They all agreed that they should stop for a break. Even Bhoora sniffed the rushing air. He could recognize a buffet when he smelled one. Their boat captain guided the vessel into a small alcove along the side of the river. They tied off to a large rock as they climbed ashore. This time Bhoora was first. There was no need to direct him to the food. He already knew with his nose what awaited. The rest followed the eager grizzly into the orchard. They meandered among the branches, plucking whatever fruit caught their eye.
“Hey, what are those?” Avi asked. He pointed. Each tree had a small shiny plaque attached to its trunk. A short inscription marked them all.
“I don’t know,” Carina said. “Let’s see.” She stepped close to examine the nearest one. Avi stood away, leaning back to take in the entire view. “Oh, it’s a description of the fruit.”
“Do you figure the best fruits are at the tops of the trees?” Avi asked.
“Oh, wow,” Carina said. “This one has some medicinal properties. It's good for dental health.” She straightened, plucked a handful of the tiny berry-like buds, and tossed them into her mouth. “Want some?”
“No. I want some of that,” Avi said when he spotted a red hanging melon two trees over. They wandered separately for a few moments, grabbing whatever appealed to them.
“This one has medical benefits too,” Carina said from down the row. She laughed, “for ingrown toenails.” Avi was already chewing on the melon with intense satisfaction, plus his toenails were fine. His sister continued to research the plaques. Avi was happy to browse aimlessly. Carina made a wide circle studying quicker with each reading.
“I think they all have medical benefits,” Carina shouted. A few stray birds took flight at the sound. Avi tried a half dozen different options. After one bite, he felt his eyes getting heavy and had a powerful urge to take a nap. He glanced at the plaque. He scanned it quickly, laughing when he came to the words sleep aid. He set that one down, knowing the local frugivores would handle the cleanup and take a long rest thereafter.
“Hey, Avi, come look at this one,” Carina said. He sauntered over, unable to take his eyes away from the amazing unfolding scenery. His sluggish gait probably had something to do with his fruit-induced sleepy state.
“Listen to this one.” She read the plaque aloud. “Feathered Anliogus - A vibrant and full-bodied citric blend, grafted from nine hybrids. Side benefits include restorative properties for epidermal injuries…” As he listened, Avi plucked one and took a bite. The flavors exploded in his mouth. Almost instantly, he felt a warm rush roll over his skin. A tingling ran down the length of his body.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Avi asked when he realized his sister was tugging at the leg of his pants.
“I’m checking to see if it works?” She pulled the cloth high enough to reveal the scratch Bhoora had given him while rescuing Zariah. The gash that ran the length of his calf foamed and sizzled. He felt heat at the sight of the wound.
“It's doing something!” Carina said. Avi bent down to look at the scratch. Carina leaned close and smelled the frothing effuse. She laughed as she said, “It smells like citrus.” He could smell it too. The injury shrunk quickly beneath the citric magic. A warm tingle emanated from the laceration. Within a few seconds, it had completely scarred over. Another instant and even the scar evaporated. He wiped his hand across the place the cut had been, and it was nothing but smooth skin. With one bite, the wound had healed.
Carina stood frozen in astonished silence. Avi stared wide-eyed at his sister for a long moment as he rearranged his understanding of the world. They looked around at the endless possibilities. Avi could spend days in a place like this. He was eager, now, to discover what mysteries the next tree held.
They didn’t see Rachit approaching. His gruff call made Avi jump, considering the slumbering state that he was in.
“Hey, Jerry said he needs to get back before sundown,” Rachit said.
“Who’s Jerry,” Avi asked.
“The guy with the boat,” Carina said. “Rachit, did you notice that all the fruits have—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rachit interrupted. “I know. Come on; we have to get moving.”
Avi had to go after Bhoora, who was not ready to leave the exquisite fruit behind. Once he got the bear back to the boat, they were ready to continue their journey. The boat roared to life, and they splashed back into the waterway at full speed.
“That was amazing!” Avi sang out over the sound of the engine. They all agreed. Avi leaned back against the hull of the boat and rested his hand on his full belly. He could feel himself beginning to drift toward an afternoon nap. The lul of the boat's motion and the warming sunbeams were the perfect complement to the satisfaction of his midday meal. He closed his eyes as he nodded to sleep.
“Wake up,” Carina called. “We’ve arrived.” Avi opened his eyes. It took him a moment to realize where he was since the surroundings were not familiar. The boat was rocking gently but otherwise stationary. It sat next to a dock at a place Avi had never seen.
“Is this Tamesh City?” he asked.
“Sure is!” Carina said, the excitement evident in her voice.
“Where’s Rachit?” he asked.
“Don’t know. He jumped out before we were tied off. Said he had somewhere he needed to visit,” Carina explained. “He seemed perturbed.”
“What? What is he doing?” Avi asked, as much to himself as to Carina. Bhoora, who had the same idea as Avi, was still sleeping. Avi shook him awake and began ushering toward the dock. They climbed out of the boat. The groggy bear was reluctant but eventually moved precariously onto the narrow wooden planks. Avi and Carina thanked their driver before they turned and walked into the city.
Tamesh City was like a warm hug from a loving grandma. The old and the new merged effortlessly in the capital city of Tamesh Providence. Tall, sleek buildings of transparent metal shared the scenery with ancient structures of brick and mortar that preceded them by centuries. As technology had advanced, the city had not lost its endearing charm, reminding its visitors of times gone by.
They took a turn down a busy roadway. Purple banners hung over the street, flagging in the light. With the flow came the smell of something fried—the aroma of spices that tickled the nose. Avi tugged on Bhoora at virtually every step, trying to keep him from chasing down each smell that met his powerful olfactory senses.
Color vibrant as the spring surrounded them. The dominant hue was a vivid violet, which was apparent everywhere they looked. People of all types mingled along the road, talking and laughing generously. A variety of companion animals made the city feel like a magical menagerie. The sounds of joy echoed off the buildings and filled the air with a sense of homecoming.
“Pardon me,” Avi said to a group of people sitting along the road.
“Hello, my friend,” one man said. He was light-skinned and shorter than Avi by half a head.
“Might you direct me to the sky port?” Avi asked.
After getting directions, Carina and Avi wandered the city, soaking up the vivacious life that emanated from its crowded streets. Being Tameshi, there was a familiarity with the language and the people, but it was more visual stimulation than they were used to. Avi could hardly believe how many people lived in such proximity.
“Wow! Look at that!” Carina erupted. They had been walking in silence. The city sounds were enough to mesmerize. His sister’s words startled Avi out of his daze. He glanced upward in the direction Carina pointed.
“Wow!” he agreed. The biggest skyliner he had ever seen floated lazily above their heads. They had both seen small sky craft before, but the big ones never made it out to Sundar since the demand for international travel was so low. They stood spellbound for a few minutes as they studied the craft.
It had an enormous ovoid bubble that could enclose the entirety of Sundar and still have room to spare. It resembled a giant translucent egg with small airfoil fins toward the back. Hanging beneath the massive elliptical construction was a suspended fuselage which housed passengers. On the small sky liners, the entire craft would land and take off. These were too big to descend into the city, so cables would lower the passenger compartments, and then raise them back into position. They watched as more gargantuan sky crafts maneuvered in the distance with an overwhelming sense of awe.