Familia Naturalis

29 February 2020

The morning had not yet brought the torch of dawn, and already the truthsayer had duties to attend. As he stood just outside the entrance to the Room of Ordination, he allowed himself an inward sigh. It was sure to prove a long day.

His apprentice had already prepared the room for the ceremony, the truthsayer noticed. A scented oil lamp burned in each corner of the chamber, offering a gentle aroma as their flickering radiance filled the room. In the center of the room was a small, handwoven basket. Its simple design contrasted against the intricate murals that covered the surrounding walls.

So, this is to be an acceptance ceremony, the truthsayer thought as he eyed the basket. Once again a child shall enter the Tribe, the familia naturalis of the human species.

A young couple stood a few steps away from the basket, holding hands as they waited for the truthsayer to enter. They were clearly fearful of the ceremony to come.

All parents were apprehensive when they brought their child to the acceptance ceremony, the truthsayer had noticed, though there was really no cause for fear. The ceremony was merely a symbolic gesture. Never had the truthsayer condemned any child brought to him as a Genetic, thus forcing the infant into sterilization and subsequent abandonment by the Tribe. He had no cause to make such a judgment. There were scientific tests to determine that. No, the acceptance ceremony served only to proclaim to the Tribe that this child was of natural blood, and worthy to be called Human.

The truthsayer strode into the room solemnly, timing his steps as if marking a slow rhythm. His long, crimson robe hissed quietly against the floor as he moved. Reaching the basket, he stopped, pulling back his hood. He calmly studied the couple. The woman trembled slightly, and dared not look upon his face. Instead she stared at her clasped, fidgeting hands. The man, on the other hand, was motionless. A deep double-crease of tension formed upon his brow.

They fear my power, the truthsayer noticed. They fear my wizardry will reveal unspoken secrets. And he allowed himself an inward smile. If only they knew that a truthsayer’s talents contained no magic. Only skilled training, practiced for years, gave a truthsayer his mystical powers.

The truthsayer was amused to think that even in this age of science and knowledge there were still those who believed in magic. Its acceptance was particularly strong out here among the smaller villages.

The truthsayer glanced down at the infant in the basket, then looked again at the couple. Hesitantly the man took a short step forward and bowed.

“I am …”

“You are Mark Tannam.” the truthsayer interrupted quickly, reciting what his apprentice had told him minutes earlier. “And you are here with your wife, Sarah.” The woman gasped at the sound of her name. She too bowed, in awe of his power. “You have come to me so that your child may participate in the acceptance ceremony and thus enter the Tribe. These things are known to me.”

He again smiled inwardly as he saw how amazed the couple was by the simple trick. “Rise.” he told them, and they did so immediately.

The truthsayer knelt before the basket. An infant girl, with pale brown skin and a single tuft of hair looked up at him with a toothless smile. Before he realized it he was smiling back. But he quickly caught himself and stifled the grin, setting himself to the task at hand.

Her face looked as if it were crafted of fine porcelain, the work of a master artist. Her brilliant blue eyes were unlike the father’s slate gray nor the mother’s earthen brown. The form of her mouth was too full. His heart beat faster as he realized the truth.

“This child is not yours.” the truthsayer said flatly. He looked up at the couple.

“Such…is true.” Mark said in an unsteady voice. “I and my wife wish to adopt her, for we are incapable of offspring.”

Surprises and Stupifactions! thought the truthsayer as he smiled again at the infant. This day is truly special.

Only twice before had the truthsayer accepted an adopted infant into the Tribe. It was a ceremony he particularly enjoyed, for he himself was an adopted.

The truthsayer wondered what special circumstances had caused the couple to claim the child. A late sibling’s daughter perhaps? A close friends? He longed to ask them, but didn’t dare. It was certain that the woman had feigned a pregnancy, accurate to minute details. It was even possible that a friend or relative of medical authority had certified the pregnancy. The child would never be told of her adoption. She would be certified as a true child of the couple. Any allegations of adoption would be unprovable. Only the couple, the truthsayer, and the State would know the truth.

For a moment, the truthsayer recalled the shock he had upon discovering his own adoption. The anger he felt toward his parents, the fear that he might be impure. These all passed with time. And sometimes he even called back those feelings, among others, to empathize with those who came to him. At times emotions worked better than logic or observation at finding the truth.

A quivering sigh from the woman caused the truthsayer to realize he had been silent far too long. The couple was probably certain the child would be rejected, and they would go home childless.

I grow careless. the truthsayer thought angrily. He looked up at the couple, groping for the words to soothe them.

“Have you a name for the child?” he asked.

“Alista.” the woman replied quietly, raising her head for the first time. As she caught the truthsayer’s eyes, however, her head lowered once again.

“Alista.” the truthsayer repeated. “It is a fitting name for this child.” He looked again to the infant in the basket. “It is a very old name. It means perfection.”

And indeed she is. The truthsayer thought as he studied the child’s face a final time. Each curve, each freckle, each curl of her hair so hauntingly flawless it echoed of gene tampering. But such an idea was impossible. The State had too many safeguards to prevent modified dna from entering the gene pool of Naturals. The thought of a Genetic entering the acceptance ceremony was inconceivable. The truthsayer closed his mind to such foolish thoughts, despite was his feelings told him.

“I declare this child Human.” the truthsayer said. He pulled a small vial from his robe and allowed just a drop of the oil within to fall upon the child’s forehead. “She shall be Alista Tannam, true daughter of Mark and Sarah Tannam.” With his middle finger he rubbed the oil in. “May your walk on this Earth bring glory to the Tribe, and may God watch over your soul.”

The truthsayer rose and replaced the vial. “This ceremony is completed.” he said, turning to go. After a moment he looked back, watching as the couple gathered their child and hurried from the chamber.

I shall keep your secret, young one. he thought.