In the morning, Kell coming into the burrow to tell her breakfast was ready awakened Dante; Addis and Seeya had already left. Dante sat up, yawned, stretched, and ran her fingers through her hair. She smiled at the young Brox.
“I suppose I seem pretty lazy to be sleeping so late, and not helping with breakfast.”
Kell said, “It’s o.k., you’ve had a long journey and we all know you’re tired. But I don’t know how you can sleep through everyone walking around. The vibrations would wake me right up!”
Dante stood up and said, “Well, I have to admit I’m hungry, and I’m glad you’re here because I’m not sure I could find the way back up by myself.” She grabbed her backpack and followed Kell through the tunnels. When they reached the top they sat together at a large rock table filled with Brox, and began eating as soon as the food was put in front of them.
“I’m sorry you couldn’t sleep with us last night,” Kell said, “but at least you didn’t have to sleep alone.”
“Oh, that’s o.k.,” Dante said, “at home I have my own room and sleep alone every night.” The table went silent and all the Brox looked at her in amazement.
“Alone?” Turra said in disbelief. “You sleep alone?”
When Dante nodded she was surprised to see the stricken look on Turra’s face. “Oh, it’s o.k.,” Dante assured her, turning to assure all the Brox around her. “I spend lots of time alone.”
Greff gasped and put his hand on Dante’s shoulder. “What kind of place do you come from?” he asked.
Seeya leaned over and whispered to Addis, “I guess I’d better not even start to tell them about the Bulu. They might die of shock.”
Dante looked at the confused, concerned, and upset faces of the Brox around her and began to stammer. “Well, it’s o.k., really, I mean, when I’m drawing or writing there’s really no point in having company.”
“What’s drawing?” Kell asked.
Dante took her journal out of her backpack and looked at it for a moment. She hesitated, because she usually didn’t show her drawings to anyone. She looked at Kell who was looking at her with an open, friendly interest. She handed her the journal and Kell took it, looking fascinated. She opened it and gasped, and began slowly turning the pages. Kell showed the journal to Turra, whose face softened at the sight of Dante’s sketches. She smiled when she the one of Addis sleeping in his chair.
“Well then, you have these images you create to keep you company.” The other Brox nodded thoughtfully.
Dante said, “Yes, and I have these words to go with them.” She gently took the journal back from Kell, and showed them some of the entries she’d written, including what she’d added the night before. She could tell they weren’t able to read the words, but they seemed to understand that the journal was a record of what she had been thinking.
“So you’re not really alone,” mused Greff, “as long as you have that creation stick.” And he pointed to her pencil.
“Well, yes,” Dante said, “I suppose you’re right.”
They all nodded thoughtfully until Greff stood suddenly. “Time to work.”
The Brox all began to move, clearing away food and dishes, and getting out the materials to start their weaving. The diggers began to head off, chanting. As they faded into the distance, Dante was sure she heard the melody of ‘Sing a Song of Blackbird.’
Just as the strains of the song were dying out, the fog rolled in. Like the day before, it was so thick you couldn’t see anything. Since none of them had left the clearing yet, there was no need to call out the central point. Dante sat down on the ground and put her head in her hands.
“This is kind of tiring, isn’t it?” she asked no one in particular.
Turra answered, her voice worried, “They’re not going to be able to do any digging today. But they probably won’t come back just yet. Hopefully this will pass soon.” No sooner had she finished the sentence than the sun came out and the fog lifted.
The Brox looked at the sky suspiciously, and then went about their morning routine. There were no further incidents with the fog, and in a short time the children were keeping themselves busy with their games, and everyone else was in the groove of their work. Everyone except Dante, Addis and Seeya. They had wandered over to the far side of the clearing and stood together talking.
“Now what?” Seeya asked. “I’m not sure how much longer I can stand staying here.”
“Did you see anything when you flew around yesterday?” Addis’ voice was calm.
“No, not a thing. Just more of the same. Dirt, rocks, those odd twisted trees. Really, this place could use some spiffing up, don’t you think?”
Dante sighed. She hated to admit it, but she was getting bored. There wasn’t much to do, she didn’t feel like playing with the Brox children all day, and there was nothing she could do to help the adults.
“I’m going to explore,” she said. Addis and Seeya both looked at her. They knew what she was thinking, what they were all thinking – maybe there was a portal waiting somewhere.
But there wasn’t. Not that day and not the next. The days passed in a similar fashion, with the Brox working, then eating, and then some chanting and going to bed. Dante, Seeya and Addis spent the days walking around the Brox countryside, or talking with the children who enjoyed hearing the stories of where they were from. Dante occasionally found herself thinking about home, and hoping her parents wouldn’t be too worried.
On the fourth morning, she began to feel a little frantic when she was heading up for breakfast. She hadn’t quite reached the mouth of the burrow – which she had learned to navigate on her own – when she heard a shout.
She ran the rest of the way, and when she reached the surface she followed the crowd of Brox heading toward the North end of the Circle.
Behind some boulders sat the arch. Dante was happy to see it, although she had grown fond of the Brox and she would be a bit sad to leave, knowing there was a good chance she would never be back. Seeya was zipping back and forth excitedly, and even Addis seemed to have some extra energy. Greff moved slowly out from the crowd. He hugged Turra, who was crying, and then his children. Dante felt a lump in her throat as they all moved toward the arch.
“Ready?” Addis asked. He moved toward the arch, and it didn’t disappear.
“Yes!” Seeya called, and flew through. And reappeared on the other side. He looked around, and realized he hadn’t gone anywhere.
“What happened?” he asked.
Addis narrowed his eyes. “Take my hand,” he said to Dante. She took hold of his hand.
“Now,” Addis said to Greff, “take hold of Dante’s hand.” The Brox hesitated a moment, and then took her hand.
“O.k., Seeya,” Addis said, “get in front of me and let me put my hand on your back.”
“Oh, right, like you’re going to push me in again,” said Seeya excitedly. He hovered in front of Addis.
“Wait!” Turra called. They all stopped and looked back at her. She ran to Greff and handed him a small basket she had woven.
“Take this,” she said. “Something from home.”
He looked into her eyes and smiled. “Thank you,” he said, “but it might be better if I’m not trying to carry something.”
“Oh, that’s o.k.,” Dante said. “We’ll just put it in my backpack.”
She unzipped her pack and let Greff put the basket inside. He hugged Turra again, and then resolutely grabbed Dante’s hand. Addis turned back toward the portal.
“O.k., here we go,” Addis said, and pushed Seeya through. He followed, pulling Dante who pulled Greff. Greff took one last look at his family as he passed through the portal. He was afraid he would never see them again.