2265: Everything dies


Carrying an armful of brown and orange leaves, a little boy ran to the pile his friend had started and added his small contribution.

“What was that word again Merax?”

“Deciduous,” the older boy repeated to his new friend. “De-ci-du-ous.”

“And what does it mean?” he asked with curiosity.

Merax walked back to the pile with another load of leaves and dropped them on top. They had created a nice sized mountain of autumn leaves at the edge of the forest. “I cannot believe that there were no trees on the planet you came from, Zeh-zeh.”

“There were trees, a few. But they did not look like these. They did not have orange or brown leaves.”

The pointed ear boy picked up a few leaves from the ground to aide in his lesson. “They were not orange or brown a few weeks ago. They started as green leaves. All of them did. But then they changed colors and fell to the ground. Soon all the green leaves in the forest will turn color and fall off the trees.”

“But why?” The newcomer was confused.

Merax sighed heavily. “Because they are deciduous trees. And deciduous trees do that.”

“Yes, but why do des… des-u-gis…”

“Deciduous!” Merax threw the leaves at his friend’s face. “I think your ears are broken!”

Zeh-zeh froze in his spot and went silent. He didn’t like being teased by the other children on this new planet and he disliked the comments about his ears even less. Finally he worked up the nerve to ask, “Why… why do you say things like that?”

Merax had walked off to pick up more leaves when his new friend asked the question. He was unsure how to answer.

Teasing the new boy had become the new pastime for the local children. After all it wasn’t every day that a family would willingly relocate to this remote and unprotected planet. And it wasn’t often that new residents included a child. Or that the child was suspected to be a half breed. It hardly ever happened. Actually, it never happened.

Merax hoisted another load of leaves into his arms but when he turned toward the pile, he noticed that Zeh-zeh had not moved from his spot. He was still awaiting an answer. He was an odd one for certain.

“I do not know. It just slipped out.” He replied finally before adding his leaves to the pile.

“I dislike it.” Zeh-zeh stated firmly. “It is not my fault that my ears are different than yours.”

Merax lowered his head. He could tell the boy’s feelings had been hurt. “I am sorry. I meant no harm.”

“I was just asking a simple question.”

The older boy extended his hand out. “Ask me again…”

Zeh-zeh nodded and restated his question. “Why do the leaves on these trees change color and fall off? Why not stay green and attached?”

“It is part of nature. We are in the Autumn season and that is when the leaves fall off the trees. That is what the teacher told us in class.” Merax explained.

Looking at the huge pile of orange and brown leaves before them, Zeh-zeh inquired further. “And what happens to the trees after they lose their leaves? And what happens to these leaves?”

“They die.”

The newcomer was shocked, “What? The trees die?”

Merax nodded. “Yes. They die and go thru winter like that.”

Zeh-zeh kicked at the pile of leaves at his feet. Suddenly he was not in the mood to play anymore. “Why do they die?”

“Everything dies. It is the cycle of nature.” Merax replied and then added under his breath. You would know this if you went to school with the rest of us.

The comment was not lost on Zeh-zeh. He had tried to attend school with the other children when his family arrived on this planet, but it ended with the other children teasing and bullying him. As a result, his parents pulled him out of the school and elected to educate him at home. Different planet, same story.

Except for Merax. He is Zeh-zeh’s first and only friend. With his family moving around so much, the youngster did not have time to make any friends of children his own age on any of the previous planets, moons or colonies his family had moved to. For some unknown reason Merax chose to spend time with him.

“Then why are we piling up the leaves? Are we going to bury them?”

Merax looked at the innocent eyes of the new boy. They were as unusual as his rounded ears. No one on their planet had eyes the same color as the new boy, green like the forest in summer. Smiling devilishly Merax ran toward the pile and lept into the air, diving effortlessly into the cushion of leaves. “Woo hoo!”

Zeh-zeh cracked a smile and followed Merax into the pile. He had never jumped into a pile of leaves before, but it turned out to be the most fun he had ever had. Before long the tall pile of leaves had been tossed about, leaving an orange and brown mess all around.

The boys’ laughter carried all the way into the forest and was picked up by another set of pointed ears. A young man perched high on a tree branch not far from the pair, kept watch over them. He could sense Zeh-zeh’s good spirit and decided to give him a few more minutes to play before heeding the call to return him to his parents.