The Sermon at Talakea | By: Barry Shrapnel | | Category: Short Story - Sci-Fi Bookmark and Share

The Sermon at Talakea

"The Sermon at Talakea" is a work of fiction, and any resemblance
between the characters and real persons living or dead is
unintentional and coincidental.

Copyright Barry Shrapnel 1997


The warm gentle wind moved across the orange plateau. For a hundred
million years its gentle persistence had scoured the barren highlands.

Only one species of scraggly bush survived. It had evolved a root
system that could resist the ubiquitous wind, a root system that
held the plant firm until its seed could mature. Then during
Talakea's brief spring, the roots would wither and the wind would
toss the bush over the plateau, dispersing the seed over the
desolate land.

On the night called Evening Song, when Talakea's twin moons rose
above the huge fifteen-mile high mountain peaks, the first bush of
the season broke away. It tumbled across the plateau, dropping its
seeds, and moved towards a group of pilgrims, one thousand strong,
who had gathered to hear their great leader speak.

They sat, cross-legged, like a thousand Buddhas, expectant. The
bush tumbled over the heads of the devotees, and in its journey
through the middle of the crowd, hit Josh squarely on the head.

He flailed at the bush and sneezed. "Damn seeds," he said. "Shit."

"Quiet," Mary Lou said, "He's coming."

The speaker emerged from his tent, walking slowly to the speaking
stone, his long green robes flowing behind him. He mounted the
Rostrum of the Learned, turned toward the multitude, raised his
arms to the twin moons high above his head, then bowed.

As one, the throng pressed their foreheads to their crossed feet,
the proper gesture of respect.

The speaker raised his hands to his side. "Sit up," he said.

The pilgrims did so. "Ohmm . . . Ohmm . . . Ohmm", they chanted.
Then silence.

"Friends," the speaker said, "Hear these words of wisdom, and reflect:

'When you get so many years ahead
of where you started from,
And you feel so very different
than you were,
You wonder how it all could happen:
When all those years
were really only
A series of days and hours
strung together.' "

The speaker paused.

Josh leaned over and whispered into Mary-Lou's ear. "What the
hell's that mean?"

She jabbed him with her elbow. "Sussh."

The speaker began again:

"Before his execution, Sir Walter Raleigh looked at the blade and s
aid, 'This is sharp medicine, but it is a sure cure for all
diseases'. This leads to my talk for today . . ."

Josh stood up. "That's it, I'm going." He began to pick his way
around the multitude of seated people. Mary-Lou jumped up after
him. She reached him as he moved around the last seated figure.

"You can't go now," she said.

"This is bull-shit."

"You promised."

"I didn't promise to listen to . . ."

"I love you," she said. She stood on her toes and kissed him.

He looked down at her. "That's blackmail."

She sat down and reached up for him. "Come on," she said.

He sat down.

Mary Lou smiled. Married six months and she had already made
progress. That was good. In ten years he would be fully trained.
She glanced at Josh to check he was behaving himself, then crossed
her legs and put her hands on her knees. It would be a lovely
holiday, she mused. She focused on the speaker's words.


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