Catharsis: Excerpt

Karma can be a beautiful maiden or a bitch… Where was the mysterious Lemuria? How was it related to Atlantis? What were the secret origins of humanity?  This metaphysical fantasy/sci-fi novelette is a prequel/companion to THE EARTH SHIFTER, and first in the new mini-series. As the red planet Catharsis faces its destruction, the race of the Lemurians is saved from the catastrophe by the goddess Mu and taken to their new home, Earth.

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Legend of the Lemurians

(Earth Keepers Chronicle 1)

 Lemuria…Atlantis…Forgotten Origins of Humanity…

 Prequel & companion to THE EARTH SHIFTER

 Before recorded history, before Humanity, since times immemorial, the Earth Keepers have been watching over our planet. Marked at birth and endowed with supreme powers, the nine chosen ones are the Earth’s record keepers and moderators, and when the time comes, the ultimate decision makers. This is the first of their chronicles.

 Legend of the Lemurians

Planet Catharsis was a beautiful red planet located on the outskirts of the Andromeda Galaxy. Everything on it was a lovely shade of red, orange, or fuchsia. Catharsis had two beautiful moons: the purple moon and the orange moon, which illuminated the nightly sky when its red sun was napping.

Just like the planet itself, its inhabitants were truly beautiful: gorgeous women clad in exquisite gowns and elaborate hairdos, stately men with dignified features, and adorably angelic children. Even the old people were beautiful: nice grannies knitting pretty hats or baking delicious cakes and cheerful grandpas taking lovely morning strolls to discuss the latest news at a nearby café.

Catharsians prided themselves on their large and beautiful houses. In fact, one house was more beautiful than the next. People of Catharsis treated beauty as an art form and a lifelong competition. On this planet, being a beautician was a high honor, but what was even better was to be a plastic surgeon.

Once, the planet of Catharsis possessed a rich animal kingdom, with animals of varying species living in the woods, fields, and waters. Catharsians also kept adorable pets. But at some point, they realized that all these pets were terribly messy, what with chewing on their owners’ stylish shoes, scratching valuable sofas, and leaving fur everywhere—and that was unforgivably ugly. Soon, all the pets were gone, vanished, as if they never existed.

Initially that caused a stir in society, with children crying for their little furry friends and even some adults longing for them. But what wouldn’t one sacrifice for beauty? So, eventually everyone in the Catharsian society adjusted to the absence of pets.

However, there was still the question of all those wild animals, which continued to bother the beauty-oriented Catharsians. One day, all the wild animals were gone as well. That caused much less of a stir, although the group called Fair Catharsis tried to stage protests. The population at large hardly noticed the disappearance of all of the wild creatures. The truth was, the entire planet was now clean and sterile, and no one could argue that this wasn’t much better.

Next, an ingenious company, called ELPET, introduced the new electronic pet. Catharsians were tripping all over themselves to purchase one for their household, because these pets never ate, never made a mess and were (you guessed it!) beautiful. Before long, every self-respecting Catharsian household had an Elpet, one model more gorgeous than the next. ELPET stock went through the roof, and the population returned to its happy equilibrium. Harmony and beauty was restored.

The whole planet was clearly basking in the rays of its Golden Age, and it seemed nothing, absolutely nothing, could spoil it.

But wait, there was something of which Catharsians were both afraid and ashamed. Something they didn’t even admit to themselves. The thing was, not every inhabitant of the planet was beautiful. Sure, there were degrees of beauty. Not everyone could be strikingly, impossibly beautiful. Some had to be plainer than others were. That was true. Although it was never admitted publicly, some Catharsians were less attractive than was socially acceptable. However, they would become more beautiful with the adept help of plastic surgeons and beauticians.

No, the people we are talking about were not beautiful by any stretch of imagination. In fact, they were truly and exceedingly ugly. As ugly as one could get! The truth was…the beautiful Catharsians had to share their planet with another race, which they called the Uglies. Of course, the Uglies themselves preferred to be called Lemurians. Alas, on beautiful planet Catharsis no one cared what the Uglies preferred.

The Uglies were as different from Catharsians as day was from night. While Catharsians cared very much how exquisite their gowns were, and how well their high-heeled shoes accentuated their meticulously groomed feet, the Uglies ran around in simple, home made outfits. And, oh horror of horrors, they often walked around barefoot! When asked why they did so, they smiled serenely, explaining that this is how they connected with Goddess Mu, the Sacred Mother of All.

Catharsians didn’t mind the Uglies worshipping their Mu, as long as it distracted them from any thoughts of rebellion, keeping them docile and submissive. Indeed, it had been noted that the Uglies were especially meditative and quiet after they’d prayed to Mu. In fact it seemed, thanks to their prayers, they took their fate and abuse exceedingly well.

Another thing that really bothered Catharsians was the sheer openness of the Uglies’ smiles. They had these very large mouths, and when they smiled their plump lips would open wide to reveal their unnaturally white teeth. How exceedingly ugly! Everyone on Catharsis knew that one’s mouth was supposed to be small, with thin lips, and teeth—a lovely shade of orange! Anything else was completely unacceptable, and the planet’s plastic surgeons and dentists were hard at work to make sure everyone’s mouths and teeth were in strict compliance with the universally accepted standard of beauty.

But that was not all, far from it. The Uglies possessed very large, almond shaped eyes, which slanted upwards, while it was common knowledge that the most beautiful eyes should be round and small. Plastic surgeons had their job cut out for them, as Catharsian women lined up to make sure their eyes were that unattainable shape and size. One of the most irritating things about the Uglies’ faces were their noses. While Catharsians prided themselves in their long and sharp noses (the sharper the better), the Uglies had these strange short noses, which made their faces look eternally young. That was the last straw for many Catharsians, who spent big chunks of their incomes on battling the relentless aging process.

And to add insult to injury, the Uglies were significantly taller than natural, towering over Catharsians like big, sore thumbs.

Because Catharsians were ashamed that some of them could be so ugly, a long time ago they built a special reservation, called Camp Ugly. The camp was equipped with a lethal voltage electric fence and watchtowers with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment. All the Uglies on the planet were herded into Camp Ugly, where they lived out their drudgery generation after generation.

It wasn’t an act of cruelty on part of the Catharsians, oh no! It was firmly believed in Catharsian society that being ugly was in fact a disease. Therefore, herding all the Uglies into the camp where they could be carefully monitored and isolated from the rest of society was a fully justifiable measure.

However, it proved difficult to find guards for the camp. Not only was it an awful strain on the eye to look at the ugly people all day long, but what if ugliness was also contagious? Of course, the researchers were never able to prove conclusively that was the case, but what if it was? The camp guards were paid double salary, but even then they wouldn’t stay for long. The turnover among the Camp Ugly guards was simply terrible.

Catharsians prided themselves on being fair and just, because, well, the alternative would not be beautiful. The truth was that once upon a time, the planet’s administration tried to cull the population of Uglies, but the Ugly Rights Groups were up in arms. Another time, a controversial bill was introduced proposing that all Uglies be sterilized and denied mating rights, but it didn’t pass the Senate. After much deliberation, the compromise was reached according to which, when an Ugly reached a mating age he or she would be allowed to take a mate and have one child, but no more than that. The hope was that slowly but surely the population of Uglies on the planet would be reduced.

And so, Catharsians and Uglies co-existed without much interaction, nor with much knowledge of each other. Catharsians went on living the high life, attending beautiful parties and having the time of their lives, while the Uglies were left to fend for themselves behind electric fence built to prevent their escape and the spread of the much dreaded “ugly disease.”

Camp Ugly occupied a large wasteland territory, just outside the capital city of Thar. It consisted of eight sectors divided into forty villages, each populated by one to two hundred Ugly families. The population of these villages used to be substantially larger, but now many huts stood deserted, as each new generation of Uglies would get smaller and smaller. It was apparent that the one child policy, imposed on the Uglies, was working.

The focal point of Camp Ugly was the Gathering Square, where the Uglies sang, danced and worshiped Goddess Mu in their ancient Lemurian language. On the corner of the square stood the house of the Supreme Elder, as well as what the Uglies proudly called the Temple of Mu. In fact, it was just a large and rather unattractive barrack.

But the Uglies didn’t notice its outward appearance because inside was the most important and valuable thing the Uglies possessed. This ultimate treasure was the famous Lemurian Mother Crystal, which was guarded zealously day and night. The crystal was so huge that even a hundred Uglies couldn’t lift it. It consisted of a myriad of points growing like a gigantic flower out of the crystal’s center, and it sparkled like a zillion stars when the light of the torches reflected from its thousands of facets. No one knew where the crystal came from, or how it appeared in Camp Ugly. But according to the Lemurian legends, the crystal was the ultimate protective shield and energy booster for the entire planet of Catharsis. The Uglies called it the Crystalline Engine and considered themselves its keepers.

Truth be told, it was an incredible stroke of luck for the Uglies that Catharsians saw no value or beauty in the Mother Crystal. If they did, they would have taken the sacred crystal away from the Uglies, broken it into pieces and sold it off to the highest bidders. But since they thought that the pointy and heavy crystal was just an ugly rock, the Lemurian treasure was safe, at least for the moment.

Camp Ugly’s eight sectors lay beyond the main square, spreading outward according to the compass directions like slices of a giant pie. Each sector was comprised of five villages, and beyond these villages were agricultural fields. Each village specialized in growing of one kind of produce, which they shared with the rest of the camp’s population in an equitable and fair manner. If one village had a bad crop, which happened often due to substandard equipment and scarce water, others stepped in to fill the food shortage.

Despite such meager conditions, the Uglies seemed not to fret. They lived in their simple little huts, growing crops and caring for their young. They had to work very hard to survive, and because of that, they didn’t have much time to look after themselves. Their features and their bodies weren’t perfect to begin with (at least according to Catharsians), plus they had no time at all to beautify them. Even if they did, there wasn’t anything in the entire Camp Ugly with which to beautify themselves.

Instead of spending whatever little free time they had on vanity, the Uglies usually got together to sing and dance as they prayed to Mu, the Mother of All, for the good of Uglies and Catharsians alike. They sang beautiful songs about peace, love, and…beauty. Their singing was so entrancing that even the guards couldn’t help but listen, and some even shed a tear or two. It seemed these songs came straight out of their souls, which stood wide open for the whole world to see. And if anyone cared to look inside those souls, which Catharsians certainly didn’t, they’d see how truly beautiful the Uglies were.

Catharsians and Uglies alike dreaded the last day of each month. The thing was, there were certain needs the Uglies had that could not be fulfilled inside Camp Ugly. For example, they had to get certain supplies they couldn’t get otherwise. There were also certain errands to run, like getting medicine for the old and ailing. A hundred of designated Uglies, called Runners, were allowed to leave the camp on that day to obtain supplies for everyone else, because Catharsians considered it below their dignity to run errands for the Uglies. It was bad enough that they had to maintain the electric fence and guard them day and night!

The Runners were chosen each month from the strongest and most courageous of the Uglies. As usual, the night before the trip, all able-bodied Uglies gathered around the campfire to sing their beautiful songs as a good luck wish for the chosen ones. That night, the Runners got the choicest pieces of food from the Uglies’ scarce table and went to bed early, to preserve their strength before the arduous endeavor. The next morning, at the break of the red dawn, they said farewell to their tearful families, and left.

The entire population of Camp Ugly gathered to say a final goodbye as the camp’s tall electric gate opened up, and promptly closed again behind them. As their eyes followed the departing Runners, their lips moved, as the Uglies whispered prayers to the Goddess Mu to keep their brave men safe, because it was well known (and even expected) that not all of them would be back.

The Runners were considered heroes among their own, and they proudly sacrificed themselves for the good of all.

Morf was sixteen when he first volunteered to become a Runner. His mother was against it, but his father who had been doing the Runner duty for a while, was in no condition to go. His right leg was badly damaged after the latest model Elpet attacked him during his last run. Morf’s native village, located in Sector No. 5 of Camp Ugly and comprised of one hundred twenty households, had too many women and children, but not enough strong, young men. Most of the older men sustained injuries from past expeditions, but someone still had to procure supplies, clothes and medicine. Morf took after his father, growing tall and strong—stronger and taller than most Uglies. At sixteen, he towered over his mother, and at that point Morf knew, it was his turn to become a Runner.

At seventeen, this was already his sixth run. He kissed and hugged his weeping mother and his limping father goodbye, made sure he had his water bottle, and carefully examined his gear. The gear every Runner carried along consisted of two huge sacks, which they would load up with as much stuff as they could gather during their expedition, and two sturdy purses strapped to their waists, in which they would carry the most valuable items, like medicine. Morf also carried two backpacks, one upfront, and another in the back. Some Runners were so adept that they even strapped additional small bags to their legs and arms. Equipped this way, each of them looked like a walking, talking clothes hanger.

To Morf, the fully loaded Runner resembled what Catharsians called “a decorated New Year’s tree.” During one of his previous runs he had seen a real New Year’s tree after it was thrown out into garbage. Even in the garbage the tree looked very beautiful. The Uglies didn’t have any trees. The wasteland where their camp was located was dry and barren, with only one small river, which was hardly enough to water their crops. No water could be spared on luxuries like the trees and even bathing was a problem.

Morf desperately wanted to pick up that New Year’s tree and bring it back to the village so the children could enjoy it. But it was too big to haul all the way back. In the end, he had to sacrifice the tree for crucial necessities, like food, clothes and medicine.

The thing was, Runners had to carry everything they were able to gather on their person. They couldn’t bring carts, because the carts would slow them down. It was very important to be fast on your feet. In fact, sometimes it could mean the difference between life and death.

Morf waited for his companion Dorf, a veteran Runner from his village. Three other Runners from the neighboring villages soon joined them, and all five disappeared behind the tall gate. Five men was the optimal size for the Runner team. Any more and it would be harder to find enough stuff for everyone. On the other hand, it was certainly not advisable to travel alone. Thar, the capital of Catharsis, was a very safe city, but not for the Uglies.

Thar’s stores and pharmacies carried signs:


 So, it would normally take Runners all day and a lot of ingenuity to try and find a place where they could get necessary supplies. It certainly didn’t help that they had to do all of their errands on foot, since they had no money to buy the beautiful motor carriages Catharsians drove. But the Uglies were a resourceful bunch. If they couldn’t buy what they needed, they’d dive into garbage disposal bins, where they’d usually find perfectly good food, almost new clothes, and even medicine well before its expiration date, thrown out by the demanding Catharsians. They’d never admit it, but Catharsians actually loved it when Uglies picked up the unwanted food and clothes from their trash. Garbage wasn’t beautiful at all, and the more of it the Uglies removed, the better.

As Morf and his four companions walked around the city, the locals spit and cursed at them, and children threw stones. Some even sicked Elpets on them as they passed.

Morf knew: this was how his father became a cripple. The attack of an Elpet was especially hard to run away from when the Runner was already on his way back to the camp after an exhausting day, hungry and tired, and loaded with all the stuff he was able to carry. No Catharsian would give the tired Ugly a glass of water to quench his thirst or a bite to eat, while smells of delicious cooking from the nearby houses would make his stomach growl even worse.

That unfortunate day, his father was lucky enough to stumble upon a great stash of clothes and food thrown out by Catharsians, and he was loaded with more stuff than usual. When a Catharsian commanded his Elpet to attack him, he didn’t have the strength to run. As a result, his leg was badly mauled.

His father’s case wasn’t an exception. More often than not, Runners would return home bleeding and bruised from all the stones thrown at them and injuries inflicted on them during the day. But they never responded to such abuse. They always smiled politely and never fought back.

Morf’s run started without any problems. However, late in the afternoon, things got out of control as they encountered a particularly mean group of Catharsians. Several of them stood talking when the Uglies passed by, loaded to the hilt with their sacks and backpacks.

The Uglies politely greeted Catharsians. “Good day,” they said with particularly broad smiles. The Runners simply couldn’t help their smiles. The day had gone well, so far no one had attacked them, and the haul was good. By all accounts, it was turning out to be a very successful run, and very soon they would be returning home.

But for some reason, this simple greeting infuriated the natives. One of them had an Elpet on a leash—a large and particularly vicious looking model. Its owner quickly released the leash and commanded through clenched teeth, “Attack.”

The Elpet immediately sprang into action, covering the distance separating it from the Uglies in several giant leaps. Morf was first to notice the move.

“Run as fast as you can!” he yelled to his friends and nimbly sprinted off, hoping the other Runners would follow. Morf could run very fast and for a very long time due to his long legs and strength, and despite his heavy load. He ran like this for a few seconds and glanced back. Three of his friends managed to escape, but Dorf was in huge trouble. The first thing Morf noticed was that another Elpet joined the attack, and the two of them ganged up on the tired Dorf. He was helplessly sprawled on the ground, as both Elpets went for his leg and throat. Morf ran back as quickly as his legs would carry him, frantically waving his hands in the air in order to distract the Elpets from their victim.

“Here, I am here!” he kept yelling, jumping up and down. “Go after me, I have more flesh to bite into. Leave him alone, he is all skin and bones!”

The Elpets, either distracted by his yelling or his waving arms, detached their bloody faces from Dorf and instead, started after Morf.

Meanwhile, the other Runners were returning to help. “Help Dorf, I’ll distract them!” Morf yelled, running for his life. He ran as he’d never run before, and despite their best efforts, the Elpets were unable to catch him. After pursuing him for ten or fifteen blocks, the Elpets stopped, issuing disappointed squeals. They slowly turned around and returned to their owners. Breathing heavily, Morf stopped too and waited for his companions. They finally appeared, supporting the badly mauled Dorf. Morf loaded himself with Dorf’s stuff, and took some of the load off the other Runners’ backs, so they could carry their bleeding companion. Dorf’s breath was coming out in labored spasms. As he walked almost doubled over under his load, Morf knew his friend was in very bad shape. It seemed clear that without urgent treatment he might not reach the camp.

As they passed the square that Morf knew very well, he quickly said, “Wait here,” and dashed across the square, not even bothering to take the load off his shoulders. His destination was the local pharmacy, which he’d visited before. The owner of that pharmacy, an old Catharsian woman, was unlike other Catharsians. During his first run, she gave him a jar of ointment to treat his wound after he’d been bitten by an Elpet in front of her store. Another time, she gave him some food. He frantically knocked on the pharmacy door.

The door opened and the woman appeared. “You better leave,” she said, frowning. “I have nothing for you today.” Her head was nervously turning left and right, as if she was afraid someone might catch her talking to an Ugly.

“Please, I really need your help!” pleaded Morf.

“I can’t help you.”

“But you helped me before!”

“And as a result, I lost most of my customers,” responded the woman bitterly.

“Please,” said Morf, “don’t turn me down! I am very sorry you lost your customers. I am very sorry your act of kindness didn’t generate the kind of reward you deserved. I will pray for your happiness to Goddess Mu every day of my life. But, please, please help me this one last time, and I promise, I’ll never ask you again. This is a matter of life and death!”

“What’s the matter?” asked the woman.

“See that man over there?” Morf pointed at the bleeding Dorf, supported by his friends, all of whom waited nervously on the other side of the square.

“What happened?”

“He was badly mauled by Elpets and is losing a lot of blood. He won’t reach the camp, unless he gets treated immediately.”

The woman contemplated Dorf for a moment, and then disappeared inside. A moment later she reappeared with a bag containing bandages, ointment and pain medicine.

“Here. Put ointment directly on the wounds. Bandage the wounds immediately. Apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Give him water and these pills. This is all I can do. Now leave—and quickly.”

“Mu bless your kind heart!” said Morf with feeling, sprinting back to his friends.

They found a quiet hidden spot where Morf treated Dorf, carefully following the woman’s instructions. After that, they resumed their trip back to Camp Ugly.

Once back inside the camp, Dorf was taken to the infirmary, and the others deposited everything they were able to collect in the center of the Gathering Square, so all could get what they needed. As women and children excitedly dug through the goodies, trying to find a new tunic to wear, or a piece of food to spruce up their simple dinner, the rest of the Runners were treated for their wounds. They never complained and stoically endured the painful procedures; they were heroes of the day, and their people’s happiness was all they required in return.

The story of how Morf saved the day spread like fire around Camp Ugly. Everyone wanted to shake his hand and say how proud they were. As was usual on the night after the run, the Uglies had a lavish (by their standards) community dinner in the Gathering Square. Along with the other Runners, Morf received the best morsels of food and biggest chunks of bread. After everyone was done, the Uglies sang their amazing songs, which penetrated straight to one’s heart, if anyone cared to listen. But Catharsians never listened to these songs, nor did they ever look beneath the surface, and because of that they never knew how beautiful the Uglies really were. The beauty of the Catharsians was all on the outside, but the beauty of the Uglies was within.

And so, as the Uglies sang songs and humbly carried their load, the beautiful Catharsians slowly started rotting from the inside. For a while it was completely unnoticeable, only sometimes a very strange and ugly smell could be sensed in the air. In cases like this Catharsians would usually hold their noses and say something like, “Smells like an Ugly.”

What they absolutely failed to realize was that they themselves emanated that smell. The situation deteriorated fast. First, enormous floods destroyed several of the Catharsian cities. As the floods arrived, Catharsians started experiencing strange sensations, unknown to them before. They began perspiring so profusely that often they’d have to change clothes ten times a day, because going around in sweaty clothes would be, well, ugly!

Then, droughts came. As the planet became scorched and wrinkled like an old and ugly shoe, many Catharsians noticed with great alarm that their flawless faces started developing premature wrinkles. The wrinkle problem became so pervasive that beauticians and plastic surgeons were making a killing. But none of the beauty treatments seemed to help, and even plastic surgery didn’t bring the desired results.

After that, it got worse. Powerful earthquakes shook the planet and Catharsians started feeling their bodies shaking uncontrollably. In order to stop the most severe instances of shaking, sometimes they would have to tie themselves to poles.

All chaos broke loose after the long inactive volcanoes erupted around the entire planet. As soon as these eruptions started, the formerly beautiful Catharsians’ bodies erupted in huge boils. Both plastic surgeons and beauticians were operating well beyond capacity. But no beautician or plastic surgeon in the world was able to fix this new problem. It was evident that Catharsians were slowly but surely turning ugly, as their rotten insides began manifesting outwardly.

As miserable Catharsians pondered what could have caused their perfect world to fall apart so suddenly, the Camp Ugly guards started noticing something unusual. As the entire planet shook with earthquakes, as volcanoes erupted, as droughts and floods devastated the land, the Uglies went on living as usual. They seemed completely insulated from the cataclysms, and immune to diseases.

They still humbly toiled every day, and they still sang their songs. That month, when the Runners had to go to Thar for supplies, they marveled at how quiet the city had become, as Catharsians hid in their beautiful houses, ashamed at how ugly they looked. The Uglies could not believe that no one tried to bully them, and for the first time ever, they returned to the camp without bleeding wounds or even bruises.

What’s more, one night all of their guards were suddenly gone. Since then, no one was guarding the electric fence or the gate. For the first time in generations, the Uglies were free to come and go as they pleased.

When Catharsians realized that the Uglies were not suffering like they were, an angry mob made its way to Camp Ugly. It was the first time ever that the beautiful Catharsians and Uglies met face to face. The mob stared at the Uglies with utmost hatred, while the Uglies calmly gazed back at the mob, both separated by the electric fence. As they looked at each other, a striking realization hit both sides. The Catharsians were now ugly as sin, what with all the wrinkles and boils all over their bodies. And the Uglies now looked truly beautiful, as their inner beauty shone through, changing their outward appearance. Somehow this pacified the mob, like nothing else did.

Meanwhile, the Uglies realized that Catharsians needed their help and opened the gates to allow them in. Many felt it beneath their dignity to step inside Camp Ugly, and went back home. But some stayed, as the Uglies brought out of their homes some of their home remedies known to treat severe wounds often inflicted on their men at the hands of these same Catharsians.

However, the Uglies never mentioned that, as their kind hearts forgave their tormentors. Their only desire was to help those in need. The whole night the Uglies treated Catharsians. When the sun came back up, their patients looked and felt much better. The news of the Uglies’ success spread like fire. More and more Catharsians showed up at the camp to receive their dose of treatment.

The Uglies worked day and night to help their former tormentors. Meanwhile, the situation on the planet was rapidly worsening. More floods, earthquakes and volcano eruptions occurred every day; more and more Catharsians needed treatment. Some lost an arm or a leg in an earthquake or another disaster; some were burned by fires as volcanoes erupted. No one was afraid any more of catching the ugly disease. To the contrary, Camp Ugly was the only place unaffected by global disaster, and therefore, the place everyone wanted to be.

The Uglies shared their scarce food and drink, and even their homes, with Catharsians. They welcomed them to stay at the empty huts they no longer filled, but at some point the camp became too small to fit all the newcomers. Catharsians started fighting with each other for space, and even lashing out at their rescuers, the Uglies. The Uglies didn’t respond to all that angry energy, and quietly continued their work. But even the peaceful Uglies saw that it was a losing battle. As the weather patterns got out of control with global disasters raging everywhere, Catharsians seemed to be taking over their camp—the only place on the entire planet which was at peace. As they did, earthquakes and other problems started shaking up the camp, too.

It was becoming increasingly clear to the Uglies that the planet was dying and that even the Mother Crystal was unable to change that. That evening, the Uglies gathered around the sacred fire, singing one of their beautiful songs. Its beauty mesmerized Catharsians who came to listen, although they couldn’t understand the words. In fact, the words were those of the ancient and very powerful Lemurian prayer. The Uglies prayed to Mother Mu and Father Universe to show them the way to save the future.

Late at night, when both Uglies and Catharsians were fast asleep, Morf still sat, staring into the dying embers of the sacred fire, thinking and thinking about the illusive solution to the planet’s problem. He raised his eyes to the sky with the orange moon in the East and the purple one in the West, contemplating the winking stars splashed across the nightly vastness.

All of a sudden, he noticed one of the stars above detach from its fixed place in the sky and start growing. The star grew and grew until it became the size of his palm. Morf blinked incredulously and rubbed his eyes. It must be fatigue, he thought. When his eyes opened again, the star was already the size of his head, and its light was almost blinding. Morf blinked again and vigorously shook his head.

“This can’t be,” he whispered. “It’s impossible.”

But even as he was saying that, the star still kept growing, and at last it landed right next to him like a small tornado of the divine light. Morf jumped to his feet and watched the star mesmerized as it turned into a divine creature, her beautiful face aglow, her shimmering long white hair teased by the breeze, and her flowing white gowns so transparent and light as if they were made out of stars.

“Good evening, Morf,” said the divine creature, gazing at the young Ugly with a gentle smile.

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