If you’ve read Abacus’ book, you’ll find that it struck a compromise with me, and did not take direct credit for giving me the idea to start my investigation. It simply described our conversation in as few words as possible, and then said it gave me Benejede’s name to go to first. Frankly, it was a weird request I had of it, and I probably shouldn’t have asked in the first place. One little lie, but it was still a lie. But in the state I was in I’d felt that it really was important.
Although I was pretty sure Benejede would read Abacus’ update as soon as it was posted, I didn’t think Abacus would work on the text by the time I visited Benejede. And, like I’d said, it wasn’t for Benejede’s benefit anyway. I wanted Eh to see me in a certain light when I planned to go see ihn later. And I couldn’t explain why.
And as confident as I was at that point, I was a little worried that Abacus would betray me when we rejoined my family. But I also felt like I foresaw that it wouldn’t. And it didn’t.
I don’t remember much from the rest of that trip to the park. I wasn’t thinking about what was going on around me at that point, simply reacting to it, and reassuring my siblings and parents that I was OK and that Abacus had helped me when I needed it.
And to anyone looking at me, I was doing quite well. I was alert and responsive, and appeared to be engaged in the moment and totally at ease.
And when we got home, I declared I was going to take a nap. And since I’d had a big enough meltdown to call for Abacus’ help, that made sense to everyone.
Then when I rolled over in bed, I was about to compose a message when I received one instead.
It was from Benejede and it simply said, “Yes.”
Benejede was exactly where Abacus had left kihn over two years ago, sitting on kihns deck watching a frozen sundeath over a network replication of the aft sea of the Terra Supreme. Abacus hadn’t known what it was when it had visited, just that it was not the Sunspot, but I recognized it instantly upon appearing beside Benejede.
The Storyteller’s Netspace consisted of a wooden cabin on the edge of a seaside cliff, with a narrow forest of young trees below it, along the shoreline. There were a cluster of tiny, tree covered islands before the water became one hundred twenty-nine kilometers of open ocean between the last island and the endcap. All reflecting the pinks, reds, oranges, and golds of the perpetually waning sun. The endcap itself was cast in shadow, already experiencing night, along with a ring of about ten kilometers of ocean.
The Sunspot has sundeaths like that, too. But clearly this was a moment in time that was important to Benejede somehow. So important that keh had spent four decades staring at it while under what was now a purely self imposed sanction.
Benejede resembled, superficially, a bird found only on the Terra Supreme that the people there called a “heron”. However, keh had a long, naked tail with a single feather on the end of it, antlers nearly as long as kihns body sprouting from kihns head, and instead of a bird feet keh had hands. Hands that were kind of like mine, only much bigger, and older looking, with rough, calloused skin and wrinkles. And keh used these hands to perch on the wide, sturdy railing of the large porch that ringed kihns little cabin.
I stepped up and folded my elbows on the railing to lean on it, my armpits just three centimeters higher than the plank of stained wood. I could feel the course, weathered veins of the wood pressing into the soft underside skin of my forearms and palms, and it was nice. It matched the smell of the young pine and cedar trees that surrounded us.
On the Terra Supreme, most of the trees are only ten to thirty meters tall. On the Sunspot, the tallest tree is a hundred and twenty two meters tall, and most of the rest of the forests are not much shorter than that. The two ship Crews have very different ideas of what constitutes “wilderness”.
“I don’t like visitors,” Benejede said.
I simply nodded. I knew I didn’t need to talk and that Benejede would prefer that I didn’t. I’d just sort of picked up on that by entering kihn’s presence.
“You are not a visitor,” Benejede added. Then, “When you write your book and you get to this part, start referring to me with ‘it’ and ‘its’ as my pronouns, please. I like them better now.”
I looked up at it, startled. My book? What book?
“I know your type, banijede,” it said.
“Banijede” is the Fenekere common noun for “a storyteller”, derived from Benejede’s name.
I stared out over the water for a time contemplating what it would be like to try to write a book. I hadn’t considered it, and it seemed like it would be a huge task. After all, I now knew how long it had taken the Collective to write their little book. And while I was staring, I noticed that there was a bird in the sky, frozen in place, unmoving. The waves of the ocean were also still.
“Benojeda ‘uu,” it said.
Storytelling must happen.
“I’m not going to tell you much, but you are not here for many words from me,” it started to explain. “You need to learn most of your things from doing. And others need to learn from you asking them. And you’ve already decided that and know it.”
I nodded. It was not at all treating me the same way that it had treated Abacus. Its voice sounded different than I had imagined, even. I’d hoped that something like this would be the case just simply from me guessing how best to approach Benejede. I’d hoped it would like me more. But this was more of a difference than I’d expected.
It snorted, “Abacus is a whelp, and I like it, but it learns differently than you do.”
“I’m showing off,” Benejede said, and then fell silent for a good long while.
By the tone of its voice, I knew I hadn’t been dismissed yet and it had more to say, so I waited. I looked back through the window of the cabin. There was a fire place with a fire in there that wasn’t frozen in time, but the wood looked fresh. This was a Netspace, anything could be done here according to the whim of its owner. I found myself wondering if anything I was seeing was a message for me. I decided it wasn’t. This was all for Benejede.
“A story likes a good oracle, but an oracle meeting an oracle is a weird event. And an oracle as hero is an omen,” it looked down at me. “The Sunspot has had many hero oracles. Can its lessons be learned by those who live in other stories? Are they even useful to them?”
I squinted to indicate that I’d think about that, but it sounded like nonsense to me. It still does, but it was so easy to remember. Those words have been echoing in my mind ever since. And I’m not really sure that they should.
“It doesn’t matter,” it said, then. “Heroes, oracles, and stories don’t shape history. We are just the punctuation of it. I like to think what matters is what you learn from your own story.”
That sounded less like nonsense, but it sounded irrelevant to my upcoming meeting with Eh, or Abacus’ question about numbers. It wasn’t. Not at all.
“I know where the people are going, but I’m not going to tell you. But I repeat myself, and you know that. Please, visit any time. You are a gracious guest and I learn much from you.”
I smiled my thank you, and then left.