My capsule is not metallic white or plastic blue. My capsule is not made of synthesized materials, nor is it surrounded by a human facility full of expensive machinery and even more expensive brains.
My capsule is to be leaf-green. It is to be filled with the purpose of the Sky.
I was born to the Sky, born to its purpose. I was born to be a crusader-and I am sacrificing an eternity to this capsule, so I can become one.
Because that’s how long I’ll be in there. An eternity.
I’ve worked hard and traveled far to get here.
But now that I have…
“You won’t feel a thing.” The Bäume tell me, laughing. “It’ll be over like a decade.”
The Bäume, with their ancient blood, don’t know how long that can be. How many times my heart can beat in a decade-how many different dances you can learn from the Trava that live close to the ground. How many different ways there are to taste the Blätter and trace pictures together with the childish Modder and
Kelebek. Kelebek, look at me. Says the brilliant, wide blue Sky. Look at me.
Did you know that the Sky has a marvelous voice? Did you know that it is unlike all the other voices?
My skin sings at the thought of the Sky, at the Sky wanting me.
But I don’t look up.
You humans think it’s so easy. To leave behind every good thing you know, to walk into a tiny space and settle there, to forget about yourself, to lose yourself and transform.
All for the sake of your mission. For the sake of the Sky.
You humans think it’s so easy.
But our kind can be greedy, too. Our kind can be selfish. I have only so long to live and the capsule will take an eternity-sized bite out of that time. My time.
“You could stay down here with us.” Say the Trava, shrugging their shoulders, bumping into me and smirking. “You don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to.”
I and my three companions have trekked across the wood from the day we were born, in search of the one who stands before us now, the oldest of Bäume. She has agreed to host us during our stasis. As we walk up to greet her, the creatures of the wood part to let us through-the fiery, red Seangain march like a guard alongside us, fierce and beautiful and proud. It’s almost like what you humans would describe as a red carpet walk-only better.
It is, after all, a ceremony. A celebration.
Accordingly, my sticky green limbs are dripping rivers of sweat.
“The Trava are right, you know. You could stay.” The Modder whisper, a million tiny voices. “It’s been fun down here with us, eh?”
“Come on, Kelebek,” Says Shaqiq, the bravest of my brothers and companions, already at the foot of the venerable Baum. “We’ve come this far.”
“He doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t want to.” Retort the Modder, caressing my feet with a motherly air. “It’s frightening. It’s hard. Perhaps this responsibility is too much for you, little Kelebek. It’s all right.”
“We were chosen for this, Modder.” Shaqiq scolds the ancient ones, shamelessly. “We were trained, raised, practically made for this.” He looks at me. “What will we do, Kelebek, if not this?”
Look at me. Says the savage Sky. Look at me, Kelebek.
The Sky has a marvelous voice-the Sky has my favorite voice, warmer than the brown Modder, wilder than the Bäume, more frightening than the six-legged Seangain, more loving than Shaqiq.
Don’t you want your wings?
I imagine staying up there, on the limbs of the great She-Baum, dangling from a single strand in a fragile, tiny cell, slowly coming undone over years, years, years...
A tiny green Trava, still clinging to his brothers for support, asks. “Why do they have to go up there?”
“They’re the Sky’s crusaders, Small One.” Smiles the venerable Baum. “Like the golden Bienen. Except they must first form themselves on the ground.”
“Only the Sky knows.” Grins Shaqiq. “Maybe he just wants us to work harder.”
“How else would you earn such beautiful wings?” Says the old Baum.
“Our wings are to be beautiful?” My voice comes out small, too small.
Shaqiq’s eyes glow.
“Marvelous.” Says the Baum.
“Arguably the most beautiful wings under the Sky.” Says another, taller Baum, though not so ancient as the Venerable One.
Don’t you want your wings? The Sky laughs.
Shaqiq takes my hand. We walk together, surrounded by the creatures of the wood, up the Baum’s tall limbs as the Modder and the Bäume sing our story.
“They are born to travel
Only stopping to eat
Only stopping to drink
Called forth and guided
By the Sky.
Between the Sky and Earth
They are called to roam
For without them
Without their mission
The Earth would perish.
It is they who nourish
They who keep
The smallest of those rooted
In the Modder and the stones.”
The humming, thrumming voices of the wood fill me with something, with a warmth that feels like courage. Shaqiq lets go of my hand to start climbing up the great She-Baum. I swallow.
My limbs tremble as they cling to the great Baum-my skin seems to stick to me and drag me down. My skin, I know, belongs on the ground.
“Come on, Kelebek!” Calls Shaqiq.
Maybe I’ll go down-just for a bite of food. I’ll need the energy for the stasis. Shaqiq can’t stop me now, because he’s climbing up the Baum.
“You’ve already eaten all you can fit in your funny green self, Kelebek!” Shaqiq calls down, as if he can read my mind.
I’m so scared I might faint and fall off the Baum. I look up, looking for the Sky, but the thousand limbs of the great She-Baum block it out. I try to breathe. The song of the wood swells around me and it no longer speaks courage, just a heavy responsibility, not worth entering the capsule for.
No, no, no, no.
Don’t you want your wings? The voice of the Sky seems like a distant melody, nothing but a mad creature’s dream. The Sky could never want me-could never need me. No one would need such a scaredy thing, let alone the marvelous Sky.
I can’t see the Sky.
Shaqiq is far above me, he wouldn’t hear me if I called for him.
I start climbing up like I’m possessed-my body drags me down, every inch hurts, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t see the Sky.
“Shaqiq.” I whisper, knowing he can’t hear me. It’s all I have breath for. “Shaqiq, help me. Great She-Baum, please help me. Great She-Baum, I’m scared, it hurts, I’m scared.”
And perhaps the She-Baum did suddenly shrink. Because I drag myself over the top of one of its limbs, an eternity later. Shaqiq wraps his eight arms around me, grinning like a fool.
“Well done.” He says.
Within the shelter of the She-Baum, far away from the eyes of the wood, Shaqiq and I go our separate ways. I take off my ceremonial suit like I’m ridding myself of my last scrap of courage. I enter my slick green capsule and close the hatch-the singing of the wood goes deathly quiet.
I close my eyes. I try to breathe-to think of my wings.
The walls are closing in on me. The capsule starts to fill up with liquid-the Sky.
I’m going to die and I didn’t get a single glimpse of the Sky.
I panic-I force down the instinct to pound at the walls of the capsule. The liquid is sticking to me, it’ll climb up and into my throat and I’ll drown in it. It’ll melt me away like I was never even there. I’m going to die for nothing, but the Sky, the Sky, the Sky…
I’d bear all of it for a glimpse of the Sky.
I close my eyes. I breathe, and as the liquid rises and covers my mouth, my eyes, I think of the Sky.
It is not until I hear the Sky’s voice that I realize I’m still breathing-though the regenerative liquid has covered me completely.
When the Sky speaks, the sound echoes in every unraveling fiber of me.
Well done, little Crusader. The Sky laughs.
I’m unraveling, unraveling like I knew I would. But I don’t care.
I promised you wings, didn’t I, Kelebek? The Sky says. I promised you my name.
I grin, exhausted-and I fall asleep to the sound of the Sky.