PART 1: THE CALLING
Long before twins were the norm, it was said that mothers gave birth to single infants. Sometimes twins appeared on the scene and often but rare were triplets, quadruplets or even more number of infants born of a single mother. Possession of the grand libido did not facilitate nature’s flow. On the other hand, manipulation of natural methods to channel irregular or covert activities began to put a strain on the organic balance of things.
Shane and Parthiv hated their names. Identical twins with a fetish for bright, painted toenails that they were careful to conceal from acerbic tongues, Parthiv was unfortunate enough to be blessed with a gigantic mole on the left cheek close to his ear. It was not a surprise therefore that the twins were almost always stopped in their tracks by everyone they knew and hence, none of their daredevil capers reached culmination. It was frustrating to the point of desperation as the twins hatched scheme upon scheme only to have them easily thwarted until the powers that made them helped in the realization that here was a mole, a giant one at that; and this ensured rapid identification that ultimately lead to desertion of the grand plan. Disappointment was such a cruel afterthought. Hence, Shane detested the mole on his brother’s face as for Parthiv; Parthiv hated his name as well as the offensive blight.
Soon after the sessions at the learning shell came to a close, Parthiv chose to forego the trip to the shell they called home, in favor of the Man-tree. The humongous tree dwarfed everything that stood around it. Burnt out buildings, cracked electric poles and, tumble down wind turbines seemed to resemble stumps that were fashioned for display around the mammoth being. Legend stated that the seeds of the tree and its brothers were brought here from distant lands by seamen. Several sprouted and took root but the death and destruction that followed took away the lives of all with the exception of this behemoth.
Hefty, with branches that spread out like myriad arms that beckoned and offered grace, this was the spot that Parthiv loved the most. Scores of twins from his generation had grown up listening to the lore’s purportedly narrated by this tree. Jumping and swinging from its branches, moving in tandem with imaginary beings, the twins sang and fought fiery duels dodging behind the numerous folds of the massive trunk. Holding on to the knotted protrusions, they would climb up blithely like little monkeys and walk with ill-concealed balance on swaying branches towards the farthest point they could dare reach before tipping over. Parthiv remembered Shane falling over, head down, scream gurgling down his throat before landing with a thump on the leaf strewn ground.
It took a few hours for the blue-faced boy to recover and a sound warning issued by the father that signaled the beginning of a dreadful week at home. A grounded Parthiv and confined Shane were too much for their mother to bear. Ill temper and sulkiness aside, the two stayed in their room with the door shut most times. Meal times were ignored and repeated threats by the father fell on deaf ears. The twins were finally let out with the stern warning that they were to look out for each other. Come what may, no harm should befall either of them. They could play with the Man-tree but avoid dangerous games. The games continued but after this episode, injuries if any, were adequately hidden and not exposed to view.
A FAT ROPE TRICK
Pilfering through the odds and ends that were scattered within the deserted, tumbledown structures, the twins chanced upon a long rope that was as stout as their wrists. Excited at the find, the two brainstormed on the ways with which they could put the ‘instrument’ to use. Creating a swing was uninteresting as they had one at the other end of that had a worn out tire for bobbing around. What were they to do then? Could they tie one end to a low lying branch and the other end around their waist and jump down? It wouldn’t hurt, as layers of the spongy humus would cushion their fall. Man-tree liberally supplied the earth with leaves thus padding the ground with inches of springy softness. During summer, the leaves crackled and poked at the skin and in the rains, ones feet sank through the squishy stench. But it was the fascination with the giant canopy and the vertical climb that brought droves of twins to his base hence, the by-products of his development mattered little.
With an earnest eye on Shane’s predicament during the previous jaunt, Parthiv offered to begin the game. Clambering onto the lowest branch that was approximately four meters above ground, the two settled down with a leg swinging merrily on either side and proceeded to tie one end of the rope to the bough and the other, around Parthiv’s waist. Gingerly standing up, the brave boy waited for the cue and jumped down. There was a whoosh and a muted scream. Shane looked down and discovered that Parthiv was dangling about a foot from the ground and the rope had jerked up knotting his skin (an all-purpose ready-to-wear garment) right under the armpits. Parthiv had spread out his arms to stop the incessant upward movement of the rope. Untying the knot on the Man-tree proved to be difficult and so, Shane clambered down and held Parthiv’s foot lightly. Swinging him from side to side, he motioned for Parthiv to move his hands in the upward direction and slide down onto the spongiest section of the ground.
Watching his twin roll over, Shane sighed in relief. Smoothing down his skin over the abrasions to hide the nasty welt developing under both armpits, Parthiv clambered back on the branch once again. Untying the rope, the two proceeded to stuff it inside a worn out hole on the trunk. Alternatively chewing and sucking on a lump of algal sugar that they had stored inside for exigencies, the boys leaned against the Man-tree and savored the moment.
It had been a long, long day. Time to go home and sort out the knots. The jumping could wait. Knots that were strong yet easily untied by either of the two had to be learnt anew. It was vital that they learnt to figure out things together. They were part of a whole. Each backed up the other. It was always this way. There never was a choice.
FASTEST DROP FIRST
On days when the twins continued their upward foray into the leafy realms of the Man-tree, their oddball games would reach dubious levels. Lying on their stomachs, facing each other on a branch that was wide and flat enough to accommodate their thin bodies, the boys placed tiny twigs inside their mouths and waited for the saliva to generate. Once assured of sufficient amounts, the liquid was released in a warm spout to the bottom. The thick drops glinted silver in the bright sunlight as it fell. A metal tray placed on the ground reflected the first glint of the splatter and the victorious boy whooped out loud with the trademark-raised fist.
It was Shane who had proposed the dare; of releasing a full bladder to the ground from their perch and the winner would get to reach the learning shell an hour earlier. A reluctant Parthiv agreed on the condition that no other twin groups were present at the time this weird game was underway. This was a never-before-thought-of game, and both winner and loser could end up grounded. Missing their session was a possibility and both Parthiv and Shane knew how much they loved visiting the learning clusters. The thrill of the game excited them though, and they hastily made their way to the Man-tree on a Wednesday, a day when most of their friends would be busy at school. Shane and Parthiv were allotted the Thursday of every week for their intellectual development and most other days; they were left free to pursue their other interests. It was not the same for the other twins. Almost all the others spent three to four days at the shell yet; Shane and Parthiv seemed to be far more advanced than most, of their level.
Gulping down their breakfast of germinated grains and scrambled algae topped with an extra large draught of barley infused water, the boys ran outdoors mindful of the little stones that got under their feet and jogged up the slight slope towards the Man-tree that was scarcely a mile ahead. The boys needed no talking, as they were comfortable in their thoughts; shared thoughts that fit seamlessly into each other as in a wave. Their concentration was such that, the veins bulged on their foreheads and their nostrils flared with each breath that they took. Panting with the exertion, the twins reached the base of the Man-tree and proceeded to climb up. Both tree and boy were as comfortable with each other as a mother with her unborn child. The boys sensed the unspoken aura of the tree as easily as they divined each other’s thoughts and feelings. It was as though nature and creation had melded as one with the old indulgently allowing the new to form its base. The boys climbed on upwards, steadily, until they dared not advance and rested, each leaning their foreheads against the cool trunk of the Man-tree. The wait for the urge took a while and they were content with letting the wind caress their faces and dry out the sweat of their bodies. Their legs were swinging lightly as they looked around and focused on familiar landmarks.
Ahead lay the path to the green houses where their parents worked. The stock of food at their shell was always at a comfortable level. There were several varieties of edible fungus, algae, mushrooms, medicinal bitter herbs, grains and roots that could be steamed, baked, dried, powdered, smoked, sprouted or eaten whole that could adequately supply the nutritional needs of the families living in and around Stargough. To their right, far away, in the distance, gleamed the medical unit. Shiny as a coin with dents and faint pockmarks on its surface, the twins noted that daylight rippled over the exterior lending it, a starburst effect. When they had remarked about a visit to the facility, their parents stone-facedly issued curt brush-offs. Lisha, their mother had always pleaded ignorance when pestered so, that was that. The twins broke off and stole a quick look at each other. It was not yet time. They were not ready.
To the left of the Man-tree on their west, stood the learning shells. Ash colored from a distance, and clustered together in an odd assemblage of patterns that drew loving smiles from the duo, they observed that the setup seemed calm. All the children were housed inside for the time meant for them. The twins ached to be there. A visit to the place, an hour earlier seemed like an unexpected gift. The veins on their forehead pulsed. It was time. The two stood next to each other, nodded and racked up the cue.
SEA OF SPIDERS
Shane woke early. It was chilly and he scrunched up the coverlet around his ears. Turning his head towards his twin, Shane’s mouth curled upwards into a grin. He had to leave now. Victory had been his yesterday. Both had felt sheepish about the game afterwards. It seemed a little stupid now. They could do a rethink on the rope trick though. Some games were fun while others could be, well…just about chucked.
Clambering out of bed, he rushed to the closet and perked himself up. His all-weather skin seemed stretched though. Had he grown taller? Shane inspected himself in the long mirror and noticed no appreciable change. The skin gleamed silver in the pale morning light. Parthiv’s was a rich olive. He was closer to the Man-tree than most others. Perhaps an imperceptible reflection of their emotions seeped into the skin.
Stargough residents wore similar ensembles - the all-purpose garment had been devised by the elders. The material stretched to accommodate the human body and was resistant to the cold, heat and rains. Colors were limited to muted pastels that offered camouflage options during times of distress. An expandable hood and gloves offered protection for the head and hands. Levels of opulence were displayed through footwear. Although footwear was supplied in the same material, there were some who chose to wear colors such as gold, purple, red, peacock blue and flaming orange with thicker soles and lustrous lining. Such groups tended to group together and attended to tasks routinely channeled by Medicorp, the medical unit. It was considered prestigious to be a part of the organization and the crinqles that they received, allowed them to indulge in their choice of footwear. There were separate shells for the harborers close to the unit although their progeny attended the same learning shells as the rest. The Elders had deemed it necessary that all children receive access to the same set of information upto a certain level after which, choices were to be made and the extensions studiously furthered thereupon.
As Shane cautiously made his way to the learning shell, his hurried steps faltered. Loose stones that lay strewn around were kicked away and he paused to view the structures before him. Mud brown in color today, and fixed to the earth, these were semi circular structures made out of thicker, durable skin that was rugged enough to weather seasonal changes. A central pole anchored the mainframe and from it curved down sleek offshoots much like the human ribcage. Stretched tight over these offshoots and down to the bottom where it was firmly pegged down was the skin. The outer side of the skin changed its luminous nature as and when a change in the atmosphere was detected. The bottom layer that formed the floor was poised delicately an inch above ground and cushioned by a soft flow of air. This gave a springy feel to feet that bounded in and helped maintain humid levels and air quality of the quiet throbbing interior. Save for soft diffused light that resembled natural light, there were pod like structures bobbing at equidistant lengths within these shells. Mini humans of a similar age group were required to shed their individual skins and don a proactive cover that served as temporary outerwear and thereafter enter the learning pods.
The structures unfurled upon detection of a human presence and were designed to expand and accommodate twin humans. Inside the egg shaped dome was a seat that arranged itself around the human and thus offered maximum comfort. Once the human presence seemed to be truly relaxed, the pod closed itself. Invisible threads appeared from nowhere and pressed their feelers onto the human skin. The sensation was akin to feathers lightly dusting themselves over the surface they were in contact with. The system was designed to arouse happiness and negate the feeling of fear in the minds of toddlers. Once suitable aligned to the outer epidermis of the human, a soft vibration of the pod would commence. The feelers would begin dispersing information in the form of rapid-fire sensations that were efficiently picked and converted by nerve endings into impulses. The impulses were spotted and translated by larger processors and streamed into the brain. The speed at which the translation occurred varied with the efficiency in the transmission-conversion process. Most twins required a three to four day slot to process the information fed out to them. In the case of Shane and Parthiv, it was noted that they required just about a day to take in a weeks worth of information. Taking into account their tender years, the twins were thus allowed the Thursday of each week for the assimilation of information.
Shane reached the boundary that was marked as the entrance to the cluster and passed the row of shells that was meant for the younger learners. He walked past the one that had been their recent refuge and hesitated before the shell he was now supposed to enter. This was a new one. He extended a trembling arm towards the doorline of the fifth structure. A puff of air fanned his face and the skin slid open to form an entrance. Visibly excited, Shane felt the vein throb on his forehead as he walked into the cool interior. He was sure that Parthiv felt the excitement course through him in his sleep. Smilingly, he bounced on to the nearest available pod after hastily donning the proactive cover. He wiggled into the seat and willed his senses to calm down. He had an extra hour of information to take in and was not going to waste even a second of it. Closing his eyes, Shane settled down. Parthiv would know where to find him.
Parthiv in the meantime, felt an anxiousness envelop his sleep. In his dream-induced state, he was running. A nameless anxiety gripped him and he struggled to break free. He felt the Man-tree voicing out instructions but he seemed to be immobile and helpless all of a sudden as his twin called out for him. A pair of large grey eyes in a tranquil face framed with blue-black hair appeared before him. Her gaze was filled with hope. The image faded and he was now in the pod. The feelers felt him over and the illuminated impulses suddenly transformed into spiders. Numerous arthropods that was large, small, brown and, black. He watched them enter the pod and climb up. Soon, his feet, ankles, calf muscles, and knees were covered with the crawlers. The climb was steady and their beady eyes gleamed. Clenching his teeth, Parthiv’s eyes popped open as he felt the muscles of his thighs tighten. He ran to the closet and relieved himself. His vein throbbed and Parthiv realized that Shane was super excited. Noting the time, he hastened to look presentable and conspired to enter his twin’s pod at the earliest. They were born of the same zygote and were deemed to receive the same level of information. He should not have agreed to his twin’s condition.
For a minute, Parthiv recollected the face in his dream and what his friend, the Man-tree had called out to him. His eyebrows drew together as he tried to piece the images with the sensation that he had felt. Pausing to grab a bar of glutinous fungal jelly from the kitchen rack, Parthiv ran out in the direction of the learning shells. The bar wobbled as he moved, growing smaller in size as he chomped on and sprinted.
SHADES OF PINK
Astride their gleaming Footlong, purple footwear shouting out their affluence, onwards marched the twin princes to ward off the attack from the south. Behind them followed their loyal soldiers decked in shades of brown and marching in columns of twos. None of the twins would choose any other as their mate and hence rows, columns, groups, formations or play-offs were designed to include two of a kind rather than the age-old norm of single entities bereft of associates. Hence, Shane and Parthiv were joint princes of the tiny province of Stargough who lorded over their elder counterparts simply on account of being ahead in the learning assimilation area. The twins claimed that to the south of their province were mountainous regions covered with pink passionflowers that gave the area its distinct identity. They had discovered that the humans who lived there, colored themselves with the dye made from the flowers and lived as one with other four-footed species. Parthiv realized that the arthropod that had clambered over him had been one such specimen that was to be found in the south. As the children listened in wide-eyed rapture, Shane commanded that they were to cross the mountains and invade the south. They would establish the Stargough way of life there.
Onward they thundered, with pairs flying overhead on their breeze-boats keeping a watchful eye on possible dangers. The scouts took turns to turn back and report to the princes who counseled with each other and pronounced the next course of action. As the sun blazed overhead, many of the twins reeled from its effect and retired from the scene. The princes cavalcade being overly affected by the loss in numbers, decided to forgo the game and restart on a day that had favorable conditions. Commanding their Footlong and the occupants of the breeze-boats to retire, the lackluster princes decided to walk further and drink from a thin rivulet that lay a quarter of a mile away. A hot breeze fanned around them and they paced their footsteps to match each other. Once the rhythm was established, they swung their frail arms in unison, grinning as they stole looks at each other and marched on as the red dust formed little puffs around their feet. From a distance, the silver and green clad figures resembled puppets that matched their movements in tandem with their thoughts.
Shane and Parthiv were considered queer among their group. Twins were normally, closely attuned to each other specially the identical ones. But the two seemed to have arrived from a different dimension. They assimilated faster, did not require the normal tools (language) to communicate and, spent far too much time on the Man-tree. Their ideas were considered weird yet suitable enough for most considering the level of fun they produced. They did not conform to normal routines and were probably given too much freedom by their parents. Their pranks often earned the ire of other parents and most twins were asked to stay away from them. But their popularity increased instead of diminishing as the twins carried out their tasks blithely unaware of the incessant scrutiny on them, something that arose chiefly due to Footlong’s sudden presence within the tiny community.
The boys were so absorbed in their pantomime that they failed to notice the soft sounds of shuffling feet behind them. As the sounds drew closer, the boys paused and turned neatly to find two pairs of eyes watching them. Their Footlong had been following them and they had scant realized it. With a bloated body that was shaped like a centipede, nodes, stiff hairs and all, the creature was an adorable one. One pair of eyes reflected an emotion at a time and at present; Footlong was looking at its friends with love and concern. Despite being asked to return to its home; a deep furrow under the roots of the Man-tree, Footlong had continued to watch over the boys, and their straying from the boundary concerned him. Footlong had appointed himself as their guardian and thus took several steps forward to ascertain that the boys were not walking too far away. As he watched the boys move further, he realized that the sun’s rays were sloping towards the west. His anxiousness resurfaced and he lifted his head to perk up his antennae. After a few moments, Footlong shuffled towards the direction of the boys.
As the duo surveyed their friend, Shane enquired, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be back Footlong?’
Footlong stared placidly first at Shane, then Parthiv. The boys realized that Footlong was worried about them, the sweet thing. ‘Won’t Man-tree wait for you?’ interjected Parthiv as the silence lengthened. Footlong looked at Parthiv with an amused smile. Shane turned and asked his brother, ‘What’s he saying?’ as the brother nodded and hmm’ed. Shane was not as perceptive as his brother while Parthiv’s rate of assimilation was getting to be faster every single day. Parthiv had exchanged thoughts with Footlong. The discovery was a shocker for Footlong as well as the man-friend in the beginning to realize that their communication level went along the same lines. Once realization sunk in and was accepted as normal, they got along like a house on fire. Footlong was young and the tiny humans made him feel responsible and so, he took it upon himself to protect them. The trio took a lot of joy from the instant games that were rooted in moments of sheer craziness and enlivened them. It reaffirmed their close bond and cemented their friendship.
Realizing that Shane was getting impatient, Parthiv replied, ‘He says that Man-tree is more worried about us than him.’ Footlong shuffled a few paces and stood between them, his eyes darting towards the boys anxiously. Shane looked mutinous and looked ahead. ‘All we want is, to drink some water from the stream. We are getting closer Footlong.’
Parthiv, in an effort to soothe the gathering dark clouds, put his hand around Footlong as if to pacify him and said, ‘We know that the sun’s going down and that we are straying. But we are princes and need to know the land of our enemies.’ He looked at Shane who nodded grandly to confirm that the game was to be continued at a later date. ‘Man-tree doesn’t need to be worried. You are protecting us.’ As Footlong beamed Parthiv continued, ‘We shall take a sip of water and you shall guide us a few furlongs ahead to have a look at the mountains beyond which the pink people live.’
As Parthiv spoke, images of the spiders flashed in his mind and Footlong visibly recoiled. ‘The girl, the grey-eyed one; you seem to be curious about her?’ he enquired of Shane through his brother with a lift of his eyebrow. Shane blushed and the others teased him even as his ears turned a deep shade of pink. Parthiv continued his line of questioning. ‘Is that why you chose not to tell me about it?’ Shane looked away. Footlong glanced at Parthiv and thought out, ‘Perhaps the game was devised for this. Just so, that we come here. Man-tree is not happy. Said it is not yet time.’
Sitting on their haunches after drinking the sweet water of the rivulet, the three spent a few moments listening to the merry tinkle of the flowing water. As the sun sank further, Footlong stood up and shook himself and thought out, ‘Time to move. We shall move further ahead and then turn back.’ The boys clambered onto the creature’s back and each gripped a bristle. Ensuring that the boys were settled, Footlong began to trot, a steady gait at first that soon turned into a sprint.
The boys sat comfortably upon Footlong as he ran. The bare landscape around them blurred and shrubs and rocks whizzed past. Footlong’s body was like a giant cushion and his antennae vibrated back and forth emitting flashes of light. The boys conversed with each other as they moved; sometimes laughing out aloud as they reminisced about funny escapades and queer games that could be possibly played out. Shane sulked sometimes if he was unable to read the thoughts that ran between his brother and their friend but Parthiv was quick to take note of the despondency and clarify matters between them. It troubled him that Shane had chosen to keep the matter of the girl hidden within him. Parthiv wondered what prompted Shane to do that. They were like two open books and had always been ready to offset each other’s dissimilarities, even if those were rare. Perhaps Shane had thought that Parthiv would get that anyway being the quicker of the two. Perhaps he had not intended to keep the thought away, he’d only forgotten. A distant part of Parthiv’s brain worked furiously as he remained engrossed in his thoughts.
‘Don’t read between the lines. He’s your brother. You take care of him just as I take care of the two of you,’ thought out Footlong. Parthiv was startled to see a pair of twinkling eyes look back at him and he nodded. A surreptitious look towards his brother confirmed that Shane had not read his thoughts.
‘You are getting to be faster and your brain waves are being compartmentalized.’
‘Is that a good thing?’ shot back Parthiv.
‘Hmm mmm,’ was the noncommittal reply.
Shane’s abrupt, ‘I think that here is good enough,’ startled the two. Feeling guilty, Parthiv climbed down and walked by his brother’s side. A pair of surprised eyes bore into his back but he refused to turn and look. Looping a hand with that of his twin the pair studied the majestic mountain range that stood tall, with its pointed peak touching the sky.
Gwarolo seemed forbidding and stern. From what the twins had assimilated, the world beyond the mountain range was colorful and still clung to habits that refused to die. This resulted in widespread challenges that wiped out most of the population. A part of the population - the harborers of Stargough, had broken off from the main section and travelled far to settle in on a place where they could piece together the fabric of a society that was as different as the one they had been exposed to. Such a way of life offered protection and ensured that future generations remained honor bound to commit their services and understanding to ensure efficient livability of the small but highly advanced community.
Armed with a keen sense of the what-ifs and the whatnot, the Elders began to create the basis of a society that had creators among its ranks. Thus, those with an affinity for shaping and restructuring of multicellular organisms into novel items of consumption were grouped together as the growers and the reapers. It was thus that edible forms of fungi, weeds, algae, herbs, mushrooms; wild berries and leaves that grew in abundance were harvested and tested for functional enhancement. Taste was not a specific option although the peculiar effects of certain herbs were tweaked to offer desirous products such as the hunger staver powders, high energy nutrition bars-one of these met the entire nutritional requirement of an adult for a day, glutinous leaf shakes that shook blob like, and was an adequate replacement for milk and was an early morning must-have for all the young learners. There were sun-dried grain and weed patties; a preferred snack and flaky pods of flowers that was mixed with farm-nurtured honey for the mornings. All the elements were grown in the green houses that lay to the north of the Man-tree. The shells were a pastel green and similar in structure to the learning shells. The growers and the reapers were almost always calm and placid by nature. The Elders were careful to pick out a work force that had such a nature as; the plant forms growing within had to be subjected to a calm atmosphere that would facilitate a healthy and easy growth.
Similar to the pods at the learning shells, the pods here had the same shape but were palm sized bearing outgrowths on all sides. Thus, a single pod had several species of food bearing outgrowths in various stages of development. Feelers that nourished kept the plants supplemented. Each shell had therefore, thousands of such pods that were suspended throughout the spatial area and could be accessed by an upraised palm of the grower-cum-reaper. Thus several persons were assigned to each shell and the functions of growing, harvesting, pruning and shearing were carried out in a silent ritualistic process. The entire work was carried forth by experienced hands and this here, was a labor borne through love and dedication.
From the entrance were placed the greenhouses in neat rows of three. The parents of the twins were occupied with the most delicate work, the harvesting of the weed-pods in the second last row of shells. This was a task that was normally assigned to senior growers who had a natural affinity for sorting out the pods before they flowered. The three shells had pods that contained the same outgrowths and this was backbreaking, tedious work. Mike and Lisha were hard workers and loved what they did. It helped provide a steady supply of food on account of their status and the stocks at home was continuously topped up through weekly visits to the store. This was a separate cluster of shells in the same bay that was manned by the sorters. The sorters received, arranged, dispersed and maintained record of the supply system. In deference to the twins demand for more numbers of the latest flavor; sundried weed-berry patties, red headed Mike of the Irish ancestry and Lisha, of the coffee colored hair and eyes that bore traces of an Indian heritage decided to make a quick visit to the store cluster. The two discussed the issue of Parthiv’s annoyance yet again, with regard to his ‘weird’ name and how he wanted that to be exchanged with his twin. Shrugging helplessly, the duo moved towards the cluster. Lisha stopped at the entrance and contemplated the ground. Looking up at her tall husband she said, ‘How do we convince him that the names of newborns are not decided by the parents? How do we let him know that it’s all a predetermined program.’ Mike rubbed her back in an effort to calm her down. ‘Hush…. He will come to realize it at the right time. Don’t you fret your sweet head about it.’ Lisha was by now working on a strand of her bouncy hair. The boy was young and arguably raw but the recalcitrant attitude against them had to stop. It seemed petty and silly. ‘He’s only a boy Lish. There’s much that he has to learn and understand. The Elders will make sure of that.’ As Lisha hesitated, her shoulders squared as if in readiness for the next round of reasoning, Mike continued, ‘He’s our son Lisha. The boys have a long way to go. They will encounter rough patches but they’ll gradually come around. They’ll understand that we are not at fault. As for the why’s, they’ll get to know that as well. Now we don’t want them to be raring at the bit waiting for the patties and all eh?’’ Gently thus did the father steer the anxious mother into the dim interior of the shell.