Questions for: TABITHA
[Tabitha to Alissa:] I'd say the latter. Having more information about what might happen in the future is helpful, not restrictive. Do keep in mind we don't have a set-in-stone book of one known future when we practice our art; there is quite a lot of room for freedom.
[Tabitha to Alissa:] I don't remember my motivation or how I came to decide it was time to dive into a lake during a flash, but given my ability to know the unknown, I think I knew what I was doing. Mainly, I feel that I wanted to escape from the world that had no place for me--wanted to go to a place that would understand me. It was something of a selfish decision, I feel--"I'll be happier somewhere else" was probably my rationale rather than what I could do for those on the other side. I'm still glad I was so useful.
[Tabitha to Alissa:] I've never actually gone over to Shio, but they are a rather carnivorous species whose diet consists largely of meat. They're not fans of the white meat that's indigenous here in Ailao but they'll eat it. Other than meat they eat a type of vegetable that looks a lot like broccoli with no stem which grows larger and is like a tuber; it has to be dug out of the ground. They farm the stuff and turn it into a staple in everything. As side dishes they eat cooked critters that remind me of bugs. I don't think their diet is compatible with a human's constitution, so I'm glad I didn't end up there. If you're interested in the Ailaoan food, another interviewer asked about it below.
[Tabitha to Alissa:] Hmm . . . in essence, yes; I have a rather relaxed schedule because I'm not a traditional prophecy teacher. I have one dedicated student at a time and occasionally give lectures or go to workshops (as long as a translator is handy). When Adele was with me, we rarely had separation from each other, but we took vacations during which we traveled (often to the human settlement when she was younger, or just to see the sights around Ailao) and didn't work on prophecy. Part of my "job" is always to be my main student's closest non-family mentor, so it stood to reason that I'd sometimes do fun things with her that had nothing to do with her education.
[Tabitha to Alissa:] Now that Adele is gone I'm going to be taking on a new young student, yes. I have met him at this point but we haven't begun official training. (There's an official ceremony and whatnot, and his parents and I have to negotiate the terms.) He's a very sweet little boy named Ayan. I'll choose an English name for him as well when I think of one.
[Tabitha to Alissa:] No, I can't say I believe in an afterlife of any kind. I do like to think my influence will continue, but I as a conscious being will stop being aware. That's what I believe.
[Tabitha to Dash:] It sounds a little insulting, but my first student was basically my "test subject." His name is Shaee. He was a curious, good-natured boy who learned my language easily and had a middle-of-the-road ability level (lower than mine). He was very interested in interpersonal affairs and wanted to use his talents in the social work arena. After he achieved master level under my care, he applied to two prophet hives that specialize in--well, the English equivalent would be "humanitarian affairs," but obviously that term sounds funny when we're not talking about humans. [Laughs] He got accepted to one of the hives and was what they call a contributing team member for many years--would be one of a team of three or six to work on a problem and recommend solutions--but now he has achieved a level of experience and judgment that allows him to be one of the hive's authorities on a process I call "rounding" (I've forgotten the Shioan word). Rounders gather the recommendations from their underlings and ultimately make the decision about what the prophet hive's official recommendation is, based on analyzing and integrating the brainstormed suggestions. This is not a position that involves fame and fortune, but high-ranking government offices apply for and use Shaee's wisdom regularly. I'm very proud of him. He is busy and also has a family, so I do not see him regularly, but we write letters and still find time to visit when we can.
[Tabitha to Dash:] Rarely. All the people who are important in my life are Ailaoan, and all the humans I've met have also lost their memories, so we can't reminisce about our world or form a connection based on a shared past. Every once in a while I do get that stranger in a strange land feeling--many times it's after a frustrating experience dealing with impatient folks when language fails me and my prophecy skills aren't quick or reliable enough to help me fill in the gaps--and I just want to talk to someone who can communicate in MY language. I have some contacts in human settlements who are somewhere between acquaintances and friends--I don't consider myself friends with any humans--but they're people with whom I can talk about life as a teacher (leaving out specifics) and their families/children if they have them. It's kind of nice to have at least passing friendly contact with people who look like me and share opinions/attitudes with me that Ailaoans don't.
[Tabitha to Dash:] I'm happy to report that humans here, while about as ignorant about the life and experiences of a prophet as the non-prophetic Ailaoans, do not really seem to reserve any special prejudices for me. Perhaps the hatred and fear I experienced in my home world was only "natural" for humans when within a society that doesn't recognize my kind of ability, not because humans are naturally xenophobic with regards to the idea. With their memories restarted and their new reality necessarily involving prophets, they kind of have no choice but to process that it exists. They're already dealing with both scrambled memories and an alien world, so dealing with me upending what probably would have been their world view in their old homes is the least of their worries.
[Tabitha to Dash:] That's a good question I don't really have an answer to. My guess is that it's just the luck of the draw; all the sentient species we've encountered have some percentage of their population with prophet abilities which all work the same way, but the popularity of the phenomenon varies WIDELY among species. I'm going to guess that for whatever reason our genetic code just doesn't offer up this variation often, or maybe it's our world which doesn't have exposure to a mystery substance that predisposes species to be prophetic . . . I'm not sure. There is the fact that other factors have led us to having a high survival rate, while other species might have survived largely because they had enough prophets to consult for survival advice. We survived mostly without it, so maybe Nature just didn't see fit to give it to us as often. I do think humanity has always been this way, as there seems to be just enough prophecy to go around in the human world to develop romantic notions about it in stories while fearing it when it appears in reality. . . .
[Tabitha to SHO!:] Most of the things I "remember" are not true memories. They are things I deduced from years of dreams, partial recollections mixed with prophetic understanding, and just plain suppositions. In any case, what I know about my home is that people's reaction to what they don't understand is to hate or fear it--usually both. I feel that deep within my heart I still bear the scars of growing up not understanding how rare and special I am, because I was not understood or believed by my kind. That is a kind of rejection I cannot explain. Words will never be deep enough to carry that experience of developing fear of and for oneself based on other people's negative reactions, be they simple disbelief or the elevated fear that comes from belief.
Beyond that--trying to think of anything I remember unrelated to my miserable experience as a prophet among people who don't believe we exist--I have a grudging respect for humanity. They are very curious and stubborn, a combination which has caused them to achieve great things. Ailaoans are not fighters, and even though I do admire their peacefulness, I sometimes get frustrated with how happy they are to avoid progress because it takes work. I remember my language wholly, and because it includes words like "refrigerator" and "microwave" and "curling iron" I know technology was an everyday part of life, which was nice. I remember that our weather was varied. I remember children were precious. I remember religion was the source of much comfort and much conflict. I remember hundreds of things that still don't add up to much at all.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] It's hard for me to say I miss "Earth" (well, Thee-ileo). On the whole, living there was a horrible experience for me, almost from the dawn of my life. There are things I miss about it, and sometimes I feel nostalgic and can't quite figure out why, but living here feels right.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] Well, environment-wise, I know it is less comfortable here. They do many things by hand that I know my people didn't do by hand, ever. It's cold here and they don't really seem to care. They don't control their environment much--I've seen little evidence that they even understand much about agriculture. As for the people, the Ailaoans generally have big families, and they tend to sometimes harbor racism for the humans and the Shioans but not for each other. (Ailaoans have two sub-races that can interbreed, or so I'm told. They look about the same to me even after all these years, but one of Adele's grandparents is of the minority sub-race, and she says two of her siblings look practically biracial.) They have some strange customs but are far less--I'll call it "superstitious"--than humans. I wonder if this is because their prophets have always been recognized and they take a lot of guesswork out of living? Ailaoans also don't appear to keep pets.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] They eat a lot of salads, a lot of bread (mostly toasted), many kinds of soup, and as far as I know they only really eat two kinds of meat, both of which are small animals with lean pale meat. Their cooking is mostly very bland. They know what spices are but they rarely use them in cooking, mostly for incenses and whatnot. Most of their food requires long periods of chewing. I have trouble eating some of it and really like the breads the best. When they have "dessert" food it's not very sweet, which is weird because they have a plant that tastes a lot like I remember sugar. Maybe it's just not in as abundant a supply.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] To tell you the truth I have not had anything but the most passing of interaction with them. All my face-to-face interaction with Shioans has been with other prophets.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] I generally don't get the sense that they like my presence very much. They think letting a human be a prophet is odd (they don't like to process the fact that I'm actually at the master level), and to be honest they think my lack of ability to speak their language is disrespectful. I'm afraid I'm just lazy, but I can see why they might think that about me.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] They were a little surprised to find that they'd had a prophet born into the family, but were even more surprised to find out that their daughter was an unusually talented prophet with skills likely to benefit my world. At first it seemed they were really excited that their daughter would make history, but soon that grew into some bitterness when it became obvious that her contribution would soon be all this world could keep of her. Adele took to me quickly and her parents didn't like the sound of Adele happily trying to teach her older siblings English. When she was very young, I was sometimes invited to eat at their home. After her second year with me I never got another invitation, and they always cited being too busy with their other children to accept invitations to come to mine. In short, they resent me and find it hurtful that Adele considered me family. After she left I sent each of her parents a letter inviting them to continue to be in my life and in contact with me, even offering to pass on news of their daughter if I receive any. My letter to her father has gone unread. Her mother read hers but didn't respond. She will eventually do so. She doesn't know it yet.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] Happily, the prophets' greatest devotion is to their art, and not to their racial affiliations. The wisest among them could immediately see my worth as one of their number. When I arrived I had an easy feeling of acceptance--almost of recognition, like "oh, it's YOU!"--and despite our language barrier, watching someone demonstrate something and knowing they wanted me to repeat it was enough for shared understanding. I was immediately recognized as having the talents of a master prophet, and after being given my robe and being taught about the program, I was installed as a teacher. They found my rarity among my species to be of special interest, and gave special consideration to who would become my pupils. I am amazed, honored, and humbled by their trust.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] "Met" is a rather unspecific word, I'd say. Besides the other humans I've known, I suppose I've known and talked to people from three dimensions: Shio, Ailao, and Chiplance. I have been in the presence of others, though; in passing I have met several people from a place called Win-shilao, but we didn't speak, and I have personally seen natives of Zuvacha and Ment. I know OF others but haven't seen them or been to the areas of Ailashuo where they gather.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] I'll assume you know about the Ailaoans and Shioans since you've asked questions about them already, but my knowledge is limited on the others. I can tell you that Chiplantians are similar to humans in body structure but tend to be smaller and look skinny by our standards, and they generally have dark orange skin (almost like what I'd look like with a bad sunburn). They're interesting because they're one of the oldest known races and they don't have a spoken language; they don't have vocal cords and in fact don't actually breathe like we do. They're also deaf by our standards (though, weirdly, they appear to have ears), and their language is gesture-based as you might imagine. Whenever I've met them they always seemed in a very good mood--like on the edge of bursting out laughing, if they had the structures to laugh--so they come across as a bit high strung and excitable, unlike the relaxed Ailaoans and the serious Shioans. (Yes, Shelshay is an exception. Maybe that's why she likes vacationing to Chiplance; they might as well be her kin.)
The Win-shilaoans are another race that the Shioans "conquered," so to speak; we don't know what their culture was like before Shioans began dimensional travel. Physically, they are again very human-like except they have golden skin and golden hair, all of which looks romantically shiny until you find out that all the surfaces of their bodies are very oily. (They're not exactly slimy; just imagine humans you've known who have sweaty hands, and imagine that except apply it to ALL their skin.) By our standards the Win-shilaoans have very attractive faces and large eyes, but barely noticeable lips. What's especially strange about them, physically, is that they have the least individual genetic variation of any species we're aware of. They all look very, very much alike. I'm told that they tell each other apart easily by the pattern of bumps on their tongues, of all things. (I can't even see the bumps, but they somehow differentiate, and it's as obvious to them as different voices are obvious to us.) With my human senses I can't even tell which ones are male and which are female, and I'm told the sexes smell different to each other. It's very interesting. They also have an extremely short childhood and relatively short lifespan; they're ready to join adult work groups by age four, and usually live to be about forty-five. They, like the Ailaoans, speak Shioan as a first language, but their dialect is a little strange and not all Shioans and Ailaoans can understand it. Even I can hear the difference, actually, even though I'm terrible with the language. As a species, they're extraordinarily fast learners and an unusual percentage of them are very intelligent.
Zuvachans and Mentians I can't say much about because I've only seen them in passing, but I know about as much about them as I know about creatures I haven't seen. I do find it kind of amusing that I've never seen a Faerie (to my knowledge), since they actually make appearances in my home world.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] You might have guessed my answer, but I absolutely would not. The world that made me feel like an outsider and tried to make me doubt my sanity could never be my home. I feel more at home in Ailashuo--despite not knowing the language and looking like an alien--than I ever did in the world of my birth. I will still be of much use to this world as a prophet even when I stop taking individual students; I may go to teaching general classes or join a hive, but I haven't decided yet. I still have one more student to get through his training before I make my decision, but I can assure you I do not want to return to Thee-ileo, even to be buried.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] This is an interesting idea, but unless someone is waiting on the other side to receive such a capsule, I don't see it as being helpful. Call me jaded if you like, but after I was in front of them all those years as proof of future-telling abilities and they STILL didn't believe it was possible, I have my doubts about whether they'd care about my journal-based ravings. I sent my student into my old world in the hopes that she could be there for the next human prophet and possibly help her make a difference the way I couldn't, but other than that I feel I cannot give anything more to Thee-ileo.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] I do remember the clothing from my world. Here there are two types of undergarments and both men and women wear both of them. One thing I sort of miss is that women aren't supposed to wear pants here, but since my public appearances usually involve my robe anyway, I don't really notice. I don't really care about underwear. I'm happy with my regulation undergarments.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] Not really. I'm not very creative when it comes to food. I had to be shown how to prepare the food people eat here, and I haven't deviated from that really at all. I don't believe they've developed any kind of advanced refrigeration here, though, so no, no ice cream. No ice. No dairy.
[Tabitha to SHO!:] [Laughs] I don't recall specific religious or cultural beliefs about either of those figures, but from the context I've recalled through the years, I might be able to answer your question. No, I don't feel that personalities from human folklore are going to be dimension-crossing to find me for any reason, and I am not concerned about my soul or my gifts with regards to these personalities. That is pretty funny, though.