The Place of Bathing and Mating

The air smells different. I knew from the preliminary analysis that the planet’s atmosphere had sufficient oxygen and no significant concentrations of toxins. I haven’t passed out yet so I assume I’ll be okay. I hear water flowing. It is night time on this part of the planet. How I know this is the same planet that we are surveying, I don’t know. Still, I am sure of it in my heart.

My eyes are adapting to the low light. I can see a pool of water in front of me. It is ten meters across and perfectly round. There is a low wall about half a meter thick around the pool. On the other side of the pool is an arch with a pole across it at chest height. Sitting on the pole is some sort of bird about four feet tall. Its head is under its wing. Standing on the ground in front of the first bird is a second bird. Its head is under its wing.

As I look around the pool I realize that there are perches at the four cardinal directions and the space between each pair of cardinal directions. I closed my eyes and listen.

“Breath deep, young fledgeling. I wish you no harm.” the voice seems to come from inside of my head. I can’t hear any physical voice and yet I am sure the voice isn’t just me talking to myself

“Who are you?” I say. “What do you want from me?”

“We seek forgiveness.” the voice answered. I hear movement behind me. I turn to see a third bird. This one is half a meter taller than the other two and has a meter long plume of feathers coming out of her head. The bird nods at me. “It is I whose thoughts you drink. Smell the color of them that you may know their truth.”

“Can you hear my thoughts?” I ask. The third bird stands swaying back and forth. A few seconds later, it answers.

“When you are intending for me to hear you I can. When you are keeping your thoughts private, I can’t hear them.” the bird explained. “I am called mother of the forest but now my brood has left the nest and I pass my days as council to this venerable one here.”

“What prompts you to ask for forgiveness?” I ask.

“One of our young warriors shot the hole in your ship. He was in an altered state of consciousness preparing for his initiation into adulthood. Do not judge him harshly. He was only doing what every fledgeling is taught to do, protect the nest.”

“Will he do it again? I asked.

“No. He has been restrained for the time being. You must be quiet now. The venerable one is contemplated the way into the future.” she admonished.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.