We sat in silence, she enjoying the beauty around us, while I tried to make sense of it all. Across the turf from us a group of children was tumbling playfully upon a long suffering herby, clearly one not only domesticated but a pet. The children’s backs were deformed (to my alien eye) by crumpled growths, clearly wing buds. The herby looked at me as if for delivery from his small torments and a flock of dilwildi settled down in the park, capturing the attention of the alien children.
My companion apparently felt that I had had enough time to adjust to my surroundings, for she wiped the fruit juices on her bare thighs and reached out to touch my forehead.
“I am Aeolios.”
The sound was in my head and I answered aloud in my own language, “I am Jean Dubois.”
“Welcome to our land, Jeandubois.”
“Where – or when – am I?”
She paused, considering. “You are on an island, the same island to which you sail. Your second query has no meaning to me.”
Ignoring her odd, tenseless grammar, I tried again. “When I arrived on the island, your city was not here. I went to sleep in a ruined building and when I woke the building was not a ruin, nor was the city. I surmise that I have been transported to some past time.”
She broke contact and screwed her face in thought.
Clearly baffled, she raised her hands to her own head and seemed to be in communication with some other person or thing. For long minutes she remained thus, then she opened her eyes and extended her hands to me again. “You refer to the theory of chronology, wherein time is seen as a linear process. That theory has no validity. Could you rephrase your question?”
“Of course it has validity. What was here yesterday is gone today and what is here today is gone tomorrow. Men grow, mature, and die, leaving behind descendants. Nothing is more basic in the world.”
She broke contact again, her face a mask of horror and pity. Immediately she raised her hands to her forehead and once more went into her trance.
She remained thus for so long that I gave up on her and wandered around the park. The children had gone but the herby remained. As an experiment I approached him and he turned to meet my hand, though clearly disappointed that I had not brought him some tidbit in exchange for his attentions. I touched him hesitantly, but he took no notice. I stroked his neck in amazement. We have no pets on Harmony, having nothing to feed them. I had never touched a living animal before, save the dilwildi who seemed more than animals. I was struck most by the herby’s indifference to my attentions. He paid me no more mind than he had the playful children.
A winged male wandered into the park with a female and they settled beneath a tree, eating the fruit that hung down, then entangled in love making. I turned away, but my scruples were entirely my own. They were aware of me – they had made hand motions toward me that seemed greetings when they entered the park – but they were apparently without notions of modesty or privacy.
Aeolios emerged from her trance and crossed the park to me. There was a mixture of contrition and pity on her face as she touched my forehead. more tomorrow