Centric Shorts, Part Six

Part Six – Chapter Whatever – Background to lead up to Black Day

When the First had arrived in the transport ships, they had set up the battery arrays in several locations. From there, developing towns and villages were built. The large data hard drives they had brought with them were also placed, with copies being made and stored. The information on them – their race’s history, how to grow corn, how to build an airsled, all of the knowledge they’d had until then – became the Cybernetic Information Library.

While the physical new civilization was taking place, so was the political. A set of laws were established based on the common laws that had been arranged prior to the transport ships leaving their home planet. Then, each new world would build their system from that base of laws. The edicts decided upon was called the Sustainability Systems Laws. Everything was to be either consumed whole or the by-product of that product had to be usable. That meant that the heat created from the warm water that soaked paper scraps had to be reused, the water had to be reused, even the unusable scraps had to be used. Nothing could be considered trash.

As a result of the laws, a political group was formed called the Geocentrics. They were known as ecologists, arcologists, and life scientists. They believed in the protection of all ecosystems, regardless of the effect on themselves.

As a result of the Cybernetic Library, another political group was formed called the Technocentrics. They were also known informationists. They believed that the information they brought with them would help the population to follow the law.

What happened over time is that the Geocentrics felt that the information in the data banks is what got their original home in such a mess to begin with. The Technocentrics believed that the information will keep them from doing it again. Both sides disagreed on what to do about the battery arrays. They had been there for over four hundred and fifty years. The arrays were designed to last for six hundred or more, perhaps even eight. One side said to let the batteries die and they could live on their own without it. The other side said that to let the batteries die would create chaos and the Laws could not be upheld.

The batteries should have lasted for the 600 years. But then Black Day happened.


“You watching the concert tonight?” Harik put on his dress robe.

“No, I’ve got work to do here. You going somewhere special to see it?”

“Yep. Going to the Double Data. It is a cool rocking place. We ought to consider getting into these cyber clubs.” He next put on his cap, the kind that adults his age looked silly in. He must have realized that and took it off.

“I don’t think so, brother. We have enough to maintain as it is. You have fun. I’ll be right here.”



Maratha sat on her stool and took notes on this new behavior she had noticed in the Gobal family she called the Basal Family. As one of the largest families, they were one of her favorite to keep track of since she had so many to watch. She still wrote her notes by hand but the paper was laid on a special cyberport that copied it and translated it into legible print. Zenith had sent it to her several months ago to try out in the field. The battery life was excellent, which is the main reason Maratha agreed to the test.

As usual, she had left her communicator at the camp although she did keep a transponder on her body at all times. That way if she were ever injured, the rescuers could find her by tracking its signal.


The concert was into its second half when the accident happened. Four of the five battery arrays stopped functioning. The fifth dropped out just a few minutes later. Without lighting, without communication, the populace panicked.

Zenith was in her office glancing through the daily reports. Her household power came from the grid but a backup generator on the roof that used a combination of wind and solar panels to keep batteries charged, kicked into action. Anyone else would not have noticed the slight flicker of the screens, but Zenith, after years of staring at them, noticed it immediately.

She went to the window and looked out onto the street. It was dark. Very dark. She could also hear shouting and screaming. She ran to the control panel and flipped off the generator, conserving the batteries. She then ran down the steps into the shop and gathered all the small flashlights she had in stock. The constables had a station just down the street. She pushed a cart full of the flashlights to the station and assisted in handing them out.

Centric Shorts, Part Five

Part Five – Chapter Somethinganother – Hovercrafting

Once on the hovercraft, Maratha went to her assigned quarters: a small room not much larger than a closet. The bed was also the chair and the dresser was also the table. A tiny lavatory was under the bed. Showers were communal, with one being just for the single females.

In her room, she unpacked her things, putting her clothing in the dresser and hanging her bags above the bed. She decided to check out the craft first then she would start reading not only the manual, but other books as well.

The hovercraft was shaped like a pencil; long and tapered on one end. The entire thing hummed from the large fans below their feet. There were two cafeterias and two entertainment facilities, one with and one without cybernetic ports. There also was a swimming pool and a running track.

She checked her wrist for the fifth time to make sure the motion sickness strap was in place. She’d waived the right to the injections, wanting to experience the trip as real as she could. The strap would prevent her from becoming very ill, but she would definitely know if she got sea sick or not.

She stood at one of the rails, watching the water rush by and the birds circling the craft. She saw a uniformed personnel coming toward her. “Hello, I am Captain Botswa.” The woman, tall and muscular, was quite attractive in the crisp blue uniform.

“I am Maratha Verdan, student at the Lifeforms University.”

“Yes, I know. I received a communication from a Professor Tamud to keep an eye on you, since this was your first journey across the oceans. But I can see that his worry was unwarranted.” She nodded toward the strap on Maratha’s wrist. “If you were going to be sea sick, you would be by now, especially standing out here watching the water go by.”

“Oh. Well good then. But I’ll leave it on, just in case. I have no desire to see my stomach nor its contents.”

The Captain laughed, a good solid laugh that made the hairs on Maratha’s arms stand up. “Then by all means, wear it. My quarters and my office is up in the tower. If you need company or have a problem, just let me know.” She bowed at the waist and continued her walk of the deck.

By the time Maratha arrived at Doma, she knew how to assemble and unassemble the board and how to use it. The Captain had a battery that would fit it and she got to try it out several times a day. As soon as she and her things had gone through the biofilters, she pulled out her directions and went to the closest battery center.


Captain Botswa typed out the first message. “To Professor Tamud, id 567-A-LFU-4199. In regards to on M. Verdan, she has arrived safely. I anticipate she will be able to handle herself well while on Doma Continent.”

After pressing the send button, she waited for confirmation then began the second message. “To Zenith Torado, id 236-X-CEP-5T. Your friend arrived just fine. I was impressed with her knowledge and her abilities at conversation. She was also quite lovely to look at! How come you always seem to find the good looking ones?”

As soon as she got the confirmation, she got a response. “Feoni, I hope you kept your hands to yourself. And yes, I’ve kept mine to myself too. She’s been a bit overwhelmed here at the University so I’ve held off the obvious. So unlike me, isn’t it? Thank you for the updates.”

Centric Shorts, Part Four

Part Four – Chapter Three – in which we learn a little about Maratha

The biology expertise remained mostly with the lifeforms already present when the transport ship had landed. The initial studies had listed the basics-location, appearance, approximate number, etc.-and been entered into the databases as soon as possible.

The LifeForms Biology Department had the actual hand written notes the scientists had made. They were kept in a environmentally controlled glass case lining the wall in the hall like room. Maratha liked to go by the case each day, looking down at historical articles. She liked reading the notes too, and note how some things have remained the same while others have not. Language especially had remained somewhat the same. For example, the description of a certain life form known as the Gobal Worm, named after the biologist that had first found it. The Gobal Worm looks basically like a cross between a worm and a slug. But its foremost feature, the one that belongs to it alone, is its smell.

Maratha had to choose her project. It had to be something large enough to last perhaps her entire time here or hold the potential to expand into other projects. She just could not decide and was one of only four students who had not.

“Miss Verdan, I am surprised to see you here.” Professor Tamud stood, feet apart, hands behind his back, down at the other end of the room.

“Yes sir, I come here quite often. I like seeing the reports, in their original language and format.”

“We had a staff meeting today, Miss Verdan, and your name came up. Several times actually.”

“Oh? Is that a good or a bad thing?”

“Depends really, on who is the scientist and who is the subject. I understand you have not chosen a subject for your project.”

“No, sir, I have not.” Of all her professors, Maratha was the most intimidated by Professor Tamud. But here, in this room, he did not seem as frightening as he did when standing at his lectern or walking up the aisles of desks as he lectured.

“Why not?”

“I am not sure, sir.”

“Okay, Verdan, let’s cut the crap shall we? It’s just you and me here. No one to hear us and judge you for your opinions. Now, again I ask, why not?” He now stood a mere three feet from her.

Maratha knew the reason but had never said it aloud. “I find that there are so many possibilities, sir, that I can’t narrow it down to just one.”

“Ah. Is there not one field or animal or plant or whatever that calls out to you? We all hear them, the thing we are to pursue. For example, my research usually is in the direction of the more tropical forests. I am intrigued by the variety of plants and animals that I can find in just a few square feet. I come here, quite regularly, and I go immediately to that section of the report. I read what they wrote, what they thought, and I compare it to what we know now. So tell me, Verdan, what section to you stare into the most.?”

“I’ve been a fan of reptiles for many years, since I was a child. And lately I find I am standing and reading about the Gobal Worms more often than anything else.”

“Have you ever seen one in person?”

“No, I have seen some of the vid stills and short recordings but never in person. They aren’t very popular creatures in zoos.” She smiled, knowing that the smell of just one family could overwhelm the entire place.

To her surprise, Professor Tamud laughed. “No, they aren’t in any zoo, at least not one on this continent. No one has studied them in detail, other than the initial observations. I think a few hundred years ago they tried to do a count of them but didn’t get very far. They were very low on the priority list.” He looked at her for a few seconds. “I think that if you wanted to study them, there would be little opposition and no competition. But the board would agree to it easier if you had actually met one. Go to my office and ask my secretary to help you fill out a payment request for a trip to the Doma Continent to see them in their natural habitat. I have a friend there that can help you find them.”

Centric Shorts, Part Three

Part Three – Chapter Two – Introduction of main characters

Elnac liked to think. To consider, ponder, and cogitate on matters it thought important to itself. It gathered information from objects that passed by it or ran into it. In a small solar system on a far end of a complex galaxy, Elnac had been stuck for literally eons. Not that it minded, really, as it had no other concept of ‘elsewhere’.

Elnac liked to watch the various organisms that had formed on its skin. Little beings that moved or rooted or swayed or died where they stood. Elnac fed them what they needed and watched them all interact with each other.

Then, instead of an organism forming, an organism came. These were different. These had intelligence. These made permanent homes. And, most importantly, these were independent of Elnac. They made their own food, made their own water sources, and made their own environments.

But what made them even more fascinating is that they cared for Elnac and the other organisms. They planted forests, helped any ill organism they found. They gave back to Elnac whatever they took.


Maratha Verdan was fifth generation native. She’d grown up on an arcology community far from any city. Choosing to leave the only home she’d known to attend the university had been a tough one. But it was the only way to learn more than what the university there had to offer.

And now, six hours after getting off the transport tram, she was definitely lost. The font used for the street signs was not one she was familiar with, at least that was the excuse she kept running through her mind. But most likely what had distracted her the most had been the noise. Crowded streets, far too many types of media at once, and far too much to filter through in her tired brain.

Finally, exhausted and disgusted with herself, she sat down on a bench to rest. Soon she would see a Constable go by and she would ask for assistance. ‘Always trust the Constable’ had been the slogan she’d been taught since she was old enough to learn.

She took the time to look around her, to see just where she was. Behind her was a tall flat sided building. Perhaps 17 stories tall, it was much taller than the biggest back home. She could see no doorway leading into it, finally spotting it around one side.

In front of her, across the street, were a variety of shops and businesses. One was a media store, selling the latest in auditory and visual receptors and disks. The front glass had several flashing lights, as if the sound was not enough to attract attention.

Next to it was an honest to goodness shoe repair shop. The streets were far too crowded with pedestrians to allow for motorized transportation. People must therefor go through a lot of shoes.

But on the corner was the most spectacular, at least to someone with Maratha’s rural background – a cybernetic evolution port. Tables lined the sidewalk, people using them to sit down and plug into the cybernetic library. A part of her, a small part, wanted to know what it was like, having all that information at one’s fingertips. To tickety-tap the port keys and there it would be.

Maratha shook herself, forcing herself to look away. She’d rather get her information the old fashioned way: by learning it and storing it inside her own electric-organic facility – her brain.

As the sky grew darker, the crowd finally began thinning. She felt more relaxed now that the noise level had dropped. She sat leaning into the bench, feeling drowsy in the evening heat. She didn’t hear someone approach until that someone politely coughed.

“Oh. Greetings.”

“Greetings. I happen to have a leftover belara and hoped you could eat it for me.” She held out a cellulose bag that held a wonderfully smelling open-ended sandwich.

“Um, I haven’t much credits on me….”

“I don’t expect you to pay. It would have been thrown out so you aren’t costing me any money.” She put the bag down on the bench and turned her head as Maratha opened the bag and began to eat. “We delve so deep into the informatics, into knowledge, becoming engrossed in theories. Yet, our stomachs are still very primal and are capable of pulling us out of our research and back into our skin.”

“That sounds almost poetic.”

“Does it? Just thinking aloud. I’ve been across the street at work and saw you out here. You look quite out of place you know.” The other woman smiled, showing her white teeth.

“I suppose I do. Here I am wearing plant material clothing while everyone else is wearing…something else entirely.” Maratha took another bite as she watched the crowd around them.

“It is still plant based, just spun differently. It’s all the latest rage here. Personally, I can’t stand the loud colors. May I sit down with you?”

“Please do! I am Maratha Verdan.”

“I am Zenith Torado. Welcome to University City. How lost are you?”

Maratha laughed. “Quite lost. I can’t read the street signs. I thought I knew almost every font and language, but not this.”

“We told the city they were making a mistake putting those up and you just proved our point. Don’t look at the sign, look through it.”

Maratha focused on the closest street sign, then focused her eyes past it, as if she could see something behind it. “Oh! I see that now! How obnoxious!”

“Exactly. I suspect they’ll come down soon. In some districts they’ve painted over them. Where were you headed?”

“To Checkmate Dormitory.”

“Ah. Now, that tells me several things about you.” Zenith leaned back, turning slightly toward Maratha. “First, you aren’t from anywhere near here. Two, you are a true scholar and quite possibly follow the Geocentric belief system.”

“And how did you figure that out?”

“It is not pronounced ‘chek-mayt’ but ‘chek-MAH-tay’. Not knowing how it is pronounced means you have never sat down at a port long enough to hear it spoken. And, Checkmate Dormitory is only for those here on special scholarships.” Zenith took the bag and the wrapping paper, tossing it one handed into the closest recycling bin.

“How do you know so much? Wait, you plug into a port on a regular basis.”

“Yes, I do. Plus I read the news flashes. So, was that enough? Do you need something to drink too?”

“I have some water in my bag.” Maratha reached into the side pocket of her pack and pulled out a flask.

“Where is the rest of your things?”

“They were sent by cargo. Since I can’t put postage on my forehead, they made it safely while I got dumped at the platform.”

“I go by Checkmate on my way home. Would you like to walk with me?” Zenith stood. “I need to go get my things but I’ll be right back.”

“That would be nice, yes. I’ll cross the street with you and wait for you there.”

Gathering her things, Maratha closed the latches on her bag before slipping her arm through the strap. The other bag could have been attached to the first but it made it very heavy so she carried it instead. The road, a insert description here, was less hectic now and it was easy enough to cross. In her home community, the roads had been packed dirt but these roads consisted of ground up coral. It allowed for excellent water drainage as well as a firm surface.

Zenith soon joined her and together they began walking. “So what are you here to study?”

“I am here on a biology scholarship and in particular reptile and insect biology.”

“Ah. I have seen some of the long snakes they have at the zoo. Frightening long.” Zenith shuddered.

“I have personally seen a 20 foot barn snake. Wrapped itself around one of the smaller pigs. We had no choice but to cut its throat so it would stop squalling. The pig, not the snake.”

“I figured. 20 foot, eh? Poor little thing. The snake, not the pig.”

“You have quite the sense of humor for an Informationist.”

“Humor is, after all, just another form of information.”

Centric Shorts, Part Two

This is the longest snippet, I think. It will not be part of the book due to it is boring as heck. I will shorten it tremendously, if I decide to include it.

Part Two – Chapter One – How It Came To Be

“Mr. President, I brought this report to you in person.” Robyo Walenca bowed at the waist and handed the folder to the man behind the desk.

“Have a seat. Walenca, this is Nurina Tut, Secretary of Global Preservation and this is Forday Trenk, Secretary of Global Defense. Friends, this is Robyo Walenca, Chief of the Colony Project. Margo, please escort these three into the conference room while I read this in private. I assume you brought copies for the others?”

“Yes, sir, I did.” Walenca followed the President’s aide through a green doorway and into a room with a large round table. One wall appeared to be a window overlooking Mount Lator but it was not. It was a monitor attached to a camera mounted to Communication Tower L42. Walenca gave the other two their copies of the report then went to stand in front of the ‘window’.

The Dean of his department at the University had one of these put in the lobby where all new prospective students entered. Walenca liked watching the faces of the applicants, noting which ones were awed, which ones were bored, and which ones understood the technology enough to enjoy it for what it was.

But all this would change, if one agreed with the results of the twenty year study his department had been dedicated to. It was why Walenca personally had traveled by hovercraft across the ocean to Capitol Island. Looking at the live view of the mountain, he could just make out the peak, but couldn’t see the changes the report stated.

After an hour of listening to pages turn as the other two read the report, Walenca turned from the view when the President entered the room. “Any one else know of this?”

“No sir. I am sure some of the students have put the pieces together themselves but they are all sworn to silence on this.”

“And you have checked all the data?”

“Yes sir, that’s all we’ve done for the past year.”

The President nodded, his first two fingers tapping the folder he’d placed on the table. “Have you started working on solutions?”

“Solutions sir? There aren’t any solutions other than time. And that is something we no longer have.”

“How much do we have? In your opininion.”

Walenca had known he would be asked this. He knew the answer and he also knew no one would like it. “In my opinion, we have less than a hundred years.”

The two Secretaries nodded and glanced at the President. They’d done their own types of research as well, coming to similar but less exact conclusions.

“If fixing the problem is out of the question, what can we do? What are our options?”

Walenca didn’t answer. The President was looking at the two Secretaries. Nurina Tut, her dark skin glossy from the monitor’s light, was the first to speak. “We have bounced ideas around, sir, and we have concluded our best option is to leave.”

“And go where?”

“We don’t know. In the past we have sent out probes to other solar systems. Our planet is not the only one capable of life. There are ten others that we are aware of. We could develop and send out more, getting more detailed information of each one. Then pick one or more to go to.”

“I think, sir, if we choose this path, that we start the designing of ships capable of getting us there. That way, when the data is collected, we have the means to transport us.” Forday Trenk pulled out his hand held computer and made notes.

The President turned to stare at Walenca. “What do you think of this?”

“I think it is the best option, if not only option. There are plenty of underground caverns here, but no one believes there is enough.”

The President nodded. “Call a summit meeting. Gather every government leader and the heads of our current space program. We will also want to link with the Universities.”

“We don’t want planet wide hysteria, sir.”

“We don’t? I think we do. We need to get the people ready. We made this mess as a people, we need to work on fixing it as a people.”


The meeting was held at the largest stadium possible. Armed guards of the Global Force formed a ring around the structure as well as posted aircraft above. While a relatively peaceful society, it would be too tempting for terrorists since all the leaders were in one place. Normally such a gathering would have taken months, even years to put together. But when the Planetary President says to attend, protocol was dropped. The meeting took place less than two months after the decision was made.

Copies of the report had been provided to each leader, with the instructions to not jump to any conclusions until the summit meeting. Information did leak out and protests were taking place in almost every nation. Doomsday groups were the loudest, shouting ‘I told you so’.

“We have known for several decades now that our resources were at their end. We have known for over a century that we have been damaging our environment. We now know that this damage, like the depleted resources, are irreversible. Therefore, we are implementing one plan and welcome suggestions of other plans.” The President paused while the translators caught up.

“We are going to be sending out probes to investigate alternative home planets for out people. When such a planet is found, we will send a survey crew out to it or them to investigate further. And finally, we will begin transporting everyone and setting up colonies.”

The uproar was deafening. Everyone wanted to speak at once. But the President left the podium and went to his seat to await the protests to die down. He wanted to see who rose to the top and who sank to the bottom. At his feet was an array of monitors where he could view the scholars and scientists who were meeting elsewhere.


The first probe was launched from an orbiting space station within two years. It was sent to the furthest system away. Another would follow it in a few weeks, giving that system two chances of a probe reaching it. All the probes were launched on a schedule so that results would begin coming in at approximately the same time. Each one had its own team of astronomers, geologists, environmentalists, biologists etcetera. Then, when the probes began sending data, nothing would be overlooked if one probe drew all the attention and another was ignored.

Each nation had a job or two to do as well. Each craft and industry was dedicated to the project. Every aspect of living, from plants to clothing to food to entertainment, was being studied and redesigned in as many ways as possible. And as subgroup of these groups was dedicated to living aboard a spaceship. The furthest solar system was forty years away. The closest was twenty two. The probes were designed to go much faster and would reach their approximate destination in a third of the time.


Of the two hundred various probes sent out, only ten sent back positive results. Ten space craft, with four staff per craft, was launched. All forty people who were selected for this journey had little to no family. The possibility of them being alive when they returned, if they returned at all, was slim.

These ships, small and lean, would make it to their destinations in half the time it would take the transport ships.


Ship One, heading to the most distant Possible, was silent most of their journey, sleeping to conserve energy and food. Ship Two was never heard from again.

Ships Three and Four reached their destinations safely and began their surveys.

Ships Five and Seven went off course and had to re-plot their new one manually.

Ships Six, Eight, Nine and Ten were slower than anticipated in reaching their Possibles.


The second global meeting took place electronically. Systems had been put in place to link every national capitol together with both audio and video. This allowed for immediate consultations and decisions.

“As you all know, Ship Two disappeared and it is assumed they have met with disaster. Another one was launched last year in hopes of them making their destination. Ships Five and Seven were off course and Five has reached the planet with time to spare. Ship Seven is estimated to be another year from their Possible. However, it has been determined they will run out of fuel long before then, and air just as they reach it. They are working on means of conserving fuel for a final boost to land on the planet in question.” The President paused out of habit. The translators were now computerized and triple checked against each other for accuracy.

“The others have reached their locations and began reporting back a while ago. Possibles Four, Six, and Nine are not safe options. They will continue reporting for as long as they can in case alternatives are discovered. Possibles Three, Five, Eight and Ten are all options, with Eight scoring the lowest. Possible Ten is adequate and could be an option if needed. We will know about Seven and Two later, we hope.”

“You have all received the information in P3, P5, P8 and P10. As you have seen, it has been determined that we cannot all go to the same planet. In order to prevent what has happened here, we will need to divide.”

“As we decided earlier, financial ability is not to be considered. The applications for these four Possibles will be reviewed according to ability, desire, and compatibility. I suggest that all of you submit your applications as soon as possible so that we may begin the review process. You may only apply for on Possible at a time so that each group can be appropriately evaluated and compared.


It was several decades more before the first transport ship was built. The vote was for comfort rather than speed. If it were just adults, they’d hook everyone up to intravenous fluids and have them sleep four days out of every ten. But with the children, it was not possible.

One of the planets had more than enough sunlight and was going to set up with hundreds of solar power cells. Another had plenty of wind and would harness it for power. The others would need to develop something when they got there, depending on how things worked out. They were equipped with massive battery arrays, unassembled, that would power their society for hundreds of years, giving them plenty of time to research other possibilities.

Of all the things each ship would have in common would be the computer system. Several banks of pentabyte hard drives and thousands of data terminals were stored in safe holds inside each ship. Each set of data were identical, each ship carrying the complete knowledge and history of their people.

In other holds were plants, seeds, seedlings and saplings for all plants they thought would thrive on their new planet. There were also beasts for their meat, their hair, their products and for their usefulness as companions. Everything they could think of had been place on board in whatever form was best.

Centric Shorts

Keep in mind this is ROUGH draft!

Part One – Prologue:

With the explosion, dust and other matter was blown in all directions. Some was sucked in but most was sent out. If time existed then, it would have seemed to be both extremely slow and extremely fast.

Swirls of dust and matter begin being drawn together, caught in each others minute magnetic fields. As the globules grew in size, they produced gravitational fields, influencing other globules around them.

Spheres joined with other spheres either physically or in the dance of opposing fields. Spirals of dust spheres and wafts of organized gas formed in groups.

In the distant future, these spirals and swirls and gatherings would be called wochat, brfxi, universes and other terms. Organic beings came into existence long after the explosion. Long after the dancing had begun. Minuscule organisms formed in the muck, some to go no further, others to grow until they could climb out. Some became vegetation. Others became beings capable of voluntary movement and awareness and understanding of that movement – chordates, ectotherms, herbivores, insectivores, bipeds, quadrupeds, more and any combination thereof.

But unlike the dust and gas spheres, these beings were capable of altering the space around them. They could choose where to go and what to do. They were noesis – the result of perception and learning and reasoning.

But the spheres could not choose. Long before choice was an option, they were caught in those magnetic and gravitational fields. The vast majority of them, roughly 99.99%, did not have the electrical capacity of cognition. Gas spheres never did. Dust spheres too far from a star were slowed by the cold. Too close to the star and they were over-heated.

On the rare occasion that the electrical forces formed with just the right amount in just the right places, cognition began.

Mother Tree, Part 7

(a bit of the manuscript was clipped ’cause it stank)

“I’m afraid of the dark.” One child spoke, her voice quivering.

“Why?” The priest asked her.

“I don’t know what is out there.”

“Ah. I will tell you what is out there and tomorrow you will see it. There is nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all. We are inside a circle of tall stones, each of them at least twice my height. Where we are is dirt and grass but where the stones sit is a circle of rock underneath them. This is sacred place from a long time ago.

“The stones are gray and silver and some black, swirled together. None of them have moss although they are weathered by the world as it passed them by. Once there were words and drawings on them but they cannot be seen anymore. Those words and drawings were for the people of that time, not this one.

“Beyond the stones are trees almost as old as the Mother Tree herself. They are tall and proud, almost too proud at times. Some of the trees have grown together to form what looks to be one tree, but it is not. After the Mother Tree chose her first two priests, she told the trees here to make her a temple.

“Five trees leaned toward each other, their branches and trunks entertwining. The Temple to the Mother Tree is made from those trees. The Temple is alive and we must treat it as such. Other trees leaned together so their branches formed a ceiling over an area where the priests live. No rain or snow falls on the ground they protect, even now. Yet still more trees adjusted themselves over the years to provide sunlight where it was needed to allow the priests’ crops to grow.

“All of this is to our right and behind us. In front of us is another clearing, quite large. This is where a village once stood and now will stand again. That is where you will make your new homes. So there is nothing to be afraid of, children, for the trees are commanded by the Mother Tree herself to protect and take care of you.”

As the priest had spoke, most of the children lay down and fell asleep. By the time he was finished, only the young carpenter was awake. “Is it true? Did the trees actually move themselves to form the Temple?”

“It is true. In the morning you will see for yourself.”

“Uncle, I am a carpenter. I use wood for my craft. How am I to do this here? I would feel as if I am murdering the relatives of my protectors.”

“Beyond these trees is the usual forest. There are wind felled trees as well as branches and trunks broken during the winter. Those are what we use. To return to the earth, they feed the other trees. To be used by the priests is to serve the Tree. Either way, they do not mind in the least.”

“I see. Still, I feel as if the trees are watching me, as if they know the names of every tree I have helped cut down.”

“They may be watching you, yes, because they can sense what your trade is. But the trees you cut down did not have names. They had no spirit in them and therefore were not truly alive. Not all trees have a spirit, a sense of self. The closer to the Mother Tree, the more that do.”

The young man was silent. “So just as one tree is harder than another, so can one tree have a spirit and another not. I will sleep on this, Uncle.”