Did you read what happened on QKBP?
Qbit, the Professor, Pippy and her pregnant beast Aura, have made it safely through a gate. I want to leave them for a bit and now turn my attention to the characters that make up Qbit’s Keepers. First up is Emily.
Kneeling in the dirt, Emily ran her fingers through the damp soil, breaking apart any of the remaining clumps. She scooped some up, brought it to her nose and inhaled. She loved the smell of freshly turned soil, a lot of good memories lingered in its scent. With a smile in her heart, she sprinkled the soil back under a tomato plant and evened it out with the edge of her hand then gently tamped it with her fingers. She sat back onto her legs, brushed her hands off on her jeans and scrutinized the last row of plants. Her thoughts drifted to the kitchen and the smell of the tomatoes cooking in a big pot on the stove. “I can’t wait,” she said to no one in particular.
Nee Nee stood on the back porch looking out at her granddaughter, “That child is a spitting image of her mother, don’t you think?”
Ignoring the question, the Great Blue Heron standing next to her on the railing said, “It’s time. You know that, right?”
She turned toward him and replied, “Yes, I know, I know. However, it still doesn’t make things any easier. She’s still so young, do you really think she’s ready?”
He paused for a second then said, “Time will tell.”
“Yes, I suppose it will,” replied Nee Nee with a sigh.
He turned to look at her, “My people will watch over her.”
She looked back at him and said, “That’s comforting to know, thank you.”
They both stood for a few seconds more, watching Emily in the garden, then the large bird bent slightly at the knees and pushed itself off the railing. His powerful wings made a wonderful swishing sound as they lifted him effortless into the air.
Out of the corner of her eye, Emily saw a heron take off from somewhere in the backyard. She could clearly hear the sound his feathers made as they pushed against the air. She shielded her eyes from the sun with her hands and yelled, “Goodbye, Mr. Heron. Have a nice day!” He turned to look at her as if to say “thank you” then quickly gained enough height to clear the pines at the edge of the yard.
“Lee Lee! Time to get cleaned up!” shouted her Grandmother from the back porch.
“Coming!” replied Emily as she pulled herself up and tried to brush the worst of the dirt off her knees, it didn’t really work. She walked down the row of green microclover towards the small house admiring how straight the rows of freshly planted tomato plants looked.
When she reached the porch, she looked up at Nee Nee and asked, “Did you see the heron?”
“Yes, I most certainly did. He’s a good sign.”
Emily looked toward the edge of the yard where he had just disappeared over the trees. “Do you think he’s my spirit animal.”
“What do you think?”
“I think…yes.” She paused then said, “I swear I sometimes hear him speak to me. I mean, not with words, you know, not out loud, but in my head. Do you think that’s possible?”
Avoiding the answer, Nee Nee said, “Don’t swear, it’s not becoming of such a sweet girl.”
Emily looked at her and smiled, “Yes, Ma’am.”
She smiled back and said, more seriously, “Lee Lee, there is something I need to talk to you about.”
Emily became worried when she saw the expression on her Grandmother’s face. She reached out and touched her arm, “What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
Nee Nee took Emily’s hand in hers. “Oh, my goodness, yes. I’m fine. I need to talk to you about you. Let’s sit down for a second.” She motioned toward the old wooden church pew that rested up against the house. They both sat and Nee Nee continued, “Your parents got an email from your Uncle Takoda.”
Emily’s eyes widened in hopeful anticipation, “And?”
“He said everything was set. You’ve been accepted to the school.”
“Really?” she said, jumping up out of the seat.
“Really. But he also said you need to come right away. He’s made you plane reservations for the end of this week.”
Emily’s expression changed from surprise to disappointment, as she slumped back onto the bench. “The end of the week? I thought it would be at the end of the summer! What about you?” She looked toward the garden, “What about the tomatoes?”
Laughing gently, she said, “Honey, the tomatoes and I will be fine, don’t worry. This is an opportunity that comes around only once in a lifetime, you need to go.”
Emily got up again and walked to the railing, “Why now? What’s the big hurry? I’m sure if I left next summer it would be alright.” She turned around and leaned against the rail. She absently picked a couple of paint flecks that had started peeling from the weathered wood.
Nee Nee looked down at the porch floor then up at Emily, “It needs to be now, sweetheart.”
Emily absently flicked the chips away then started to pace back and forth, her head bent, deep in thought. She stopped and asked, “Does leaving this soon have to do with what you said, a couple of weeks ago, about the signs being right?”
“Yes, it’s all about that.”
“What if they’re wrong. What if they mean something else?”
“They’re not wrong.”
“Does mom and dad know? How come they’re not telling me? Why you?”
“So many questions, that’s good.” She reached for her hand. “Come, sit back down and I’ll tell you a story.”
Emily walked back over, took her hand and plopped down next to her grandmother. She crossed her feet and put her hands in her lap, hanging her head down.
“A long, long time ago, here at this same house, a man and woman came to visit my parents. I was about your age at the time. I remember it as if it were only yesterday. The sun was shining brightly and there was a cool breeze blowing in through the open windows. I can remember the lace curtains and dust specks dancing in the rays of light that spilled inside. The woman was tall and had light colored skin with long black hair. It was so soft looking, the way the light bounced off it when she laughed. The man was also tall, and light skinned but (she smiled as she remembered) his hair was everywhere! It was if he was constantly standing in front of a gale force wind! And he had the kindest, deepest blue eyes, like the sky.” She paused for a second, lost in the memory. “Anyway, they called me over…”
“Kaya, come here please and meet our guests.”
“Coming!” She walked in, shyly, from the kitchen and stood in front of her parents.
Her Mom said, “This is Professor Sadler and her associate Mr. Qbit.”
She gave them a short wave, “Hello.”
The professor smiled, waved back, and said, “Hi.” Qbit walked over to her, knelt on one knee, stuck his hand out and said, “Hello, Kaya, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She stuck out hers and shook his, “Hello.”
He stood and asked her parents, “Is it okay if we all have a seat? It might make this a little more comfortable for everyone.”
Her Dad said, “That would be fine, please make yourselves at home.” He pointed to the two empty chairs facing the fire place. The professor and Qbit sat in them, Kaya and her parents sat on the couch; Kaya was in the middle. There was an uncomfortable silence until Qbit broke the ice.
“Kaya, I’m going to be straight with you and not beat around the bush. I hear you’re a smart kid, so I think you’ll be open to what I’m about to say.”
“The Professor and I are here today because we need your help.”
“Yes, we need you to convince an animal to come out of a cave.”
Kaya and her parents all raised their eyebrows in surprise and said, all at once, “Convince an animal? What kind of animal?”
“A Giant Golden Grizzly.”
“A Grizzly Bear?” gasped Kaya’s Mom.
“A Golden Grizzly,” corrected Qbit.
“The difference being, what?” asked Kaya.
“About five hundred more pounds, give or take.”
Kaya’s parents both said, “What! You never said anything about that!”
Kaya, remaining calm, asked, “Anything else?”
Qbit said, “Let me see. Oh, yeah, he has a wing span of about twenty feet.” He spread his arms out wide and looked from fingertip to fingertip.
Kaya’s father shot up out of the couch and threw his hands to his head, “You’ve got to be kidding, right?! There’s no way my daughter is going to have anything to do with a Giant Golden Grizzly with wings! No way!”
Kaya’s Mom shook her head in disbelief and her Father paced back and forth in front of the couch. They were shocked beyond words.
Weaving her head back and forth as her father repeatedly walked in front of her, she asked again, “Anything else?”
Qbit, moving in sync with Kayla, answered, “Umm, oh yeah, he’s hurt, in a leg, we think.” He turned to the professor, “Am I missing anything?”
She gave him ‘the look’, shook her head and rolled her eyes, “I think you’ve said enough.” She turned to Kaya’s parents, “There is another adult there with the same skills as Kaya. She’ll be watched over her at all times.”
“Why doesn’t she go in then?” asked her Mom.
“Well, there’s, um, how should I put this? Uh, there’s trust issues between her and the bear.”
Her Father said with an angry voice, “For crying out loud, this just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?”
“I’ll do it.” Said Kayla, calmly.
“What!” cried both her parents at the same time.
“I’ll do it.”
“There’s no way our little girl is going in there (he pointed to the window) to get an injured flying giant Golden Grizzly! No way!” yelled her father, with a hint of worry in his voice.
“I’m not so little anymore Daddy, and besides, he needs my help.”
“She’ll be fine.” Qbit said reassuringly.
“I think there may be one problem,” Kaya said, timidly.
“What’s that honey?” asked her mom.
“I’m pretty sure I can’t talk to animals.”
“Sure, you can, you just don’t know it, yet.” Qbit checked his watch then added, “But we’ll have to explain that later. We need to get going.”
“Now?” Kaya looked up to her parents. “I can’t go now, I’m not ready! I have uh, uh, homework to do then the dishes, then it’s bed time, it’s a school night!”
“It’s one o’clock in the afternoon!” said Qbit, walking towards the door, “We’ll be back before you know it.” He opened it and went outside.
She looked over at the Professor for some support.
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sorry, but he’s right, for once.”
Kaya dropped her shoulders and glanced at her parents then back to the Professor, “Can they come?” She looked back at her parents, “You’re coming, right?”
They, in turn, looked at the Professor.
She said, “Sure you can. As far as the gate though, not through.”
“Gate?” asked Kaya.
Qbit popped his head back in the door, “Yes, a gate. Come on let’s go! Times a wastin’”
“Were you scared?” asked Emily.
“Very, I worried that they would find out that I really couldn’t talk to animals.”
“Well, we all piled into a tiny little car and drove up the street to an open field, you know, the one that Mr. Andrews keeps his old swayback horse in?”
“The one with the real rusty gate?”
“That’s the one. So, we all got out and stood in the middle of the field, my mom was holding my hand and she looked scared, too. My father was behind me with his hands on my shoulders, holding me a little too tight. I remember telling the Professor that I still didn’t think I can speak to animals and I’m afraid I can’t do what they’re asking of me. She knelt in front of me and asked me something I’ll never forget…”
“Have you ever sensed something strange when you walked through the woods, down to the store or even around the yard. Something you couldn’t quite understand or put your finger on, but knew it was there? Have you noticed how there always seems to be an animal close by? Maybe a deer looking a little too long in your direction? Or a squirrel or rabbit in the yard staring at the window you’re looking out of? Or, maybe a hawk watching you from a limb in a tree you happen to be sitting under?”
“For some reason I suddenly remembered all those times I DID see something. All those memories came rushing back. All those things she mentioned had happened to me! Even at night, lying in bed, I had the feeling something was there, that an animal was always close by but, the strange thing was, I was never afraid. It was actually comforting knowing they were out there, like they were protecting me.”
The words flew from her Grandmother’s mouth the same way her memories must have flooded her head that night.
“I even remembered that I thought I heard voices, like they were trying to talk to me. That part did scare me because it kind of made me feel like I was crazy, so I tried to block it out when it happened. I told the professor about that and she said it was true, they were trying to talk to me, and I could talk back to them, or not, it was up to me. She said I had a special gift that allowed me to understand them and they could understand me. I didn’t have to use words all the time either, sometimes a conversation could take place in my head without saying any words.”
“Like what happened with me and the Heron! Like I told you I thought he was talking to me! That was real?”
“Yes dear, exactly. You see, you have the same gift I do. You can talk to any animal if you open yourself up to them.”
“Wow, that’s cool, right?”
“Yes, it’s very cool.”
“But what happened with you and the Giant Golden Grizzly and why didn’t your parents talk to it instead of you?”
“They didn’t have the ability.”
“I see.” She thought for a second, “What about my mom and dad? Can they talk to them?”
“No, they can’t either.”
“Oh, so, it skips a generation?”
“Yes, sometimes. It can even skip more or none at all, it’s very inconsistent.”
“But my parents know about it, so, they know, that I know, now, right?”
Her Grandmother looked up and said slowly, using her finger as an aid, “Um, they know…that I know…now. Yes, exactly, that’s why I’m telling you this and not them because they thought it would be easier coming from someone with the ability.”
“Okay, so, where was I?”
“You’re all in the field.”
“Right, so, we’re standing in the middle of the field…”
Qbit said, “Okay, Mom and Dad, this is as far as you can go. Kaya, the Professor, and I are going to take you through the gate we were talking about. But first I need some of your spit.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out something and unfolded it. “This device can recognize you and let you through with us.”
“Exactly!” He handed her a cotton swap which she used to swirl around the inside of her cheeks. She handed it back to him and he stuck it into the machine. It took a second then the machine beeped. Qbit opened a compartment on the back and took out a pill, he handed it to Kaya.
“Nanomarkers?” she asked.
“Right again! How do you know all this stuff?”
“My parents are biologists and they’re working on a project that uses this same sort of stuff.”
“I’m very impressed.” He leaned in close to her and whispered, “I think you and I would make perfect lab partners. But, don’t tell the Professor I said that.”
She smiled and whispered back, “I won’t.”
Kaya swallowed the pill and asked, “What next?”
“We head to the gate.” He called over to the Professor. “We’re all ready, how about you?”
“Coming!” She turned to her parents and repeated, “She’ll be fine, I promise.”
“Be careful!” yelled her dad. Her mom bit her lower lip and waved.
She yelled back, “I will, see you in a bit!”
The Professor walked over to Qbit and Kaya, “Okay, any questions before we go?”
Kaya looked past them and asked, “Where’s the gate?”
Qbit turned to the right and pointed, “It’s right over there.”
She looked to where he was pointing and said, “I don’t see anything.”
“That’s because it’s hard to see. Here, I’ll show you.” Qbit took her hand and led her a few yards away. Once they were close enough, she could make out something that looked like a slight, oval shimmer in the air.
“That’s a gate? How does it work.?
“We go through it, like this.” He stuck his hand into the shimmer and it disappeared. He pulled it out and it was back.”
“That’s incredible! Can I try?”
She stuck her fingers in and watched them disappear then pulled them back out quickly. She checked to make sure they were all there. She looked at Qbit with a smile then plunged her whole arm in, letting it stay in there for a couple of seconds. Suddenly a look of concern came over her face and she pulled it back quickly.”
“What’s the matter?” asked the Professor.
“Where did my arm, uh, go?”
She said, “Into a rain forest.”
“So, if something was standing on the other side, it would see my arm suddenly appear out of nowhere, right?
“Then how do I know there isn’t some sort of wild animal in the middle of a huge yawn when I stick my arm, or for that matter, my head, through the gate?
Qbit laughed and said, “Well, if it wasn’t for this thing (he waved the device he used to scan her spit) you could possibly end up doing that! But this can read the density of the area surrounding the other gate. It can also give us a thermal image so between the two we can be pretty certain what’s on the other side.” He looked at his watch again and said, “We better get going.”
The three of them stood next to each other in front of the shimmer. Qbit said, “Okay, here we go.” They all turned towards Kaya’s parents, waved, then stepped through.
“Where did you end up?” asked Emily.
“We were in that rain forest I was talking about. There were tall trees all around and it smelled of dead leaves and soil. You could hear the drops of water dripping onto the leaves from above, it was beautiful.”
Emily scrunched up her face, “So, how far away was that forest? A little way or far away? How does the gate work?”
“We didn’t have a lot of time to discuss that, plus, I think you’re going to find out for yourself at Arcadia and they’ll probably do a better job, than I can, of describing how it works. So how about we leave it at that?”
“I can tell you that it was only a short walk to the cave the bear had run into. We followed a narrow path through the trees. There were deep paw and claw prints, and I mean big claw prints, in the soft soil and plenty of broken branches and ripped leaves. You could tell that something huge had run through there. We ended up stopping at the large entrance to a cave, I knew that this was the place because I could feel something. Something I’ve felt before”
Emily sat quietly, listening intently as Nee Nee looked up and put her hand out in front of her like she must have done way back then.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It… it was just there. I felt it not just in my head, but, throughout my whole body. It felt good, too. Not scary.”
“Peaceful, too, right?
“Yes, exactly. You know, then?”
“Yeah. I felt it once when I was watching the heron standing in the pond by your house. Everything else kind of melted away. There was only me and him. Plus, it was like he knew I was there, and it didn’t matter. It felt like I could feel what he was feeling, the more I relaxed the more I felt it. I mean, my feet felt cool even though I wasn’t in the water and I could feel the wind on my face even though I was hidden in the trees. After a bit, I wondered if he could do the same thing; feel what I felt, so I pinched my right forearm to see what would happen. As soon as I did his head snapped toward me and he shook his right wing!”
She looked directly at Nee Nee and said, “I could have sworn that I heard him say, ‘Yes, of course I felt that’, in my head, no words! Then he spread his wings and jumped into the air. It was the most glorious feeling. I closed my eyes and felt myself become lighter as the wind blew across my face. It lasted for a few seconds then it was gone.”
They both sat there for a second remembering.
Emily broke the silence. “Qbit mentioned something about someone else, who was that?”
“It was Pippy, she’s the other person who had tried to make contact with the bear. She told me a little about him and why he was in there…”
Pippy said, “You need to tell him it’s okay to come with us. We want to help him and bring him to safety.”
Kaya leaned forward to peer inside the cave, squinting her eyes. “Do I have to go all the way inside?”
“Maybe not, you can try connecting from here if you want. You feel him now, don’t you?”
She looked back at her, “Yeah, I can, a little. You can too, right?”
“Not anymore, he kind of lost his trust in me.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Well, it’s because of me he’s hurt. I should’ve been more careful.”
“I see.” She paused for a second, looking at the cave then back to Pippy. “I’m not really sure how to do this. It’s my first time really trying.”
“They told me that, it’s okay. The way I do it is I concentrate on the feeling. Let everything else go.”
“I’ll try.” Kaya closed her eyes and dropped her head. She tried to block everything else out…the connection came quickly, startling her. She jerked up her head, and said, “Woah!”
“Everything okay?” asked Pippy.
She looked at her and said,” Yeah, it came really strong, the connection I mean. I kinda expected it to be harder.”
“It happens that way, sometimes. Try again.”
This time, Kaya looked into the cave and closed her eyes. The connection was quick, but she expected it, so it wasn’t as bad. “He’s hurt and scared. Plus, he’s still angry at you. He says you lied to him, he trusted you and you lied.” She looked at Pippy. “He said he doesn’t want you listening.” She could see that Pippy was hurt by this. “You didn’t lie to him, did you?”
She looked toward the cave. “I told him everything was going to be okay. I had no idea there were others coming to hurt him. They tried to catch him, but I was able to get us to safety and hide him. While we were running, I think he was shot in the leg.”
“Shot? Like, with a gun?”
“Yes…Can you please tell him I didn’t know”. She looked at Kaya and repeated, “Really, I didn’t know.”
Kaya could see that she was very upset, she said, “I’ll try.” She turned back toward the cave and opened herself up. The feeling came back stronger and with it, a sharp pain in her right leg.” She reached down to rub it.
The Giant Golden Grizzly said, “I don’t feel her anymore. Is she still here?”
“Yes, but she’s not listening anymore, like you asked. She wanted me to tell you that she’s very sorry and it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know about the others. She’s very upset that you’re hurt. She wants you to believe that.”
“Do you believe her”
“I think so, yes.”
“I would find it easier to believe it if my leg didn’t hurt so much.”
“I know, I can feel it. Even so, if she didn’t know maybe you could forgive her. You need to trust her.”
“I did once and now look where I am.”
“Hmm, you’ve got me there.”
The bear made a sound that resembled a laugh. “You’re honest but I still feel that you’re scared of me.”
“Yes, very. To be totally honest, this is my first time and I don’t want to mess it up.”
“Ahh, I see. You’re young, too, just a cub.”
“Yes, I’m twelve, if that’s the age of a cub, I don’t know.”
“I would like you to come in. I want to see you, up close.”
“First, can I ask you a question?”
“Ask it and I’ll see if I want to answer.”
“Okay, is it always this easy to talk to an, um, animal? I thought it would be hard to understand you, like, you wouldn’t know a lot of human words.”
“I thought the same thing when I first started talking to you guys. I mean, how am I going to understand your grunts, groans and other stuff. But, I guess, however this works, we can always understand each other no matter what language we speak. Have you spoken to anyone else?”
“No, not really. I think I connected with a heron once.
“How’d that go?”
“Well, I really wasn’t sure if we were, ya know, connected, so I pinched my arm to find out. It turns out he felt it.”
The bear made that laughing sound so hard that not only did she hear it in her head, she heard the echo come from the cave.
“HA, HA, HA, that’s a good one! I never thought of trying that. Here…”
Suddenly she felt a pinch in her arm. It was hard enough for her to yelp in pain. “Owww, hey that hurt!”
“HA, HA, HA! It works!
“Oh my, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, thank you!”
“You’re welcome, I think. Is it alright if I come in?”
“Sure, sure, I definitely need to meet you!”
Kaya moved toward the cave entrance and peered in. She looked down at the rocky ground and slowly made her way inside by jumping from rock to rock.
The grizzly said, “You’re unsure and scared and you still don’t trust me.”
Carefully picking her way over the rocks, she said, “I don’t know if it’s about trust. It’s about not knowing what’s going to happen. I don’t know anything about you, really, and I have been thrown into something I have never experienced before. Plus, I’m thinking about my parents waiting for me to come back. What if I don’t, they’ll feel terrible.”
“Hmm, then why did you come if you’re so unsure?
“I don’t know. I just knew I had to.”
“I think that’s a brave thing to do.”
“I don’t know about that, I just want to help.”
The cave got darker as she went further in. It became difficult to find her way safely.
“It’s getting too dark in here; I can’t see anything.”
“Here, let me help you.”
The cave was suddenly flooded with a blue light. It seemed to be coming from directly in front and above her. What she had thought was the darkness of the cave ahead, turned out to be the Grizzly’s body; it filled the width of the cave. She slowly looked up, she could see his chest move in and out with each breath he took. She gulped and continued up. It was when she reached his head that she could see that the light was coming from his eyes.
She froze for a second then said the first thing that came into her head, “Bioluminescence.”
He looked down at her, “What? What did you just call me?”
“I didn’t call you anything. I said, Bioluminescence, it’s how your eyes glow. Creatures under the water use it for mating.”
“Really? You’re not scared of an animal that has glowing blue eyes and out-weighs you by about a thousand pounds?”
“Well, when I get scared, for some reason I freeze then say the first thing that comes into my head. But, most importantly, I feel I can… trust you.”
“Hmm, good answer kid.” The grizzly folded his wings and sat back down, favoring his left leg.
Kaya watched his wings disappear behind him. “Thank you. Can I ask you something else?”
“What’s your wing span?”
He glanced behind him and said, “I don’t know, about thirty feet.”
She sat down on a rock and said, “Ha, he was wrong.”
“Who was wrong?”
“Qbit, he said it was twenty feet.”
“Qbit, I know about him. I can’t connect though. I don’t think he can do what we can do.”
“Unlike Pippy, right?”
He sighed. “I guess.”
She pointed toward his leg. “I really don’t think she did any of this on purpose.”
He touched it gently and winced. “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Maybe you could forgive her, just this time.”
“Yeah I suppose that too. She has been a good friend.”
They sat for a second.
“I have one more question?”
“I told you were like a cub; full of questions.”
“I didn’t get your name.”
“That’s not a question but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s Misabe Mukwa.”
She stuck out her hand and said, “Hello Misabe Mukwa, my name is Kaya.”
He stuck out his paw, Kaya backed away a little as five huge claws stopped just inches from her. She reached out to grasp one of them, then shook it. She smiled up at him.
“So, what happens now?” she asked.
He looked at her and said, “I think it’s time to get out of here (he scrunched up his muzzle) ‘cause it stinks like bat poop in here.”
“Plus, maybe you miss Pippy.”
“Yeah, maybe that too.”
“I thought bears would be used to that smell.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know, I thought all bears live in caves.”
“That’s a bit stereotypical isn’t it?
“I guess so, sorry. So where does a thousand-pound flying bear live?”
“Anywhere I want Kaya, anywhere I want.”
He pushed himself up and led the two of them towards the front of the cave. Just before they headed out Kaya said, “Hold on a second Mayuk. What are you going to tell them when we get out there?”
He stopped and turned around to look at her, “About what?”
“Me. I kind of think this was a test. A test to see if I could, you know, connect with you.”
“Hm, if it was, they didn’t say anything to me about it.” He thought for a second then said, “I’ll tell them, that any kid that walks into a dark cave to connect with a thousand-pound flying grizzly bear and gives him a biology lesson about biolumiah, bibliolum…”
“A lesson about bioluminescence, and the mating habits of underwater fish deserves to pass.”
She smiled at him and together they turned and walked out into the bright sunlight.
Emily asked, “So, did it turn out to be a test?”
“Um, some of it was and some of it wasn’t”
“A test for, what?”
“They needed to know if I really was a Keeper.”
“A Keeper, what do you mean a Keeper.”
“That’s what you and I are Emily, Keepers, the descendants of the original people that came to this planet to watch over the animals and beasts they brought with them.”
Emily’s eyes lit up, “I’m a Keeper? How do you know? I haven’t had any tests!”
She thought about it for a second. “Is that why I have to go to Arcadia? To be tested?”
“Tested and taught. We’re already pretty sure you’re a Keeper.”
“Oh yeah, how can you be so sure?”
“Just from watching you and seeing the way you go about doing things. Plus, Heron told me.”
“Heron told you. So, I was right about being able to connect with him.”
“Yep, he knew the moment he first met you.”
Emily seemed to be lost in thought, she finally asked, “Did you ever meet him again?
“Yes, I did actually, we work together every now and then.”
“Work, don’t you mean worked?”
“Nope, once a Keeper always a Keeper.
“So cool. My Grandma’s a Keeper!” After a second, she asked, “What will Arcadia be like for me?”
“The most wonderful experience you could ever have and also, the scariest. You’ll do things you never thought you could, meet people you never dreamed of meeting and go places you’ve never heard of. But you’ll be put in situations that could get you seriously hurt and others that will leave a lasting impression on your heart.”
“So, pretty boring, huh?”
Nee Nee laughed out loud. “Yes, terribly boring!”
They both turned to look out over the back yard and sat in silence for a while listening to the sounds of nature. A rumble of distant thunder echoed in the trees.
“Nee Nee, I’m scared.”
“I know Lee Lee, but you need to go. Others are counting on you.”
“Will you be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. And who knows, maybe we’ll run into each other – out there.” She nodded towards the yard.
Emily stopped her bike at the stop sign and looked both ways before turning left. There was never anybody coming but it was something she did out of habit anyway. She rode about a hundred yards up the road and turned into the stone driveway. She rode up to the small tool shed and put her bike away. The thunder was rumbling closer now and she could smell the rain in the air, it wouldn’t be long before it started. She walked up the slate path to the front door but stopped before going in. She took a couple steps back to admire the building.
Her parents and their engineering students from the local community college designed and built it. Its design is based on the Native American tradition of planting, called The Three Sisters. The method makes use of corn stalks planted in the center with pole beans and squash planted around it. The pole beans climb the stalk, using it as a support. The squash leaves cover the soil around the corn and bean plants, keeping the soil moist and preventing weeds from growing.
The house uses blocks, molded from mushroom juice and corn husks, and placed around a curved support structure made from 3D printed organic material that hardens when exposed to sunlight. It becomes the support for a genetically-altered native vine to climb. The vine tendrils are very strong, helping bind the individual parts together. Squash, with its leaves treated with Nano particles, surround the base of the structure and grow up it along with the vines. The Nano particles allow the current generated by the natural photosynthesis process to flow through the stems and into storage centers placed throughout the structure. The leaves become the electrical system for the structure, and they produce enough power for the entire building. The current can also travel through the plants root systems to the roots of other similar structures nearby, in turn, providing additional power to that structure. Excess electricity can also be stored in batteries for use on cloudy days. Heating and cooling occur much the same way a termite mound works. Openings in strategic places allow for the flow of air; bringing in cool air in the summer and distributing warm air in the winter. If you didn’t know they were there, you would never see them because they blend so well with the surrounding trees.
Emily walked through the door, took her shoes off and headed for the kitchen. Her parents were waiting for her at the table.
“Hey,” she said as she passed them on the way to the refrigerator for a drink of water. She could hear through the open window that the rain had arrived.
Her parents looked at her and said, “You were at Nee Nee’s, right?”
She put the container of water on the counter and got a glass from the cabinet. “Yep.”
They both said, “Well?”
She drank the whole glass, put it down and replied, “Well, what?”
Her mom asked,” What did you two talk about?”
She went over to the table, pulled out a chair, sat down and folded her hands. “I don’t know, the usual.”
“Yeah, you know, gardening stuff, the weather, Native American traditions and how the younger generation doesn’t appreciate them the way they should. Normal stuff.”
They looked at each other. Her dad turned to her and asked, “Nothing else?”
“Nope. Why, is there something she was supposed to tell me or something?”
“Well, yes. We were hoping she would talk to you about something important. She said she would.”
She tilted her head toward the ceiling and put her finger to her chin and tapped it. “Hmm, let me think…something important…ohhh, yeah, there was something else.”
Her mom perked up, “What was it?”
“She mentioned something about me being a Keeper, the same as her, and that I needed to go to Florida to be with uncle Dave so I could learn all sorts of things about saving animals and stuff.” She looked at them and broke into a big grin.
They both let out a sigh and her mom said, “You stinker! She told you we were going to be here waiting to find out what she said, didn’t she?”
She laughed and said, “Yep, she did.”
Her dad asked, “So, what do you think? Do you want to go? Or do you want to stay? Either way is fine with your mother and I. We want what you want. I don’t think you’ll be gone for a long time. You could come back any time you want.”
“Easy, Dad you’re going to blow a gasket. I want to go, I think. I’m both scared and excited at the same time.”
She looked at her mom and could see tears in her eyes. She took hold of Emily’s hand and said, “We’re so proud of you.”
“I haven’t done anything yet, Mom.”
“I mean we’re so proud of who’ve grown up to be, the things you believe in and how you go about doing them. That’s what we’re proud of.”
Emily slumped in her seat a little and said, “What if I screw up down there? Will you still feel the same way about me?”
Her dad said, “Of course we will, Jelly Bean. We’ll always feel that way, no matter what. You need to not worry about that sort of stuff and just go there to learn what you can and have a good time. Hopefully, it will be a great experience.”
She looked at them, “What do you think about me being a Keeper? Is that alright?”
Her mom grabbed her hand and said, “Alright? It’s better than alright, it’s fantastic!”
“It doesn’t make me a freak, or anything, does it?”
“Do you think Nee Nee is a freak?”
“Of course not!”
“Well then, neither are you. You have a gift, something hardly anyone else on this planet has. You should feel lucky, not embarrassed.”
“Do you think the other kids at the school will be like me? I mean, not the talking to animals thing, but, scared and nervous.”
Her dad took her other hand, “Honey, every year your Mom and me, see new students come into our classes. They feel the same way, nervous, unsure of themselves, worried about saying the wrong thing’ It’s only natural. But after four years, they leave more confident and surer of who they are and what they want to do with their lives. I’m sure it’s going to be the same way with you. You need to give it a chance but, remember, it won’t happen overnight either.”
“Yeah, I guess. I can’t believe I have to leave at the end of the week, though.”
Her parents both sat back in the seats and said, “The end of the week? No way!”