Endolye Chapter 4: Skin Deep

Addis stepped past Dante and took the lead. She followed him silently, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts. As they walked through the forest the trees became sparser and began to get shorter, more bent, and have fewer leaves. Eventually they disappeared altogether, and they were walking through a flat area that reminded Dante of the desert. Dante was getting tired, but didn’t want to complain. She looked into the distance and could see what looked like very tall, thin trees.

“What are those?” she asked, unable to remain silent any longer.

“The Bulu,” Addis replied.

“Oh good,” she said, sounding relieved, “we’re almost there.”

It took them another half hour or so to reach the first of what Dante had thought were trees. She looked up in wonder as Seeya came darting up to them.

“Finally,” he scolded. “What took you so long? And why didn’t you clean up? Oh well, never mind, come on, they’re waiting.”

They followed him into a round clearing, Seeya flying ahead shouting, “They’re here, I’ve brought them here.”

“Oh sure,” Addis said, “he brought us.”

Dante didn’t answer, because she was too busy looking around her. When she looked up, she could see the round, grayish-white trunks led up to an umbrella-like covering at the top. These weren’t trees around the clearing, they were enormous mushrooms. They looked just like normal mushrooms, but their stems were as big around as a house, and they rose several stories into the air. She could see more of them off in the distance. There were smaller mushrooms growing around them as well, but even these smaller mushrooms were as tall as she was.

“Wow,” she said, “I’ve never seen mushrooms this big.”

“They’re Bulu bushes,” Addis said. “The Oralians live in them.”

“Oralians?”

“Seeya’s tribe. That’s what they are. They’re Oralians.”

“Oh,” Dante said, smiling. She looked at Addis. “What are you?”

Addis didn’t answer for a moment, and then said, “We can talk about that later. For now, let’s try and get something to eat.”

Dante looked up to the top of the closest Bulu bush, where Seeya was now hovering in front of an opening in the stem of the bush. Seeya was facing away from the opening, and just hovered.

“What’s going on?” Dante whispered. Addis snorted.

“They’re so concerned with how they look, they never go inside another Oralian’s dwelling. And when they’re in front of a dwelling, they face away from the opening so they won’t see the occupant until he or she is ready.”

He looked at Dante and raised an eyebrow. “Of course,” he added, “the insides of their Bulus are always fabulous, so I’m sure someone is peeking in there when they think no one is looking.”

He shook his head and put his hands over his tummy. “All rather silly, if you ask me.”

Dante thought about this for a minute and then asked, “So they all live alone?”Addis nodded.

“And they never visit with each other in their homes?”

He paused a moment with his head to one side, thinking, “Well,” he said, “they don’t do it openly anyway. There’s rumors that sometimes one of them will go into another’s Bulu, but if it’s true they’d never admit it.”

“Huh,” Dante said. “Don’t they get lonely?”

Addis looked at her with a strange expression. It seemed as if he were on the verge of remembering something, but just couldn’t quite get it to come into his head. Finally, he just shook his head in response.

She was quiet for a moment then asked, “How long have you been here?”

“A long time. I don’t know exactly, but I do know I’d like to be able to go somewhere else once in awhile. All they really talk about is themselves and each other, and it gets kind of tiring.”

Dante wanted to ask Addis about the portals, and why he couldn’t use one to go somewhere else, but at that minute Seeya flew back down to where they were standing, and circled around.

“Well, I guess everyone must be in a complete flutter if they haven’t managed to make it out here yet. Let’s just wait in the Circle.”

Seeya led them to a clearing that looked like a miniature Greek amphitheater. There was a small central area that could have been a stage, surrounded in the middle by a few terraced rows of seats. Unlike a typical Greek theater, the seats had been painted bright colors, with gilt edging. It looked to Dante like a beautiful play house for dolls.

She sat on one of the seats; it was very hard and uncomfortable. She shifted around a little, crossing and uncrossing her legs. Addis followed her, watched her for a minute, and then pulled two brown plaid cushions from his bag. They were fairly ugly and looked out of place next to the beautiful seats. He silently offered one to Dante. She took it and put it on her seat. When she sat down she was surprised at how much more comfortable the cushion made her. She smiled at him gratefully as he put down his cushion and sat next to her.

Seeya flew in and joined them, lighting lightly on one of the benches.

“Addis,” he said and sighed.

“Yes?”

“I thought we talked about those cushions.”

Addis looked at him, and then looked at Dante. “Would you like to give me back your cushion?”

Dante was confused. “Well,” she said slowly, “not really.”

She turned to Seeya. “I mean, this Circle is absolutely beautiful, it’s just that this bench is kind of hard and the cushion just makes it, well, you know, a little more comfortable.”

Seeya just stared at her, arms crossed and his face expressionless.

“Ah,” he finally said, “comfort. Over beauty. I see. How disappointing.”

“Really,” Dante began, “once we’re sitting on them you really can’t see much of them.”

Seeya opened his mouth to respond, but at that moment the Oralians began zipping into the Circle, surrounding them.

One of the new arrivals flew around Dante exclaiming, “Seeya, you’re so right, that head covering is so fabulous.”

She perched lightly next to Dante and began to touch her hair. Like Seeya, the Oralian used the slightest of facial gestures to express emotion.

“Later! Bye-bye! So glad you could make it!” Seeya was happily greeting each new arrival.

“Loveya!” Seeya shouted as one particularly well-dressed Oralian flew into the cirlce, “too good to see you. I love what you’re done with your wings.”

Loveya shrugged one shoulder slightly, and flew over to where Addis was sitting. “Addis,” she said, “charming as always.”

Addis sighed. “Uh huh.”

Soon the Circle was filled with Oralians, all preening and straightening themselves, admiring Dante’s hair and each other.

“There’s so many of you,” she said, “I can’t believe you all really live alone.”

“Well of course we live alone,” Seeya said, “Otherwise someone might see us, well, you know, ugly. Like first thing in the morning, or if we accidentally frown or something.”

“Or if it’s a hot day, you might sweat.”

“Or your hair might get mussed.”

“Your clothes might get dirty.”

“Your nose might run.”

“You might laugh uncontrollably.”

They went on and on, listing reasons why they didn’t want to live with anyone else.

Dante waved her arms in the air and cried out, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.”

They all stopped and looked at her. “Well, what do you do when you get married? Or when you have company? Or kids?”

Loveya flew down and looked directly at Dante, “What’s company?”

“You know,” she said, “someone you know comes to visit for the afternoon, or maybe stays with you in your home.”

“Stays? In your Bulu! For how long?”

“Well, it just depends.” She thought for a moment, “although one time my aunt came and stayed a really long time. She was there when we got up, she was there when we went to bed, she was there for every meal. I didn’t think she would ever leave.”

“Oh my,” Loveya said, “someone help me, I think I’m about to have a facial expression!”

“There, there,” Seeya said, and turned to Dante. “What a horrible story! Let’s talk about something more pleasant.”

Addis stood up. “Let’s talk about eating,” he said, “I’m starving.”

“That’s Addis,” Seeya said, “worrying more about what to put in his body than how it looks.”

“I have to admit,” Dante said, “I’m hungry too.”

“Oh alright,” Seeya said, “let’s go all, and get some food for our guests.”

Seeya, Loveya, Later and Bye-Bye flew off while the others dispersed gradually. Addis got up, took the cushion from Dante, put both cushions back into his bag and left the Circle. He walked to a small clearing at the back of three Bulu bushes.

“Here we are.” he said.

Dante looked around. “Is this where they eat?” she asked, puzzled.

“No,” Addis replied, “This is where we eat.”

And he pulled a folding table and two folding chairs from his bag. He set up the table and chairs, and then pulled out a checked tablecloth, a small candle set into a bottle, and some plates, silverware and napkins. When he finished setting the table he and Dante sat down. It didn’t take long for the Oralians to fly back to them with platters of food. They set the platters on the table. Dante just stared. She had never seen food that was so beautiful.

“This looks amazing,” she said, “thank you very much.”

“Oh good,” Addis said dryly, “food that you’re supposed to just look at and not eat.”

“Wonderful!” Seeyta said, ignoring Addis completely, “Enjoy, we’ll be back in a bit.” And he and the other Oralians flew off.

“What was that all about?” Dante asked.

“What?”

“The least you could have done was thank them. They must have gone to a lot of trouble to prepare this food for us.”

“All they’ve done is gone to a lot of trouble to try and make themselves look good.”

Dante frowned at him. “Even if they did,” she said, “you should still say thank you. They didn’t have to do anything at all.”

Addis just shrugged and began to put food on his plate. Dante looked at him pointedly.

“What?”

“You’re not going to wait for our hosts?”

Addis began to eat. “Well,” he said, his mouth full of food, “ do you seriously think they’re going to eat with us?”

Dante just looked at him. Addis swallowed and said, “They’re afraid they might dribble food, spill something, end up with stuff between their teeth, you know, look bad.”

He looked down at his plate and grunted. “Not to mention, I think the food they eat themselves probably doesn’t look this good, but I bet it tastes a whole lot better.”

Dante served herself from a dish that looked like colorful fruits and vegetables arranged in geometric patterns. Addis was right; the food really didn’t taste like much. But she was hungry so it didn’t really matter.

“I don’t get it,” she said, “I don’t understand how you can always live and eat by yourself?”

Addis just shrugged. “I’ve been doing it for a pretty long time. It’s not so bad. Better than listening to them all going on and on while I’m trying to enjoy my food. Could you pass me some of that?” he added, pointing to a mound of what looked like donut holes in spirals of color near Dante’s elbow. She passed him the dish and they were silent for a moment, eating.

“So how is it that you’re the only one here from your, um, family?” Dante asked. She wasn’t sure if she were prying or not, but Addis seemed like the type who would tell her to mind her own business if he didn’t want to talk about something.

Addis wiped his mouth and leaned back. “Honestly,” he said, “I don’t remember. I’ve been here for a long time, I know that. Every once in awhile, I feel like I’m just about to remember something, but then it’s gone. But it kind of bothers me sometimes,” he mused. “Like there’s something really important I’m supposed to do that I’m forgetting. Do you know what I mean?”

“Well, not really.”

It seemed to Dante she had plenty of people reminding her to do the things that were important, and then there were the people who thought that some things were very important, but they really weren’t. She thought about Carol and the girls at school, and how important they thought it was to be good at sports. She often thought that if they only knew how good she was at drawing, they might think differently. But she had never shown anyone her sketches. She was afraid it might be one more thing for them to laugh at, and they had enough already.

“It’s a good thing I’ve got this,” Addis said, fingering the pendant around his neck. “Even though I can’t really remember how I got here, I do know that this is really important. And that I’m really important.” Dante raised her eyebrows and looked at him.

“Oh, I know,” he said, “think what you like. But you’ll see. Every once in awhile I know things or can do things that are surprising. And it’s because of this.”

He held up the pendant and looked at it. “I’m not sure how it does it, I can’t remember that. All I know is that I can’t ever let it come off of my neck. I’d be in mortal danger.” Dante thought about it for a minute.

“But how do you know?” she asked. “If you can’t remember who you are or how you got here, or what that really is, how do you know it’s keeping you from mortal danger?”

Addis looked at her as if she were slow. “I told you,” he said, “sometimes I just know things. And this is one of those things.”

He looked at her for a moment, his eyes seeming to move through her. The stare made her uncomfortable, but she found she couldn’t look away.

“Like you,” he finally said, sitting back. “You don’t fit in. You and I are alike that way. You feel out of place where you are, like no one really understands you or your importance. They place a lot of emphasis on things that just don’t matter to you, and you’re not very good at them. And the things you are good at, no one cares about.”

He paused for a moment. “No, that’s not quite true. You think they don’t care about them, but you’d be surprised that maybe they do.” Dante looked at him in disbelief, her mouth open slightly. “Oh don’t worry,” he said, “I can’t read your mind or anything, I just, well, I know.”

Dante just nodded. She was still thinking about what Addis had said when the Oralians came flying back into the clearing, and took away their empty plates.

“Well, you certainly cleaned that up!” Loveya said, pulling a plate from in front of Dante. “You should really always try to leave some food on your plate. Helps you keep your figure.”

Dante grinned and asked, “Is that what you do?”

“Oh of course,” Loveya said, running a hand down her side, “I’ve got to be very careful.”

“Of course,” Dante said, glancing slyly at Addis, “you could pretty much say whatever you wanted, since no one is around to see.”

All activity among the Oralians stopped, and they looked at each other accusingly. After a moment, they continued their talking, completely ignoring the very valid point Dante had made.

“So, now that we’ve eaten, what should we do?” Later asked, smoothing an eyebrow with his perfectly manicured index finger.

“I know!” Bye-Bye said, “let’s have some stories! I know Dante must have some fabulous stories to tell us!”

“Oh yes,” they all chorused, “it’s time for stories!”

Dante wasn’t sure she had any stories the Oralians would care about, but they all headed back to the Circle and Dante quickly found herself on stage surrounded by eager faces,

“Tell us about your world!” Seeya said. “We want to know all about it.”

“Well,” Dante began, unsure of what to tell. “It’s a big place, and there’s a lot of variety. Where I live are a lot of rocks, and it’s mostly flat, but there are mountains and lakes and oceans, as well as forests….well, there’s everything really. Rain forests, arctic tundra, um, let’s see, what else….” The Oralians looked bored and Dante was starting to get the same feeling she got when waiting to be picked for a team. She was grateful when Addis spoke.

“O.k.,” he said, “this is all very well, but we need to talk about the fact that she’s here, and not worry so much about where she came from. You all know very well that she’s here because a portal opened. Seeya and I saw it, but we weren’t able to go through it. Every time we got close to it, it disappeared.”

All the extraneous chatter died instantly. A few of the Oralians tittered uncomfortably. Seeya zipped up to where Dante was standing and faced Addis.

“Well,” he said, “I don’t know that we need to bring all of that up, do we? I mean, here she is, here we are, do we really need to know any more?”

Just as the other Oralians were starting to nod in agreement, without any warning the sky opened and rain began pouring down. Dante looked up, confused. There hadn’t been any clouds, no thunder, no warning. The Oralians all began shrieking and zipping frantically out of the Circle.

Seeya zipped to Dante quickly, his eyes wide. “Take cover,” he shouted, “quickly, before you get all wet!” and he zipped away.

Dante looked out at the benches. Only Addis remained. He opened his bag and pulled out an umbrella, and then put his cushion away. He rummaged in the bag until he pulled out another umbrella, which he handed to Dante. She was already dripping wet. She took the umbrella and looked and him.

“Does is always rain like this without warning?” she asked.

“Not always, but lately it’s been happening a lot. It’s been pretty distressing for the Oralians – a few of them have even been seen with their hair hanging in their faces before they could get to their Bulus.” Addis grinned at her and Dante had to laugh.

“Well,” she said, “what are we supposed to do now?”

“Just wait,” he answered. “It will stop in a minute and they’ll all be back. Well, the ones who didn’t get ‘ruined’ by the rain.”

Sure enough, in a few moments the rain stopped and the sun began shining again. Dante gave her umbrella back to Addis and they waited for the Oralians to return. Finally Seeya came back to the Circle. He kept running a hand over his wet head, and without having any expression managed to look embarrassed.

“Well,” he said, “that was rather unpleasant. But I see the two of you don’t seem to have minded what it’s done at all.”

Dante just smiled at him and Seeya sighed. “At any rate, the others are getting cleaned up and we’ll be back out in a bit.” And he zipped away.

“Wow,” Dante said, “it’s got to be hard work worrying about how you look all the time.”

She looked around and wrinkled her nose. “What’s that smell?”

When the rain stopped a slight breeze had begun to blow. With it came a terrible stench – Dante couldn’t decide if it was garbage or rotted food.

“Oh that,” Addis said, “yes, that actually is a problem that’s being caused by these odd rain storms.”

He began to walk and Dante, not sure what she should do, followed him. As they walked, the smell got stronger. Addis was leading Dante away from the bulk of the Bulu bushes, and down a small hill. At the bottom of the hill he stopped. The smell was overwhelming.

“There,” he said and pointed in front of them.

Dante could see a large body of stagnant water. It was covered in slime, and there were bugs flying around it. She turned to Addis, “What happened?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It just keeps raining like that, and the water doesn’t go away. It’s starting to smell.”

Dante looked again at the pool. “You need to get the water moving, or draining, or something. Maybe dig a trench?”

Addis looked at her. “And who,” he asked, “would you suggest do something dirty and sweaty like digging?”

“But that’s just crazy!” Dante said. “They can’t possibly think having this stagnant pool of water is better than getting a little dirty?”

Addis just shrugged again and began to head back to the Circle. Dante followed, glad to get away from the smell.

When they reached the clearing, most of the Oralians had returned. Seeya saw them first and zipped over.

“Where were you?” he asked anxiously.

Dante replied, “He was showing me that stagnant water you’ve got that smells so bad,” she said. “Surely someone can dig a trench or do something to help that drain?”

“Ah, well, no, not really,” Loveya chimed in. “Unless of course you’d be willing to help?”

“No,” Addis said firmly, “she would not. This isn’t her home and that isn’t her purpose.” Strangely, none of the Oralians argued with Addis, which surprised Dante.

“Well,” Seeya said, seeming eager to change the subject, “let’s talk about something else then.”

“The portals.” Dante said firmly and sat down.

Seeya looked around, but the rest of the Oralians just looked blankly back at him.

“Well,” he said, “o.k., I guess so.”

He zipped up to the front of the Circle where there was now a small, cushioned ottoman. Seeya sat down, and gracefully crossed one leg over the other, leaned back on one hand, turned his head slightly to the side, tilted it up and began speaking.

“It was so long ago now that we’re not sure if we really remember it, or if we’ve just heard the story so many times that it feels like a memory. But back then, there used to be a lot of portals on Endolye. And we used them to visit the other tribes.”

“What other tribes?” Dante asked.

Seeya sat up and looked at her, “O.k.,” he said, “you can’t interrupt when I’m telling a story. You have to wait until I’m done, and then maybe I’ll answer questions.”

“And if he doesn’t, I will,” Addis said.

Seeya looked blankly at Addis. “Well, yes,” he said, “of course.”

Seeya abandoned his story telling posture, and just spoke directly to Dante.

“Back in that time, there was a group made up of representatives from each tribe, called The Council. It was considered an honor to be on The Council, because you went with the other tribes members to the Mountain, and you looked into the Reflecting Pool, and gained the Wisdom of Self. After that, the Council members would travel between the tribes, making sure everything was going o.k, and that everything looked good, you know, stuff like that.”

“Well, the last time the Oralians sent someone to join The Council, a horrible thing happened.” Seeya paused for a moment.

He opened his mouth to speak, but Bye-Bye said, “I can’t do it! I just can’t listen anymore!” and zipped away.

Seeya continued. “The last Oralian Council member – her name was Heyya – she went through one of the portals, and we assumed she would make her trek to the Mountain, look in the Reflecting Pool, and come back with ways to help us look better and make things nicer. But that’s not what happened.”

Seeya stopped. He seemed to be struggling to keep from having an expression, and Dante began to feel a knot of apprehension building in her stomach. She waited as long as she could stand it, then asked, “Well, what happened to her?”

Seeya looked right at her and said, “She came back to the tribe and she was….she was….” Seeya was struggling to continue.

Finally Addis said, “Oh for pity sake, just say it.”

He turned to Dante. “She was ugly. Her hair was straggly, her clothes were torn, her face was dirty. She gesticulated wildly while she was talking, and then when the Oralians asked what had happened to her, she just burst out laughing.” Addis stopped and Dante felt a little confused.

“That’s all?” she asked.

“That’s all!” Seeya roared. “That’s everything!”

“Easy Seeya,” Loveya said, “You’re going to have a facial expression if you’re not careful.”

Seeya calmed down. “No, that’s not all. She said that looks didn’t matter, that we should all just give up on our vanity, not worry about our Bulus, just build one big communal area and all live together. It was horrible. Just horrible. We didn’t know what to do. She wouldn’t stay in her Bulu. Why, you’d be getting ready for bed, and there she’d be, at your opening, looking in.”

“O.k.,” Loveya said, “that’s enough, I’m sure she gets the idea. And it’s such an unpleasant story.”

“But wait,” Dante said, “what happened to her?”

“Oh, well, we don’t really know,” Seeya said. “It was about that time that Addis showed up, and she just disappeared. Addis didn’t know who he was, or who she was, or what was going on. And although he didn’t exactly meet our standards, we decided that it wouldn’t be neighborly if we didn’t treat him as a guest.”

“Humph,” Addis snorted but didn’t say anything.

“But,” Dante asked, “didn’t you worry? Didn’t you look?”

“Well, no,” Seeya said, “we couldn’t. About that time the portals just disappeared. We’ve never seen them since. Until that one today.”

“But haven’t you wondered?” Dante asked. “Haven’t you thought about why everything changed?”

“Well,” Seeya looked around the circle at the Oralians. They all seemed perfectly blank.

“Well,” he said again, “to be honest, no.”

Dante sighed. “So that’s it? You had someone come back who had probably been through some terrible ordeal, and all you could worry about was that she was dirty?”

“You just don’t understand,” Seeya said, “it wasn’t just that. We could have handled that – in fact we could certainly understand how traumatic that would be. The problem was she didn’t care. We just didn’t know what to do about that – and she just didn’t, well, fit in anymore.”

Dante was quiet for a moment. “Well,” she said, “what about Addis? He doesn’t fit in. What about me?”

“Oh, now, don’t be silly,” Seeya said heartily. “We’re happy to have you here, and Addis, well, we kid with him about his odd detachment from his appearance, but he certainly doesn’t go around trying to catch us looking bad.”

“Goodness!” Later exclaimed, “it’s gotten late. It’s time to get our guests to their Bulus. Addis, you can head to your usual place, and we’ve fixed up something special for Dante.”

“Well,” Dante began, “I don’t want to be any trouble. If there’s an extra room where Addis is staying, I could just stay there.” She looked at Addis, hoping he wouldn’t be upset, but he just folded his hands over his tummy.

“Uh, well,” Seeya began, but Loveya interjected.

“Don’t be silly! You can’t possibly stay together. Why, it wouldn’t be right for you to even see where the other is staying. We can’t make them both the same, and we wouldn’t want you to think we did more for one of you than the other.”

Dante just shook her head and laughed. “All right,” she said, “thank you.”

The Oralians said good night and left, with the exception of Seeya who led them first to Dante’s Bulu. There were hand and foot holds in the trunk of this Bulu bush, and it took Dante a great deal of effort to get to the top. When she finally did, Seeya hovered near the opening with his back to her.

“Well,” he said, “I hope it’s o.k.”

Dante looked around in wonder. The inside of the Bulu contained a large round bed, covered in rich velvet tapestries. The entire inside of the Bulu was lit by candles, which lined the chamber. There was a shimmering cloth draped from the ceiling, and a table next to the bed.

“It’s more than o.k.,” she said, “it’s incredible. Where did these tapestries come from?”

“I don’t know,” Seeya said. “I do know that no one here could have made them. They must have come from somewhere else.”

“But you don’t know where?”

“Does it matter?”

“Well, what if you want new ones?”

“Oh well, I don’t know. As long as you think they’re o.k.”

“They’re beautiful.”

“Good,” Seeya said, “well, I’ll be off, see you in the morning.”

“Good night,” Dante said.

She hadn’t thought she was tired, but as soon as she was in the bed, she was asleep.

Dante was awakened by the sound of Seeya’s voice shouting, “Morning warning! Morning warning!” She walked over to the opening of the Bulu, and saw his back facing her.

“Good morning, Seeya,” she said.

“Good morning.”

“You can look at me, you know. I don’t care.”

The small creature turned and looked her up and down. “Oh my!” he exclaimed.

Dante laughed and ran her hand through her hair. “It can’t be that bad,” she said.

“Oh but it is,” he continued, and held his hand over his mouth as though trying to keep from being sick. Like someone who is repulsed by an accident, but just has to take a closer look, he flew in the doorway and looked at her with disgusted fascination.

“I mean, you have these weird dry things in the corner of your eyes, your hair is sticking up, your clothes are all mussed – you look awful!”

Dante laughed again. “Maybe so, but I’m the same inside no matter how I look on the outside.”

“Like that matters,” Seeya muttered.

“Well it does to me,” she said.

She took a small brush that was lying on the side table next to a mirror and ran it through her hair. She rubbed her eyes and straightened her clothes, then turned to the small creature and said, “Ready to go down?”

“By all means,” he said firmly. “This seeing people first thing in the morning is a bad, bad idea. Here,” he said, thrusting a small hand mirror at her, “take this with you – I really think you just have no idea.”

She put the mirror in her backpack, slung it over her shoulder and made her way slowly down the Bulu bush, carefully placing her feet and hands in the appropriate holds. When she reached the ground Addis was waiting for her.

“So,” she said, “I guess we breakfast alone?”

He nodded and they headed back to the clearing where he once again produced the table and chairs from his bag. For breakfast, the tablecloth had a flowery print, and instead of a candle there was a small vase with a fresh flower.

After breakfast Dante and Addis headed to the Circle where the Oralians were gathering. They could hear the high pitch of excited voices before they got there.

“It was just there,” said Loveya, “I’m telling you, I was flying over here after I ate, and it was just there.”

“What was?” Addis asked.

“A portal!” exclaimed Loveya. “I don’t know if there was ever one there before, but there’s one there now. Dante must somehow be opening them!”

They all looked at Dante expectantly, but she quickly said, “I don’t know anything about them.”

“Well, but just think about it,” Bye-Bye said, hovering in front of her. “You’ve come through one, then you come here, and now there’s one here!”

“Well, yes, but,” Dante began, but Addis interrupted her. “Show me where it is.”

He grabbed his bag and followed Bye-Bye with Dante and the other Oralians trailing excitedly behind him. On the far side of the Circle, in the opposite direction that Dante had been the night before, there was an arch. Like the arch in the field, you could see right through it, to the Bulu bushes beyond. Addis walked slowly toward it, and when he reached it, it didn’t vanish. Dante walked up and stood beside him.

“It’s doesn’t look like it goes anywhere,” she said.

“I know,” Addis responded. They looked at each other.

“Well,” Bye-Bye said stoutly, “I’m not going through that thing, and I advise that no one else does either.”

“I wonder where it goes,” Dante said. She turned to them. “Look, don’t you want to know why things are happening the way they are? Don’t you think it’s weird that it’s raining all the time? Don’t you want to try and find someone to help you with the stagnant water?”

“Well, of course,” Seeya said soothingly, “we just don’t know what else could happen.”

He had flown in front of the portal, and hovered with his back to it, facing Dante and Addis.

“I mean,” he began, but at that moment it began raining.

“Rain!” screeched Bye-Bye and the Oralians went into a panic trying to zip back to their Bulus.

Seeya hesitated for a moment, and in that brief instant Addis took advantage of the situation. Grabbing Dante by the hand, he pushed Seeya through the portal, grabbed his bag with his other hand, and then plowed through the portal himself, dragging Dante with him.

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