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by J. Stanton
It was strange, being a Na’vi, Jake thought. It was almost as if his human consciousness was still there, inside him, somewhere—but it was like any of the endless generations deep in the Tree of Souls, a faint, distant voice that took effort to understand and slipped away when he tried to concentrate on it too hard. And finally he realized that it wasn’t Jake-the-human at all, just his echo, slowly fading over time—just as the echoes of the past in the Tree of Souls slowly faded, merging into the background noise of lives and deaths without number, which was the song of Eywa, the song of Pandora.
And someday the echo of his own life, no matter how loud and how brightly he lived, would slowly fade and be lost in that endless song, just like everything else on Pandora, and that was fine, because he was Na’vi now. That’s what happens when you are Na’vi, he thought. You don’t get to die with the comforting illusion that you will live forever in Heaven, or that your works will endure for countless generations. We all know exactly what happens to us, and it isn’t good or bad, it simply is.
They just weren’t important anymore, Jake thought, all those Big Questions that college professors and big-brain types like his brother all seemed to get so excited about. Back when I was human I didn’t care, and now that I’m Na’vi I know the answers and it doesn’t matter, because that’s just how things are.
I wish I could tell my brother about all this, he thought, it would blow his mind. But he also knew that he was wasting time and energy asking for favors from the past when his tribe needed his best effort, here, now.
First we need to find a new Hometree, Jake thought, and remembered what Eywa had shown him while he and Neytiri were in tsayhalu. So he boomed out a call to his remaining ikran riders, choosing only four to accompany him in his search, because he could not leave his people undefended by taking all his warriors, nor unprovided for by taking all his hunters. And though he already thought he knew where Eywa wanted them to be, he knew it would be foolhardy not to investigate carefully before committing the rest of his tribe to a long journey.
The worst part was that Neytiri could not accompany him, since her ikran had been killed in the battle. He tried to apologize to her, but she shushed him.
“I trust you to decide, Jake.”
And with those words, he finally felt like he deserved her.
“I see you,” he said, gratefully.
“I see you, too,” she replied, smiling.
There was nothing else to say, so he jumped astride his ikran, called the others to him, and wheeled away into the sky, looking for somewhere to make their new home.
Jake hadn’t been human for some time—not at all—but occasionally something he saw or heard or thought caught one of the echoes of his humanity still resonating inside him, and he would remember not just what had happened to Jake-the-human, but how it felt.
This time, it made him chuckle. You know what I haven’t done since I became a Na’vi? he thought. Filled out a form. I haven’t read anything, signed anything, dated anything, consented to the release of any information (and that last string of words was nearly meaningless to him now), acknowledged my assumption of all risk and liability (and he couldn’t even remember what that meant), given anyone the right to terminate me with or without cause, or even paid anyone any money for anything.
That was the first thing the humans had tried to make the Na’vi do, he thought: sign contracts giving away their rights to the unobtainium and the land over and around it. In fact, he couldn’t remember a single instance in which he had signed a contract and been happy, because it had always been a legal club with which some big, faceless corporation or government (which amounted to the same thing, these days) threatened to beat the crap out of him.
If you have to sign a contract, you’re doing it wrong, he thought. If you can’t trust someone, you should either leave them alone or kill them. And that’s why we have tribes. Our tribe is the people we trust, everyone else is the people we leave alone or kill.
He almost wished for a pen and paper to write this down, so he could tell his people, but then he laughed again, because he was Na’vi now, and he realized: if it’s important, I’ll remember it, and if I don’t remember it, it wasn’t important. And if it’s very important, I will tell my people, and if it’s very, very important, they’ll remember it and think about it too and the thought will echo throughout Eywa and throughout Pandora – but he doubted that strongly, because this was mostly just Jake Sully’s private joke, and the Na’vi hadn’t had any trouble not signing contracts before he even showed up on Pandora, which is why the Marines were sent here in the first place.
Poor humans, he thought, laughing out loud. Every damned one of them would join me in a hot second if they knew what it was really like to be Na’vi. And it wasn’t being nine feet tall and blue or having a tail, because nine feet here was just like six feet on Earth, what with the lower gravity. It was about knowing Eywa, and tsayhalu, and having a tribe you could absolutely trust unto and beyond death, and hunting with your fellow warriors, both male and female, and riding an ikran even when you weren’t hunting, sometimes, just because you could, and about living every second of your life in absolute, jaw-dropping beauty because everything you needed and wanted just grew right out of the ground and you didn’t have to fuck it all up to be safe or comfortable or go somewhere.
That’s why humans fuck everything up, he thought. They want the same beauty we do—except they fuck it up with roads just to get to it, and then they want to live there too so they fuck it up with houses, and since they’ve forgotten how to hunt they fuck it up more with farms and cattle and mines and malls, and then it isn’t beautiful anymore so they go find another place to fuck up until there aren’t any more beautiful places left, anywhere. And that’s why the Earth is so fucked up, he thought, with pleasant finality, and he knew he would have no trouble remembering that.
And because he liked thinking about things, now that there weren’t any smart people in lab coats yelling at him for not understanding quickly enough, he allowed another thought to open, like a night-flower, and inspected it curiously. What if everyone on Earth was a Na’vi?
His first instinct was revulsion. To return to that dirty, barren, dying world? He would die first. But he remembered that they would never have been to Pandora…and also, that Eywa was not there, and they would have each other but not her, and that was no good.
He knew there was more to think about here, and he was sure that he would return to that thought later…but he also knew that there was no hurry, and that he had better pay attention because he was, after all, on the back of an ikran several hundred feet up and there were creatures around that could eat both of them. Fortunately his fellow riders had been keeping watch, and since he knew where he was going he had been leading them in the right direction, and he settled into the moment, enjoying the rush of air around him and the slow passage of the cliffs beside him—and just because he could, he led his mount into a long, shallow dive, picking up speed, aiming for the giant cliffside parallel to their direction of travel, and as he skimmed near it the updraft from the ocean breeze against the cliff caught them and lifted them up, up, up, shooting them high into the sky above the top of the plateau, and he and his ikran both roared with the sheer joy of riding the wind as his fellow riders caught the updraft too and settled back into formation, laughing, right behind him.
Continue reading Part III.
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