Mori the Gory

The treetops move violently as if the wind were tethered to them, trying to escape. The sun flickers on and off. Shadows dance to-and-fro. It’s a magical scene. A forest you’d expect to see fairies fluttering about and tiny imps poking their heads through the ferns.

But the men and women of this colony are people of science. Magic is for the dreamers. Magic is but a conundrum yet to be understood by science. That’s what Harris always says. And he says it often to Moritus and the other children, so they don’t get their heads lost in this wonderous forest.

“Class. Class.” Harris doesn’t raise his voice. Rarely does he let emotion get the best of him. “Quiet down. An outdoor discovery of nature doesn’t warrant barbarianism. Let us not drop all learned behaviors. Manners please. We are people of sophistication.” His voice is so daunting it demands attention without elevation. And his appearance isn’t to be taken lightly either. He’s a tall, dark man, and looks as though children might be on his breakfast menu.

The class settles down and line up in four single-file rows, hands to themselves. Just what Harris expects of them.

“We have a short distance to venture, yet. But soon you will see the enchanting way of the thunderbugs. And it is there where we will setup our labs and dig deep into the conundrums of nature. They may look magical, but remember—”

“Magic is but a conundrum yet to be understood by science.” All the children monotonously finish the sentence for him.

“Very good. Very good. Have your nets at the ready.”

Moritus slings his net over his shoulder and keeps a keen eye on the bushes.

“I will give you the go-ahead. Don’t jump at first sight, please,” Harris adds.

There’s a gentle flicker of light ahead. Moritus battles his urge to run. He wants to be the first to catch one. But he knows Harris has unrelenting consequences. They don’t involve physical punishment, but even more dreadful—mental anguish. Like memorizing all eighty-eight constellations in the night sky and where each is located, when they’re visible, and the name of the brightest star, or binary star group in each. The constellations don’t look anything like their names depict, but now Moritus can find his way in the night because of that punishment.

 More thunderbugs take flight. Small, brilliant white and pale-blue dots fill the forest. Electrical currents flow between them like a bolt of lightning as they get within proximity of each other. And a subtle smell of burnt flesh mixes with the sweet odors of the evergreen forest.

Moritus flinches at the sight of them.

“Don’t be so zealous.” One of his classmates pops him on the head with his net.

Moritus turns around to see Alistair. The brash boy smiles. Moritus, quite the opposite.

“We’re all going to catch one. Well…maybe not you.” Alistair’s face turns solemn. “I’ve heard orphans lose their passion with their parents.”

Moritus’s jaw tightens.

“And we all know it takes passion to do anything worthwhile in this world.” Alistair grins. “If you’re not passionate, you’re fierce. And passion will always triumph. That’s what Harris is always telling us. So if you haven’t got any passion, what good are you?”

Moritus’s fist curls into a tight ball.

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