Little Cherine Book 12 - BPost068
Candy opens herself to Iziko, of the Sprakil species. That looks odd to most people because all they see is a fierce looking and very alien creature and sometimes even Cherinians forget to sense what a lovely person he is.
When populations were small enough for everyone in your town to be a neighbour, we may have sometimes treated the inanimate as confidants or gods, but we always remained aware of other people being mirrors to us, their minds and hearts filled with the same fears and hopes. Cities have destroyed that, the distinction has blurred and to many, other people are what they see but have no empathy for. We now treat them like objects, available for us to use them without us offering anything in return. Our confidants are men or women we contact through the media and our gods and goddesses are generated from our singers, bands and actors - actually, anyone who is a celebrity. Our children no longer idealise our brave or our honest, only those who can appeal to the basest parts of our souls.
I did try to avoid using the word empathy, because it has become a word everyone expects to hear a Cherinian preach about, but if I’m to personalise the discussion, Deissia, think of the five top Golden Questioners. Are they all people who draw blood, sacrificing the guest to the audience, or are there some of them who dig deep for the information, but then use that information to formulate questions that expose what is hidden, delighting the audience, but also phrase their sharpest questions in ways that help the guest grow by confronting or admitting whatever it is that is hurting them or making them feel they have a guilty secret to hide. Are they the ones who get the best choice of guests? You have a choice. You can please the audience while also performing a healthy function that makes this a better world, or you can use your abilities and the power given to you by your ratings to trample on the hearts of those who foolishly agree to the inquisition. At best, you will leave a trail of damaged people behind you and the knowledge of what you are doing will coarsen your heart and soul, impeding your own growth.”
Somewhere along the line she started asking questions and arguing the points, but I think she left me with her defences lowered, able now to admit to herself (definitely not to me) that she is not happy.
I returned to the taverna feeling mentally exhausted and it made Theresa protective of me so she angrily asked, “Why do you make such an effort for her - you don’t even like her!”
The answer came to me instantly, but I took my time - after all, if I show I took the time to think on it, maybe they’ll take the time to think it through. “If a Cherinian cannot help her grow into the kind of person I like, maybe then there is nothing special about being a Cherinian?” Cherine gave me a sudden dazzling smile and I wondered how it would affect Deissia if she could experience the sunburst of emotion that even made my fingers tingle with electricity.
Oh god, now I know why I needed to help the Reggheri! They are such gentle people, kind in ways that real kindness demands. They are also stoic, which explains how it is they could sacrifice themselves to have their ancestors return to life. The period we are in is about six hundred years before they started to build the city and develop the technology for keeping the souls of their loved ones. The Sparklers keep an eye on those who visit the void in their sleep and confirm none of them are self-aware.
While we’ve watched the people, learning of their customs and growing in understanding of the ways they think (Faiiis helps us), the scientists have been taking samples of the land. They had a theory they were hoping to prove and now they are convinced they were right. They are suggesting that the land mass that sticks out of the rest of the planet was not originally a part of it, that it crashed into the planet millions or even billions of years ago. Actually, they say it had to be billions of years ago as the planet and the land mass would not have both survived such an impact if the planet had cooled enough for it to have a solid crust. The crash must have thrown out splashes that tumbled around the planet, becoming moons. It would explain why the moons are largely composed of rust-streaked iron ore.
We are going back in time to see, but this does pose an interesting theory - and, if true, a unique possibility: This could be the only case of a planet that is not suitable for life evolving on it, becoming infested by part of another planet crashing into it and providing the building blocks for life. Furthermore, evolutionists are going to have a field day designing hundreds of experiments to show how plant life evolved over a great period of time so as to adapt to the planet which is not really its home. This means the Reggheri are alien to their own planet! I bet everyone will ask to go even further back in time to discover where the mountain mass comes from and whether it used to be a planet and, again, whether it had any sapient lifeforms - the older brothers of the Reggheri?
This is Rosie: just had to mention that Sam is preening. At first, when she was challenged and had to fight Faiiis, she was sort of embarrassed by the whole situation, because of the Reggheri being so childish and naïve. Now, she boasts about how she always finds the most interesting alien species. Nobody is asking her which other she found, we are too nice to do anything like that to her. Don’t you just love it when Rosie gets catty?
If I were to be asked, which one aspect of our meeting the Reggheri exemplifies our relationship, I would have to put the constant interruptions at the top of the list. I don’t know why I expected it to be any different now. Let me start from the beginning.
We were at the taverna and Luigi had recited some of his latest poems. We had switched off all the lights and the glow from the Wirm moon and the swooping-dancing Sparklers and the reflections from the Unation ship created the right background for his moody dysphoric dithyrambs (passionate poems of irregular form). He had put us into a strange mood and nobody spoke for a while. Maria broke us out of it when she sent trays with cappuccino for all of the Terrans (yup, even Candy, Tseri, Alice and so on - those many think of as the ‘little ones’, like a cup now and then).
Meli’s eyes are dark, but when she is in a ‘mood’, they seem to soak in the light so that they appear to be black. Lynda stared at her eyes as if mesmerised when Meli asked her, “When you daydream yourself to new realities, do you always look for different Earths or do you ever search for strange aliens?”
“Earths. Meli, all aliens are strange until we get to know them, so how would I define ‘strange’ in that context? Are you looking for something much stranger than any species we’ve met till now?”
I can tell you, everybody perked up and even our friends, of other species, sensed the sudden change and paid attention or actually jumped to us. (They seem to keep a psychic eye on our emoting all the time. It probably is a self-defence mechanism as they worry about what new crazy ideas we’ll come up with and don’t want to be caught unawares. The funny thing is, when our isi is with us, the Inguel monitor us, but when she is with them they monitor her.)
Lynda said she’d try and Robbie asked her to be careful. The ‘adults’, Terrans and aliens, were happy to hear him ask that of her, whereas the rest of us tried to sabotage him by secretly sending her encouragement to go ‘real way out’. Lynda pulled back in to herself and did not reassure either side.
Arthur, if I had not lived through the above or if I’d written of it before the next day, I might have blamed you. Lynda has found, what she describes as ‘a species of ghosts who don’t have souls’. It seems, like the Wirms, they are rare and are not in any of the realities we’ve visited. Curiosity being the prime curse of sapience, it was only human of us that we chose to indulge it. We are on our way to the new reality, to the planet of the new to us aliens. All the other species, including those of the Unation, are just as fascinated as us, as none of them have ever heard of any species resembling these. The Sparklers are not only curious but also in a dither, for any species to be a ghost - or to have ghosts, but not souls, is a serious contradiction in terms.
We have no name for the species as we can’t communicate with them! Not even with Claudia trying directly. It is as if they cannot see or hear us - and yet we are certain they can. Equally disturbing is that none of the ghosts are always visible. Some of them are hardly ever visible and once the possibility that they might be fading away was posited, it became urgent that we find out how we can save them.
While we searched their planet for clues, hoping they have libraries or something akin, sometimes fooled by the dim light into investigating a shape to find it is only another of their fat, mottled mushroom dimensioned trees, which are similar to the few buildings we have found, the Sparklers counted the ghosts. There are only two thousand six hundred and forty two, with about two thousand three hundred about to fade into non-existence, if we have understood what the different stages of fading mean. We dare not waste more time here, we must return in time to the days when they were plentiful and more tangible (maybe corporeal), in the hope that their minds are easier for us to contact.
Arbitrarily we chose to jump back fifty years. There is another species here now and the ghosts have a physical presence. Claudia gave us the name of the other species, they call themselves the Lequie.
Since the Lequie are not humanoid, if they are xenophobic, they are just as likely to be horrified by us as by any other species, so this was the perfect opportunity for mi-Aninsi to practice the talent/skills Claudia has been helping her with. While mi-Aninsi used her gift without showing herself, we studied those she came in ‘contact’ with, hoping to sense someone more open minded. The Sparklers joyfully let us know that the Lequie have souls and visit the void. At last we are starting to hope things are taking a turn for the better.
Lelepco Elosuyk, sex unknown, was our first choice. It also helped that (until proven otherwise I’ll speak of ‘it’ as a male) he is constantly in the company of the first species. It seems unreasonable of us to describe the first species as a separate or different species from the Lequie as they look almost the same, just much finer - but there is the difference of soul, or should I say, lack of it?
In general, our impression is that their technology is/was advanced but that they have either hidden it or stopped using most of it or else, they slid backwards, losing it because they didn’t need it or else, we can only recognise part of it. Without discovering inner gifts of the mind as Cherinians have, they have concentrated on strengthening their ability to think logically while holding on to the emotional side. This did lead to them acquiring the ability to use pure thought as a tool to affect the physical world.
When a Lequie stands still, he/she bobs up and down slightly, maybe for the same reason that no Terran can be absolutely motionless. Since the bobbing does hit our funny bone and laughing at them is not the best way to introduce ourselves to another species, it was just as well that mi-Aninsi is handling first contact. She does not have the same childish sense of humour both our isi friends have, but she is a very nice female and emotes a gentleness that endears her to many of other species. She appeared before Lelepco Elosuyk and waited for him to recover from the shock.
He bobbed awhile as he stared at her. “Communication is possible?”
“That is good. It is not preferred? You are only visiting to admire the Vuy-Lequie?”
“The word Vuy did not translate. We know Lequie is the name of your species, what does Vuy represent?”
“Ayvuyya is perfection, is it not? Vuy represents those who are of perfection.”
“The Vuy-Lequie are the same species as yourself, but they have attained perfection?”
“Ahh, the grammar indicates the relationship, does it not. Perhaps it is so or perhaps it was so, it no longer is of importance.” mi-Aninsi sensed from Lelepco Elosuyk a melancholic amusement. “We have long postulated that hubris is one of the six reasons civilisation destroys the species that created it. Only a species that is able to remain true to its origins can survive. Are our thoughts correct?” A thought only now seemed to occur to him. “You are greeter for your people? Do others wish to join us?”
“I am a translator…we do not have an official greeter but we do have a friend of aliens. Would you prefer to speak to her?”
“She? Would be a Vuy-friend?”
mi-Aninsi was being confused and with this question she did not how to respond. To say she would be as good a friend? - she felt it would sound presumptuous of her to those of us listening, while, to say I would be a Vuy-friend could be committing me to something we do not understand yet. She grabbed at the first thing of courtesy she could, “My name is mi-Aninsi.”
“Adult female Aninsi? Your kind need to advise each other of your age and sex - there can be doubt? How interesting! I am Lelepco Elosuyk, also an ‘mi’ (adult female).” Afterwards, I remembered to thank mi-Aninsi for saving me from making a faux pas - I had assumed Lelepco Elosuyk is a male and might have said something that could be construed as insulting - or else it would amuse her at my cost.
mi-Aninsi hoped I’d be better at understanding Lelepco Elosuyk, so she called for me to join them and then told her, “Samantha, our friend of aliens is coming.” I sent her the feel of a grin and jumping, arrived next to her. Lelepco Elosuyk took a startled step backwards and then seemed to bob up and down more than usual for a while.
“Lelepco Elosuyk, I am Samantha Teller. I also am a female, but I am not an adult.”
Lelepco Elosuyk seemed pleased, at first sounding as if she was thinking aloud, “By definition, strange.” I ‘read’ that as ‘aliens, by definition, are strange’. “You have your own voice?”
What the hell? “Yes.”
“If it becomes known, all will wish to hear it. There are none anymore, you know.”
“No children? I noticed - and wondered.”
“Some say we killed them all, I don’t want to think so.” Now she swayed alarmingly as she bobbed. Then I sensed from her a flare of glee. “Fitting - most fitting. Be mine for this day?” I wondered what she planned, but I felt it was safe to agree. “Come - bring as many as you wish, they must see and hear. You have adult family? Good. Adult Aninsi, stay with will you, understanding must be clear at this time.” As we followed her, she asked, “Samantha not adult? True?” I confirmed I am, physically, a child and wondered whether Ivgos should have been here instead of me.
As we walked through pale vegetation with a bloated tree-shaped building between them now and then, I realised that everything on this planet, from the people, to their buildings, the vegetation, even to the rocks on the ground, all are rounded and give the impression of being swollen. Any flat planes are limited and rare. I felt like I was in a world created for that Michelin animated tyre guy they used in adverts two centuries ago (sixty two years ago Earth time). We seemed to be walking downhill into a slight hollow and Lelepco Elosuyk called out to any of her people we passed and they joined us. We all became aware, more or less at the same time, that the locals were communicating telepathically. They were not doing so smoothly and it was as if they were sputtering their messages to each other, much of the time not hearing what is sent. The others seemed to understand what Lelepco Elosuyk planned, for they emoted approval and glee - and they all seemed to focus on me.
mi-Aninsi asked me, “Have you noticed that the other beings are ignoring the locals but are beginning to show an interest in us?”
“I don’t sense anything from them, could they be protein based computers?”
“No, they are of similar species to the Lequie but more advanced…”
“More rarefied?” I asked. She agreed.
Empathia joined me. “I was wondering whether the Vuy lot are an experiment gone wrong. That led me to the thought that maybe the Lequie evolved into the Vuy-Lequie and when they saw they are dying out they tried to revert to an earlier evolutionary version. If so, I don’t think they are succeeding - Sam, it’s strange, the Vuy apparently are a different sex, maybe male (?), but all the Lequie are females. There is not even one Lequie of another sex on the entire planet.” The idea startled me, but all that Lelepco Elosuyk had said pointed in the other direction. It is possible, theoretically, that just the one sex evolved, the males, because the females are too involved in nurturing the young for them to change, but it is highly unlikely.
All who came to the planet of the Lequie are sheathed. We hardly have to remember to see to it as Freddie handles it if we leave by travelling through his shield and Robbie does if he takes us out in a platform. If we teleport, our healers have been empowered, by each and every one of us, to use the gift needed for us to be shielded. However, just because we are shielded, it does not mean that our healers can lie on the beach with a frosty double-thick milkshake, as if they are off duty. For instance, we know that the atmosphere is dusty - dustier than our atmosphere usually is. What makes it different is that one in six hundred particles of dust is actually a spore - the rest of the ‘dust’ is from degenerated spore. If we had arrived unprotected, by now we would have breathed in millions of active spores that would have tried to reproduce the moment they sensed the moisture in our nostrils or mouth.
Our healers had not had much success in learning from the ‘bodies’ of the Vuy-Lequie, so they sounded pleased when they informed us they have succeeded in establishing what parameters constitute a healthy Lequie body. Because of a number of clues, such as the pale colouring, the soft and almost bloated appearance of the Lequie, the high number of spores and vegetation that was actually of a fungoid nature, I had already decided they belong to the kingdom of the fungi and was delighted that life is not always logical, when my healer informed me they are flesh, bone and blood…but with a different chemical signature. No surprise in learning they have an extremely aggressive antibody that kills off any spores that attack [attach to] them. I looked at the few Vuy-Lequie following us and wondered afresh. There is far too much about them that does not make sense. The future (of this time) Vuy-Lequie block our healers from scanning their bodies - without them being aware of healers or healing forces existing? They do not sweat and there is no record [since we arrived] of them excreting? Now that we know and looked, we cannot trace any spore antibodies! If we are to continue to think logically, only one possibility makes sense: they must be androids.
That was a stupid conclusion, I was ignoring a lot of information I already held. Let’s go back to Lelepco Elosuyk. The depression we entered did not sink more than a metre at the center, it’s deepest point. The bowl is about four hundred metres across. By the time we reached the center, there were about three hundred Lequie present. Seeing them gathered like this it struck us that they are fairly uniform in height, from about five point six metres to a max of six point one. They don’t have skinny or really obese individuals, just rotund. Since they do not have any hair or feathers, baldness cannot be used as an identifying feature. However, their skin does have faint markings that are scars from their bodies fighting the spores. Not having children is not a fairly recent change as they have no ‘obviously’ children or adolescents.
mi-Aninsi and I were encircled and our ‘witnesses’ from Freddie formed an outer circle, with Wirms and Sparklers floating above us - the Lequie do not seem to be aware of the Sparklers and our healers think they cannot see the full spectrum of colour we can see. Wonder what I look like to them.
“Samantha Teller, child of the Terran species, we gift to you Qilypih. Pledge you will respect and honour her spirit and not try to bind her to your wishes in any way. Upon your pledge, she will be yours once there are none of our people.”
I was expected, by my friends and family, to blindly turn down the gift of Qilypih, but I was too curious to heed them. “What or who is Qilypih?”
“Our mother, the world you stand upon.”
Back in Freddie. We are surrounded by many of our friends from all species - even Silver Boy is present. I ignored them all and taking Claudia’s hand in mine, I mournfully complained, “It’s not fair! It’s not as if a girl is bequeathed a planet every day! - and I don’t even get to keep it!” As I’d hoped, that led to my being teased and I could relax once again.
Ivgos asked the questions many wanted answers for, as those of us who knew had not explained. “Why do they want to give you their planet, are they all going to die? Aren’t you going to help them have children? I guess if they did have children we’d have to be careful when we play with them, they look soft.”
A Terran Normal asked, “I trust you are not going to accept their planet?”
“Why?” I asked. He flushed so I quickly added, “Are you suggesting I should insult and hurt them? As real estate it might not be prime, but…” I grinned. “I will accept, but I will stick to the condition that they must first become extinct as a species - and then we’ll see to it that they have children and build up their population to what it should be. Before I go into details, has everyone understood who the Vuy-Lequie are and why their existence is such a tragedy - and why it caused such a swift end to them? No? The Lequie are unlike most Terrans, the females are the dominant half and they are like our men in many ways. They run the government, industry, and so on. Luckily they do not have armies as the concept of warring against each other does not seem to have occurred to them. Don’t think that makes them especially nice - their need for a strong police force should dispel that romantic notion very fast.
As their technology made life easier for them, they lost touch with reality and searched for ways to achieve ideals in various areas, social and physical - most of them philosophical and impractical. They were aware they were being impractical but many generations had grown up without poverty or hunger and they thought that being impractical was necessary, almost a duty, for them to evolve and refine themselves as a species. Their equivalent of males were more practical, but they only cared about their children and ignored attempted changes. They felt that as long as they were good fathers and provided their children with love and whatever physical needs they have, the race would continue and whatever the females did, however badly they messed up, they could not threaten their existence as a species.”
Lelepco Elosuyk had confided, after the almost mass hysteria of appointing me planetary chatelaine, that her purpose and love in life is the identification, categorisation and naming of shapes. She was keen to know whether we have found a way to examine objects through new dimensions, taking it for granted we also have such specialists, and I felt bad when I saw how she reacted to my confirmation that we have not - so I promised to ask the Unation AI whether it has such a sub-routine. There are people on Earth who dedicate themselves to trivia or to hobbies so I did not find her interest ridiculous, but I did take it as proof that her civilisation has achieved a level of technology, hard or soft, where such interests can be pursued without starvation, for instance, being the price.
Oops, just found out that the Lequie cannot starve; they feed by breathing. The spores, after they are treated and broken down to digestible components by their antibodies are their food - should I still name them ‘antibodies’ or are they digestive enzymes? Nature has sadly short-changed them and that is why they don’t have taste buds and a very poor sense of smell. Just as well I’m taking the day off today and tomorrow, thinking quietly on my own will do me some good.
Ahram is a sensitive soul and yet he is able to pose distressing questions without them incapacitating him. He uses his sensitivity as a fulcrum and prods away with his lever (logic and knowledge) until he finds an answer. He was in a conference room, situated in the first Tree, with another twenty five philosophers of various species. The room has been adapted to seat a variety of species in comfort and five Akiard youngsters are always present when the room is in use to see to food, drink and whatever other service is required of them. Cassie tried, some time ago, to convince Ahram that he should wear shoes so as to keep a couple of Akiards busy all day putting them on and taking them off, again and again. Ahram failed to understand why her idea was meant to be [childishly] humorous.
“The more I learn, the less I understand.” They could all sense something was grieving him so they waited until he was ready to explain. “All species evolve and nature seems to have understood the importance of maximum births in each generation so as to maximise the opportunities for a successful mutation occurring. Sapience on its own is not enough to affect the rules of nature; technology and advanced knowledge of the body are required. However, as far as we are aware, for such technology and medical knowledge to exist, sapience is obligatory. There does not seem to be one species that is unaware of the fact that technology brings about over-population until society breaks down and technology is destroyed and then the size of population shrinks until the species is set on the path to extinction. Coming from a planet where all species faced extinction, regardless of it being for artificial reasons, I feel the importance of this question and ask whether there is an answer as to the reason sapience cannot control instinct, modifying the number of births so as to avoid the pendulum extremes.”
Fuxylfy, an elderly Tirsoon of the Unation, muttered, “Evolution does not concern itself with our happiness, it only promotes itself.”
King Illafayéd could not resist taking a dig at us, despite our not being present, as he knew everyone studies what is said when they get together. “It is ironic that Cherinianism is the only tool that has been successful across all species in levelling out the birth rates so that a negative swing does not destroy the species and yet, the greatest aberration comes from the family of Cherine - the Tellers. Evolution has totally failed with them as they have succeeded in placing their happiness ahead of the demands of instinct and evolution.” Not many reacted verbally, but there was a general feeling of amusement since they knew he was not being rude, just teasing us, before they returned to their debate. As for King Illafayéd himself, afterwards, he got his cheek kissed by many of us as we joyfully tried to convince him that happiness is just as important a tool as reason and a far better tool than cold logic. Often, emotional arguments are wrong and are used to perpetrate crimes against those we want to manipulate, but sometimes they sure are the perfect way to cross the strangeness and differences between species, helping the others to understand what motivates us. If all species lacked emotions and had to depend on logic alone, I doubt we could learn to understand each other, or that we would care to. The material benefits do not justify it and funnily, depending only on logic tends to make us egocentric…selfishness is not mainly an emotion. Arthur, do you remember how Robbie was when he switched off his emotions?
While we discussed shapes and their effects on us, my mind shot off in a different direction so I asked the Muyzith ambassadress, Lamti, “Your theory claims that all realities can exist at the same time because they are ghost realities to each other. What if we examine a species who do not have any telepathic abilities. Would it be reasonable to propose that each mind among them is a ghost mind to the others?”
“Only in a sense Samantha, since even non-telepathic minds do interact. Where does this lead to?”
“We arrive on their world and link them, making them Cherinians and now they are telepathic. Are their minds still ghosts to each other? I’m asking because I wonder whether getting to know other realities makes them less ghostly to our reality since we bring back with us memories from the other realities - and those memories are now part of our reality.”
“If that is so, the converse would also be true, which makes our visits to the a-realities dangerous?”
Cherine was not interested in the purpose of my question, to her the obvious was more important. “Samantha, you did not mention that the mind is infinite in size - as Meli has proven. Therefore, whether telepathic or not, our minds have to be ghosts to each other so that so many infinite minds can fit in each reality - just like the Sparkler Worlds.” A good point and she got my tick - especially as it also extends the problem making it easier to accept that the vexing paradox that still puzzles everyone with regard to the Sparkler Worlds is true for each of us, since our minds have the same limits as Meli’s does. I’m not certain it makes it easier for everyone to accept since most people think of their minds as being limited to the size of their skull.
I had not realised how much our attitude affects the way we see, or notice what we see. I’d thought that my excitement at being with a new species was helping me remain detached so that whatever is alien to me does not affect me, but the moment I returned to their planet without the blinding (presumptuous) arrogance I’d floated on during my previous visits, it was as if details that had not meant anything previously became glaring guides to a lot of what I had not understood. There is much for all the scientists to learn from them and I’m certain they have much to learn from us - once it sinks in that their species does have a future.
Arthur is commenting too often, encouraging my loves to do so also! I just wish they would not only do it for the sake of embarrassing me.
Wherever a Lequie or a group of them find anyone alien to them and willing to listen, they rattle off facts, theories and so on. An important lack in what they pass on proves they have not understood us. They have not tried to gift us with their poetry, literature and paintings. If they have songs, not one was shared with us. Luckily they do not mind us moving about on our own, examining their world. We walked out of the area that is well marked by feet and I saw some land that was smooth like new snow. I then noticed it is dimpled and wondered, in my thoughts, thinking it resembles human skin under magnification, with stalks topped with a sometimes brown or a greenish ochre or with sunburst yellow streaks along the feathery blobs that lightly sway. Robbie watched from within my mind with a quizzical yearning, so I kicked my foot in the dust so as not to allow his hopes to grow. Actually, the idea of a planet with a living skin like ours would be an impossibility but fun to imagine. I asked and was told that the dimples are formed by spore. Not by them landing on the surface, but by them burrowing deeper once they sense the conditions are right for them to grow. The older dust underneath holds all the nutrients the spores require to feast on as they grow, transforming into the immense variety of plant life we see. If I understood correctly, the spore does not choose what it will grow into; the appearance, from tiny slim blade to massive tree, depends on what nutrients it finds. I was told that this is the way the planet regulates itself so that only what is needed at that place and time comes to be. The next question, in my mind, is, what of the Lequie and all animal/insect life? How did they break away from the spore stage to creating the next generations within their bodies? I am presuming it is so with the Lequie, since they have no children and are not expecting any, I can’t know for certain.
Wendy says it is instinct, but she was the first to realise that the Lequie find music unpleasant. Even speaking in a sing-song tone irritates them. The sound of wind thrumming and moaning as the feathery branches of fat trees wave is the closest to any kind of music they can bear, and even that is not pleasant for them, the sounds interpreted as being threatening. The Lequie who’d chosen Wendy mostly spouted mathematical formulae, intrinsically complicated and far beyond what any of us within the family can understand. Luckily her AI friend recorded all of it for her, freeing her so that she can concentrate on the sounds of their voices and whatever sounds the surrounding land makes. Wendy came to a point where she saw a larger than usual number of buildings and on the other side of her was a small forest of trees. Curious as to how they affect the world, she used the method of looking that we learnt from the Silver Boy. The Lequie fell silent as she waved her arms, her body bending and flowing with what she heard. Suddenly the music of the shapes around her screamed like a child being ripped apart. Wendy struggled to stay on her feet as she returned to looking around her with just her eyes and she saw that a Lequie had stumbled backwards. Falling against the wall of a house her weight had torn a hole. We had not realised their homes were that fragile and once we learnt to look correctly, we discovered that the trees and other plants are also very fragile. No wonder the Lequie look so soft, even little Bitsy could tear an adult apart without using all his strength. Instantly all visitors on planet were informed.
We wondered whether Wendy had reacted in some way that upset or offended the Lequie, for she was the only one left to roam on her own. She was greeted politely, but nobody tried to fill her head with data. Wendy told us (we verified it by conducting on our own) that by taking into account the fragility of all life on this planet, she heard very disturbing music. She also learnt to ‘see’ beneath the talc-like surface, sometimes ‘seeing’ through a number of layers, each of a different density, and thus creating a different effect. This was also the first time we learnt that the public and commercial buildings we see are only the above ground entrances. The real buildings and passages between them lie deep under the surface. Since we have not found any evidence of storm damage, we asked the Lequie why they build under the surface, but they only reply that it makes sense and is how it should be. With such soft bodies, I wonder how they dug out the ground. The Inguel suspect they used mutated spores.
Wendy was standing on her own, not conducting, but lost in her thoughts, for all I know composing music, when a Vuy-Lequie came to a bobbing stop close by her. Since they always ignore us, refusing to answer greetings or questions and they seem to emote a feeling of dislike and hostility, Wendy immediately became alert. Pale eyes stared into hers for a while without a word being exchanged. It turned to leave, but a thought softly spoke to her, *It is time, ask of the dream that kills.* Wendy swore that the emoting no longer felt hostile, only sad. She was soon proven right as all the Vuy-Lequie changed from that day. Not that any of them spoke to us - and it grieves us, for there is no way we can reach in past the shroud of sadness that covers their thoughts day and night.
Either the Vuy-Lequie passed on the message or else the Lequie sensed the change and when we arrived the next morning, they all had congregated at a place where there are no trees or buildings. A committee of three, Jehne Pegysna, Bebry Inronan and Sili (pronounced as Ceelee) Nulcasrair, were to be their spokespersons. (Note: The Lequie always use at least two names when talking to each other - they do the same with us and are confused by us, of the family, having the same second name. Neither of their two names identifies their family - maybe they have more names?)
“Perhaps your science has told you why, as a species, we die, but surely there is no science that can give you the reasons why it happened?”
Sharipya and Asimi were chosen as our Cherinian representatives for this day and Sharipya’s voice was almost tender with the sadness he foresaw, “We sense there is a tale of sorrow and would share it with you as friends.”
Bebry Inronan must have felt we needed an explanation first. “We have tried, but we cannot understand your worlds. We hear of planets with people in such numbers that the mind cannot imagine. With us, we do not enjoy sharing space, each family must have solitude or else we cannot have children. The coupling of male and female can occur when there is love, the male fertilises the egg and once it is alive and growing, the egg is lovingly passed to the male for him to nurture it deep within his body where chance of damage is the least. If the male is not comfortable and cannot relax because there are too many people close to him, his body does not react to the fertilised egg as it should and it is not provided with the nutrition it requires. The egg dies and, in some instances, the chemicals of its decay ensure the male is never again able to host an egg, even though he remains capable of fertilising eggs. If that male is honoured, another male will host his child. It is believed that evolution provided the triggers that rid the male of the egg so as to preserve his life when facing danger - and being surrounded by too many other life forms is a threat to our health, as may have occurred when other creatures hunted us in our past.
Friends of other worlds, it has been our belief that our species was an accident, that we should never have survived. We are too fragile and bearing young ones to replace the previous generation has always been a challenge. We could not have survived without the ability to think and plan for the future of our species. We have studied you and learnt that you have tools made of materials we do not recognise. Does our planet lack the materials needed to evolve the technology you have?”
Although none of our tools are made of metal, we understood the reason for the question. Mezil, a female Anadir scientist, replied, “Your planet is old and the mantle is very thick. We are still studying the reasons but all metals are under the mantle. We have no theories to explain at this time why there are no metals within the mantle, close to the surface.”
Jehne Pegysna bobbed thoughtfully as samples of various metals were gifted for them to study. Most of us were not looking at her when she chose to speak for her people. “Many of our abilities to manipulate our environment have come to be from a continually evolving understanding of matter and how it responds to our intentions. We also studied the other life of our world concurrently to our learning how to heal and strengthen our bodies. We mostly concentrated on our males as they are fragile and even a small percentage of them losing the ability to host was a continuing threat to our existence. The last hundred generations have seen improvements that reinforced hosting abilities so that their hosting period was extended from a maximum of three to four and even rarely five hostings, while also providing them with healthier and longer lifespans. This not only allayed our concerns for our species, but touched the deepest parts of all that has meaning within us and, in a frenzy, we devoted ourselves to turning them into gods - for what can be more pure and holy than the nurturing of new life? Recently, in our generation, we discovered a way to achieve all we had dreamt of for our males. How we made such a dreadful series of mistakes cannot be explained and we can only justify ourselves by avowing that it happened because we love our males and idealised them.
Forty years ago we discovered a way to alter flesh. Tests showed that it was resistant to all the ills we are subject to and so we spent all our resources on achieving the same for all parts of the body. We learnt that this discovery could not be applied to us females, only to the males, there is something different in the cells of their flesh, but we have not identified what it is. This proves the argument that using the knowledge of how to cause a change without knowing the way it is brought about is not wise.” She made a sound that was like a sigh. “A people who are not wise cannot demand immunity from their foolishness.”
Sili Nulcasrair took over. “We were driven by a dream and our love for our males. When dreams and love are the driving forces, we become like immature young ones and we lose the ability to be critical and cautious. The first of the new males were as we hoped, but they gave us a surprise which was also a warning - without us realising it. They no longer ate on a regular basis and gently soothed us by assuring us that the sun upon their skin provided all they needed. The experiments had not stopped and the new results showed that the flesh no longer broke down into poisons the body must eject - as it still is with us females. With almost no food required and the new flesh that does not seem to decay, the males no longer egested and they had achieved an ethereal level of existence that convinced us we had succeeded in raising them to the pinnacle of our evolution.
When the first new males matured and they successfully fertilised and hosted the embryos until birth time, we forgot caution and all new males were now created in the idealised manner. It was only once the older generations had passed away that we learnt that the new males can only host one child - especially if the child is a female. Our children are alien to the bodies of our males and since us females cannot be adjusted, there is no way for us to save ourselves.” Sili Nulcasrair bobbed with a sway, obviously affected by her grief. “At first we thought our males would be immortals and it provided us with a small joy so that we did not totally despair. Now we know that they fade and will not last long beyond us and we have fallen to the lowest level of hopelessness. Only your arrival has helped lighten our end, for we hope our world will no longer be abandoned and sterile. If there is one species that Samantha Teller can find to make this their home and they can give birth to children and live with hope - then our lives were not lived in vain. Sharipya of the Elipians, tell them of us so that we are not forgotten.”
Sharipya saw the pain in the eyes of his Asimi and cried out to Cherine, “Explain to them so that they stop grieving - it hurts.”
Cherine took the hand of Asimi in hers. “Be brave my love, they will soon know hope and joy again.”
Back in Freddie, Cherine stared at us and we felt the demand in her heart as she said, “We cannot save the females of this time and let the males fade. How can we save them?” She turned to Robbie. “Even if the females stay so as to be companions to their males until the females die, there will be no loss among them, for we can bring them back. Robert, how do we save the males - when they fade away no soul remains! The females condemned them to final death!”
Robbie acted as if he could not feel her anguish and did not take her into his arms. He lit a cigarette and sat back. “I have discussed this with the Sparklers. Solomon agrees that it does not make sense for the soul to fade with the body. It might be more tenuous, but it must exist. I’ll be leaving in a small platform with Solomon to jump ahead in time and monitor one male death. We’ll find the soul and return.”
Haven touched Robbie’s arm. “Take with the entity of the Akiard.” His pleased smile was all the reaction she needed and the Akiards rushed to lay themselves at the places they prefer so as to go to the void. Within minutes their entity appeared among us. I could still feel a link with it, despite it being formed by a new generation of Akiards. I welcomed it into my mind and shared memories. It felt as if it softly caressed me, rejoicing as I showed it we are still a part of each other, even if I do not join with the kids to be a part of it directly. If needed, I will, and it also makes me happy that I still can and will be welcomed.
The platform departed, but the rest of us stayed at the taverna, immersed in our arguments as we worried about the Vuy-Lequie. We cannot understand why we cannot sense their emoting and a few of us fear that it might be that we cannot because they do not have a soul. Cherine insists they do and most of us think as she does, even if we do not have evidence to shore up our beliefs.
Wendy seemed to be speaking to herself as she mumbled, “One of them talked to me so it means they do have a mind - which means they know we exist, even if they pretend we don’t.”