Chapter 13

A New World

A rumbling from the ground rattled from their slumber a red-bodied Peridot with spikes across its tergum and head. Retto was hot-tempered and did not like to be woken up by anyone or anything. Retto, and only Retto, was in control of their eight hours of shut-eye. With fresh eyes, Retto noticed there was no one to charge at or frown at with a menacing stare. Retto chalked it up to the wind and rested their head upon a raised stone to sleep some more.

The rumbling continued. This time, it was not only Retto who woke up but everyone around them. A third rumble dizzied the humans who attempted to maintain their balance. Alas, they all fell down. A split in the ground burrowed from the center of the village to a far off land that no one could see with their eyes. The split looked like a thin carving in the dirt with little space in between. But then a fourth rumble, the loudest one of all, split the ground apart, the length in between rivaled that of the village’s tallest human (if they lay sideways, of course). A trench formed from, once again, the center of the village to beyond. Huts crumbled into it. Humans and Peridots fell with their homes and panicked when pieces of wood locked them in. A rainstorm approached and quickly drenched the village. With it, lightning struck and thunder boomed. Humans and Peridots ran to a nearby cave, but lightning split a massive tree from its base and, after it rolled down from an incline from which it once stood, the tree sealed the opening to the cave wholly.

The rain poured heavily and it seemed to Retto that they had been dipped in water that was rushing angrily, like a river’s edge. But Retto was not lying on top of its waves. Instead, here was Retto, standing, descended upon by a never-ending downpour. Winds, rain, and lighting did not relent. Huts befell ruin and crops either blew away or their roots toppled over into mud. People ran in every direction. It was chaos, and in chaos, the Elders believed, “bonds will sever.” Many Peridots lost their human keepers. Orphans they were, running aimlessly to dry land or safety. Retto scurried about, trampling from one procession to another. Dizzying arrays that led to wetter grounds. Until a group of orphans, that is, Peridots without keepers and keepers without Peridots, came upon a familiar beach. A rock path led from its edge to a far away land. Water crashed in between the stones. Yet, with dwindling options, these orphans set forth on this path, hopping from one stone to the next, one human or Peridot at a time. Stones steadily grew further apart. Some remembered the legend of Kee and wondered, above perilous waters, if Kee eventually made it to the storied faraway land. With gushing waters rising, the orphans doubted their chance at survival.

Yet, they pressed on. One stone at a time. One human at a time per every stone. One Peridot at a time per every stone. In what seemed like an endless journey, with waves higher than trees, forcing each orphan to hold their breath and embrace the stone beneath their feet, land steadily came into view. And not the land from whence they came, but a new land. A sandy coastline cupped a lush forest. When the first human set foot upon the last stone before this new land, everyone behind her – upon every stone – stood still. The tides tempered and sunlight emerged. The easy tempo of the water’s waves – like a human rocking a Peridot to sleep – set calm in the hearts of the orphans. A new land awaited them. A new world.

When the human walked onto the coastline, those behind her hopped quickly from stone to stone to join her. A mass of twelve humans and Peridots gazed upon a bright Sylvania of red leaves on trees, as deep a red as Retto’s skin, burnished and vital. Plump fruit grew upon hefty stalks slightly above ground. A path as wide as three humans, paved in smooth translucent blue stone, unfurled deep into this crimson forest. The path’s intense color and mystery invited the orphans to travel upon it.

Retto found themself curious, but untrusting of this path. There was little they could do, however, once the humans marched upon the blue translucent stones. Their steps were long and fast; Retto followed so as not to stay behind. The expanse above them was covered with red leaves. When sunlight penetrated, it gave off a faint ruddiness upon the ground. Inside this forest, Peridots of different sizes, colors, and facial shapes lay silently upon branched cradles above the dirt. There were no humans to speak of, at least not yet. The path curled sharply and now orange and pink leaves jutted from the branches of trees, stout and skinny, stunted and lofty. Fruits were sparser and smaller, less succulent than before. In this stretch of land, there were neither humans nor Peridots roaming about, nor critters or birds. Their journey eventually led to a moss-filled wall. It consisted of red spires, sturdy and sharp. One could not rest their hand upon it without a tinge of pain. One could not walk around it, for it was too high and too wide to scale. The ground beneath it was gelatinous yet resplendent. Its thickness was such that one could be stuck in it for a lifetime.

The group of orphans fretted about and looked backward and wondered if a return to the coastline was their only hope. But then, the gelatinous ground garbled. A narrow sphere of mossy sludge steadily rose, and when it reached the height of Retto, it stopped and shed its gooey casing. A one-eyed Peridot in tangerine-colored skin stood before them – dripping, staring at Retto, creaking its head to get a better look – blinked its eye in disbelief and then began to inspect the other orphans. After a deep breath, the one-eyed Peridot shook their head. Oh no, thought the humans, what fate befalls us now?

This tangerine-colored Peridot fluttered their eye in sympathetic rhythm and then launched its left arm toward the wall. Two mossy partitions retreated, left and right, respectively. A wooden plank catapulted from behind the (now) open partitions and descended over the viscous ground. The one-eyed Peridot continued to hold their gesture, a guiding direction toward an inner sanctum that Retto and the others gladly followed, first upon the plank and then onto hard ground that comprised translucent purple stones. There was a busy-ness to this new world –
moving bodies, loud murmurs – but it was far away. A walk that would likely exhaust them further. But Retto was primed for it. They felt safe, for a stone carving stood above them. Like the ground beneath, it was a purple stone structure. A familiar one. One of legend. One of Kee.

Retto felt at home. And so did the others.

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