Chapter 1. Kum
His name was Kum. Why? Because his father was Kum and his mother was Kum. And because he was the last child of his parents, the only one who could continue the Kum generation.
Parents chose a small gloomy planet at the crossroads between two star systems. Here, far from the bustle of the big world, father and mother dug up the stony soil and lowered their last seed into the pit. Many years passed here before their son grew up…
Kum has already taken his roots out of the ground and freely moved around the planet, and his parents grew old, grew into the soil, but, as before, remained slender and beautiful.
Kum came to the spring – a small warm puddle among the cold stones – and drove the water along a narrow groove with a flat stone scoop. He knew that now his parents would be happy to have some water. Since childhood, he remembered this harsh planet: stones, frozen ground through which it is almost impossible to squeeze the roots, and a burning core in the center. Absolute zero on the surface and hot gases inside. Only for his sake his parents decided to take root here.
The first sensation in childhood was water: not cold and not burning, but gentle warm water from the spring, which he absorbed with his whole body… The joy of this remained for life.
As he remembers now: he is 10 years old, his roots have long permeated the entire planet, his father teaches him interstellar signaling.
“Well, son,” the mother says, “If you work so badly, I won’t water you anymore.”
And he, having shaken himself, again begins to learn hard, although it was no longer necessary to water him.
“If you do not learn the alphabet,” says the father, “you will never find a friend for yourself.”
But he himself found, found his mother without any alphabet and without any words in a cold void, where she, exhausted and barely alive, no longer gave any signals…
Mom always loved warmth, but didn’t tell much about it. They lived a life full of fun on a warm planet with warm gentle rains, with soft green grass … All their children died there. No, not because of an accident – that very soft, tender grass was to blame…
Here is the sunrise of the distant sun. Mom exposes all her leaves to it. It was not easy for her to get used to the local world.
“Good morning,” Kum came to the two old trees.
The father rustled something in response, however, he is unlikely to hear anything now…
For a whole year Kum had been waiting: father and mother were going to bloom. Here, on this desert planet, only Kum could pollinate the flowers, and only he could save the seeds…
And then he will need a wife, since only a woman can, with her affection, awaken to life seeds planted deep in the ground…
The first journey of Kum
So childhood ended. The last look at the trees. It is unlikely that Kum will see his native planet and his parents frozen in endless sleep ever again… He has a long journey through the entire Universe, and the beginning of this path is the worst for a tree. The fire! It is like suicide. The fire! Catalysis! Overfire! Kum soared over his native planet, burning in a dazzling white flame, and rushed away. At the last moment, when the real death was so close, a small black bourgeon burst from the body wrapped in flames. It escaped, slowly turned into a huge translucent flower, which slipped, driven by a cosmic light stream, faster, faster…
In the middle of the black flower, a small bud was blushing containing seeds and what was left of Kum himself. The journey has begun. For cosmic distant places, Kum’s speed was clearly insufficient, but he knew how to increase it almost to infinity.
“Speed… What is speed?” Kum remembered father’s lessons. “Speed is the distance flown per unit of time. And what is a unit of time? This is the simplest tact of your life, the duration of which you can choose yourself! Choose a short beat – the speed will be small, long – the speed will increase. You can achieve arbitrarily high speed … But at infinite speed, you lose the accuracy of flight control and become very vulnerable.”
Kum increased the duration of his time tact, and the fixed stars around him moved from their orbits and rushed towards him, flowing around him to the right and left. Call!!! – Silence … Kum did not feel a call, but, like his father some time before, he believed in luck. He believed that he would find in the open spaces that one and only, intended to be a mother to his children.
Every measure of time took a piece of his life… But there was no call…
A little more and he will be lost in the vastness of space without strength and without hope for salvation. So this way his mother could die, if not for the super sense of father. He needs a planet where there would be a magical liquid that gives life to people like him – water!!! Alas, the only option is the desert planet, where there were no rivers or lakes, but somewhere below the surface, Kum sensed water. Kum’s parachute planned slowly to the surface. Silence and emptiness met him below, but something … something was still here … on the verge of his feelings and consciousness. The main thing is that the roots felt water in the depth, and soon they started to drink, they drank and could not stop… Then other feelings turned on – there was air and it was warm here … Kum released the first green sprouts… Not even two hundred measures of life had passed, when Kum found a quite large body and looked around … What he saw struck him. All the land around was covered with green sprouts, similar to him like two peas in a pod…
Two years have passed (the timing has been changed in accordance with the customs of readers); Kum is ready to continue his journey. He took roots from the ground, moved away from the forest line, the nature of which he did not understand. It’s time to say goodbye to the mysterious planet. Habitually caused a sensation of fire in the lower part of the trunk … And nothing … To Kum’s surprise, the fire burning the body during take-off did not start. Repeating hopeless attempts to take off several times, Kum realized that he could not do this. It was all over, Kum’s life lost its meaning… Autumn has come, the autumn of his life, his leaves have turned yellow. And the leaves of the other trees in the forest, too. The autumn forest was silent, and inaudible years passed in silence… Kum slowed down the rhythms of his life and did not notice the time until one day a distant roar rumbled the air of a sleeping planet.
Chapter 2. Masha and the bear
“Petya, where is the promised planet? Do you think I will give birth here in zero gravity? Who promised me an emergency stop?!”
“Sanya! Well, wait a bit, another week – and there will be Junction, there is a hospital and doctors. Without sensitization at Junction, our daughter will remain, as we are, homo, before reaching the level of sapiens.”
“Do you think I can wait for another week?! A baby will be born any day. Why you cannot stop at the Dark? I heard there is a good atmosphere, unlike Junction, where we will stay under the dome. During the first month, they will not sensitize her anyway, and in a month we will start to Junction.”
“You know, the Dark has not been investigated. Not a single ship managed to approach it.”
“And why? Maybe someone died? Not at all, just the pilots had no time! So they declared the planet forbidden. And also because, according to the reports, there was nothing interesting there. Let’s land here and explore this planet. Let us be the first!”
“Well, if you, Sanya, really want this, let’s land here, but not for long, a month – no more.”
A small spaceship with roar went to the surface of an unknown planet. Dense clouds parted, revealing a grayish-black hilly plain.
“Petya, look, look! There is something yellow that looks like an autumn forest … Come on there!”
“Sanya, do not tell a nonsense! There is nothing on the Dark! I read the reports. It was scanned many times and there was not found anything interesting.”
The yellow spot grew in the windows, divided into parts and really began to resemble an ordinary autumn forest, on the edge of which the pleasure boat of the newlyweds, who had so recklessly started their honeymoon, landed.
“Petya! Oh, what a beauty here! And when the forest turns green, it will be even better!”
Two days passed in lovely household chores. Near the ship a tent house with all amenities appeared. Walking quietly along the edge of the forest, the young people noticed that the leaves in the forest were really green. And one small tree, growing almost in the center of the meadow, was all covered with green leaves.
The next morning the most important thing began. Petya got the instructions for childbirth for novice parents. A disk of an obstetrician was inserted into the slot of a ship’s robot. Alexandra, anticipating unforgettable experiences, put a fresh crystal into the emo video recorder. Petya could not find a place for himself, but his wife was absolutely calm. All equipment was set up, and childbirth promised to be easy, like it was with her mother. Nevertheless, alien technology is a real miracle that has made all women in labor on Earth confident and happy.
From the diary of Alexandra
So, everything was going well! Not quickly, as I hoped, and not without pain… As Verka boasted that giving birth is a pleasure! Not true! The pleasure was then when I cuddled my baby to my chest! Masha! I had a dream that my daughter’s name was Masha. But Petya nearly fainted – what is a weirdo! Quite a good assistant! But the robot didn’t let us down, did everything as it should.
And then there was a month of unforgettable happiness. The forest, rustling with leaves, turned green and smelled. Peter collected leaf samples, examined them under a microscope and went crazy with surprise. He shouted that we had discovered something unimaginable. That we need to call an expedition here. Twisted the radio settings. But there was only noise on the air. The planet’s magnetic field did not transmit radio waves.
Petya dug up a separate growing tree and carefully transported it to the ship’s greenhouse. It was time to go on…
But the ship’s reactor could not be started. What happened there, I don’t know. Petya together with the robot disassembles the reactor compartment. Oddly enough, I’m happy with my Masha. I sleep peacefully, walk, sing the songs to her. What a wonderful daughter I have – she never cries, only smiles at me and chirps in her infant tongue.
I have a lot of free time so I took out a notebook, I write, as they did in antiquity, the diary of my life. Moreover, the ship computer is still occupied by Petrusha.
Yes, and I also looked for the mushrooms in the forest and I found them. They say, in ancient times people ate mushrooms. I made mushroom soup. Petya ate and liked it, then tried to escape to his robot. It was hard to stop him! I told him what the soup was made of – and he almost went crazy.
“How could you do this? These are wild plants, they are dangerous! Even on Earth, decent people have long ceased to eat what grows in the wild forest. Don’t you remember what the teachers told us?! “We are what we eat! Whoever feeds on wild plants is sure to run wild eventually!”
“Petrusha, well, I can’t always eat tasteless pasta, which gives us the ship’s kitchen! And these mushrooms smelled so good! It seems to me that I even heard their voice: “Tear us! Eat us! We have grown here for you! “So I could not resist. And you liked the soup too! Do not deny!”
“Liked it! Do you remember how they read the holy book the Bible to us in church? There also the unreasonable woman Eve fed her husband Adam a wild apple. And both of them immediately became savages and could no longer remain in the beautiful paradise arranged by the teachers of The Galactic Association of Intelligent Civilizations (GAIC)! And then there were millennia of savagery, wars, hunger and overwork… Only a thousand years ago we achieved forgiveness and re-joining GAIC. And the first commandment of our Church of Reason: “There is nothing in the wild forests, not to eat together with the savages left from the time of chaos”
“Petrusha, we cannot fly away from here anyway! And run wild, it turns out, so nice! Let us run a little bit wild!”
“Really, nice! But not every day … We assume that this is not wildness, but an experiment on adapting to an alien planet in the event of a breakdown in the ship’s kitchen.”
The sudden roar and close blow pierced the desperate silence of the autumn dream, having shaken me deeply. I return to the ordinary rhythm of my life with extreme difficulty, so that I can see an invisible show. Next to me a black tubby tree took root, and the raised burnt earth is around. I’m expecting… The two seeds emerged from the gap in the bark. They started wandering around the meadow, apparently, searching for a place to take root.
They couldn’t find the place, but they brought many things to the meadow that I cannot describe. Moreover, these two were the true thinking beings, but they were thinking in a different range, which I could hardly comprehend. In the meadow, there was also something non-thinking that helped them transport unidentified sections of the primary tree… I shortened the length of my time tact to keep track of everything they did. My life was filled with significance, the juices went through my veins, my leaves became green. Аll that transfigured our meadow. Rames, covering a wide region of meadow, emerged around the primary tree. But what happened was even more exciting. I kept waiting for unknown plants to root, but even more interesting occurrence took place. The fatter seed suddenly produced a very tiny one from itself. This was the long-awaited act of creating a fresh seed, judging by their joyous feelings. And just to grow their fresh seed they went to this planet. I’m happy I appeared so close to such a wonderful case!
However, the main task of mine is to get inside the alien tree so that these strange planet visitors could take me on their journey, since I cannot fly yet. I attempted to persuade the visitors to let me enter inside their tree. It worked! I have been dug up and brought inside. I’m not mentally active yet, as I don’t understand how the aliens are going to respond. As the future has shown, my caution was justified. I was surprised by complicated and unknown details from the inside of the alien tree. The most significant thing, however, is that I am immersed in a wonderful terrain containing water as well as nutrients, and the light within the tree was not worse than the sun. Therefore, I didn’t even need to boost the time tact to preserve my vitality.
My happiness wasn’t ongoing. They brought me out of the tree and replaced me. But now I know how to get into another tree and won’t miss the time.
One year passed. The little seed is not rooted, but each day it moves in different directions. The rest ones also do not try to take root. I had the most incredible suspicion that these creatures were not going to take root at all. How do they get the strength to live? In the end I found out – they put in the upper slit of the body pieces of other plants. Very strange creatures! How can they survive if there are no other plants nearby? I don’t understand. The Universe is truly full of surprises!
Another year went by, and I started to comprehend aliens better, I even understood how they interact. They can hardly transmit their ideas, but through the upper slit they can emit air vibrations – sounds which contain the data they need. I attempted to imitate their sounds in the night when the aliens hided. It wasn’t easy to make a comparable slot with my capacity to transformation. The creation of air stream and the choice of the form and size of inner resonator were much more complicated.
Like me, they cannot take off from this insidious planet. This is not accidentally, I believe. Sometimes I feel something great and all-powerful at the brink of my time perception, and it is precisely the thing that does not want to let us go yet.
From Alexandra’s diary
A year has passed. Despite robot assistance, Peter failed to repair the reactor. Mashutka began to walk and speak her first words. Nature amazed us with its generosity. Unknown flowers blooming in the wilderness, a small shrub with beers, similar to strawberries, appeared around the forest. The grass, which covered all the space, was also edible, comparable to the taste of salad. And its bloated roots entirely substituted potatoes, when cooking soups. Peter returned the tree from the greenhouse to its former place, and fortunately the tree greened and whispered with its leaves something unknown. It rained only at night, so it was nice to sleep listening to the rhythmic sound of the rain and waking up from the dispersed light of the invisible sun. The light clouds of the planet did not let in direct rays, but it was for the better.
Once I read a poem to Mashutka:
Gray bunny jumped and jumped,
Sat tailless under the bush.
And then, maybe, it seemed to me, but a real hare peered out from the bushes. Of course, I screamed, “Peter! Peter! It’s a hare!”
Peter came running, but my cries scared off the hare. Peter did not believe me and it’s such a pity.
Another year has passed. Here’s a mild winter, leaves on the trees remain green. There appear to be serious winters for sometimes, because the forest was entirely yellow at our arrival, but the climate was only pleasing us until now. Mashutka and I run and laugh on the edge of the woods and our meadow. We are frightened to go to the woods where obviously unidentified animals can be found. We’ve seen hares, squirrels, or something very like them several times. And here Peter is simply furious – he doesn’t see anything!
Yesterday once again he locked up in the workshop with a robot – he decided to create a weapon following the instance of old weapons. He is going to go hunting, as our ancestors on the Earth did.
Last night I cried bitterly because of Peter! For the last few days he went hunting with his new gun, but he did not meet any animals. And yesterday he called me into the forest, led me to one of the bushes and said: “Look, look, hare!”
I looked – it was really a hare, it sat, moved its ears and did not run away.
And Peter said, “Come closer, do not be afraid.”
I went, and what have I seen? It wasn’t a hare; it was a pattern of white bush leaves. The leaves of the bush are green on one side and white on the other. Thus, they generate the unpredictable patterns. It turns out that all the hares and squirrels that we saw with Mashutka were only foliage patterns. It was a terrible insult! I cried all night. I decided that I’m not going to tell my daughter anything about that! Just let her play!
We are sitting with Mashutka on the grass and I read a poem:
Somewhere, there’s a squirrel dwelling
In a fir tree; all day long,
Cracking nuts, it sings a song.
Nuts, most wondrous, I am told;
Every shell is solid gold
Kernels – each an emerald pure.
Masha listened to the poem and ran into the forest. In five minutes she comes back and holds out a yellow nut to me.
“Where did you get it?” I ask.
“A squirrel gave it to me. What do they do with nuts?”
We went back to show her how to break a nut. It was green emerald inside the nucleus. I tasted it – delicious. Mashutka ate and liked the remainder of it! I walked into the forest and discovered a hive with the same noodles, where my baby used to walk. Naturally, there were no squirrels. I collected nuts. This is of great help to our meager protein-free diet a lot. About our “wildness” because of the wild food Peter has forgotten a long time ago and happy with us to eat all that the planet gives us.
Four years passed. I think I’m getting used to the idea that I would stay here for the whole life. I teach Masha to read and write. She is naughty and does not want to do that. I begin to persuade her, “If you do not study, I’m not going to tell you fairy tales.” And she likes fairy tales very much.
She especially loves the fairy tale about Masha, the girl who got lost in the forest and got into the hut of the bear. The bear had not allowed her to go back home. Masha tricked him into taking the basket of pies to her parents, and hid herself at the bottom of the basket.
The bear carried Masha home, and stopped along the way and said, “I will sit on a stump and eat a pie.” And Masha from the basket, “Do not sit on a stump, do not eat a pie. I’m sitting high, looking far away.” So the bear brought Masha to her home.
Even now, while I am writing, she is running along the edge of the forest and loudly shouts, “Do not sit on a stump, do not eat a pie. I sit high, I look far away.”
Peter has a new hobby: he intends to discover for his greenhouse at least a seed of alien crops. He’s got luck today: a tree in the center of a meadow has flourished. High on the top was an enormous black flower. Excellent lace design, more than one meter in diameter. A red ovary is in the middle. The next morning the flower vanished and a small black seed was discovered under the tree. Peter planted the seed instantly into his greenhouse.
This is the fifth birthday of my daughter. Masha is healthy, cheerful, but I’m increasingly worried about her. Nothing but fairy tales interests my girl. She listens to every fairy tale I tell her, then begins to play it in her favorite forest and changes it… For a couple of days she performs this way before moving on to another fairy tale. After several days, she can go back or start combining different stories. Masha enthusiastically informs me all that she thought up during a day. I have to say, I can bear it very hard. Peter can’t stand it for a long time, so he just run away to his workshop.
The tone of the bear, “I sit on a stump eating a pie,” turned out to be very hard to listen to for the thousandth tome. By the way, we just don’t have pies, there’s nothing to cook it on. The cooker in automatic kitchen only makes nutritious pasta and beverages. Soup, but not pie, can be cooked in the cell for boiling water. In the meadow you can’t create a fire. Local trees are not burning.
Peter is happy – his seed has hatched in the greenhouse as a small green sprout. He jumps around it, every day measures the growth rate, brought some device to study the color of the leaves. He says that the spectrum of colors of the tree’s leaves in the orangery differs from the same of the trees outside. Unfortunately, the tree in the clearing has not had leaves for a long time, after flowering it withered.
In the third year, I found that mental contact was possible for Masha, the name of the smallest seed. She stopped next to me several times and heard my thoughts. Now, I can mentally speak to her, but the fear of not being taken on board, as the large tree is called, prevents me.
However, Masha found more interesting companions for herself. She runs into the forest and speaks there with someone very big, but I cannot understand with whom.
I wait and do nothing else, time is gone. The main thing is not to attract the attention of that huge, with which Masha talks every day. Her parents do not understand anything. They don’t understand that this huge thinking being will never let Masha go from it if it likes her. That’s why I’m silent, pretending to be an ordinary, thoughtless tree.
The other day, I captured the thinking of the seed named Peter that he waited to gather seeds from my bloom. What a weird desire to gather seeds of others?! But as they say, it’s plays into my hand. I made them a flower out of my parachute, which is usually used when flying in space. They believed me and danced around me all day long. I shut the parachute the next morning and folded in seed shape…
Hurray! The aim is achieved! I was transported inside their main tree! They are waiting for the first leaves to appear. I don’t mind! To Peter’s delight, I released a few green leaves. One leave he plucked because of joy. I do not mind him plucking it and just hope that he would not throw me out of the ship.
From Alexandra’s diary
Two more years have passed. Masha is seven, it’s time for school. Petya and I are ready to give her everything we know ourselves, but Masha does not want to study at all. I bitterly regret reading her fairy tales when she was a child. Masha doesn’t want to know anything else. In the morning she shouts, “Mother, I went to bear!” and until the evening lurks in the forest. I’m desperate. Petya tried to find her and take her home a couple of times, but he did not succeed. Masha knows the forest much better than we know it and hides there well, so she cannot be found. She does not reply when we call her. From tomorrow, Peter decided not to let her out of the ship at all until she got used to school discipline.
I am writing the last entry in my diary for those who find this diary know what happened to us.
We seriously started paying attention to Masha as I already wrote. It was high time for her to learn school curriculum. We decided to keep her out of the forest for a couple of days. A heavy wheel closed the lock and posed a barrier that could not be removed for a seven-year-old kid. We didn’t discover Masha on the boat one morning, however. The airlock was open. I don’t understand how she opened it. We went outside. Peter took a gun not for safety, but only if we move apart in the forest, to show where he is. We wandered through the wood all day, looking for Masha, but did not find her.
In the evening we sat near the ship and thought what to do. Suddenly, Masha came out of the forest and looked back, as it seemed to me, with fright. Then the bushes crackled, and something huge, black jumped out of the forest and rushed to Masha. Peter reacted instantly and fired. But is it possible to stop such a gigantic thing with one bullet?
This strange bear rushed to Masha and caught her up in the forest. Still Peter was able to shoot the bear in the back… Then it started… A whole herd of bears have probably been troubled by us because they all got out of the bush. Fearful, black, saliva dripping out of acute yellow teeth. We knew we couldn’t cope with them. It just took us little time to jump into the boat and close the airlock. I felt a ship’s hull trembling from their powerful blows.
Petya said, “Nothing, now I’ll fry you,” and he started the reactor. He forgot, poor man, that the reactor he had not been working for a long time. But then it suddenly started working. The ship immediately flew up, pushing me and Petya to the floor. We woke up in space far enough from the planet that captivated us. That’s all.
Masha died, and now I have no sense to live. I put on my spacesuit and go out into an outer space. Forgive me, Petya!
I doubt the mental abilities of Masha’s parents! Only on the seventh year they discovered that she had long been not their seed! That she has been in contact with the huge thinking being that lives on this planet for a long time. It is so big that I can’t measure it. Perhaps it is this entire planet. But my nerds decided to fight IT for their child. Why not talk first, but they made that noise, bang-bang, they almost killed their child in the hustle, but the planet did not doze, it saved Masha, and they themselves, together with the ship were kicked away.
But their foolishness did not end there. First, the one who was called Alexandra put on her spacesuit and jumped out. Then Petya also put on a spacesuit and followed her. What should I do now? I do not have the strength to travel on my own; I do not know how to control their ship. I had to try. I took the roots out of the ground, grabbed a large skein of ropes and also went outside. I tied the rope to the ship, clamped the other end with a branch and flew in search of my suiciders. With the help of a mental signal I found them quickly.
They flew embracing each other and did not react to anything. I tied them with a rope and pulled them back onto the ship. Well, at least, in space, objects do not weigh anything, otherwise I could not cope. I closed the gateway, unscrewed the helmets and let them breathe! Earlier from their conversations I understood that they must breathe.
I returned back to my place and took root, until they woke up! Everything is great! My sufferers laid down in narrow boxes and fell asleep – they said something about anabiosis. But I feel that the ship flies in the necessary direction, and my beloved is getting closer and closer!
We finally arrived; our ship is connected to the big one. I heard the lock of the hatch clicked.
“So what do we have? Two sleeping people. Well, at least, the automation did not let us down …”
One of the rescuers stuck the needle of the device in turn into the bodies of the sleeping.
“Wake up … Wake up!”
“I don’t want to live anymore! Leave me!” this is Alexandra’s voice.
Another needle is injected into her, and she became calmer.
“Doctor, what’s wrong with her? Will she live?” this is Peter.
“Complete wildness! She will live, but she will not be allowed to have children. Feral went too far!”
“I told her not to eat those wild mushrooms!” this is Peter again.
“Yes, my friend, unknown mushrooms should not be eaten.”
Chapter 3. Terra and Bess
“Take care of Terra!”
“I do not want to leave you!”
“Terra must grow free! You will be safe in my mother’s forest if you do not decide to look for me mentally.”
“Darling, but how did it happen, why did you open, after all, everything was so wonderful.”
“Well, I could not stand my joy when my daughter was born … I am guilty! Now I can’t avoid the saucers. And you go! They shouldn’t find you! Goodbye, I feel they are close! Take care of Terra!”
Three years passed
“Valentina Sergeevna, I cannot live here anymore, I’m leaving to look for Masha. I want Terra to live with you!”
“My girl, how can it be … And are you not afraid of saucers?”
“They won’t do anything to us! But we will be together.”
“But what about Terra?”
“I want her grow free. When she becomes an adult let her decide her own destiny. Maybe one day we will meet again. I hope, she will forgive us!”