I finished the novel around the time that Naavre was learning to walk.
We felt grateful to have the project complete since our free time diminished as Naavre’s mobility rose, and it took both of us to keep up with him.
Overall, this was such a happy time for us.
Ritu, who had connections in the publishing industry, volunteered to be my agent.
I found it almost incomprehensible that a novel about extinction, told from the points of view of a mammoth family, a single redwood whose descendants live today, and a colony of cyanobacteria, would find its way to print. I found it unbelievable that anyone would read it. But, surprisingly, Ritu got the novel published. Even more surprisingly, it sold. In fact, it sold remarkably well!
Ritu credited the timing.
“People want this now,” she said. “Xirra and Teko were right! This is a story people not only needed to hear, but one they wanted to hear!”
I didn’t publish under my name. I wanted to protect our family’s privacy, and I’d never sought or desired recognition or fame. I wrote to scratch the itch–to discover, to learn, to communicate. I chose to publish under the name Sky Linden.
When the reviews began coming in and Mammoth’s Tale started making the lists, Ritu handled all the publicity. She went on the book tours, did the talk-radio circuits, opened the Twitter account. We had a set list of questions that I answered, which she used as the basis for promotion. The mystique of the reclusive author contributed to the novel’s buzz.
We funneled the profits back to our causes. Our family’s personal needs, financial and otherwise, were covered by the rebels, so we had no use for hefty bank accounts.
A quarter went to funds managed by Amie Alarcon, a councilmember from Windenberg and rebel ally, a quarter to the account held by Valentin Harvey for the terrestrial rebel delegation, a quarter to Ritu’s collective, and the final quarter was invested for an endowment for the pagotogo from the crash.
We felt grateful, and very humbled, to be in a position to do something good.
I took a break from writing to let the wellsprings refill and focused on being a mom.
Santi and Naavre kept us happy and busy.
Though she spent the weekdays at Seb’s one-room school, when she was home, Santi needed nearly as much attention as Naavre. Her language skills sprouted, and when she wasn’t practicing the new words and phrases, she was asking questions.
“Why are some words funny?”
“It’s probably either the sound or the association,” I replied.
“Monkey cheese!” she cracked up.
“I’m not sure that one is funny,” Sept said.
“Oh, yes! It definootely is!”
She could be very serious and earnest, too. In some ways, she reminded me of myself when I was a child, and when I was just beginning to find out that injustice happened out in the world.
“It makes no sense for people to sell people,” she said. “Yes, OK. It happened back in the other place. I was to be sold. I know that and that’s why Xirra took me here. But she took me here! This is supposed to be good place.”
“Well, technically, slavery is illegal,” I said, knowing that changes in law didn’t erase history.
“Yes, but, wrong should never be,” she said quietly.
She did a research project addressing the history of slavery on this planet, comparing it to the practices by the Kfvico’kyastorr.
“This is very sad,” she said.
“You could write about a happier topic,” I suggested.
“Sure,” added Sept, “like global climate change and mass extinctions.”
I had to laugh. OK, maybe she was like me, and writing about difficult topics somehow made it easier for her to live in this challenging world.
We did everything in our power to create a safe, happy, nurturing home, so that the outside dangers might not feel so threatening.
But even the happiest of families can’t keep all dangers out. Viruses don’t respect the boundaries of home.
Around that time, Sept began experiencing fever and fatigue.
He shrugged it off at first, and he seemed to get better. When, a week later, he still had fevers and chills, I asked Seb to get in touch with Xirra for us. She and Teko took blood and saliva samples from all of us. It only took Teko a few hours in her lab to get the results.
“It’s not pfura,” Xirra said.
“Thank God!” Pfura is an extra-terrestrial virus which can be fatal, and when it’s not, it can destroy a person’s telepathic abilities. I couldn’t imagine a life for Sept where he wasn’t always listening and singing inside.
“It’s terrestrial.” It was an obscure virus, a symbiont for most of us, but in some blood types, like Sept’s, it created toxic reactions.
“What can we do?” I asked. It was the usual course: rest, liquid, healthy food.
“Try blueberries,” suggested Teko. “And lots and lots of green tea.”
“And Ceylon cinnamon,” said Xirra.
“And cloves. Anise, barberry, elderberry, licorice, dandelion, and black pepper.”
I brewed pot after pot of chai.
Sept had a strong constitution–that man is made of energy. I felt fairly confident that he would recover.
But Santi worried.
She and Sept are from the same ethnic group–their DNA are very similar, and they have the same blood type.
When Santi became quiet, she gave me such a scare.
“Do feel OK, moSanti?”
She shook her head.
“My eyes. I have to squint. I have droop-eyes. My throat hurts. Here.” She pointed to her larynx. “When I swallow. My heart-of-feeling. I have pins in it.”
“Are you sad?” I asked. “Is it like the feeling of having to cry?”
“Then you’re not sick?”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
She was sad that Sept was sick.
“I miss he jokes,” she said.
I did, too. “He’s getting better,” I said. “He told me three jokes today!”
“OK,” she said. “Will he tell five tomorrow?”
“I think so.”
She took a keen interest in a doctor kit that Teko had given us, with a stethoscope and thermometer. She listened to all our hearts, even Mojo’s and her teddy bears.
“Everybody well,” she said.
And soon enough, everybody was well again. Sept’s fever left, his appetite grew ravenous for tofu tacos, not just herbal tisanes and blueberries.
Before we knew it, he was joking all day long, just like usual, and Santi’s droop-eyes turned to laughing eyes.
I asked him to take it easy, but he insisted he was stronger than ever.
“I love life!” he said, and I couldn’t get him to slow down.
It was hard to argue when his activity filled our home with so much joy.
I still worried sometimes. Teko said that this particular virus was hard to get rid of–it’s an established part of the human virome on this planet. It has periods of dormancy, and it can be kept in check, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to fully eradicate.
Sept recovered his strength, though.
For a little while, everything else fell away, once he was healthy again. In my cocoon, I didn’t care about the novel’s success, I didn’t worry about the AAC riots, or the collapse of the polar vortex, or the fate of krill and all the creatures that depended on it. I just focused, again, on the warmth inside our home. Naavre was growing and learning, Santi was thriving, and Sept was well.
I needed that man. I still do.