Staring at my own reflection in the silvery polished helmet, I asked the being the only question that made sense, "Are you a god?"
"I am a goddess," she replied removing her helmet. Shaking her head quickly, her blonde hair temporarily extended itself to its full length before the slow process on contracting upon itself again. "I am the Goddess Aimee"
"I am a jumper, my name is Donald," I said trying to bow before her.
The Goddess Aimee looked at me intently before speaking, "A jumper, ah perhaps that explains your altitude." "Donald, you say, explain to me the importance of jumping."
Importance, I thought, how did one explain what was fundamentally basic and known to all. It was then that I realized that she was testing me, but I wasn't without some wit and answered her question as if she were a stranger from a far away land rather than a holy being.
"A jumper may be born either man or woman. From the earliest of times parents train their children in the art of jumping. He or she who jumps highest, and returns to Mother Earth the closest to their launch position scores the greatest points based on the ancient language of mathematics. These scores are computed by the elders. He or she who scores the most leads his or her tribe for six moons. At the end of six moons, that jumper then competes against other tribal jumpers for the right to lead the village, and then the township and so forth until city level is obtained."
I had descended nearly 4 feet in the time it had taken me to explain to the goddess. It was then I realized that I was truly in the presence of spirits as she sat on the edge of her craft and though it made no noise, she did not descend towards the Earth.
"And you Donald," the goddess asked, "what are you doing 4000 feet in the air this day?"
"I have been practicing for next weeks competition," I replied. "I reached my peak about 15 minutes ago and have only now began my downward leg though I fear that I may be as much as 15 feet from my launch point." I normally chose the center of a small glen as my launch point. By tradition, you could jump from any point, and some of those could be spectacular, especially those that had some hint of danger to them, like jumping from a spire or even a moving point like the hub of a food wheel.
"Nonetheless," I continued, "I put my effort into altitude today, not accuracy, and the extended time aloft gives me time to contemplate the leadership should I be fortunate enough to be selected."
Then I added proudly, "I have been tribal leader twice and am the township leader as I speak." "It is for the city leadership I jump next week."
The Goddess Aimee entered her strange craft which shifted suddenly. One second she was 10 feet above me, the next she was below me directly and I was falling to meet her. She exited her craft smiling and stood on the foredeck awaiting my fall.
"How do you know that I am a goddess," she asked?
"Ah, another test," I said smiling, "but is it so simple, or is it that there lies a trick in the response?"
"Assume it is simple," she said, "answer, please."
"By your command goddess," I replied, "I know that you are a goddess by those things I have been taught and that you have shown."
"And what are those things," she asked gently?
"Your color for one," I said, "it is pale, almost white." "And you command the art of flight, you sit in the sky and do not descend until you choose to do so and then with purpose, not the gentle fall of a jumper." "Surely no mortal being has that ability." "And then there are other signs as well I added hastily."
"Go on," she said, "your answer pleases me."
Reddening as I looked downward. I was shocked to see that I now stood on the deck of her vessel. It was the first time that I had ever jumped to find myself in the presence of divinity.
"And there is the twang of your tongue," I said, "while you speak my dialect, it is strange to you. Though I must add that it sounds of music when you speak."
"Come, would you like to see the inside of my craft," she asked?
Indeed I was excited at the prospect to see the vessel that a god traveled in. Shaking my head in agreement she held her arm out motioning for me come within. Inside the vessel were wondrous marvels that I beheld. Lights of blue and yellow and red flashed along one side of the vessel, while on the other I could see right through to the outside though it was darkened like of dusk and the sun wasn't so bright that it hurt your eyes. A table and two chairs sat in the center of the vessel and the Goddess Aimee motioned for me to sit as did she.
"This is my craft," she explained, "It is how I travel about the heavens. Are you thirsty?"
I was still staring at the wondrous magic about me, noticing that it was much warmer inside her vessel and at the same time thinking how foolish I would be to think anything else, I was after all in a holy vessel.
The goddess turned to the vessel and from within a hidden compartment removed a square container. Pulling up on the edge deployed a tube from which she sipped a purplish brew.
"It's good," she said, "here you try." With that she took a second container and I mimicked her actions. Indeed the ambrosia I swallowed was both cool and sweet, not like anything I had tasted before.
"It is called grape juice, it is grown on a vine in my home," she said.
"If I may ask," I said, "where in the heavens do you live?"
"I come from a places called Mars," she said.
I must have looked dumbstruck, Mars, a place of legend and myths. I dropped to my knees, kneeling I said, "You are indeed a goddess my lady and I am but a man, not worthy of your attention." I said the last with a quiver in my voice, I was after all in the company of the holiest of all beings.
"Do not be afraid," she said, then reassuringly she added, "come, return to your seat and enjoy your drink, talk with me about Mars. What do you know of it?"
"I'm afraid that I don't know much, Goddess, only bits and pieces I picked up as a child."
"Tell me then of those tales," she prompted.
"Mars is a place in the heavens that the gods live," I began. "Millennia ago man evolved into gods and left the Earth to live on Mars. Those that refused to grow and transform themselves into gods stayed behind on Earth as true humans. It was our heritage that we became farmers and fisherman, and some say that one day the gods will return to hold judgment on us." "Is that why you are here," I added asking her?
"No, I am not here to hold judgment, I am here to help you." she said.
"To help me, help me what, win the jump-offs next week," I asked?
"No, something of far greater importance," she said and then added, "What do you know of gravity?"
"Only that it is the magic by which we come down after a jump, it holds us to the Earth."
"Did you know that many thousands of years ago that gravity was much stronger than it is today," she asked?
"No goddess, I didn't," I answered her, "legend has it that there was stronger gravity in the past, but that man took it with him when he went to Mars, leaving only a little behind for the true humans to work with. The food wheels that spin create a pull that allows for planting of vegetables and fruits that would otherwise not grow, but for the most part, the extensive root system that has developed over the years allows for normal plant growth."
"And the sun," she said, "what is the sun?"
"A fire in the sky" I replied firmly, "it is said that it is very great and hot and that we get our heat from it, that otherwise we would freeze and turn to ice as the dark side of the world is."
"And what do you know of the dark side?"
"Only that it is the inverse of the sun side, where on one side there is desert, the other has oceans of frozen water. That no life exists on either, and it is only the temperate areas in between where the true humans exist that life flourishes."
"Did you know that the Earth was once bountiful as your area below, that the whole world was wet and green and the sky was bright blue, far brighter than today?"
"How could this be," I asked in amazement, not for a minute doubting that the goddess spoke the truth.
"Before the loss of gravity, the Earth used to spin, revolve like your food wheels, hence one area never got too much sun or too little."
"I have heard this before from some of the elders," I replied, "though I personally have never given it much thought as there is little I can do to change what is." "Still as one approaches the desolate areas one can see remnants in the distance of great cities in the past where man once lived, where the gods once lived. Did you once live in one of those cities," I asked?