Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday Fiction for December 26th, 2008

There are two of my stories that I have not excerpted for Friday Fiction yet. “The Eridanus Dream” was the first novel-length manuscript I ever finished, back in 1987. I rewrote the story in 2004, both to correct errors and problems with the original draft, and to transfer the story into an electronic format.

The story takes place in a distant future when the corporations of Earth are exploring and developing other worlds. The Voidship Columbus has traveled nearly eleven light years to the Epsilon Eridanus system, releasing the Lander Pisces to descend on the fourth planet in the system. The Pisces crew finds the world is already inhabited by humanity, and through an odd phenomenon the Lander Technician, Sean Scott, is joined to Y’La, a priestess from a nearby village.

After walking for three days to cross a mountain pass, the crew arrives at the stream between Y’La’s village and the forest.

Crossing the Stream
From “The Eridanus Dream”
By Rick Higginson


Just over two hours later they came upon a stream where several men were hunched over washing clothes, gossiping and not noticing the approaching group until Y’La stepped into the gurgling water just upstream from them to wash her face.

Honored priestess,” one of the men said, lowering his eyes. “We were instructed to watch for you this morning.” He turned from his laundry and called for a child playing in the brush nearby. “Run quickly and tell the priestess Noma that her daughter has arrived with her guests.”

The young girl looked wide-eyed at the strangers for a moment before turning to sprint away from the stream with unbridled enthusiasm.

The women of the crew imitated Y’La’s action, washing their faces in the clear water and relishing the numbing cold after the morning’s exertion.

Welcome to our village, honored guest,” one of the men said to Lorraine.

“Uh, hi,” Lorraine said.

The men exchanged puzzled looks with each other. One of them whispered something, just loud enough that Lorraine could hear it, and watched for a reaction that never materialized. The one next to him turned questioning eyes towards Y’La. “Honored priestess, can she not hear us?

They cannot understand us, Berus. Their speech is different from ours in every way,” Y’La said. She stepped back on the bank of the stream and gestured for Sean to stand beside her, explaining to him mentally that custom dictated they wait there for her mother.


***


The plump man named Berus nudged the younger man next to him. “Look, Rej; that must be her intended.”

Rej studied the couple for a moment, and then without response returned his attention to his work.

He is so tall,” Berus continued. “I did not think She would match a woman with a taller man. He dresses strangely too, Rej.

Rej expressed annoyance. “Why must you taunt me, Berus? She had the dream and let me go. We all know it can happen, though I know you were disappointed at her dream; it certainly stopped your gossip about what she and I might have been doing.” He gathered his laundry in his arms and stood. “There will be another woman to take me from my mother’s house; perhaps even a B’sela dream for me.” Without waiting for rebuttal he carried his laundry to a nearby tree and began wrapping the clothing around a low branch to twist and wring it out.

Berus watched him go and grunted to himself before attacking a stubborn stain in his wife’s robe. From time to time he glanced up to watch the unusual couple.


***


A growing commotion sounded from the village. A tall, stocky woman in a more ornate version of the blue robe that Y’La wore approached with a regal air, and a small parade followed along behind her. She proceeded purposefully until she stood on the opposite side of the stream from where Y’La stood with Sean. The men along the stream all stood and lowered their eyes respectfully, each muttering the traditional greeting of “Honored priestess.” The woman lifted her face and regarded the couple with a knowing smile.

Honored priestess,” Y’La greeted, lowering her eyes momentarily.

Following her prompting, Sean likewise lowered his eyes and greeted, realizing as he did that he had committed a serious social blunder by not doing so even before Y’La had.

Honored priestess,” the woman replied to Y’La. “My beloved; my firstborn; have you brought your intended for my approval?”

Yes, mother. God has led me in B’sela to my intended, Sean Daniel of the family Scott,” she faltered for a moment, as if something would not fit properly. “From the village of Pisces,” she finally concluded.

Sean suppressed the urge to laugh at the thought that they’d brought the whole “village” along for the trip. One faux pas in the traditional proceedings was bad enough; injecting laughter might prove too much for even these unusual circumstances.

The woman turned her eyes to Sean. “I am the priestess Noma, daughter of the priestess V’Ne, of the family T’Cha, Priestess Elder of the village of T’Cha. Come in peace to our home, Sean Daniel of the family Scott.

I am grateful for your welcome, honored priestess,” Sean replied, taking his cue mentally from Y’La.

“What the blazes is going on?” Rory asked, not concealing his impatience.

“Shh!” Maggie said. “Whatever it is, it seems very structured in ritual and I don’t think our interruptions will be welcome at all, no matter who we are.”

“Whoever that woman is,” Lorraine added, “she looks like the wrong person to get on the bad side of.”

Noma gestured, and Y’La led Sean across the stream, away from the analyzing conversation behind them. The woman first touched two fingers to her daughter’s cheek and then swept her into a firm embrace. She then turned to Sean and looked him over. “A man from the stars? He looks much like any man to me. You are really from the stars, Sean Daniel?”

Well, actually from a world similar to your own, which orbits another star that we call Sol, honored priestess. I and my companions traveled here to see what we might find,” Sean answered.

You would not try and deceive an old priestess on such a thing, would you Sean Daniel?”

No, and even if I should think of deceiving you, I could not deceive your daughter on anything.”

Noma touched her middle and ring fingers to Y’La’s cheek with one hand, and the little and ring fingers to Sean’s cheek with the other. She looked affectionately at her daughter for a moment, and then let her fingers slip down to both of their necks. She held them there for a few silent minutes. The little finger lifted from his neck and the middle finger dropped. She smiled and commented, “No, you could not deceive Y’La, Sean Daniel.”

Please, honored priestess, just call me Sean. I was only called Sean Daniel by my own mother when I was in trouble.”

Noma laughed; the sound very similar to her daughter’s laughter. “Were you in trouble often, Sean?”

More often than my mother would have liked,” he said.

Laughing more freely, she pulled him into an embrace similar to what she had given her daughter earlier. She released him to Y’La’s side and gestured expansively. “Bring your guests and begin the B’sela feast! God has given my daughter a husband!”


6 comments:

S.C.(S.Harricharan) said...

Wow again. I love the way in which you showed this world. Really wonderful reading. ^_^

Catrina Bradley said...

Sounds like a very interesting world! I'd love to read more some day. You really draw the reader into your stories. What a gift!

BethL said...

Wow, Hoomi! This is a fascinating extraordinary love story. Do you have maps of your worlds? I could see all of this! I am amazed at the genealogies and worlds that reside and float in your imagination.

Joanne Sher said...

Your descriptions of the mother are especially vivid and engaging. I was totally wrapped up, as usual.

Hoomi said...

I suppose one of these days, since I've now written three stories in the Eridanus series, I should sit down and draw a map of their world. For now, the setting just resides in my head.

Patty Wysong said...

So good! Such a small exerpt, and yet so full of detail. I like it!