bookmark_borderCentric 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.”

bookmark_borderCentric 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.

bookmark_borderCentric 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.

bookmark_borderMother 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.”

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 6

“That is not difficult, Nephew. I am old. I need assistance with the upkeep of the Temple. The Mother Tree only accepts children as her keepers.”

“How many did you see in your dream?”

“I did not count them. Perhaps there were twelve. Perhaps less, perhaps more.”


The villagers murmured amongst themselves after the announcement. To the side sat the scions. There were twenty of them, two of which would be of the age of consent within a season. The two older boys would be given the choice to stay with their village or go with the priest. The villages’ elders would also have the choice about the others.

“We do not want to give up the orphans for the sole reason they are a burden. They are not. They are as loved as any child.”

“Some villages are burdened. The harvest has been too small. The game animals are leaving to find better food themselves.”

“Our village has five orphans due to the illness last spring. We are short on those old enough to help with the harvest yet have many to feed.”

When they were done, fifteen of the orphans would go with the priest. Some villagers were crying, others were emotionless. Some seemed relieved.

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 5

The elder left the priest’s tent and went for a walk alone. He thought of the villagers left at home. Most of them were either too old to make the trip or unmarried. Every child had been brought to the presence of the Mother Tree. He turned and walked toward the group of tents from his own village. As he approached, he heard the sound of children laughing. He changed his direction to go see.

He found a large group of children playing the game of Hunt and Prey. Some ran low, others ran and leaped about. Others remained in place, reaching out to grab someone as they went by. It was a game that built strength and encouraged group thinking.

He saw that all the children bore the mark of their village. Did the priest’s dream meant they were to lose all the children? His heart skipped a beat at the thought of any village without the sound of children playing. He continued to watch, trying to understand what the dream meant. He watched a boy run fast and leap over a log. He was the grandson of another elder. He not only wore the mark of the village, but the mark of his family. Both were embroidered bands of cloth around the thigh. When the child reached the age of consent, the cloth would be exchanged for a tattoo, his first of many.

He watched the boy who was the hunter after the other. He didn’t leap over the log but ran around it. He cut across the circle, always staying close to his prey. The elder watched the boys’ legs as they ran. Then he saw it. The hunter wore only one mark: the one of his village. He didn’t wear one for his family. The elder stood straight and looked at everyone’s legs. Most wore two, but there were some that wore only the mark of their village.

Scions, the orphans of the villages. Lacking any family, not even a distant cousin claim them, they were children who had no family tree. The village was the rootstock to which they would be grafted.

Scions were taken care of by their village and lived in a communal hut or lodge. Each family was obligated to donate food from their own supply; the more scions a village had, the harder it was for the village as a whole.

Food had been scarce in the past several years. It was why there had been only seven children for the ritual. If the priest took some of the orphans, the burden would be less for each village and there would be more food for each family and more to put into storage for the harsh winters.

But the secret of the sacrifice—the fact that no child was actually killed—needed to remain a secret. So how to explain the scions’ departure with the priest?

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 4

“Nephew, I had a dream last night.”

“Was it a good dream, Uncle?” The elder sat on the dirt in front of the priest.

“I do not know. Let me tell it to you. I think you can help me with it.” In the priest’s arms lay one of the babies. She drank from a leather teat, her little hands clutching it. The other lay nearby, playing with the fringe from his leather vest.

“In my dream, I returned to the Temple to find a village of tents. Everyone was young, from these infants to as old as just starting a beard. Each had the markings of their home village, and there were many represented. They were building a new lodge from wood from the Mother Tree. They were laughing and playing as they worked. Older ones were up high while the younger ones were down low. They took turns watching over those too young to help. Once the village was built, we all went to the Mother, who accepted the blood of everyone and everyone changed their village markings to one similar to the mark of the Temple.”

“Has their never been a village around the Temple before?”

“Not in many lifetimes. We sometimes found the stones of a foundation.”

“And everyone was children?”

“Yes. Some were just reaching the age of consent.”

“I do not understand how I can help you with this.”

The priest shifted the baby to his shoulder where he began patting her back. “Do you not know of a group of such children and youth?”

“With the markings of all the different villages? No, I do not.”

“Go and think on it.”

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 3

The parents came into the small tent where the priest waited. On a blanket in a corner lay the two infants, each playing with a stick. “By the Tree, I greet you.”

“By the Tree, we came.”

“Sit down, relax. I wanted to know some things about the children before–”

“Before you kill them?” The mother sobbed, finally breaking down.

“No, they will not die, at least not for a very long time. Children who are sacrificed are not killed. They are given to the Mother Tree. They will live out their lives taking care of her and her other children.”

The father looked up. “Uncle, I do not understand. Legend says the children are all killed, their blood poured onto her roots.”

“They are not killed, but yes, some blood will be spilled onto her roots. You are bound by law to never reveal this to anyone. But to hold your heads high and accept their fate. To you, they may as well be dead. You will never see them again.”

“But they will live?” The mother wiped her eyes.

“Yes. I have some questions for you both, but I have some that are important right now. As you can see, I am an old man. There are no other priests but me. I am uncertain as to how to care for two children at once.” He raised his hand to stop the mother from speaking. “Do not tell me their names or how to tell them apart. That is information I do not need to know.”

“They are good girls. The one is the more dominant and demanding. The other is quieter and rarely cries. The one will get angry if she hears her smaller sibling crying. They take turns, waiting while one gets the attention. But sometimes they can be quite frustrating.”

“It is the way of twins, especially identical ones.” The priest nodded.

“How will you take care of two children? They cannot crawl yet, but when they do…”

“They will be everywhere, I know. Do either of them have any physical problems?”

“The smallest seems to have a weakness in her legs. They move, but she does not kick as strong. She also becomes ill easier.”


The old priest lit the candles and leaned back against the middle pole of the tent. He looked over where the two children lay in the baskets that were slightly standing up so he could see their faces. They stared at the candles.

“Good, children. Now, let’s go speak to the Holy Mother.” He closed his eyes and listened to his breathing. He extended his senses to listen for the breathing and heart beat of his two new charges. He extended it further, feeling the collective sleep of the villagers around him. Five young men were awake, wandering the perimeter in case some wild animal found their way too close. Then he came to the Tree herself. He could sense her breathing through her branches. He could feel her heartbeat as the sap flowed.

He could also sense her laughter. She thought this was funny! The priest tried his best to glare at her but her good mood effected him too. The great owl flew down to land near him. His mouth opened, but the voice of the Mother Tree came out. “Sleep, my child. Dream.”

The priest shook himself, his mind back with his body in the tent. He looked over at the two children. The larger one was asleep but the smaller was staring at him. He smiled at her.

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 2

The elders met near the largest tent. The oldest of them was the assumed leader. “The tree has spoken. The children will be sacrificed to the priests.”

The parents stood in the center on a log. They didn’t speak. They did not look up. “Great honor is on you both. You will both become leaders in your village. You will be respected and admired by everyone.”

At last the father spoke. “When will the priests come?”

“Soon. May I see the children?” The oldest elder nodded toward the baskets where the babes lay sleeping.

“Of course.” The mother spoke.

The elder motioned for one of the young women assistants to bring him the baskets. He took one child out then the other, holding both in his arms. “They must have been a handful, this past few seasons.”

“We have four other children and were not prepared for two more. It has not been easy, but we loved them no less.” The mother stood tall again.

“Of course you did. Both females? How strange. Usually twins are one of each. But they are so rare either way.” He looked up at the mother. “You must have known they were destined for something larger than us all.”

She nodded.

One of the infants awoke and yawned. She stared up at the strange man holding her. She reached up and grabbed his beard. “You telling me something, little one?” He handed the child to the elder on his right and the still sleeping infant to the one on his left. Each placed a blessing on the child before passing it to the next elder.

Before the two infants had completed the circle, the crowd around them grew silent and parted to allow the priest to come through. He was old and bent, using a tall walking stick to help him along. The elder rose and bowed to him.

“Uncle, by the Tree, we greet you.”

“By the Tree, I came.” The old man saw the two babes still being passed around. “Two?” His voice rose slightly.


“Holy Mother of Trees, what are you doing to me?” He muttered then motioned for the elder to step closer. “Do you know what the sacrifice is?”

“Yes, I do. The children will go–”

“You do know. Then tell me, Nephew, how am I to tend to two?”

“I…I do not know. Perhaps the Mother Tree knows something we do not.”

The old priest snorted. “She does at that. And the twig fell on both of them at once?”

“No, two separate twigs.”

“And the great owl?”

“Two distinct calls.”

“Holy Mother of Trees, do you think me a strapping young man?” He sighed and patted the elder on the shoulder. “I have come a long way this morning. Do you have food and shelter for me? I need to think.”

“But of course, this way, Uncle.”

“Bring the children, I need to meet them.”

bookmark_borderMother Tree, Part 1

The Mother Tree stood east of center in a vast forest. Her branches spread out, taking up the space of several dozen regular size trees. But the Mother Tree was a regular tree to being with. She had been there a long time, longer than any of the little bipeds could remember. Their oral history says she is the Mother Tree, the one from which the first ancestor sat under and rested after being born from one of the tree’s fruit.

Each spring, as the first of her buds began to form, the ancient ritual was performed. The people established the ritual long ago and it was set up so that it was very rare that a sacrifice was made. There had not been one in four lifetimes.

As the buds formed, all children born since the last spring were brought to the tree. They were offered to the Mother Tree in exchange for her giving birth the their ancestors. As the children lay on the still frost covered leaves under the massive branches, the people waited. They waited for the sign that a child would be accepted in exchange.

There would be no doubting the sign since it was such an unusual thing, something that could only come from the Mother Tree. A twig holding a newly formed bud had to fall and land on a child. Then to confirm it, the great owl living high above in the trunk had to call out. The chances of both of these events happening accidentally at the same time just was not possible. The great owl was nocturnal and was only seen in the day time during the late fall fire season. As for the twig with the bud, the chances of one falling were slim enough but for one to fall and actually land on a child was even slimmer.

A spring came when there were not many children born the previous year. In all, there were only seven children ranging from an infant just a few weeks old to one that was almost a year old.

Several villages came to witness the event. The tree was so far into the forest that they set up tents and lean-to huts, using wood they brought with them. It was a two day trip in, two days there, and two days back. Then they would help each other start the plowing of the fields.

Despite there not being a call for a sacrifice in four lifetimes, the villagers still maintained a sense of dignity and respect. The babes were dressed in their finest clothes and laid on the leaves on the ground. The drum beat began after the last child was placed on the ground. A steady rhythm, a heartbeat, the drum sounded out across the forest. Wild animals stood still, hunter and prey alike. There was a sense of anticipation in the air.

With the birds and people silent, all that was heard was the drum. Yet when the twigs landed on first one child and then its twin, it was as loud as a village gong. The drummer faltered but kept up the beat. She glanced toward the village elders who now stared up into the branches of the Mother Tree.

As big as the great owl is, he does not make a sound when he flies. He landed on the lowest branch, then floated down to a large stone near the trunk. The parents of the twins stood still and straight. A slow bead of sweat ran down the man’s back. And the owl called out twice.