A Different World
Suspended in an unknown time, at an unknown place in the Universe — it could have been at the edge of all matter, or as small as a quark — there span a beautiful, ruby red little planet.
Asteria had been around since the beginning of everything, and of nothing; or at least that is what its inhabitants, the Asterians, have been always told, from generation to generation.
The clouds were pink on Asteria, and the clear sky always had a lilac color. When it rained, it looked like tiny pink and amethyst crystals were dropping, sparkling everywhere, and blessing the land with their beauty. The forests on that far world had trees with trunks of metallic dark gold, and bronze, while the leaves grew in all the possible shades of purple. The planet was so small, it had no oceans, seas, only lakes, rivers, and lots of underground springs, of pure white, transparent water, which above ground it reflected in hues of pink, from the pinkish sky above them.
The cities were equally spread in the populated areas, with equally beautiful houses, quite different in shapes and colors, yet all unified in their beauty. Each city had numerous parks and playgrounds, schools, and learning centers, as the Asterians focused a big of part of their efforts to educating their young. The grown-ups were all hard working, being around and about all day, yet no one worked for a material reward. They didn’t have to. An exchange of money for any goods was not necessary there; everyone was provided for, and all were simply encouraged to develop their talents as much as they could, to work, and create — create as much as possible. From making a pie in the kitchen, or making a child smile, to creating bold inventions that would benefit everyone. The Asterians lived to give back, instead of consuming. Electricity, water, food, and shelter were considered given goods, like the air that they were breathing, thus all were benefiting of those riches from birth to death.
These wise beings had figured out a way to live without any major conflicts for centuries, or even millennia in the past; no one knew for sure anymore. Thus, with no borders, no wars, no struggles to provide for daily existence, their mainly goals were to create, have fun, live to their full potential and make each new generation of Asterians better than the previous one.
They had mastered kindness, and looking out for one another, and living in a peaceful world. Yet, they still had their own Asterian challenges, and difficult moments to overcome, inherent to their nature. As each one of them had a different personality, quite often they would fall victim to insecurities, doubts, anger, or envy, which in all cases would have been sorted out successfully. In other words, they were far from perfect, yet always striving to make things better and solve their differences. Some might call this simple, constructive, minor conflicts, with good outcomes.
What characterized them the most though, was this confidence in their future, and in taking care of their little planet, hoping that one day it will all turn into a perfect world. Concentrated on improving and bettering themselves, no attention at all had been given to exploring their surroundings. The two suns and two moons orbiting them were offering unbelievable views, and the Asterians were grateful for their place in the Universe. Yet the time had not come for them to adventure that far. They had great tools to observe the orbs closest to them, or even farther, but since their home was not too big, and transportation didn’t require too much time, they had not developed any flying objects, of any kind. At least not real, full-sized ones. They had come up with various prototypes of bell-shaped ships and spherical flying objects that worked and flew on paper, but never adventured to build their real versions, and to actually use them.
With their attention projected inwards, so to speak, their interest for possible other worlds out there was non-existent. They were great though, at making each other feel loved, accepted, and happy.
One day of the year, during the Gratitude Festival, which celebrated their small unusual world in all that it had to offer, the 30 million inhabitants would gather in an open field of red small flowers, at the edge of their populate area. The Elders Council — which was the only “political” yet “non-political” entity on Asteria, having the important role of supporting its people — would gather first in the middle of a circle. The wisest of Asterians, Daskalon, who had been selected by all Asterians, would join them. Then slowly, and in an organized fashion, the rest of the Asterians would surround their leaders, in concentrical circles, for a massive, grand-scale hug. For a few minutes, no one would say a word, unless a baby Asterian decided to start crying, and they would just surrender to a peaceful hug.
This holiday had been celebrated for a very long time, since no one could remember, and its second most important purpose was to honor the Asterians’ most precious Source Diamond. They all had been blessed, cherished, and believed that their main source for kindness, peace and creativity started at the core of a giant diamond, sheltered underground, in a cave. This incredible source of energy had been with them since the planet first formed, or at least that is what they all believed and had been told from generation to generation. Having this confidence, that a higher source and benevolent power was at the base of their beautiful world, made everything easier for them. They knew that no matter what, any challenge or hardship that would come their way, the Source Diamond would provide all the strength needed.
The Elders and Daskalon had access to the cave where the Diamond lived any time, any day. Each other Asterian had the opportunity to see it at least once in his or her lifetime. Usually that happened when they became of age, which on that planet was at 25 years old. Living at least one hundred years on average, the Asterians had decided that 25 was the best age to witness the Diamond.
It was pretty common to see a young Asterian changing careers, or creative focus five, to ten times in a lifetime. Since living and giving back to their full potential required some time, whoever wanted to shift and develop a set of newfound skills, had the support and full permission to do so. And again, each knew that this creative force had endless possibilities and was speaking through them. Thus, the most rewarding thing to do, and honor that, was to explore and put to test even the tiniest of talent and capability. Following this format, each Asterian was unbelievably versatile. One could have been an accomplished botanist, for example, and at the same time, a great cook, counselor, or pianist. And most of all, they would all practice being kind to one another, even when it seemed really really hard.
An Unprecedented Shift
Daskalon, the wisest of Asterians, was somewhat young, and not of old age, especially for someone who had mastered so well the art of love and truthfulness. Rather slim and tall, with light brown hair and honey-yellow eyes, he stood out by always displaying a firm and calm overall appearance, as if there was a candle in him that would never flicker, not even at the strongest windblow. He lived in a beautiful house, of an unusual architecture, on top of Garnet Mountain, somewhat overseeing all other Asterians, who had their homes in the hill and plain areas of the planet.
From his home on Garnet Mountain he could admire the pink clouds every morning and smell the fresh air. And also from his home, he would have access through an underground tunnel to the cave where the Source Diamond lived. Almost every day he would go to check on that brilliant heart that beat for all Asterians.
In the large, very tall cave, the Source Diamond continuously threw colorful rays of light, in bright blues, green, blues. Its main color was of a deep, rich red. As it was spinning on its own, suspended in the cave, the massive gem seemed fluid inside, and alive. Whoever saw it for the first time would stare in awe for a little while, overwhelmed by the diamond’s movements and energy.
One breezy morning when the clouds walked the lilac sky in a happy, soft rhythm, Daskalon woke up worried. He had had a dream that could not ignore. And what he had seen in his sleep seemed more than just a dream — something was about to happen. He got out of the bed in a rush, with concern on his face, and nervousness in his moves. Quickly got dressed and ran to the cave.
The Source Diamond was changing; from within. Somehow, its speed had slowed down, and its deep red colors looked lighter. The same image he had seen in its dream. This could mean only one thing: the Diamond was dying, and losing its energy. Soon enough, the vibrations and force would not be strong enough to support the Asterians as it has been for so long.
Daskalon panicked at the news. With the Source Diamond losing its power, for what seemed like an unknown reason, unusual events were about to happen. Various questions started haunting the man’s mind: “What if the Asterians will feel lost without this benevolent energy? What if major conflicts arise? What if we will know wars, chaos?? What if…what if…”
Standing in front of this majestic source of power, Daskalon felt mellow and humbled.
“I have come here every day since I was a teenage boy. What is happening, dear diamond? What are we to do without your loving force surrounding us? Where will we find another stone to feed our souls, to connect us and to keep harmony alive on our little planet?”
The diamond did not answer. It couldn’t. Daskalon spent all day in the diamond’s cave, with the ears wide open and his heart ready to receive a message, any message that would show him, and teach how to save his world. Nothing. Late in the evening, his concern grew even bigger. He went back to his house on top of the Garnet Mountain and fell into deep thoughts. Something had to be done.
The following morning he woke up with a bright, little sparkle in his eye, that looked like hope. He felt like the Universe had spoken to him. While asleep, he had had the vision of a blue and white planet, in a far, far away galaxy, millions and millions light years away from Asteria; maybe in a different time, far in the past, or far in the future. He couldn't tell. Yet what he could tell, with every fiber, and every atom in his body, was that the new diamond that could save his home planet, was in that faraway place. All he had to do was send someone there to find it and bring it back, without hurting anything, anyone, or the planet itself, of course. He argued, in his mind, that if that planet had been inhabited by beings similar to Asterians, they would most certainly understand their urgency and would agree to gift the diamond.
The Elders Council had to be notified immediately. He summoned all 11 of them at his house, explained the situation, then took them to the cave.
“Something is changing, and this is quite obvious,” Daskalon said addressing all Elders at the same time. The wise men showed signs of concern, but all fought to keep a strong, calm demeanor. “My vision was clear. Our Source Diamond is losing its energy and a new diamond exists in this other world. I cannot go there, none of you can either. We need to choose wisely, from our own Asterians.”
“I can sense the shift,” one of the Elders, with dark bronze metallic hair, replied. “This has never happened on our planet before. We are not prepared, and we have no knowledge of what might cause this, how to fix it, what the consequences are. Are you sure it is losing power, Daskalon, and not just transforming?”
“I have been in the vicinity of our Diamond for a long time now. I am pretty certain of its change. I feel like my visions come from its core, directly. I trust them.”
“Daskalon is right,” another Elder, wearing tall golden boots said. “What choice do we have? He has been more connected to the diamond than any of us has been. If he feels like its power is fading, and that a new source is out there for us, then we need to find it.”
“But how??” a third Elder, with a mid-sized red beard intervened. “Daskalon, in your vision, is there any sign on who would be the best Asterian for this mission? To represent us?”
“And how to send this messenger?? No one has ever left the planet…” the youngest of the Elders asked.
Daskalon felt a little ambushed. He didn’t have the exact answers to all of these questions, he had more of “hunches,” or “gut feelings.” He had seen fragments in his vision, of what could have been done, yet he wasn't sure how to put all together. “I guess I will just have to trust myself,” he thought to himself before speaking to the Elders again.
“I suggest we start the search immediately. Let’s go back to my home and look into the details, shall we?”
The entire night the Elders and Daskalon discussed the situation, the possibilities, what needed to be done and the best way to make it happen. They all agreed that all Asterians were eligible, but only one could go. And also agreed that the selection had to happen fast, fairly and efficiently. There remained the big issue of how to get there. The Elders seemed to be counting a lot on Daskalon to come up with a solution.
“We will do research on our own today, Daskalon,” the bronze-haired Elder said at the first sign of dawn. “Maybe there is a mention in some of our archives of a machine, or device, who knows, a spell maybe, to transport someone to a certain location.”
“Please do so, Rados. Any help is welcome. By this evening we need to have a plan in place: how to choose our messenger and how to transport him, or her.”
“Well, if you happen to have another vision on how to accomplish all of this let us know right away, ok?” the red-bearded Elder turned to Daskalon, hoping that things would move faster if they had extra help, via the wise teacher.
“Of course. I will keep all of my eyes open. We should rest a little now; everything will be ok, we have to remain positive.”
The improvised meeting ended when the two suns on Asteria were just rising, one following closely the other one, as if it were its shadow, and each glowing in different colors: the first, bigger one in tones of bright yellow, and reddish golds, while its smaller twin, a few degrees behind, in light yellow, bluish tones. The sunrise on Asteria was a sight of real magic.
The Chosen One
Feeling very tired and drained, the wisest of Asterians decided to take a nap to regain his forces. For a little while he couldn't fall asleep, tossing and turning, noticing his mind scattering in way too many directions, consuming him even more. Eventually, he found his peace, and a sweet sleep took over him.
Early afternoon, when the sky was at its richest lilac color, he opened his eyes slowly. First he thought he had heard a soft tapping in the room, as if someone was faintly knocking at his door. When he opened his eyes fully he saw a lively branch of his most favorite mirabelle tree, which he had planted years ago next to his house, touching his window back and forth. The branch and the tree was blooming; little deep purple velvety flowers had popped throughout the tree, invading each and every little branch.
What made the tapping noise was the Asterian Red Eagle, softly swinging on it, and watching Daskalon from the outside, as if the bird had been waiting for the teacher to wake up so it could tell him something. The rarest bird on Asteria, the Red Eagle would only show up when it had an important message to deliver; and when it felt needed. Never speaking, somehow it would know and made itself understood.
While the teacher was figuring out what was happening, the big bird continued to balance itself on the branch. Its fiery eyes were firm and kind at the same time, as if they had seen centuries of passed worlds; it seemed like the past, present and future converged in this creature’s eyes, to make up a new moment, with each second. With this timeless look, the Red Eagle flew to Daskalon’s window, sat on the window frame and dropped a little piece of paper. As soon as he saw it, Daskalon knew it was a good sign. His prayers were answered, and he was receiving the much-needed guidance and help. Great things were about to happen, and different forces on the tiny planet were feeling that. He got out of bed and opened the window; the Eagle was gone. He unrolled the little piece of paper.
“A riddle! he exclaimed. Well, yes, of course! How have I not thought of that?? That’s how we will find our Asterian Ambassador. I will display it on the Toxo Cloud at once!”
The Asterians had a rather peculiar method for fast, long-distance communication. An invisible screen, similar to a pink haze would circle the populated parts of the planet with an important message, when needed. Each Asterian knew that something extremely important was in the works when Toxo showed up.
Daskalon notified the Elders Council of the fortunate visit he had received and all agreed that a riddle was the perfect way to find their chosen messenger. Within an hour, the Toxo Cloud had left the teacher’s house, starting its grand tour of the planet. It would not return until each member of the community had read it. And somehow, the cloud knew precisely when its mission was completed, and each and every one of the Asterians had read its message.
Sté was the most joyful Asterian teen boy that had ever roamed the hills and streets of the Dacix province, in the southeast side of the planet. With short, light brown hair and a wide smile, he would scout for new adventures and possibilities to learn every single day. When he found something of interest he would squint his big, green-bluish eyes and would not give up until he knew everything about that object, subject, until he finished a project, or until he just felt fulfilled in his heart. All of this curiosity though made him look distracted sometimes, or careless. But he did not know. And frankly, did not care. All he cared about was exploring, seeing new things, learning how the pink clouds on his planet are able to float, how the purple bird sang, or how he could make his life even more exciting.
Sté had just come home from school and was excited to share the good news with his parents and brothers. His Mom was just finishing a painting, of a peaceful Blue Planet she had a dream of the previous night.
The Toxo Cloud had reached their region among the first ones, and Mom had already seen the message. She felt the riddle was very familiar, somehow, but couldn't pin it down. When she saw Sté so excited she thought it had to do with the cloud, and maybe the boy seeing the riddle, and wanting to solve it. Treasure hunts and coded messages were his thing. Aside from that, the Toxo Cloud had never made an appearance during the boy’s life, and that was a unique sight to see.
“Mom, Mom, where’s everyone?”
“Your Dad took your brothers to the Treasure Hunt Park. They waited for you. You’re late, you know that?”
“Oh, am I? I didn't even notice. I’m sorry Mom. But look, I finally made it to the school’s Recognition Board. You all thought I would never be added there, but now I am!” Sté was proudly holding a thin glass screen showing an image of the boy having his picture displayed on a big, shiny board, next to the photos of other students.
The schools on Asteria did not require grades to measure students’ knowledge. The children were recognized, though, in other ways, such as the Recognition Board, private talks to parents, or invites to additional activities that fitted each student. So, the teachers were teaching, and the students were learning, without being differentiated in any way based on their grades.
Once in a while though, when one student had achieved something very special, or brought a new idea to their world, the school would showcase the project for the entire community to see, with the purpose of learning from each other. And Sté was happy; because the short-story that he had written showed that the boy had lots of talent; and the ideas included in his piece had never been thought before. His teachers seemed like they were finally starting to notice him.
“Well, I am very curious, what have you come up with again?” Mom asked smiling. “And even more, how come have you decided to show it to the entire school?”
Sté could be a little bit of a lone-bird, which he wasn't doing on purpose. He would become so focused on an idea or project, he would simply forget to share it, or thought that others would not really have much interest in what he was doing.
“We had a project assigned to write about our ancestry, and to look into tracing our roots, back to great-great-Asterian-parents. But also told us to use our imagination. I didn't really get it at that time, but this morning, before school, I woke up and decided not to talk about my ancestry, per se. So, I wrote this short story, about me, being born in a timeless dimension at the core of a Blue Star, with a soul and memories that would last forever. And from that Star I saw you, Mom, and I saw Dad, even before you got together. And I decided I wanted you two to be my parents; because you seemed perfect for each other. So, I used all of my Star power to make you meet, and luckily you guys actually fell in love, cause the most I could do was to bring you together, I couldn't make you love each other too. And because of my plan, everything else came to happen, and that’s why you and I now, can have this conversation.”
“That is the nicest story I have ever heard Sté. I am so proud of you. How did you even think of something like this??”
“You know Mom, Dad always says I was born with an old soul…maybe that’s how old it is, millions and millions of years! He-he,” the boy was fooling around, laughing.
“Your Father might be right, love. He might be actually right…” said Mom smiling and wondering why Sté still seemed to have a difficult time revealing his beautiful self to his colleagues and friends. She knew her boy, but somehow he would get so distracted that he would miss the people around him. Which reminded her:
“Sté, did you give Fuchsia her birthday gift? She’s been your desk buddy for two years, she deserves a gift! Sté?”
But the boy was already outside, not paying attention anymore to his Mom. Fuchsia’s gift was in his school bag. He got so involved in the short story he had written, he completely forgot about her gift.
And under the Asterian lilac sky, there was something even more interesting happening. A huge, pinkish screen, hovering over their house, displaying something…something…something…some numbers, actually only two numbers, a bunch of ones and zeros linked together by dashes, that seemed to make no sense. The boy’s face suddenly lightened, and his huge eyes sparkled.
“I get this!” he whispered. And then ran inside to tell his Mom. “Mom, did you see the Toxo Cloud? The message that it brought, is it true?”
“Yes, I did see the cloud, of course, I was wondering if you jumped at the challenge already,” Mom said looking to encourage her boy but at the same time not quite taking him seriously about truly understanding the message. She knew that Sté was keen on riddles, but from that, to actually deciphering a message from the Elders was a long path — at least that’s what she though. “You know Sté, you can have fun with that, I know how much you like games and riddles, but it’s ok if you don’t get it, that message comes from the brightest on our planet. The cloud was sent for the older and wiser of us. And you haven’t even seen a Toxo Cloud in your life! Not until a few moments ago!” she continued smiling, trying too hard to explain something that she didn't quite have to.
“But Mom, I do think I get it…I know what it says, and all makes sense,” the boy replied, not wanting to let go of what he knew in his heart, yet lowering his voice in a bit of discouragement.
“Now, Sté, you are imagining things…” Mom said gently but dismissive at the same time, shifting her focus toward something else around the house.
“What is that bright distracted little head of his imagining now, Théa??” a strong male voice came from the direction of the main door. Father had come back from the Treasure Hunt Park with Sté’s older brothers.
Sté was already in his room, jotting things down, writing the decoded message.
“But I get it, this got to be it! Why doesn't Mom believe me?” the boy was talking to himself at his desk.
“What is it that she doesn't believe, my boy?” His Dad heard him, while watching him from the frame of the door with a warm smile on his face.
“Look Dad, this code is using only two numbers to mirror another code, that has been used for decades. Anyway, the final message is this: The Blue Planet Awaits You.”
Dad listened to the boy and looked at the scribbling on the piece of paper; it did make sense indeed. He couldn't believe though that his boy, who was after all, just a 13-year-old boy could have the knowledge to understand this.
“Come, son! We need to go to the Wisest One and show him this…the instructions on Toxo are clear. Whoever finds it, has to report immediately.”
“So, you believe me now? You do?” Sté jumped off his seat. “What does it mean, Dad? Why is this showing now, what is happening?”
“I don’t know, son, I don’t. But we will find out soon. It’s late now, I am sure it won’t be any problem if we go tomorrow morning.”
In his house on Garnet Mountain, Daskalon was awaiting impatiently to hear back from the chosen messenger. Somehow he knew that there would be only one capable to decode the riddle. And was wondering if that had happened already and if it did, where was that smart, adult Asterian hiding still? Looking to get himself distracted from this waiting, and staring at the sky for Toxo to circle back, he decided to check on the Source Diamond and see if there had been any change since the previous day. From his little house he opened a secret door in the floor, took multiple stairs down, some in spiral, some in zig-zag, some crossing, some going upwards again, and eventually arriving in the chamber underground where the diamond lived. The cave was very large, with flowing, rich springs of white and emerald green water sprouting from niches in the dark pink rock. In these springs, if one watched carefully, would see little rocks of red diamonds flowing and merging with the water. Daskalon often held his nested palms in the cold water, letting it slip through his fingers; almost each time he caught shiny, perfectly formed diamonds, which he would release right away. He had often wondered if those spring diamonds were part of the Source Diamond, separating somehow and flowing out of it, or if they had been simply forged in the layers of rock, which made up the solid base of their world, now fading.
The diamond had lost some of its speed, one could see that the rays of light emanating from its millions of facets were playing slower light games with the rocky walls and the springs. Daskalon was getting impatient. He had hoped that his coded message would reveal the one very wise, mature, Asterian who would travel to the Blue Planet, but knew that time was of the essence. In a rush, he went back to his house to see if the Toxo Cloud had returned. It did. That part of the mission was accomplished. Daskalon had the confirmation that the message had been seen by each and every Asterian. Yet no one was at his door yet. Concerned that the message the Red Eagle left might have been too difficult, or that maybe he hadn't followed the right steps when spreading it, he started having doubts. He returned home. With a tired and somewhat mellow aura he sat in an armchair, staring at the fireplace, where a bright blue fire was burning. He spent the rest of the night there, awake, until early morning, then a little later in the morning…
“What if I am not doing things right?” he wondered. “What if the message wasn't supposed to be shared? What if my dreams are not guiding me on the right path? What if….No!” he exclaimed, shifting posture. “I got to have faith. I will trust myself. This is the way, it has to.” The moment he regained his confidence he heard rushed knocks at his door. He knew. The one who decoded the message, the Ambassador Asterian has been found.
With a content smile on his face, as if ready for a surely won battle, he opened the door. There stood Sté, half hidden behind his Dad, all the sudden feeling a little shy and reserved, as he would always feel in class. Daskalon didn't even notice Sté, and addressed his Dad happily:
“Welcome, my friend! Give me the news I want to hear. I know you have seen the message on the Toxo Cloud.”
“Good evening, Daskalon. And thank you for receiving us. We woke up very early to get here.”
“‘We’? What do you…” as he was finishing his sentence, Daskalon finally saw a curious bright little face staring at him and trying to peak inside. “Well, Dear Asterian Senior, why did you bring your son with you? I assume he is yours?”
“I had to bring him with me, of course. He is the one who decoded the message, Daskalon. May I present Sté, my 13-year-old son.”
Daskalon took a moment to process. Thousands of thoughts went through his head: “This can’t be! He is but a child. How could have he? The Elders won't accept this easily… I doubt that he’ll be strong enough to travel; wise enough to find the diamond in the other world, disciplined enough to notice, learn fast…he won’t, can’t, no, it’s impossible!” all kinds of expressions with ‘no’ and ‘not’ were flooding his mind.