The Best of the Mage (Page 64)


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The Best of the Mage (Page 64)


Science Fiction


This page describes the end story of Message Intercepted On Hyperspatial Frequency by Wade Tarzia.


Rizky Suwoto


The Best of the Mage (Number 8, Fall 1987)


Colgate University Student Association


Fall 1987


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The Mage#6, Winter 1987






Science Fiction

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the world throws sand in their faces. Truly, the humans on Rasshah Foren are not saints, for sometimes they fight each other for what is lacking-It was here that I learned for the first time the value of life when I saw it taken. But more often they share-for did not they learn that lesson long ago?-although they scratch for food on their knees, grubbing in the earth, where most things edible grow in the deep protection. Sometimes they plant seeds and return to them later. Perhaps the food will have grown; perhaps not, if the other inhabitants ofRasshah have found it. Then they laugh and salute those more clever than themselves. Strange folk. Stranger still are their rites of joy. They celebrate when a man and woman marry, yet one among them steals out into the wastes upwind and blows a funeral hom to remind the joyous couple where they are. I wondered at this, but one among them said she would hear it but once-for she would not hear after she died, which proved the gods had mercy. One day I squatted in a low tent and listened to the howl outside. There had been days of hard work, and we now rested in the ยท calm. The sun had died an hour before, although traces of fire gave the drear horizon-line a tinge of purple. We shared a simple meal. I dozed, then awoke to a low chanting. A wizened old woman was telling tales to the children. After a while some of the adults recovered from their exhausted slump and listened, rubbing grit from their eyes. Some attained that ultimate of victories-an attentive recline against the humming leather tent-walls, then participation until the entire tentfamily had become a troupe of
actors. I could only take and not give the timeless magic of songs that reached forward with loving embraces from old Death' s realm to support its living children. Here, I suddenly knew, was a humanity we lost on Earth-and when we lost it, a bit of much sought immortality went with it. The woman tired and lay back. She watched her children and grandchildren continue what she had started. She died that night, but her seeds sprouted in my mind, reaching deep roots within it. We left her body to Sarth, whose only promise had been to cover the traces of man and woman. As I looked out over the grey plains, I saw how empty this wasted planet was, and how these poor people filled it up. As I've heard them say, "Out of nothing, wonders must come." Life on Ras-shah Foren is hardship, but the secret of living is there-in the suffering of the old ones with teeth lost to the grinding grit of the wastes, in the toothless smiles that come anyway, in the old songs and lurching wind-ships that race the gale, and in the distillation of the smallest thing of worth into a rare wine. Now at the end of my explanation, I see that I was overconfident. I really have no words to tell you why I fled fair Terra to live where the elements weathered humans into the soil and erase the mark of their tread. Dear friend, I am no poet, and I would have to be one to explain this paradox. I sit in the entrance of my starship and record this message, soon to send it on, then leave the vessel to the elements. The sand bites my flesh, and I see the dark mound of a storm climbing over a line of hills-as they say here,
"God peers over the edge of the world; salute him and run!" Thus my companions call for me impatiently as the sails snap and the wheels rock against their blocks. That excuse I owe you, by these grim gods, begs to leap from the dock of my tongue and sail forth! No time, none! But hear this: I have learned how to fear the wind, and dig for a vein of water beneath the course gravel. The shas' hyah plant bites the fmgers, but its root is sweet. You loosen the cords of the mast so they will not snap in the gale, and grease the axles with the fat of the Lar. I have learned to listen for the wind whistling through the snake-like branches of the thama trees, which can rip a wind-ship to pieces. And here and now, I have recovered the vision of the gentle home we once shared, my friend, the one I love now more than ever. The answer is that to love paradise one has to leave it. And fragments of paradise are lodged out in the world, here and there, in unlikely places. Strange are the days of life! Listen! In the season ofF orsna the winds relax, and then there is time to tell stories around the fire. I will tell mine--of gentle winds that roll from softly blanketed hills where nothing bites, of a friend who might find me someday at Ras-shah Foren System, Galactic Standard coordinates 283.3839 mark 293.4840 mark 005.5839, where the S' hra clan and I wander the wastes. Half of mine is yours: a pure drink from my water-bag, my place before you in the storm, my comer at the hearth. (* * * INITIATE-H-MS SEQUENCE/TARGET VERIFIED/ END MESSAGE * * *)

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