By John Thomas Tuft

They reached the grotto that held the kiln within, the opening looking dark, uninviting. Sierra sat down on some of the stacked wood. “Do you really have to go?” she asked Tessa. The older girl sat down beside her, rested one hand on Sierra’s hands. “Yeah, afraid so. I’m going to miss you two. But I am here in service of my people. This is one of those most important things that can make or break everything. Could you do me a favor?” She held out a folded piece of paper. “It’s for my Momma. I tore it out of my journal before Toby took it with him. Would you give it to Jason for me?” Sierra accepted the note. “Sure. Why don’t you give it to him yourself?” Tessa looked down at the ground. When she looked back up, there were tears in her eyes. “It’s my time. If you care about me, you’ll do it. To remember me. Okay?”

September 8, 2001

Dear Momma, I will do my best to sum it up for you. Excuse me for being in a rush, but there is only a few more days. This is my last letter to you. Hope I make it back to you. Here we go: Humans are most fearful of losing their sentience. They are a combination of behavior, feelings and imagination wrapped up in biology and star dust. They invent religions to protect themselves from dealing with this, it seems. Their biggest fear is losing sentience, but their biggest failing seems to be not taking responsibility for themselves. So, they walk that balance, coming up with gods and demons, empty spirituality and cults of personality. Why do countries honor soldiers so loudly? They served some collection of people gathered in a country. If they died for that country, any country on the face of the earth, they are honored as heroes. In religions, it appears humans seek another way to express their belonging to some special group and feel like heroes.

The redemption of this race lies not in buying off some divine wizard figure. It’s in getting them to pay attention. If there is no universal morality, then none of this matters. But they keep coming up with stuff like The Force in Star Wars, the Transformers’ All Spark, the soul, the chi, the dharma, the Tao, the Prime Directive, whatever. Then they say, nope, it’s too hard. Instead, they come up with Magna Cartas and Westphalian Treaties so they can draw imaginary lines and create rules to test whether they can control themselves or not. Don’t get me started on things like the Indian Treaties, Momma. They are so far from “let the drumbeat connect me to the heartbeat of Mother Earth” I just want to cry sometimes.

One of the humans’ religions is called Christianity. Take that one, for example.  Just here, where I live, in the United States it’s a big deal to lots of people. Now, mind you, this is the country I told you about that holds itself up as the “exceptional” people of some magical land. “We are not like the other humans on the earth. We are exceptional. We stand for truth, justice, and the American Way.” Momma, I swear, that’s what they say. And they go around wearing and waving these magic crosses. I know I came here to collect the BloodFire for our people, but Momma, I swear it’s like they have no idea what it is or what it’s for.

Now, their hero, Jesus, he figured it out. He knew. He wept. For them. And them being so lost and scared. Scared basically of their own shadow. But Momma,  it’s like their magical cross is King Arthur’s sword and heaven is some kind of a death star. I’ve read their words on this Jesus, Momma. All the stories about him I could find. He kind of went around saying, “You know, maybe we’re doing this all wrong. Maybe the high volume of words and rules are coming up short. We’re here to help each other, take care of one another. Our healing lies in the power of all of us. Money didn’t mean squat to him, Momma, but you’d swear that’s what the magic cross is all about. And power. The magic cross is all about power. But, it’s not about a long life, he said. It’s about a good life. A life consciously lived not about yourself, and lived not trying to guarantee what comes after, what’s next.

 So, he lived one. Naturally, it got him killed. Naturally, I say, because what else would it lead to? You can see them get uncomfortable and squirmy if they go too long without seeing a magic cross. Oh, Momma, the stories he told them. The stories… But you can’t go two feet without seeing someone wearing their magic crosses around their necks or on their vehicles. I think they worship them in their churches. Humans, Momma, I just don’t know. My birthday is 9/11. I hope I see you then. With love, your Tessa.

Sierra solemnly folded the note, put it into her pocket, took Kezzie by the hand, and together they headed down the hill toward the smoke and flames below.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.

(adapted from ch 18, Midnight Shepherd)