by Nola Stam
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
The next morning, Kaelyn awoke to the drumming of a woodpecker on a way too nearby tree. She felt awake, alert and very much alive, but the “hallucination” was still there. The world had literally changed overnight. She looked for and found the woodpecker. Two squirrels ran chattering up the trunk and disrupted the bird. It flew across the meadow with a fat insect in its beak.
As her gaze followed the woodpecker to the trees, she saw a flock of white birds flying much higher and to the south. Are those seagulls? They look and sound like it. The only water that way is that mud puddle by the quarry. Is it still a mud puddle? It could be an ocean by now. What is this place?
She finished the thought and turned to a rustling in the trees. The deer family appeared plus three more does with one fawn each and two more bucks. She decided those bucks were younger than the first one, judging from the size of their antlers.
I am so tired of eating berries, she thought and went for her calendar stick. This will be the easiest hunt I’ve ever had. They can’t have developed fear.
She tied her flint and wood knife to her waist. I’ll make a proper sheath instead of this vine mess. The herd was grazing at the far end of the meadow. Cautiously, she approached with her spear up and ready to throw.
None of the deer paid any attention at first, but shortly the fawns stopped eating and stared at her. She ignored them and concentrated on the smallest buck. Just as she was ready to strike, the fauns came bounding to her and stopped within arms’ reach. They formed a perfectly even line and each cocked its head to the right. As if on cue, they moved their heads to the left and then back to the middle.
Kaelyn froze still posed to launch her stick. This is weird. I feel like they are trying to say something. Slowly she lowered her weapon but her left arm remained extended. One by one the fawns approached and either nuzzled or licked her hand. Then each bounded back to the herd, acting as if nothing had happened.
The largest buck walked boldly to her, almost touching her with his soft muzzle. In response, she quickly stepped back. They stood appraising each other, the buck calmly, Kaelyn with rising fear. “What are you?” she screamed. The buck stood unruffled.
“What do you want from me?” Her voice was not as loud, but still as tense. “Your eyes, your look, I haven’t seen that look in years. Not since my mother... No, that’s impossible.”
The animal shook his head, backed off a few steps, turned and walked away. Relief mixed with the feeling of being penned in left Kaelyn not knowing what to do.
“I’m going fishing,” she yelled, the first thing she thought of. She turned and fairly flew for the south hill. After she reached the top she realized two things. It had taken her twice as long to climb the hill as before and the small quarry and mud puddle had completely changed.
What had amounted to a pile of rocks was now an outcropping of a sizeable hill with rubble mounds at the base. A bright blue lake stretched to her left surrounded by plant-covered hills that grew into distant, snow-capped mountains. The smooth surface of the water was marred by the wakes of waterfowl and an occasional fish leaping for a fly.
“They were seagulls,” she said in amazement. “Sea gulls, ducks, swans, and loons... actual loons. This isn’t Oz, this is Eden. Am I on a planet just being created? But, isn’t that supposed to take a long time?
“You know,” she challenged her unseen companion. “You are doing this. Who are you? Are you God? No, that doesn’t feel right. If you were God, I’d be toast. And this can’t be Hell.”
She sank onto a boulder and quietly continued. “There isn’t supposed to be love in Hell. Those eyes, that look, that feeling, that was love. I haven’t felt that since my mother died. She loved me, she wanted me.
“My uncle didn’t. He had to take me in. He didn’t want to, he had to. The courts made him. He was my only living relative. He was so busy with his work and inventions. The man was a genius, I’ll give him that, but I was in the way, a burden, a pest. ‘No Kaelyn, don’t touch that, don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t do that. Just stay out of my way.’
“I hated that. I hated him. I hated being alone. He pushed me away and I pushed back and kept pushing everyone and everything. No, this is not Hell. Hell is my life.”
She stood and looked around, talking as she turned. “Now what are you going to do? You have a beautiful world with an ugly sore.” She pounded her chest. “What are you going to do about me? I’m a murderer and a thief. I’ve broken every commandment of every religion that ever was or is. I don’t belong here. Give me enough time and I will corrupt this place.” She stood staring at the lake and haltingly spoke the rest: “This beautiful, wonderful, love-filled place. I wish...” She choked on the next words, fell to the ground and sobbed.
For the rest of the day she ran. Up the outcropping she scrambled, away from the beauty of the lake. Looking for the desert, she kept her feet going up one hill and down another.
If she must live on this planet, at least she would live in a place befitting her. She must find the Deadly Desert surrounding Oz, the thorns and thistles of the lone and dreary world surrounding Eden. Just yesterday it was all around, it had to be close. By nightfall she was no closer. In fact, the landscape had become lusher, almost rain forest.
Fruit popped out at her as she passed, begging her to stop and eat. Trees reached to her, beckoning her to come and rest in their shade. Even the wind seemed to call, “Kaelyn, stop, let me soothe you.” The more the land pleaded, the faster she ran and the more desperately she wanted desert.
Hunger for food and drink she could put out of her mind, but hunger for companionship she could not ignore. The more she pushed it away, the stronger it became. Finally, when the sun’s last light faded she was too weak to continue. She collapsed on a bed of moss at the foot of a monstrously huge tree.
“Give me what I deserve. Give me the desert,” she screamed. Then she whispered, “or final relief from this pain.”
Her eyes closed and she walked through the blast-broken streets of Benas Minor. The sharp smell of smoke from the emptied and torched shops mixed with smells of gunpowder and blood. She jumped over one of the many corpses of workers and ran toward her ship parked on the commons green of the tourist town’s main shopping center.
She was carrying the bag of jewelry she had stolen that morning and planned to sell for a small fortune. When she reached her vessel, she surveyed her handiwork. Morning sunlight and flames painted the once multi-colored market blood red.
She laughed and opened her bag. Instantly she dropped it and recoiled. Out spilled the heads of five fawns; their open, lifeless eyes reflected the dancing firelight. In unison, the heads looked right, left and straight at her. The eyes became alive and full of forgiveness and love.
Screaming, she ran to her ship and strapped herself into the command chair. Immediately she found herself in an all too familiar battle with police vessels, each representing one of the solar systems in which she was wanted. One by one, each vessel was attacked and destroyed; most blown to bits.
Kaelyn felt her old confidence growing, felt the thrill of victory and the surge of power with each destruction. When all was gone, she was alone in an empty ship, floating in a dark sky.
“Where is everyone? she barked in annoyance. “Brosh, Karden, Millen, anyone, front and center.”
“Captain Cull,” the voice came from behind. A shimmering translucent woman floated midair. “You killed my husband and the father of my children.”
Three children appeared by the woman. “You killed our papa,” they sobbed.
They flew out through the view screen and were replaced by another family with the same tale. Then two, three, and four, until the room was filled with families, swirling around her, announcing their grief and leaving. One woman remained. She said nothing but held out her arms to the scourge of the galaxy who was rocking in her chair clasping her knees to her chest.
“Mama?” Kaelyn sobbed as her mother knelt in front of her and took her in a warm, comforting embrace. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she sobbed.
“I love you, my little Kaelie,” the words bubbled up from the bottom of Kaelyn’s memory. “I love you with all my life and my forever.”
They were now in the clearing, sitting in front of her hut. Kaelyn felt all the feelings she had lost and had desperately been seeking. Peace, love, confidence and a power much stronger than victory or fortune had given her. By them sat the buck, his warm brown eyes radiating welcome and acceptance. Slowly he changed into a strange yet familiar man whose smile invigorated Kaelyn’s heart.
Her mother stood, nodded and said softly, “Now I can go, but my love will remain.” As she watched her mother shimmer and disappear, she marveled at how full and content she felt.
The man offered his hand to her. She took it and slept.
Kaelyn awoke to the incessant drumming of a woodpecker. She shook sleep from her mind and tried to place her surroundings. This is my hut. How did I get here? What is that wonderful smell?
She walked through her door, stopped and once more stared in amazement. A cook fire was burning cheerfully. Over it, set on a spit, were two fish roasting away and giving off an aroma that set her mouth watering and her stomach growling. She walked to the fire, knelt down and began to turn the spit.
“Thank you, it smells and looks wonderful,” she said to the unseen presence. “How did I get back here? I was way over there.”
“I carried you as you slept.”
The man’s voice did not startle or surprise her; she had expected it. He knelt across the fire from her and set a table for two on a flat rock.
“I saw you in my dream. I felt you as long as I have been here,” she began. “I suppose I should wonder where the plates and forks came from, but I suppose it was from the same place as everything else. All this,” she waved her free hand around, “felt strange before, but now...”
“It feels like home?” he finished.
Kaelyn nodded and studied the man as he removed the fish from the spit and placed one on each plate. She closely watched him walk to a tree, pick two fruits, return and in silence cut them up and place slices on each plate.
“It’s funny,” she told him, “I feel I have known you all my life. But, I have never seen anyone like you before. Your hair is black and wavy like flint. Your skin is the rich, dark brown of the soil. Your smile is like the warmth of the sun and your voice is like the soothing breeze. Your clothing is a strange design and the deep green of the trees. Your eyes, now I’ve seen them before. They are the buck’s eyes. Who are you?”
The man smiled, stood and stepped away from the food. “My name in your language is Earth.” His form softened and grew into the monstrously huge tree, then shrank and hardened into a mound of flint and jasper.
As Kaelyn began to understand, the rock mound softened into the buck with the brown eyes and then back into the man. “Breakfast?” he asked and offered his hand. Kaelyn stood and took it.
* * *
Music filled the park as the new husband and wife left the dinner table to dance. Kaelyn sat comfortably against her favorite tree and watched her great-great grandchildren hold each other as they spun to the sound. Kaelyn looked on in pride as another great-great granddaughter made her bow fly effortlessly over the strings of her instrument. She had worked so hard to have a flawless first performance with the band. Taking her grandfather’s place was not easy — Kaelyn’s second son had made and mastered all the instruments in existence — but she was doing a fabulous job of it.
Kaelyn sighed contentedly as she looked at each family member. All were present: five generations and now the promise of a sixth. “I love them all so much,” she said to no one in particular. “They get along so well together.”
“Most of the time.” The tree developed a mouth and started to shrink. Branches wrapped around her and transformed into arms. “They have had their moments.”
Kaelyn wrapped her wrinkled arms around the being who had given her so much over the years. “We have had moments too,” she said after he kissed her. “I’m a tired old woman.”
“But still as beautiful as when you first landed. Yes, you were beautiful then. You just had to realize it.”
“Father is here,” the shout went up, “Father Earth is here.” In no time, all the children had sat down at the feet of their parents. Father Earth called each child by name. “Life is my gift to you,” he continued. “Each life is not meant to walk my face forever. Each will have a time to be one again with me. It is now time for your mother and me to be one.”
The two bodies began to shimmer. The distinction between them faded and they merged. At last there was one small mound that slowly sank into the earth.
Copyright © 2011 by Nola Stam