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CRAFTPUPPET  ©2017 by Cliff Johnson. All Rights Reserved.

Spirit Moon

 

“What in thunder are you waiting for?” Jaye thought. “I won’t hurt you.”

A pale furry flesh peered at him from inside a tunnel in the snow. Its long ears twitched. The tiny nose holes quivered open and shut.

He had waited many marks crouched in the snow, keeping his Elder Evergreen frame absolutely still and his hand extended. Cupped in his hinge-and-pin fingers were a bunch of lavender berries. His green eyes remained steadfast on the creature.

“Oh, come on already,” Jaye muttered to himself. “I’ve seen you devouring these berries, and here’s a whole handful.”

He sensed the musky smell of the flesh vapor. Its liquid eyes glistened. Then he heard the flesh speak inside his head.

“Savory fruit... yum, yum,” it said. “But me no trust wood walkers.”

Jaye knew better than to speak out loud. He focused on the flesh and replied with his mind.

“I picked these berries especially for you,” he thought. “I won’t move, I promise.”

“Me mighty fast bounder,” the flesh replied. “You never catch me.”

“I don’t want to catch you,” Jaye insisted. “I just want to see, close up, how you devour the berries.”

“Tut-tut. Wood walker one big stupid head.”

Jaye expected the flesh to disappear back down the snow tunnel, but to his surprise, the flesh ventured forward on all fours. The fifth limb, plump and bushy, arched upward. The creature crept across the icy crust of the snow, its eyes darting in all directions. Then Jaye sensed another aroma. Something sweet and pulpy. But where was it coming from?

“If you stay still like that,” a voice laughed, “your sap will freeze.”

The flesh reared up on its hind legs and bared its mouth thorns.

“Cheater. Hoodwinker. Bamboozler,” it growled.

The flesh spun around and bounded back down the tunnel.

“Blast it,” Jaye shouted. “You scared it away. Do you know how long I’ve waited for this?”

He jerked his head toward the voice. There stood a slender pet with dazzling cyan eyes.

“Well, can you move?” she asked.

“Of course I can move,” he replied. “I’ve been swirling my vapor inside my wood, and that keeps the sap warm. Didn’t your oldborns teach you anything?”

“I have no sap,” she retorted. “Our wood is dry and aromatic as you no doubt have noticed.”

How could he not notice? Her fragrance was a pleasing combination of snowflowers and fresh chopped wood. The aroma saturated his grain and tingled his vapor.

“You’re a Spice Evergreen, aren’t you?” Jaye blurted out.

He flung the berries across the snow, grasped ahold of his puppet frame to stand, and hurried closer. Like himself, she stood a standard length high. But her auburn wood was unusually smooth and without blemish as compared to his rough crimson bark and clusters of green needles. She had many strings of beads around her joints and the top of her head. And the sight of her face startled him.

“Where’s your nose and ears?” he asked.

“Puppets don’t need ears to hear or a nose to smell,” she replied.

“But puppets need eyes to see and mouths to speak,” he countered.

“Not at all,” she laughed. “I can communicate vapor-to-vapor with any member of my tree tribe. And I can sense images and hear sounds from a great distance.”

Jaye had heard rumors of such things, but no one he knew had those powers.

“So you’re saying — what? — that Spice Evergreens have no use for a head?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m Wynny. And who might you be?”

“Um, Jaye.”

He couldn’t help but stare at her dazzling cyan eyes. And he had the sneaking suspicion that she knew it.

“You’re a stalwart pup,” Wynny said. “How do you keep all that purple-red tree bark from falling off your wood?”

“I don’t know,” Jaye replied. “It’s just stubborn, I guess.”

“And you have fresh green needles growing in patches all over you. Tell me. Can you feel them growing?”

Jaye had never thought about it before, and now he feared that he would never stop thinking about it.

“The needles just grow. It’s the same with all Elder Evergreens.”

“Your green patches are oddly irregular, don’t you think?” Wynny asked.

“So says the pet with no nose or ears,” Jaye replied. “Why do you wear all those strings of beads?”

“They’re ceremonial,” she said. “They represent the moon and stars. But between you and me, I think Spice Evergreens use them to cover up their hinge-and-pin joints. We’re all very vain, don’t you know.”

Jaye laughed. He had never spoken to a Spice Evergreen before. All he knew about them was that they gathered every sunset and welcomed the rising of the moon in song.

“I didn’t know puppets could sing,” Jaye remarked. “It startled me the first time I heard it. I thought it was the howling of the timber flesh.”

Wynny cocked her head.

“How old are you anyway?” she asked.

“Um, thirty-three days,” he replied.

“Oh, you’re just a newborn,” she laughed. “I thought you were older.”

“Why? How old are you?”

“Over four moon cycles.”

“Hold on. You’re still a newborn too.”

“Yes, but I’m not counting my life in days. And I certainly know better than to crouch in the snow and invite flesh things to gnaw off my hand.”

Jaye grunted and clacked his fingertips against his palms.

“That flesh spoke inside my head. It trusted me. Until you came along.”

“Really? I thought that only red vapors could commune with the flesh. And that you green vapors were devoted to birth trees.”

“I’m not interested in devoting myself to any one thing,” Jaye announced. “I find everything fascinating, don’t you?”

“I find you fascinating,” Wynny purred. “I can see your green vapor surging outside your joints.”

Jaye was quick to retract his vapor back inside his wood. He had already endured too many lectures from a certain gnarled oldborn, one just this morning in fact.

“A proper puppet doesn’t display his vapor in his joints,” Aarod scolded. “The Creator decreed that puppets should only reveal their vapor through the holes in their eye orbs.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” Jaye groaned. “Perhaps if these joints were tighter, the task would be easier.”

“If those joints were tighter,” Aarod barked, “that would cause friction. Your wood could heat up and burst into flames. Exercise some discipline and intent for once, and do as you are told.”

But secretly, Jaye enjoyed seeing his green vapor manipulate his joints and limbs. He decided instead that he needed to apply more discipline and intent to the task of not be caught doing it.

“No, no,” Wynny insisted. “I want to see your vapor again.”

“Why?”

“Why not?”

She drew nearer. Her cyan eyes sparkled.

“Why not indeed?” Jaye thought.

He flexed his left elbow. His glowing green vapor leapt from the upper arm to the lower arm, traveling above the surface of the joint. Wynny gasped with delight and thrust her fingers into the crook of his elbow. For a moment, their two vapors mingled. Jaye jolted with sudden euphoria and staggered backward.

“What did you do?” he demanded.

“I merged with your vapor,” she giggled. “It was intoxicating. Let’s do it again.”

“Wait. We aren’t companions.”

“Does it matter?”

“I don’t know. Isn’t merging with different color vapors bad?”

“It felt good to me.”

Jaye did not disagree.

“What do you two think you’re doing?” a gruff voice hollered. “Jaye — get down off that slope.”

It was that miserable Aarod. He had been spying on them from the mountain path.

“Great, just great,” Jaye muttered. “My oldborns prohibit any fraternizing between tree tribes.”

“Mine say the same thing,” Wynny laughed. “Why don’t you meet me here at nightfall? There’ll be a spirit moon tonight. They only appear once every three years. It could be exciting and dangerous.”

Before Jaye had a chance to reply, the slender pet dashed off across the snow, her strings of beads jostling against her smooth auburn wood.

“Dangerous?” Jaye thought. “Why’s that such a good idea?”

The green-eyed newborn sat down on the icy crust, and guiding with his hands and feet, he slid down the slope and tumbled onto the mountain path. The gnarled Elder Evergreen trudged closer. His rough crimson bark flushed vivid red. His stubby green needles bristled.

“Why aren’t you shoveling snow?” Aarod barked.

“It’s a waste of vapor,” Jaye declared. “Puppets can just as easily walk on top of the icy crust.”

“The ice could break,” Aarod growled, “and then you’d be buried under two lengths of snow for the rest of your life.”

“But that would please you, wouldn’t it?” he snickered.

“Shut your yap — and join the others. And stay away from that Spice Evergreen. She’ll mesmerize you.”

“Too late,” Jaye thought as he scurried up the mountain path.

His vapor still tingled from Wynny’s touch. And from the delirious scent of her Spice Evergreen. And, oh, those dazzling cyan eyes.

The mountain path connected the seventeen caves of the Cave Colony. The path spanned seven lengths from the base of the great mountain to a parallel wall of packed snow. Jaye rushed past the Thorned cave, the Dwarf cave, and the Noble cave. Then he slowed down and strolled over to the Elder cave, hoping to go unnoticed.

“About time you showed up,” Nord growled. “Start shoveling.”

The rugged pup tossed him a pole with a flat plank attached to one end.

“Why pick on me?” Jaye groused. “Where’s Kurl and Sherre?”

“Off gibbering tribal guff,” Nord snarled.

“And Gilliad and Vella?”

“Studying trifles.”

“What about Firth and Renn?”

The Elder Evergreen newborns howled with laughter. A squat pet marched up to Jaye and punched him in the shoulder.

“Those two are off merging,” Dundee snorted. “And about time, too. Me and Chadra merged our fifth day. And out of pity, we include Yurd here.”

The scrawny pup’s wooden eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

“Does everyone need to know our affairs?” Yurd squawked.

“Like it’s a secret,” Nord jeered. “You three merge in front of everyone.”

“Confound it,” Jaye thought. “Everyone’s merging but me. And now I have to squander my vapor shoveling snow.”

He examined the awkward design of the shovel.

“There must be a better way to do this,” Jaye grumbled.

“Yeah. Use your hands until your knuckles freeze,” Dundee blustered.

“Quit carping,” Nord growled. “So it snows every few days. Ever hear the old-timers complain about it? Tell him, Yurd.”

Adopting a shrill voice, the scrawny pup hunched over and trembled his limbs.

“Now you listen up, sprout,” Yurd mocked. “It’s used to snow every single day. Pups and pets couldn’t leave their caves for suns and moons. The only way we could carve birth puppets was to dig our way out of the caves and forage wood from the Evergreen Forest. That took energy and lots of it. Many of us dropped dead. And some of us keeled over after projecting the birth beacon. But if we hadn’t sacrificed our vapors, you wouldn’t be here today.”

Jaye rapped his fingertips along his crimson bark.

“But I bet that old-timer is dead by now,” he shot back. “Puppets only live for three years. Some even less. And I don’t want to waste a third of my life shoveling snow. For that matter, why do only newborns shovel snow? There’s plenty of able-bodied midborns just sitting around in their caves, carving furniture and painting images on cave walls. Why us?”

Chadra, a stout and formidable pet, ceased shoveling and glowered at him.

“Our vapors are the strongest,” she boomed. “Now get to work.”

“But squandering vapor is how newborns get to be oldborns,” Jaye persevered. “There must be a better way.”

The path they were shoveling ran directly from the door of their tribal cave, across the mountain path, and straight to the Evergreen Forest, about a hundred lengths away. He gazed up at the two walls of snow enclosing the path. They towered twice his height.

“You know,” Jaye began, “the flesh dig tunnels through the snow. And after every snowfall, the tunnels are intact. Only the entrance needs to be cleared.”

“Dig tunnels?” Nord sneered. “Too much work. Let’s clear this half a length of snow and be done with it.”

Jaye’s green eyes twinkled.

“But what if we never had to clear the path again?” he asked.

“Stop beating around the bush,” Chadra bellowed.

“We don’t need to dig a new tunnel,” Jaye explained. “All we need to do is build a roof of tree branches atop these existing walls and then lay down a thick bed of twigs and needles over the roof. That way, when the snow falls, it will accumulate on top of the branches, and we’ll have our tunnel.”

The green-eyed newborns glanced back and forth at each other.

“Let’s do it,” Chadra boomed.

“Yeah,” Dundee agreed. “I hate shoveling snow. We’ll fetch some deadwood from the Evergreen Forest. Yurd — just don’t stand there. Come on. Get cracking.”

The scrawny pup groaned and scampered alongside the two hardy pets.

“Be sure the branches are long enough to bridge the gap,” Jaye shouted.

“We better scrounge up some tools,” Nord remarked. “Axes, hammers, chisels. Two of each should do it.”

Above the northern wall of snow, Jaye heard cackling voices and a steady crunching.

“Wait,” he exclaimed. “What’s that sound?”

“It’s those wicked Jack Evergreens,” Nord hissed. “If I ever get my hands on one of them...”

Jaye looked up at the top of the wall just as a huge ball of snow rolled over the edge. It struck him square in the face. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t hear. His legs buckled, and he collapsed to the ground.

“No. I can’t go into vapor shock,” he fumed. “Not now. I must build this roof.”

Jaye reoriented his green vapor and found his limbs. His fingers scratched the sticky snow off his face, but his orbs were frozen and the eye holes blocked.

“I wonder how Wynny can see without her eyes?” he muttered.

The newborn focused and swirled his vapor inside his head. He felt his grain get warmer, yet it seemed to take forever to melt the ice and snow. When he could finally see again, he stood up cautiously and gazed about.

Nord was gone, no doubt chasing after the Jack Evergreens. And there, emerging from the Evergreen Forest, was Chadra and Dundee. Each of them carried a huge log over their heads. And scrawny Yurd had a collection of thick branches in his arms.

“I had no idea they were that strong,” Jaye gasped.

“They weren’t always that way,” Nord barked, arriving with a bundle of tools. “I used to be the strongest.”

“Really?”

“Yep. But you weren’t born yet.”

“Well, if we never have to shovel snow again,” Jaye pointed out, “then all of us will be the strongest in the Cave Colony.”

“I’m all for that,” howled the rugged pup.

Jaye organized the construction. He had Chadra and Dundee chop the logs into sections of the correct length. And he had Nord and Yurd wedge the sections apart into long planks. Then he leaned a tree branch against the wall of snow and climbed to the top. From there, he grabbed each piece of wood and placed it properly. The work progressed steadily until every scrap of wood was gone.

“The roof covers about ten lengths of the path,” Jaye boasted. “Tomorrow, we can do another ten lengths. We’ll reach that forest in nine days, tops.”

The scrawny pup gaped at the sky.

“It’s three-quarters sun,” Yurd hollered. “We’d better haul our wood out of here.”

“Blast it,” Jaye grunted. “Aarod and his never-ending lectures. I’ve had enough of that miserable knothead for one lifetime.”

The three pups and two pets made their way up the mountain path to Aarod’s cave. Inside, his walls were piled with stacks of tree bark from floor to ceiling. And more stacks were piled in front of those. There was adequate space for four of them to sit on the floor, and the rest had to stand.

Kurl, a head taller than a standard length, was seated beside his curvy companion, Sherre. They whispered back and forth as if they were devising some secret plan that would affect the fate of all puppets. What self-important snobs.

Firth, a head shy of a length, sat next to his new companion, Renn. Her design had a jagged appearance, which suited her bristly personality.

Chadra and Dundee lorded over them and heckled the couple mercilessly about their first merging.

Jaye stood in the back, crossed his arms, and tapped his fingers impatiently.

Yurd squeezed in next to him.

“We barely fit inside this cave,” Jaye muttered. “What happens when there are more newborns?”

“Well, they’ll have to stand outside,” Yurd scowled.

Close to the entrance, Aarod sat on a tree stump and crouched over a small wooden table. With quick gestures, he wielded a flesh feather and etched red symbols onto a piece of flattened bark.

Gilliad arrived and leaned over him. Her wide eyes observed his activity.

“I see you’re using flesh sap,” she stated. “Wouldn’t a mineral compound be more permanent?”

The gnarled oldborn kept etching without looking up.

“These records go back to the very beginning,” Aarod growled, “and flesh sap has withstood the test of time, Miss Busybody.”

Gilliad’s companion, Vella, a sort of an angular pet, was the last to appear. She bent down and examined his tree bark more closely.

“Are your symbols based on the separate sounds of speech?” Vella inquired. “That would be the system I would employ.”

Aarod threw down his flesh feather and creaked to his feet.

“My ancestors are delighted to have your approval, Miss Know-It-All,” he barked. “Now get your wood in front of this table. And don’t touch anything.”

Jaye covered his mouth to keep from laughing.

“That Gilliad and Vella,” he thought. “Only they would question Aarod’s methods straight to his face.”

Aarod banged his fist on the tabletop and waited until the newborns were absolutely quiet. Then he began his lecture.

“This is the year 287,” he began, “and more than twenty-eight decades ago, The Creator carved the First Puppet and endowed her with a living vapor...”

“That can’t be right,” Jaye thought, raising his hand.

Aarod’s green eyes flared.

“What is it now?” he growled.

“Why only one puppet?” Jaye asked. “There had to be more than one. What if this first puppet cracked through the ice and got buried in the snow?”

“He makes a valid point,” Gilliad agreed. “If I were The Creator, then I would have constructed a minimum of ten puppets to ensure the success of my venture.”

“Only ten?” Vella disputed. “You’re forgetting about the threat of the timber flesh. I would have constructed a hundred puppets and then perhaps ten would survive.”

The oldborn stomped his fist again.

“The Creator carved one puppet,” Aarod barked, “and only one puppet. And then He endowed her with the first living vapor...”

Jaye raised his hand again.

“Who is this Creator?” he asked. “Is He a puppet? A vapor? And why only one Creator? He, too, could crack through the ice and get buried in the snow.”

Chadra slapped her hands on her thighs.

“I bet The Creator is a big ugly flesh thing,” she boomed.

All of the newborns burst into laughter. All except Renn.

“Why does everyone refer to our Blessed Creator as a He?” she huffed. “Why not a She?”

“That’s because pups act and pets squawk,” Yurd jeered.

Dundee punched the scrawny pup in the shoulder.

“I’ll do the acting,” she blustered, “and you’ll do the squawking when I throw you down the mountain.”

Kurl leapt to his feet.

“Let Aarod finish his lecture,” he demanded. “The tribal council meets at dusk. And I have no intention of being absent from a single meeting. So, prattle on your own time — not mine.”

Sherre clasped his hand.

“Oh, you long to join the tribal council, don’t you?” she teased.

“Not only join it,” Kurl swaggered, “I intend to become chief puppet.”

Yurd giggled, but when nobody else did, he went quiet and slouched.

Jaye kept his eyes fixed on Aarod. He wondered which newborn would be the first to incur his wrath. For once, it might not be him.

“The next sapling that interrupts me,” Aarod growled, “will spend the entire night gathering tree bark — is that clear?”

The cave fell silent.

“I better shut my yap,” Jaye thought. “I can’t let anything stop me from meeting up with Wynny.”

“Now as I was saying,” Aarod grunted. “The Creator carved the First Puppet and endowed her with a living vapor. Then He commanded the First Puppet to carve new puppets, and for those puppets to carve new puppets as well. On that day, The Creator made a promise to answer all birth beacons and deliver living vapors from the Eastern Horizon for one hundred generations...”

Jaye’s mind wandered. He flexed his fingers and studied the precise movement of his hinge-and-pin joints. Puppet hands fascinated him. They contained more separate pieces of wood than the rest of the body combined.

“The Creator must have intended our hands for a higher purpose,” he mused. “Certainly not for just shoveling snow.”

He rotated his wrists and stared at the green needles on the back of his hands. The more he stared at them, the more he perceived a faint itching sensation.

“I can feel them growing,” Jaye realized. “Confound it. Why did Wynny put that idea into my head?”

He jerked his head up and struggled to concentrate on the lecture.

“Now, weather permitting,” Aarod barked, “tomorrow at high sun, I will guide you through the Evergreen Forest, and I will demonstrate how each tree defends itself from attack. All of you must bring along your own stone axe. Now go away. Get out of here.”

It took a moment for Jaye to realize what Aarod had said.

“The trees defend themselves?” he blurted out. “How?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Aarod growled, “because, tomorrow, you will be the first to volunteer.”

“Volunteer?” Jaye grumbled. “Volunteer for what?”

The gnarled oldborn sat down again and resumed etching his tree bark.

As the newborns retreated from the cramped cave, Renn confronted Jaye and waved her jagged finger in his face.

“Trees have vapors just like the flesh,” Renn scolded, “and they defend themselves just like the flesh.”

“Well, not exactly like the flesh,” Firth pointed out. “Trees don’t chase after you.”

She took Jaye by the arm and turned away from her short companion.

“Ignore him,” Renn grunted. “Now you listen to me, Jaye. Instead of concocting your inane questions, you should be paying attention to Aarod’s lectures.”

“Not if I can help it,” Jaye quipped. “Say, I hear that you two are companions now.”

“What of it?” Renn hissed.

“Um, well, I need some advice,” Jaye confided.

“About what? Merging?” Renn snapped. “Those hooligans, Chadra and Dundee, tormented us already. And I won’t tolerate any flak out of you. Come along, Firth.”

As the jagged pet stormed away, Firth leaned closer to Jaye’s ear and whispered.

“Whatever you do, don’t caress the wood with your hands,” he advised.

“Okay...” Jaye whispered back.

“Just make contact with the wood,” Firth urged, “and your vapor will do the rest.”

“Oh good. Thanks,” Jaye acknowledged.

While the other newborns headed back to their tribal cave, Jaye dashed down the mountain path. The shadow of the great mountain stretched over the Evergreen Forest. The setting sun cast the snowy peaks of the Eastern Horizon in hues of orange and purple.

With the daylight waning, Jaye had difficulty locating the exact spot where he had met the feisty Spice Evergreen. He decided to sit atop an exposed rock in plain view. That way, she would be sure to catch sight of his glowing green eyes.

Jaye tapped his fingers on his knees in nervous anticipation of their encounter.

“Only nine more days and the roof will be complete,” he thought. “Then I won’t have to shovel snow ever again. I bet that will add at least another year to my life. Maybe now, I’ll have enough time to discover why puppets are so different from everything else.”

It had taken him eight days to adapt to his new puppet frame and to learn how to maneuver his arms and legs. When he first beheld the wilderness, Jaye had an immediate sense that the trees and flesh belonged there and that the puppets did not.

The trees had roots in the ground. Their branches grew and reached for the sun. They dropped seed cones to create new trees.

The flesh roamed freely with fierce abandon. They were stronger than puppets, lived longer than puppets, and although their odd behavior puzzled and intrigued him, the flesh seemed to be part of the natural order.

“There’s nothing natural about puppets,” Jaye mused. “Our bodies are carved from the deadwood of trees, yet we can’t survive in the wilderness. We have to hide inside rock caves and huddle around bonfires. The only thing we have in common is our vapors, but puppets have to summon birth vapors from the Eastern Horizon. And as far as I can tell, the trees and flesh have vapors naturally. Why is that?”

A chorus of voices echoed up the mountain. The sweet fragrance of Spice Evergreen filled the air.

“Oh yes, of course,” Jaye thought. “They’re singing to welcome the moon. Wynny must be down there, too.”

“Nope. I’m right here,” Wynny laughed, brushing her hand through his head needles.

“What in thunder?” Jaye hollered. “Don’t sneak up on me like that. Wait. How did you know what I was thinking?”

“We’ve merged,” she laughed. “I can read your thoughts now. Can you read mine?”

He stared into her dazzling cyan eyes and sensed nothing, but he didn’t have to be a mind-reader to figure out what she was thinking.

“I found a fissure in the mountain, right behind us,” Wynny purred. “It’s not much to speak of, but there’s plenty of room for us to merge.”

Jaye’s green needles trembled. He couldn’t just jump into a cave and start merging straightaway.

“Oh look. There’s your spirit moon,” he shouted, pointing to the east.

The crest of the full moon loomed in the distance and rose steadily into the night sky.

“It doesn’t look any different from the other full moon,” Jaye remarked. “Why do you call it the spirit moon?”

“Just wait and see,” Wynny chuckled.

The clouds flashed with colored light. Jaye perceived red and cyan, blue and yellow, green and magenta.

“Hold on,” he exclaimed. “Those are the colors of puppet vapor.”

“Indeed. Now keep watching,” Wynny urged.

Glowing orbs of every color emerged from the clouds and skated along the surface of the moon, hundreds of them creating a wondrous display.

“That’s incredible,” Jaye burst out. “And this happens every three years?”

“Calm down,” Wynny shushed. “There’s more. Look across the wilderness.”

Jaye cast his gaze downward. From within the gloom, he perceived undulating shapes of colored light, rising upward. They soared into the night sky and circled around the spirit moon.

“Are those tree and flesh vapors?” Jaye asked.

“Oh no,” Wynny replied. “Those are desolate spirits. Puppets who died before their time, and instead of ascending to the Western Horizon, their vapors took refuge in the deadwood of fallen trees. But they cannot resist the call of the spirit moon.”

“Really?” Jaye gasped. “But what’s happening now?”

“The desolate spirits will follow the spirit moon throughout the night,” she explained, “until they reach the Western Horizon and find peace.”

Jaye marveled at the whirling colors in the heavens.

“You said this would be dangerous,” he remarked. “But I think it’s magnificent.”

“Oh, it’s dangerous, all right,” Wynny giggled. “If you encounter a desolate spirit in the wilderness, it will devour your vapor and steal your wood. Exciting, isn’t it?”

“You’re off your nut,” Jaye barked. “Let’s get out of here and hide inside that fissure cave of yours.”

“No,” Wynny insisted. “The desolate spirits can detect movement on the ground. It’s better to stay right where we are.”

She wrapped her arms around him. Her strings of beads pressed against his rough crimson bark. He felt the intimate tingle of her cyan vapor caressing his green vapor.

“We can’t merge out here,” Jaye squawked.

“Of course we can,” Wynny purred. “It excites me.”

Suddenly, the snow gleamed red. Jaye jerked his head up. A brilliant beam of red light extended all the way to the Eastern Horizon.

“Those knotholes,” Wynny growled. “The Thorned Evergreens projected a birth beacon. Don’t they know it’s a spirit moon?”

“What?” Jaye clamored. “What’s going to happen?”

He heard a terrible shrieking from above. The swarm of desolate spirits descended from the night sky.

“They’re coming straight for us,” Jaye cried out.

e-mail cliff@craftpuppet.com
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