It also made them wonder what we must be like, as a species, if we send our children with females to first meetings with other species. They came to the conclusion it is a deliberate bluff by us to convince them we are that powerful that we have nothing to fear - until they came to understand the truth).
Everyone feels it would not be tactful of us to mention their sleep habits-travels and we are waiting for them to give us the opportunity to lead them into explaining without our asking. We assume that if they take it for granted that all species are the same in this matter, they’ll casually mention it. How can they know it is not so, if they’ve never met an alien species before - as they claim.
The more familiar we become with the Totmygy, the more aware we become of certain subtleties we’d originally missed. For instance, they are spirited and as Robbie puts it, ‘play hard’, yet they work a minimum of hours and they’ve shown us a list of discoveries and inventions that they’ve catalogued and locked away. They even offered them to us as a gift, telling us that they have no need for them. By now, a number of individuals of various species are feeling rather frustrated so they offered in turn the secret of anti-gravity. They were effusively thanked and the Totmygy officials did their best to show us that they appreciate what a generous gesture it is, but…no thank you. The only persons in Freddie amused by our peculiar situation are Allan and his girls. It just goes to show how much Eleni and Jess have grown to resemble-be a part of Allan and his weird sense of humour. Of course nobody is going to ask them what they find so amusing - since we can sense them waiting for us to do so.
After what we’ve noticed about Allan and family, when they decided, this morning, to visit on planet, Freddie had to show their visit and conversations with the locals because so many were struggling to share indirectly. After wandering round for a few hours and meeting a number of the locals, they met and seemed to become friends with someone, a female-male, named Senni. He described himself as a botanist by profession and a general natural scientist out of curiosity.
“Your arrival on our planet has caused many heated debates. Before I ask my questions, if I may, would you wish to be made aware of what upsets us?”
Allan chuckled. “I bet it has something to do with the fact that Robert and I are mated to children.”
“We have understood that they are not truly children, not in years lived. However, they do maintain their bodies at a childish age, which means that they are children - the mind cannot exist within the body of a child without it remaining fragile in the ways of children. Are our arguments wrong?”
“Not entirely. Senni, it is part of what we treasure about them and it makes us very careful and tender.”
“Still…” He paused and looked at the girls. “It does not distress you to be so discussed?”
Jess put on her American accent, even though Senni would only hear her in his language. “Nope, us girls are used to it - though it is polite of you to include us in the conversation. For instance, you worry about us being fragile, but you do not seem to worry about Allan. Have you not considered the possibility that for a male of his years to be attracted to children, it must be due to him being fragile? More fragile than we are? That is why Eleni and I are always so careful of what we say about him.” Us girls all gave her a big tick on our board - but we also gave one to Allan because he loved her tweaking him without feeling even a hint of secret resentment at her doing so.
Senni did not try to hide his emoting of embarrassment so they did not mind when Allan led him on to other subjects by asking what other questions he has.
“It has been accepted for a long time by our theorists that it is impossible for unrelated species from different solar systems to look alike. You existence seems to prove them wrong.”
“Not at all Senni. We superficially resemble each other because both our species have the same number of limbs, roughly placed in similar positions, a torso, neck and head. Standing upright it is only natural that mouth, nose, eyes and ears follow a similar layout. The conditions of our planets are fairly similar with regard to gravity, sunlight, land and water, so I’d say it is only likely we should have evolved in similar ways.”
“But, there are countless ways in which random changes occurred because of climate changes, how could they be the same for both planets and species? Surely your scientists do not believe in parallel evolution?” He then asked, almost breathlessly, “Do they believe in the theory of convergence?” We all held our breath, hoping he would not make such a commitment. Somehow we always forget that his mind jumps around just like a flea thirsting for blood.
“I think you are examining the possibilities from the wrong end of the stick. For instance, you have to set certain limitations. Our artists, before we met any species alien to us, had imagined hundreds, maybe thousands of shapes they could take. Would it surprise you to learn that nature does not have such a free hand? She has to obey certain rules, patterns flowing according to the basics of environment. For instance, we have a species that has no legs, it slithers along on the ground. At the other extreme, there are species with a few hundred legs. Yet, we have not met any sapient species with more than two fully developed arms. It seems that nature is restricted with regard to arms because they tend to be manipulators and are the tools our minds need for expressing themselves. However, we have met species without any arms, using feelers as arms. Again, they only have two feelers that can be used for manipulating, any other feelers are for other purposes.” Allan grinned. “Now that I’ve said so, either nature or Arthur will go out of their way to prove me wrong and the next species we meet will have fifty arms and only two legs, or something else just as weird.”
It started off as being interesting to everyone and as long as Senni was opening up and asking questions, everyone remained glued to the screens. The idea of arms being tools of sapience and therefore limited in number because of the ability of our minds to handle more (as tools) had never occurred to me. Whether he is right or wrong, I like it. There is a certain elegance to it. Just when we were thinking we were glad Allan and the girls had made a friend, he upped and asked the question no species had wanted to ask - though he found a way to do it that was acceptable by all. (As he asked, we could sense the girls suddenly monitoring us with a slight anxiety, so we realised he’d planned it from before.)
“Senni, we have come to your world with a secret which is not meant to be a secret. We have hesitated to mention it out of fear that if your people cannot share it with us because of limitations imposed by your evolution, we could damage you as a people. We like you too much to take the risk - but if we are wrong, we must share with you. Are you willing to take the risk on your own and promise not to tell your people if evolution has blocked you from joining us in the void?”
“The void? I do not know of this emptiness and cannot imagine why such a place would be worth visiting. You have my promise.” Robbie gave us a grin, curious as to what Allan planned.
Allan did not take shortcuts. He explained about souls and then gave the full spiel, ending with an offer to try and take Senni to the void - if he can manage to enter his mind. He gave the reasons why it is difficult to do so between species who have just met. It was a fair effort, despite the hedging, but not the kind that wins devotees. Allan’s ego won’t allow us to help, so we looked at Robbie. He lit a cigarette and Maria brought him another coffee so we knew he has no intention of interfering. Young Samuel King is not linked, but he has grown sensitive enough to realise that Allan is failing with Senni and it embarrassed him. He knows Cherine and I have a special love for Allan so he stared at us, hoping to discomfit us so that we do something to help. I did not react, but Cherine gave him a wink and it calmed him.
Allan and his girls were aware of what was happening in Freddie but they ignored us - well, maybe Cherine’s wink gave them the courage they needed? Maybe not, for Allan seemed to be more in communion with his loves at that time. He put his arms over the shoulders of his girls and they stepped forward as he said, “Senni, we are both males so it is difficult for you to trust me, but surely you are able to trust children? Let them help you visit the void.” He’d guessed right and we sensed Senni instantly relax. The girls went to either side of him and convinced him they should sit with their backs against a wall made of smooth rocks that looked like giant pebbles. Allan kept his distance as the girls childishly chatted with Senni. He gradually relaxed and seemed to forget why they were there. As Jess amused him with anecdotes, Eleni tried to slip into his ‘reception area’. She was surprised when she did not encounter any kind of resistance. All that was left now, was for her to find a way to catch the attention of his soul.
Jess gripped his arm as she gaily asked him, “Will you play a game with us? I’ll call your name, ‘Senni…’ and Eleni will echo me, also calling your name. Try and listen for her with your eyes closed and if you work out from which direction she called, you win - and you make me happy. If you don’t, you lose and you make me sad.” Damn! Whoever of the three thought of it is going to get a lot of kisses. Whenever we meet an alien race who treasure children, we now have one more way for opening their minds to us! Yes, we did not need to wait to know this was going to succeed, sometimes things like this are just so obvious once someone has thought of it - and young Samuel stared at us proudly as he realised Allan had somehow struck gold and had amazed us. He relaxed as he watched and shared - Cherine inviting him to do so through her now. That she did so just goes to show how much she loves our Allan.
The Sparklers kept their distance and Solomon waited for Allan or the girls to call him. The void, here, is not exactly a fun place to be. There are no Kaleidoscope Worlds, no multiplicity of glorious souls of hundreds of species to decorate it. To Senni, it can only be an empty darkness. A void. As we were all thinking this, Robbie sent, *Shall we?* We delayed a few seconds to take Samuel with us.
I recall Manoli trying to explain in a poem that one rose is beautiful; that a bunch of six or twelve, maybe are even lovelier. A hundred, or a thousand, are less beautiful - far less. He then continued, that a soul is the acme of divine beauty and yet, as souls congregate and grow in numbers, so does the shock of their beauty increase instead of decreasing. Senni had been lost in the beauty of the three souls surrounding him. He had been convinced there cannot be any beauty rarer or purer and then we arrived. We were not any lovelier, but the number and variety touched his core so that he seemed to glow.
One soul affected him more than any other - and it was not Cherine or Goldi. It was Dominique. With the beauty of her soul he also sensed the Mother and it sliced into him like the keenest blade of love and ecstasy. His soul wept as it succumbed, overcome by a mixture of what is and his childhood memories. We danced around him so that he no longer could concentrate on one soul and we became a blur of laughing voices, streaks of colour and light. Softly, their voices almost merging with the sounds of our laughter and joy, Eleni and Jess spoke to him, bringing alive the void. When they called for the Sparklers, their appearance was only an added joy and beauty and when Solomon joined us his presence was soothing, the sense of meeting an elder of true wisdom, opening Senni to the magic he was now a part of. Solomon invited him to the Sparkler World and we took him there.
He instantly recovered and emoted great pleasure as he turned to speak. He hesitated, looked around again. “What is this? This is not a planet. Is it a world of the imagination?”
Allan explained, again, about Kaleidoscope Worlds and how they are formed and of the entity created. He then explained that the Sparklers are all one family so they need a World that is special - and this is what they created. He told him about the number of species whose planets have been destroyed waiting here for us to find them a new home. Senni politely listened to all, even our explanations about how the World is infinite in size on the inside while not more than a speck in size on the outside.
Sagely, as if understanding us, he said, “It is a world of the imagination.”
Everyone was eager to correct him so I cut in quickly, “You know of worlds of the imagination? You have experienced them before?”
“Such worlds are for learning, you have not found your way to your real world?”
“You had not realised this is but the first step, a way of training yourselves so that you can return to the real world, the place you truly belong?”
Eleni asked, “The real world, it is not the world where we met?”
“No, that one is a half-world; more than imagination, a world created out of dreams, a reality where we can create new life, for no new life can be formed in the real world. It is far too substantial and inflexible. Only in dreams can life be created.”
As a good human being (if I am one), I have to respect their beliefs. As a Cherinian I do not have the right to do otherwise. As a friend of aliens, it is my duty to find out exactly what is driving them. To help them or not, whatever is required of me as a friend, I must first know the complete truth. This ‘real’ world they speak of, is it mass hallucination or a World in some dimension above or below the void…or, is it really a real world, situated perhaps in a neighbouring solar system or galaxy? The clue about not being able to have children in the real world suggests they are wrong - how can any reality be too real for children to be born? I’m very tempted to go with the first option, but a sneaky voice is warning me that nothing is ever that simple. So, how do I get to go with one of them to their ‘real’ world? Senni has already told us it is not possible to go with him, that I have to find my own way…to my own real world.
This is Jade. Hello. About fourteen years ago, our time, I teased Samantha about her having to blow her own trumpet all the time and it made everyone laugh. Arthur, can you believe that after all this time she grabbed the opportunity for her revenge? It is why I’m writing.
There was not one of us not tangled in the problem Sam wrote of. Each of us secretly hoped we’d be the one to solve it. Despite my love for my family, my artistic talent and my enjoyment of my corny sense of humour (after all, I did get it from Robert), I really wanted this feather in my cap - to be the one everyone would admire for her brilliant mind. I think someone invented the word hubris</ifor me. All Cherinians enjoy being competitive in this manner, but we are quick to enjoy and praise the person who succeeds. I’ve done a lot of <ienjoying and praisingand I was hoping this time it would be my turn to be on the receiving end.
Some of us made an effort to become friends with a local. Others watched them as they fell asleep, trying to sense them leave their bodies (their bodies remain here, in the equivalent of what they use for beds). Me? I watched the others for a few days, examining any variations in strategy, looking for the blind spot, that little something that will give me the break I want. I wish I did not have to be so honest, it can be very frustrating when I want so much to show off J. I think us Cherinians should try to find a way to allow a little bit of fun-dishonesty. You, see, I did not luck out because of my brilliance - I did so because I was lucky. That’s me, Lucky Jade!
Once evening I was walking among the houses, trying not to spy on their emoting as they prepared for sleep - and travel to their ‘real’. Mostly I was listening to the conversations among my loves and, when I could, I’d throw in a comment to amuse them. Then I felt something I could not ignore. I felt the misery and pain of what felt like a toddler to me. We’d never felt pain from their children, excluding falls and other such minor accidents. Never having been a Normal, it took me a few seconds to recognise it. The sharp pain combined with a deep ache suggested a toothache. Then I realised that if the feeling I had of its age was right, it was more likely the child was teething. I hesitated, waiting, expecting the parents to rush to the child, but when they did not I guessed they’d left for the real. I placed my body on the ground, against a rock, and leaving it went to visit the toddler.
I’d guessed wrong. The Totmygy babies do not have teething problems, they suffer from something much worse. When they are born, their skeleton is not fully formed - especially the bones of their arms. At birth they resemble tentacles more than arms (a much earlier part of their evolution). When the bones first start to form and from being fully elastic start to harden, they break very easily and their parents watch over them to prevent too many breakages. It hurts when a bone breaks and the parents could no longer hear her cry, so this is how I met Yaiyah and inadvertently became (linked) friends with her - and had my little adventure.
To attempt to enter the mind of a toddler directly, at a time all its attention is focussed outwardly on its pain, is not a practical idea. I concentrated hard on creating an image of myself as I arrived before the child. Her yelling stopped, as if cut off by a knife, and she stared at me, shocked, her third eye opening. None of the adults have three eyes and I only now realised that I’d never seen a child without the funny caps they all wear. I tried to imagine what Sam’s friends, the Buddhists will think when they learn about the third eye of the Totmygy children and that the adults hide the third eye until they grow to the age where the eye closes forever. Anyway, because of the surprise both of us experienced, we stared at each other for a long moment. Just as she was about to let out another yell, of panic this time, I spoke to her, emoting as strongly as I could, “Hello, my name is Jade. I felt you hurt yourself and I came to help make the pain go away.”
Without her big eyes leaving mine, she trustingly raised her one arm to point at the other, which was lying at an odd angle, bent where it should not be. My healer was already working in her so I talked her through what was happening, as seeing her arm move of its own accord to straighten itself would surely have freaked her out. I tried to make a game of it and even managed to make her giggle once when it moved without her willing it. As the pain receded and her arm was repaired, she accepted me and her third eye closed. She raised both arms to me for me to pick her up, which was not possible, since I was not there in my body. Seeing her arms slice through me frightened her, so I had to think quickly. I asked whether she would like to visit my home and see what lovely flowers and trees we have. I told her about the Wirms and she was enchanted, wanting to see one. I explained I would enter her mind and as soon as she falls asleep, I’ll take her to visit. Having spent all her life visiting another world, guided there by her parents, she found my offer natural and was excited to be visiting a new world. She’d never heard of anyone else doing so and was looking forward to surprising her parents. Just so that it makes sense, I better explain that children are not expected to spend as many hours in the real as adults. Just after birth they visit for an hour and the time is extended as they grow older. My new little friend, who is called Yaiyah, as I mentioned, would be collected in about three hours. I did not know this at the time and I wondered at her parents leaving her behind.
Yaiyah has a very sweet looking soul and I forgot myself as I watched her, waiting for her to fall asleep so as to carry her to Freddie. As she dozed off she became aware of me and, excited, she grabbed at me. The next instant our surroundings had changed and I was standing in my body, Yaiyah’s warm but slightly rubbery fingers in mine!
Yaiyah looked up at me with disappointment oozing out of her eyes and her emoting. She had expected me to guide her to my world and could not understand why I’d brought her to the same boring ‘real’ world she visits every night. In her mind, I had let her down and she was starting to pull away, her feeling of having been cheated or lied to making her less confident of her having done the right thing in trusting me.
“Yaiyah, you caught me by surprise, I did not have time to take you to my world - you brought me to yours! Just think, you are the first of your people who has managed to bring anyone of a different people! You must be very special!” I laid it on a bit thick because I could sense the adults who’d seen me were upset and I wanted her to have a secret pride to cling to when she gets told off. That sort of thing has helped me many times and I think I owed it to her, despite being criticised for doing so.
Once I’d explained, the adults were no longer upset and thanked me for helping a child of theirs. They had notified the parents, soon as they saw us, and they arrived just in time to hear from their daughter about her broken arm and meeting me. I could tell that nobody was happy about my being there, but they were trying to pretend they were glad Yaiyah had managed to bring me across. I think that they had taken pride in the fact that us and all the species in Freddie cannot do this while they can. They did not seem to consider the other world sacred or anything like that, so I don’t think I affronted their religious sensibilities. As I thought about it I started to feel bad. I can understand how they must have felt, having us arrive in a massive spaceship with a lot of amazing spaceships inside it and technology they had never even imagined and, to add to it, we speak of a brotherhood that spans the galaxies that brings eternal life to all (we had not talked about linking them since we could not be certain we could get them to the void to create a World of their own - not while we did not understand what this other ‘real’ world is). At least they could do something wondrous we cannot and how they must have enjoyed the exclusivity - and then I highjack a child of theirs into bringing me. On the other hand, it could be that I’m reading into it a lot of things they never thought of. I sometimes do that.
Since I was here, they seemed to feel it would only be hospitable of them to show me around. They wanted to appoint two from among them as my guides. I could sense Yaiyah and there was no way I could let her be pushed aside. I asked her mother if little Yaiyah could be one of my guides and just the jubilation/pride/feeling-of-being-loved she emoted was the most precious reward for me. I sat on my haunches and when I put out my arms she came to me and shyly let me hold her fingers. I realised that we had never seen any of them hug each other so I was careful not to do so.
As we walked, I asked questions of the adults, “The sun seems to be similar to the sun of your other world.”
“But that is natural! Since this is our mother world, surely it is to be expected the sun would be of the type ideal for us? Why would we then choose a dream world that is unsuited to our giving birth there?”
“You have just spent a full day awake on your dream world and I see it is day here. When do you sleep? Don’t you enjoy the night time?”
“Surely an hour or so of the dark is enough? What would there be to do if we stayed during the night? That is a dream world Jade and whatever time we spend there is all the time our minds and bodies need of sleep. Dreaming there refreshes us here also.”
“That doesn’t make sense - at this moment your bodies are in your homes in the dream world. They will be rested when you return to them, but as far as I can see, your minds never rest. When you return to your dream world, do you leave these bodies here? What of when you die, if it happens in the dream world, are you dead here also? If you die here, are you also dead in the dream world?”
“With regard to dying, yes, death in either world affects both. It is so obvious, I cannot see how you can even question it. Jade, we were told that most of the species dream - does dreaming not refresh their minds? As for leaving bodies here…it has been strenuously debated for all of our history. The majority of philosophers agree that this reality is too real for our bodies to exist without our minds, so, no, there is no body left behind when we dream. The question we have not solved is, does this body become part of the dream body when we return? Does that mean our bodies there become more real when we return there and less substantial when we return here?” He lightly fondled the shoulder of Yaiyah and added, “Is that not the very nature of life? That we are presented with mysteries that have no answer - or perhaps, no single answer?”
“When you die, what happens to you?”
“We become part of this, our mother world and know peace and love forever.”
“You have no stories of returning to live a second or third life?”
“You believe a player who plays the game well should be forced to play the game again? Or is it that you do so for the poor players, penalising them?” The others chuckled at his wit and looked to me with curiosity, for they have been told that we return to live another life, again and again.
I knelt to take both hands of Yaiyah in mine. “You see your lives as tiny flames that burn for one lifetime only? I saw the essence of what Yaiyah is and it burns far too brightly for it to last for only one life. Transferring your existence between two worlds has convinced you that the core of yourselves is but the mind, the point of view that transfers realities…” Good-naturedly they argued the existence of souls with me. I could sense that they were not being as closed to the idea, dogmatically determined to preserve their beliefs, as they were when we first met them. I guess Allan, Eleni, Jess and Senni have managed to shake them. At least they are interested and I learnt that among themselves they argue the new knowledge with great zeal.
Yaiyah grew tired and her parents took her home. She asked me to let her be the one to take me back to the dream world and I promised. It was only after she left that I learnt that I was in trouble. The hour of talking had parched my mouth and I asked for water. I was asked whether it is safe for me - we had made a point of explaining about different ecologies and they know their food is poisonous to us. Casually I said it was…and while I waited for the water I decided to double check with my healer. Only then did I realise I could not contact it.
“I will lie on the ground for a while as I wish to visit the void of this reality.” They assured me I was safe (I think one of them was tempted to ask to come with) and I closed my eyes. Nothing! I could not leave my body and I could not become aware of the ‘place’ we call the reception area of our mind. Somehow this body is blocking me!
Nothing like this had ever happened before and I stubbornly tried different ways of leaving my body, but without results. The female-male who had mostly conversed with me, Dorhio, was the first to understand and frightened all of us with the question, “If your body here is too real, how will you return? What do we tell your people?”
“The situation is worse than that Dorhio, I cannot eat or drink either. If I cannot solve my problem I will die of thirst - long before anything else becomes a problem.” I checked and found my body has two hearts and, I suspect, the sack by my lungs (but I could not voluntarily control it), so I knew that dying would not be easy. I had the feeling that this could not be happening, that it was not real, but knowing how even their water would affect me, I almost instantly grew very thirsty. It was mostly psychological, but it was a nasty feeling to be so desperate for water. I told myself I will hang on without even a sip for as long as possible so as to give myself more time. Another question worried at me: If I die here, can I find my way back to Freddie?
It did not take long for a crowd consisting of their best scientists to congregate around me as they tried to solve my problem. That not one of them even alluded to it being my fault I was here I felt was very nice of them; it is so tempting to say ‘I told you so’ or to want to lay the blame on the victim. They were wise enough to realise that most of my immediate problems will be psychological and tried to convince me that my life is not in danger. They did come up with a solution to my worry about dying of thirst. They boiled water, placed it in a refrigerator until it was cool enough for me to drink and then offered me a small sip. I saw no difference between taking a sip or drinking a litre - either would kill me or not. However, it would be boorish of me to make the point (try to show they are not thinking the problem out). The sip was symbolic, for I immediately bounced back and began to search for a solution on my own, instead of helplessly looking to them for a way out. After all, despite all they said, there are no experts to consult, I am the first alien to have visited.
“I want to examine a drastic step I could take so that I know there is a solution, however unpalatable and extreme it may seem at this time. What if I kill myself, won’t I return to my real…I mean, my dream body?” As I faltered and corrected myself, I knew the answer to my question - as they would see it. I decided I have to start thinking for myself and stop relying on them as their truths might not be mine. I had intended asking later, but it now seemed even more important. “Do you have studies of the stars? May I see them?”
I forced my hands to stop trembling as I stared at the star charts. Whatever has changed with regard to my body, I have not lost my Cherinian memory. The night sky is exactly the same here as it is at their ‘dream’ world. As illogical as it may sound, I silently decided, we have to be in an alternate reality. That is what common sense told me, but something niggled at the back of my mind, insisting all is not as it seems. No Cherinian ignores such ‘voices’, but I did not know what to make of it.
Despite their concern, my new friends had to return, it was time for them to wake up in their ‘dream’ world. I was told that Yaiyah had wept when told by her parents that she cannot carry me back and it made me feel guilty. I’d been so immersed in my own fears and then concentrated so hard on finding a way out before everyone left, that I forgot my promise to her. I now had the additional guilt and worry of how my family and friends will feel when they learn I am trapped here. I asked for the one thing I could - I asked that none of them join me here; sending a message that this is my puzzle and I’ll work it out on my own. All I could do was hope they think I am being selfish.
The houses were deserted. I abused the hospitality and trust shown me and entered a couple of homes, but did not find any sleeping bodies - as they’d told me. That must prove something, I told myself. If I gather enough bits and pieces of solid proof, surely it will start to mean something? I looked for an area that feels familiar and started exploring from there, making a mental map. It did not take long for me to be certain that although there are similarities, the two versions of the town are not the same. I wondered, if they do not sleep here, why do their houses have sleeping rooms? I saw laundry hung to dry - it made me smile, for some things are the same, whatever the species. I climbed onto the flat roof of a building, not a home, and closing my eyes I tried to enter my mind so as to visit my alter ego, Jabic.
That is something I’ve just realised! Sam never wrote of my Jabic when she mentioned our emulating her Hesina. The girls were irritated by my choosing Jabic to be a male, a little boy. My reasoning was flawed, but I’m glad I chose for him to be as he is. At the time, I’d thought to myself that since I am cloned from Robert, there might be too much of what is male in me and I want to be only female. So I formed Jabic and imagined him a boy. It was pointed out to me afterwards, by Dommi, that Hesina did not take from Sam her sense of humour - to the contrary, she augmented and strengthened that side of our Sam. By then I loved my Jabic too much for me to alter him, but I was wary and nervous of him for years. It took me a long time to realise that Hesina expanded Sam’s way of thinking because Sam wanted to learn from her and that Jabic would not affect me in any way that I do not want. We are now close friends and he loves to tease me. His favourite joke is his pretending that he shared our lovemaking. His not so favourite sadness is that Robert does not visit like he does with Hesina and all the other girls. He did come once, but he concentrated more on the world I’d created for Jabic, his eyes and senses concentrated on the landscape. It is the only time I’ve known Robert to hurt a child and pretend he did not, but Jabic asked me to keep it a secret from everyone. He loves Robert and does not want him to look bad to our loves. Strange how every bit of me loves him so much. Maybe it was good that Sam made me write (as and of myself, that is).
I failed to communicate with Jabic and could not sense any of my gifts. I tried very hard to leave my body, to tear myself out so as to visit the void, but, as is obvious to anyone who understands meditation, the harder I tried, the less chance I had of succeeding.
Dorhio had left me enough boiled water to keep me going for days, I had five hours before the sleepers returned, so I filled a flask and walked out of town. I had no target, no theory was driving me. I’ve always preferred the jumble of nature to the organised chaos of cities and that might have been what guided my feet as I walked deep in thought. It occurred to me that both planets are spheres, so they must have time zones. As the inhabitants of one town or city depart, so must others arrive, in the equivalent area of their ‘dream’ world town. I decided I would ask whether transport exists to take me to another time zone. As the sun moved and the shadows lengthened and shortened, I confirmed to my own satisfaction that the placement of this town was at more or less the same latitude.
Three days passed and I was planning to leave the town as soon as everyone returned to their ‘dream’ world. Yaiyah now knows that I am trapped here and that I cannot eat their foods without it killing me. I have asked of everyone that she be told that I left, returning to my spaceship world. I have sent to my loves a message that I have one last idea to try and if it does not work, get me back to them, they must not come here and they must take my body to Freddie and place it in stasis.
The family of Dorhio made me welcome in their home and sterilised water was brought to me. It only stills the hunger pangs for a brief moment, but even that is welcome. I felt bad, for I was going to repay their kindness with pain, anguish. Food was being prepared and something smelled nice.
“Could I taste your food? I won’t eat enough for it to harm me, it smells delicious and I’m curious about the taste.” They brought me a small slice of something, a vegetable, of a dark purple colour with an orange sauce. I brought it closer to my nose and sniffed and realised it was the aroma of the sauce that I found so pleasant. Rudely, I dipped the tip of my finger and put it in my mouth, the water next to me, ready in case I need to wash out the sauce. I was that hungry (don’t forget my Cherinian metabolism that makes me eat nearly twice as much as Normals do) that the taste of boiled cabbage would have been enjoyed, but the sauce truly was delicious. I waited a minute and then sampled a second fingertip. No adverse reactions, so I cut a piece of the vegetable and tried it. It tasted like I imagine yam boiled in lemon juice would taste. Combined with the sauce it was yummy!
To think I’d starved myself without reason - I could have cried. It is not as if I did not have all the clues I needed, after all, I knew that my original body was probably exactly where I’d left it, near the home of Yaiyah, so I should have guessed that whatever created this body for me would have projected a Totmygy body to look like mine. Huh? See why I spoke of hubris? I wanted to do this so as to prove how clever I am, but instead I’d done a great job of showing how stupid I am and that I never think things through to their ultimate conclusion. Now the big question: Who or what made this body, if it was not my healer - and, why was it made to block me (Cherinian-wise, I mean).
My local friends, for I have a number of them by now, were very happy that they could now comfort my people (they still can’t think of all fifty odd girls as being the mates of Robert, so they only speak of my people, not my family) by letting them know I can eat and drink and that they did find me asleep so they know I can sleep. That last one really puzzles them. It puzzles me too. If I have a lucid dream and travel back to my body, would that be real, would I be real there? I think not, life never provides such simple answers. She raises her sword and calls out, ‘Fight on; Charge; Win the battle; Do or die!’, she never says, ‘Sit back and press ‘x’ button on the remote’. At least, she doesn’t for anyone I know.
Yaiyah has grown accustomed to finding me here and I think her tiny mind (which is blossoming so quickly) is starting to expect me to remain here forever. I hope not. With everybody relaxing, since my life was no longer in danger, messages started flowing back and forth with requests from everyone for this or that experiment to be carried out on their behalf or some weird theory or other to be tested - I bet some of them were from my loves and only meant to double them over with hysterics as they imagined my trying to do what they asked for. I kept waiting for the big one from Sammy but if it came, I never recognised it. What did upset me a little was when I found out, from a very talkative Yaiyah, that she sits on Dommi’s lap and loves being cuddled by her. I always get it wrong when I try to be politically correct!
“Is there exchange of information between towns and cities? I mean, here and in your ‘dream’ world.”
“In both, yes, though more efficiently here.”
“Do you ever meet?”
“There are four towns surrounding us. We host one of them every ten of our years. They each host us once every ten years, so we meet every five years. It is the time for the young ones to meet and choose their mate. We do not meet anyone from towns further away.”
“These meetings occur here?”
“No, never here, they have to occur where they will mate and bear young ones.”
I realised I was tired of asking questions and they are probably ten times as tired of it since they are also questioned by hundreds from Freddie. “May I impose on you and ask for a food parcel to last me three days? I need to be on my own for a while.”
Sorrowfully he avoided looking at me. “It will be ready for you whenever it is you wish to leave. The package will be in the kitchen. Jade, our thoughts are allowed to go with you, we will not intrude upon your sorrow?”
“No, your thoughts will always be welcomed. Thank you my friend.”
When they learnt of my absence, some said I wanted to be on my own to meditate, in the hope of finding a solution from my subconscious. Others (read ‘Cassie’), said I was going to search for a new audience as all the people of that town have heard all my jokes. Robert told everyone I am bored and have left in search of adventure. I bet they were all looking forward to the day I’d share from them and laugh. The truth is, I did not wish to visit another town, they would have nothing new to tell me. What I wanted was to get rid of the dross and examine the ingots that remain. To do so I must categorise and have time free of worrying about not neglecting my hosts. Even sweet Yaiyah is a distraction I must avoid for a day or two.
Everybody here knows what happened and the conclusions I came to and I bet, having read the various points I made or was told, you’ve already guessed everything Arthur. It was not so obvious when having to live through the experiences on a day to day basis - and what I have written of is already a concentration of information, I had a hundred times as many ideas and facts to sort through. So don’t you go thinking I was as stupid as I seem to have been.
I walk a lot faster than the locals do, so when I was a full day out of town, I was the equivalent of nearly two days away, as they would think of it. I saw empty land before me, no trees or other vegetation, not even outcroppings of rock, just a vague, motionless mist. In the distance I saw life resume. I found a rock and sat watching the mist for a long time, half mesmerised by it. I pulled back, peered at the trees and slight mountains in the distance and then uncovered the ceramic bowl and ate. As I did so, I gestured, “This is not an alternate reality; you have betrayed yourself because of your wish to conserve energy. Entity of this World, please take form and join me.”
Perhaps he wanted to make a point, which evades me, but he took form over the mists and then walked to me. A rock formed and he sat with an amused look in his eyes. “According to the information about you, your family and the scientists of various linked species, you are supposed to be highly intelligent. Since the information was available to any logical being, why did it take you this long to work out the truth?”
“Information about us? - From where?”
“The computers in Freddie.”
Jesus! I nearly jumped up in a panic. “You entered Freddie un-sensed by any of us? The computers can be read by you? Can you spy on us from another dimension?” I calmed and tried to back off. “It is only natural that you should need to reassure yourself of our intentions towards your people.”
“Your intentions were clear from early on. No Jade, it was more important I learn whether your beliefs and promises are as dangerous as I thought.” He nodded. “They are.”
“Dangerous to whom? How can you object to any of your people becoming Cherinians? If you really have studied us, surely you would see us as a kinder fate than is available to them now?”
“Because you offer them perfect health, many mental gifts and eternal life? It is exactly what you offer that is insidious because of its beauty that blinds reason while being more destructive than death itself.” Suddenly I was desperately wishing Samantha was with me. He sensed me. “Jade, this has to be faced by you - for you are the artist. If you wish to argue with me, to debate the points I made, do so from that part of yourself that has the visions paintings are born out of.”
I stared at him with mouth agape. I put down the pot as I tried to understand what he was asking of me. I chuckled. “You are not an artist!”
“I would not claim to be - though I have been creative at times.”
“No.” I shook my head. “I am not being rude, I’m answering your earlier comment. If you were an artist, you would know that a large part of what is seen on canvas comes from skill, hard and endless practice of the basics. An eye for colour, form, the inner eye that sees a vision, none of that would be of any use without the self discipline and skill that has to be earned.”
“Jade, I cannot continue this conversation without first clearing a misapprehension. I am not an entity created out of the souls of my people. As a matter of fact, I was not even created by my people - I was created by their parents, who were not of the Totmygy.”
“That didn’t make any sense! What are you saying?”
“I am as the AI of the Unations, but far more sophisticated. I have had freewill for over two hundred thousand years. You do appreciate that the term freewill is an oxymoron? If the mind is to have a purpose in life, it can only have freewill in relationship to the decisions that are made to preserve or attain that purpose. I was created to preserve the children of my creators, so the limits of freewill lie within those parameters.”
“An AI is able to create a World? Do you have a soul?”
“A misunderstanding once more. Jade, this reality is what your people name a virtual world, you saw the mists, understood their purpose without understanding where you are?”
This was just one bit of strangeness that was too far out, that jumbled an edifice I no longer recognised within my mind and I cried out, as real tears stung my eyes, “It is too much Arthur, you’re making everything too weird! Stop it!” I stared at the entity, not seeing him, as I added, “Please.”
Could the entity truly understand what I was going through? I don’t know. What I did sense was being picked up and then I was back in my body and my head was held on Robert's lap and my family surrounded me, crying and laughing. Luckily, they jumped with me back to Freddie.
This is Samantha again. Jade refused to continue writing. Allow me to start by explaining what she meant by saying ‘luckily’. She felt that the entity had risked blowing its cover, undoing all the good it has done for thousands of years, out of kindness; so as to save her. She does not want it to pay such a heavy price for her sake. She has asked the Unation AI to contact it and invite it to visit us in Freddie two days from now, so that she has time to recover and grow accustomed once more to being insulated and surrounded by love.
Chapter Three Hundred and Twenty
The first day was terrifying. We’d sensed Jade disappear and then found her body lying against a stone wall. Robbie tried everything he could think of to find her while Dommi with Cherine entered her mind, searching for her in there. Her cord still pulsed with energy, but we could not follow it as it quickly disappeared. When morning came and the Totmygy notified us through visiting scientists that Jade was stuck in their ‘real’ world (I liked the way she calls it their real), I think Robbie would have tossed her over his lap and spanked her if she’d returned - so great was his relief. If he hadn’t, I bet Dommi would have. Being Cherinians, we can’t claim that the fright she gave us aged us ten years, but it sure felt like it. One thing it did that was good - it made us see, once more, just how much we love her and what a terrible gap is left when she is not a part of us - Cassie especially was really going bananas at even the possibility of not finding her.
As mentioned, Dommi established a bond with Yaiyah and now loves her. She started off, hoping that Yaiyah could be convinced to take her to Jade, but the trauma of hearing that Jade is to die of thirst and hunger blocked Yaiyah and there was no way Dommi could enter her mind. Jade is now spending time with her little friend, doing all she can to heal her and open her mind to us again. It is important she succeeds, as when we link the first of her people, we want her linked as a Cherinian.
We made excuses and stayed away from the Totmygy so as not to let slip any information about their real, only Jade visiting her friend. She tries to keep her conversations with the adults to the minimum. We are still waiting, but the Unation AI cannot confirm it succeeded in passing on our invitation.
“If the local AI is situated on planet, shouldn’t our probes have found the computer?” Robbie asked.
The Anadir scientist briefly conferred with his Unation colleague, obviously reconfirming something mentally, and answered Robbie, “We have a map of the planet that reaches to the magma core and we re-examined it in detail. We thought that now we know what we are looking for, we’ll recognise it when we see it. That has not been the case, there is nothing we can identify as a computer.”
“What if it is not situated on planet? Have you searched the moons?”
“We have. Nothing there either - we did find some underground installations that suggests the planet was being monitored some thousands of years ago, but we have not pinpointed the period yet. Whatever computers and other equipment existed there, they are long gone, probably stripped by the observers.” The Anadir scientist is a female, her name is Haiinofa and she rarely exhibits any signs of a sense of humour. She caught us by surprise when she frowned at Robbie (he loves it when they do as it makes them look childishly funny…and they know he does) and said, “All we are left with, as far as my colleagues and I can think of, is a Samanthian-type theory: What if the AI has evolved to the point where it no longer needs to reside within a computer?”
Robbie played along, or maybe he didn’t, I’m not certain. “You mean it has no body? A discorporate AI!”
She grinned. “It is more likely it has found a way to use the magma center of the planet, or even the sun. Akin perhaps to the way Batsy exists?”
Robbie grinned back and gave her a wink. “Keep on coming up with theories like that and I’m going to grow very fond of you.” The Anadir females laughed, knowing that Robbie had panicked their males.
Dommi cut across the laughter, “None of this solves our problem. Roberto, we should not stay away for much longer or else they will think we are ignoring them deliberately - as an insult.”