Zollocco; A Novel of Another Universe

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Escaped from a dying Earth, a young woman lands on a planet governed by sentient forests. Hunted by an interplanetary corporation, she flees from planet to planet, always trying to help heal the earth We are aware that a human being has landed in Our berry dell. From Our smallest truffles to Our greatest Haetrist, We are annoyed and indignant. We have forbidden human beings Ourself as a home because all the weak, sniveling things do is get sick and die when they try to adjust to Our life. Every berry, bush, bird, and beast was looking forward to adopting a new, strong creature, which We thought a creature must be if it could fly the great distances between planets. Were We surprised! Humans are inorganic creatures. They fly around in enormous metal cans and eat out of tiny metal cans. Even their babies come out of cans. Disgusting. This one crawled out of its flying house-can this morning; long after Our day creatures had greeted with stretches the rosy-gold sunshine. Our tall stalk-vegetation reports that the human looks just as gray, weak, and sickly as it can be. The grass says the human ate out of one of its little cans and then threw up in the rock basin. At least it has some manners and doesn't puke on Our grass. It smells horribly stale, too, the furry creatures say. Of course it stinks, it has been cooped-up in its flying-can home.

Scifi / Adventure
Age Rating:

CHAPTER ONE: The Forest Zollocco

We are aware that a human being has landed in Our berry dell. From Our smallest truffles to Our greatest Haetrist, We are annoyed and indignant. We have forbidden human beings Ourself as a home because all the weak, sniveling things do is get sick and die when they try to adjust to Our life. Every berry, bush, bird, and beast was looking forward to adopting a new, strong creature, which We thought a creature must be if it could fly the great distances between planets. Were We surprised! Humans are inorganic creatures. They fly around in enormous metal cans and eat out of tiny metal cans. Even their babies come out of cans. Disgusting. This one crawled out of its flying house-can this morning; long after Our day creatures had greeted with stretches the rosy-gold sunshine. Our tall stalk-vegetation reports that the human looks just as gray, weak, and sickly as it can be. The grass says the human ate out of one of its little cans and then threw up in the rock basin. At least it has some manners and doesn’t puke on Our grass. It smells horribly stale, too, the furry creatures say. Of course it stinks, it has been cooped-up in its flying-can home. Even though this human does look distinctly female, We are of accord not to let it come among Us. We don’t want any inorganic creature in Our presence. The tenderhearted moss still has not quite gotten over the trauma of seeing life growing out of a can of chemicals. The dell life is keeping a pretty strict watch on this human. The human is trying to come among Us! Get out of here you sickly wretch! Beat it, you smelly old human! Get back in your can! Go back to your own kind!

Hoping to find some fresh vegetables to eat instead of the horrible, canned, gray glop, which had made me ill, I approached the aromatic tree line. To my amazement, the woods burst into a loud staccato screech, as if the trees themselves were scolding me.

“Oh, shut up!” I yelled in hungry irritation. Eerily, abruptly, a dead silence fell. I entered the woods with some difficulty because the thorns on the plants kept scratching me as I passed. A few paces in, a sudden swarm of gnats surrounded me. I took a couple of hurried steps to get clear of the growing cloud of bugs, but they followed and bit me. I turned around and headed back to my module as fast as I could.

The human being wept when We drove it out. This torments some of Us with pity. Our entire life is made up of the constant death and replenishment of the lives of individual members. Fortunately, We are a sturdy lot and Our members seldom die from disease like in some Forests. We die to feed Ourselves. But when a single human dies it is horrible. It is part of no Forest to replenish, and its consciousness is almost as vast as a Forest being. Seldom does a Forest die, but every human dies. It makes many of Us angry that this human does not leave. It will just die if it stays here. There is no can food for it. Why doesn’t it fly its house to a settlement? Perhaps it is too weak to work the controls of its can. The human sleeps. It is impossible to commune with most humans, but usually it is possible to converse on a very low level with their basic physical states. Maybe We will be able to make it clear to the human’s body that it must leave Us in order to survive. Since humans are supposed to be mammals, We align Our mammal self with it. Now this is incredibly strange. The human stomach and intestines insist that the canned food is what made it ill. The skin and lungs insist that the sunshine makes it feel better. The body claims it wants fresh food, fresh water, and sunshine. This human must be so far gone it doesn’t know what it wants. To gauge the truth of its answers We ask if it is fertile. The body answers “no/yes”. What kind of answer is that?

“No/Yes”? The human suffers bodily delirium. The human is disturbed by Our conversation. It is waking up. We withdraw.

I awoke from my sleep with the groggy notion that I just had to get into the forest and find a stream. I didn’t think the strange little rock basin would have clean water. It looked murky, and it bubbled. I took a spray bottle of ammonia with me as I once again headed toward the trees. This time when the bugs began to swarm, I let them have it with the ammonia. So, I was able to progress a little further into the woods. I was still only a little way in when the density of the tree growth increased. I had to push branches out of my way to get through. Then gently pushing no longer had any effect. I pushed harder. The limbs of the trees wouldn’t budge. I tried to crawl under them, but the lower branches and plants were also suddenly and uncompromisingly stiff. For the second time, I had to return to my module without finding a spring.

Moss is claiming that a ghost is standing on them. Sometimes it is such a blessing to have such super-sensitive moss. We will awaken Our iridescent opium in order to view the ghost. The opium drowsily obliges although it is a dark space of the night’s time. The ghost is the human’s, and is kneeling down and drinking some water. The ghost stands and looks around wonderingly. The moss says the ghost did not walk to the stream; it just suddenly appeared standing atop the moss. Well, the human must be dead, but We’d better check. Luckily, the human did not seal shut its house can. We need a volunteer to enter the human’s can to see if it is alive. Relentlessdrill, the mosquito, has agreed to do so. It takes such concentration to focus consciousness into the tiny mind of a single insect, and insects are so limited in what they can discover for Us. We’d better awaken Zollocco in order to have full specified awareness.

Zollocco is such a clever Haetrist! Zollocco feels the mosquito rising and falling with the crests of the human’s breath. Since the human is still alive, the mosquito asks if it may make a meal on it. Zollocco ponders a bit before he decides. No, he says, the human needs every bit of its blood. The leech mice think that Zollocco is making a pretty lame excuse. The rest of Us concur. The leech mice squeak that Zollocco loves the human. The birches sway in agreement that Zollocco feels tenderhearted toward it. Who would have thought Zollocco with his great fangs and ape strength would have a soft spot for a little human being?

There is a great twitter from the stream area. Zollocco runs to the place to have a talk with the ghost. He assumes the sight of his great furry hide would frighten the ghost, so he politely hides

His voice calls to the ghost, “Where are you going?”

The ghost transmits a picture of the house can to Zollocco. Zollocco decides to use the Remembered Tongue. The ghost surprisingly accepts and understands the speech of inner consciousness. This is very rare among humans. Zollocco asks the ghost why it walks instead of transmitting itself back to its body.

“So that I can find my way to the stream again tomorrow.”

Such a stubborn human! If it comes to the stream tomorrow it will find out what’s what. Zollocco asks it why it isn’t afraid of him.

“Because this is just a dream and you are not really there.”

Zollocco, and so Ourself, is miffed. Zollocco asks it how it can say he isn’t there when it is talking to him.

“I’m not talking to anyone, I’m asleep.”

Did any entity ever hear of such stupidity? Zollocco, curious about how far such stupidity will reach, continues the conversation.

“But if you walk this way to the stream tomorrow,” he says, “you will know that you spoke to me tonight.”

“No, I won’t. I won’t remember. My rational self will just consider finding the stream mindless luck.”

Our entire Self feels unease. Zollocco, Our quick-witted Haetrist, immediately figures out why, and asks the ghost the question which troubles Us, “How did you find the stream in the first place?”

“I needed it and then I was there.”

We are stunned. Need-discovery can only be practiced by a Forest creature.

“And since you always know where your body is, you walk back to show yourself the way?”

“Yes, but I don’t know I am doing this, or rather, I only think I’m doing this but actually I’m just dreaming.”

Our whole night-Self watches the ghost return to its can.

A water elm speaks up, “The ghost is healthy, but the body isn’t. The human must expect to get well.”

Our day-Self awakens eagerly chatting about the human. Our night-Self drifts off to sleep, too tired to take part in the gossip.

The next morning when I awoke, I grabbed a fire axe, the ammonia, and headed into the woods. This time when the branches stiffened, I chopped them away with the axe. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was determined to find a stream. Above, birds with red, orange, and pink skins glided shrieking. The birds did not have feathers, and as I watched, some molted in mid-flight. The strange skins fell down around me. I heard a splash, and hurried as fast as I could through the inhospitable vegetation. One of the skins had fallen into a clear, beautiful stream. I fell to my knees on the soft moss beside the water. I was just about to plunge my hands into the water when it began to boil. I couldn’t help feeling that the woods did not want me there. I looked up at the trees. Gazing upwards, I felt something drip on my face. The sun was shining. I looked carefully above me. Water was dripping from the branches of a tree that resembled an elm. I stood and pulled a branch down towards me. The branch and leaves were covered with dew. I licked the water off carefully, gratefully.

Parts of Us definitely feel sorry for this human. We still wish it would go away. We feel rather angry that it makes Us give in to it. First Zollocco refuses to allow the mosquito to make a meal of it; and then the moss says the human’s step is gentle and the soles of its feet are pleasantly warm; and then a tree, of all beings the water elm, collects and drips dew for it to drink. The gnats who lost some of their number to the human’s ammonia are justifiably furious. The vegetation, which knows itself to be a favorite food of humans, fears being canned. The more short-tempered beings among Us are affronted by the human’s disregard for the Law, and want to bite the human. Many others of Our carnivorous variety would not mind sampling its meat and organs. Most of Us are quite aggravated that a tree has decided to take the human’s part. Moss is usually complacent and will bend to the will of the majority. A Haetrist can be reasoned with. But when a tree disagrees, then We are in danger of being in opposition to the Law, the fuller consciousness of Our darling planet. We are first and foremost a Forest, A Forest among Forests, The World Forest Ipernia. When a tree disagrees with the temper of the community, every member of the community directly mingles its consciousness with the tree and the beings who agree with the tree. So, We do this now. In the commotion of this direct contact, We feel a presence--but then it is gone. Perhaps it was just the intenseness of Our concentration which made Us feel an extra element of being.

After feeling the water elm’s caring for the human, some of Us are very jealous of the human. After drinking the water the water elm provided, the human takes off its clothes and throws them into the boiling water. Curious, We continue to make the water boil. The human finds a dead stick and stirs its clothes in the water, and then flings them with the stickonto a sun-baked rock to dry. We just know this human will try to eat some one of Us next. We wonder which of Us it will try to sample. Some of Us want to put an end to this human.

At least I was able to wash my clothes, but how I wanted a bath and something to eat. As I sat on rocks by the stream, wiggling my toes, falling into a reverie while my steaming clothes dried, I was startled by a movement near my heels. I jerked back my feet, grabbed my axe, and jumped up, heart throbbing with wrath. My hypersensitive state brought about by hunger had saved me from the strike of a large, drooling snake. I lopped off the snake’s head. My anger instantly gave way to sheer joy--now I had fresh meat for supper! The snake’s body twitched and jerked on the moss. I had the sense of something amiss. Then I realized what it was; the entire forest was hushed. I felt as though everything was staring at me. I looked at the decapitated snake. The body still spasmodically thumped around on the moss. Several times I had to prevent it from falling into the stream by pushing it back with my stick. The sickening sound of the body jerking and the strange silence of the forest seemed to last an eternity. The head had dropped amid the roots of a nearby tree. The snake eyes stared at me sightlessly. I began to feel weak and dizzy. At last the snake body lay still. I picked up the long body and dragged it home. There was not a sound as I walked. Once at the module, I cooked the snake and ate it. How good it tasted! After eating I fell contentedly to sleep, feeling better than I had in days.

Many of Us are still very amused by the spirit and resourcefulness the human showed when the viper tried to kill it. For a human to kill a Forest creature in a non-hosting Forest is very much against the Law, and it did shock Us, but We are aware the human was hungry, and the viper would have had nothing to gain by killing the human. Our Twin Sister Forest, Kiappia, hosts the nearby school and allows those people to make occasional forays through Herself. Kiappia is overpopulated with flora and fauna the humans like to eat, but still We don’t know how She bears having whole groups of humans running through Her. Some of Our seeds have flown off on the winds to tell Kiappia and the other Forests the exciting things that are happening with Us. We are quite impressed that the human has not gotten sick from the viper meat. In fact, the human gobbled the viper meat up as though it hadn’t had a decent meal in a long time. We can’t help feeling pleased with the human’s happiness in the meal of Ourself. Why, We felt the human’s pleasure in the meal without having to make any kind of effort in aligning with its consciousness. This is amazing! Maybe We will be able to adopt the human. Many of Our Fellow Forests host human settlements, but no-One has ever adopted one! Maybe We, Zollocco, will be the first! That would be a thrill!

We need to know more about this human. We will make contact with its physical self again to see if its health is really improving. Also, We shall ask Zollocco to search its dreams for information about where it came from. As exciting as these events have been, it is still stressful to Us to have an alien thing among Us. We may allow this human to visit Us, but live with Us? No. Adopting is out of the question.

Upon awakening the next morning, I promptly ventured into the woods. Along with my axe and ammonia, I carried some snake meat for a meal. I made my way again to the stream, this time in hope of following the stream to its source. I made my way slowly alongside the flowing water, and was delighted to find that the stream originated in a pond not far away. The pond had beautiful, gold lilies growing in it, but lilies and pond alike were being choked by what looked like kelp. There were green birds sailing through the water eating the kelp. From a tree overhanging the pond swung an octopus! Two of the octopus’s limbs clung to the branches of the tree, the rest stuffed kelp and gold lilies between its bulbous lips. The movement of the long arms was dainty and rhythmical as the muscular, suction-cup-lined limbs darted, one by one, in and out of the water. Droplets of water from the kelp and lilies dribbled from the octopus’ limbs, and the droplets caught the sunlight and glistened. The sight had a beauty to it that was marred by the disgusting slurping sounds the animal made as it fed. As I watched, half terrified, half laughing, I suddenly remembered a dream I had had the night before. I had dreamed of my hands scooping kelp out of the water. At this point, the octopus caught sight of me and fled. I was relieved; I didn’t want to wade in the water with an octopus hanging overhead. I took off my boots, rolled up my pants, and waded. The water felt briskly cold around my ankles. The lilies floated away from me, leaving an expanse of water. Inviting as it looked, it was too cold for a swim. I did splash some of the frigid water on my face. I waded over to a patch of kelp, scooped up a few strands, and on impulse ate it. It was quite tasty.

So far, this human is easily governable when We consult with its bodily needs. It seems to have a great need for the iron and B vitamins in Our kelp, so We are sure it will eat more of Our kelp every new day. This is a relief, for otherwise the pond would soon fall into disease from kelp over-crowding and infect Us all. The human needs to relieve itself. Some ivy wants to place its leaves handy for the human to wipe itself with. Even the water elm thinks this would be a good joke. Humans always seem so embarrassed when they have to scratch their behinds. The human seems to know about the effects the ivy would have on it, because it is carefully avoiding the ivy.

I have discovered something absolutely terrifying. The vegetation moves; it walks. I don’t know if I dare go into the woods again, yet if I don’t I will starve to death. It sounds ludicrous, but I was chased by a bush. I was stalking a water bird when I saw what looked like a perfectly ordinary forsythia bush move toward me. Astonished, I froze. To my horror, the yellow flowered plant continued towards me gaining speed. Frightened out of my wits I dashed (I didn’t know in what direction I headed) as my fright willed. I ended up in the dell where the module was, and I dove into the structure, sealing the doors behind me. After I calmed a bit, I turned on the viewer to see if the forsythia waited for me outside of the module. It wasn’t there.

Forsythias never did get along with humans, especially not since humans learned to make wine out of forsythia. We expect the human will come out again when it gets hungry. We find it interesting that the human has retained its instinct to cower in a cave, albeit a can instead of a cave. If We are going to try and domesticate this human, We’d best get it integrated with Ourselves immediately. There is still a smell of illness to it that makes Us sick. We wonder if We could get the thing to a true Forest state of health, instead of that awful can pallor. We have a few things We would like to try to get it to do. The mirnie feels overburdened with its berries, a horned rabbit has completed what it wants to do with this life, and of course the lily pond needs relief. We must get the human to eat these things or it won’t survive. Now that the human is interesting Us, We don’t want it to die. While We wait for the human to come out of hiding, Zollocco will listen to its dreams and tell Us how it got here.

“Well, so far I don’t get very much, but what I do get is very, let’s see, exotic, yeah, that’s the word, exotic. The human used to sleep in a second story room made out of wood! Isn’t that amazing? It didn’t sleep in a metal can. I wonder which world has evolved so far. Oh, and on the green wall of the room there were printed rows and rows and rows of pictures of a bird of prey. In one claw the bird--it is always the same picture of the same bird repeated over and over--the bird has taken away some dumb human’s arrows.”

“Good for that bird!” Our winged selves break in.

“And in the other claw, the bird clutches a sheaf of vegetation. Every night the human looks around at those walls and says to itself, ‘I will not be part of a world that destroys itself.’

How exciting! I wonder if We will be able to see the planet when it blows up.”

“Zollocco?” ask Our soil worms, “Why do you think the planet will blow up?”

“I don’t know. That’s just the sense I get from the human’s dream.”

“It is good the human made its room green, the color of healthy, growing vegetation,” puts in a fern.

“And reminds itself of Forest life with the pictures of the bird,” adds the water elm.

Our great and ponderous oak speaks too. “I see the glimmering of a noteworthy pattern here. The human ghost told Zollocco it found the stream by needing it.”

“That’s true,” affirms Zollocco, “I asked it how it found the stream and it said, `I needed it; then I was here’ or something like that.”

“Now the human’s dream depicts it stating another need,” continues Our oak, “the need to flee a destructive environment.”

All of Ourself had felt this, but only the massive oak was rooted strongly enough to state it. Every entity that owns water ducts feels sad and oozes water. This biological display of sorrow that humans use We have adopted because We find it beautiful and cleansing. Our Great Self, Ipernia, who is All the beloved Forests Together, once sensed a whole world of humans oozing water. When Our Great Self Ipernia asked those long ago humans what they were doing, the humans said they wept in grief because their planet was about to die. Our Great Self Ipernia, moved by pity, invited the humans here. Only some of the humans were able to escape the dying planet in time. We, Zollocco, remember how We, Ipernia, felt at that long ago time. Our weeping has reminded Us. If the human continues to respond to Us, We will adopt it.

“Why do the planets of humans destroy themselves?” a bewildered marigold asks.

“Maybe they don’t deserve to live!” return the gnats and the forsythia.

And Our trees, all of Our respected trees, recite the divine law: “When any entity still wishes for its life, that life must be aided in continuing, even if extraordinary efforts from other entities are needed to nurture that life; any entity that wishes to pass through death must be allowed to pass through death.”

We all know that the human species still wishes to continue, so no more do Our different factions argue.

“To continue my point,” resumes the oak, “it seems that the human is able to act like We do; it acts according to its need.”

“But humans never know what they need. That’s why they are such a confused and out-of-balance lot,” trills a snake. “If this human is aware of its needs, which its stubbornness in finding water suggests, then it comes close to being a healthy creature, and We should take care to listen to its needs,” says the water elm.

“The way you talk, water elm, can’t you talk regular?” complains a scaly badger.

This hurts the water elm’s feelings and Our elm weeps. We all groan. We are all feeling the stress that comes with too much excitement.

I couldn’t stay in the module hiding from bushes forever, so I took the risk, and stepped out into the warm, sweetly smelling day. I went directly to the pond, waded into the water; gorged myself with kelp; dunked myself; and climbed out of the water onto an islanded rock to nap. I figured a forsythia bush wouldn’t be too likely to swim out into the middle of the pond to get me. When I awakened from my nap, I was beginning to feel hungry again. I swam to the bank, dried off, dressed, and went off to hunt. I caught sight of a rabbit eying me from under some brush. I threw the dagger I had gotten from the big ship at it, and was incredibly lucky in my aim. The knife struck the rabbit squarely in the neck, practically decapitating it. The rabbit had seemed to wait for the knife. Feeling somewhat guilty, I went to the animal and tried to explain to it why I had killed it. Skinning the rabbit was nasty. I had never done it before. I was just going to have to get used to it.

The birds are in a dither because the human didn’t get enough to eat from the rabbit and dreams about eating them. The human does have to eat though. It is irritating to have an unnatural thing among Us, but at least this human is not offensive in its manners. It walks quietly, and sometimes it sings.

One afternoon, wandering around in the woods, I saw a cluster of bushes laden with berries. They really weren’t too far from my module, and so I wondered why I hadn’t seen them before. This made me uneasy. Maybe I hadn’t seen the bushes before because they had just walked by that day, like the formidable forsythia. Then I realized the reason I hadn’t seen the berry bushes before was that they were in a sunken, marshy section shielded from my module’s view by other plants. I took off my boots, tied them to my waist, and went squishing through the foot deep mud to the bushes. The mud felt cool and pleasant on my feet, and I thought of other women putting mud masks on their faces. Were my feet getting a special cleaning treatment? A few dun-colored birds fluttered out of the bushes twittering anxiously, disturbed by my approach. The berries were a rich blue-black and shaped like enormous strawberries. Some of them were as big as my fist. Tentatively I sampled one. It was delicious! I spent the next half hour or so stuffing my shirt, held-out apron-like, and stuffing my mouth with the wonderful berries. With fingers, shirt, and mouth stained purple, I sighed happily, happily, and waded once more through the cool, sweet-smelling mud.

As I walked through it, I became aware of a slightly alarming sensation. I felt the mud oozing up my legs. Funny, it didn’t seem as though I were sinking into the mud. I looked down around my feet. I almost dropped all of the berries I had gathered. The mud, of its own accord, was creeping up my legs! I broke into a run, slipping and sliding as I raced for my module. I dumped the berries inside the module, seized a blunt knife, and frantically scraped the mud off of my legs. When I had scraped off as much as possible, I headed for the stream to wash off the remainder. As I waded in the stream slowly the pounding of my heart subsided.

Mirnie marsh mud is mischievous, climbing up the human’s legs after it had promised not to do anything until We had warned the human in its dreams. Fortunately, the human is over its fright, and often goes to relieve the mirnie bushes of over-bearing fruit. Sometimes, even, the human wraps its long bark-colored hair in a towel and sits, otherwise nude, in the mud, allowing the mud to ooze all over it. Then it walks away, letting the mud partially dry on its skin before washing the mud off by swimming in the pool. After swimming and eating the kelp, the human lounges on the moss munching a stalk or fern it is fond of. It kills a viper, whenever it sees one, eats that, and every so often, with a skilled arm, manages to throw a knife into a feathered bird, killing the bird quickly and cleanly. The human never eats out of cans anymore, which pleases Us immensely. In feeding the human Ourself We shape and expand its personality and awareness of Ourself.

I wonder if this is how primeval man felt, living day to day in direct dependence on the living things around him. There is one big difference; I know. Humans are social creatures, I remind myself. Sometimes I find myself clutching at this idea as if I will forget something important or miss a portion of my true nature. Early man lived in bands with other humans, amidst the splendor of his environment, but I don’t live here in this splendor with other people. He would feel lonely so long estranged from his fellow people. Somehow I don’t. In an odd way, I feel akin to this forest, and I don’t quite know what that means, except that I feel part of it. Even though I must be continually on my guard against vipers and forsythia bushes; and even though the woods still terrify me at times with its whims, I feel a chummy, satisfied sense of belonging.

One of the most terrifying things about this forest is that all the life in it can move. Not just the animals, birds, and some of the bushes; I have seen the moss creep off rocks; I have watched young shoots of ferns edge away from my grasping hand while more mature ferns edge within my reach. Awe struck, I have gazed upon slender trees slipping their roots from the soil and stealthily stepping to another location nearby. The forest has at times rearranged itself in such a way that I have lost my way and have spent hours trying to relocate my module. What is bizarre is that there sometimes appears to be an intention to confuse me, to get me lost, and then a seemingness to relent and shift itself no further, or even to return to a pattern of growth I can recognize and so regain my bearings. It almost seems like these are little tests forcing me to improve my sense of direction. I am in fact becoming more keenly aware of every little shift, and am very rarely disoriented.

At night when I seal up in my module, I have second thoughts about how good I feel about this existence I have in these woods. I feel guilty about not having kept any track of time, or having not tried to calculate the difference in duration between Earth days and this world’s days. I feel odd about my partial reluctance to find any people, yet I do want to find at least some people. Guiltily, I remember how I used to read a lot; a day never went by when I didn’t read something. But of course here I read nothing, and I don’t feel any lack. After these reflections, I give myself a shake, attribute these glum thoughts to a need for a snack, fetch out the S shaped nuts I found and roasted one day, and compromise with myself by agreeing to remember my “civilized” life each night before I go to sleep. With stomach and conscience sated, I fall off to sleep.

Zollocco tells Us the human dreams a lot about the paraphernalia of human existence--their dishes and books and telephone--all pretty dull stuff. Sometimes when it is dreaming this stuff, Zollocco says it disappears. Its body remains, and its physical regulatory awareness remains, but its personality just disappears. Then We look around Ourself to see where its ghost has gone. Sometimes We find it in a tree, which We find very odd; sometimes We find it roaming around an area its physical self hasn’t visited yet; sometimes it cuddles the fury cubs of various mammals and marsupials; and sometimes it flies through the air with the birds or the pollen. Yet, there are times when it is not among Us at all, and We will hear, days later, a report of other Forests being haunted by a graceful human ghost. There are other times when it must go very far away. We suspect sometimes it goes back to its home planet, because it returns suddenly to its slumbering body thrashing and making little sounds of distress until it wakes itself up, wondering what has disturbed it so.

Zollocco at times talks to the ghost, and it laughingly tells about its jaunts. How it goes to mingle its consciousness with Our sun, how it has ridden along a comet’s tail, and how it wanders through portions of its possible pasts and futures. It is a very talky ghost at times, and We are beginning to realize that soon it is going to need some companionship of its own kind. When We suggest that it travel to the nearby town to be with its own, the ghost diffuses, becoming a dusky blue smoke, and says it doesn’t want to go. Then, strangely, We feel sadness with it. This is the first time We as an individual Forest have so completely mingled consciousness with a human. Now We feel and understand the sensation of human rejection. We are anxious to make this human remember there is no reality of rejection within the way of the Forest World. Someday, We will send Our human to Saemunsil Forest, so that Saemunsil will return it to its innocent awareness of allness.

One day I was making a garland of flowers for my hair when I looked up to see a forsythia bush stalking me. I froze for a moment terrified, and then I scuttled up the tree under whose large fronds I had been sitting. The forsythia ran to the trunk of the tree right after me, and I escaped it with a hair’s breath. The bush stood there angrily waving its pretty, yellow flowers at me. Gloating that I had I had escaped it, then worried that maybe it would just wait me out like a patient cat awaiting a vole; I angrily leaned down and pulled off some of its flowers. I ate them, I don’t know why, and they tasted pretty good. So, I reached down for another handful, which I ate also, and the forsythia, not wishing to lose any more blossoms, dashed away into the forest. I felt my pupils dilate; I got the giggles up there in the tree and became very pleasantly high.

We don’t really know what to make of this. We know from their lair behavior that humans must have developed from bear type creatures, but bears don’t escape up trees nor do they particularly like to sit in them, but this human sure does. Bears chase other entities up trees. Our haetrists evolved from ape type creatures, and so they like to swing and sleep in trees, and this human is behaving more like a haetrist than a bear. Well, since it is doped up, We will align with its cell memory to find out what’s going on. Its cells say it was once an ape type creature. Then why won’t you sleep in the woods at night, and why do you stay in your flying can lair?

Its cells say, “Well, maybe we were bears once, too.”

The human is high clear down to its cells.

“By the way,” says the human body, “where can I find me some men? I’m horny.”

What do you mean you are horny?

“What do you mean what do I mean? All healthy, fertile female creatures get lustful inclinations every so often!”

Fertile, you are not fertile.

“I beg your pardon, I most certainly am.”

We become part of the human’s reproductive system to see if this is true. This We do with some amount of nervousness, because a misfunctioning organ makes Us feel bad. This human is perfectly healthy and functioning properly here! We are amazed. A properly working human system! Maybe Our greater Forest-World Self will be able to revive the human species after all. Each fertile human means new hope. We wonder in what adjacent world too many humans proliferate to cause a balancing shortage here.

When I awoke, I was still up in the tree stretched out on my stomach on the limb. The night was very black and the air was fragrant and just a bit cool. There was something soft piled on the center of my back keeping me warm. As I shifted a bit to try to see what it was, it sank its claws into my flesh. I froze and the claws retracted. I tried to move again, and again the prickling sensation warned me not to do that. I laid my head back down, rather than panic that a strange, clawed beast was on top of me. I decided it must be a dream and went to sleep.

Zollocco reports to Us of the human’s dreams. (We are pleased to call it a she now since we are assured she is not some bizarre inorganic thing out of a can.) Putting together all of his reports, this is the story We construe: Sleeping in that room with the bird decorated walls, she astral projects to other universes for fun, and also to see if there is some place else she could live because she is displeased with how her people treat themselves. She claims human beings are making her world very sick, so she wants to leave it somehow. A merchant flying can of one of Our solar system’s people strays near Our universe’s edge and struggles to realign the coordinates before the merchant flying can becomes trapped between the dimensions of Our universe and hers. She, Our creature, astro-projects to the flying can and realizes her opportunity, an opportunity that is impossible but is happening anyway. She returns to her slumbering body on her own planet and aligns her consciousness with the Earth (Earth. That must be the name of her planet) to get more information before she makes her decision. Our oak reminds Us that “Earth” means Lonely Hermitage in the Remembered Tongue. She learns there are many possibilities open to her. Several involve the total destruction of the life forms she knows on her planet: annihilation through global war, which takes a mere few hours; or death (and this one seems most likely) through the execution of the Forests, which brings slow starvation to all; or utter extinction of all species brought through a strange sun-caused blight. Also, the moon of the planet might explode, the pieces crashing to the planet, completely destroying the planet’s tidal balances (not to mention knocking the planet out of orbit). In one case, the people try to alter the orbit of their world to make the climate more to their liking, and this mistaken effort shoots the globe off into the freezing reaches of space. There are a few possibilities of her world’s continued survival, but in most of them she neither marries nor has children. The Hermitess, or Earth Wisdom--Athena--reaches out through the vortex between Our universes and takes a sprig of an olive branch from the merchant flying can and gives it to Our then Earthbound human. Athena smiles and says Our human may go to the ark if she is not afraid. Our human then feels elated; and the whole of the beautiful Lonely Hermitage, Earth, wills Our human’s body and soul through the contours of space into the flying merchant can’s garden.

Not one of Us can speak. We all withdraw into Our own physical entities, forming congruent thoughts and feelings as always. So separated from each other never do We feel more one. We don’t pretend to understand the wholeness of the human’s dream, but We do feel it means something crucial to Our adopted human. Silently We send Our thanks to that far off Athena of the Lonely Hermitage for sending Us this new being to know Ourselves by. At last a bit of a moonflower speaks up: “What does ark mean?” And none of Us knows. Perhaps another Forest does.

The next morning, when I awoke, I was still up in the tree. I was amazed I hadn’t fallen out, and even more amazed I wasn’t stiff and sore. On a whim, I climbed up higher in the tree to survey the view. Off in the distance I saw a settlement; a few stone buildings nestled against the forest. A soft breeze ruffled my hair; the leaves of the trees whispered about me. I climbed down and sprinted...

We have told the members of the stone school near Us of Our human. The humans there of course claim her for themselves, but We are not so sure of this. We feel Our human is one of Us; a Forest Being. It will be good for another Forest woman to walk among the neutrals.

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