By John Thomas Tuft

Jason took a walk in the late afternoon, trying to clear his head. Johnna stayed with Sierra

at the Heritage House, where the frightened girl was being consoled by Keziah. Johnna encouraged him to go take a look at what Tessa was doing at the Grotto. When he approached Tessa, she was more than willing.  As she led him through the trees, some of the leaves just starting to show their thoughts of changing colors come cooler weather, Jason asked, “How old are you?”

                Tessa gave a shy, gentle smile. “You would understand it as nineteen years.”

                Jason was not quite sure what to make of that enigmatic answer. “I would understand? You don’t know when you were born?”

                Tessa let out a light laugh. “You don’t know, do you?”

                “Don’t know what?”

                Tessa stopped, turned to look at him for a long moment. “I guess if Willow trusted you, I can, too.” She turned and led the way through the old cemetery at the edge of Roth Meadow then on through the field of flowers and up a steep incline.

                “You know what the oddest thing is about humans? You believe that you can own ideas like they are possessions. You believe that you are the pinnacle of existence and that any ideas that you form are yours and to be rented to others for gain. So much so that you form societies to make up rules and laws to safeguard what you consider to be your own ideas.” She shook her head, her long hair catching the wind and fanning out around her solemn face. “But the stories of the BloodFire are simply telling us why we exist. The nuts and bolts of how we exist can make or break the nature of that understanding, however. If ideas are limited by the stretch of human imagination, what happens when you reach your ultimate limits? And shouldn’t imagination bring unity and harmony to humans? Instead you have divisions, hatred of ideas and the people holding them while desperate to keep the ideas that you ‘own’ safe and secure. What gives with that?”

                Jason shook his head, helpless. “How old did you say you are?”

                She ignored him. “You humans actually believe that ideas come from your brains, and your brains alone. That’s the height of arrogance, communal exploitation of what isn’t yours in the first place; when maybe what you need is communal humility. You pick your leaders on the basis of personalities rather than on the ideas they have borrowed and engaged from the source, and then wonder why your lives are so difficult and costly.” Tessa shook her head again. “I’m still trying to figure out what we are supposed to learn from humanity.”

                “We?” Jason spotted a break in the pathway and the opening to a cave. “I just write stories, nothing more, nothing less. I’m not here to take on the world, governments, big business, politics. Count me out.”

                Tessa spun on him. “That’s just it. Ninety-five percent of you say ‘count me out.’ We’ll just swallow what we’re given. All those entities are taking you on and taking advantage of you and you just sit back and say ‘oh, well, let it happen.’ My government, my armies, my religion—they will protect me.” She raised her hands in exasperation. “What about universal reality? Universal morality? The source of ideas?”

                “You’re pretty young to be spouting such big ideas,” Jason’s voice rose in volume. “Who are you to be judging anyone?”

                Tessa balled up her fists. “Humans are children! Childishly immature!” She caught herself, took a few deep breaths. “I’m sorry. Would you like to see my anagama kiln?”

                Jason looked thoughtful and slowly asked, “If, and that’s a big if, you are not from here,” at this he spread his arms to take in the entirety of the scene, “what is it like where you live?”

                The teenager shrugged, and said in a diffident manner, “We believe that it is best when we try to aim for dignity for all. To govern by collaboration. A society that brings about mutual benefit and healing.”

                Jason let out a long, loud sigh. “Somehow, I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore.” At Tessa’s quizzical look, he said, “Never mind. Why are you here? I mean, here with Johnna and the girls and building a…what did you call it?”

                “It’s an anagama kiln. And I am hiding here until I can get back to where I came from.”

                “Hiding? Hiding from whom? Somebody’s after you?”

                Tessa demurred. “The same ones who came after my father. But that’s the flow of the shadow in my life. You think you cannot do something, that it’s too hard. Then all of a sudden, it’s right there in front of you and you have to decide. An anagama kiln is fired by wood. I have to imagine where the flame will go, where the shadow of the heat will be the hottest, where the ash will settle on the pottery. The clay may crack but it may also reveal a most surprising beauty. The flow of the shadow can produce either.”

                Jason studied her again. “Nineteen, huh? So, these are your wild years…”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards. And I’m off to finish MIDNIGHT SHEPHERD…