After Chess had finished with Ileana’s fingernails and cut her hair short, as directed, they sat together, enjoying the sunshine. Vaguely, he wondered where Sariel was, and what was occupying her so much that she had yet not shown up to move them onward. The tension between the two girls worried him and he wished fervently that they could become friends, but that was probably impossible. If Ileana could just continue to keep from getting angry at Sariel’s goading, that was probably all he could hope for.
“You know,” he said finally, with his head leaning back against the wall of the house and his eyes closed against the brightness of the sun, “uh… you shouldn’t let Sariel bother you…”
“Oh, she doesn’t,” Ileana answered. “Don’t worry about that.”
Chess opened his eyes and looked at her in surprise. “Really?”
Ileana shrugged and leaned back, as Chess had done. “I wonder why she stayed there so long, if she hated Razor and the others so much?” she asked mildly. “And I wonder why she hates them?”
“Something happened,” Chess answered quietly. “Razor said once that they ‘brought her’ there, to the compound. More than that, she won’t say. I really don’t want to know.”
“Well, maybe I can get that secret out of her, someday,” Ileana said. “Anyway, I’m sure I can gain her friendship, eventually. It’s easy to win someone over when they are happy.”
“Does Sariel seem happier to you, being out here?” Chess asked. “I thought so, too. When I asked her about it, she said that this journey reminded her of the time -- I don’t know how long ago -- when she first left her village.” He sat forward and lowered his voice. “She told me that she had been so fearful then, being out on her own for the first time.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why she left her village in the first place… but she said that she knew, after making it through that, that she could survive anything.”
“She’s a mystery,” Ileana pronounced softly, and then closed her eyes.
Chess just gazed at his companion, wondering how she could possibly look so contented. She was out here, he thought, starving on rations of one nutrition bar a day, and having to rely on someone who disliked her. How could she seem so calm?
But then, he considered her history. Her attitude was so mellow most of the time, it was easy to forget. But, what kind of strength must it have taken to leave civ, to leave everything she knew, he wondered, with no clear path before her? And she had come out to the wilderness, created a life for herself, and managed to engage the affections of not one, but two would-be warlords.
And, although he had nothing in common with either Razor or Tez, maybe he could understand what the two of them saw in her. She seemed to move within her own separate space… which, right now, happened to be intensely close to his space. He was acutely aware of her shoulder just touching his, and how the sunlight gleamed on her skin. He turned his face toward her and let the floating strands of her newly-cut hair tickle his cheek.
Ileana opened her eyes then, to find him staring at her. His heart started pounding, but she merely smiled. “I really like being with you,” she murmured lazily, her long lashes fluttering. “I have always thought you were wonderful to talk with.”
Encouraged, he edged closer to her. Her lips glistened as she spoke her next words.
“If only a person could choose her family,” she said. “I would want you for my brother.”
Chess froze and blinked at her. She thought of him as a brother, he realized.
“Your sister is really lucky,” Ileana continued, seemingly unaware of his surprise and discomfort. “No wonder she is making such a success, with someone like you believing in her. When you talk about her, I can tell you’re really proud of her. I’m glad you were able to contact her, if only briefly.”
Chess swallowed hard, cleared his throat, and, unwillingly, pictured his sister.
Some birds rustled in the nearby tree as Sariel appeared at the corner of the house, holding the big cooking pot in front of her. “I need your help,” she announced, looking agitated. “Both of you.”
Continued next page...
“I’m really starving,” I said. “I haven’t had anything but slop since I went to prison… Why do you have to feed the slaves such slop?”
She laughed out loud. “To keep your mind focused on sex,” she said. “Sex has got to be the only pleasure you have.”
- Exit to Eden by Anne (Rampling) Rice
There is another significant element in the difference between hunting and farming types of cultures. Actually, for the very primitive cultures, Campbell and others tend to use the word “gardening” rather than “farming,” because large-scale farming of single crops like wheat appears to be a somewhat more modern development, perhaps not gaining widespread practice until around 12,000 BC in some parts of the world and much later in others. The word farming tends to conjure images of men chopping trees to clear large swaths of field, and wrestling with plows being pulled over rough ground by large animals. Farming is man’s work. However, the pursuit of subsistence gardening for an individual family in primitive times appears to have been more in the sphere of women.
Campbell and others have proposed that if, indeed, it was the women of the tribe who grew the food for survival -- and it was, of course, the women who gave birth to the new lives -- then it might also have been the women who kept the secrets of the mythologies of the tribe. In other words, even if the men were the more physically powerful members of the population, the women might have been revered as keepers and givers of life. If that possibility exists, then it makes sense that many of the ancient religions appear to have been (female) goddess-centered rather than (male) god-centered. In fact, there are a growing number of researchers who believe that many of the ancient mythologies that come down to us today with descriptions of worship of male deities might actually have been changed somewhere along the way.
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