by Casey Weiser
As an avid reader and writer, I have encountered many authors of unique and varied writing. I especially love to read science fiction, and am greatly inspired by the author Orson Scott Card. I love to use my imagination to make my readers think. I wrote Amprine after looking at people's eyes and noticing the differences, wondering whether these differences mean something else.
Editor’s Comments: After reading this award-winning story by Casey Weiser, you will never look into another person’s eyes in the same way again. Notice how thoroughly she constructs a universe for her story to take place in, using language (and a glossary) to ground the reader in its strange, but somehow familiar rules.
When I was born, I did not realize that my beautiful eyes would be taken away from me. I loved my eyes (if such a love can form for eyes). I looked at every tiny thing that was in the room. The desk, the lamp, the books, even the tiny little bug in the corner. I witnessed the little Takl that my parents used to keep. It was flying around the room with no apparent destination. The Takl had wings that were too big for its little body. They covered nearly a third of the room!
I noticed, in these few minutes, that there was no sunlight in the room. There wasn’t even one small window in which I could look out of. I looked at my parents, and the people that came and went. I did not realize that anything was happening until the Mesterinas had taken away my eyes and replaced them with the ugly glass ones. They used a special tool called a draf that makes your eyes instantly disappear. You are only blinded for a second, as the draf replaces your eyes as well. “My eyes, what did you do with my eyes”, I cried out, but received no answer. This all happened within a matter of minutes.
I could barely control the new eyes. They did not dart back and forth when I wanted them to. They just stared dully into space, and I saw what they saw. They did not see many colors, and they could not focus on details. They saw the outline of things, and if the thing was a light or dark color. I was basically blind.
Video # 2345- History
“The first time humans landed on Amprine was 2,500 years ago. They didn’t last very long. Amprine is the planet in which you, as an Amprino, inhabit. Earth, the planet in which humans lived, does not exist anymore. It exploded after humans had only been on it for about five billion years. Luckily for them, they had been forewarned that their planet would be no more, so most of the human population escaped in something they called “space ships.” They now live on a planet called Rasculay:
“When the humans landed on Amprine, the Amprinos were not quite sure what to do with them. The Amprinos, like you, did not speak English. Some of the humans ended up mating with our people, and the rest left. Today, after 2,500 years, there are no original Amprinos left. We are now a slight mix between Amprinos and humans.”
“We have human faces, and human bodies, but our hands and feet are different. Our hands do not have fingernails on them, as they do not get vulnerable further up on the finger. Our feet also do not have toenails, and we have four toes on each foot. We are also much taller than the average human.”
“Amprine is actually a lot like Earth used to be. Our planet is made up of mountains. No water, no flat lands. Just mountains; some short, some tall. Our air is a lot thicker than Earth’s because of these mountains. It will never rain or snow here. It is always sunny.”
“Since we have no water source, and we need water to survive, our Elders created a certain food that contains water. It is like a vitamin, except everyone, young or old, must eat it at least three times a day. This food item is called an appir. It resembles an apple and an orange combined. Appir’s do not grow with water, even though they contain water inside them.”
“Amprinos never needed a water source before the humans came. They ate food that grew within the Amprine mountains. It looked nothing like human food, and did not resemble the food you now eat at home. Now that our race is combined with the human race, our food resembles theirs a lot more than it used to.”
This is the video that is shown to every youngling that is born within Amprine. It is our history, and it is an important step in teaching our young the history of Amprine. When I was young, it was shown to me. It is only one video among many others that are shown to every Amprino youngling as he grows up.
My name is Valerius. But my friends and family call me Vali. The name Valerius was originally Ancient Roman (Earth), and it was derived from the Latin word valere, which means “to be strong.” Names are very important to Amprine. Since it is such a small planet, everyone knows each other by name. We do not have family names, only given names.
One day, while I was walking on a mountain pass, I met an Amprino of a lower status than me. His name was Barad. I was not in a good mood, and did not even acknowledge him until he started to talk me.
“When an Amprino of higher status meets another Amprino of a lower status on a mountain pass, they are supposed to touch the palm of their hand to the lower ones shoulder. Why have you disobeyed this rule and not touched your hand to my shoulder?”
“Have you ever met an Amprino of a lower status than you? Maybe not. Well, my family had been around since Amprine was first formed, and the act is not as simple as touching the palm of a hand to another’s shoulder. It is a frustrating rule that should never have been created. If you do not agree, you had better walk away and hope you never meet me ever again. Okay?”
Barad did not answer, but merely walked away. I looked after him, satisfied. I had never done something quite like that before.
This encounter made me remember a time in my past when I had disobeyed a rule quite like this one, without realizing it. I was running from one Amprino to another on a mountain pass. I encountered an Elder during this. He stared at me, as if expecting something. I stared back. Then he told me a nasty word in Kiji, our language. I was shocked, and ran home crying.
My father was quick to explain what had happened.
“Amprinos, as you might every well know, can live to be about 1,000 years old. You become an Elder the day you turn 901. They do not live together, or make decisions concerning the planet, but if you see one on a mountain pass, it must be acknowledged. A bow is special on Amprine. Your legs must be bent at the knee towards the ground, the foot resting. The rest of your leg must be in an upright position. Your palms must be down on the ground, arms straight. Your head must be bent.”
I learned a very valuable lesson that day.
The decisions of this world are made by the government. The Amprine government gave itself a name a long time ago. The Mesterinas. They are more powerful than was originally intended. The Mesterinas take control of many problems that occur. Sometimes they are the ones that are causing the problems. They have messed up my life by interfering. Tossed it up high in the air, let it fly a little, and then demanded it to come back down. The Mesterinas were responsible when my parents perished.
The sky used to be very different from its present-day look. The sky, instead of Earth’s blue, was a vast purple. When you looked up, it was all you could see, even though there would be other things in the sky, such as little bird-like creatures, and green clouds. Amprine had a Krine Layer, much like the Ozone Layer. It protected us from our sun, Melinte. Without it, Amprinos would never have been able to see that vast purple sky because Melinte would be all there was to see. The sun would be too strong.
The Mesterinas built big factories that floated in the air. They did this when the sky was still purple. They built the factories around themselves so that they were completely isolated from the world. Soon after, sparks started to fly from the rooms within. They had no chimneys, but the
roof was not ruined. As far as the Amprinos could see, the sparks went up high into the vast purple sky. No one questioned this. I myself had not even been born yet. Many years later, the
Mesterinas emerged from their factories as if nothing had happened.
Those sparks, as it happened, went up to the Krine Layer of our atmosphere. There, they got stuck, and slowly started to destroy it. The Amprinos did not know that this was happening,
and I doubt that the Mesterinas knew. Melinte started to become stronger on Amprine (or so it seemed to the Amprinos). It became hard to see the sky. The purple in it disappeared, along with the green clouds. It became hard to see anything when you were outside. It was frightening, because Amprinos basically lived and thrived outside.
They began to carve sanctuaries into the mountains. The Amprinos did not build them floating in the air because they wanted to be as far from the sun as possible. It was simply too strong. The Mesterinas sent some of their people into the Krine Layer to see what was happening.
They never came back. I believe that the logical explanation for this was that the ship they were in caught on fire and burned because of the sun. We will never know.
The Mesterinas were in a huge dilemma. Amprinos were dying from lack of air (the sanctuaries were built airtight). They had been built airtight so that not even a crack of sunlight could enter. Our skin would not burn in the sun, and our plants were not dying, but to go outside (or to come within contact of the sun) would mean to be blinded for life. Our lives are too long to be blinded, and the Amprinos desperately needed to go outside. Once again, the Mesterinas locked themselves up in the floating factories.
They were back in a year or so. But something had happened to their eyes. They told the Amprinos that the eyes were artificial. Artificial! They said that the eyes could withstand the blistering sun. In time, every Amprino that was born had those artificial eyes.
I was one of the first of these younglings. Five minutes after I was born, my vibrant blue
eyes were switched with artificial ones that could withstand the sun. The eyes were slightly glassy, and appeared to be slimy(though I think that was only in my mind). The irises of these eyes were brown. Every Amprino, young or old, had brown eyes at that time, except the
Mesterinas, who had given themselves green eyes.
The eyes made it hard to read and write. Amprinos are born with many instincts, and one
of these is to become literate, and intelligent. You are not literate or intelligent when you are first
born. You have to learn from those around you.
I learned to live without my eyes. I became intelligent. But all my life, I have wanted more. Why does the government need to take away our eyes and give us new ones? Why do we need to be half blind to go outside, when if we had our real eyes, we would be completely blind? It seems like we are sacrificing too much just to be outside. Is there not a way to change the conditions outside?
I would like to ask these questions to the government itself, the Mesterinas. But they have decided to live in the big factories they built so long ago. They only come out when a child is born. Nowadays, not many children are born. Amprinos have decided not to have any more children. It is our boycott against the government. It has gone too far, and I am going to be the one to change everything.
I presented myself to a Mesterina named Rena one day in a cafeteria. Many Amprinos enjoy eating meals together, and I knew that I would find Rena there. I told him that it had always been a lifelong dream of mine to become a Mesterina.
“You have to be at least 300 years old to become a Mesterina. You are not asked, and you do not automatically become one, like an Elder. It is your choice. Once you commit to it, you can never turn back. You were qualified about 75 years ago. Are you now ready?
“Yes, I believe I am.”
“To test if you are strong enough to become a Mesterina, we are going to take your parents away from you.” I didn’t know that! I tried to back down, but it was too late. We were transported to the house in which they live in.
“Now!” Someone said loudly.
I saw them, a flash of green light, and then I saw them no more.
“The next test is if you can withstand this damage to your heart. If you cannot withstand it, you shall be removed from the scene as well. If you can withstand it, you will become an official Mesterina.”
I did not want to withstand anything. I wanted to mourn the loss of my dear mother and father. But then I remembered why I was doing this. For the good of Amprine and the Amprinos! The instant I thought this I became strong again, and an ordinary citizen I was no longer.
They welcomed me in the traditional way, by bowing. This is a different bow than a bow that an Elder receives. To do a bow for a new Mesterina, you must stand upright and bow at your waist. Then, you stand upright again, and bow again. There is continuous bowing like this for a few minutes. It is quite embarrassing. Then the Mesterinas told me to pack up my things and come join them in their big factories. My new life had begun.
It didn’t take me long to get up to the factories, and I was immediately let in. Some of the Mesterinas told me to sit down in the lounge and wait for an Amprino named Kresa. The lounge looked like every other room I had ever been in, because my eyes were not well adjusted to change.
Kresa came in. By the tone of the voice I could tell that Kresa was a male. I remembered having met him a long time ago, but I couldn’t place where at first. Then I remembered that he was one of the Amprinos that had removed my original eyes. Now he told me that he was to remove my present eyes. I asked him why he had to do this. He told me I needed better eyes.
Then it hit me. The Mesterinas treat themselves to better eyes than the eyes that all other Amprinos receive!
The “operation” was quick and simple. I was told to lay down flat on a table in the room. From what I witnessed, Kresa used a draf, similar to the one that had been used when my original eyes had been switched. Therefore, the process itself was pretty much the same. When it was done I realized that I could see better. My eyesight wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than it had been. Details on objects actually looked like details, not like the fuzzy things they had been
After I got used to my new eyes, I was brought into another room. The new room was basically empty, except for one lounge chair and a big screen. I was told to sit. The screen became alive. It told me the history of Amprine and its people, quite like the history I was told as a youngling. But it told me things, tiny little details, that made the history of Amprine a lot more interesting and complex.
“The first time humans landed on Amprine, they did not mate with our people. And it was a lot longer than 2,500 years ago. Earth still existed. This new species, the humans, were not welcomed. They were sent back to Earth. The human race soon forgot about us. They didn’t
come back until around 2,500 years ago. They stayed for a few years, not quite welcomed, but
acknowledged within our planet.”
“They left, leaving their strange customs for us to struggle with. The humans came back a few years after. This time, the third visit to our planet, the humans mated with the Amprinos. We had already adopted many of their customs, so the change wasn’t all that great. The Amprinos, by that time, actually understood a little English. But that was lost in generations to come (including yours).”
I was told (in this brainwashing video) what the Mesterinas had been testing when they destroyed the Krine Layer. They were trying to make a substance, that if taken, would make you a full Amprino once again. Their experiments had failed. The Mesterinas realized that you need two original Amprinos to create the original Amprino race. Of course, this could never happen, because there were no original Amprinos left.
In their ignorance, they had ruined the part of the Amprine atmosphere that protected us from Melinte. This video tried to show that they were good creatures, even though it was the real truth, not the twisted truth that I had received as a youngling. Even after this video, I had no pity for these creatures, and therefore I could never be called a true Mesterina.
I was then told that I could do whatever pleased me. I asked if there was a computer lab somewhere in this factory, and was directed to a small room with only two computers (we had adopted these computers, I now realized, from the second human visit to Amprine). The
computers had a interplanetary search engine that I could use to find anything I wanted to know.
This was not available to regular Amprino citizens.
I typed in creating a new layer within a planets atmosphere. A million topics must have come onto my computer screen. I clicked on one that seemed reasonable, from Rasculay. It told me how the humans had ruined the Ozone Layer. Personally, I didn’t care about Earth, since it
didn’t exist any longer. I found nothing on the search engine, except that the oldest planet was a planet named Crith. I tried another search, Amprine’s Krine Layer.
This new search worked. It told me how the atmosphere had first been formed. It had been a natural occurrence. I now understood that it was not altogether impossible to create a new one, but I would need the help of an Elder that went by the name of Yafiz. He had been a good friend of my father, and I knew I could trust him. Mesterinas, at this moment in time, were not very keen on leaving their factories, but they made an exception for me. I was not afraid to show my face in public, and Yafiz did not live far from the factories.
As I entered Yafiz’s home, I did not feel the normal warmness that you generally receive when entering a home. It was damp, dark and shaped quite like a pineapple (without the spikes). Though his house did not welcome me warmly, Yafiz did. I, naturally, had to do the special bow that pertains to an Elder. He waved it off, and was about to hug me, when he saw my eyes. He started to back away. I quickly told him that I was not like the others.
“So, what brings you to my neck of the woods?”
“I need to do business with you. Serious business that has to remain private. Even from the Elders and the Mesterinas. Can you do that for me, Yafiz?”
“If it means that much to you, I’ll do what I can, Vali.”
I went on to tell him why I was here, that I thought he could help me fix the atmosphere. He was shocked when I told him this. I explained to him the type of machine I needed. Only an Elder could obtain the materials I needed. I was going to create a machine that would change the
atmosphere on Amprine forever. Amprinos would be able to have their original eyes once again. Life would return to normal(if you can find a suitable definition for normal.) Life, in short, would be different. Amprinos would not have to live in fear of Melinte ever again (hopefully).
The air is very thick on Amprine, and I was going to use this to my advantage. I was going to create a machine that would, in time, collect a lot of unused air within the atmosphere. It would use solar plates that would deflect energy from the sun and just collect air. It would float around in the air doing this for many years. Then I would put the air in a metallic box that would store it. I would have to put special chemicals into the stored air. Then I would release it back into the atmosphere. It would eventually form a thick layer of air, quite like the original Krine Layer, that would protect all the Amprinos from Melinte.
Before I could build my machine, I had to get permission from my fellow Mesterinas. I knew that it would not be easy to convince them that I could make things better on Amprine. I needed a strategy, and a basic model for my machine. Yafiz gave me some of the essential materials that I needed. I went back up into the factories to start my invention, which I would name Srina, after a deceased Elder that was a very intelligent Amprino
It took me three years just to get the model of Srina finished. I knew that I had not wasted these years of my life, but everyone else thought that I had. I made small models of Amprine and
parts of the solar system around it. Then, I collected air from a room that was never used. I stored the air in a metallic box and added special chemicals. I then created another box, this time a glass
one. I put my models and the air in it. It took about a year for the air to form the atmosphere that I wanted. The important thing- Srina was a success!
I requested a meeting with the older and wiser of the Mesterinas. At first, like I predicted, they refused to see me. I insisted, so they sent some kind of a secretary to see me off. But that wasn’t what he came for in my mind. The instant the Amprino walked into my room, I locked the door. He protested, but I told him to sit and wait. Then I showed him the glass box with the models and atmosphere within it.
The Amprino was shocked, and stared out of his fake green eyes for a few minutes. Then he gathered up the courage to ask what he was looking at. I told him, and the Amprino’s mouth remained open. “Is this true,” he asked, “is this what you really say it is? Can you fix Amprine’s atmosphere?” I told him I now believed that I could. I explained my theory that there was plenty of air in our atmosphere that could be used to ward us against the sun, using my invention. But I also told him that the process would take years.
He left, and a couple of days later, I was summoned into a conference room. There were many Mesterinas and Elders present. I told them what I had told the secretary, but I articulated my words more carefully. When I was done showing them the glass box, almost everyone in the room was convinced that I was sincere.
They gave me the materials needed to create Srina. They filled a whole room with things such as metal, glass, steel, special tools, chemicals, et cetera. I barricaded myself into the room, so that no one would disturb me. I worked harder than I had ever worked before. I was not working for one Amprino, but for the entire population.
Years passed. Decades passed. Well, decades didn’t pass, but it felt like they did. I finished, and presented Srina to all of the Mesterinas. They were surprised, because they had basically forgotten why I had isolated myself from them. They didn’t believe that my invention could ever work, and looked at it with caution and fear. But, despite all this, they let me release Srina into the atmosphere.
More years passed. I had created a log on my computer that was connected to Srina. It told me its condition, and how much air it had collected. It also calculated how much air was left in the atmosphere. From the look of things, it had almost collected the amount of air I needed to create a layer in the atmosphere. There was plenty of air left, so we were not in danger of dying due to lack of air.
When Srina had collected enough air, it mixed the air with the chemicals and sent it back out into the atmosphere. In two years, a new layer of the atmosphere, which I named Chanceux (French for “lucky”), had been formed. Ever so slowly, Melinte became weaker and weaker on Amprine. Soon, Amprinos started to realize the difference. Celebrations took place, and I was awarded many medallions.
The Mesterinas, as it turned out, had kept every Amprino’s eyes in a Cryogenics Laboratory. It didn’t take long for them to replace the slimy, glassy eyes with every Amprino’s real eyes. My eyes were switched first, and I was the first one to walk outside with my true eyes. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling I got from that moment. Overexcited joy, grief, anger, and happiness do not work. It is a feeling that one can get from nothing else in the entire solar system.
Things went back to the “normal” routine that I had predicted. I was elected head of the Mesterinas. I tried to refuse such an honor, but no one would listen to me. I make sure that the Mesterinas now live like regular Amprinos. They do not get special treatment now because they
work for the government.
The sky turned back to its original color, and having never before seen it, I was dazzled at it’s beauty. The first youngling that was born shall most likely be worshiped for the rest of it’s
The events that happened in my life, the events that defined me, are all a thing of the past. A fairy tale in everyone’s mind, something that we try to block out with all our might. And as
Amprinos, we have succeeded.
Amprine- Planet on which this story takes place
Amprinos- Beings/species that inhabit Amprine
Rasculay- Planet in which the humans inhabit after Earth explodes
Appir- Food item that contains water and is essential in the Amprino diet
Valerius/Vali- Main character, lives on Amprine
Takl- Little bird-like creature with a big wing span
Draf- Tool used to switch an Amprino’s original eyes with the glassy ones
Elder- An Amprino that is 900 years old or older
Mesterina- Any Amprino that is within the government, can also be called the government itself
Krine Layer- Layer of the atmosphere, can be compared to the Ozone Layer on Earth
Melinte- Amprine’s sun
Kresa- Amprino who removes Vali’s eyes twice
Crith- Oldest Planet
Yafiz- Elder that helps Vali
Srina- The invention that Vali creates
Chanceux- The layer of the atmosphere that Srina creates