Chapter 2

Upon entering Havpoi, one may think it’s a typical jungle world. But instead of trees, Havpoi’s jungle fauna consisted mainly of vines. Some were as thin as human hair, where tufts of this type collected dew for small insect-like creatures. Others were several meters thick and intertwined with others of similar size to create superstructures over 50 meters across and several hundreds of meters tall. There were no branches to obscure the view, so it was easy to see staight up. The tops of these structures sprouted large flattened vines and connected to other superstructures nearby. This canopy was so densely networked that one could not make out the sky. Yet a little light still was able to pass through since the flattened vines at the top were slightly translucent. Havpoi’s jungles were in reality one massive tent with thousands of massive “poles” keeping up a “canvas”. The diffused light along with the misty atmosphere created a surreal, almost dreamlike environment in the sub-canopy jungle.

Clara shivered. The temperature was roughly 8 degrees above freezing and this was the reason for coats. The masks were for the high concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane towards at the jungle floor. Fortunately, the temperature and climate was more friendly at their final destination. She watched her children and they didn’t seem to mind the cold. They were too anxious for the cable car ride up.
“Hurry daddy, we’ll be late. And i want to try out the new cable car,” Layne was pulling Nevin’s arm around the corner of the clearing. The rest of the family finally came upon a cable car painted an unnatural bright red. The contrast of colors was even more accentuated with the verdant green of the jungle around it. On either side of the car were several broad ribbon-like cables stretching from the car all the way up to the canopy. These cables were not unlike the broad translucent vines that comprised the jungle canopy. Upon entering the car, which was spacious enough to fit at least 8 occupants, one could see a massive wheel fixed to the back of the car containing giant spools of this broad vine.

Nevin situated himself in front of a decorative handle that hung from the ceiling of the car. “Ok, next stop – Betrami Village. Let’s see if our ride is smoother this time.” With a swift motion, Nevin tugged on the handle that released the spring-loaded wheel behind the car that slowly reeled in the vines. Within seconds, the family began their ascent up to the canopy.

The duration of the trip was roughly 15 minutes, but for the children, it seemed like 15 seconds. Even though they traveled to Havpoi several times a week, they never got tired of the ride. They could spot a different species of animal or insect every time. They could see various creatures in their mating dance or hear the songs of the mouse-like animals as they spread their skin flaps and glided from vine to vine. A favorite for Liam was the fireflights – similar to a hummingbird but with a bright bioluminescent bulb on its back that would fly to the ascending cable car to greet it’s passengers with a wild dance. If Liam happen to have bird seed, it would call its friends to perform acrobatic stunts while changing the color of its light from a bright orange to red to green. All for the hope of sharing Liam’s treat.

Finally – the trip to the top came to an end and the ribbon-vine canopy above spread apart with the help of a large unseen mechanism. This let the cable car penetrate the thick canopy and rest securely above it. Nevin was the first to step out to secure the cable car with anchors and let the rest of his family out in to the sunlight and back to the warmth and bustle of Betram village.

Bokumb’s brother, Frawesa greeted them at the cable car, which was at the edge of the village, with a warm smile and hugs. “It is so good to have you all come. Clara, Bokumb is driving me crazy. I need you to help her relax. If she gets more stressed, her Locks will loose their blooms and she will be even more upset. She is with her mother in the Bridal Canopy getting ready. Can you please go there if I take you?”

Clara laughed as she and the rest of the family took off their coats and masks. “Pre-wedding jitters are not uncommon you know. But i will see what i can do.” She took Layne’s hand and turned to Nevin, “Can you and Liam find a seat for us at the ceremony? No boys allowed in the Bridal Canopy.”

“Sure thing,” he said as he picked up Liam and put him on his shoulders. “I’m sure we could find some willowberry tarts before we head to the wedding. They are in season you know.” Liam’s eyes widened. “Yay my favorite!”

Clara pursed her lips with a sly smile. “If it’s not work, it’s food that distracts you. Please don’t take too much time. See you soon.” She kissed Nevin and Liam goodbye. Frawesa locked one arm with Clara’s, as is Havpoi custom, and they walked to the ceremony grounds chatting about Bokumb’s wedding.

With Liam on his head, Nevin turned to the main pathway and started walking while taking in the sights.

The ground below was a network of thick and wide ribbon-vine, so tightly enmeshed that it felt like solid ground – with a slight sway. A new comer would feel “seasick” with this motion but Nevin and his family were used to it quickly.

Up ahead was Betram Village, the largest village of Havpoi. Over three thousand lived here in this tree-top paradise. The twin suns provided almost daily tropical sunshine – but just enough heat where the shade and a light breeze was sufficient to cool down. Few clouds dotted the azure sky and in the distance, Nevin could see the formation of rain clouds. By judging the slightly drooping foliage around him, Nevin judged a good rainfall would be welcome.

The outskirts of the village were where most of the the Havpoi lived. The shell of their domiciles were made of the same ribbon-vine material that comprised the floor. In fact, the builders somehow spliced the thick network of broad vines on the grond to grow on top and over a large rectangular pergola-like scaffold until it rejoined the network on the opposite side. This main space was then divided by wicker walls to create bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. A family of four could comfortably eat, sleep and bathe in this living structure and was a strong and resilient as the ground itself.

As Nevin and Liam continued to walk, the number of Havpoi walking the streets became more numerous and they all met the two with warm greetings. Though Nevin knew quite a few by name, almost every Havpoi knew of Nevin and his family. They certainly didn’t have celebrity status. But the family certainly looked a little different from the villagers of this world.

The typical Havpoi looked mostly humanoid – two arms, two legs, a head, two eyes, mouth, nose. There were two major differences. First, the Havpoi hands and feet were nearly twice as wide as a human and were slightly longer – for better stability over the unique Havpoi terrain. Second, their hair were made up of thick braids of green vine-like tissue usually worn in braids down both sides or down the back. Since time immemoriam, the Havpoi have had a symbiotic relationship with a semi-sentient plant life form. The Havpoi provide the plant with a safe place to live, while the plant provides necessary nutrients and food energy as a by product of its very unique photosynthesis. Some say the plants increase memory and brain capacity, but Nevin didn’t beleive it was capable of that.

When born, the Havpoi are bald and require quite a bit of nourishment from the mother. After reaching their first birthday, every Havpoi child undergoes a painless cermony where they wear a cap of a special peat-moss material. During this time, the young plant life in the moss binds with the head of the young Havpoi and slowly starts to grow. By the child’s second year, the Havpoi toddlers have small sprouts. By four, a full head of “hair” is grown – the consistency of long grass. As both get older, the vines start to intertwine and grow thicker. You can judge a Havpoi’s age by the length and thickness of his or her Lock. Locks are never cut lest the host suffer from malnurishment – though sometimes the very ends are trimmed for convenience or fashion.

And on special occassions, such as a wedding, one could even coax a female’s Locks to bloom vibrant orange and white flowers – assuming the host is calm and collected. Excess stress leads to the release of hormones toxic to the flower. Good luck with your kind of family, Nevin chuckled inside, thinking of Bokumb’s frantic brother and mother.

“Daddy – we’re there! Treats!” Liam exclaimed as they came upon the smaller outdoor markets and vendor that sold the best willowberry tarts.

“Shamesh! It’s been a while. How are you?” Nevin greeted the vendor behind the stand filled with pastries and fruit.

“Nevin it’s been so long. I was sick the last time you visited. How is your family? I can see Liam is here for the willowberry treats?” Shamesh said as he handed a fresh pastry to Liam’s eager hands.
“Everyone is great, Shamesh. Are the kids ok? Is the medicine that Clara provided helping?”

“Oh yes it is. Their vision is clear now and their balance is much better. They couldn’t swing down the tree line for almost 2 weeks. They can see, but it is just too bright outside.”
“That reminds me,” Nevin took something out of his pocket. “These glasses are for your kids. They are tinted dark to shield them from the suns’ rays. It should be another week before they are completely back to normal.”

“Oh thank you so much Nevin,” said Shamesh as he put one of the sunglasses on himself. He smiled goofy smile at Liam. “How do I look? You know, i kept telling my children that unless they want to keep getting sick, they cannot play outside in the rain whenever-” Shamesh went silent, mouth gaping, staring at the sky.

Nevin, who was busy selecting his treat from baskets looked up. “Whenever what? Shamesh?”

“N..Nevin! The…the sky. I don’t…I’m not sure what that is up there!” Shamesh walked out of his stall and into the street to get a clearer view. “I didn’t notice it before because it is so close to the sun, but I can see it now with your special glasses. What is that? It looks like…an eye!”

Nevin looked up at the bright blue sky and looked toward the sun. He had to shield his eyes with his hands and could barely make out the strange object in the sky. “Shamesh, can i see those glasses?” With aided vision, Nevin had a clearer view.

Above, maybe eight, ten miles in the air was a small dark swiring vortex, like looking down on a tornado. The perimeter of this object was covered with wispy white clouds, and darkened to pitch black closer to the slowly swirling center. it really did resmble an eye – with the dark pupil in the middle surrounded by white. No one else in the busy market seemed to notice until they saw Nevin and Shamesh staring and pointing at this strange phenomenon.

Nevin called for Clara on his wrist communicator. “Clara? You there?” No response, must be busy with the bride. He picked up Liam on his shoulders again and begain walking to their home in Havpoi. “I need to get a better look. Shamesh – i need to head to our canopy and get my eye-piece. I’ll let you know once i find out more”

“Good luck Nevin, I have never seen anything like that in the sky. I does not make me feel comfortable.”

After a short walk, Nevin entered their canopy and put Liam down in front of his toys. Moving to the rear, Nevin picked up his eye-piece from its case and climbed the ladder to the top of his home and extended the eye-pieces stand. This deviced consisted of two flawlessly clear crystals held at an arms length with a brass metal rod. THe collected image was sent to a screen downstairs for further analysis.

NEvin returned to his living room and engaged the screen on the wall, making minute adjustments to the image of the swirling vortex. After viewing it in different wavelengths of the visible and non-visible spectrum, he paused in thought. “What could be causing that formation?”

Nevin walked back to Liam – who was playing a typical Havpoi game where shiny magnetic marbles were spinning around a labyrinth of magnets and holes. He was a little too young for it and kept dropping the marbles down the large hole in the center.

“Daddy! I spin and spin and spin and the balls go down!”

Suddenly, Nevin made a realization. “Wait…A hole? In the atmosphere? My God, could that be possible?” He rushed to the view screen and added additional filters to the image. What he saw shocked him, and he rushed out the door, grabbing his confused son on the way.

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