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They roll in from unknown places, mysterious and unexplained. They take root, take over, spread to all corners and refuse to be eradicated. No one can say why they came, but there’s no arguing that they’re up to no good. These plants are out for blood, and getting rid of them will take a certain kind of hero – the best kind. Twenty-five tales of evil weeds to entertain, enthrall and change the way you look at the unwelcome invaders in your lawn.
On a dusty red world inside a dome called the Pearl, Rett is selected to be the next tumba master, if she bonds with her herd and the tumbas accept her.
Before she can, the tumbas’ feral ancestors crash in through the dome, killing her teacher and her new hatchlings. Rett, the tumbas, and their whole world teeters on ruin. In order to save it, she must embrace a past she barely remembers in her dreams.
The Tumbas Extract:
Rett knelt to the ground. Her lips brushed against blushing earth. The sun radiated up warmer than it fell from the heavens, the newly darkened earth reforming the frail rays into glory. She reveled in the tumbas’ sacred gift, inhaling the heat with care to avoid choking on redeemed dust. “Oh ever thanks, glorious tumbas.” She hoped they would accept her, that the long journey was not for naught.
Her solitary pilgrimage across the Pearl ended at the lane leading to the tumba master’s rectory. Across the sorrel plains stretched solid patches of sage, great multitudes of tumbas. The sight rallied Rett’s spirits. So many. The plants-turned-animals were her people’s lifeblood. Like herds of bison in the former world, the tumbas provided all. Most importantly the promise of a future and, for Rett, eternal fellowship.
Alone no more.
Moving thunder, the tumbling briers loped from one patch of red chloride to the next distilling the noxious deposits into fertile soil and tending the earth into a more heat absorbent shade. Some day other things would grow in the betterment the tumbas created.
Taught by the Erewhon Order that the flocks descended from a lower life-form called a tumbleweed, Rett exulted at the miracle of progress spread upon the horizons. Testament handed down from one generation of sisters to the next proclaimed the tumbleweed existed as a nuisance before it reached its higher calling in the Pearl. In a time of legend before the new Eden’s creation, the tumbas evolved from ordained hands, their predecessors no longer damned.
The herd chirped in excited whistles and flocked to the right. Rett stood, pivoting with their movements. She watched her new mentor ambling toward her through the sea of sage. Rett bowed. “Our Ancestors lacked wisdom, Sister Dhan?”
Dhan stood small and ruddy, a scarf wound over her head and face to keep the dust out of her lungs. One weather-worn hand laced with the other. Her dark eyes, clouded over from age, had seen many years pass in the Pearl. “Must be new learning granted by the Erewhon Order yar contemplating.”
“I’m honored to be chosen as tumba keeper. It was gift enough to be selected by the Erewhon.”
“Yar humility serve the tumba and the Pearl, Sister. I will report so to the elders.”
“Keepers are few and far between. The honor is mine.”
Rett’s heart fluttered with joy which spread into her face, tickling her cheeks. Her hands came together in front of her dust caked robes, an echo of Dhan’s posture. “The Order communicated my coming, Honored Sister?”
“And the tumbas, Sister Rett. They tell me everything. On the morrow ya will be so privileged, too.” The squat woman waddled off toward her rectory, a rectangular box molded from red earth.
Most of the building sat sunk into the ground to keep the interior from getting too cold. The sorrel world the Pearl was a part of always stayed cool. Rett was blessedly unaware of the chill. Her happiness ran over causing her to giggle. She couldn’t believe the day she would become bonded with the tumba had finally arrived. I will never be alone again.
After a skipping hop, she settled into a more reverent stride behind Dhan. They paraded through a thick door molded from tumba paste and fibers.
The interior of the master’s priory felt cozy. The light of day diffused to a soft glow which could not reach all the edges and corners. The walls were lined with tumba limbs, stones, and vials of powders and oils. The ingredients came together in a heavy aromatic, smoothing away the worry the tumbas might reject her.
A long table carved from rock took up much of the main room; strewn with microscopes, vials, droppers, tweezers and beakers. Crude seats carved out of earth jutted from the walls. Other than the table and earthen benches, the only piece of furniture was a stool chiseled from crystal. Sister Dhan took her place upon it in front of the largest microscope.
“Sit.” Dhan’s wizened hand gestured at the closest earthen bench.
Rett’s heart skipped then pounded. This is it! A tumba keeper. Me. Her hand flew over her stomach. Its buckings were all elation.
A flat rectangle clicked on with a green glow. A sequence of letters scrolled across it — AAAGTCTGACAAAGTCTGAC.
“Ya’ve been taught the scripture of the tumba,” Dhan said.
“The Order would not have sent me otherwise.”
“It is my duty to check.”
Rett nodded, swallowing the panic. She didn’t know if she could stand being kept from melding with the tumbas one minute longer.
“Erewhon sends a request ya be given a golden herd.”
The air suddenly warmed. Rett’s cheeks radiated like the sun collecting in the windowpanes. “I was not expect–”
“Ya have excelled. Yar chosen master when I am gone.”
Delight swirled down upon Rett in giddy prickles. The gaping holes inside her would never yearn again. All tumbas would come to keep her as she kept them. Always. “The Order did not tell me.”
“It is my privilege to inform my successor. Yar to establish yar parsonage here beside mine.”
“I have a valley select–”
“If ya choose to move when ya become master, so be it. Until then, I choose.”
Rett bowed her head in submission to the elder. “Say the tumba.”
“Say the tumba.”
The green flaring rectangle on the table changed images from code to cells. Each nucleus waited, brimming with vibrancy. Dhan ‘s hands gestured in a blessing over them. “This will be yar golden herd. We will create it together.”
Rett’s palms sweated, cold and damp. Yet she did not hesitate to go to the master’s side.
Dhan yanked off the scarf wound about Rett’s head. Bald except for a tattoo–a wreath of tumba limbs interlaced with pearls, the eight planets and the sun. The master touched Rett’s bared skin. “Freshly shaven, good.”
“I will not slough in venerating the tumbas. Ya need not fear my devotion.”
Dhan slipped off her perch and tugged open a cache in the floor. She selected a bottle with liquid sun inside. She handed Rett a dropper as thin as a hair. “Draw out yar herd.”
Rett’s fingers trembled as she unstopped the bottle. She set it on the table, not trusting her excited nerves. She slid the slim dropper inside and smeared a gold droplet onto a small, glass plate. The bead looked nothing like the tumba it would become.
Copyright 2010 M. Pax, all rights reserved