The Last Days of Coloc
by Oonah V. Joslin
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Conclusion: Day of Shedding
Coloc stood at the top of the dam as he had done for ages past, watching intently as the gathering Polymorphs made their way up to the sacred place for the festival. His eyes glowed softly as he saw many whom he had known long.
He recalled their stories to mind; Taba the sharer, who had once won the golden Onsy mask and whom he had had to counsel time and again not to give too much of himself, Sys the elder, cousin and friend of his immature days and Basew, the love of his life, whom he had given up to become a Teller. He sent a silent welcome to them all: “We meet in single-mindedness, my kin.” From far off, he saw a figure that he knew and left his station and hurried down.
“Grald, my son,” he cried and went forward with more speed than could be expected of one so old. “It has been too long!”
“It has,” replied Grald covering the ground between them with alacrity. Many years had passed since his First Lightning and now Grald was a Teller of renown in all the lands of the Polymorphs.
“Your deeds precede you, my son. You are become wise.”
“I have been far and seen and done much, father Coloc. But nothing compares to my joy at seeing you now.”
The two rubbed necks briefly and headed towards the Data Centre together. Grald had much to tell, and Coloc walked in silence beside him, delighting in his thoughts. So it was that they arrived at the Centre above the dam where a small party had already gathered.
“Grald, may I present to you my friends Taba, Sys and Basew from the far coast. And here are members of their groups who have accompanied them on this journey. Dat you know.”
“Indeed. Are you performing this year, Master Dat?”
“No. I have trained others more worthy than I to the roles, Teller Grald.”
“And grown in stature yourself in the doing,” said Grald, who remembered Dat as a brash youth who had loved to hold centre stage.
Coloc turned as a group entered. “Tion! Cati! And who is this fine youngster?”
“Loca, greet the Teller.”
“Father,” said the youngster, lowering pincers in submission. The youngster’s eyes were intelligent and steady.
Coloc’s eyes grew bright. “You have called your son Loca. Well, I am glad of it,” and he touched pincers with the youngster then turned toward Grald. “He is strong, Grald,” he said and Grald took his meaning.
“He is very young yet.”
“He will grow.”
“He will indeed,” said a voice Grald knew well. “And quickly. Ah, too quickly.”
They embraced, and then Coloc also greeted Worl.
“But what is this?” Grald asked with suspicion. “Coloc, why have you invited all of us here today?”
Worl stood silent and would not meet Grald’s thought. Taba, Sys and Basew also said nothing but looked steadily at Coloc. Tion, Cati and Dat shifted nervously.
At last Coloc spoke. “You are correct, Grald. You have been summoned to the Shedding.”
Taba, Sys and Basew first moved to stand with Coloc. Then Worl too came to his side.
Grald looked round in consternation. “You are all leaving us? You too, Mother?”
“Understand, Grald. We have long been together in our thoughts, since our youth and what should separate us now?”
Grald’s eyes dimmed but he would not speak against it.
“Do you all know what takes place and why you are invited here?” asked Coloc.
None spoke and so he elaborated.
“Though we live long, our days are finite and our ability to absorb power, limited. Circuits degrade, and for some there is not much but memories to shed. Taba, my friend, now is the time you may share all you wish: recollections, eyes, and circuitry. You may go to the dam as a shell if that is your desire.”
Taba glowed with delight at being teased so by the great Coloc. “The foolishness of youth is far behind but easy to recall. You know me too well, Coloc.”
“This is the reason you, our friends and family, are here; that we may give you ourselves; that we may never be forgotten. The time of Shedding is a time of joining. So let us join.”
Coloc stood pincer to pincer with Dat and, as Dat soon discovered, he contained within him some of the living memories of Tegral himself: the First, whom Dat had played so many times without ever truly knowing him. Now he would know him well and would be able to pass that on through generations.
With Worl he shared all the times of youth she had missed with her son as he trained to be a Teller so that she might go complete to the dam with no regrets. And Worl had memories to share with Grald about his father and their life together ages past before he was an egg.
To Cati, Coloc entrusted the story of his love for Basew, remembering how Cati valued love and would treasure the tale and pass it down. One day they might even write a play about it. He gave to Tion the story of Loca and Sinte in full, so that he could tell his son about his namesake without dissemblance.
At last, Basew and Coloc came together to share all their lives and joys and being, and Coloc found no trace of anger or resentment in her but only pride and duty and love.. This Shedding lasted long and in the morning when it was complete, Coloc had one final office to perform.
So Grald stood beside Coloc as he gave the address before a vast and admiring crowd, the largest ever assembled. After the last words of the oration had died into silence, Coloc stood perfectly still and held the crowd in his gaze. “My work here is done,” he said. “It is time for me to make my descent to the waters.”
A ripple of gasps and whisperings transmitted throughout the audience. All knew the time of Coloc’s return to the dam must be soon, but his words still came as a shock.
“It is with glad heart I bid you all farewell.”
Amongst the crowd there was murmuring. It seemed inconceivable that this was the last time they would see Coloc or hear his words.
“May I speak on behalf of us all, Coloc,” said Grald, and the crowd cheered him. “Not to dissuade, for that would dishonour both our traditions and your venerable status, though I know you consider yourself no greater than the least of us. Nonetheless, you must know that you will be greatly missed.” The crowd applauded and cheered and most did not hear his last words, “not least, by me.”
Coloc took a long, slow look at the crowd, as if he were drinking memories, until at last his eyes rested on Grald. “I hope to be missed by many,” he said and turned to the crowd once more. “What is the point of having been, if not to be missed? Thirds have no offspring, and yet they have many. They are Tellers, and all Tellers are remembered; for all are their sons, their daughters. You are my sons, my daughters.
“We are recompensed because our name lives on in your memory, in drama and in song. Let the other elders who depart with me join me at dusk. Now may trust, love, friendship and kin be chief amongst you.”
Grald led the cheers.
In the evening, Coloc took one last tour of the DataDam Centre and said goodbye to the Advisors. He walked with Grald between the information stacks.
“It is hard to believe the creatures who built this dam destroyed each other, destroyed their world; destroyed even themselves. I have seen only a little of the knowledge contained in the data here, Grald. You will see more.
“But if you uncover any great secrets, remember how foolish they were in their wisdom and how wise in their folly; for we learned from them words like trust, friendship, love and kin so they were not entirely unworthy. It is the task of the Teller to interpret wisdom from foolishness, my son. It is not easy to do so.”
He embraced Grald, extending both pincers and resting his great head on Grald’s long neck. “Perhaps they forgot the meaning of those words themselves. Be always vigilant.”
At dusk a little congregation had gathered at the dam, twenty or so Polymorphs. There were never any witnesses to this sacred moment. It was not their way to fuss, and once an elder had decided to go to the dam, that decision was respected by all.
The groups all took their leave before that last evening. Only the “descending” remained, and Grald to open the dam.
“You honour us, Teller,” they said, “by coming with us.”
“The honour is mine,” Coloc replied. “Each of you, each of us, has proven Temsin wrong. These tenets we hold dear are not ‘mere words’ at all. We have each done our duty. We have played our role. Now, as we depart and return whence we came, let us do so with dignity and honour.”
Coloc led their procession down to the dam. It was Grald who entered the powerhouse to open the valves and made the turbines roar to life. He waited for the sign, the agreed message from Coloc.
The generator sparked up and lightning streaked the sky. Some Polymorphs looked back as they made their way down the mountainsides towards their homes: not in sadness but because the display was a celebration in itself, and they knew that the great surge of water released and those released with it were now on their journey back to the ocean depths. Already stories were told and songs sung of Coloc the Great Teller.
Grald was the last to hear Coloc’s words and so they were his to tell, to write the play of Coloc the Teller for posterity and to choose a successor to himself. Perhaps Loca. He would write a tale of how Coloc the Teller in his final descent quoted sacred text:
One by one, brand new creatures lurched onto empty continents. They ventured forth upon the land and saw the devastation man had wrought. And the Technopolymorphs saw that it was good.
Grald closed the valves and placed the Centre at rest. Slowly, the symbols that Tegral had first seen and understood to be words, scrolled across the huge obsidian wall, fading from magenta to a dull blue light:
COLOCATION SYSTEMS INTEGRAL DATABASE WORLDWIDE COLOCATION SYSTEMS INTEGRAL D... shutting down.
Copyright © 2015 by Oonah V. Joslin