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  • Olivia Luchini

The Sequoia Sisters

At the dawn of humanity, the people of Earth battled every emotion as if it were a blood-bursting war. From the purest joy to the deepest anguish, they felt each feeling with their whole body, not knowing what these heart pangs and stomach flutters signified within them. They knew only that certain words and actions triggered a battle within each of them, thrusting them out of their neutral safety and into the unknown, which seemed to yank them between the factual and the uncharted. The people of today’s earth have poetry, science, and art to help them recognize the normality within their hearts and minds as waves of emotions crash throughout their person, yet the first people had no definitions. They had no writers to find solace through, no paintings to seep their souls into, letting their very essence dive into a miniature world of swirling blue acrylic. No. They had questions, but no answers.

In desperation for an explanation as to why the pink sky made them feel euphoric but the dark sky made them feel trepidation, while some of their fellow humans felt the exact opposite, the people of Earth began to take their internal battles into the external. As they could not contemplate a world without just universal truths, they fought each other in support of their own ideas that they believed ought to be universally true. Those who favored the sun would hunt those who fell for the moon. Those who worshipped the river sabotaged those who found themselves drawn to the chiseled mountains, setting fire to the beautiful trees that were cascading down the sides of their peaks with the reasoning that the rushing river could never be destroyed in flames.

While the people of Earth were dying at the hands of each other, all because of an inability to understand, the wisest elder sat atop the largest boulder in her village. From its height, she could see the vastness of the navy blue seas to her right and the lush meadows to her left. She loved them both because she found them different, yet equally beautiful.

Though the people who loved the sea spat toward the green meadows because of their dirty patches and their invasive insects, the wisest elder found herself in these flaws. She had never been perfect, having patches of imperfections to her own character. She had felt too small for the world around her, just like these scattering bugs. So, she loved the meadows, as they were as beautiful as they were honest.

Then, she saw the people who loved the meadows tarnish the sea with their old possessions and the waste that seemed to pile up higher with each new day. They condemned the ocean for its violence and loneliness, saying that even the wisest person would go mad if they sat on its shores for too long listening to it crash and repeat. Yet, the wisest elder had sat on its shores. She had found herself in the crashes, which seemed to be the water’s way of breathing in and then slowly breathing out. She never felt lonely in its company, learning from its vastness how infinite the world truly was. It was bigger than her and older than her, and it would continue to be until the end of time.

The wisest elder avoided choosing sides in these battles for the most worthy features in the nature around her, but she still managed to get those feelings of deep pain that plagued these people into fighting in the first place. From her boulder, she could see her children fighting each other as her grandchildren watched from just beyond, seeming to drink the hatred like a bowl of water and taking it in as part of themselves, permanently. Vengeance was seen and vengeance was absorbed. No matter how much she tried to intervene, the people of Earth waved her away, believing that she was too old to understand what was truly upsetting them.

The battles grew more violent. Fire and weaponry seemed to come into play over night, and the wisest elder watched as her favorite ocean was polluted with smoke and her treasured jade-green fields went up in flames. With great sobs, so shouted out over her descendants and the rest of Earth’s younglings.

“Why are you sacrificing what each of you loves for the sake of being right? Why are you all so cruel? Have you been possessed by the evil spirits of our planet’s previous demises? What is the point to all this fighting?”

Yet, it was all for not. The wisest elder looked across a sea of glazed-over eyes, eyes that were not seeing her point and did not care to see. As this sight broke her heart, a new sight broke her mind. The eyes of all of the humans rolled backward into their skulls, as if to get a better view of what was inside. Their mouths dropped into tight grimaces and their bodies aligned into firm planks.

They were less human than they were weapons.

When the wisest elder thought that she had seen all that she need to see, the Earth’s mysteries surprised her again. Little, red spirits stretched themselves out through the heads of the weapon people. They sat atop their skulls just as the wisest elder sat atop her boulder, with confidence and foresight, and they began to laugh.

“Without war, these people will never know what they find worth fighting for,” the littlest red spirit taunted. “War inspires them to discover their values. War lets them love each other more deeply in an attempt to protect the ones that have their care.”

The wisest elder was shocked at how these spirits could justify the deaths of her children for the sake of feeling deeper emotions that would only more deeply divide.

“If you truly knew of love, you would know that it would not stand for this kind of violence!” the wisest elder cried to these spirits.

If these intense emotions began these fights, why would anyone want more of them? Peace and care and understanding were the beliefs that the wisest elder worshipped, not fiery hate or burning passion.

She, being the wisest of the village, thought of what questions she might ask these spirits in order to better find a solution to their desire for war.

“Tell me this, little spirit: Are you a good spirit or a bad spirit?” the wisest elder asked.

The littlest spirit laughed at her.

“Would not that be one of those dividing opinions that you work so diligently to erase? Why ought I be good or bad? Could not I just be? Isn’t that what you would really want?”

With that, all of the spirits seeped back into the heads of the people, and the fighting resumed. Distraught, the wisest elder ran into the forest and away from the massacre. She dropped to the ground and lied in the crisp leaves, looking up at the night sky through the webs of tree trunks and branches above. Warm tears welled up in her eyes as she heard the screams of her people in the distance over what she believed were pointless ideas. At first, she believed these tears to be distorting her vision when she saw a bright green star in the sky above, yet it remained even when she rubbed her eyes completely dry. The glistening, gem-like star seemed to be communicating with her in the only way that it could, twinkling with such intensity that it seemed like it might just fall from the sky in which it was planted. With all hope lost, the wisest elder did not feel desperate when she began begging this celestial miracle for a solution.

“I need a savior to expel the evil spirits from my people. I need them to understand how to be kind to one another again, in spite of their differences. I need them to see the light in each other. I cannot battle their errors alone anymore…they won’t hear it from me,” the wisest elder whispered toward the cosmos.

As if it were confirming her wish, the great, green star cascaded its light across the sky, engulfing the darkness in a sheet of emerald green. In a moment, it was gone and the wisest elder stood up from the ground to see what this miraculous light could have given the world around her. She searched throughout the entire forest, all the way to the shores of the sea, but she found nothing. Just when she was about to allow herself to be defeated, she noticed a glistening green seed just in front of her feet. She took it in her palms and held it close to her eyes so that she could examine it. It was so small that she feared dropping it and losing it forever. A feeling within her person guided her toward the river on the opposite side of the forest. There, the soil was fertile and there was a clearing where she could plant the seed without forgetting where it was.

She got to work, digging a little hole with her hand and gently placing the glistening seed within the rich ground. Once it was firmly planted, she filled her cupped hands with water and doused the soil with the care of a loving parent.

The wisest elder gave the planted seed a final kiss atop the fresh soil and then stood up to leave. As she walked, the ground began to quiver beneath her. These quivers grew into rumbles and those rumbles evolved into earth-shaking quakes. The wisest elder was knocked to the ground with a heavy thud, as she hit her head and was knocked unconscious.

By the time she came to, the wisest elder was astonished by what was in front of her. A full-grown tree so tall, strong, and thick was firmly planted where there was nothing just moments ago. The wisest elder rubbed her face in an attempt to awaken herself from any hallucinations, but the tree remained.

With great effort, the wisest elder pulled herself to her feet and approached the tree. It was warm to the touch of her aged fingertips. If one had not seen the nothingness that had been in that very spot just moments before, the great tree looked as though it might have been there for centuries. The wisest elder hugged its massive trunk, not knowing what it meant but knowing that it brought her comfort.

A mighty cracking noise came from within it like lightning in the summertime and the wisest elder retreated back from its tranquility, fearing what could come of such a mystical thing. Suddenly, the tree’s red bark split into a gaping hole…or an entrance? It resembled the splitting of a stream of water when one put their hand in its path, as it was natural and unnatural at the same time, obscure yet graceful. The bright green light radiated from the new space, blinding the wisest elder in its intensity. She shielded her eyes with her tired hands, until a new pair of hands pulled them from her face.

In front of her was a beautiful woman with a body like the otherworldly tree. She was incredibly tall, with a stature or strength and sturdiness, and she was clothed in a long, black dress that resembled the night sky with a satchel hanging from her waist. Being so massive, her satchel alone could have fit a small human’s body inside. Her unnaturally green eyes inspected the wisest elder as she quivered in fear. Easiness only came when the wisest elder noticed what appeared to be a single, green jewel placed in the center of this being’s forehead. It shimmered just like the star she had confided her deepest hopes in, and the elder knew that this was the answer to her wish for her people.

“Do not cower any longer, for I have been born and I will be born again,” the mysterious woman boomed at the now very small-looking wisest elder as she brushed past her and toward the violent village. With each step, a print of ethereal light appeared in the dull earth below. This woman was no woman. She was more. She was not of this world.

“What are you?” the wisest elder asked, always one to ask questions when the majority would keep their words as thoughts.

The giant woman turned her head over her shoulder, her inky black hair flowing down her spine like the tail of a comet. She closed her eyes and breathed in the forest’s thick, potent air.

“I am Sequoia. I am the queen of the Serenity Star, which you just called upon to cure your race’s strife. I am here to enlighten your people and bring this war to an end. I will vanish and their hatred will vanish with me. I am Sequoia and I seek your weak and foolish.”

The mountainous woman almost spat these words, as if the world should have known her name as if it were their own. Yet, she was not cruel. She was not condescending. She was powerful. She was monotone and calm, making it no surprise that she hailed from a world that was named for its serene values.

Sequoia approached the monstrous tree that she had emerged from and drove her strong hands into its trunk. The wood began crawling up her arms and wrapping itself in a spiral, forming gauntlets. As she pulled back, she examined her palms, almost in awe of her own abilities. With a single mighty kick to the tree from the heroine, a large staff burst out and into her grasp. She turned and began sprinting toward the wisest elder’s people, shaking the earth each time her foot hit the ground.

The wisest elder went chasing after Sequoia, but she simply could not keep up with the strong woman’s stride. She was gasping for air and leaning on a tree that now seemed awfully small when she saw a crack of green light erupt in the distance and knew that her people had just met the most powerful being on their planet.

When she finally emerged out of the shadows and onto the battlefield, she saw her people hissing at Sequoia with their eyes rolled back, just as she had seen them earlier. They were growing more hateful with every blow they threw and every hit they took. The enormous woman was now glowing brightly in the center of the action. She threw her staff into the ground, temporarily paralyzing the bodies of these humans into perfect stillness.

Sequoia thought that, if she could have just a moment to talk to these people, she could inspire them to rid themselves of hatred all on their own. Her booming voice echoed through the village.

“You have all been blinded by your emotions. Look at the mess that you have made in your rampage to be correct! Is murder a lesson? No. How can it be? You fail to give each other the opportunity to debate or learn from one another. You fail to speak like humans, to love like humans, or to be like humans. These emotions are confusing and new to you, but hatred is no solution. Hate has never taught love. Hate has never cured disease. These differing beliefs can exist in harmony so long as you refrain from harming your fellow man. Death is the only universal truth in this war. It will not matter what you favor if you are decaying under its surface. Put down your weapons and embrace. Rid yourself of evil and instead uphold the love and acceptance of each other that resides within each of you! Rejoice in the many beauties around you, as they are all worth your thoughts. Rejoice!”

These words fizzled across the people, failing to pull them from their hypnotic trances. The wisest elder looked on, defeated. If even the most enchanting being that the world had ever seen could not cure her people, maybe the world was destined to be consumed by deep evil. She looked at all of these unchanged faces, seeing the altered eyes of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. These faces had brought her so much joy and so much pride, yet she could not recognize them in their ravenous rampages. Though their features were unchanged, the brightness that once flowed within each of them had been drained and replaced with a thick tar of anguish and greed and, though the thought pained her, she began to wonder if an existence that revolved only around fighting was any better than death. If the brightness and joy that made her people what they were had vanished, did she even have people anymore? Or was she just as alone as she had felt for so long? Even in this mass of bodies, the wisest elder had never felt so isolated and lost. The wisdom gained across a life long-lived seemed to escape through her exasperated breaths.

As the elder was giving up, Sequoia was just beginning. Blazing green flames erupted from the ends of her staff as she swung it around her head, nearly scorching the humans in her movements. With glaring eyes, she looked for the weakest of these people. She found him with ease. A short and muscular man with two daggers in his fist was frozen in place, where he had previously been snarling at a child. He had so much anger festering within him that his face had gone violet. Sequoia approached him and, though he could not move, he grew tense with each step she took toward him.

The mighty woman took his face in her hands and began reading him. She dipped into his truest thoughts and found nothing but hatred. It broke her heart to see how far gone these people were, but she did not lose hope as she uncovered a little, red spirit pressed into the deepest corner of the man’s mind. The little spirit laughed at her, taunting her with his mischief. Sequoia yanked her hands back and then began to read every person on the battlefield. In each of them, she saw a little, red spirit who was driving them mad with evil. She was relieved to find that these people were not their own captors, but she grew angry knowing that this war was all a game to some mischievous little ghouls.

Sequoia climbed atop the wisest elder’s boulder and observed the sea of minions to mischief, knowing that she was their last hope for a deliverance to understanding and trust. She knew that if she simply clarified their emotions and enlightened their own spirits, that she could expel the little, red invaders from their thoughts. Spreading her arms wide, she focused on her deepest wishes for these people. That wild green light began brewing again, this time from her outstretched palms. As it grew brighter and larger, Sequoia thought deeper and vaster about what these people could be if given enough care. She wanted to prevent this evil for as long as she could. She wanted to give these people clear and thoughtful minds that they could pass down for generations to come.

With a great scream, she crashed her two palms together, igniting a burst of light across all bodies in sight. Stunned by the brightness, the little, red spirits screeched out of the foreheads of these people, swirling up and intertwining with each other before they emerged into a large, red beast of equal size to Sequoia. With each step, its feet destroyed the world beneath it. The newly free humans looked on in terror, feeling whole for the first time in years and knowing that, with a single misstep, they might be gone for good, never getting to truly live as themselves again. With their new minds, they wanted to see everything the world had to offer; yet the chaotic steps of this beast could remove the light at the end of the tunnel that they had just now seen.

Sequoia grew frustrated with these persistent spirits. She had already created so much energy to cure these people. She had soared down from the cosmos in the form of a seed to help a group of humans she had never met. She had read the minds of these strangers and, in doing so, experienced every negative emotion that they had ever felt. She was worn to the core of her being, but she managed to lift up her staff and point it toward the villain.

“Take a few centuries to reflect on your flaws,” she stated as she drove the staff through the monster’s heart. It screeched into her face, blowing her hair tightly back. Yet, she did not let her footage slip for a second. She remained strong as she pulled the staff back and watched the beast soar into the night sky until it became nothing but a memory.

The free people looked up at Sequoia and stretched their palms toward her. Some of them cheered in excitement, having never seen such a hero.

The wisest elder approached the village’s new warrior and reached for her hand. Hesitantly, Sequoia gave it to her. She had never been a fan of being touched or receiving any affection, though she would die to defend the right for others to feel these freely. Sequoia had always seen herself as separate from the rest of life. There were species and within those species there were communities, but as Sequoia looked down toward the world from her Serenity Star, she did so alone. This was to be the truest form of peace, as it provided no conflict or debate and plenty of time for deep, personal though. Yet, it was lonely. Of course, Sequoia had grown used to this feeling of being, but it left her without an ability to appreciate the gestures of these people who gave her the companionship that she had never had. It didn’t mean she didn’t respect it; she just couldn’t fully appreciate what it truly meant.

The wisest elder squeezed Sequoia’s large hand. It took two of her human hands to hold just one of Sequoia’s fists. The elderly woman begged, “Please. Stay with us. Be our leader. We need your guidance.”

Deep down, Sequoia wanted to stay. Even though she stuck out like a bear in a litter of puppies, she wanted that feeling of belonging, but she knew that her responsibility to this planet was to oversee all who needed her, not this single village. She politely declined, stating that in this visit alone she had already abandoned her star for too long.

“Sequoia, how will we survive without you? What will we do if we need you again?” one of the people cried out.

“You needn’t worry,” Sequoia assured them as she pulled a small, wooden box from her satchel. “I have cleared your minds for generations to come. So long as you pass down the story of my arrival to your ancestors, they will know when to hail for assistance again. I leave you with these. When that time of need comes again, your ancestors can plant these in the soil and one of my sisters will be born into your world. She won’t be entirely me, but she won’t be entirely you. She’ll have the ability to save you but she’ll also be able to stay with you. I just ask that you reserve these for when they’re most needed, as they will not grow in the face of the mundane. Do not waste your resources. Your ancestors will know when they truly need one of us. Until then, I trust these with you, wise elder.”

Sequoia pressed the box into the wisest elder’s palms and then began her departure. She returned to her tree and closed herself within it, sending a green bolt soaring back into the night sky, reaching a distant star that was surely her home. The once magical tree was now simply a tree of which only the wisest elder would ever truly understand the meaning. Perhaps this made her even wiser than before.

Years later, the wisest elder was breathing her last breaths when she finally felt it time to peer inside the small, wooden box that she had kept safe for her final years. Pulling it from her pocket, she took the top off and looked inside to find six colorful seeds within, just like the one that she had carefully planted to bring Sequoia to their planet. She called her youngest but wisest descendants to her side and pressed a single seed into each of their hands as she told them for the final time the story of Sequoia the Savior. She instructed the children to protect these seeds with their lives and to pass them down to their own descendants but, most importantly, she demanded that they never let the people of Earth forget the day Sequoia enlightened her people and defeated the evil spirits that resided in all of them.

The children agreed, each finding a safe place to store their seed. With her final mission complete, the wisest elder passed on. It is rumored that she now sits on the Serenity Star, helping Sequoia look for the ways in which Earth can better from their corner of the cosmos and providing companionship to the once incredibly lonely guardian.

The ocean breathed in and then it breathed out. The world did not stop.

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