First bit of the first book
Dabul ran down the path to school. The entire forest was alive with the glowing green of the sunlight filtered through the clouds and the canopy of overlapping branches. This was his favorite time of year. The heat of the summer was just past, but it was still plenty warm that he could run barefoot through the woods. The weight of his rucksack bounced comfortingly on his back. Just a few days before he had forgotten to throw his shoes in there and it had meant going all the way back home again. It’s bad enough to have to go to school when he was still longing for the free weeks of summer break, but to have to go twice in the same day because of forgetfulness? Well, that wasn’t something he wanted to have to do again.
As he ran through the forest he could smell the diverse scents of the trees that made up the mostly hardwood mix that surrounded him, but he could also feel some of the trees as they soaked up the sun and pulled the water from deep in the earth. The satiated feel from the groundwater being consumed by the mighty sequoias almost made him forget his own thirst. With a slight laugh he grabbed his canteen and took a swig of water.
It just wasn’t the same feeling as the trees drinking as he felt the cool water running down his throat. His relationship with the sequoias was something special. Everyone in the tribe, and indeed every human he knew, had some degree of empathic communication with the environment and with the huge trees that made up a large portion of the forest.
Many centuries before mankind had lived in the cities which still existed as collapsing monuments to a failed past. Dabul knew he’d be taking a field trip before graduation to the closest of these– the old metropolis once known as Fresno, but he wasn’t looking forward to it. The energy from the earth was cut off in those old places. The unnatural layers of macadam and concrete felt foreign underneath feet that were used to gliding across earth and upon the surfaces of the trees. Life in a box sounded like hell to Dabul and he shuddered to think how people could possibly have enjoyed that sort of life.
But that was before the great change and many things were different including mankind’s relationship with the planet. Father had told him that Fresno hadn’t always been on the coast, but with the Great Change sea levels had risen around 75 meters. The humid, cloud-filled sky was all that Dabul really knew. The occasional burst of sunlight occasionally was a treat, but it wasn’t a regular occurrence. But today was going to be a treat beyond the occasional ray of sun, because today they were going on a field trip.
When he arrived at the school tree Dabul paused. There was a steady stream of children arriving at the entrance; most of them were younger than he was. His last year in the school was proving to be challenging in many different ways, but one strength he had was his ability to make friends and remember names. His empathy was strong and that was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because he could feel things physically that other people were feeling.
When his sister Dot had fallen out of a tree and broken her arm he was the one that was with her. It was the first time he really felt his empathic abilities were a curse. At the moment she fell he felt a burning in his arm that made him scream. He was only seven at the time and she was five, and he knew something was seriously wrong with his arm. It was only later that his mother explained that he took on Dot’s pain physically as well as mentally. Their bond was so strong that her pain was literally his pain.
Generally speaking it didn’t happen anywhere near that degree in most things, but the closer he was emotionally to someone the more he felt their pains and their joys. As he got older he realized it didn’t stop at the people around him. It matured and grew as he did. Dot was the first, but soon afterwards he could tell when Bushy, their dog was having a good day or if he had picked up a burr or had some pain.
What had really come as a surprise was when he started feeling things from the trees. Mostly it was just feelings of contentment or as was the case on his run, the rush of feeling the water being sucked from deep in the earth. His teachers had taken note of these abilities and wanted him to become an architect. Architects were among the most revered members of the tribe. They were the ones who actually shaped the trees.
Dabul shrugged his shoulders and joined the other kids entering the school. It was going to be a great day. As he made his way through the main door he traced his fingertips along the edge of the entry and then down the smooth expanse of the wall. The glows placed periodically at the top of the arched passage lit up the wood grained passageway and accentuated the fact that they were inside the living flesh of the tree.
As his fingers touched the wood he could feel that this was the proper way and the tree welcomed their presence. As he passed the newly commissioned auditorium he could see a couple of the wood workers completing the project. Instead of tools they just used their minds and hands to guide the tree into knowing the shape and direction they needed the space expanded. It was another career path for Dabul to consider, but he felt that the mind blending that architects did with the trees was more his destiny.
He snapped out of the half trance he was in from touching the live wood and feeling the work of the wood workers through his mind and hurried down the hall to his classroom. Just before he entered the door he looked down and saw his feet were still bare. No wonder I was so involved back there, he thought to himself. The additional tactile connection from his feet made his the mental bridge a hundred times stronger than the light touch of his fingers. He quickly put on his shoes so he would be able to concentrate in class.