Communication was not born from sound. Yet, in the past we used sound to communicate. Sound created in patterns and aural shapes. Not just us. All creatures that moved over the surface of our Earth. We were divided into those with tongues and those without, those who were rootless and those who weren’t. Those whose movements were quick and visible and those who seemingly stayed still. The tongued and rootless earthlings had a hierarchy. We were the highest in that hierarchy. We ruled and decided everything, including the births and deaths of all that lived on Earth.

Though we did not know it then, did not understand it or even dream of it, we were one family. Yes, we of the tongued and rootless clan and those of the silent and rooted ones came from the same womb. But that memory was lost in the meanderings of evolution. We did not remember our origins, and we did not respect our differences.

We were related, but did not live as one harmonious family. We were not a united family. We were not a considerate and caring family. We, the most powerful, did not rule wisely. We disobeyed Earth’s circadian rhythm. We disrupted the paths of wind and water. We drowned everything in toxins. So immersed were we in our own sounds that we failed to hear the soundless communications we had been receiving. Blinded by our egos we did not see it coming.

Life is a powerful being. Yes life, that force we took for granted. Life, like us, is a child of earth, and friend to all things great and small. Life is the energy we believed we owned, and thought we were Gods of. No mother will tolerate the abuse of her child. No mother will stand by meek and helpless, watching the slaughter of her child. No mother is entirely unforgiving. No good mother is partial to only one child.

Mother, you did not forsake us. You took us, the prodigals, back. And here I am today, grown old, but so wondrously fulfilled. I had never imagined this life in my boyhood.

“Hey Bhagwan! Hey bhagwan!” Ma clamped her hand over her mouth and slammed her foot on the brakes.

Startled, I dropped my school tablet. My previous day’s assignment blinked out of view. I looked up and froze. The traffic had come to a standstill. People were either looking at the news feeds set up at traffic booths or into their individual screens. The news feeds were screaming. Over and over and over again. The scene was replayed just as many times. It was the latest hot topic.

I had never seen such aggression before. But I am just a boy. No grownup had ever seen such aggression before either. Not ma, not bapu, not even dadi, who is more than a hundred years old.

Everyone seemed to be talking all at once. Terrorism! Wilful aggression, they said. Premeditated action. Danger to mankind! It was shocking, at first. The anger came later. When the enormity of what was happening sunk in. The impossible had happened. A strange, powerful and evil miracle had taken place. It was unbelievable. But the proof was there, staring at us from every screen. In Jaisalmer. In other cities. Across the world.

The things had brought an airship down. An entire jumbo airship packed with passengers and cargo!

I saw the clip shot by the drones on my way to school. The 30-second clip, with the warning “disturbing graphic content” flashing at the top right corner, played over and over again. And all around me I could see the grown-ups, my folks included, watching it continuously, as if they were mesmerised. Now there’s a funny thing, the drones are never hurt. It’s as if they know what contains bio-mass and what doesn’t.

The things, I can’t think of anything else to call them, looked like vines resembling pythons. Or maybe pythons that looked like vines. Pythons with leaves and fruit. They swung out to grab the sky, shoots and shoots and shoots of them. Like Jack’s beanstalks gone crazy. They flung themselves at the airship with loud thwacks. It took them less than thirty seconds to cover it with a mass of writhing green. They twisted and turned, maybe twice or thrice, and went down just as suddenly as they had appeared. After that the sky became empty again. Just like that. Not even a bird in sight.

Of course the government announced an indefinite holiday for all schools and offices. The news feeds urged people to stock up on essentials and stay home. We knew what would happen next.

Cutters would be deployed. A whole army of humongous robots made of steel, and powered by uranium. Completely automated, with nothing remotely organic in them. The older models used to be manned by drivers though, seated inside bulletproof see-through cabins fitted into the central portion of the cutters. These would lumber out, sweeping their long metallic arms rhythmically, and making pulp out of all living greens. Some of them still exist. Bapu has one, a smaller, family size machine. The fully automated cutters were much faster. They turned the world bare again within minutes.

Dadi used to tell me stories of how, before she was born, Muslims and Dalits alike would be thrashed and jailed or killed outright whenever stray cows disappeared. Afterwards, when she was a young girl, whole herds began to disappear. Not regularly but often enough to get noticed. These were the cattle let out to roam, because they were past their prime and nobody dared kill them for meat and skin. It was as if the animals had been spirited away overnight.

An impossible feat, because even if they had been power-lifted and dumped inside cargo-hovers, someone would have noticed. Goats started to vanish too, and sheep, donkeys and camels. All grazing animals in fact. And then chickens, dogs and cats. And then humans, a few at a time, the kind nobody would miss - the poor, the outdoor sleepers, the homeless, the beggars and discards.

The sand was gone forever in Jaisalmer. Had gone, years before I was born. What existed in its place was a squishy kind of soil that seemed alive in places. Jaisalmer was green. The whole world was green. Not a grain of desert anywhere.

“The Thar Desert shrank right before our eyes,” said dadi. “Not only the Thar, deserts all over the world. We were so happy. More forest meant more animals and birds. That’s what we thought at first. But this was a strange kind of greening. More a curse than a blessing.”

The disappearances didn’t affect humans directly. Nor were they seen as a problem at first. Food was being grown in factories before Dadi’s birth. Pure and clean food that adhered to our respective faiths. Halal for Muslims. Kosher for Jews. Untainted vegetarian for Brahmins like us, and Jains. And then there was the regular varieties for those who ate everything indiscriminately.

Animals existed to add to the scenic beauty. Forests were left intact as far as possible, with the department of forestry regulating the populations of all the species. Extinct ones had been successfully cloned. Some were even returned to the wild. So we were good. Humans were doing good, taking good care of the planet, a complete departure from how it used to be even until a century before dadi’s birth.

Dadi had her own theories. She said that her parents would often lament about the changes, and that things were no longer the same. That something was brewing underfoot, and maybe this heralded the actual end of the world.

The scriptures predicted the ends of epochs, of life. Dadi brought religion into everything, being old, and old-fashioned and all. Bapu didn’t say anything to her face, but he found her theories childish. Ma, being the scientific sort openly pooh-poohed her.

I wasn’t born when the animals began to disappear. Bapu told me that when the governments noticed, all countries got together. They held joint meetings. Engineers pooled all their knowledge and designed the cutters. Scientists from every field got together to build labs. They studied the phenomena, took notes, made tests and exchanged information. In the beginning it looked like humanity would win. We anyway had our food labs where we could grow anything from radish to lamb chops.

Not that we needed the lamb chops. My family, like most people from Rajasthan and the Marwar region are pure vegetarian. The only animal products we consumed were milk and ghee and other things made from milk, created duly in sterile factories. Dadi was squeamish about eating root vegetables, like carrots. She said they reminded her of bones.

“Haddi,” she said. “All root veggies are nothing but haddi, bones.” But she wouldn’t explain bones of what.

Ma and bapu had no such qualms. Bapu even encouraged us to eat eggs, saying milk and eggs were both animal products and if we could have milk we shouldn’t have any issues with egg. But dadi wouldn’t allow eggs into the house. So we would get to eat eggs only as a treat in restaurants.

Ma worked for a government lab. Her job was to test new mutations of the green things. She checked to see if they had in any way infected the lab grown food. She had a team under her working on keeping our food contamination-free round the clock. Ma had many degrees. Bapu wasn’t as qualified as ma. But he had a keen business eye. He used to run a real estate business. He was good at it. Among the perks of his job was getting first-hand information on the best plots and deals available. That’s how we got our haveli.

Dadi used to tell us about her young days in the Jaisalmer of old. According to her, Jaisalmer used to be a beautiful city, rising like a gem-studded tiara from the sand. The only time I ever saw sand was in a picture she had showed me. It was a photograph of her village, a cluster of small brick houses on the outskirts of Jaisalmer. Sand lapped like ocean waves against the porches, except that by the time I was born, the ocean waves were no longer blue, but a rich algal green. A few goats stood around in her photo. There also were a couple of disinterested dogs, lean and yellow like the sand.

At the photo’s edge, I could see the city of Jaisalmer, its sandstone buildings shimmering like burnished gold. An elegant contrast against the yellow-white sand and hard candy blue sky. I can’t believe it was that beautiful. The sky looked like an upturned and frozen sea, a mirage of the legendary arctic waters. The sand looked like the soft semolina halwa that Dadi used to make when things hadn’t gotten quite so out of hand. There were camels too. Yes, camels!

I had drawn a camel once, based on Dadi’s descriptions and the pictures I’d seen in my school tablet. The camels were extinct by the time I was born, but some cloned ones still existed, housed inside high security zoos. I pulled a copy of my camel anime-drawing from my art-screen and gave it to Dadi. I helped her set it up on a wall in her room. My camel was taller than the date palm in the picture and it was funny to see it reach down and pluck a few fronds to chew.

Dadi laughed a lot, and said she loved her special camel. I drew some more animals, and Dadi wanted them all put up in her room. Soon dadi’s room began to resemble a zoo-screen. I still hadn’t learnt to add sound to my pictures, which is a blessing, because I doubt dadi would have been able to sleep with all that din around her.

When dadi was a little girl, she used to listen to the elders talk. At first the talks were stories and legends, but as the problems grew, the conversations became a long line of lament.

The vegetable crops, and the fields of bajra and mustard weren’t turning out right. They were growing too fast and were too stringy. The date palms and thorny bushes were also proliferating. Yet birds and small animals like squirrels were hardly attracted. Small fauna seemed to be starving. The food they cooked took longer and longer, as if the vegetables and grain and acquired a greater resistance to being changed or killed, if that is the right term to use for vegetation. Dadi said her mother would gaze into the horizon at sundown and mutter to herself.

Soon there rose a clamour of complaints during the evening conversations. Complaints about the quality of food. How things had deteriorated so much that they could barely eat. And then, there were the disappearances too.

Since nobody had a clue, the theories and conjectures were tossed fast and loose. Some were outright outlandish. Most had religious undertones. The elders conferred. Special pujas were done to propitiate the gods. They said this was the cusp, the time when one epoch ended and another began. They said the transition period would bring with it much havoc and mayhem.

“The golden age will return after that,” dadi told us with confidence. “Nothing to be afraid of. The act of creation is always preceded by destruction.” She became distracted again, mumbling her prayers, and fingering her beads.

Dadi’s faith made her unafraid and accepting. But ma and bapu were barely calm after the vine attack. Bittu was the only one whose presence seemed to soothe them. It was the same for me. Ma was always after us, during that time.

“Ankur,” she’d yell, even though I had done nothing to annoy her. “Take your meds.”

“I did.”

“Don’t argue. When did you last take them? The yellow round ones? Did you take them first?”

I would bring her my med-tray and show her the empty cavities with the dates marked against each. Only then would she be satisfied, but not for long. Ma would turn towards bapu and dadi after she was done with me, and go checking and rechecking Bittu’s med-tray.

Ma also seemed to be on a perennial short fuse, and jumpy. Like the frogs I’d once caught, and put in the fish tank. She had made me wash my hands thoroughly, and then disinfected me, all of me, with a vile smelling spray. She had glared at me as I swallowed my tablets. All that fuss over a bunch of tiny frogs! I had looked at Dadi for support, but for once she had studiously avoided my eyes.

The day after the vine incident, Ma got busy piling up the trolley with all kinds of food stuffs. We’d stopped eating lab grown fresh vegetables and fruit. But at least I knew what they looked like. Bittu didn’t remember. As for milk, there was no question of any animal milk, lab grown or not. We had turned into high-tech vegans. We only ate food manufactured in sterile factories, shut away inside big silo like buildings. Our earlier lab-growns or countertop-farm foods was discontinued at ma’s insistence. Instead we now consumed food created in petri dishes, one cell at a time. Ma’s distrust of nature had reached epic proportions!

I watched as ma threw the packets and cans into our trolley. It was already spilling over with food and household cleaners. She had even got one of those portable contraptions that made water from air. Looking at her go, you’d think the whole of Jaisalmer was about to shut down. The thought had possibly occurred to many people. The stores were super crowded. The other folks didn’t appear to be paranoid though. Unless they were pretending. Like ma and dadi, chitchatting away with fellow shoppers, the friendlier ones, like it was business as usual.

I caught the strained smile on some of their faces. Dadi grinned and nodded like a senile woman. Ma said something that was supposed to sound funny, as she put some more stuff on our trolley. Then we zigzagged our way to the till. Pushing through the crowd to be first. Nothing unusual. We are Indians after all.

Ma began to unload straightaway. She changed her mind about something and rushed off to replace it, motioning bapu to take over the unloading. Bapu protested softly. The queue behind us muttered. Some folks got restive. Ma returned at last, squeezing her way back past the queue. The glum looking girl with brown pimples on her chin at the counter shoved the bill-swipe at Ma. She blinked into the screen. It blinked back at her, flashing green.

The girl turned towards the next customer without bothering to respond to ma’s cheerful, “thanks, bye.” The queue sighed. Ma obviously hadn’t heard it. Or if she had, she simply didn’t care. We raced towards the car park. Some cutters were already there, clearing away fresh growth.

Jaisalmer was relatively calm, except for sporadic bursts of panic. Other cities were bursting with growth and panicking humans. The roads had sprouted bumps with seams of green everywhere. Buildings undulated with verdant growth. Fields and farmlands were menacingly lush with no edible plants. Some blamed it on the past misdeeds of humans. Some blamed the government for setting up labs for mutant flora and fauna. That’s what created the problem, they claimed.

The government replied they couldn’t watch people starve and do nothing. Activists were petitioning for the closure of unlicensed plant labs. But regular citizens preferred to trust the politicians and the news-feeds. Ma of course trusted no one. And bapu preferred to play it safe.

Some months ago, at Ma’s insistence, we shifted to our haveli. It was an early 20th century house with a swimming pool sized courtyard within and a wide garden encircling it outside. Bapu had bought it for a song, and turned it into a weekend home for us. But now, by the looks of Ma’s grocery shopping, we’d probably be there for much longer. A year maybe. It was a long way off from the city, far beyond the suburbs. When the roads were good though, returning wasn’t a problem.

On the way back from the stores we picked up Bittu from his play school. Divya mausi came out waddling out holding Bittu against her chest. She was one of the last remaining teachers. Divya mausi didn’t have to carry Bittu. He could walk, run in fact. But he became everybody’s darling very quickly. Everyone loved to pick him up, squish him a bit, and smell his fresh baby smell. Bittu could get away with anything, from anyone. Except me. I’m the only one he really listened to. I mean, really as in really, really.

“You’re picking him up so soon today Pavitra ji,” said Divya mausi.

“I’ll bring Bittu early tomorrow,” Ma replied. She plucked him from Divya mausi’s reluctant arms.

“Bai-bai Deeya maathee,” said Bittu.

Divya mausi beamed and ran her fingers down his curls.

The traffic was snaggy on the way home, but we had a determined ma at the controls. Bittu pattered on about his day, and even though some of the words were gibberish, I nodded to show I was interested. Dadi had her eyes closed, like she was praying again. Bapu seemed distracted. Maybe he was waiting to see what mad thing ma was going to do next. He didn’t have to wait long. The minute we reached home, she was ready to go back to town again.

“Stay home and fix the boys some dinner,” she told him, sounding unusually authoritative. Dadi pursed her lips in disapproval, but bapu didn’t react. “I’ll finish the stockpiling.”

“It’s almost six,” protested Bapu gently. “The stores will closed by the time you reach Pavi.”

“I’ll do the shortcut,” said Ma. And she was out before he could counter that the shortcuts had become virtually un-navigable.

Ma returned long past my bed time. Their voices woke me up so I crept out of my room to see.

“Pavi,” I heard bapu say. “Pavi, this is madness.” Bapu touched her cheek. “You’re being paranoid.”

“I’m not. It’s begun already. Can’t you see?” said ma. She sounded drained of both strength and hope.

“You’re not going to let all that talk dictate our lives. Please Pavi,” Bapu pleaded. “You should know how paranoid all activists are. Always have been.”

Ma began to weep. She sat down. Bapu shook his head, but stroked her hair as he spoke. “Hush now Pavi. It’ll be ok.” But ma only shook her head vigorously, her shoulders convulsing with fear and despair, as the tears rolled down unchecked.

Next morning both Bapu and Ma stayed home. Bapu cleared out the garden around the house. I heard his mini-cutter going chug-chug and thwack-thwack in a rhythmic cycle. It was barely seven in the morning. Bapu must have begun really early for I could see wide swatches of brown ground around the house. He poured some liquid on the cleared ground which hardened into a smooth synthetic surface after a while.

You have to have the right connections, to get a haveli like ours. Ma and bapu had worked hard for many years, and befriended all the right people. And they’d certainly intended to make the most of it. They’d planned on throwing parties for their friends and colleagues, birthday bashes for Bittu and me here.

The idea was to make it a real old fashioned haveli. They had planned on having a pond and cow and dog clones, fruit tree and vegetable plant replicas, Ma’s favourite flowers and dadi’s herbs. All lab-certified. I wanted a largish area especially designated for Bittu and myself. Bapu planned to add a swimming pool with simulated waves for us to go surfing when we felt like it. We had dreams for our haveli. Big dreams.

The cost of the inoculations that bapu, Bittu and I had to take – twelve each for the three of us – put all our plans on hold. Ma and dadi needed only four sets of inoculations each and a follow up. Women were apparently more resistant, but not entirely. And they could also be carriers themselves, unlike us men. That’s what the doctor had told us. All of us had to take the same medicines though, every day, because prevention was the only cure, and we couldn’t be too careful. That’s what Ma and Dadi said over and over again.

Activists of course pooh-poohed the medicines. But my parents weren’t taking any chances. Bapu was thankful that we were well off. Nobody in our home spoke of the hundreds who had disappeared, because they didn’t have the means to pay for prevention!

Soon after we settled in, a few folks from the village came over. They wanted jobs. Ma told them she’d let them know after we were settled in. She was wary of getting more mouths to feed. And, she didn’t want strangers around our house. After two days of working nonstop bapu wanted his freedom back. He wanted to go back to his real job in Jaisalmer. But Ma wouldn’t let him.

“Who’s going to pay for this,” said Bapu, extending his arms towards the dining hall which looked more like a warehouse of assorted things, mostly food items and water. “We’re living on credit. We’re in too much debt.”

“Trust me,” said Ma. “Don’t go. We need to fortify the house. Nobody understands yet, but when they do there’ll be pandemonium, we’ll be safe here. We’ll be free of…” She didn’t finish.

Ma scared me with her talk. Bittu was too small to be scared. But dadi, during those last days seemed to be with ma all the way.

“She’s right Santosh,” Dadi said to Bapu when he finally lost his temper with ma. It was unlike dadi to argue with her son-in-law, he was the head of the family as far as she was concerned. In her time women didn’t talk back; they simply obeyed the men.

Bapu on his part never argued back with Dadi, who was an elder. He was old-fashioned that way. He picked up his toolbox quietly and went into the yard. By evening the fences were up. They were made of a kind of electro-magnetic metal mesh that you saw only at the military and ship landing areas. The kind that destroyed life, both of the plant and animal kind, on contact.

A week passed. We remained inside our oasis. It was boring without school. Not that we had much of that any more. So many streets had become unnavigable, and so many students had vanished. One by one they had dropped out from our communication screens too. Our shared conversations were over. I missed my friends. But Ma had forbidden me to hang out with anyone months ago.

Another week passed. Ma sprang into action. She had just realised that our medical supplies were running low. Bittu wanted to go as well when he saw her getting ready. He threw such a tantrum that she had to take him along.

She returned hours later looking thoroughly exhausted, and fell asleep almost immediately, without even changing. Dadi took Bittu from her. She fed him and put him to bed. And then she was back again, all wild-eyed and trembling. She shook ma awake and spoke urgently. Ma stifled a scream.

Bapu and I dropped what we were doing and rushed into Bittu’s room. We peered at his sweet angel face in the cot. Dadi removed the coverlet. Ma started hitting her chest like he was dead already. She covered her mouth to stop the wail that threatened to roll out from her throat. Three little pimples, brown and hard, sat wickedly on Bittu’s right thigh.

Ma stood like a petrified tree. Dadi wept into her sari pallu. Bapu held his head in his hands. When I looked into Ma’s face I saw the all terrible things she had refused to say out loud. We wouldn’t be able to bear it. Even though we knew deep in our hearts that it was inevitable. But we had no knowledge of the process. The unknown terrified us.

There was one person on Earth though who loved Bittu as much as us, and who we could trust. The one person who was also as tough as nails, and a wise old woman, like Dadi. Ma was taking Bittu to her.

Nobody stopped Ma. Nobody said a word. We were all secretly thinking that no one should know our family had been hit. The government folks would be here in a jiffy. We’d be quarantined. We’d lose everything we owned. We would vanish. Everything we had would vanish. Would we be together or separated? We had no idea. Nobody really knew what was going on. There were whispers. But people mostly acted as if the government caught and took away renegades, not ordinary hardworking citizens like us.

People went about their daily lives, buying extra groceries, taking their meds and inoculations from the government approved clinics, acting like it was as normal as any other vaccine for any regular epidemic. Nobody raised a hue and cry when whole families disappeared. Nobody spoke of the roads covered with green growing things, the neglected houses as green as tropical hillocks. Nobody praised the weather, so moistly cool and fragrant, like an eternal spring, a season I had only read about in the old stories.

Ma strode out, a still sleepy Bittu on her hip. On the way out she said over her shoulder more out of habit, “I hope you remembered to take your pills, Ankur.”

I nodded. My heart felt cold and hot at the same time. Maybe the baby dose hadn’t been enough for Bittu. Babies were more vulnerable. I was already eleven years old, going on twelve. I was going to teach my kid brother to be tough like me. Years before he was even born I had already begun saving up my toys and books, looking forward to the day when I would share my things with my own sibling. Ma and bapu took so long to decide that I had almost given up hope.

I watched ma backing the hover-car out from its hangar. I couldn’t see her beyond the gate because of the green invasion. The new ones were mutating every day. They were able to overcome many things that they couldn’t tolerate at first, when they grew only on soil. Now they seemed to fear almost nothing. No one was safe from them anymore.

Bittu would be safe with Divya mausi. And she would be glad to care for Bittu. We would be spared from watching Bittu getting transformed right before our eyes. The idea of transformation frightened us. Once the process was complete, she would know exactly what to do. She would keep him hidden in her tiny garden until he grew strong enough to withstand being replanted. A matter of days, really. We would get him back then, let him grow wild and free in our haveli, our holiday home, our family get-together and hang-out place! We wouldn’t be needing our doses after that. Oh no.

I had overheard Ma, Bapu and Dadi discuss it.

“In the worst case scenario,” Bapu had said. Over and over again. And Ma had stifled a sob. They had planned everything, down to the last detail. Maybe they had even discussed it with Divya mausi. She was there at our door, looking cheerfully pimply herself, carrying Bittu in a jar. His fronds waved excitedly from their glass prison. Divya mausi was of course a welcome member of our haveli then onwards. I was really glad. It was nice to have someone else to talk to.

Thereafter we carried on, as if nothing had happened, but with one small adjustment. We no longer took our meds. We had a private ceremony when we planted Bittu in the centre of our courtyard. Soon the courtyard became the central part of our house. It became the place where we ate our meals, of which we had less and less need as the days went by, as our bodies looked more to sun, air and water for sustenance. We sat in our courtyard chatting quietly, stroking Bittu’s growing branches and trunk.

Ma instructed us daily on what to do when only one of us remained human. We closed our haveli gates permanently. Families were supposed to stay together, no matter what. And that was what we were going to do, until the very end.

We don’t mind the overcrowding. It is but natural. After we got over the initial shock of complete metamorphosis, we began to get used to the new silence. At first our thoughts merged with our soundless speech, and it was awkward. It was awkward too not to feel any particular and possessive love for those who were of our blood in the past. Relationships have new meaning now. It means I can intertwine with the green entity who had once in a long ago life-time birthed me. We were different then, and those old ethics no longer hold.

We clamber over each other, rejoicing in the touch of sun and rain. There is nothing to be afraid of. And why should there? Beneath the runnels of soil we speak to countless more, plant beings, who look no more like us than we do with respect to our previous forms. Our initial doubts were cleared by those who came before us. They gave us their nutrients when the time came for them to pass, merging into the soil or melting into the waters.

A distant memory makes me smile, but not in the way humans do. It’s a sensation, and I can express it by physically expanding a little. In that other life, the entity I called ma, used to say that plants speak to each other. She was wrong. It’s not just the plants, even stones and water droplets speak. Air molecules speak. The lava rivers deep within mother earth’s womb speak.

We all speak to each other. We speak even when miles apart, to use a human term. We think and we feel and we strategise. But our timelines are different. Our measurements of space are different from that of humans. That is why it took us more than a millennium to regain our lost territories.

Be that as it may. There is no anger. No fear. No greed or hate. Nothing negative. Contentment and mutual benefaction drives us. Mother earth smiles a lot these days. She churns her womb and tickles our roots. She pulls at our genetic codes with the gentlest of tugs. We leak our DNA into her. Our mating rituals are ancient and prolonged.

Soon another transformation will take place. Beneath rock and upon ocean beds, new life as delicate as filaments will wriggle free. We will swoop down and add our gifts, welcoming the new children, who in turn will grow. Together we will dance the dance of life. And held in earth’s bosom we will swim with her across the cosmos.

“Communal”, by Shikhandin, excerpted with the permission of the author from Avatar: Indian Science Fiction, edited by Tarun K Saint and Francesco Verso, Future Fiction.