Father Richard bent down to one knee and released Binnea’s minimally cleaned claw. “The real ‘Father Richard’ is a disembodied brain in our ship, up there.” He pointed to the sky where millions of stars twinkled. One of them was Sol, star of Earth, I supposed. “When the ship arrived, it cloned up several bodies, all the memories of which were connected back to the original brain. If one considers the continuity of memory to be indicative of life, then Father Richard can’t die until the ship is destroyed. All the Father Richards on this planet are one – it’s as if you cut off one of my arms, Binnea, but it’s not like murder. Not like you feared.”
I formed fists. “Is this the way your god is, then?”
The priest nodded. “Our God lives in each of us, as He does in each of your people who believe. Destroying this image, as you have, can’t kill the god. I do as He wills simply because He wills what is right.” He put a hand to the side of my face, rubbed some of the fur gently. “Are you worried? Worried that your people’s ways will disappear?”
Unable to do anything, I chirped a cry and nodded yes.
“What would you want us to do instead?”
“Go away. Let us be happy.”
The priest smiled. “If we leave, the electrical plants leave. You won’t have the night heaters.”
“Then just give us the night heaters-”
“That’s what school is for. So you can make your own night heaters, so you can learn to plant your own crops, make your own writings. Would you rather us leave you for thousands of years of frozen nomadic life?”
“Then come in. I’ve got a nice stove, and I can make you some warm milk while you wash up.” The priest stood and waved for us to follow.
The child in front of me lifted a brow, skeptical. “And that’s how come you and Binnea got to be Wise Ones? Because you followed the star to the God?”
I shook my head. “Oh, no. We were wise before, understand, because we figured the humans’ puzzle out. We used our clues.” I handed the kids some candy. “And that is why we do a scavenger hunt for Christmas on this planet. So be smart, right? Use the clues I gave you, and find as much candy as you can!”
I watched as my own children scattered to the wind, chasing after the bright star and checking their instructions for clues.
Merry Christmas to all, and may your own traditions be wondrous!