Chapter 14

Eyes Open, Eyes Closed

Retto and the others found the new world a thrilling one. Peridots ranged in deeper colors and some had sinuous bodies and longer appendages than Retto was familiar with. One even neared the height of a human! Is it the food, Retto thought? Everyone ate the same onions, tomatoes, pears, and kelp, so it couldn’t have been the food. Hmm, what could it be?

Huts in this part of the world were ornate and sturdy, made of granite and adorned with flowers. Humans wore long cloths that covered their arms and legs. They created footwear that even covered one’s toes. They also crafted long implements with sharp ends. Retto did not know what they were for, but knew they were dangerous. These humans had built a stage much sturdier than the one that Vida performed on many moons ago. Humans walked there to hear announcements on how to prepare for weather changes, on where new vegetables could be found, on birth announcements of Peridots and human babies. Everyone smiled toward one another, even to strangers like Retto.

But something was missing. Retto noticed that Peridots – and only Peridots – lived on one side of this enclosed forest. Human keepers would tend to them in the morning, once in the afternoon, and then lastly at night to sing them lullabies. But in between, Peridots were left alone to fend for themselves. It was not chaos that governed their lives but raucous. Food scraps were never discarded. Crumbs were peppered on nearly every place to sit. Reckless play led to broken arms and bruised eyes. Retto did not fit in. Attempts at cleaning the ground upon which to sleep were met with derision and mischief. The other Peridots who joined Retto clung to one another, afraid to make friends or even to nod at strangers. When a tall, hulking pink Peridot with a spikey horn charged at them, it was Retto who parried every blow and every push until this aggressor tired out and retreated.

Then came the night of Eshuan, to celebrate the relief of the first summer drought … at least that’s what Retto remembered Eshuan to be about. These other Peridots, from this new land, did not celebrate Eshuan, did not know what Eshuan was. But it was during this night that the human keepers did not sing their Peridots lullabies. They did not, in fact, even appear. Retto thought this was strange and walked to the grounds of the humans. Every hut was abandoned. The stage was empty. Retto went beyond the last hut deep into the red forest, allowing moonlight to guide them. By a creek, Retto saw countless humans drinking gleefully from spindly vines from plum-colored trees. Others were dancing. Some were even brawling for sport, albeit playfully, as others watched on and cheered. Retto shared glances with the humans who joined Retto on their first foray into this new world, and when Retto waved to them, they did not wave back. There were no Peridots in sight. This, in Retto’s view, was for humans only.

In what little they knew of humans, Retto understood their need to have fun. Tending to Peridots was hard work. Retto was hopeful, however, that Peridots who expected lullabies from their keepers would not be deprived of such dulcet sounds. Alas, not a single lullaby was sung that night. Rustling leaves were in earshot, but nothing else.

The next morning and afternoon, Peridots grew listless. Most were drifting into a deep slumber. Retto, too, found themselves gliding in and out of sleep and concluded that a vigorous walk would pry their eyes open, so they traveled to the far reaches of the grounds to visit the land by the creek. Humans were, once again, partaking in the sweetness of vines and dancing and brawling for fun. Retto’s eyes were heavy. They lumbered ahead with a thick sluggishness in their legs and feet. Retto rambled to the creek and tapped on the leg of a human with blonde hair. He turned quickly around and, when he caught Retto’s doleful glance, laughed at the poor Peridot. Others joined in. Retto slowly walked away, searching for anyone with sympathetic eyes, but no one – not even the orphaned humans who joined Retto on the journey to this new land – came to Retto’s need. Retto departed the grounds as quickly as they could, which was not quick at all. A snail’s pace was more like it.

It took Retto all evening and deep into the early morning to return to the grounds of the Peridots. By then, every Peridot was asleep. Retto panicked – a slow-moving frenzy took hold – as they remembered the warnings of the Elders, of the dangers of dwindling whimsy, of human neglect. Before Retto’s eyes, their greatest fear arose: the hibernation of the Peridot species. Retto tapped on bellies, shook arms, stomped on dirt, but not a single Peridot opened their eyes. Upon sunrise, Retto was at a loss for what to do next. By then, fate took over and so did the instincts of the species.

Like the other Peridots, Retto succumbed to a deep, deep slumber. They would arise years later, or so the legend goes.

Some say decades later.

Some say centuries later.

Some say never at all.

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