The Archers of Silent Plateau

Who are the Chwa-chwa?

A race of giant bats. Why do you ask?

Is that one of them’s head?

I turned to look at the far wall,

Why should you care? I replied.

He looked at me, the young lad and squinted as if to read my mind.

Are they telepathic?

I put down my book and stared at the boy.


Because, sir, he said, I was told they know ‘everything’.

That is true in a sense. They have an uncanny learning ability. Leave them nothing to play with. That’s why they call their range of caves the Silent Plateau. It’s where knowledge never enters and never leaves alive.

Wow, the boy’s eyes wide open. He rested his chin on his knees.

So that’s a Chwa-chwa head, then?

Why should I tell you?


Hush. Imagine a race of creatures that can learn anything -anything! What would you say about them to anyone? Would you even point them out?

I don’t know, said the boy, fidgeting nervously.

No, you tell everyone lies who knows less, and misleading truth who knows more.

The boy looked at the other people in the library. They glanced at us casually and put a finger to their lips.

We started whispering.

What do the bats know now? What’s the state of their technology?

Last I heard, they had learnt to make crude weapons. So little news comes from their moon. They may have bows by now, slingshots, boleadoras.

Do they have starships or disguises? Can they shape shift?

Not that we know of. But they count in a musical staccato of chirps that always rounds itself off like a guitar song with 3 chords. It’s a language as well as a form of herd Mathematics. Some say Chwa-chwa read the future that way. Now do you want to know what that head is?

The boy shook his head and frowned, deep in thought.

Every so often, we have to kill their king. And that’s him on the wall there. Keeps them pressed down into the plateau caves.

Who kills the kings?

Pygmy archers.

Do we help them?

Why yes, of course -it matters to the Federation that these creatures be suppressed.

What are they like -the archers?

They’re smaller than the average man of course. About a foot and a half shy of our height average of 6 feet. They’re mutes, all of them and they have no technology except the use of their bodies and secretions.

Then how do they shoot?

I made a ring with my arms. It’s something like this -they train at it. Then in a self-Heimlich, sharpened barbs made from their hair and urine spit from their esophagus. Not many have seen it.

Have you?

I resumed reading my book, my other hand tapping on my vibration-harvesting pocket watch.

You’ve met a Pygmy and a Chwa-chwa, the boy said.

I put down the book and took off my glasses.

Long ago, a Pygmy and Chwa-chwa fought over the meat of a dying caribou. It was dark, as any exchange of sight would be unwise. My mother could have killed the monster but she let it go and let it have the meat. The bat left behind a youngling. We brought it up. We sent him home, to be their king.

Everyone in the library was looking at us.

Then what happened?

After he fed them everything he knew, we killed him wirelessly. In a sense, we had to become their God while we still could.

The boy screwed up his brow as if something was amiss.

What happened to your mother?

Nothing, I said. Maybe... she never existed.

We nodded together, half smiling.

Happy Halloween!, C. K. Yap,