It had been hard, our elders say, pulling out of the Contraction. The Hoarder Peoples’ stories say we are still in it, that we haven’t actually reached the Sustain as we hope, and never would. We, the Libarrian tribes, stay away from them. We carry the healing words for traumatic, intergenerational memories of starvation, of skies choked with smog, of tornadoes and hurricanes chained one to the next like a necklace cinched so tight it’s left a gash in the soft neck of the world.
But now the world is more balanced than the world in our stories. The tornadoes and hurricanes have seasons, and between them things are different. Summer ends with hurricane season, and it lasts til Spring. We know it. We show our kids the way our parents showed us: four parents to each child, teaching to read, to write, to watch, and to teach.
We tend our raycats and teach our kids how to feed them so they’ll eat rats and bugs out of our food stores, and we teach them the rhymes about reading the colors of a raycat’s pelt, even if we’ve never had to do it, singing it to them as they grew up, teaching the teenagers to sing it to babies when they are old enough to take care of them.
Hush little baby, run away
If a raycat’s changed today
Care for family, care for you
Go back when the raycat’s blue
They shout, “Run like a raycat’s blue!” to get others to play with them, and whoever shouts it is the blue raycat, and they try to catch everyone before each of them got back to their starting stone. If they get caught, the kids say they’re “left behind.”
No one wants to be left behind.
And we say, “The sky looks raycat blue” when a storm threatens.
And we teach them to read and write and to tend the Libarrows at beautiful spots on our travels between hurricane season and dust season, so others could find them and learn from them, even if we are gone. We keep and repair and construct books about how to read; books that show you the names of the leaves and animals and weather that everyone knows; and books stories: how Prometheus found aluminum and smelted it and left it all over the world so now we can use it for all sorts of things, like knives and jewelry and joining bamboo and turning its leaves to paper to bind books. How Jonasak stole Penicillin from the giant, Monsanto, and how Jonasak convinced the giant that they didn’t have it by not using it only when the giant had wandered off; because whenever Jonasak used Penicillin, Monsanto would smell and come hunting, and when the giant came closer, people would get sick. We write the story of how the Right Brothers built kites big enough to hang from, and so they won the Air War, and now we can build them from bamboo bones and fabric from its fibers.
And we teach them our migratory route that takes us to the Abani Convention, where we teach each other what we have learned this year, and all rivalries must rest or be resolved. And how to teach and marry into the tribes we meet and pledge to raise our children the Libarrian way: We meet with the Surfers who ride the waves on outriggers and know every rock and where the squid go before Hurricane Season, and how to sail upstream and into the wind to take refuge up Conetakut. And we meet with the Vadailans who know the ways of shellfish, their meat and their shells that they carve into beautiful shapes admired by all; and the Hoarder Peoples, who spring up when a year has been bad, rising like toothgrass from the sand when a year has been bad, as though their seeds had been buried there all along.
And we teach our children the secret languages of the Vulture Priests so the generations-long embers of the Excess and the Contraction don’t burn the children of our great grandchildren, and we teach them to copy even the texts we don’t understand so that someday our descendants may come to understand them.