Lulu liked being in the barn with Papa on counting day. The air smelled of that comfortable mix of manure and sweet hay that tickled her nose. Usually she counted the feed sacks Jamie had pulled for the week, and Papa counted what was in storage. But today Papa’s face was all shadows and he didn’t ask for help—Jamie hadn’t pulled any feed.
Lulu sat on a hay bale and kicked her legs out, one and then the other, letting them fall back. The straw poked and scratched and she kicked her legs out again. “Why do we kill ’lupes and ferrets, Papa? Green Girl was worried we were going to kill her. I told her killing is wrong and we wouldn’t ever do that. I told her farmers take care of farms. Right, Papa? We’re farmers and we help farms.”
Petrus didn’t answer his daughter. He was busy frowning at the inventory sheet. He’d been frowning at it a long time before he wrote something down. He walked back to one end of the stores and started counting all over again.
“Papa!” Lulu shouted, louder than she needed to. It was a game she liked to play—to shout loud enough to fill the barn with her voice. She’d never gotten close. “Why. Do. We. Kill. ’Lupes. And. Ferrets?”
Petrus kept his eyes on the sacks and the pen on the paper. “To keep them from killing the chickens and stealing eggs. You know that.”
Lulu considered Papa’s answer. “But that’s what we do.” She swung her legs out again, letting them fall back against the bale, the hay muffling all sound.
Petrus didn’t respond. He just stared at the sacks, a look Lulu would have wilted under.
Jamie peeked his head through the open door that led to the back acreage. “Want me to harvest the rest of—”
Petrus cut off his eldest with a sharp wave. He turned to Lulu. “Why don’t you go see what your mother’s up to. Better yet, tell her you’re going to come with me, help pick out a new farm.”
Lulu jumped off the hay bale and ran to him. “Really?” She hugged his legs in a fierce embrace. “I can come with?”
“Yes, yes. Now go on. Tell your mother so she doesn’t worry about you when you don’t show up for lunch.”
Lulu disentangled herself from Papa’s legs. “I get to see where the farms came from!” she sang.
“We went through this farm too fast, didn’t we?” Jamie said to Petrus as Lulu skipped by.
Jamie had interrupted her time with their father, but Papa hadn’t been in a good mood anyway. Plus, she was going to see where farms came from, which meant she was going to help pick out a new friend for her and Green Girl.
When Lulu came running out of the house, Petrus and Jamie were already hitching the trailer up to the truck.
“Mama made us sandwiches.” Lulu held up two paper sacks filled with their lunch. “One’s for me and one’s for you, Papa.”
Petrus frowned at Jamie. “Get one of the neighbor boys to help if you need, but get it done before we get back.”
Lulu bounced up to Jamie. “Get what done? Aren’t you coming with?”
Jamie opened the passenger-side door for Lulu. “Can’t,” he said. “Got lots of chores.” He pulled one of her pigtails. “Hands in.” And he closed the truck door. “Come back with a pretty one, okay?”
“Silly. They’re all pretty.”
He chuckled. “Just like you.”
Petrus got in and slammed the rusting driver’s side door.
“Green Girl is going to be so excited to have a new friend. You won’t tell her, will you Jamie? It’ll be a surprise.”
Jamie didn’t reply. Instead, he looked at Petrus.
Petrus nodded. “We’ll be back after supper.” He put the truck in gear. “Five hours, Jamie.”
After a quick wave Jamie jogged toward the barn for his tools. Five hours to harvest the farm. He had to shear its hair, which Mama would use to re-stuff the comforters. He also had to harvest its nodules and nubs, and carve the last of its meat. The bones and fat he would render later, and of course he would need to clean up the spilled blood.
Lulu chattered the whole way to the farm dealer’s. She was six and everything interested her. She told Papa the story about how she picked mites off the hatchlings last spring, then she remembered that Mama had said not to forget to stop by Stoddard’s and pick up some thread-sealing tape. Then she sang a song from a long time ago when people hadn’t yet learned to farm. Papa said she was making it up as she went.
She wasn’t making it up, though. It was a song she had learned from Green Girl. “Those Who Are were ripped from their home by the stinging people, who were very little, but so many and with pincers, like ants.” The stinging people were something like people people, as far as Lulu could tell. And Those Who Are were farms. “That’s how farms became blind, because when Those Who Are weren’t together anymore, when the stinging people separated them with the painful pincers, how could they see when they’re not together? And the stinging people tore out their souls like if someone tore your skin off and pulled out your insides. That turned Those Who Are into farms instead of—”
“Enough!” Petrus said in a voice that left very little room for Lulu, made it so she couldn’t breathe. “I told your brother to stop telling you ghost stories. That boy’ll be doing extra chores for a week.”
Jamie used to tell her stories about things like why seeds grow into plants, and where frogs go in the winter, but never about Those Who Are. Besides, now that Jamie was old enough to work the farm on his own he didn’t have time to talk with Lulu.
If Lulu remained quiet, Papa might go back to driving and talking like everything was fine and she could breathe normally and smile. But then Jamie would get in trouble. Lulu took a deep breath. “Jamie doesn’t tell me scary stories.”
Petrus’s hands flexed on the steering wheel. “Are you getting this stuff from some neighbors’ kids?”
She didn’t understand why the stories made Papa angry. Since she’d learned she could talk to the farm she’d spent all her free time with Green Girl.
With what felt like a hundred moths fluttering in her throat, Lulu whispered, “Green Girl told me.”
Papa clenched his jaw. “Stop lying.”
Lulu felt tears coming, so she kept quiet.
“Do you understand me?”
Green Girl was so big and beautiful, so calm and kind. She had all the patience in the world to listen to Lulu and explain things to her. And Green Girl taught her songs. Those Who Are had songs for everything. Those Who Are sang like she’d never heard anything sing before—their songs were real. When Green Girl sang about grass growing, the grass grew. She could feel the songs in her mind.
“Answer me when I talk to you.”
“Yes, Papa,” she mumbled.
Petrus grabbed her chin with one hand, the other still gripping the steering wheel. “Louder.”
Tears spilled from Lulu’s eyes and ran down her cheeks. Petrus pulled the truck over, stared out the front window, and waited. His silence rippled and grew heavier. Lulu had to answer before she couldn’t breathe at all.
“Yes, Papa,” she said through a hiccupped sob.
Petrus put the truck in gear and got back on the road. They drove on in silence.
Lulu held tight to Papa’s hand as they walked through the lot. She loved Green Girl and had been so excited to meet more farms, to find one who wanted to be their friend. These farms were nothing like Green Girl. Lulu couldn’t hear them. They were giant and strange. It was if as if they were both there and not there at the same time.
Petrus stopped in front of one and read from the specification sheet posted in front of the mountain of silent, still farm.
“She looks sad,” Lulu said, pointing.
“It’s a farm. It can’t be sad.”
“Is her name on there?”
Petrus raised an eyebrow.
“What’s on there if her name isn’t?”
“This tells me where it was found. Tells me the exact measurements, weight, and whether there was a harvest of nubs when it was captured or whether it’s matured a full crop during captivity.”
Lulu touched the farm gently on its nose. The warm, leathery nostrils twitched, but only a little. Green Girl had taught her to hold her hand out to Those Who Are so that they could smell her and know who she was. It was the polite way to approach them. None of the farmers on the lot did this, though. They just poked the farms any old place without saying hello. This farm didn’t snuffle her or touch her back, but its heavy lids parted slightly. She could see the farm’s eyes had rolled back.
Lulu snatched her hand back. “She’s sick.”
“Tired, maybe.” Petrus stepped closer to the farm. “They’re sedated.”
He reached up and pulled one of its ears forward and inspected the neck where the nubs grew thickest. “It’s when you give something medicine, so it feels sleepy.”
“Why do the farms need to be sleepy?”
“Farms are wild things, Lulu, they’re not used to being around people. People scare them. They’d fight or run without thinking if they weren’t so sleepy, and they’d get damaged. Maybe even hurt someone.”
“You mean they’d get hurt? Like when I run and fall and scrape my knee?”
“Something like that. Except farms don’t think as much as you do, so they would keep running or fighting and hurt themselves badly. It’s better for them if they’re sleepy.”
Green Girl liked talking to her—she didn’t seem afraid of Lulu at all. Why would Green Girl teach her songs and sing with her if she was afraid of Lulu? If Green Girl was frightened of her, Lulu wouldn’t scare her more by touching her and keeping her nearby. She’d sit quietly and let Green Girl make up her mind if she wanted to be friends or not. “Why do people catch them then, if farms are so scared to be around people?”
“Because that’s how it is.” Petrus waved his hand, dismissing Lulu’s slew of questions. “Go see if you can find the dealer or one of his boys. We’ll buy this one.”
Lulu tilted her head to one side and looked doubtfully at the farm. “I still think she looks sad.” And she ran off to find the seller.
Lulu trembled, rooted to a spot in the middle of the large empty pen behind the barn where Green Girl should have been. She thought she might throw up. Something bad had happened to her friend and no one was listening.
“Green Girl would never leave without saying goodbye!” Lulu had been so excited on the ride home. It took longer than on the way there, Papa hauling the new farm behind the truck, having to drive slower and more carefully so the bumps wouldn’t upset the farm. Lulu hadn’t minded. She was going to have two friends to talk to, to sing with. But when they pulled up to the house and Papa backed the trailer up the gravel path that led behind the barn, the pen had been dark and empty.
Jamie didn’t say anything when she asked him where Green Girl was.
A black feeling spread inside her. She could almost hear it—it sounded like mice feet skittering through the walls of their house late at night.
Petrus kept working on the trailer and hitch like nothing was wrong, undoing the hoisting rope and getting the winches ready with quick, efficient movements. “Go take Lulu inside and get back out here,” he called over his shoulder at Jamie. “And don’t dawdle. This sedative won’t last forever.”
Jamie took Lulu by the hand and led her away from the barn.
“I don’t want to go inside! I want to find Green Girl!” Lulu said, but Jamie kept walking and kept holding her hand tightly. “She’d never leave without saying goodbye. Didn’t you see who took her?”
“No.” Jamie walked too fast and he was pulling on her arm too hard. “No one took her.”
“Why would she leave? Green Girl lost her family. And she was hurt.” Lulu let herself go limp and collapsed in the middle of the yard.
Jamie pulled her through the dirt courtyard for a couple steps before finally letting her go.
“She’s lost, Jamie. We have to find her. She’ll be scared.”
Jamie avoided Lulu’s panicked gaze and stared at the barn instead. “I was in the field when she left. She couldn’t have told me anything.” He drew aimless patterns in the dirt with the toe of his boots. “Don’t tell Papa I said this, but, I think another farm happened by and found her and they left together.”
“She could have told you to give me a message.” Lulu’s voice was going shrill.
“Well, she was probably too tired, like you said, and too excited about the other farm.” Jamie talked in his kid voice, like she was a baby. “She probably just thought you’d know. Like when you go wandering and forget to tell Mama. Mama’s worried about you, right? You go walking because it’s what you do, you know it so much you forget to think to tell Mama. But you don’t mean to upset her. Okay? Now let’s go inside, Lulu.”
“You think Green Girl went for a walk with that farm and they’ll come back?”
“No.” Jamie’s voice fell flat. “I think she went home. She’ll miss you, but she needed to go home. Okay?” He kicked a rock. “Now, you need to go to bed. I’ve got lots of chores to do.”
Lulu beat her fists on the ground. “You’re not listening to me! Green Girl is not okay!”
“I don’t have time for this.” Jamie stooped and just picked her up like he picked up sacks of feed and strode into the kitchen with her. He dumped Lulu onto a chair and left, letting the screen door slam behind him.
Lulu dragged herself upstairs and onto her bed. She didn’t bother taking her clothes off, though she knew she’d get scolded for it in the morning. Green Girl was missing, and no one cared.
The sun wasn’t yet up when Lulu woke. She had early morning chores to take care of, which she did without prompting. She decided to check on the new farm on her way to the chicken coop, the empty egg basket banging against her legs as she ran to the back of the barn.
Jamie was already up and whacking at the stakes that held down the farm. He was using the big mallet, the one Lulu couldn’t even move it was that heavy. A glancing blow caught him on the shin. Jamie cursed a crude slew of words she’d only ever heard Papa say when he thought no one was around.
“I’m telling Mama you cussed,” she yelled.
Jamie startled and turned. He scowled at her. “And I’ll tell Papa you bothered me and the farm. Go take care of the chickens.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “I wanted to say hello to our new farm, tell her where she is so she doesn’t get scared. Maybe she knows Green Girl.” Lulu swung the egg basket back and forth. “What’s her name?”
“It’s a farm, Lulu. It doesn’t have a name. Hay bales don’t have names, the barn doesn’t have a name, and farms don’t either.” Jamie punctuated his list with mallet swings that landed on the stakes with loud metallic ringing.
“Yes, they do.” Lulu stomped her foot. “Our farm’s name is Green Girl. Actually, her name is much, much longer than that. It’s bigger than yours! It would take all night to say her name. Green Girl is what I call her for short.”
“Called, not call.” Jamie raised the mallet high overhead. “She’s not here anymore.” The mallet came down hard in the dirt near the farm.
Lulu clenched her hands into fists. “For someone who wants to be a farmer you don’t know much about farms.”
Jamie turned his back to Lulu. “Know more than you,” he muttered and kicked one of the farm’s legs toward a strap.
He kicked harder. And kicked again.
Lulu couldn’t watch. The feeling of blackness bloomed inside her again. She thought she’d drown. Lulu squeezed her eyes shut and shouted for Jamie to stop.
It was the worst sound Lulu had ever heard. It felt as if the world stopped and poured itself into the moment of that sound. There was nothing else. It was like she wasn’t anymore. It felt like teeth shattering, like bones tumbling to ash inside her body. It felt like she would never be whole again.
Somewhere beneath the piercing rumbling, she heard a thin wail. A familiar sound.
Then, both sounds stopped. For the tiniest moment it felt peaceful, like sun pouring out of the sky and a field of grasses and flowers smelling sweet and warm. But then the silence fell apart and everything lurched, and she knew where she was again, knew she did not want to be here.
Lulu squinted through barely opened eyes. She did not want to look.
The farm had broken out of most of its bonds. It sprawled across the crushed fence. A few lengths from the destroyed fence lay a crumpled a heap like a fallen scarecrow.
Petrus came up behind her, shock prod in hand. “Get back,” he shouted as he ran past her.
The farm raised its head, a rumbling like boulders grinding. Petrus thrust with the prod. The farm’s giant frame jiggled and it foamed at the mouth. The horrible rumbling turned to shrieks before the farm finally fell silent.
Jamie lay very still, his left leg bent at an odd angle. Petrus looked from his son to the farm and back at Jamie.
Lulu stared, horrified. The farm’s twitching in complete silence was worse than the desperate shrieks. Lulu clamped her hands over her mouth. She couldn’t breathe. She’d never breathe again.
“Lulu,” Petrus called. He’d started harnessing the farm already, face set in grim lines. “Run to the house. Tell Mama. And grab a blanket. We’ll move him on that.”
Lulu nodded but didn’t move.
There was something quiet in his voice that made Lulu run.
Lulu’s feet and her thoughts were moving so fast she didn’t remember running at all, didn’t remember telling Mama anything.
Suzanne sprinted past her. When Lulu reached the barn and turned the corner, Suzanne had already gathered Jamie up in her arms. Petrus was still re-harnessing the farm, cinching the straps with quick, violent strokes.
Lulu sat by the farm, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking herself back and forth, waiting for it to wake. She’d cried herself out hours ago. Of course she worried some for Jamie, but the doctor said he should be fine. She didn’t know if her new friend was going to be okay.
Mama and Papa were at the house with the doctor, and Jamie lay in bed. He hadn’t woken up yet. He was hurt worse than the time the cow had kicked him. The doctor said Jamie had a concussion and broken bones, but the bleeding inside had stopped so he should heal given time. Petrus had asked how much time. The doctor took him to a corner of the room and talked with him quietly. Lulu couldn’t hear. Petrus shook his head a lot. He kept taking his hands out of his pockets then just putting them back in again. He looked like he didn’t want to talk to the doctor anymore, but they kept talking and Petrus kept shaking his head.
Lulu asked the doctor to check on the farm, too, when he was done with Jamie. Petrus yelled at her to leave the house. He’d been in the corner still, with the doctor, but his voice seemed to make him grow, and Lulu thought he’d slap her from where he stood. She tried to tell him that Jamie had started it, that it wasn’t the farm’s fault, but Suzanne told her not to come back until they came and got her.
The morning heated into afternoon. Still, the farm did not wake. Lulu brought it water, dribbled a little over its mouth but it did not drink. She shooed flies off it. She pressed her cheeks against its neck and stroked it very carefully, very gently, whispering “I’m sorry” over and over. An aching grayness crept into her thoughts.
Finally, deep in the afternoon, the farm sighed a little—a tiny sound barely more than humming bird wings Lulu wouldn’t have heard at all if she hadn’t had her face nestled up against its giant neck. A little “oh” of surprise escaped Lulu and she scrambled up to run around to the farm’s head and press both her hands on its snout. It didn’t feel as warm as it should have. The skin on its nose was dry and cracked.
Lulu heard the farm the way she’d heard Green Girl—not at all with her ears, but in her head like thoughts in a voice that wasn’t hers, but not just words. When she talked with Those Who Are it was more than talking and it wasn’t talking at all. It was everything.
But the new farm hurt and its thoughts split her head open like lightning—explosions of fear followed by deep, rolling sadness—feelings so heavy they crushed the breath from her and burned through her screaming before she could make a sound. And in the next heartbeat, pain and confusion that roared and swallowed her right up and drowned her into blackness, and into dark snippets that flickered but shed no light, snippets that made no sense and had no place, like remembering a dream. And then a tiny voice, a little glimmer that was warmer than the flickering. It was kind and she wanted to swim toward it.
Lulu recognized her own voice.
She whispered to the farm, her hands still resting on its snout. “I’m sorry about Papa and Jamie. Please be okay.” She dribbled water over its mouth again. This time, the farm parted its lips.
Lulu introduced herself and sang the song of welcome Green Girl had taught her. Very faintly, the farm sang its name in response. There were so many sounds in it. Lulu heard worms burrowing and roots growing, she heard the sun’s rays heating mountainside and water burbling, she heard rock being born and bones decaying.
“Oh, that’s beautiful,” Lulu said. “I’m sorry, I can’t say all that.”
Call us what you remember most.
It was exactly what Green Girl had told her, when they’d first met. Lulu sat silent trying to catch hold of the images she’d seen. “I remember mountains, tall, beautiful mountains tumbling down.”
Mountains Falling warbled approval. We are hurt, Lulu. We are hungry.
Lulu sat up. “I can help,” she said, wiping her cheeks with her shirt sleeves. She scrambled through the fence and ran around the corner. When she came back she was dragging one of the feed sacks.
Mountains Falling made the sound for gratitude. She ate three more sacks before asking, Why are we here? We carry life. We must leave.
Those Who Are did that, talked about themselves as if they were many. Green Girl had done the same. Lulu couldn’t get her to understand that she was alone, she was only one farm, and one was “I” and “me,” not “we.”
“You’re here so we can take care of you. We’re farmers. We take care of farms,” Lulu said, because that’s what Papa and Jamie did, they tended farms—brought them food and water, groomed them. But Green Girl had grown smaller and weaker despite all that.
And today had happened.
What is Farm?
“You. You’re a farm.”
We are Those Who Are. We do not understand Farm.
Lulu didn’t understand either. She sang the song for comfort. “Do you know Green Girl? Can you hear her?” Lulu asked. Those Who Are talked to each other over great distances. Lulu couldn’t, she had to be right next to the farms to hear or talk with them.
We are too weak to hear anything but the closest. We are not close. We are in empty silence. Except for you, Lulu, We are alone.
The house hung with gloom and fragile silence for the two days before Jamie woke up. Lulu hadn’t had any problem visiting with Mountains Falling—Petrus stayed out in the fields until late and Suzanne stayed next to Jamie’s bed. Lulu was left to herself.
On the third night, Petrus watched Suzanne as she came down the stairs with a bowl full of mashed potatoes.
“He’s still not eating?” Petrus’s voice was quiet.
Suzanne shook her head before turning away and disappearing into the kitchen.
Lulu had never seen the house and everyone in it so quiet before. The farm was usually alive with sounds and movement. Lulu felt the weight of it, and she’d tucked herself into a corner and waited for dinner before she’d sneak back out to sit with Mountains Falling.
“I can’t believe they sold us a rabid farm.” Petrus rubbed his hands over his face. “I’m going back and exchanging it tomorrow.”
Suzanne came out of the kitchen with a pot of boiled potatoes. She set it on the table and handed Petrus the serving spoon. “I’ll stay up with Jamie tonight. You get some rest.”
Petrus shook his head. “I’m sleeping in the barn. With a gun.”
“What’s going on?”
“ I haven’t fed that monster since. . . We’re short eleven sacks, Suzanne. At least three weeks’ worth.”
“What?” Suzanne sat down but didn’t fill her plate.
“I didn’t want to worry you. Imagine if I’d been feeding that farm this whole time. With the sacks that were stolen, we’d have nothing left.”
“You meant to starve Mountains Falling?” Lulu’s voice squeaked. Papa hadn’t fed the farm on purpose.
Petrus turned to Lulu. “What did you do?”
Lulu stared at Papa. She didn’t like anything she saw on his face, but her eyes wouldn’t look away. “She was hungry.”
“You’ve been feeding that thing?” Petrus shook like a tree in a storm.
“Please Papa, Mountains Falling can’t help she’s hungry. She’s growing a baby.”
“Enough!” Petrus erupted into motion, stood so quickly, his chair fell over and clattered to the floor. He grabbed Lulu by the shoulder and pushed her into the kitchen. “Enough lying! Enough stories!”
“I’m not lying,” Lulu said, but her voice shrunk like a mouse hiding in a corner and was easily drowned by Petrus’s anger.
He knocked dishes off the counter searching for a bar of soap. When he found it, Petrus grabbed Lulu and shoved the soap into her mouth.
Petrus continued to shake. “That’s for stealing from your father.”
The soap bit at her mouth and throat. Lulu grabbed at the bar of soap. Her teeth had sunk into the soap and it stuck in her mouth. Panic swelled in her throat.
“And this is for lying.” Petrus grabbed whatever was within reach—cooking pots, plates, cutting board, and potted plants—and threw them about. Some flew against the wall and shattered, others clattered on the floor, and some fell in the kitchen sink, spraying Petrus and Lulu with dishwater. “There are no pregnant farms—never have been, never will be. You can’t make believe some story to excuse what that rabid beast did to Jamie, you stupid girl!”
Lulu fell to the floor amidst broken crockery and mangled plants. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. No sound, no air.
Petrus’s shoulders shook. He clenched and unclenched his jaw. He picked up his chair and sat down, picked up his knife and fork only to slam them down again. Then Petrus covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
It scared her more than his yelling had. Lulu had never seen Petrus cry before.
Every sound startled Lulu. She crept through the courtyard, but she couldn’t walk quietly enough. Her heart beat so loudly she wondered that Mama and Papa hadn’t heard her and come thundering out the door to find her. But step by step she made her way to the back of the barn without anyone noticing.
Mountains Falling lay in her pen. Lulu opened the gate and ran to her friend. She flung her arms about Mountains Falling’s neck with a wild ferocity and relief. “We’re going to leave,” she whispered, and unharnessed the muzzle and the collar. Lulu pried at buckles and undid straps. Some buckles were pulled too tightly and she cut her hands trying to unlatch the metal clasps. The cool evening air and her wet clothes brought her to shivering.
When Lulu could do no more she rested her forehead against the farm’s snout.
Mountains Falling nuzzled Lulu, puffed softly. The air warmed her. It smelled like a spring day nodding toward evening, earthy and hinting of moss.
There were only a few straps left. “Can you to break through these?” Lulu asked.
We will find a way out. Lulu will join us.
Lulu woke to a rhythmic, swaying gait, nestled on Mountains Falling’s back in the dell between her shoulder blades. She was singing. It was a song Lulu had never heard before.
We sing the walking song and the seeking song. We sing only when we do, Mountains Falling explained before Lulu could ask.
“You can only teach a song by doing whatever it is the song is about?”
Mountains Falling made a sound of encouragement.
Lulu bent down and hugged her giant friend. Green Girl had never explained the songs that way. She just sang them and repeated them for Lulu. Now that she thought of it, all the songs she’d learned were about things like watching the night fall or lying down to sleep or songs of comfort, songs about things she and Green Girl had done together.
“Green Girl said that Those Who Are don’t fight or hurt each other.”
It is rare that we do. Disagreement hurts us. It is pain. Mountains Falling walked quietly for some time. Conflict is disharmony. If there is hurt we come together to make it right, to make our music beautiful again.
Lulu curled up and dozed as Mountains Falling walked on. When she woke again, she was in pain with hunger.
On our neck ridge. There we grow ripest.
The back of Mountains Falling’s neck had sprouted nodules the tawny color of mushrooms tinged underneath with pink.
“I won’t hurt you?” Lulu asked, touching one of the soft caps.
It is how we feed our young.
Lulu’s stomach rumbled. “But your baby will need them. We should save them for her.”
We can grow more if we choose. We will grow more.
Lulu plucked a nodule and put it in her mouth. It tasted fresh like the air after rain, smelled of grass and earth and life.
Mountains Falling began singing again. Lulu hummed along as the song nudged at her, like rising bubbles, each bubble a different note. The individual notes seemed to burst, and when they did, the music wasn’t just something she sang, it was inside her. But it was more than that—the song was a part of her and Lulu knew she was a part of the song. She knew that Mountains Falling was a part of her too.
As they traveled, Lulu peered at the landscape, endless about her. Clouds scurried overhead just as they always did. Mice and squirrels rustled in the tall grasses, flies buzzed. It was beautiful. But it was different. There were no lines. There were no rows of crops, no fences.
Lulu huddled close against Mountains Falling as a wind tinged with autumn sighed across her skin. It felt as if it had been weeping.