--Part 6--

louis martin
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THE GODDESS NOW looked torn, as though she had finished the tale yet hadn't; as though there was something more she was holding onto.

"Of course Ne's actions did not go unpunished," Mendodii now asserted resolutely. "Most definitely, they brought about the inevitable," she said then stopped.

Although I had enjoyed passively listening to the goddess's tale, I now pressed her for details. I knew that time was limited, and I had also noticed that the goddess had grown ever more pale as she stood by the Witness Tree. Frankly, I did not know how much longer the interview would go on or, at any rate, how much longer the interviewee would be visible. Thus I asked the obvious question.

"What happened next, goddess?"

The goddess replied:

"As Ne stood on the edge of the cliff looking very pleased at the sight of Tumorka sprawled on the beach below, suddenly she, Ne, felt a little push at her back--a little push that became a shove and that grew into a tremendous force that threw and spun her toward the edge of the cliff. And yet, while this took place, Ne could see nothing and no one causing it to happen. Finally, Ne found herself suspended straight above Fool's Rock, whipped by a wind that howled and tore at her clothing and hair. For a moment the sun was shrouded by some dark ugly form and lightning flashed around the suspended Sister, just like in the worst of the Distant Visions. Then she was hurled down, head-first, on top of the rock and bounced out to sea, where a great feeding of sharks took place, for no remains were ever found of the Sister. Only the top of Fool's Rock where the Sister struck looks stained or polluted to this day, as though by acid or poison or the droppings of some huge ancient bird, where the Sister struck."

"I guess I was not gentle with this particular Sister," said the goddess.

"And why was that?" I prodded the goddess, for she was looking really quite pale now.

"Well, you see, I had liked that storyteller very much," said the goddess--"maybe too much," she said, her eyes now flooding with tears. "He was a sweet man," she went on, "a good man; and maybe I should not have but I visited him a couple of times, oh, just a couple of times, at the camp in the ancient grove of Reds. You see, it is my grove, I am its protector--that is why it has never been cut--and only I knew of that wonderful place in the forest near the spring where Tumorka sometimes camped. I never told him who I was but I think he suspected."

I began to feel very sorry for the goddess, and was about to tell her that some of my relationships have worked out poorly as well, but sniffling noisily and collecting herself the goddess went on:

"Love of mortals never seems to work out. Not in twenty-three million years of existence have I seen such love last. But, oh, so sweet it was. And such a man! I will not forget Tumorka," said the goddess as she became almost invisible by the Witness Tree, her form appearing to rise and recede over the ocean. "I wrote him a song once," she said, her voice a trembly whisper now.

Tumorka, Tumorka, you sweet and gentle man,
You were far too good for a world of bread and jam;
You were golden honey,
Ripe grapes on the vine;
You were yellow flowers,
You were my Spring time.
And though you are gone now to a world I do not know,
I carry you forever in this world far down below.
We will meet again,
Dearest of friend;
We will meet again
In the end.

"In the end" was just barely perceptible, seeming to ride the breeze that stirred for a moment the branches of the Witness Tree. And the goddess was gone.

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