It sounded at first like a low hum. The tree she sat in shuddered, and she instinctively grabbed the trunk, an unfortunate move. When the sound grew painfully loud, she let go, slammed her hands over her ears and tumbled off the branch, screaming all the way to the ground where she landed unhurt on a thick cushion of pine needles. The noise stopped, leaving empty silence. She started to cry, but when she couldn’t hear herself, she got up, brushed off, and ran home to her cabin.
“Where have you been, Sequoia?” Her grandmother’s shout sounded fuzzy. She could tell she was shouting by her bright red face.
Before she could answer, Grandmother grabbed her hand and pulled her to the rusty jeep where Grandfather gestured for them to hurry.
“Are you okay, little one?” he asked, his voice muffled. Her ears felt stuffed with cotton. She nodded.
Sequoia knew that something as big as that awful sound meant the entire town would be heading to the stomping grounds. This needed figuring out.
Sure enough, people milled all over the grounds, leaving the central square empty. Grandfather made his slow way to the center, next to the fire pit, and raised his arms, filling her heart with pride. The crowd fell silent.
He started singing a familiar Cherokee song and the people joined in to sing praise to Creator. He prayed in their native language, and then spoke in English.
“We must seek answers for what happened here today. Nothing happens without reason. Speak if you know what that noise was.”
Several piped in at once.
“It was a trumpet from heaven,” someone said.
“I heard a loud engine, like an alien invasion or somethin’,” Old Buck said.
“Aw, c’mon, old man,” a voice called out. “You never got that close to your imaginary aliens.”
“I said I seen ‘em,” he retorted. “I ain’t never heard ‘em, but I’m bettin’ they sound like ‘at.”
Old Buck told everyone who’d listen that he’d seen aliens. Most people laughed at him, but Sequoia believed him. She was ten and her grandparents had drilled it into her that lying was wrong, so why would a grown-up tell lies?
While the grown-ups debated, she ran off to find her friends. That’s when a most awful noise started in her head, like a nest of angry hornets. She grabbed her ears and turned back. Her grandmother, noticing she was gone, turned just as she went stiff and grew still, her eyes glazed as if she was in a trance.
“Sequoia!” Grandmother called out, ran to her, and yelled for help.
Two men eased her to the ground, where she abruptly sat up and said, “The man wants me to tell you what he’s saying.”
She sniffed, trying not to cry. The voice didn’t feel very good buzzing around inside her head, making it hurt.
Grandfather made his way to her and bent down, staring straight into her eyes.
“It’s okay, little one. Tell me what the man is telling you. Don’t worry about anyone else.”
Sequoia took a deep breath and said just loud enough for Grandfather and some folks crowding close enough to hear, enunciating every word carefully, “He says, ‘We are watchers. Terra calls out in pain. Her end is near.’”
The grown-ups who heard looked at each other, perplexed. Who is Terra?
Sequoia continued, “Prepare for the four that your prophecy speaks of. As you have guarded the prophecy, also guard the secret of their existence. The four must succeed, or Terra, your Earth, will surely die.”
At that, Sequoia lowered her head and said, “That’s all.”
The old chief straightened up and again raised his hands for silence.
“Not all of you have heard the prophecy given to us by the Star People many ages ago,” he said, “so I will speak it once. It stays among us.”
The people nodded, remaining silent, intent on hearing every word.
“When Mother cries out and death approaches, four children of the stars, children with power, will come. Together, their power can save her. Apart, they will fail. Beware those who would destroy them.”
“Grandfather,” Sequoia asked when he finished, her voice shaking, “are we going to die?” This time she didn’t try to stop the tears.
Jewel Adams, Seventeen Years Later
Crash! The empty mug slips from my hand, shattering on the floor. Seconds later, the door in the pantry to the downstairs office and laboratories slams shut, leaving me with nothing but questions.
I came to the kitchen to get some hot tea. The anticipation of starting school tomorrow had my stomach tied in knots, and I couldn’t relax enough to sleep.
I switched on the burner under the kettle and grabbed a cookie from where Mom keeps them, in a UFO shaped cookie jar Dad made her when they were dating. They met at a UFO conference, of all places.
Reaching for a mug in the cupboard, I heard voices in my father’s basement office and instantly recognized the voice of Wolf, a tribal elder. They had apparently forgotten to close both the pantry and office doors, because I heard some of what they were saying very clearly.
Wolf said, “The watchers told Sequoia it’s time. Things have been escalating these last seventeen years. Will Jewel be ready?”
“How? How do we get her ready for this? We have no idea what she and the others are facing,” Dad answered.
Wolf must have walked to the other end of the office because his voice faded and all I heard was “… the fate of the world rests on them…”
That was when I lost the mug and it shattered on the tile floor.
Cleaning up the broken shards, I turn the burner off, and return to my room without the tea. One question reverberates in my brain and promises to keep me awake all night. What do I need to be ready for?
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