. You know how she is, when she comes up with an ideal and sticks to it. She felt that it might not have been true to our marriage if her cell—you know, would have been—with another man’s—”
“Yeah, I get it, I get it. So instead of getting half a cup, you decided to get the empty one?” I spat, bitterly. I could sense my dad’s trouble comprehending what I’d just said.
“Are you saying you’re empty iha? Because you’re not. We still raised you and loved you and the result wouldn’t have differed had I not been impotent.” Well, dad was trying his best to make me feel still loved. But he didn’t have to stress the impotent part, jeez.
Then, the question dawned on me: “So where did I come from?”
And as if he was preparing for it, he gave me the answer: “Twenty one years ago, we were a happy couple. Your mother knew I was impotent but we got married anyway. Having a child was the least of our worries then. But then I guess after a year, something within her changed. You see, your mom wasn’t the most social kind of girl. You know she worked at home a lot but what you probably weren’t aware of was that it took a toll on her. It turned her into a recluse, and she began to feel more lonely by the day, as I would only be home one day per week and oftentimes, I needed to go on months-long business trips to the edge of Awanggan. Wow, that was twenty years ago already?” my dad suddenly cut a segue into his speech. I wasn’t sure this had anything to do with my mom but I listened anyway. “Y’know, our entire department at Transportation and the Royal House have been planning the opening of a road through the Great Barrier for the longest time but those—stubborn Ahenos and their lunatic bureaucracy—” dad sighed. “Well, at least we’ve pushed through and the bill signing the lifting of the embargo on Ambar will—”
I interrupted him then and there. “Dad? What about mom?” The news on Ambar was interesting and all, but that could’ve waited.
“R-right. Uh, where was I?” Absent-minded as per usual.
“You were talking about how mom was a shut-in.”
“Oh uh, right.” He cleared his throat for what was possibly part two of this interminable story. “She got really lonely and I guess that’s what made her decide to get a baby. She thought about it long and hard while I was away. Adoption was our best choice. When she broke the news to me, I was delighted. We began scouting the city for orphanages—but then again, you know your mom. The child had to be the right one. I have no idea how she could’ve passed judgment like that on children that have yet to grow up, but I trusted her. And when it came to a point that we felt like we’d searched high and low to no avail, an opportunity arose as if Bathala had heard our plea.” An intense pause, while dad stopped to organize his thoughts. Why you gotta do this to me, dad?
“Mima Rosa.” the name hung in the air like smoke, encircling my head and momentarily dazing me. “Yes, that was her name—but she preferred to be called Mimar. She and your mom had met way back in college. Back then, oh boy, were they quite the liberated women. Joined civil protests against the Royal House, for advocacies I never would’ve fathomed existed. But what Mimar had that your mom didn’t was an immense social circle, and she was pretty popular with the boys too. Though she might’ve—“dabbled” in excess, a lifestyle that resulted in her early pregnancy.” Dad paused for a bit to catch his breath. I waited, holding mine. “By that time, your mom and I had already been married for almost two years. Mimar was going to have the baby, she had no other choice; the abortion bill had only been passed a mere decade ago. But she didn’t want to keep it, so imagine how happy your mother must’ve been when Mimar made the proposition. Metra looked up to her. I mean, who wouldn’t? Mimar was at the front of every feminist demonstration and picket line. She practically championed that abortion bill I just mentioned. Took her a good ten years to do it, too. Perhaps your mom saw a degree of passion in her that she might have passed on to you.” He ended his speech with a weak smile and a wrinkling of his nose.
So is that what mom wanted for me? I felt that no matter how I was born, I couldn’t live up to any of the stars I was born under—and I sure didn’t I see myself being the Kwisatz Haderach of the feminists, as I could barely write a passable paper on the “male gaze.” If only mom were here.
I haven’t seen her in weeks. The last time I did, she picked me up from school so we could celebrate my birthday at some high-brow hotel lounge with the scarce lighting and the post-jazz live band. It was a silent dinner, save for the usual how-is-school and how-are-your-grades. It didn’t seem like she had much to talk about, either. I wish I’d known about mom’s loneliness earlier so I could have at least—bah, no use getting worked up over what’s done. If only there was something I could do to avoid all these if-onlies and I-wishes—but it appears that irony is my closest and dearest acquaintance. All that said, mom sounded like a completely different person twenty years ago, all gung-ho and radical—and probably happy.
“Dad, what happened to you and mom?” I had to ask the question sooner or later; best have been now when the atmosphere was already heavy and didn’t need much lubrication. But for the first time since he sat me down, a melancholic expression morphed his face, even under that pretend smile. He formulated his words slowly and carefully: “Let’s just say that there are some things we do that we take lightly, and other things we focus on with excess, and when that balance is broken, you may as well have betrayed the ones you love most,” he said shedding light on barely a fraction of what he seemed to be holding back. It was like some nasty burden clung to his heart and he wanted to bear that burden all on his own. I hadn’t the spirit to pry further so I left him to his own devices.
“Mimar,” he started anew, as if preempting my next move, “disappeared after she gave birth to you.”
“That look on your face says you were planning on looking for her, am I correct? Sadly, Mimar had fallen out of contact ever since. I don’t want to think it may have been the reason for your mother’s, uh—regression, to phrase it in a way, but there is always the possibility. They used to be a dynamic duo.”
Dad continued to talk about the circumstances of my birth, like how I actually wasn’t born on the night of Estrella’s supernova (or more accurately, when the light from Estrella’s supernova reached Earth); I was born the day previous, when the most important thing on the news was some political scuffle regarding Tribu Ambar. That name seems to be popping up more often these days. The rest of dad’s monologue faded into the background.
The next thing I remember was the trek up to my room. As I entered, stared at myself in the mirror of my wardrobe, hoping to unlock the features of my birth mother: irises dark as burnt narra over eye bags galore; scraggly hair that would’ve exploded had I not tied it taut into a ponytail; a small nose and a thin mouth that betrayed a classical Awanggan aesthetic; an ectomorphic body type, characteristic of my longs limbs and awkward posture. I find it hard to believe the boys back then went after this. No, I must’ve inherited my looks from my father. Hmm, it’s funny how I didn’t even bother asking about the father. I understand he’s probably long gone, and I have no business seeking him out—but excluding him from the equation like that—I’ll think about it some other time. Until then, here I am now, in my room, typing the first journal entry I’d ever deigned to in Bathala knows how long. I certainly don’t have the best memory so I hope you’d forgive me if the conversation with my father felt a bit improvised, and a bit too much like fiction.
A huge chunk of me still feels missing, like I’ve been living in a locked room but upon finally exiting, I realize the rest of the house has been stolen, and I feel like I won’t be satisfied until I meet this Mimar, until I track her down and ask her what name she would have given me had she decided to keep me—but if only. If only I knew where to look.