Beelo slowly opened his eyes. He sat up and noticed his blanket was on the floor and his pillow was drenched with sweat. It had not been a restful night. Short periods of fitful sleep were interrupted with nightmares. When he wasn’t asleep, Beelo had lain awake, afraid to fall asleep and be vulnerable to another terrible vision.
Now, it was morning and time to face what horror today brought.
Beelo swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He sat there with his elbows ons his knees and his face in his hands. He took a few deep breaths and considered climbing back into bed. He heard a rustle of fabric and a groan from the next bed. Beelo felt some relief that his little brother was not effected by his restless night.
Beelo rose, put on his clothes, and left the bedroom. He used the wall to steady himself on the way down the spiral staircase that led to the living room. As he padded down the last few steps, he could hear his parents talking.
“Are you sure it won’t be too much,” Beerok asked.
“He needs to see,” Naru answered. “When he sees that they are just another animal, he will be able to make sense of it.”
Beelo’s mother was methodical. Her scientific mind applied logic and order to the world around her. The Téchni marveled at the beauty and complexity of Naru’s glass and metalwork, but most did not realize the patterns were based on mathematic principals and their relative geometric shapes.
Beelo’s father was curious and creative. Beerok loved to find out how things worked and to improve them. His inventions were often created by copying something found in nature and adapting it to solve a problem in the village.
Naru and Beerok were polar opposites in may ways, but their differences complemented each other. What one lacked, the other had in abundance. However, these differences often led to heated conversations and disagreements. Beelo had never seen his parents fight, but their voices carried up the stairs when passions were high. Eventually, the heat would die down. An agreement or compromise would be reached and the couple would head to their bedroom to take part in other passionate endeavors.
“He was so shaken,” Beerok continued. “I am afraid of making it worse.”
Beelo peered around the wall at the bottom step and saw his mother approach her husband. Beelo watched as she put her hand on the side of his head and stroked his eyebrow with her thumb. She kissed him gently on the forehead.
“I know,” Baru said. “You are trying to protect him. If we could keep him sheltered in this tree his whole life and never make him face the darker aspects of life in this forest, that would be amazing.”
Naru sat next to her husband and he looked her in the eye. Beelo could see the fear in his father’s face. Beelo could also see the determination in his mother’s eyes.
Naru took a deep breath and continued, “He doesn’t need to be sheltered. He needs to be prepared. What he saw yesterday was distant, surreal, and terrifying. What he sees today will be up close, logical, and reassuring.”
Beelo watched as the fear melted from Beerok’s face and his mouth set into a grim smile.
“You’re right,” admitted Beerok. “As usual.”
Beelo walked into the living room and his parents turned to him. They both smiled. Beelo already felt better.
After breakfast, Beelo and Naru made ready to leave. Beelo didn’t know where they were going, but they did not pack any food or gear. Naru picked up a small bag near the threshold put the strap over her shoulder so it rested on her back. Beerok pulled the latches and Baro pushed the door open. The four hugged each other and Beelo waved goodbye to his father and brother before he followed Naru down to the forest floor.
Naru waited for Beelo on the soft moss that surrounded their doma. She stood straight and the wind tossed her hair around her shoulders. Her green eyes shone in the morning sun. She looked at her son and her mouth curled slightly into a mischievous half smile. For many years after, this is how Beelo would remember his mother.
“Let’s go,” she said.
Beelo and Naru walked towards the center of the Téchni village. It was a short walk. The cool air and misty sunshine cleared Beelo’s head. He felt much better by they time they arrived.
There were no domas here, only open air shelters. Many held benches, tables, and fireplaces for cooking and working. Some shelters were built around equipment used to manufacture or repair.
It was still early, so nobody was about. Later in the morning, some of these shelters would be busy with young Téchni receiving lessons from older adults. The children learned everything from their elders. Education in language, biology, mathematics, and art laid the foundations on which the children would rely when they became adults and had to take care of their own family and provide for the village.
Naru led Beelo away from the village center, to the north. They passed the doma where one of Beelo’s friends lived. Beelo looked up towards the door in hope he could see her, but the door was closed and hidden by the curtain of moss.
Naru walked past what Beelo thought was the last doma in this direction. They continued farther north than Beelo had ever been. The northern forest grew thick with brambles and shrubs between the trees. Beelo followed Naru as she led him down a meandering path. It was barely more than a game trail and the thorny vegetation on either side threatened to cover it up forever.
After one final turn, Naru stopped and looked up. Beelo stood next to his mother and his eyes widened with awe. Before him stood the largest doma tree he had ever seen. It was easily twice as big as the one in which his family lived. High above the ground, Beelo could see where the trunks of the four composite trees had separated. Each trunk leaned away from each other. Beelo noticed they pointed to each of the cardinal directions.
Naru raised her hands to her mouth an cupped them into a megaphone. She whistled into her cupped hands. The piercing tone was so loud, Beelo clapped a hand over his left ear in pain. The whistle echoed off of the trunks of distant trees and a flight of birds were startled from a nearby bush.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
Beelo spun around in surprise. The voice came from an elderly Téchni who Beelo had never seen before. The old man’s back was bent slightly but he was sturdy on his feet and had no cane or crutch. Beelo figured the old man would be taller than Beerok if he stood up straight. The man’s skin was a deep brown and his face was wrinkled. It reminded Beelo how fingers looked when one has spent too much time in the bathtub.
“I heard you coming almost ten minutes ago,” the old man said with irritation in his voice.
Naru walked up to the old man and wrapped her arms around him. He looked annoyed, but he took a moment to pat Naru on the back before pushing her away.
“Okay, okay,” the old man said.
The wizened Téchni squinted and peered at Beelo. His gray eyes almost disappeared into the wrinkled, brown skin.
“He looks like his father,” said the man. “Poor kid.”
Naru threw a half-hearted punch at the old mans shoulder. He took it with a scowl and grunted.
“Beelo,” Naru said. “Meet my uncle Ona.”