Issue #57

Winter 2016

The Taming of the Orikind

by Ken Poyner

When the Orikind were given the surviving Olomong, it was thought the Olomong would make good domestic help, turn out as little more than pets which could be trained to idle purpose. Fresh from the treachery of the summarily slaughtered Red-Ferin, the defeated Olomong milled curiously about, pressing their flightless wings canonically together, making the sound of skull caps being washed in too warm a shiver of water. No one was about to feed them, absent reward, or abide watching their rambling rituals. And no one could help the Orikind -- a nasty species of boasters and back-handers and usurpers of the environment -- escape from their slovenly, circus ways: so to everyone it seemed that the indefinite indenture of the Olomong would be a salvation to all legitimate ends of our commonly contentious geometry.

The Olomong were in no position to bargain. In the thousands they had been harvested, having perilously roosted on the wrong axis of an alliance. Their culture had become a semi-colon; their history had come to its final ellipsis.

Into the houses of the Orikind they were divided, learning the care of Orikind tentacles, the polishing of Orikind dew claws, the specific patterns of rectangles comprising Orikind nesting. They learned to bob the rookeries; to take the sides of Orikind winners; to prosecute the un-winning throughout an entire household, even across time and into unimagined unimaginative generations. They would become the left hand of the Orikind. They learned that Orikind scraps were not so different from Red-Ferin scraps; that service is service; that obligation is a stone that sits in its own disenshadowed light: polished to no brilliance, yet warm with radiance.

In three cycles’ time, when the first dreary nestling with Orikind tentacles and Olomong feathers hurled its scream from the dew rail of an Orikind warren, not one of us could raise an ammonium of surprise -- not one of us could cock a head morally sideways, nor marvel at anything other than the specific disharmony of the resulting anatomy: not in the least could we unsuspect the crossbred outcome. This abomination was taken to the Magistrate of Species and made to walk its curious fertility walk all about the humid council chambers. The wickedly huge and disquieted Magistrate watched with both eyes, twisting his triangular head rapidly side to side, his tongue clutching at the feathered scent, thick as harlequin paint in the room’s distant and unsupporting air.

When asked by the ruby throated clerk, the Magistrate folded only one wing and said, “Oh yes, it has started.” It had started. The plan had come full circle and out, like the inedible seed husks of the Thrasher bloom: passing through the system, and now lying open with its spirited nutrients ready to listlessly indulge germination. The Orikind would be the vessel of their own thrilling, even handed, social distension.

And the Magistrate reached out, stroking the front of the clerk’s puffed, drain wizened thorax, thinking, “I take what I like.” And she, the clerk whose sex could change at the hint of a dominance, edged forward her thimble-like plumage and clucked the feral, uneasily universal glotem of victory.

“Migration is no longer the right of the Orikind,” the Magistrate intoned like a morning’s call to sustenance. We all felt the turn in our gizzards, the happy place like fish hooks buried in the yet living plans and machinations of old, thoughtful alliances.

Forgive us, but even then we all imagined the fortunate lot of us at the train station: our suitcases dangling behind us, our nestlings as electric as twice washed day old fruit; everyone strumming of annual migration, wondering what our sleeping cars on the train would look like, whether to the south the lands still sparkled of unclaimed water and wild marshes and trees without appetites. And we could envision the unkempt Orikind, their tentacles limp at their sides, with their dull Olomong servants and their cross species bastards waiting atilt outside the gates: unable to go, unable to get even tourist class passes -- their faces obscured in the nearly endless migration train’s ever quickening smoke. How they would lean sideways in longing; how we would trill at the forbidden, rapturing sight of it!

Author Bio


Ken Poyner lives in the lower right hand corner of Virginia, with his power-lifter wife and a number of house animals. His 2013 e-book, "Constant Animals", unruly fictions, is available at all the usual e-book sites. Recent work is out in Corium, Analog Science Fiction, Spittoon, Poet Lore, Mobius and many other places. His story, "The Detached Regularity," appeared in Issue #42 of The Cafe Irreal and "Suspicion" in Issue #49.