Septemus 77

last08

Dear Sept,

Tomorrow I’ll give you the box that contains all the letters I’ve written, including this one. I’ve been reading through them. Bittersweet.

Yesterday was your last day of school, and Monday morning, we’ll head to the agency office in Willow Springs to register you. You’ll be a “registered alien,” with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that entails. Our involvement in the program will be over. Believe me, I’ve got Geoffrey’s number on speed-dial, as well as the offices of our senator and local representatives, just in case we need them. I’m none-too-happy about this “registering” bit.

It felt odd looking at the first letter I wrote. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while you were sleeping, and I wanted to explain so much. I wanted to form some sort of connection between you and me, and I didn’t know how to go about it. All I could think of was to write, so that you wouldn’t have questions when you grew up.

I was such a solitary, lonely guy.

sept114

I didn’t have anybody. But then, neither did you. You were so tiny, I could have fit you in a tea-cup.

sept112

It took us a while to have each other.

There were days when I wondered if I’d ever understand you–if you’d ever understand me. Little did I know you understood me from the get-go!

Ah, this house is going to feel empty when you eventually move out on your own, son. I know that day is coming soon.

last07

You used to wake so angry! Do you remember that? That crooked frown of yours, those gangster eyes.

sept113

I never really considered you to be a child. You were never like Octy, speaking baby talk, seeking comfort and cuddles.

last06

You were speaking in complete sentences, in Vingihoplo and our shared tongue, and you had an opinion on everything.

Sometimes, when I look at you now, I see that same little man you used to be.

last05

You’ve got the same grin.

sept121

But then you start talking, explaining some esoteric insight you’ve gained, and I am overcome with your eloquence. You’re graceful, son, in gesture, word, and action.

last04

You used to feel so lonely.

I was helpless. I knew you were grieving for Situ, though I didn’t know her name then, nor even who she was nor her role in caring for you. I thought she was your mom.

You missed your pagotogo.

Even as a tiny thing, you’d taken it on yourself to be responsible for them. You wouldn’t rest, or let me rest, until we’d found them.

sept201

I read the letter where I wrote, “You won’t have to grow up a solitary kid, like I did, Sept. Not if I can help it.”

I guess you didn’t grow up solitary. These past few weeks, with all your gotogo visiting, we have been smack in the middle of family. You’ve never been happier.

last03

There was one night–you went out and looked at the stars. I think that might have been one of the first times I heard you singing to them. You slept out on the porch that night, Sept.

That was the first time it really sunk in to me how far you’d traveled to get here.

sept367

I remember the day I found the bizoopagoto forum. Did you know that Elliot, Emmanuel’s mom, was my first forum friend?

It was your first day of school. I had to bite my tongue not to blurt out the news. But after you told me all about your teacher, Ms. Care-a-lot Sweets, I told you we’d found them.

That was the biggest best smile I’d ever seen.

sept610

Since then, your smiles have become a daily thing.

That was all you’d been waiting for, wasn’t it?

last02

Son, do you remember all the hours we danced?

We danced while we waited to find your kin.

We danced when we didn’t know what else to do.

Many times, we simply danced to dance.

sept211

Septemus, my son, you’ve taught me to dance through life.

We dance with Octy now.

Soon your dance will lead you away, out into the world, and Octy and I will dance together, waiting on your return.

It’ll be different, but you’ll always be my son.

last01

Thank you for giving me family, for teaching me love, and for showing me something better to aspire to be.

Forever,

Your pops

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Septemus 50

Septeen1401

Dear son,

The fog is starting to lift, and I remember everything.

Xirra, she’s the one I spent most of the time with, had asked me, “Do you want to remember, or forget?”

“Remember!” I said. “I want to remember everything.”

And I do.

Septeen1402

They all greeted me, all twelve.

“Do you know the history of abductions?” they asked.

I didn’t. Do you? They told me everything. Abductions, not just of people of our planet, but from many planets, have been going on for generations, for centuries. The intentions haven’t been benevolent, traditionally. They’ve been mercenary.

Women were used to provide gene samples–through swabs of skin or locks of hair, mostly, so that they never knew–and the genes were spliced to create new stock.

Males were forcibly, without consent, impregnated. Most of the time, the experience was so traumatic, that the men ended up returning the child to the home planet soon after birth, and these children provided the slave labor that created the wealth of the Mainstreamers.

It’s a practice that the rebels abhor, just as much as they abhor the treatment of bizoobi.

“This is why we fight,” said Xirra. “We cannot support a culture, a society, an economy that rests on rape, slavery, and murder.”

Gotukoda in’i EO!” They all shouted.

“We want to do things another way,” Xirra said. We weren’t on the ship during this conversation–I remember this now. We were–where were we? We were someplace dark, with glowing plants. Someplace purple, with ultraviolet light. It felt like the inside of a flower.

“We are safe here,” Xirra told me. She led me to an inner room. We sat on large plants, purple, soft, like giant mushrooms, only clearly, they were not a fungus. They smelled like cotton candy.

“We want to do things differently,” she said. “That is what we are all about. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I nodded. So much information, emotional as well as historical, was passing telepathically that I felt that I knew much more than had been said. It was difficult to find words to talk, processing all that was coming in.

She took my hand. “We have been feeling the bonds within your home,” she said. “We know something of love. Do you know, for us, the love of family, of father and pagoto, mother and pagoto, the love that makes a gotukoda–a home–is as close to sacred as anything we know?”

Again, I nodded. I could believe it. It’s sacred to me, too, I tried to say, though I could only think it.

“We want to do things differently,” she said again. “Do you?”

I knew then what she meant.

Septeen1403

I found my voice. “Yes,” I said. “I want this very much.”

It was beautiful, son. It was everything that the creation of a new life should be.

Septeen1404

You are such a romantic at heart, with your crushes and your Big Loves. I know that you have wondered about me and why I have never had much to do with any of that.

I haven’t felt I’ve been missing out. I’ve had no interest. Why should I bother with something that I’m simply uninterested in, especially when that bother could lead to misunderstanding, broken hearts, and misery?

But now I know. There is something in a touch, an exchange, a breath of love that creates a new life–this is more than romance. This is love. This is what makes a family.

What Xirra and I shared during that exchange, I hope you share that with someone sometime!

The way I feel inside–the petals of the blue rose open, and what’s inside? More petals, more opening, on and on, until the edge of me dissolves and the edge of her dissolves and the rose keeps blooming, on and again.

This is what creates a new life.

Septeen1405

I am going to be a father, again.

Septeen1406

When Xirra led me out to the main room, we weren’t bashful. There was nothing secret, nothing shameful, everything sacred.

The others were sitting around low round tables, sipping tart, sweet tea that smelled like green apples, though it was deep red. They made room for us, and without talking, we sat with them.

They all began to sing then, only not out loud: inside, the way you sing to your pagotogo. I could hear them. Xirra looked at me, and I began to sing with them.

Septeen1407

What gift have I been given? I am in awe.

How is it that I came to be your father? What have you taught me? So much! You have taught me love and more. And now. This experience. This is something that I never thought that I would experience. Me, solitary me. I am solitary no more. I am surrounded with gotugo. We are all kin. I never knew this. But now I do.

Septeen1408

I’m going to have a baby!

Septeen1410

I’m going to have a baby, and this new life is the result of the most amazing, reality-altering experience I have ever had. This new life is the result of love.

Septeen1409

You are going to be an amazing big brother.

And I am…

steeped in gratitude,

Your pops

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Author’s note: Sebastion came back from his “abduction” (it felt more like a “visitation”) knowing that he was pregnant. He had all the nooboo-related thought bubbles since he arrived back home.

Septemus 47

Septeen906

Dear Sept,

You’re back from visiting your sister! I tried not to worry. I didn’t succeed. I worried.

But you came back safe.  You smelled like garlic, but you were safe.

Not every community is as friendly towards extra-terrestrials as ours is. I had no idea what you’d encounter out there. But you seemed thrilled with everything you found.

“Panda’s so adorable,” you said. “So smart, too!”

Septeen902

I had to ask about the garlic.

“It was Harmony’s doing,” you said. “Do you realize that she’s allergic to the stuff? She broke out in blisters. But she got it to keep me safe when I was travelling back home. And to keep us safe here, too.”

We’ve hung the wreath on the front porch and stored the garlands in the spice drawer. Our home smells like the cellar of an Italian deli now.

“She’s got that quality,” you said.

“What quality, son?”

“That same quality you have. The same as our bizaabgotojo. Where you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. What’s that quality called, Pops?”

Septeen903

“That’s called being a parent,” I said.

“It’s the luckiest thing,” you answered. “The luckiest thing in the universe is to have a parent.”

You’re sleeping outside tonight. You said you wanted to be out there where you could feel connected to everybody. You’re such a big kid now, nearly a man, but when I checked on you , curled up on the park bench, sleeping out under the stars so you could hook into the dreams of your pagotogo, you looked like that same little kid who was entrusted to me, over a decade ago.

Septeen905

I often wonder what’s in store for you, for your future. Lucas has been coming by often, and I’ve seen the way the two of you look at each other, and the way you carefully avoid looking at each other.

I won’t ask if there’s something going on between you. It will become clear soon enough, and I’m not one who feels comfortable talking about these types of things.

Septeen901

You’re as moody as always. Sometimes, you’ll chuckle aloud while you’re writing, as if life is the greatest thing.

Septeen910

Then an hour later, I might find you looking forlorn.

Sometimes, I ask.

“There’s a lot that’s not right in the world. And a lot that’s not right in other worlds, too,” you said. “What’s the purpose of the not-rightness? Why can’t everybody just be kind?”

Septeen904

I asked if you’d read any Buddhist texts during your forays through the school and town libraries.

You hadn’t yet. I think maybe you’re ready. I know I’ve tried to protect you from suffering and from learning about hardship, sorrow, and danger while you were growing up. And I know, too, that it’s foolish to think that someone, even a parent, can protect a growing child from that.

That’s all part of life. Sure, a parent is someone who puts the child’s needs first. A parent is someone who will do anything–make any kind of sacrifice, even his own life–for the child. A parent is someone who will do everything to protect the child.

But no parent, not even Siddhartha’s parent, can protect against suffering, illness, danger, and death. Doing so would be to try to pull the child out of life–and even if we want to do so out of our misguided love, there is no way we can pull that off.

Son, you’re going out in the world now.  It won’t be long before you come back with all sorts of tales and all sorts of questions.

I think maybe I’ll get a few of my own Buddhist paperbacks from my college days out of storage and put them on the shelf. I think you might be ready for them.

Septeen907

We’re getting to the time where your questions are the sort I can’t answer anymore.

Love you, son,

Your Pops

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Septemus 43

FiLetter101

Dear son,

If I had known this letter would cause so much grief between us, I would have left it unopened, marked it “Return to Sender,” and placed it right back in the mailbox.

First, it was odd that Geoffrey would write, rather than drop by for a conversation.

Poppy always said if a friend writes you, it’s either to deliver bad news or break a deal, or both.

“Salutations, Mr. Sevens.” 

He addressed me by last name.

Really, that’s all I needed to know. I should have returned the letter right then.

Instead, I showed it to you.

Septeen1008

“It does seem a little odd,” you said. We read it together.

Salutations, Mr. Sevens.

I have an urgent matter I need your help with. Or more correctly, your son’s help.

Let’s get straight to the point: Foundling number 42, a little girl of two, is missing. And it’s completely my fault. I can’t tell you all of the details, but as the result of a fatal computer error I delivered her to a wrong address and an entirely wrong country. Because of the isolated city-state’s strict border control I can’t apply for a new visa before three months have expired without risking the exposure of the project. Their officials are difficult to work with.

I asked you where you thought she might be. You didn’t say much. I continued reading it aloud.

Septeen911

The only bit of luck I have is that the right participant never got to the point where he found out about the child. I’ve canceled his meeting.

I left the girl at the hands of a polite young man who didn’t look shocked at all to see a Sixan at his doorstep. He signed all the papers without batting an eye, but back at the office it turned out there is no Hades Rcane in any country’s registers.

The phone number is fake, I lost the address and it’s likely that he doesn’t even live in the same place anymore. I have no idea what kind of a criminal I’ve gifted 42… I can’t bear to think of what could have happened to her.

This is where Septemus comes in. I want him to attempt contacting 42. Just the confirmation that she still lives would be enough for now.

“Would you be able to do this?” I asked.

You’d pulled out your journal and had begun writing.

Septeen908

“Keep reading,” you said. “I’m listening.”

I read on:

As the matter is highly confidential and could, if released to the public, endanger the entire program, I’ve tried to keep this information from spreading even within the Agency.  Please treat this seriously.

I am deeply sorry to burden you and Septemus with this, but there is no one else I coud turn to right now. Should you manage to find her, no words could express my gratitude.

Geoffrey Landgraab 
Head of the Family and Children Services, Program H9110

“It doesn’t sound good,” I said when I’d finished.

Septeen909

You wrote a few more lines, then closed your journal.

“First off,” you replied, “Don’t worry. But second, we’ve got to figure out what to tell Geoffrey.”

“I don’t even know if I want you involved, son,” I said. Here’s where the first conflict enters in. You say you’re already involved, and that if one of your pagotogo is in trouble, you’re obliged to help.

My obligation is to keep you safe. That’s first for me.

If this child is with a criminal, if she’s in the city-state I think she’s in, then I don’t want you involved. Period.

FiLetter104

You said you were already involved. But that didn’t matter: what mattered was what we told Geoffrey.

You reminded me of my obligation to Geoffrey. Frankly, I don’t have an obligation to him, or at least, not to him as the head of Family and Children Services. My obligations to him are the obligations of a friend, but if he writes to me in official capacity, as the head of a program, I have no obligation. I’m a participant in H9110, but that doesn’t oblige me to help out the head of the program. Besides, Geoffrey never disclosed to me in our conversations that he was in charge of the day-to-day operations of H9110. He said he was influential with policy, but that’s a lot different than getting involved with the placement of children. As far as I can tell, the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and that makes me not trust it.

You reminded me of my obligation, as a father of a bizoopagoto, to help all other bizoopagotogo.

“Is she bizoo?” I asked.

“I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to say,” you replied. You closed your eyes and listened.

FiLetter103

You know things. I asked you, right then, point blank, if you were in touch with her. I can tell that you are and that you were singing to her and listening to her right then. I’ve come to recognize that look.

“Here’s the thing,” you said at last. “What’s most important? Love is most important. For all of us, with what we’ve been through, if we love and are loved back, that will be enough. With that, we can get through anything. Danger. Hardship. You name it. But if you take that away, we won’t make it. We’d crumble.”

“Is she loved then?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided what I’m telling yet,” you said.

I took a break and made a batch of cookies.

You started singing:

“I like pancakes, too.
E inna-inna O.
O inna-inna E.

“Now you’ve got two
I’ve got one who cares for me.

“Apples in the tree
O inna-inna E.
E inna-inna O.”

FiLetter102

We left the topic and went about our evening.

We both needed time to think.

The next day, when we were working on the rocket, seemed to me like a good time to bring it up again. Why didn’t you want to talk about it then? I know you said you wanted us to concentrate on what we were doing, and I know that’s a good idea. But I thought that, with the rocket between us, it might have been easier to talk about difficult things.

septteen511

The problem with this muddle is that it doesn’t seem to be getting better as time passes.

“Let’s just talk,” I said. “Let’s just be straight between the two of us, and then we can take it from there. We can decide together.”

“It’s not easy,” you said. “What if I tell you something, and then you feel you’ve got to report it back, and then it all gets messed up from there? It would be my fault.”

septteen401

It took me a long time to figure out what was bothering you. It seemed so muddled to me. What it came down to was that you were worried I would feel compelled to report back to Geoffrey what I found out–if, hypothetically, it turned out the that child was in danger.

I tried to assure you that I would respect your wishes. That I would trust you.

But I realized that you’re right. You know me too well. While it’s true that I don’t have an obligation to Geoffrey, I do feel obliged to do what’s right. And if the child’s well-being is jeopardized, I would feel obliged to let Geoffrey know so he could do something.

You are right. That’s what I’d do.

septteen402

You told me you’d reached your decision, too.

I know you feel that emotional bonds–that healthy attachment–is the foremost thing of value. “Love is the most important,” you’ve been telling me.

Love is important, son. Of course it is. But so is safety of life and limb. So is having enough to eat and a warm roof over one’s head. Being secure is also important to a little one.

You tell me there’s no security like being loved. That’s what keeps the spirit strong.

“For a bizoo, especially,” you said, “strength in spirit is everything.”

septteen403

So you’ve made your decision not to tell me what you know. You won’t even admit that you’re in contact with her. You won’t let me know if she’s safe or in danger.

All you say is that you’re protecting what is most important.

You’re asking me to trust that you’re doing what you feel is right.

septteen404

I guess that’s a brave thing to do, son, and a sign that you’re growing up. Knowing that what I feel is right and what you feel is right might not align, you are sticking to your right. That’s the best thing a good man can do. And by keeping what you know to yourself, you feel you’re protecting me from having to choose between my ethics and my trust in you.

But son, that’s a heavy burden for you to carry. I wish you could trust in what I think is right and be satisfied with leaning on your father.

But you’re getting too old to let anyone else make your decisions now, aren’t you?

Know this, son: Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye, I know you always do what is true for you.

With respect,

Your pops

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Author’s Notes: Geoffrey’s letter was written by @For_Eorzea/Summonerd. Foundling number 42 is Fi, and her story can be found at SMNerd Writes.

Also: just made a minor edit on Sept. 24 to account for a consistency lapse regarding Sebastion’s knowledge of the extent of Geoffrey’s involvement with the agency. Thanks much for pointing this out, @For_Eorzea!

I really appreciate and value editorial help from readers: Please don’t hesitate to point out typos, mistakes with Vingihoplo, missing possessive apostrophes (What? No!), or errors in consistency! I value every opportunity to correct the text! 🙂

Septemus 38

septteen515

Dear Sept,

I felt so strange the next day after that dream, as if I weren’t all there. While you were at school, I painted. I have no idea where this composition came from–three fish, swimming through space. These were no ordinary koi. These are cosmic koi.

I felt drawn to the blackness of space.

I had to go inside and sit down. I felt so strange.

septteen601

What could it be? Why could I only remember fragments of that dream?

A few years back, Brio sent me a letter. I looked through the folder on the computer where I save all my correspondence. There it was.

“I know for a fact that me carrying my children had to do with those hours I cannot recall…”

Those hours I cannot recall…

Why can’t I remember all of my dream? I was still trying to reconnect with that dream experience when you came home from your study session at the library.

“Son,” I asked, “do you ever have dreams you can’t recall?”

“I forget them in the everyday,” you answered, “but on some level, their traces remain with me always. What’s up, Pops?”

“I feel odd, son,” I confessed.

septteen605

“Let me see you, Pops.”

I stood before you. What came next can only be described as the sensation of a total and complete body scan. It wasn’t unpleasant. It tickled. But it felt like blue rose petals, and it brought me back to myself.

septteen610

“You’re OK, Pops!” you said. “You’re fine. You’ve just had your first extra-terrestrial experience, that’s all!”

“Oh, man. What do you mean?”

“That dream? That was no dream!” you said. “You met my peoples!”

septteen611

“How can you be sure?”

You launched into a long, detailed explanation about the storage of memory within the consciousness of cells.

“Nothing’s ever lost, Pops. If it happens, it’s there somewhere.”

“But what about dreams? Maybe the cells were storing dream-experience?”

“Nope. Dream-memories taste different. This was my folks, Pops.”

“What’s the purpose? There’s got to be some reason for this, right? It’s not just some random act.”

“Well,” you said, “I suppose it has something to do with me. They want a connection to the person I’m most connected to, which would be you. They like you, Pops. In fact, one of the data-pieces I picked up in your cells contains a very specific coded message.”

“And that message would be?”

“You’re to expect a very special delivery,” you reported.

septteen612

A few evenings later, it arrived. We heard a whirring noise, and when we went out to look, we found a pile of crates sitting on a tiny square of tarmac.

“This is it, Pops!” you said. “Our very own rocket-kit! Straight from the Far Star!”

septteen501

I guess maybe your folks thought we needed another father-son project.

Looking forward to doing some building with you, son.

–Your pops

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Author’s Notes: What… you were expecting a different sort of delivery? So was I!

Many thanks to Kira for writing Brio’s letter! You can find Brio and his family’s story at KK’s Sims Stories.

Wonder 57

It’s true what they say about healing and time. I made it through the day. Tanner came home from school. Then I made it through the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that, and pretty soon, when Tanner headed into school, I headed into the clinic. We rode the ferry together each morning.

Slowly, a steady routine, my cheerful, quirky son, and the persistent beauty of the sunlight on the bay every morning, every evening, bore through the grief.

My heart still aches. That pit called loss still opens up before me now and again, usually when I least expect it. But I’m no longer stone inside, and I can smile.

Tanner brought home a school project. It’s for extra credit. He’s such a smart kid, but he’s having a tough time at school. He can’t get his grade up over a C.

wonder5701

I don’t understand it. His teacher referred him to the counselor, who referred him to a psychologist, who gave him an IQ test. “His scores are off the charts,” the psychologist reported back. They enrolled him in the gifted program. He still kept bringing home Cs.

I’m not worried. I know life is more than a letter grade, and not all forms of intelligence fit into a classroom with desks arranged in little rows. I’ve been thinking of transferring him to the Open School in Windenburg, but he says he wants to stay in his school with his friends.

“Teacher says if I do good on this project I’ll get a good grade,” he said. “Will you help?”

Of course! Working on a project with my boy? What could be better!

We set it up in the meadow at the side of the house.

“It’s supposed to be a castle,” Tanner said.

“So,” I replied. “We are making a castle out of air!”

wonder5702

“No,” he said. “We’ve got stuff.”

I looked at the little jars of paint, the dowels, the stacks of styromfoam, the glue gun, and an adorable little vice. “All of this was in that box?”

He nodded.

“No wonder it was so heavy!”

“You know? I think I’ve got a circuit board. What if we made an electric draw-bridge that went up and down when you pushed a button?”

“Could we?” he asked. “That’d be so great!”

wonder5703

I brought out the stuff we needed.

“So, it should be the kind of thing that I can push the button even if I’m across the room. Can we do that?” he asked.

wonder5706

I thought we could.

“You’re the best dad!” he said.

wonder5704

I don’t know if it was the concentrating on getting the circuitry to work or seeing how happy and excited Tanner was, or just doing a project together in the sunny meadow. but I suddenly realized that I was happy. Genuinely, positively happy.

wonder5705

We had a blast. The first circuit board I rigged up exploded! We had clouds of instant paper mache dust.

“This is great!” Tanner said. “Can we do it again?”

wonder5708

I said that big explosions weren’t really historically accurate, and then Tanner started talking about big giant dragon farts, and, even though it was so stupid, I couldn’t stop laughing.

wonder5709

Eventually, as the sun was getting lower, we got down to the business of constructing the thing.

“OK,” Tanner said. “We gotta do good. Like really pay attention to every detail. No extra glue drips, OK? Like Super-Tastic-Builders!”

wonder5710

So that’s what we were, The Super-Tastic Construction Crew.

I’ve got to admit: the castle looked great when we finished, and the drawbridge really worked–no explosions!

Tanner said we should celebrate with a song. So we made one up on the spot, complete with a dance.

wonder5711

Super-Tastic One!

Super-Tastic Two!

wonder5712

Super-Tastic Me!

Super-Tastic You!

wonder5713

I’ll check the wind, and

you check the rain, and

wonder5714

And when we’re done, 

We’ll do it over again!

“And watch out for dragon farts!” Tanner said.

wonder5715

Oh, man. It feels great to laugh again, in a wide meadow, with the sun setting, and the mockingbird singing, and my boy joking.

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Author’s note: Oh, look! Wonder is back! For new readers who’ve come to this blog in the past year, this story follows Charlie Rocca Cups, a wonder child, now grown up. He’s recently adopted a son, Tanner. He’s also recently moved through a tough season of grief, as good friends, his aunt, his mom, and his father have passed on in a short span of time. And for readers who’ve been around longer, I hope you remember Charlie! It feels great for me–and for Charlie–to be rediscovering how bright life can be when grief’s shadows begin to recede.

First Letter to Brio

sept2728

Dear Brio,

I have a feeling you’re going to be surprised to hear from me. Not that you know who I am–just that I’m writing. You see, I joined the pen pal project in order to get in touch with you.

I’m not a stalker. No. It’s that your kids asked me to write. You see, I belong to an online community for a group of people who are part of a government program. It’s a special program to give homes to kids who need them. Most of us have some kind of experience in education or working with children.

The kids we’ve adopted are a lot like your kids. And your kids, Sirius and Vega, in looking for children like them, came across an online forum we’ve started. I guess our security isn’t as good as I thought–either that, or Vega is a skilled hacker. The end result is that your kids got into our forum, saw us talking about our extraterrestrial kids, and then they emailed me.

They sent me a link to your Pen Pal Project profile.

I must admit: I was very surprised by it.

sept2725

You’ve got six kids? And, though you’re a dad, you carried them? And did this have anything to do with those hours you can’t remember?

Well, I have a lot more questions, but I feel it’s rude for me to ask them before we’ve even met. Your kids sound really well-adjusted and happy, so it seems like your life is working out well now. I’m glad about that.

I guess I should tell you a bit about me.

I was trained to be a children’s librarian. I work at home, though, as a writer, painter, and dad. It’s a far better life than I could have ever dreamed up.

sept2726

My boy, Septemus, amazes me. I don’t mean this in a prideful way, for none of it is from me–it’s all him. Well, your kids seem amazing, too, so you probably know what I mean.

We do a lot of typical Dad-Son things. We dance.

sept2702

We enjoy our favorite meals. Right now, Septemus loves tofu tacos, and I’m on a taco casserole kick.

He calls us the Taco Kids.

sept2724

I don’t always know what to make of the things he says.

He started talking about black holes this evening and how they have the capacity to devour entire solar systems.

“Where do you suppose a civilization goes when the black hole eats it?” he asked. “Like for example, what happens to the library books?”

How do you answer a question like that?

sept2723

I think it’s going to be good for me to be able to talk to another parent who’s been there. I hope that you’ll accept me as a pen pal, and that you don’t think it’s too presumptuous for me to write you or that you’re bothered by your kids getting in touch with me.

I’m counting it as a blessing, myself. I’ve got a feeling you might be able to help with some of the answers I seek. And at any rate, I could use another dad’s advice.

sept2727

Here’s hoping you’ll write back,

Sebastion Sevens

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Septemus 24

sept2403

Dear Sept,

We had another visit from Geoffrey, checking in to see how you’re doing.

I was happy to report that you are doing great.

I’m having fun watching you explore your world. At this stage, you’re beginning to think about future careers. I guess going to school has you thinking that way, all those questions about what you want to do “when you grow up.”

First, I’m telling you never to grow up. Just grow. Keep your openness and passion for exploration all your life.

I trust you will. It seems to be your nature.

Most of your playtime, these days, centers around trying on different careers.

Sometimes, you play doctor. I find the doll a little creepy, personally, with those weird, staring eyes, but you seem to love your little patient, and you tend to him with gentle care.

sept2603

Then you put away the doctor set, and you tell me you’re off to explore space.

sept2601

But first you have to build the rocket.

sept2602

It’s taking us a while to get this rocket finished. I’ve been reading the instructions. Most of it, we can’t make heads-or-tails out of.

“If I just look, I can figure it out,” you told me, holding up the measuring stick against a coil.

I took a shot at it after you headed in to do your homework.

sept2401

We haven’t finished it yet, but we’re persistent. I guess having a project that takes more than a day–or maybe even more than a week–to finish develops patience. Not a bad quality to have.

When our brains are tired from looking at schemata, we still find that playing dolls is the most relaxing.

“I think really, of all of the choices there might be, this is it,” you told me.

sept2402

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Choices for what?”

“What I do when I grow up,” you said.

“You want to play with dolls?”

You laughed. “No, silly!” you said. “Be a dad!”

Aw, son. That means that when I grow up, I get to be a granddad. Good choice.

Your pops,

Sebastion

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Septemus 20

sept809

Dear Sept,

I’ve decided I’ll wait until you’re a young man to share these letters with you. You’re already reading, so, technically, I could share them with you now.

But I want to be able to write some of the difficult things that it could be useful for you to know later. Right now is not the time for you to be aware of certain challenges.

You have this idea that the world is safe. Maybe I’m wrong for wanting to nurture and protect that view. Maybe it would be better if you knew now about all the threats and dangers.

But you believe that everyone is as kind and loving as Miko and that the world is as safe as your playground.

I grew up in a different world. My dad was in a war. He came home, but he died from the wounds. They weren’t wounds you could see. They were inside, in the mind. My mom died from an overdose. As safe as Nonny and Poppy tried to keep me, I knew in my bones this was not a safe world.

It’s different for you, and I want to keep it that way as long as we can.  For you, peace is as common as cherry-blossom petals on the river walk.

You told me about meeting Salim.

“He’s got a good name,” you said, after he introduced himself. “You know what I told him my name was?”

sept805

“Seventy-seven?” I guessed.

You laughed. “Nope! Sintuliyu!”

“Peace?” I asked.

“Sure! Because Salim, peace! So my name should be the same!”

sept804

Right now, I’m working to protect you from being tested.

I found out about the testing program through a grad student. She was watching you playing in the park next door, and then she approached me.

She asked about your scores.

sept814

When I asked what she meant, she explained that her professor had been telling her class about off-the-charts IQ scores of alien kids. “He asked for volunteers to help out with the testing project. They’re studying the DNA of the xeno-kids’ brain cells to see what accounts for the rapid learning. If you want, I could set up an appointment for your kid to be tested!”

I told her thanks, but no thanks.

I recalled a conversation I had with Geoffrey back when you were a little tyke. I don’t know if you know it, but Geoffrey’s the director of the department that oversees the agency.

He had stopped by to check on you.

“How’s the little guy getting on?” he asked.

sept356

I wasn’t to keen on divulging any details. Up to this point, the agency had been anything but helpful. When I’d been searching for your siblings, they kept strict silence.

It didn’t build trust.

sept358

Geoffrey chatted. He told me about his family, a wife, two sons, one of whom was estranged, and the other was trouble. But I could see how much he loved them.

He talked a lot about family.

“We respect kin,” he said. “Well, at least I do. And as long as I’m head of Family and Children Services, I aim to protect the rights of parents, guardians, and kids. That’s why we never give out the info about those in the program,” he said.

I felt better. I guess that’s when I started to trust him.

sept359

“Your boy is your boy,” he said. “He’s your son, just as much as if he were born from you. And you’re the one with the parental rights. He belongs to you, not the agency. You’ve got my word on that. You remember that, if anybody tries to tell you any different.”

I felt a weight lift off. I know I’d signed all the papers of guardianship, and I kept my copies where I could access them any time. But it felt good to hear it from the man who was in charge of the department that oversaw the agency.

I remember Geoffrey’s chuckle and feeling a rush of warmth and gratitude.

sept357

So when that grad student told me about the testing program, I took another look at those papers, reading the fine print to see how far my rights extended.

It was a good thing, for a few days later, the professor himself showed up.

“I’m looking for Number 77,” he said.

“Um, this is 542 E. Magnolia Park Boulevard,” I answered.

sept803

“I’m referring to the young xeno-child playing in your front yard,” he said. “Isn’t that Number 77?”

I asked him to leave.

“I think I’ll talk to the child first,” he said.

“That’s my son,” I replied.

I followed him out to where you were playing at the dollhouse.

“How would you like to come and play some games in a big room full of them?” he asked. “Do you like puzzles?”

You looked at him without saying a word, but I could clearly see a big, empty room, with all the lights out, and Professor Goth sitting alone in a dark corner.

sept802

“My son is staying here,” I said, walking Professor Goth to the corner. “He won’t be participating in any testing projects. You don’t have parental consent.”

“That’s not in his best interest,” Dr. Goth said.

“He and I will decide what his best interests are,” I answered.

“I’ll keep in touch,” he said, “in case you reconsider.” He pulled out a pamphlet from his jacket pocket and attempted to hand it to me. I took a glance at the lettering on the cover: WISC-V Rankings of Xeno-children: Discovering a Different Intelligence.

I called Geoffrey’s office the next day. He affirmed it was within my rights to refuse any testing, treatments, or research projects.

“Don’t worry about Mortimer,” he laughed. “We’re old buds! He wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

And he won’t. He won’t hurt even a fly, as long as I’m around. I’m keeping this world safe for you, as long as I can, Sept.

–Your pops.

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Septemus 16

sept701

Dear Sept,

Today, everything is right.

You’ve been smiling all afternoon.

sept702

I told you about some of the bizaabgotojoto I’d met at the forums and their bizoopagotogo.

“They’re all really nice,” I said. “One of the little guys only likes chicken nuggets! You want to try chicken nuggets sometime?”

“Ah, it depends,” you replied. “What’s it made out of?”

“Chickens.”

“Uh, no thank you. I’ll have mine made out of faux.”

“Faux?” I asked.

sept704

“Yeah!” you replied. “To-faux!”

You’ve got a good sense of humor when you’re happy, Sept.

sept705

“What do they have to kill to make tofu, anyway?” you asked.

“Kill?” I replied. “Nothing. It’s made of soybeans.”

“Oh,” you said. “So they kill beans.”

sept703

I guess you have a point. I’d never stopped to think about it, but all the soybeans that go into making tofu are, in a sense, killed. They’re cooked. They’re not allowed to sprout and grow into the plants that they have the potential to grow into.

“Dang,” I said. “Here I thought I was making the ethical choice.”

“Sebastion, it’s OK. Don’tfeelbadSebastionwhenyoueatthetofu–”

“Spaces, Septemus.”

“Don’t feel bad because what would have been the cute little bean sprout is now part of you. Andyou’reverycutetooSebastion. It’s just transfer of cute.”

Aye, little bug. You keep me thinking. Now I’m going to have to think about transference of energy and the global footprint of growing soybeans, and where do the ones that go into the tofu we buy grow, and how are they grown, and maybe, if it all comes down to energy transference, we should go ahead and eat chicken nuggets, anyway. Or even real BLT.

I was thinking all of that while I was washing the dishes, and then when I turned off the faucet, I heard you singing from the other room.

It was that same haunting song you’d sung a few days before:

“It’s empty.
It’s empty.
It’s all gone and black and empty.

“When the sun is not the sun
and Night sucks all the light
and then the little ones are gone
And it’s all gone and

“It’s empty.
It’s empty.
It’s all gone and black and empty.”

sept706

I looked in on you, to make sure you were feeling OK. You looked wistful, but you didn’t look sad.

I thought of the songs we sang as little kids. London Bridge falling down. Pockets of poseys, ashes, and we all fall down. Old women who live in shoes and children who starve. Horrid, wretched memories of our collective history of war, fire, starvation, abuse–entire torrents of cultural trauma–turned into songs for little children–for what reason? To inure us to the horrors of our past? And does this song fill that same function for you? Do you have, in the memory of your DNA, the recorded experience of seeing a black hole suck up the sun?

So much of you–who you are, and what you’re doing here–still remains a mystery.

You were calm and peaceful when you finished singing.

“Sebastion, can I read to you?” you asked.

Of course I said yes. You pulled out your school workbook. You read. You forgot to speak aloud the words you were reading, but I heard them all the same. It was a story about Steven Hawking, “who was born 300 years after the death of Galileo.”

sept707

At this same moment, I realized, 99 other little tykes, each one a mystery, fill their bizaabgotojoto with wonder.

Now that I’ve finished this letter, I’m heading back to the forums. I’ve got to see what all these other parents are thinking.

Sleep well, moon-munchkin. Your siblings are sleeping, too.

Your pops,

Sebastion

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