Two friends hiking in the redwood forest in the comfortable silence that comes of enjoying each other’s company – when words aren’t necessary to convey the pleasure of the friendship and the incredible natural world that surrounded them.
The air picked up the greens of the rebirth of spring; the smells of earth, ferns and wildflowers. Far above the sky-touching treetops of the redwoods gently swayed in the wind; the sound of the creaks and soft whispers of needle covered branches carried down hundreds of fee in the stillness and the silence of the world below.
They experienced the true grandeur of these trees by length and breadth of the fallen giant they walked beside. A redwood dissolves slowly back into the earth, to the place of birth as a seedling. Redwoods take their time in returning providing new homes for forest creatures, fungi, and mushrooms.
Astral, tall and lithe, her smooth face, jet black hair, and agileness gave no clue as to her age; she could be 20 or 60. Moonglow, her companion, was shorter by comparison, and showed her age more clearly. Young enough to crave adventure and exploration, old enough, wise enough to know her limits. The opportunity to spend time in the redwood forest was exciting; the waiting list was long and it had taken Moonglow ages to get permission to enter.
She admired Astral’s seemingly lack of limits, and her ability to “sense;” to understand; to know. So when Astral said, “Let’s stop here,” Moonglow didn’t question why that specific place and time. Shrugging off their pod packs, the two women rested their backs against the redwood; the power and magic of the tree transmuted into their bodies as they rested.
Astral knew this was a magical space. She left Moonglow, lulled into a dream world, eyes closed, the rare bird song and earthly smells gently pulling her towards sleep. Astral knew to take paces towards what appeared to be fungi and mushrooms faintly glowing in the green dimness of the forest under world. Clutching her hologram image-maker, she focused to get a close-up of the strange phenomenon. As she checked her holograph, she a feeling of longing, swept through her body. Curious, she approached; beside the mushrooms, a hollow in trunk seemed to contain something.
She pulled out gently a cedar box with a faded label. Using her scanner, she enhanced the writing “Open me here.” Calling to Moonglow, still partly in her dreamscape, her friend opened her eyes to see Astral standing very still cradling something in her hands. When she saw the box, she suggested the fragility of the item required the expertise of someone at the archive-lab.
Astral silently shakes her head. Going back for the jackets, the friends carefully place the box on the ground. Moonglow ran her scanner – something definitely inside.
Holding her breath, Moonglow watched Astral lovingly open the box. The redwood hiding spot and the cedar wood had kept the contents well preserved. Lying on top were paper pages – dating the box to an earlier era. Slightly faded typescript and hand-written, they took holograms and 3D scans of each page to enhance. Later, they would share the pleasure of having touched a piece of the past. Astral skimmed the pages (she seemed tp sense what was written there rather than read it. “A narrative,” she said, “of someone’s life, stories of struggles and hopes.”
Underneath the apparent ”diary,” were two unique items – amber colored cylindrical bottles made of some unusual material. The bottles had faded labels with strange names and instructions. “Medications?” questioned Moonglow having done research on historical medical practices. She had never actually held such a bottle; she felt like she was crossing a bridge from one era to another.
Small colored and black and white images stared up from paper backgrounds. Photographs – “living” archival evidence – of the incredible nature of Astral’s discovery. Depicted was a woman, capturing her reflection in mirrors. Some of the photographs were clear; others had swirls, alterations, and magnifications as if the woman had gone back to the original image to express or give meaning to her work.
Next were two vials; one contained a clear fluid; some sort of sparkly colored material filled the other. “Tears,” Astral said as she held the clear vial in her hand. Moonglow didn’t question Astral’s sense of the contents – she was used to her friend’s special pronouncements. “Fairy dust,” she added softly as she gently placed each vial on the protecting jackets. “Fairies?” thought Moonglow; that was beyond her comprehension. Part of an ancient ritual she thought.
At the bottom of the box was a crystal prism – catching the dappled light and sending colors floating on the air. A bracelet of black string with a metal bead lay next to the prism. Despite the age of the box, the adornment clearly read “strength” on one side, “courage” on the other. Several items, surrounded by a magnetic field according to the scanner, had printed script with sayings such as “Don’t quit; there is no telling how FAR you will run while chasing your dreams.” Another seemed to be a premonition: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” These must have served some purpose. Moonglow vaguely remembered seeing a museum piece of similar material.
Astral returned the contents, and placed the box back in the hollow. With scans and holograms, the friends could further examine these strange rather slightly familiar objects. They packed up their pods, and carefully checked that no damage done by their presence off the over-grown path. “Sadness,” murmured Astral, “and some small sense of trying to hope, to be positive, to heal; all she said for hours.
Moonglow had entered the name signed on the last page of the document into her communicator. “Wonder if achieved,” she mentioned to Astral as the friends began their journey. She would do a search to find answers, though she had a feeling that Astral knew what the conclusion to life after the narrative ended would be.
Astral, more contemplative than usual, as the friends, arm in arm strolled along admiring untouched nature so rarely found. Before leaving, Moonglow had gently inscribed a laser chip, “Astral and Moonglow, April 1 2112.”