Chapter 9

A Faraway Land

After years away, the Purple One returned to visit the campgrounds which they once called home. The campgrounds comprised more humans than Kee remembered. More Peridots too. Lots more. The grounds themselves were now home to two schools, a Tawnis’s sanatorium (a veritable herald’s square with a primitively fashioned stage) and a cobbler’s shop, where humans would barter rare fruits and veg for sturdier sandals. Huts were aplenty and sheltered families of up to four people and two Peridots. Snug, yes. And cozy. To Kee, this was no mere village, but a little world, where everyone had a purpose and a place and somewhere to make friends.

Kee did not recognize anyone while they rambled through the village. Peridots had evolved significantly since Kee first graced these lands. Each sported more colors, more feathers, and livelier tails than before. Kee communicated to other Peridots through movement, and even drew in the sand a picture of the bearded man, Kee’s keeper and best friend. But the drawing was ill-defined, clumsy even, and the wind kept blowing away more precise revisions. Kee approached older-looking humans who, by interpreting the gestures of the Purple One, shrugged their shoulders. They did not know the bearded man to whom Kee referred. There were so many in the village, and when Kee was introduced to them, not a one knew who Kee was nor the person Kee was hoping to find.

Anza, now an adult, heard rumblings about the presence of a purple Peridot and waited patiently for them at the herald’s square. They sat on the stage for hours. When a crowd of humans approached for the evening ritual of Chavana (gratitude expressed during sundown), Kee emerged, probing their head aimlessly. Where to go next, they wondered. Anza sidled up next to the Purple One and examined them from head to paw. Was this the Purple One of legend? Kee indulged in their own inspection of Anza – Is this a Peridot I can trust? The two rotated around each other in circumspect turns. Never did they face their back to one another. So dizzy were they that they tired of rotating and leaned against the stage to regain balance.

Anza wanted to know if this was the Peridot of legend, so they led them deep into the forest. Over a brook they leaped, past a mushroom grove, alongside running water, to the top of a rocky cliff, down to a gravelly path that narrowed to the edge of a pond. Next to it, a raggedy hut. Anza led the Purple One inside.
Alas, aside from a blanket made from thatch, the hut was empty. Kee’s eyes blackened with rage. They flounced out of the hut and walked as fast away from Anza as their legs could handle. Anza was confused and scurried toward Kee. Anza was no stranger to triggering the annoyances of humans and Peridots. No situation, be it a clumsy act or a forgetful moment, was intended to stir one’s wrath, but as living on this planet has proven, one cannot avoid annoying others every now and then. Kee was searching for a bearded man all day and no one had indicated where he lived or if he was even alive. This green-tipped Peridot served not as a help but as a hindrance in finding the answer.

Kee walked so fast that they lost Anza in the woods. Kee, too, became lost. Every foot forward led to another series of trees and bushes. Then, the sound of a heavy breeze lured Kee to a break in the woods that led to a beach. But it wasn’t the beach that captured Kee’s attention. It was a series of raised stones that popped up amid rushing waters and headed from the beach toward an unknown destination. There was no end to these raised stones, but where they led Kee could not determine. Kee squinted – there was land. A big land. What kind, Kee did not know, as waves of the rushing waters obscured their view. To see it clearer, Kee decided to travel atop and across the raised stones. It hopped onto the first stone with ease. There was just a couple of feet away to the next one. Kee hopped to that one successfully too. The third stone was a little farther away, but Kee ran and fluttered about until they glided down upon it. The next stone was much farther away and the stones thereafter seemed to increase in distance. Fluttering to the fourth stone was a little more difficult. A short body to travel a longer distance invited more stress upon Kee’s appendages. But now the water was flowing furiously in between each stone, and the chance of being swept away into the water hinged upon a single mis-step forward. Kee pawed the ground with their left foot, then their right foot, and then took two steps back, readying themselves to make the largest leap of their life. And …


First foot, second foot, first foot, second foot until DASH! Up they jumped!

The apex of their leap, however, was more modest than intended, and Kee found themselves fluttering their arms right as they dipped. But the next stone was a little farther away, and Kee’s fluttering couldn’t maintain their body long enough to land upon it. The rushing waters raged and jetted waves in a frantic pace, sealing Kee’s fate.

But right before they would be scurried away, a hand grabbed Kee’s tail and pulled it to safety. Kee’s view was upside down, but what they could see was a white beard that nearly laddered to the ground. Kee waved both their arms helplessly. When they were turned right side up, Kee met the eyes of their savior. Here, now, was an old man with little strength in his bones. His beard was thicker than his body. His posture, closer to the ground than to the sky. But his eyes welcomed Kee directly to his heart; in kind, Kee welcomed him to theirs. Their first keeper, their only keeper. Their best friend.

The distance between the stones was no challenge for a human. And while the keeper was an old man – even older and frailer than last we saw him – he did not need to leap to make it to the next stone. A simple, modest stretching of the legs would suffice. He held his friend in his arms and made it safely to land. Anza was there to greet them.

They returned to the bearded man’s hut and played games deep into the evening. Kee expressed joy in their eyes and did not want to return to their habitat that evening. But staying in the hut only stirred their curiosity from that day on. Where did that stone pathway lead to, Kee wouldn’t know. They would have to wait another day, perhaps one without the protection of a loved one. The curiosity gnawed at Kee’s heart, even when they returned to their habitat the next day.

What is that mysterious land? Kee wondered as they drifted asleep. What is … that … mysterious land …?

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