Septemus 75

Cross Country and Home


I took a day for myself. Xirra and Shésti were coming the next day, and Whisper and Emmanuel soon after.

My mind still spun with the jokes of Panda and the worries of Anakin, and I needed to let the wind blow through me to clear everything out.

Some of the kids I run with at school talked about training at the state park at Oasis Springs, which is criss-crossed with trails and open spaces. I got up early and caught a bus.

By noon, I was running through the desert.


I had been here before. Once.

The crash site was near here.


I didn’t know where, exactly. It had been cordoned off, the records classified. I could have found a way to get them, if I’d wanted. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel a need to.

Still, once I was there, I felt it all around me.


The crash happened here, the defining event for the lives of one-hundred-and forty-five of us, plus those who care for us.


I couldn’t hear the silence of the desert for the pounding of thoughts and fears, trying to get in, banging to get out.


I hit the trail before I even decided to run, and my legs moved, propelled by an energy that didn’t seem to come from within me.


It could be anywhere, any valley, any clearing, any ravine where young trees grew back from a fire fifteen years before.


The trail wound upwards through rock bluffs.


This was where it had happened, somewhere around here.


I ran up the trail until it ended at a rock cliff, and then I climbed.


Pulling myself up the final ledge, I found myself in a high meadow.

The breeze carried the dry scent of sage and cinquefoil.


I fell into myself. My hearts slowed with each breath. It is beautiful here.


My legs ached from the running and my shoulders were tight and sore.

I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked over the valley.

I had seen those distant mountains before. I shuddered.

Hands held me, a soft voice spoke. The scent of strawberries.


The scent of strawberries. What memory had that come from?


The road snaked between cliffs. My legs trembled.

The sound of a truck rattling down the road, its cargo clanging with every bump. “Keep them safe! Drive slower!”

A whisper and a song.


A cactus wren sang from the top of a creosote bush.

Blue morpho butterflies hovered over the desert poppies.


This planet is so beautiful.


I lay down in the sun in a clearing.

Our ship had been up there, in this very sky.


Xirra told me that it burst into flame when it entered the planet’s atmosphere.


My legs began to shake. I didn’t stop them. I lay on the desert floor, while tremors rattled through me.

I closed my eyes.

Situ held me. She whispered to me, kissed my forehead, and placed me gently into the travel pod.

The walls echoed with the clang of the metal clasp as it snapped shut.

I opened my eyes and breathed to let the tremors fade. Something inside me knew both not to stop the shivers when they came, but also not to go too far, too deep, too soon.

I breathed and looked back at the sky.


When I was ready, I closed my eyes and let the memories return.

It was dark and still inside the pod.

Then the language-learning tapes began.

“Hello! Can you tell me the way to the library? Thank you very much!”

“Hello! Can you tell me the way to the library? Thank you very much!”



Silence. My ears burst from the pressure.

I opened my eyes again. I breathed.

It’s OK, I reminded myself. I am safe. Sanghi.

I felt the warmth of the sun. I listened to the wren sing. I thought of Pops, Octy, Panda, Anakin. I breathed. I remembered that Xirra was coming, with Shésti, and Whisper and Emmanuel would come. I thought of of Xilla, Kedi, little Fi, the little songbird Taimi, Momo, Rocket, Amber. We were all on the ship together. Oriana, Cheddar, and more, whose names I didn’t know, whose songs I hadn’t yet heard, but we were here together.

This is my home.

I thought of Situ, who brought us here.


I closed my eyes again, and I sank into the dark silence.

Still. Black.

I was clawing, pushing, kicking. The shell didn’t budge. My legs trembled and I pushed.

A crack of light.


A white ring opens.

I cry out. The light hurts my eyes.

Hands hold my ribs, and I am lifted out.

Yozimufi. Sanghi,” says a soft voice, don’t cry, you’re safe, and I smell strawberries. Something that feels like water brushes my face–a blond braid.

“Stop!” shouts a voice. “Don’t open the others! We have to get them back to the lab!”

I am nestled into warm arms, and the strawberry voice hums a lullaby that Situ used to sing.

When the trembling stops, I open my eyes and rise, unfurling.


I am home.

I look across the wide desert. My ears fill with the songs of vireos and the scents of home: sage and sand and wind and rain and the dry dirt composed of carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur. The minerals of home.

I’m not Baxin’ivre. I am Septemus Sevens, and this is the site of my birth.


This is where I am supposed to be.

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