Anthya’s World – Chapter 11

Anthya’s World
Oracle of Light
By Cil Gregoire

Chapter 11
Railroad Tracks

The snowstorm relinquished its power to dull gray skies with a hint of sun to the southeast like a faint glow globe obscured by swirls of gray. It was time to move on. Caleeza locked the door to the shelter made of trees, and resumed her journey south. The hand span depth of snow and the extra layers of clothing she wore, along with the awkward additional foot coverings, made walking over the rough terrain more difficult, but at least she was warmer. To alleviate the difficulty, she frequently teleported herself ahead, as far as forest and terrain allowed her to see. From time to time, she caught glimpses of the great road and the all-important pipeline and thought of Stanley. What would have happened if I had chosen to satisfy his fantasies? She smiled at the absurdity of the idea.

As the land rose, the forest disappeared for a time, leaving only a rocky, snow-blown landscape at the mercy of the wind. Then the land dropped again and the forest returned, offering some shelter, but obstructing her view. Eventually, she came to a mighty river, cold and swift, flowing between steep snow-covered banks. A flying creature as black as darkness startled her as it flew overhead, swooshing powerful black-feathered wings. It emitted a loud piercing cry and spread its wings wide gliding down over the river, eventually landing in a tree on the opposite bank. Nothing else moved. Caleeza teleported herself to the opposite ridge, far from the flying creature, and left the river behind.

Snowflakes danced around on the breeze, hazing the distance, forcing her to shorten her jumps forward. Twice, she stumbled across small fur-covered creatures with long ears that quickly loped away under cover, blending into the landscape. Caleeza located the life forms mentally and felt their fear of her. Her stomach growling, she pulled out a cloth-wrapped ball of cooked grain, unwrapped it, and began munching. In these conditions, I would make better progress following the great road, she decided after some thought. Saving half of the ball of cooked grain for another meal, she headed east to reconnect with the road.

It took a couple of jumps for Caleeza to find the road again; it had taken a more southeasterly direction, putting some distance between them. Once she was on the road again where the snow had been cleared away and she could see a lot farther, covering great distances became a lot easier. She made sure no mechanical beasts were in sight before teleporting herself forward, and when one approached, she teleported herself away from the road altogether. Advancing in this fashion, she eventually came to a junction with another road as deserted as the one she had been following. Now, she had to make a decision. Should I continue in the same direction or turn to the west? she debated with herself. In the end, she decided to continue in the direction she had been going.

At first, there was no change, but gradually, she started encountering more and more mechanical conveyances of various shapes and sizes, some filled to capacity with people. The increase in traffic and the attention she drew made it necessary to leave the road and travel through the woods. More and more people-made structures dotted the landscape along the road corridor, many of them guarded by short, four-legged creatures that made loud explosive noises, baring sharp teeth.

As darkness descended, Caleeza came to a brightly lit structure with several mechanical conveyances parked out front. Some of them were pulled up to tall thin stands and connected to them by long hoses. Veiled by the increasing darkness, she placed herself where she could watch without being seen. A young man with drawings on his exposed forearms came out of the building eating something he carried in his hand. He climbed into one of the conveyances parked out front and drove away. Is this a place for acquiring food, she wondered?

Soon, another man with a paunch like Stanley’s, accompanied by a short chubby female, exited the building and walked up to a mechanical beast connected to one of the upright fixtures. The woman, carrying a bulging white sack, climbed into the conveyance while the man disconnected the hose from their mechanical beast and placed it back into the stand before driving away.

Soon after the man and woman pulled away, another conveyance, smaller and more aerodynamic, turned off the road and stopped in front of the building. A rotund man with sagging jowls and long black and gray facial hair climbed out of the conveyance, with some difficulty, and headed for the entrance. Caleeza watched him carefully as he waddled slowly up to the transparent door, peered inside, then pulled the door open, and went in.

Cautiously, Caleeza approached the entrance. Having observed all this activity, she decided to study the situation closer. Following the man’s example, Caleeza walked up to the front door, peered in briefly through its transparency, and walked in, setting off a jingle of bells overhead. A flood of strong unfamiliar scents…some pleasant, some repelling…permeated the warm air. The grizzled broad-shouldered man standing behind a counter, and seemingly in charge of the place, hardly gave her a glance, allowing her a chance to look around. Rows of shelves filled with unfamiliar items crowded the entire room, except for the area between the doorway and the counter. The man with the long facial hair stood in line behind a tall thin woman in a large puffy coat. The woman was receiving some flat round discs the broad-shouldered man behind the counter dropped into her outstretched hand. Soon after, she left carrying a bag of items, and the man she had followed in stepped up to the counter. Caleeza got in line behind him.

“Well, hi, Jim,” Russ greeted his neighbor from behind the counter. “What can I do for you?”

“A hotdog, please.”

“A hotdog? Is that the best you could come up with? That will be four dollars.” Caleeza watched as the man behind the counter moved away, apparently to fulfill Jim’s request.

“So, Russ, how’s Grace?” Jim asked, fishing in his wallet for the money and placing it on the counter.

“She’s doing great!” Caleeza watched intently as Russ constructed Jim’s hotdog. “The grandkids are coming up next summer.”

When Russ was finished, he returned to the counter, picked up the green slips of paper Jim had placed there, and handed him a paper dish containing leavened bread cut in half, with a tube of something nested inside. Jim took the hotdog and turned to a table next to the counter, where he added a squirt of something yellow from a yellow container and a squirt of something red from a red container. He then spooned on a green substance with red specks from a square box and some chopped up whitish chunks from another before taking a mighty bite.

“What can I do for you,” Russ asked Caleeza, after returning from putting the green paper slips away. Caleeza froze for a moment, and then gathered her courage.

“A hotdog, please,” she stated clearly.

“Anything to drink with that?” Caleeza didn’t understand, and shook her head ‘no.’

“Four dollars,” Russ said, eyeing her skeptically.

Caleeza didn’t have any of the green slips of paper, but she spotted a flat disc on the floor similar to the ones she saw him give to the woman in the fluffy coat. Stooping down, she picked it up and placed it on the counter.

“You need another $3.75,” Russ said, starting to lose his patience. Jim, enjoying his hotdog, studied the girl dressed in old oversized clothing.

“The girl looks hungry,” he said. “Give her one of your over-priced tube steaks. I’ll pay for it.” Jim threw a fiver on the counter. “And throw in a bag of chips.” It wasn’t clear to Caleeza what they were saying, but from the images she gleaned from their minds, she determined that Russ was helping her acquire a hotdog.

“Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome.” By the time Russ handed Caleeza her hotdog and a small light-weight yellow bag like the one she had seem in trucker Stanley’s food box, Jim was finished eating. “Catch you later,” he said, and walked out.

“Yes, later,” Russ waved him out. “Condiments are over there,” Russ said pointing to the table.

“Thank you.” Following Jim’s example, Caleeza turned to the condiment table and attempted to squeeze some yellow stuff out of the yellow container. It sputtered spattering yellow spots propelled by air on her food and hand. When she tried the red bottle, the red stuff oozed out thickly, forming a red puddle the length of her hotdog. Foregoing the rest of the additives, she brought the hotdog to her mouth and took a large bite, screwing up her face in reaction to the bittersweet assault on her taste buds.

A chatty couple of similar build and height walked in and started searching through the rows of items, apparently looking for something in particular. As Russ went to their aid, Caleeza exited the building carrying the strange yellow bag that crunched if she squeezed it too hard and the rest of her hotdog. Outside, cold air dominated once again, making her shiver momentarily as she re-acclimated. She finished off her hotdog, licking red and yellow stuff off her fingers, and then stashed the crunchy yellow bag in her coat pocket with the half-eaten ball of cooked grain.

While she stared out into the snowy darkness beyond the island of light considering what to do next, the chatty couple who had entered the building after her walked out. She watched as they climbed into the seat of a much smaller version of Stanley’s truck with another compartment attached behind it. As they turned onto the road going south, she scanned the large square compartment they were pulling for life forms. It was empty.

Before carefully thinking it through, Caleeza teleported herself into the compartment, and found herself standing in a tiny moving room with a table, seats, and a bed. The moving room was cold, but she could keep herself warm. She could hardly believe her good luck.

Caleeza sat at the little table, looking out into the night. Occasionally, they passed lights that lit up spots marking people structures. As they continued on, a soft glow appeared above the trees in the distance. She knew it wasn’t sunrise, not according to the pattern of day and night she had experienced thus far. So what was lighting up the sky? Eventually, there were lights spaced at even intervals along the road, more roads crossing one another, and more mechanical monsters. People structures, lit from within and without, dotted the landscape. It looked like she had finally reached a sizable settlement.

The couple drove on through the glow of lights until darkness closed in again, except for a few weak lights marking more residences. Then the moving room slowed down, turned in at one of the structures, and came to a stop. Caleeza went on tight alert; they must have reached their destination. Would the chatty couple want their moving room now that it was no longer moving? The couple climbed down out of the truck. She could hear them talking, and although she couldn’t understand what they were saying, she detected great weariness.

“You want to unload the camper tonight?” the male voice asked.

“No, I’m tired. I’ll get it tomorrow. There isn’t much left in there anyway,” the woman yawned. Then there was a horrendous noise as a part of the outside wall of the structure rose, opening a portal into a dimly lit enclosed area. The couple entered and just as quickly, the wall came back down, closing Caleeza out.

Caleeza breathed a sigh of relief; she was safe for the moment, also tired. Drawing an aura of warmth around her, she removed her outer garments and crawled into the bed. Exhausted from the day’s journey, sleep came quickly. But in the wee hours of the morning, she started to dream.

Caleeza stood alone among giant hexagonal crystal columns and crystal boulders tumbled topsy-turvy across the landscape. Mt. Vatre, a broken remnant of a mountain, loomed darkly in the distance, partly obscured by a blanket of dark orangey gray clouds that hid the sun and cast a dull sheen on the chaotic array of softly glowing transparent crystal pillars.

“Sarus, where are you?” she called out, time and time again, but there was no answer. She tried to search for him, but moving around in the jumble of monolithic crystals was slow and difficult. Suddenly, the clouds departed and the sky cleared to a brilliantly clear white gold. Bright sunlight struck the crystalline landscape, fracturing the light into glowing colors. The crystals began to hum. “Sarus, where are you?” she called again.

“I am here,” Sarus said.

She looked everywhere, but still she couldn’t find him.

“Where?” she asked again.

“I am all around you. Do not be concerned for me. I am learning the answer.”

“What answer? I don’t understand.”

“You will,” Sarus’ voice said, and for some reason, she believed him.

“Sarus, where are you? Show yourself. Let me see that you are all right.”

“You must not concern yourself over my wellbeing; I have gained so much.” Why did he sound emotionally distant?

“What about us? Sarus, I love you. Please, help me. Help me find a way home.” But there was no answer. The Crystalline Landscape faded from her dreams, and Caleeza continued to sleep.

Optimistically well rested, she woke to a gray dawn. Dressing quickly, Caleeza teleported herself outside the movable room and hurried down the road. A life form protested loudly as she passed in front of another living structure. She needed to get away from the residences and the roads. Fortunately, the woods were nearby and soon, she was heading south again across uninhabited terrain. The snow was not as deep here, making walking a lot easier. There was little wind to speak of, and the grayness dissolved into a mosaic of blue sky, white clouds, and sunshine. For breakfast, she nibbled away the rest of the cooked grain and drank snow she melted in a little cup.

It was mid-morning when she came across a different kind of trail altogether. Two raised metal bars ran parallel to one another, mounted little more than an arm length apart on thick black slabs embedded in a raised bed of rock not much wider than the trail itself. The trail, for the most part, was snow-free and ran uninterrupted as far as she could see, curving to the contour of the land. Caleeza had no idea what the trail was for, but submitted to the natural inclination to follow it, staying alert to anything that might be approaching from either direction. She noticed quickly that the spacing of the black slabs were off sync with a comfortable stride and walked along the edge of the woods by the side of the raised trail, teleporting ahead along long straight stretches, whenever possible. While hiking the short distances in between hops, she stopped frequently to listen and watch for danger.

Then to Caleeza’s surprise, the metal, wood and rock trail crossed a road; whether it was the same road she had followed before or a different one, she didn’t know. For a moment, she considered following the road instead, but after a few vehicles passed by, she decided to continue down the quieter narrower trail.

When hunger struck, Caleeza pulled out the little packet of thin golden wafers from inside her coat. The sealed bag was flatter now and the wafers smaller, albeit more numerous, than before. She managed to pull the bag open, and then placed one of the thin yellow wafers in her mouth. It was tantalizingly salty. Quickly, she ate another, and another…feeling almost compelled to eat more, until the bag was empty…leaving her licking greasy salty fingers. Almost reverently, she carefully folded the empty yellow sack and tucked it away in her coat.

Caleeza was off the trail of wood and rails, seeking cleaner deeper snow to melt for drinking water when she detected a low deep rumble, which quickly grew in intensity, coming up from behind. Bends in the pathway winding around hills hid whatever approached. Finally, she saw lights breaking around the curve. To her astonishment, it kept on coming…and coming…and coming…a long serpentine monster, on rolling wheels that fitted perfectly on the metal rails. She reached out mentally, searching for a signature, and found two. The serpentine monster was driven by people! Spotting her at the edge of the woods, one of the men signaled with a loud piercing whistle as the head of the monster slithered by…but the monster’s long cylindrical segmented body kept coming for some time, clacking rhythmically, seemingly without end, until finally the tail end came into view and passed her by. Caleeza watched as it eventually disappeared around another bend. Now she knew what the trail was for and why there was so little snow on it.

The trail of rails crossed a river and intersected the road again. This time, there was a community off to the side. Should I stop at this community or move on? she asked herself, looking around. Some of the structures were made from trees laid horizontally like the shelter she had stayed in up north during the snowstorm. Here, she caught her first sight of a new person since her arrival on this world, two of them, individuals not yet grown, walking the side road leading into the village.

Caleeza strolled around, not knowing what she was searching for, but soon the answer seemed clear. I must move on. There is nothing for me here.

As the day progressed, Caleeza continued to follow the trail of wood and rails, taking the opportunity to leap ahead when she felt she could do so safely. She passed places where the terrain had been eaten away by large skeletal mechanical giants; she could see one grazing in the distance. A few isolated structures dotted the area, but all were apparently deserted.

The terrain changed as the trail rose gaining altitude, hugging a mountain on one side and overlooking a terrifyingly long vertical drop into a narrow rocky chasm below on the other. Mountains pressed in on all around, filling the sky and shadowing the valley. The forest dwindled away with the increase in altitude, and eventually she was in a broad treeless mountain pass.

From there, the route started to descend again. The forest returned bigger and thicker than before, the covering of snow diminishing the further south she reached. Soon, only a dusting of white covered the ground, and then there was none at all.

Have I finally outdistanced winter?

It was warmer here, barely freezing, and she even opened her heavy outer garment to let excessive body heat, accumulated by physical exertion, escape. The trail of rails followed a wide forested valley dominated by a mighty river framed in by hills and distant mountains. Many smaller tributaries emptied into the dominate river, cutting their way through a dense forest of leafless trees with grayish white trunks, leafless bushes, and tall conical shaped trees with dark green pin like leaves. Everywhere, golden brown underbrush lay limp and lifeless, bent over the hard cold ground. Occasionally along the way, a path broke out of the woods where the foliage had been worn down to soil, forming a trough through the otherwise undisturbed landscape. She scanned the surrounding forest for what might have made the marks, but found nothing threatening.

And then she felt it.

For the first time since she landed on this world, Caleeza felt the use of magic!


Maggie tried to get comfortable on the sofa as a twinge of a contraction passed over her, the second one today. She and Vince and the kids were going out on the passenger train tomorrow, staying in town until after the baby was born. Wait till tomorrow night, Maggie spoke silently to her unborn child, you’re not due for another week. Vince heard Maggie sigh softly as she changed positions.

“Are you all right?” he asked apprehensively, prying his attention away from the manuscript he feverishly edited to glance her way. He hoped to finish editing the manuscript before catching tomorrow’s train.

“Relax, I’m fine,” Maggie reassured him…and she was. “Listen to them,” she said with a jerk of her head toward the kitchen where Melinda and Leaf were noisily doing the dishes. “Leaf chatters on and on, and even though you can’t hear Melinda, you know the two of them are in constant communication.”

“Meaningless chatter. I suspect it is only when Leaf speaks silently that they say anything worth hearing.” Nevertheless, some quiet time for Maggie, not to mention himself, was in order. “How are you two doing in there?” Vince asked loud enough to be heard over their noise.

“We’re almost done,” Leaf called back. Then Vince and Maggie heard a fit of laughter. When and how had Leaf become so vocal, Maggie wondered? It seemed like he was still speaking baby talk just a few weeks ago. Now he was stringing sentences together.

“I want you two to put on your hats and coats and go outdoors for some fresh air…before it gets dark,” Vince told them. Melinda and Leaf came bounding into the room.

“We’re done,” Leaf laughed. Vince glanced at Melinda for confirmation, and she nodded her head.

“Very good, put your coat on…here, I’ll help you.” Vince got up from the computer and dressed Leaf warmly while Melinda readied herself.

“Don’t go too far,” Maggie reminded them.

We won’t, Melinda replied automatically. The two children burst through the door, which Vince closed after them, breathing in the silent relief.

“You know the noise level will increase with a new baby,” Maggie reminded him.

“We may have to add on yet another addition,” he smiled at her lovingly.

Leaf, a spring being unwound, ran circles around the yard before stopping at a sloping mound of ice, what little remained of his once great snowstorm. Watching Leaf run around, Melinda recalled when she and Raven used to explore the woods together. Raven, Rahlys, Theon, and Ilene…what was happening to them now?

Melinda’s attention was drawn back to Leaf when before her eyes she saw the hard-packed, snow-turned-to-ice mound steam into slush, and then water, spreading out across the slightly frozen ground. The warm water melted the still thin layer of icy soil crust enough for the water to seep in, leaving only a wet spot that would now refreeze.

What did you do? Melinda asked in obvious awe.

“I made the snow go away. I didn’t want it anymore.”

Remember, Leaf, what I said about not letting Mom and Dad see you do magic, she warmed him for the zillionth time. Knowing how preoccupied they were, Melinda doubted that they had seen anything, but they were sure to notice later that the ice mound was gone.

“I remember,” Leaf said. “Let’s go to our secret place. I’ll show you what I can do.”

Before Melinda could respond, she and Leaf were standing in the little log schoolhouse near Rahlys’ log home.

Leaf, I told you to let me know when you are taking us somewhere before you teleport us away, she reminded him again.

“Okay, I’m sorry. I forgot.”

I doubt anyone will notice if we are gone for a little while.

“It’s cold. Let’s make a fire.”

We can’t stay that long. Besides I don’t have a lighter.

“I can light it,” Leaf said with certainty. In light of the recent ice mound meltdown, Melinda had no doubt that he could. She opened the stove door, crumpled pages of old school work, stuffing them into the stove, and stacked the little pile of kindling conveniently left for the next fire on top of the paper.

It would help if we had a couple of larger pieces of firewood, too, she said. No sooner than she said it, first one and then a second chunk of firewood appeared in the firebox. Where did those come from?

“The woodshed.”

Rahlys’ woodshed?

“Our woodshed.”

Leaf focused on the stack of paper, kindling, and wood, raising its temperature. Tendrils of smoke appeared, charring the edge of the crumpled paper at the bottom of the stack. Then, Leaf screeched with delight as the paper burst into flames. Soon, the merry crackle of burning kindling greeted their ears. Melinda closed the door and checked the draft. Immediately, Leaf took off his coat.

It’s not warm in here yet, she told him. Leaf ignored that.

“Want to see what I can do?” Without waiting for the expected affirmative, Leaf went into action. His youthful little face squished up with effort, and soon a floating ball of light appeared before them. Leaf danced about with delight over his success. Melinda remembered the floating ball of light that Anthya had produced for Leaf to play with. It was during her visit when Anthya had announced to Rahlys that she and three of her warriors were invited on a mission to the Devastated Continent. Leaf must have been trying to make one himself ever since. Then, suddenly, Leaf froze in place and the floating ball of light winked out.

“There is someone here, hiding in the woods,” Leaf said.

Are you sure? Who?

“Someone. Let’s go see.”

No… Melinda tried to say, but they were already there, Leaf without his coat, standing in the woods outside the schoolhouse. A woman with orange hair, violet eyes, and dressed in old clothes stared at them in startled shock over their sudden appearance. Melinda was a little startled, too.

Who are you? Melinda asked.

The girl could communicate telepathically, Caleeza realized. By doing the same, she could relate more with thought and feeling.

I’m Caleeza.

“I’m Leaf Bradley,” Leaf piped in quickly. Caleeza smiled at the little youth. She hadn’t really directed her thoughts to him; he was so young.

What are you doing here lurking in the woods by our schoolhouse? Where did you come from? Melinda asked, suddenly realizing that they were communicating telepathically.

Caleeza couldn’t understand the words, but the thought images aided in the exchange. I have traveled a long way across frozen landscape, Caleeza related, showing them images of her journey, which suggested to Melinda that she must have come from up north. Somehow I was transported from my own world to yours, and she shared images of a world that looked a lot like the one Theon had often described to them.

Anthya’s world?

You know of my world? Caleeza asked, surprised by a mental glimpse of Councilor Anthya she picked up from the young girl’s thoughts.

Are you from Anthya and Theon’s world? Melinda asked.

Caleeza stared back incredulously. She wasn’t sure who Theon was, but there was no mistaking the images of Councilor Anthya that flittered through Melinda’s mind…and there was something else, something that the girl thought she had successfully shielded…the feel of Droclum’s evil. How was that possible, Caleeza couldn’t help but wonder?

I am from Anthya’s world, and I need your help to return.

It was at this inconvenient moment that Leaf jerked his head toward home and announced, “I think Dad is calling us?”

Wait! Not yet! Melinda said quickly, before he could take them away. We need to decide what to do about Caleeza.

“She can stay in our secret place,” Leaf said.

You’re right; she can stay in the schoolhouse, at least for now. Caleeza, follow us, Melinda said and she and Leaf led her into the little building, now pleasantly warm.

Stay here. We’ll bring you food. There’s firewood in the woodshed on the other side of these trees, she said pointing toward Rahlys’ cabin. We have to go now, but we will try to sneak back some time tonight. Do you understand?

Yes, Caleeza said, for Melinda had provided her with ample visual clues.

And, Leaf, when you take us back home, place us just a little into the woods so no one will know we were here, okay?

“Okay. Now, Melinda?” Leaf asked cautiously.

Yes, now.

The children vanished, leaving Caleeza standing alone in another shelter made of trees.

Melinda and Leaf returned that night to the schoolhouse as promised. They brought bags of unfamiliar food with them, for which Caleeza was very grateful. As they emptied the bags out onto the table, proudly displaying their loot, Leaf named off the items and Melinda explained telepathically how to consume them. Starving, Caleeza grabbed the only food she recognized among the offerings, an apple, and bit into it hungrily. Realizing how hungry she must be, Melinda opened a can of meaty pasta…demonstrating the use of a can opener…and spooned out the contents into a pan, placing it on the stove to heat. Caleeza compared the picture on the outside of the can to the contents in the pan. The picture looked similar to the food Melinda was heating. Not to be outdone, Leaf demonstrated how to make peanut butter cracker sandwiches, making a mess in the process.

Caleeza studied the new persons intently while they ate. Melinda, so quietly mysterious, was meticulous in her efforts to help. When she communicated information, she was thorough, projecting precise mental pictures for clearer understanding. But she didn’t exhibit any significant abilities to tap into the elemental forces, other than telepathic communication. In fact, she never spoke verbally, not even to the little one. Unlike the other sentient life forms Caleeza had thus far encountered, Melinda’s mind was the first not totally open for her to read. She had learned to some extent to shelter her thoughts and lock them up…but she was not always successful.

Droclum had nearly destroyed her own world long before Caleeza was born…yet this new person on another world knew of Droclum! She wanted to ask questions, but knew she would have to wait until she had gained the girl’s trust, as well as a better understanding of the language, before she could broach the topic.

The little one, Leaf, exuded untrained unstructured ability. Things he reached for nearly jumped into his hand, or worked without him actually touching them as he cheerfully laughed and played…never still for a moment. It was fortunate the child was so good natured; otherwise, he would be dangerous. Leaf was the one who actually teleported the two of them back and forth…and it was his use of the elemental forces that she had detected from the trail.

Caleeza learned that the structure she now occupied was actually a mini academy and all the written papers and paintings on the walls were lessons that had been successfully completed. Leaf brought her a round, light-weight learning machine with colored pictures on the surface. The youngling moved a pointer to a green image. “Leaf. That’s me,” he said, pointing to it while laughing boisterously. Then he pulled the handle. “Leaf,” said a recorded voice in the machine, and he laughed even harder.

Caleeza picked up a large ball in a stand that sat on a shelf. The areas of brown, green, pink, and blue looked like they might represent the continents and oceans of a planet. She presented it to Melinda.

Earth, Melinda said taking the globe. This is our world. Do you want me to show you where we live?

“Yes,” Caleeza said, and Melinda pointed to a spot near the top of the globe.

We are here, in Alaska.

“Alaska,” Leaf chirped merrily.

“Alaska,” Caleeza repeated after him.

Then Caleeza learned that the new persons were about to leave the woods with their chosen mother and chosen father for the birth of another new person. Melinda was uncertain when they would return. How could a community of so few Accepted Ones nurture so many new persons, Caleeza wondered? Besides the younglings, Caleeza had found only three other human signatures in the whole immediate area.

We will bring you more food when we return from Wasilla. Is there anything you want from town?

“I want candy,” Leaf said, “What do you want?” he asked Caleeza.

“Want…?” Caleeza tried to understand, and Melinda telepathed feelings of longing, want, and desire, accompanied by images…that meant little to Caleeza…of the things she wished for most.

Thinking she understood, Caleeza dug into a pouch of the heavy outer garment she had worn for warmth, now hanging by the door, and pulled out the carefully folded yellow bag.

“Want,” she said, handing the empty potato chip bag to Melinda.

I was born in New Orleans, grew up in the Louisiana swamp, and then settled in Alaska as a young woman. After decades of living the Alaska dream, teaching school in the bush, commercial fishing in Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, and building a log cabin in the woods, life had provided me with plenty to write about. The years of immersion in the mystique and wonder, and challenges and struggles, of living in remote Alaska molded my heart and soul. It is that deep connection I share with my readers.