Thursday, August 8, 2013

108 - The Glitter that Water Brings

Mom had extruded three chairs for them in front of the screen so they could all see forward. “Terence, I have reached the lowest cliffs on the continent.”

Eshmaeel looked sideways at Terry. “This is where we came down. It took us days to find routes down for our birds.”

“Your warbirds that you ride. Didn't your people manage to keep horses? You said once that you did.”

“Yes, but horses are so hard to keep that only the most wealthy have any at all. They need the grass, they don't handle the sand that well, the heat sickens and kills them. Wild flocks of warbirds sometimes climb the canyon walls to eat them.”

“I see. How charming.Only the wealthy? I suppose its not so different from Xa---ahm.” Terry coughed as Davood looked over from his chair. He was only partly there, because of Mom, but some words still set him murderously off.

“Gentlemen,” Mom said. “I am about to commence climbing. Brace yourselves.” Since their talk, Mom no longer arbitrarily slapped restraints on them all, unless imminent bloodshed was obviously about to occur. She was requesting more information about restraint and control issues in a larger context than just her cabin.

The sandflea reared up against the tsingy, almost ninety degrees from the jagged bit of rock shelf on the bottom and the front two 'sand-paddle' legs neatly folded away out of sight under the screens. Her main body was spread out long enough to make her motion easy, and very fast. Looking almost straight up, Terry saw the fans of water falling from above, the massive green/brown river's end pouring over the lip and then spreading and spreading into silver and white fans of spray that reached them as a light mist. The screens were self-clearing so the water beaded and rolled off.

As Mom reached for the either side of the vertical rock spine in front of them, Terry turned his head one way and the other. Smaller rivulets all along the edge glittered in the harsh sun that evapourated them away, blowing the water into the air, eventually fueling the storms that would fill the south pole lake.

The rocks all around the smooth channels were soaking wet, covered in green and orange. Terran green and Chishiki orange and maroon.

The plants grew up and out, all around, sucking in the water that trailed away to the bottom of the basin. Flocks of beetles ranging in size from a fingernail, to the palm of his hand swarmed on the rock. Every once in a while a whole swarm of iridescent golden beetles would fly up and out, like a spray of gilding looking for an artwork.

Cascades of succulents trailed from under the edges of water, blooming in waving spikes of waxy reds and bright pinks. “Oh, look,” Eshmaeel pointed. “The eyebleed has spread.”

Terry looked at the spindly orange branches hanging out from the cliff like whips longer than Mom could stretch. The bright blue flowers at the very tips were full of the golden beetles, weighing them down till they bent all the way down toward them, and touched the walls, triggering a flight. “This is a good thing? I've never seen anything called 'eyebleed' greeted with enthusiasm.”

“If you get it on you it makes your eyes itch until you scratch them bloody, is all,” Eshmaeel explained. “But once you get the sap out it makes paper and rope and curtains and hundreds of things.”


The sun was setting off to their right and as Mom's claws on one side slipped a bit and they all lurched against their chairs, the deep shadows off to their left lit up with what Terry at first thought were stars. “What in Page and Practice are those?”

Eshmaeel laughed. “Those are just butt-lighters. Don't you have them?  I thought I saw something like them on... that place.  In fields though, not rock cracks though. Their butts flash bright white like that when they're trying to attract a mate.”

“Butt-lighters. They're a lot brighter than fire-flies.”

“Fire-flies sound dangerous.” Davood looked vaguely at them, smiling a little.

“They're not. Just a beetle with a flashing 'I'm available' sign on his abodomen. Sometimes I think it would be easier for human men to do something like that.”

Eshmaeel stared at him instead of outside for a long moment then flung himself back into his chair and roared with laughter. “What... what would pants be like? Would men even wear pants with a closed butt if... if...” He lost words.

Terry blinked and started laughing as well. He couldn't help it. Howling, he finally gasped. “No coat would have a back, the women... would comment on how bright a light you shone out of your anus!”

“Oh. Oh. I'd never hear the end of it from my mother if I accidentally let my ass shine at a family gathering!”

Terry imagined his ass lighting up in the middle of a formal tea, say just as his father was offering the standing toast to Prime, the light flashing out from under the tablecloth.  A fart was at least invisible and you could deny it.  But his ass flashing because of a pretty girl next to him?  He nearly choked. Feeling filthy and seasick and desperately nervous of this whole journey he finally lost his composure and the two of them laughed until they cried, while Mom climbed.

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