Bjort touched the stylus to the page, it was hot in the tiny room, the dry bitting air parched both his tongues and his feathers were oily with perspiration. His back hunched, his face held close to the page as he greedily inhaled the smell of the stylus's "burn black" while it reacted with moist oils in the paper. He loved to carefully watch his calligrapher's stroke as the friction between the stylus and the rough page broke off the bright blue particles of his burn black: they adhered to the damp paper burning from blue to black in a flameless fire. The last rays of direct sunlight had ceased to pass through the evening window behind him and only the ambient glow of dusk filtered in the six sun windows and the large open doors of the temple. Through the doors, the light was accompanied by the impatient rattle and squeaks of the reporters.
Bjort was envisioning how the wind had rattled the hargum fruit trees during the afternoon storm. He wrote about the force and direction of the wind, how the trees had bent but not broken in most cases, except at the edge of the orchard. He deeply inhaled the smell of the "burn black," he loved recording the truth. His stylus hit a dry spot of the page and he reached over to his jar of sulfpaper wash. With his free wing he pick up the sulfpaper wash brush and dipped it into the jar of acidic liquid and was suddenly struck by how dark the room had gotten. He did not want to stop writing, but the reporters would never tolerate him adding truth passed the setting of the sun. "But…" Bjort said to himself, "I am the keeper of the Truth, and I have already started to describe the storm. I am not adding a happening to the day after the sunset...only editing it." He wiped the brush across the dry page and touched his stylus to it again.
Dr. Emanuell Postlincoln stood outside the small stone temple of truth. The one meter high bipedial avian forms of the Nurendranites flapped and squawked around her. She could speak their language with some effort and understand it with more effort, but right now she didn't have the effort. It was hot. Her skin and hair were soaked with sweat. The mask she wore to filter out all the impurities of the Nurendian atmosphere and protect her eyes from the sulfites in the air made it especially hot. Her breasts ached with milk and even though it had been month since she had given birth, she still had the fatigue and temperature sensitivity that had marked her third trimester. She thought of her son, David, back in the air conditioned and environmentally shielded shelter she and her husband shared with three other xenoanthropologists and biologists stationed on Nurendra. "That boy has ruined me for field work." For a moment Dr. Postlincoln wanted to head home, feed her son and fall asleep more than anything, but then she thought of Ktulka standing next her. The short black feathered female was a mother also and Postlincoln was here because of what happened to Ktulka's child. She promised Ktulka she would be a reporter and make sure the Truth of the day included the attack against her daughter.
Postlincoln looked at the horizon. The sky line was pink and purple, the harsh ball of Nurendra's sun was slipping out of view. The the little stone temple cast a long shadow know which was thankfully cool. Postlincoln tapped Ktulka on her prominent collar bone. With the squawk and hiss syllables of the Nurendran language Postlincoln asked.
"The sun is setting isn't the Truth….." she wanted to say 'recorded' or 'written' but she couldn't remember the Nurendrian word. Postlincoln was the most skilled linguistic on the team and perhaps in the sector but ever since pregnancy she been having what her sister called "baby brain." She forgot things, put things away wrong, skipped around in protocols…dangerous habit in environment with a toxic atmosphere.
Bjort stepped out of the temple the three meter page dangling from the end of his flightless wing. He noted the human towering above the other reporters. He remembered her, she had come into the temple as reporter when the sun was between the afternoon window and the evening window. She and the mother, Ktulka had told him something, but it had been after the storm. He hadn't found time to record their report. "All the better," he thought "A girl can only be murdered once, but storms are events that can happen more than once and we need to prepare. "
Bjort spat a wad of adhesive salvia on the wall of the temple were his aides had just removed yesterdays Truth in order to take it to the archive. He stuck the long page of truth to that spot and headed home.
Ktulka and Postlincoln rushed forward to the page. They scanned it quickly, Postlincoln was actually a better reader than Ktulka, who worked as a farm laborer. There was no mention of Ktulka, Postlincoln or the attack. In his tenure as Truth keeps, Bjort had been obsessed with weather and agriculture. Postlincoln read the long list of events that happened on the farms today and turned to Ktulka. "What of your daughter?"
Ktulka responded solemnly "I have no daughter."
Later that night after David was asleep and Emanuel had washed the smell of sulfur off her skin and hair, she laid in bed with her husband and puzzled over the Nurendran truth cult. For some reason, she had not been able to tell him what happened today. It was just too painful to speak. He sat there next to her, reading a digital scan of the "Truth Archives" on his tablet. It was true that although the Nuredran lived hundreds of human years, their memories would only last for 10 or 11 years at a time. The first cultures the anthropologist had studied on Nurendra had been the nomads of the polar wastes. They had traditions of songs and chants that would be recited weekly to keep their culture and heritage going. But here in the cities of the equatorial continent, this Cult of Truth ruled. If something was not recorded between sun rise and sunset, then it never happened.
Dr. Ragnar Solung , her husband, turned to her. His face outlined by the tan lines of the air filters they wore. "I think I uncovered a pattern here in the record. Sixty standard years ago the Nurendran seemed obsessed with parentage and hereditity. There were feuds and murders. Then something happened sixty years ago that changed everything, I don't know what it was, but these urban Nurendran's suddenly appeared to have become civilized."
Emanuel open her mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. She knew she should say something, but sleep came on too fast..faster than the truth could come out.