by Celu Amberstone
"Refugees" originally appeared in the anthology So Long Been
Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by
Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004)
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 1
This morning I arose early and climbed to the Mother Stone on the
knoll above the village. The sun was just rising above the blue
mists on the lake. The path smelled of tree resin and flowering
moss. I took in a deep breath, and sang to the life around me. I was
shivering by the time I reached the Mother Stone and made the first
of my seasonal offerings to Tallav’Wahir, our foster planet.
I cut open my arm with the ceremonial obsidian knife I carried
with me, and watched my blood drip into the channel carved into the
stone for that purpose. Blood. The old people say it is the carrier
of ancestral memories, and our future’s promise. I am a child from
the stars — a refugee, driven from my true home. My blood is red, an
alien color on this world. But I am lucky because this planet knows
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 2
I should rejoice in the renewal of life, but
this Awakening Moon my heart is sad. Always before one of my
daughters has been with me to share this special time. They are all
gone now. My youngest daughter married last harvest and moved to a
village across the lake. I miss her. My dear old man, Tree, says I
should be glad to be done with that cycle of my life. But if I still
crave the company of children, he is sure that my co-wife Sun Fire
would be happy to share. He says this with a smile when he sees my
long face, and truly the children left in the compound are more than
a handful for us. But though I love them all — including my widowed
sisters, it isn’t quite the same. I pray that Tukta’s marriage will
be a happy one, and blessed with healthy children. Oh Mother, how we
need healthy children.
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 7
Today our Benefactors confirmed our worst fears. Earth is now a
fiery cloud of poisons, a blackened cinder. When it happened our
ancient soul-link with Earth Mother enabled us to sense the disaster
even from this far world across the void. Tallav’Wahir felt it too.
But we told our foster planet mother that our life patterns were
sound. Our Benefactors would help us. Such a tragedy would never
happen here. There was a great outpouring of blood and grief at the
Mother Stones all over the world. The land ceased to tremble by the
time the ceremonies ended.
Leaf-Budding Moon, sun-turning 3
The star shuttle arrives with our new wards tomorrow — twenty-one of
them for our village. What an honor to be given so many. Dra’hada
says that the crew won’t awaken them from cold-sleep until just
prior to their arrival. When they are led out, they will be
disorientated, and we will have to be patient with them. Dra’hada
has assured me that our implants and theirs have been attuned to the
same frequency so that we can communicate easily, and that is a
relief. I wonder what these new people will be like. I am excited,
and maybe a little afraid too. All the wars and urban violence we’ve
heard about, I hope they can adjust to our simple ways. It’s been a
long time since our Benefactors have brought settlers to
Tallav’Wahir to join us. We desperately need these newcomers.
Tallav’Wahir is kind, but there is something in this adoptive
environment that is hard on us too. We aren't a perfect match for
our new home, but our Benefactors have great hopes for us.
Leaf-Budding Moon, sun-turning 4
It is moonrise, and it’s been an exhausting day
for all of us. I was near the front of the crowd when the shuttle
set down on the landing pad. I thought I was prepared for anything.
How wrong I was. They are so alien. It is hard to believe we are the
same species. The situation on Earth deteriorated so fast that the
ship was forced to gather what survivors were available without
delay. There was no time to select the suitable. The sorting will
have to be done here I suppose, and that is unfortunate. Culling is
very stressful for everyone. Most of the people assigned to our
village were dazed and confused, but some were angry too. Maybe they
were afraid of our Benefactors, and that might account for their
rude behavior. Filthy lizards indeed. They are an unsettling
addition to our village, and the land feels it too.
Leaf-Budding Moon, sun-turning 5
Dra’hada says, even though they look and act so
differently, they all come from a large city called Vancouver. We
have three staying in our family’s compound. When I first saw the
young woman given to us, my heart pounded like a drum. I’d caught
only a glimpse of her in profile, and I thought my daughter Tukta
had returned to me. Then she turned to face me and the resemblance
vanished. It was an unsettling experience nonetheless. Her features
at times still remind me of Tukta’s, but in no other way are they
This girl is of medium height, golden-skinned,
and very, very thin. She was wearing tight black pants, and black
boots with high heels that make her walk funny. She also had on a
black shirt, very sheer — I could see her tiny nipples pressed
against the fabric. Over that she wore a black leather jacket with
lots of silver chains. Her hair is short, spiky and blue. She has a
ring in her nose and several in her ears, and a pudgy baby that
cries a lot. She told us her name was Sleek. Jimtalbot, one of our
other charges, says that isn’t her real name, just a “street name.”
I’m not sure what he meant by that, but I’ll wait and ask him later.
Jimtalbot is one of the few older adults left
in our care. Unlike Sleek, he has pale skin, and gray streaks in his
short brown hair. His face is a bit puffy, and his belly soft.
Dra’hada says we will have to watch him because his heart is weak.
Jimtalbot told me that he was a professor at the University of
British Columbia. He has lively blue eyes and is very curious about
everything. I like him the best of the lot.
Our third fosterling, given into Tree’s care
mostly, is a sullen, brown-skinned youth whose “street name” is
Twace. He wares a bright-colored cloth tied around his head, and
baggy striped pants. I don’t like his angry eyes, and the color of
his aura. It is filled with red and murky gray patches. When he
looked around our compound, and saw the neat round dwellings with
their sturdy mud walls and mossy roofs, the thatched stable for our
woolly beasts, and the shady arbor where my loom sits, his mouth
curled in contempt.
They are abed now — finally. Tomorrow we will
have to get them suitable clothing and bring them to the Mother
Stone on the knoll. I hope they won’t be too frightened by the
Leaf-Budding Moon, sun-turning 6
We tried to prepare our fosterlings for the
proceedings, but no amount of assurance on our part seemed to ease
their minds. All were anxious, and some had to be dragged screaming
and cursing to the Mother Stone while an elder made the cut for the
required blood offering. Sleek was one of the worst. She kicked and
clawed at the men who brought her forward, and no amount of
assurance on my part could calm her.
When we returned home Sleek was a mess. Her
arms and face were bloody, and her alien clothes were ruined. I saw
my neighbors’ pitying glances as we took her away. My widowed sister
and my co-wife, Sun Fire, helped me strip off her clothing and get
her cleaned up. I was so ashamed for our family.
“Ignorant savages, cannibals, leave me alone,
god damn you!” she shouted at us as we washed her.
“It’s all right daughter, calm down. Come now,
it was only a little blood; it didn’t really hurt to make the gift.
No one is going to eat you. The blood was given to the Stone so that
our foster planet mother could taste you. Now She will know you as
one of her own. We all make such offerings; it is one of the ways
our Benefactors have taught us to commune with the soul of the land.
Such traditions were practiced on Earth once — didn’t you know
“Screw traditions — and the lizards,” she
snarled and threw the new dress I was trying to hand her on the
floor. “I want my own clothes — what have you done with my things,
“Don’t talk to your foster mother like that,”
my sister said. “Show her more respect.”
Sleek opened her mouth to reply, but I hurried
on to forestall another outburst. “I’m sorry, Sleek, but it was
necessary to get rid of those alien things. They aren’t in harmony
with life here. You must wear and use the natural things provided by this planet now. Their manna will help you commune with
Tallav’Wahir. These ways may seem harsh to you at first, but they
are important. Our elders and our Benefactors know what is best for
us — truly they do.”
Sleek gave me a withering look, but took the
simple dress I handed her. While the fabric was over her head I
heard her mumble something about ignorant savages talking to dirt.
“Our Benefactors know best,” she mimicked as her head cleared the
opening. “Well, they’re not my benefactors. You people are
pathetic. Damned lizards have you humans living like primitive
savages while they fly around in their spaceships.”
Her words were meant to cut, but I thought I
saw tears in the corners of her eyes so I bit back my angry
response. “We know about the high technologies,” I told her quietly.
“We use what you would call computers, air cars and other technical
things too. But to help you make the re-patterning, we decided that
a simple lifestyle would be best for all of us for a time. There is
no shame in living close to the land in a simple way, daughter.
“Our Benefactors teach us that technology must
never interfere with our Communion with the Mother, lest we forget
the Covenant, grow too greedy and destroy our new home.”
Sleeks face flushed a deep crimson, and she
probably would have said more rude things to me, but at that point
her baby began crying in the yard outside, and she took that as an
excuse to leave us. When she was gone my sister, Sun Fire and I
looked at one another in exasperation. Her behavior could try the
patience of a stone.
Flowering Moon, sun-turning 7
The planting is over. It was a nice change to
play with the children on the beach today. The water in the lake is
already warm enough for a swim. Sleek and I played with them for
hours in the shallows by the shore. Her face relaxed; she looked
younger and seemed so happy, and that made me happy too. Maybe she
and the others can adjust to our ways after all.
Flowering Moon, sun-turning 9
Jimtalbot rubs his fourth finger when he thinks
no one is looking. Like the others he was forced to give up
everything from his past, including the thin gold ring that used to
be on that finger. Just now when I went out to relieve myself, I
heard someone sobbing quietly in the shadows under the te’an tree.
When I went to investigate I saw Jimtalbot. I sat down beside him
and took his hand. “What’s so wrong?” I asked him. He sniffed and
tried to pull his hand out of mine, but I held on and repeated my
“Nothing really — I’ll be all right . . . I was
just thinking about home — and my dead wife. She was visiting her
mother in Toronto when it happened. The whole eastern part of the
country was annihilated from what Dra’hada told me.”
“Such thoughts are more than nothing, Jimtalbot.
I can’t imagine losing so much; it must be terrible. I think you and
the others are very brave.”
He shook his head; I could see the gleam of
unshed tears in his eyes by the lantern light. “Not brave at all.
Your Benefactors gave us no choice.”
There was such harshness to his voice when he
said those words that I shivered and wrapped my shawl tighter around
my shoulders. “They are your Benefactors too,” I pointed out to him.
“Would you rather have had them leave you to die?”
He was silent for a long time; finally he said,
“I don’t know, Qwalshina. It is all so different here — I don’t know
if I have the courage to live in this place.”
Surprised by his confession, I raised his hand
to my lips and kissed it. “Surely you can; we are all here to love
and help you. You aren’t alone here — And if you wish a new wife — ”
At that point he disentangled his hand from
mine and stood up. “Thank you for your concern, Qwalshina. You are
very kind. I think I shall go back to my bed now. Good night.”
I went back to my own bed with a troubled
heart. The little ring was such a small memento. Did we do right to
make them give up everything? Our Benefactors advised it, but. . . .
Flowering Moon, sun-turning 25
Last night there was an argument down by the
beach that ended with Sand Walker and one of the new men being
injured. Everyone is so upset today, and Dra’hada was furious when
he heard about it. He told me that such violence wouldn’t be
tolerated. Why can’t the new ones see how lucky they are? These
people were saved from death; why are they so angry? I don’t
understand them. I wish they’d never been brought here.
No, that isn’t true; we need them. . . .
Korn-Growing Moon, sun-turning 11
I had to make a difficult decision yesterday
about Sleek. Her baby was suffering. She would shout and curse the
babe more often than she would feed or care for the boy. Today the
women’s council came to take the baby away. She cursed us in the
vilest terms. Judging by her behavior later, however, I think she is
secretly relieved to be rid of the child. The council gave the
little one to Aunty Shell to foster. Granny Night Wind says the boy
is doing better already.
I look at Sleek’s hard eyes and I wonder what
is wrong with her. Can’t she feel any emotion but anger? How could
she be so indifferent to her own child’s welfare? I remember how it
was when we lost my oldest daughter’s first born. Poor unfortunate
mite — we were all distraught when he had to be culled.
Korn Growing Moon, sun-turning 16
Our medicine woman, Granny Night Wind, thinks
we will have a good crop this harvest season. Tallav’Wahir, we live
in harmony with Her cycles. She feeds us, Her spirit helpers protect
us, and in return we bury our shit and our dead in her rich gray
soil so that She can absorb our essence, swallow our memories, and
enfold us in the oneness of Her living soul. My daughter Tukta’s
face comes into my mind she is so young, and so happy. Will the land
love and bless her, make her one of Her favored ones? Oh, I pray it
will be so.
Berry Moon, sun-turning 2
There was a great bonfire down on the beach
last night. We baked fish on sticks, and ate berries cooked with
sweet dumplings, till our bellies grew hard and round. In the long
green twilight, we played running games. Then, someone brought out a
drum and that started everyone singing and dancing. Our Twace and
two boys in my cousin Rain’s compound can drum very well. I danced
till I thought I would fall over from exhaustion. Later Tree, Sun
Fire and I crept off to a quiet place by the spring where we made
sweet love under the stars. Some time during the night Tree’s
unmarried brother, Sand Walker, joined us and that was good too.
Berry Moon, sun-turning 9
When I was working at my loom this evening
Sleek came over unexpectedly and sat down beside me. She seemed
curious, and maybe a little interested. None of my other children
have the talent to be a master weaver. It would be a shame for the
family to lose such a skill when I become too old for the craft.
Some of our Benefactors pay high prices for our art back on their
Homeworld. I let her watch for a time then I asked, “Would you like
me to show you how to do this?” She shrugged, but didn’t get up and
leave. Best not frighten her away, I thought, so I just continued on
with my work.
After a while she volunteered, “My grandmother
used to weave — it looked something like that.”
Startled I stopped my work and turned to face
her. “Really? That’s very interesting. What kind of things did she
“I don’t remember exactly; I was pretty young
when she died. . . . I remember one thing she made though. It had
bright colors; I used to tangle my fingers in its long fringes.” She
smiled at the memory, and added, “It was probably something
ceremonial, a dance cape maybe. A lot of the old women in our tribe
used to make them for the pot latch ceremonies.”
“Pot-a-latch,” My tongue stumbled over the
unfamiliar word. “Was this ceremony of your people held to honor the
“I don’t know; my mom never took me to one.”
I went back to my weaving at that point. I
could see she was becoming nervous by my questioning. Be careful,
Qwalshina, or you will frighten her away, I told myself. But
inwardly I smiled as I twined the yarn back and forth between the
rope strands on the loom. Truly our Benefactors are wise. Dra’hada
knew how much I was missing Tukta, and gave me a new daughter of the
same racial stock as my own. At that moment I felt very good about
knowing that. It made me feel a little closer to her.
On impulse I asked her, “How old are you?”
She seemed startled by my question, and her
eyes narrowed with suspicion at first then she relaxed. “The lizards
didn’t tell you?”
“No. I never asked our Benefactors. Is your age
a secret? Would you tell me?”
She gave me another shrug.” No secret.
“I was just curious. Eighteen. I forced myself
to go back to my weaving. Gently, gently, Qwalshina, I told
myself. “You are about the age of my third daughter. She got married
recently and moved to another village. I miss her. I’m glad you are
here to take her place.”
Sleek snorted. “I don’t have much use for
mothers so don’t get your hopes up about making me your new
daughter — or teaching me that silly string stuff either.”
She made me angry then, and I allowed my evil
tongue to say something cutting in return. “Maybe if you had been
more willing to be mothered you could have done a better job
of being a mother yourself, instead of abusing your baby.”
Sleek jerked back as if I’d slapped her — which
in a way I had. I saw the hurt in her eyes, for just a moment, and
then it was gone, replaced by her habitual sullen anger. She stood
up, and glared down at me with such contempt that it made my bones
shiver. “You people make me sick,” she spat back.
“You think you’re so wonderful and know what’s
best for everyone, don’t you? Well, let me tell you about my
mother. She was a drunk who let her boyfriends fuck me whenever they
wanted; then told me it was my fault for being a slut. I never
wanted to be a mother — fuck mothers — all mothers. Who needs any of
I stared after her with tear-filled eyes. Why
had I said that? I’m so ashamed. Now I understand a little more why
she acts the way she does, but that doesn’t excuse my behavior. I
must go to the Mother Stone, make an offering and try to regain my
internal harmony. Like a disease these people are destroying our
peace. And, if I am honest with myself I must admit that Sleek and
the others frighten me. Her questions and her anger make me
uncomfortable. Is she right? Are we too complacent and judgmental? I
have to go help Sun Fire with the children.
Korn-Ripening Moon, sun-turning 17
The whole village is in an uproar after what
happened last night. Someone stole some of Granny Night Wind’s
uiskajac. It was fermenting in a big wooden barrel at the back of
her compound. When Sand Walker went to check on the brew, he found
the barrel only half full. Granny Night Wind was furious. She
threatened to give the persons responsible a bad case of “the itch”
when she finds them. Whoever did it is either very brave — or crazy.
She is a powerful shamanka; (female shaman0 the spirits obey her.
Still, it was funny to see her stomping around, looking under
everything — people leaping out of her way — or jumping to do her
Rain-Comes-Back Moon, sun-turning 2
These young ones, so corrupted by poor food and
alien drugs, have grown up spindly, like unhappy plants shaded from
the sun. The last human crop of their tormented, polluted world is a
pitiful one indeed. Will their life-patterns be suitable to mingle
with ours? My people need the flow of new genes or we may perish in
spite of all our Benefactor’s efforts. I am so afraid for my
children. The birth defects and terminations are so many. I fear for
my daughter Tukta. She is so young and so happy with her new man.
Ah, but Dra’hada says, not to give up hope. We
will salvage what we can from this last harvest. And if that is not
enough, our Benefactors will collect the seeds of other worlds and
crossbreed them with ours. Our descendants may not be the same in
appearance as we are, but some part of us will survive. And the land
will always remember us. Our bodies will lie in the cool ground
until the blood memories of our species, have passed into the
crystals of the bedrock itself.
Rain-Comes-Back Moon, sun-turning 4
Jimtalbot and Bethbrant were troubled by a
crazy rumor they’d heard, and came this evening to ask me if it
might be true.
“One of the guys from Earth, living at Black
Rock Village said that Earth isn’t really destroyed,” Jimtalbot told
I looked into their troubled faces and felt a
shiver run down my spine. “What? Why would he say such a thing? Of
course the Earth Mother is gone. Why else would our Benefactors have
brought you here?”
“Why indeed, Qwalshina?” Jimtalbot said. “Could
the — uh — Benefactors be planning some weird experiment? Something
that they need live humans, or human body parts for?”
I was shocked, speechless. “Experiment? No, of
course not. That’s preposterous. Who said such a thing? I must tell
Dra’hada; who is it?”
Their expressions became closed at that point.
Jimtalbot mumbled that he didn’t know the man’s name, but I was sure
he was lying to me. He looked at Bethbrant and they started to walk
away, but I stopped them. “Please wait. If you don’t wish me to tell
Dra’hada, Jimtalbot, I won’t, but listen to me. There is no truth to
this rumor. I felt Earth Mother’s death agony myself — through the
Communion — we all did. The pain was almost unbearable. Truly She is
gone. And, there is no planned experiment. Our Benefactors only wish
“If your people were also a part of their
design, you might not be aware of the experiment either,” Bethbrant
“No, we would know if they were using us in
that way. We have been here for generations. My father was a man of
the Tsa’La’Gui people. His ancestors were brought here when
pale-skinned invaders from across a big ocean came and took their
land. My mother’s people came here long before my fathers. They were
Crunich and lived on the island of Erin before the black-robed ones
with their dead god came, and stole the island’s soul. There are
others from Earth Mother here too, rescued from disaster as you
were. Our Benefactors wish only good for us. And, no matter our
origin on Earth, we are all one people now, the children of
Tallav’Wahir. There has never been any experiment. Please believe
When I finished talking to them, they seemed
convinced that it was all a crazy, made up lie. But later the
children told me that a group of our charges walked down the beach
together to talk over something in private. Did I do right to
promise not to tell Dra’hada? This is very troubling. I must go to
the Mother Stone and tell Her my concerns.
Falling Leaves Moon, sun-turning 5
Sleek’s tattooed friend and six other youths
have developed a terrible case of “the itch.” No common healing
remedy has worked. Poor lads — I know they’re miserable — and I
shouldn’t laugh at their misfortunes, but it is funny to
watch them trying to scratch all those hard-to-reach places. Rain’s
twins were in on the scheme. One of them finally broke down and
confessed. About half of the stolen uiskajac was brought back.
Granny is keeping the offenders in suspense for one more night; but
she told me privately that she would forgive them, and give them a
healing salve tomorrow.
Falling Leaves Moon, sun-turning 25
Sleek and I took the children for a walk on the
knoll today. We piled up great mountains of leaves and had fun
jumping into them. I tired before they did, but felt so good just
watching them. My new daughter I think loves playing like a child
when none of her Earth friends are around to ridicule her. She is
recreating the happy childhood she didn’t have on Earth, and it is a
joy to see her so.
Later we roasted siba fruit that we gathered,
on sticks over an open fire, and everyone sang songs. I found myself
wishing Tukta could have been there to share the day with us. When
we were heading home the children raced ahead, as usual, but Sleek
waited for me on the trail, and fell into step beside me as I
passed. I smiled and she returned the gesture.
In the dappled light under the trees her face
suddenly seemed to metamorphose into that of an ancient. Expressing
wisdom far beyond her years, she said to me, “I had fun with you
today, but I’m not Tukta, Qwalshina. Please try to remember that.”
There was no anger in her voice for once, the smells of tree resin,
spicy siba, and a lazy afternoon had drained her of hostility.
Startled I paused in the trail and faced her.
“I know. . . . I had fun today too, and I’m glad you are, who you
are. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“Mm. . . .Then stop calling me Tukta.”
“I don’t,” I protested.
She gave me a reproachful look, her eyes
luminous and sad. “You’re not even aware that you’re doing it are
Was I? Oh Mother, was I confusing her with my
daughter in the physical world as well as my mind? “I’m sorry,
Sleek, I didn’t realize I’d been doing that. Do I do it
She made a noncommittal sound, which I took to be acceptance of my
apology. “Not often, but sometimes—like today—you forget.” She
shrugged, looked away, and brushed her hand across a feathery tree
branch. We’d chopped off the died blue parts of her hair some time
back, and now soft brown waves hung down past her shoulders. Up
ahead one of the children called to her at that point, and she raced
down the trail to catch up with the others.
I kept walking at a slower pace, thinking. I hadn’t realized I’d
been doing that. Her gentle rebuke caused me to question my own
insecurities. It wasn’t fair to Sleek if I was indeed trying to mold
her into another’s image for my own comfort. Why did I continue to
cling to the past? Why couldn’t I go on with my life—what was I
afraid of? I will have to guard my tongue and my thoughts more
carefully in future. I must go see Granny Night Wind; maybe she can
guide me through this difficult time.
Frost Moon, sun-turning 15
It’s getting very cold at night now. We arrived
back in the village by the lake yesterday afternoon, our pack beasts
heavy-laden from the annual hunt. Soon we will hold the last harvest
feast. Everyone is excited. After the festivities we will pack up
everything important and leave this exposed, stormy beach. When the
blue snows pile up outside, we will be safe in our warm underground
lodges up the sheltered valley in the hills.
Frost Moon, sun-turning 28
I walked to the Mother Stone today to say
farewell till our return in Awakening Moon. The seasons have turned
and the dark time is upon us once again. In the shadows along the
path specters of other races that once lived here too materialized,
and watched me with solemn red eyes. Their voices whispered to me on
the cool wind, but I couldn’t understand their alien speech. What
happened to those born to this world? Our Benefactors don’t know. .
Along with my blood I poured out to the Mother
my hopes and fears for the future. I hope She heard and will bless
us. We are all that is left of humanity now. Can we survive? Or will
this land one day absorb us back into itself as she has others who
have walked these hills? Such thoughts deepened the chill in my
bones, and I hurried back to the warmth of my family’s compound. I
want us all to live, and be happy.
The last harvest feast is tonight after the
communal prayers. I’m resolved to set aside my dark mood and be
happy. My pregnant daughter and others, from across the lake, are
coming for the festivities. Oh, it will be good to see her. I
mustn’t waste any more time Sun Fire needs help with the baking.
Cold Moon, sun-turning 1
I am a little achy this morning — too much good
food, dancing — and definitely too much uiskajac. What a wonderful
party. I danced till I thought my feet would fall off. It was too
cold for lovemaking under the stars but the sweet pleasure under our
warm blankets was just as good. I want to laze around in bed today,
but the village will begin the packing for our move. And I have to
say farewell to our departing guests. My daughter looks radiant —
she is due in the Awakening Moon. What a good omen. I will miss her
though. I wish I could be with her during this time. I hope she
waits to have the child till I can come to her.
Sleek has disappeared again — just when I need
her the most. . . .
Cold Moon, sun-turning 12
During the good weather we were able to
distract our charges with work and games played down on the beach in
the evenings. Now that the blue snows are here some of them have
started whining about computer games and videos again. I talked to
Tomcowan today about a theater project. Maybe that will help keep
Cold Moon, sun-turning 14
As a compromise, Dra’hada is willing to send
for some of the high tech equipment now in storage. If our new
charges agree to study in our school, they will be allowed limited
time on the equipment for entertainment pursuits. Twace and the
others are dubious about the schooling part, but Dra’hada was firm
with them. The Long Sleep Moons are a strain on everyone; I hope the
play practices and Dra’hada’s machines will help it pass in
Ice Moon, sun-turning 2
We are teaching those who wish to learn, the
discipline of “The Communion.” In the long nights when the snows are
heavy on the land above, we journey underground, to the warm cave of
the Mother. There we lie together on the floor of a large chamber,
our limbs touching, and we slide into the sweet reverie that is the
Deep Communion with Tallav’Wahir. We leave our bodies in the warm
darkness and allow our spirits to swim upon the Great Starry River.
We journey to other worlds and visit with friends light years away.
None of our charges can travel so far, but for those who are willing
to try, we have hope that someday they will master the technique
well enough to join us.
Ice Moon, sun-turning 7
Tomcowan’s play was a success. It was written
and preformed by our charges. And I am so proud; my new daughter is
such a good actress. She seemed to shine like a jewel when we
offered her our praise. Our fosterlings told us the story of their
lives in the lost city of Vancouver. Parts were funny, and some
things were sad. Much of it I didn’t understand, but in spite of
that, the performance was very moving. The elders will tell stories
of our own history tonight. I hope our fosterlings will like them.
There is so much for us to share and weave together if we are to
become one people.
Ice Moon, sun-turning 15
In the aftermath of Tomcowan’s play an air of
desolation has settled over our charges. It is very disheartening.
The long gloomy days indoors have given the memories of their lost
home an unexpected poignancy. More fights today.
Just now I found Jimtalbot staring moodily into
the flames of our fire. I sat beside him and asked why he and the
others were still grieving for such a horrible place.
He looked at me with his sorrowful blue eyes
and said, “It wasn’t all bad there, Qwalshina. My wife and I lived
comfortably in a nice house by the ocean. Along with the bad, was a
lot of good too. Art, music, fine literature, advances in science
and medicine, we had a lot to be proud of. As hard as it was for
people like Sleek and Twace back home I think they miss it as much
as I do.”
“Yes, I’m sure they do, and I can’t understand
He shrugged. “Home is home, no matter how bad
it is, and you can’t help caring when it’s gone — if it’s gone.”
If it’s gone? I didn’t want to get bogged down
in that conversation again, so I began a new topic. “Caring? Why
didn’t the people of your city care enough to protect suffering
children who starved on your city streets? Why didn’t they care
enough to honor the Earth Mother and not destroy what were her gifts
to you? Can you honestly say that life here has been so terrible
that you would wish to go back?”
He was silent for a long time, just staring
into the flames. Finally he tossed another stick onto the fire and
shook his head. “I don’t know, Qwalshina.”
“Don’t know?” I was confused and upset myself
by then so I left him. Vancouver sounded like such a terrible place.
How could they possibly miss it and want to return.
Ice Moon, sun-turning 19
The rumors about Earth have surfaced again, and
this time I’m sure Dra’hada has heard them. Perhaps the play wasn’t
such a good idea after all. Everyone is getting tired of the cold
and the confinement. The books have been read and reread, lessons
and amusements are boring, and food and drink grow stale. Tempers
are short. I try to sleep as much as I can. For us, this time is a
natural phenomenon to be endured. For our charges, it is a torment
beyond belief. Our warm dark homes anger or depress them. The snow
is too deep, not the right color, too cold — the litany is endless.
I’m going back to my bed.
Sun-Comes-Back Moon, sun-turning 7
When I lie upon my communion mat and close my
eyes I can feel the deep stirring in the land, and my body responds
to it gladly. The sap is rising, and the snow melting, and my
daughter tells me her belly is nearly bursting. The sun is warm on
my back when I collect the overflowing buckets of sap from the trees
in the sugar bush. And, wonder of wonders, our Sun Fire is pregnant
again. Tree is taking a lot of teasing for starting a new family at
his age; but we are so pleased. This time the baby — all the babies
will be healthy — I just know it.
Sun-Comes-Back Moon, sun-turning 28
One of the great ships from the Homeworld is
coming. Dra’hada is ecstatic. Poor creature — this past year-turning
has been so hard on him. What with all the villagers’ and
fosterlings’ complaints to sort out and the unease of the Mother’s
Spirit Guardians to placate, it is no wonder that our Benefactor has
aged visibly. It will do all of us good to have Benefactors from the
Homeworld here for the renewal ceremonies. Perhaps they will be able
to put those rumors about Earth’s survival to rest once and for all.
The ship will be here by the time the snow is
gone, so Dra’hada tells me. I wonder if they will bring a new mate
for our dear teacher? It will be a great celebration; other
villages are coming to join us. Everyone is excited, even our young
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 4
We are back in our village by the lake again.
Our compound survived the storm season without needing many repairs.
That is good because the ship will be here soon and there is so much
to do before our guests arrive.
During all the confusion Sleek went missing
again. When she crept back into the compound just before the evening
meal I was so angry I shouted at her. She of course shouted right
back. Why, oh why, does she continue to be so irresponsible! I’m
trying not to compare her to Tukta, but it is so hard.
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 10
My heart is on the ground. The village is
overflowing with guests. I’m trying very hard not to let my
personal tragedy spoil the festive mood for others. My daughter’s
baby was born deformed and was — oh I can’t even write down the
words. . . . . The tragedy happened the night before last; her
husband’s aunt told me when she arrived today. Tears blur my vision
as I try to write this. Oh Mother how could this happen — again.
Oh, Tukta, my dear sweet Tukta! I want
desperately to go to her, take her in my arms and kiss away the
pain. But I can’t, not until after the ceremonies are over. What am
I thinking of? She isn’t a child anymore. I can’t make this terrible
hurt go away by my presence. And I have obligations to the People
that take precedence over personal concerns. I must stay; I must be
here to greet our Benefactors when the ship comes tomorrow. The
Renewal Ceremony at the Mother Stone this year will be very
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 11
When I looked into the faces of our guests from
the Homeworld today, I felt such a rage building up inside me that I
could hardly breathe at times. Granny Night Wind sensed my
disharmony, and made me drink a potion to settle my spirit. This new
emotion I feel frightens me. What if we are living a lie — what if
the people from Earth are right? I hate them! Why did they have to
come here? Maybe they should have been left to die on their
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 12
Our compound is quiet tonight; we took in no
guests for the feasting. I can hear the sounds of merriment going on
around us as I write this. The little ones don’t understand. Sun
Fire has taken them to the fire down on the beach. I am glad. My old
man Tree is resting in the bedroom behind me. His nearness right now
is a comfort.
To my surprise Sleek hasn’t joined the
revelers. She was standing in the doorway when I looked up from my
pad. I wanted to say something encouraging to her, but I feel too
dead inside to make the effort.
She watched me for a long moment in silence
then said, “I-I’m sorry about your daughter, Qwalshina. Sun Fire
said something went wrong and the baby’s dead. Is that true — or did
the damned lizards kill it?”
Her unspoken thought seemed to ring in my mind,
Filthy lizards, I told you they couldn’t be trusted. Suddenly I felt
my anger leap up like oil poured onto flames. I hated her at that
moment with all my heart, and maybe she felt it, because she
staggered backward, and grabbed the doorpost for support. Why was
she here — and healthy? Why had she, an unfit mother, had a healthy
baby, when my dear sweet Tukta could not? Tukta loves her new
husband, I thought, and now our Benefactors will probably want her
to choose a new mate — it is unfair.
When I made no answer, and only glared at her,
Sleek’s expression crumpled, and she disappeared back into the
After she was gone Tree came out of the
bedroom. He didn’t reproach me for my cruelty; he only took me in
his arms and led me to our bed. I lay down beside him, buried my
face in the warmth of his chest and cried.
When I could control myself enough to speak, I
said, “I’m so ashamed. The one time she tried to comfort someone
else, I was unkind to her. Like a mean-spirited hag I pushed her
away. Why was I so cruel to her, Tree? I don’t understand her or
“Hush now, my flower,” Tree soothed. “You are
tired, and grieving. People say and do things at such a time that
they don’t truly mean. I know you care about her, and she does too.
I will speak to her tomorrow. Go to sleep, my heart, all will be
I drifted into sleep, as he suggested, but deep
in my heart I knew all would not be well — not for a long time — and
maybe not ever again.
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 13
The most terrible thing has happened. Oh, it is
so terrible I can hardly think of it without bursting into tears all
over again. Sleek is dead, and so are ten others, one of them a
native man from Cold Spring village. Tallav’Wahir, forgive me. I saw
her sneaking out of our compound, and I did nothing to stop her. Did
I drive her into joining those foolish people with my hard looks
and resentment? Was I just another mother who failed her?
It was late in the afternoon when it happened.
Most of our visiting Benefactors and other guests had taken air cars
down the lake to visit Black Rock Village. I was just helping Sun
Fire settle the children for their naps when a loud rumbling whine
brought me, and most of the adults still home in the village racing
to the shore. The great ship resting on the sand was making terrible
noises, and trembling violently by the time we arrived. From within
its opened hatchway we heard screaming — human screaming.
We looked at one another; our eyes round as
soup bowls. Then, all the noise and trembling stopped as abruptly as
it started. We waited, but nothing further happened. Finally Granny
Night Wind and I walked to the stairway and called out to the crew
left on duty inside. At first no one answered, but when the old
woman started up the stairs, a weak voice from within warned her to
come no closer. We exchanged glances, and then I said to the people
in the ship, “Honored Benefactors, is something wrong? Can we help
“No, you can’t help. Come no closer — it may
kill you too if you try to enter.”
Kill us? I was taller than granny; I peered
into the dimness of the open hatch. My nose caught the metallic
scent of blood, before I saw it. There on the floor, blood — red
blood. The benefactor’s blood is brown. I shivered, a claw of fear
tearing at my heart. What had happened in there? Oh, Mother, where
was Sleek? I turned back to Granny. Had she seen the blood on the
floor too? I stepped down off the stair, my mind in shock. People
called to me, but I couldn’t answer. I heard the sound of the air
cars returning, and then people running past me. I swayed and would
have fallen, but suddenly Tree’s arms were around me, hugging me to
his chest. “Qwalshina, what’s happened?”
He was warm and solid, smelling of budding
leaves and smoky leather. Against his chest, I shook my head. No
words could get past the aching lump in my throat.
The visiting Benefactors rushed into their
ship, and soon after Dra’hada appeared and told us to return to our
homes. He wouldn’t answer the shouted questions put to him.
“Everything is in order now. No need to fear. Go back to your homes.
Tonight at the Big Sing I will tell you all that has happened.”
Granny Nigh Wind added her own urging to the
gathered people and soon most drifted away. I stayed; I refused to
let Tree and Sun Fire lead me away. When Dra’hada came over to us, I
clutched his scaly hand and begged, “Please, honored teacher, tell
me what has happened.”
Dra’hada’s headcrest drooped, and he patted my
hand. “Go home, Qwalshina. You can’t do anything to help here. Go
home with your family.”
“Damn you, I’m not a child. Tell me what’s
happened. Is Sleek in there?” I heard Tree and sun fire’s gasps of
surprise at my disrespect, but I was too frightened to care. I had
For just a moment Dra’hada‘s headcrest
flattened and I saw the gleam of long teeth under his parted black
lips. I shuddered, but stood my ground. I had to know. Then he let
go his own anger, and looked at me solemnly. “I never assumed you
were a child, Qwalshina; I am sorry if you think that. All right, I
will tell you. Yes, Sleek is in there — dead.”
I continued to stare at him, willing him to
finish it. He sighed and finally continued, “It seems that the rumor
about Earth still existing took root stronger in other villages than
it did here. All during the harsh weather this cancer has been
growing among the new refugees. A man named Carljameson wanted to
take our ship and go back to Earth. There were others who helped him
try. What they didn’t know, or couldn’t understand, is that the
great ships from the Homeworld are sentient beings. They aren’t
shells of dead metal like the machines of Earth. When our crew was
threatened, the ship itself responded by killing the intruders in a
most painful way.”
Dra’hada refused to tell me the details. He
could sense how upset I was, and told Tree to take me home. Later I
learned Carljameson and his war band forced their way on board the
ship with the help of the man from Cold Spring. They stole weapons
from somewhere and injured one of our Benefactors during the
struggle. With so many new people here, and everybody celebrating,
no one took note of the conspirators’ odd behavior.
Ah, why didn’t I go after Sleek when I saw her
leave? I was selfish and careless. I was grieving for my daughter,
and I was so tired of fighting with her. I blame myself in part for
her tragic death. Could I have done more to make her apart of our
Awakening Moon, sun-turning 14
There is a great council being held among our
Benefactors aboard the ship. Communications with the Homeworld have
been established. Because of the man from Cold Spring’s involvement,
not only the newcomers’ fate, but also our own, will depend on the
Some of our Benefactors claim that we are a
genetically flawed species. We should all be eliminated, and this
world reseeded with another more stable species. Others like our
dear Dra’hada counsel that that is too harsh a decision. We have
lived here the required seven generations and more. We are not to
blame for the assault. They counsel that those of us, who have bred
true to the Ancient Way, should be allowed to continue on, either as
we are, or interbred with another compatible species to improve our
They are meeting on the ship now.
Around me the land continues to sing its
ancient song of renewal. The Mother will not intercede for us with
our Benefactors. She is wise, but in the passionless way of ancient
stone. In the darkness last night the people met in the village
square to sing the Awakening songs, as we have always done. Tears in
my eyes, I lifted up my voice with the rest. I was afraid — we all
were. Just before dawn I climbed to the Mother Stone.
What will the day bring to my people, Life or
termination? I lean my head against the stone’s solid bulk and
breathe in the smells of new growth and the thawing mud in the lake.
Blood. The old people say it is the carrier of ancestral memory and
our future’s promise. The stone is cold. I’m shivering as I open a
wound on my forearm and make my offering. My blood is red, an alien
color on this world. . . .