Name: Janis Seminara
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction/ fantasy
Title: The Seedsower
Chapter 1: Discovery
The halo drooping over the summit hung darker than usual and felt heavy, like wet clothes. Logan had hoped the onset of spring might have lightened things up a bit; even the fires-stars, Magnus’ golden flower hadn’t begun to shoot out of their earthy womb to the sky. Creepy. He was close now; the familiar red-slashed, gray circled isosceles triangle bobbed in and out of view. A few more steps and the threatening words: “No Trespassing, Travel to the Summit Forbidden by order of The Board!” Entering the Forbidden Zone meant sure Extraction from Illium; removal from family and friends, tied to a raft and set out to sea, alone. Who could survive? Nobody ever came back; in fact much like the haloed-summit, no one had ever seen the sea. If the halo doesn’t kill you, the Board will! Logan laughed out loud; how many times had he made it in and out, no problem? Of course he never made it to the summit, or even close, but a well-planned lunch on Logan’s part of Uncle Cronus’ favorite meat-cakes, and sweeties – a special delicacy of sugar and fruit and Cronus would be out cold, slumped against a boulder, just long enough for Logan to do some exploring!
Logan rested his walking stick up against the backside of the sign. He wouldn’t need it now; the trail fell flatter in the halo, and quite softer. Today the air had a chemical odor and taste to it. Logan knew all about chemicals, he had been top Chemistry student at the Knowledge Gate School three years in a row! Final projects were due in just under a month, and this year’s prize promised a recreation voucher. In the name of Science, he just had to hike in the forbidden zone. Perhaps he would discover a new element. His heart pounded with excitement.
The halo thickened the further he went, hanging like an iron door. He threw his pack down and took out a small shovel, but a sweeping fatigue hit him. Logan shrugged it off to having had very little sleep, anxious to get the most out of his visit and so he laid down, propping his pack under his head, mindlessly digging his hands into the soft reddish soil. Deeper and deeper he dug, his nails filling with the particles that made the mountain. He pictured these particles breaking down into molecules and the molecules into atoms, and then what?
“Ouch!” Logan sprung into a sitting position to examine his hand. He felt dizzy and a trickle of blood ran down his wrist. Stuck inside his index finger was a blue shard, about two inches wide by three inches long. Logan winced. He’d have to pull it out. It had gone in pretty deep – almost straight through. He braced himself; goose bumps traveled up his arm. “One, two…” gasp, “Three!” Logan clenched his teeth through the pain. With his free hand he fished around his pack for something to wrap around the wound and stop the bleeding. It hurt plenty and within seconds, blood soaked through the thin yellow cloth his mom had wrapped his meat-cake with. He wiped the shard across his shirt to examine it.
The stone had four sides, sort of free form, transparently blue in some places, deep cobalt blue in others. The edges were sharp and clear, except for the red stain where Logan’s blood deposited. Whatever this shard was, he’d soon find out. His fingers itched to start experimenting. A roll of thunder quaking through the halo made it even darker. The odor became much stronger now, and he could taste sulfur. He slipped the shard in his pocket and headed back out. Soon the heavy veil dissolved into a soft mist. He went for his walking stick, but it wasn’t there. Instead he found Uncle Cronus, leaning against the sign, smirking.
“So, you did it again?” Cronus’ shiny, bald head shimmered with a soft covering of mist in-line with the halo on the Forbidden sign. Logan couldn’t help but laugh.
“You think it’s funny?” Logan pointed to the sign.
“No, it’s just that…”
Cronus’ expression turned serious. He held out Logan’s walking stick with his short, muscular arms. Oak chips showered Logan’s hand as he grabbed it with his right hand, placing his left hand quickly behind his back. Logan tried to avert Cronus’ round, steady eyes, but Cronus held steadfast onto the stick. “I notched it. This is our 26th hike.”
“Twenty-four, I don’t count the ones I actually didn’t walk my own way.”
“Well, nevertheless, whether I held you or not, two hikes for every year.”
Logan barely recalled those earliest hikes, when Cronus would wrap him up like a package and tie him to his back. They didn’t hike very far, but Logan remembered the way the mountain smelled sweet in the spring and bitter in the fall. As he grew older, the hikes became longer and longer, until Logan had reached the warning sign. Then came the day Logan had finally stepped into the halo; he had just turned ten. Uncle Cronus had fallen asleep after over- indulging in sweeties. Logan had been just inside the halo a few feet, and for only a few minutes, and yet he totally recalled how his body trembled with excitement from head to toe, how he felt like he belonged there. He had heard Uncle’s hysterical cries, and really had wanted to get out and assure Cronus that he was fine, but the feeling in the air, and the opaqueness of whatever the halo was made up of fascinated him. He wanted to dissect it, taste it, study it. Logan still felt that way. For some crazy reason, Logan had a knowing about this mountain; a knowing that the halo held secrets about the Before. Before Illium. Before this beautiful mountain ever existed. But the Before was also forbidden in Illium, so Logan used science as a way to get some answers.
Cronus licked his lips, the softness returning to his eyes. “Those sweeties are irresistible kid. Gotta hand it to ya. Works every time!” He circled Logan, slowly checking every feature of his nephew. “So, what’s behind your back?”
Before Logan could swing his hand away, Cronus caught his cuff.
“Now, how am I going to explain that to your mother?” He grabbed Logan’s hand closer, gently touching the bloodied yellow wrap.
“Tell her that you’re teaching me how to carve walking sticks.”
“Now you know I can’t say that!” Cronus slowly opened the yellow cloth and heaved through his teeth. “She’d kill me if she thought I was teaching you contraband.”
“But you can carve walking sticks.” Logan grabbed his hand back and re-wrapped it.
“I’m not a scientist. My job is to make walking sticks so people will use their vouchers to buy ‘em. Your job is Science.” Cronus drew an imaginary circle with his hands. “The wheels of progress go round and round. We do what we do for Illium!” Suddenly, his eyes grew serious. “You’ll get the two of us rafted, and that would break Naira’s heart.”
Logan shook the thought out of his head. The thought that occurred to him every time Cronus said his mother’s name like that. He knew they weren’t related, but he also knew his mother had broken her pairing, and that under the rules…